Tuesday, February 2, 2016

War Is Unfair!

The Navy has taken LCS whining to new lows, calling combat test scenarios “unfair”.  Before we go any further, let’s just sit back and reminisce about all the wars that have been fair to both sides and in which both sides agreed to make the conditions fair if they inadvertently became unfair.  Yeah, it’s a pretty short list, isn’t it?  Nobody willingly enters into a fair war.  In fact, the entire aim of warfare is to create unfair conditions that offer overwhelming advantages.  Okay, let’s return to the point.

The Navy apparently conducted some LCS anti-swarm testing in Aug and Sep of last year and it didn’t go well (1).  According to DOT&E’s Michael Gilmore and as reported by Bloomberg Business website, attacking swarm boats penetrated the LCS “keep out” zone in two of three tests.  The test conditions were not specified.

“In the exercise, the crew of the Coronado “expended a large quantity” of 57mm and 30mm ammunition “while contending with repeated network communications faults that disrupted” information flowing to gun systems and weapon elevation flaws that occurred more than a dozen times, disrupting firings, he [Gilmore] said.”

Breaking Defense website reports on the Navy whining (2).

“Yes, a Navy official told me, in the test some “enemy” boats got dangerously close to the USS Coronado and inflicted simulated “damage.” But the LCS still repelled the attack — and without its full complement of weapons: The long-range Hellfire missile has yet to be installed.”

““It just seems to me it was an unfair treatment,” the Navy official concluded.”

Note that the "repelled" part occurred after the swarm drones penetrated to lethal range.  Given that the LCS is not designed to take a hit and keep fighting, "repelling" the craft after they've sunk the LCS is a bit of a misleading claim for the Navy to make.

So, I guess the takeaway from this is that the LCS will only be used in combat that is fair.

Of course, this raises questions about what happens when the modular LCS is caught without the proper module for the combat at hand – say, when a MCM LCS is attacked by swarm boats.  Will the crew radio the Iranians and ask them to wait until the LCS can swap out its module for an ASuW one to make the combat fair?

I recall from my history that the Japanese turned back from attacking Pearl Harbor because surprise attacks weren’t fair.  Oh wait, that didn’t happen.

Professional warriors whining about fairness …  This is what our Navy has come to.

(1)Bloomberg Business Website, “New U.S Navy Ship Struggles in Test to Fend Off Attacking Boats”, Anthony Capaccio, Jan 29, 2016,


  1. Would a larger gun 75mm or even 100mm been any different, as the problems related to 'network communications faults' and 'weapon elevation flaws'. Lets put a Burke through the same tests?
    Of course most new ships classes have major problems, the list is endless, but engineering works that way, start with the hardest/easiest problem and work your way through the list.

    1. Apparently the brass said that a 76mm gun would be even less accurate than the 57mm already is, so did not opt for it even for the supposed up-gunned 'small surface combatant'.

    2. Interesting that the Zumwalt was originally spec'ed for the 57mm and, upon examination, decided that it was not suitable for the application. Zumwalt went with a 30 mm. They've never said why.

    3. Why, in 2016, are we testing to see if a ship class, which is being serially built, and has been in commission since '05, is effective at one of the main roles for which it was built?

    4. CNO,

      from your previous posts, and from other things I've read... I don't think there *is* a good way to do anti-swarm.

      yes, we can get missiles that might do fine, but then we are in a stupid 'spend a 500K missile on a 50K boat'. Those are hard fights to win over any length of time.

      Guns have the issues you say.

      Honestly, I half joke that the best idea might be to have a littoral monitor type; maybe more a gun boat. Armored with slat armor and backing spaced plate.

      In reality; if Iran is going to go after one of our big ships it is then asking for a state of war. And if that's the case we try to wipe out as many of the swarm boats as possible in base, and by wiping out their bases.

      In the meantime, I'd rather the Navy spent its resources on ASW, new AShM's, a better airwing, etc...

    5. "Zumwalt went with a 30 mm. They've never said why."

      They did.

      “In addition to the increased capability, the change from MK110 to Mk 46 resulted in reduction in weight and significant cost avoidance, while still meeting requirements… that will provide a robust rapid fire capability and increased lethality against hostile surface targets approaching the ship.”


      The Freedom class have two 30mm guns in addition to its 57mm ( but a different mount)

    6. They did not. That rationale was utter nonsense PR. Zumwalt has a displacement of 14,000 tons. The difference in weight is absolutely irrelevant. Similarly, the Zumwalt costs $4 billion dollars. The cost savings is utter inconsequential.

      The Mk110 was found to have a performance problem in an, as yet, unspecified manner.

      Be sure to read Navy PR releases critically because they're usually (always) incomplete, at best, and fabricated, at worst.

  2. The should know to only conduct tests on clear days with perfectly calm seas. As the USS Vincennes discovered, you can't hit small boats with guns when they are in swells because the boats bob up and down and disappear between each wave. They can fire at you as they pop up, but its nearly impossible to hit them as they move in 3D and radar has trouble seeing anything. All they need is a heat-seeking missile like the Sidewinder AA missile, and a boat can easily rip up a two billion dollar destroyer.

    1. Thats what air bursts are for. Close is still good.
      Seriously, the fire control system is a series of tracks of targets, its being refreshed constantly a few seconds below the waves still provides a good tareget track.
      The person at the console uses a computer screen to designate the targets or they are automatically selected and then ranked. The main gun will have a continously computed impact/burst point plotted according to bearing and gun elevation.
      Its a simple matter ( when the software works) for the CCIP and the selected target track to coincide and a small number of shells to be fired - which as the bofors 57mm demonstration showed can also be a moving airburst barrage.
      This is 2016 guys, its not 1945 when you aim to hit.

    2. Ztev, air burst munitions are virtually useless in the anti-swarm role. We've discussed this in previous posts. Check the archives and you'll find lots of information.

      Also, you need to run through the math on distance, munition travel time, rate of swarm advance, effect of minute variations on aim, dwell time, etc. The results are pretty grim.

    3. Well , theres was a claim that those in light boats would have body amour which would cover them from toes to neck and cover face not protected by helmut.

      The fire control solution Ive described is based on what aircraft have used since the early 70s, so Im sure a naval version is easily done by modern computers - with the advanatge that the gun has rotation and elevation, and stabilisation and fire away from the direction on motion of the ship.
      The tracking problem of many targets was solved along time ago and tie that with a continuously computer impact point and the computer selecting the targets individually and of course if a boat continues moving its added to target list based on forward ( or escape ) speed.
      believe me the computing problem is easily done by your phone. The integration with the mechanical systems is the only difficult part and that to is doable withing a reasobale time scale.

      Some guns even include a small tracking radar which follows the path of the shell so that instant corrections can be applied, which was the principle behind phalanx from way back.
      if Ive got some major parameter missing which will affect the accuracy Id be pleased to hear it, as Im extrapolating from older equipment that has been in service for a while

    4. Read the November 2015 post, "Swarm Attack", to understand why burst munitions are ineffective in stopping small craft in a swarm attack.

    5. Sure. I found these comments of yours:
      "Can exposed personnel effectively aim a weapon [ anti tank type missile] 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."
      I understand these to be controlled by remote launcher from inside ops room/bridge and using FCS to provide tracking ( not just a glimpse). We already have humvees with remote weapons stations and thats just a jeep.
      Its a cat and mouse game as anti RPG defences ( Israeli Trophy which they have made lighter for their patrol boats- not launches- are being countered by a two shot RPG ( as in RPG-30)

      Your detailed comments about gun attack assume manual control rather a rapid computer controlled short burst firing and a FCS that ranks targets continuously. Im assuming the 57mm with dual feed and gun barrel radar can fire its 5 round burst in 1.5 sec before moving to next target in a few seconds. Naturally those boats that are undamaged will reappear in the FCS ranking to be re engaged

  3. The Captain can just radio the enemy and ask if it would be cool to spend 3-4 weeks to sail back to San Diego to swap in a gun or two and then come back and restart!

    I'm sure any enemy would be fine with that.

  4. Regarding the LCs combat system ( Freedom class)

    COMBATSS-21, an Aegis‑based integrated combat weapons system with a TRS-3D (SPS-75) air/surface search radar

    DORNA gunfire control system with an electro‑optical/infrared sensor to control the Mk 110 57 mm gun

    Since the gun fire controal is from the Spanish navantia and the SPS75 is from Airbus defense there is still work ongoing to integrate them.
    But its clear that with the 57mm ranging out to 10km + and the 30mm covering the closer targets up to 4km or so you can provide a layered defence and even both at the same time. The chain gun of course relying on direct impact shots.

    1. Understand dwell time and then do the math on a swarm scenario. It's grim.

    2. You do have very good points but historically attackers find it very hard to knock out their opponents. Practically all RN ships that went to Falklands in first wave were hit under aircraft attack. But for various reasons most survived even after an exocet exploded in the hanger. Argentina found its pilots were heroic but its bombs were worse than 'dumb'.
      Same goes for US navy in WW2, of about 31 of its ships struck by torpedo only about 9 were sunk.
      Its a lot harder to damage a warship than you think.
      The detail of the Bofors 57mm gives 220 rounds per min so a 5 round burst is on its way in just over a second, the train rate of the turret is 57 deg PER SEC. ( thought that was a misprint.)
      Im seeing each target being engaged between 5 to 10 sec., at over 10 km. I expect many targets might need a second burst to make sure, but Im not seeing the dewll time you are thinking off, especially since the combat system has ranked the targets in 100s th of a second and then engages most automatically ( as the phalanx was able to do 30 years ago, but of course they only had limited computing power then).
      Reflect on how modern guns have as much hitting power with a single barrel as a whole Fletcher, this is because faster loading, training and computer controlled targeting.

  5. I actually think a littoral anti swarm attack vessel is a good idea. The kit isn't a bad load out 57mm and 2 30mm rapid firing guns and a fast sea frame. basic, but lets just argue "fine". Its just the LCS is phanominally expensive platform to do this. You would think at 50m - 100 million dedicated platform should be getting these results or better. Accepting the survivability issues they could be built in large numbers.

    Failing that you would expect the current "surface warfare" anti swarm package to be packing 4 30mm at least. Or a phalanx 2B for that final tier surface defence AND anti missile defence. The dam things are designed to be essencially self sufficient, you would think they would be ideal for a bolt on bolt off module ?

    Well it did ok I guess, just ok.

    They will just have to deploy in a squadron of 6 for serious anti swarm littoral combat.

    1. You're thinking way too big for an anti-swarm boat. If that's its only role, a CB-90 would make a much better and much cheaper anti-swarm boat. High speed and heavily armed.

      Still, this misses the bigger picture. The challenge isn't what type of anti-swarm platform to use, the challenge is the ROE. If we insist on absolute positive ID then we're going to allow swarm craft to get way too close. Any fishing boat can hold an RPG. Unless we're willing to destroy any boat within ten miles, we're going to be handcuffed by ROE. We need to address procedures before we can intelligently address platforms.

  6. From what I've been told, when you get white caps in the ocean, the best radar today only sees a fuzzy image of the ocean surface. It can't see small boats or even low flying missiles because the radar is at least 30 feet above the surface looking down. And in fog or at night, you can't see either. IR might help between the swells, but those engines are small, and if you face a simple hybrid that can switch to batteries, you can't see anything. Anyone can buy an electric boat motor now used for fishing.

    And remember that every tiny island or even rock may have someone sitting there with a guided missile that can sink a 2 billion destroyer, especially packed with VLS missiles that will blow it apart like an ammo ship. If the USS Cole small boat bombers blew up near a VLS portion of that ship, it might have disappeared said ship in five seconds.

    And if we operate in places like the Philippines, there are thousands of small boats everywhere. If we had loose ROEs, our ships would expend their ammo in one day slaughtering civilian craft. We really need lots more of those Riverine craft for inshore missions, and to escort the destroyers near shore.


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