Thursday, July 28, 2016

Firepower and Survivability

By the end of WWII, we pretty thoroughly understood what a successful naval warship needed:  firepower and survivability.  One without the other was pointless other than in extreme cases like a PT boat which was so cheap that survivability was a non-issue.

Survivability without the firepower to inflict significant damage would have been pointless.  Firepower without survivability would have been equally pointless.

Today, however, we’ve forgotten that lesson to the point that modern US warships have neither firepower nor survivability. 

Burkes and Ticonderogas have a meager anti-surface capability and a limited land strike capability in the form of Tomahawk cruise missiles.  Their survivability is similarly limited compared to a typical WWII ship.  They have very little armor, thin steel hulls and superstructures, aluminum superstructures on the Ticos, minimal manning which impacts damage control, and overly complex systems that can’t be readily repaired aboard ship.

Modern ships are extremely susceptible to one-shot kills unlike WWII vessels that took a pounding.  The combination of little armor and very delicate electronics renders ships vulnerable to one-shot mission kills if not outright sinking.  Recall the gentle grounding of the Port Royal and the unrepairable damage that caused to the ship’s Aegis and VLS systems.  After repairs, the Navy tried to retire the ship, the newest Aegis cruiser in the fleet, due to the inability to bring the Aegis and VLS systems back into spec.  Reports indicate that, literally, the Aegis radar arrays were knocked out of alignment and could not be corrected.  Similar damage occurred to the VLS.  All this from a gentle nose-first grounding at a couple of knots.  If an Aegis cruiser can be rendered mission killed from that, imagine what damage an actual cruise missile hit or even a near miss would cause with shock and vibrations violently whiplashing the ship back and forth.

In contrast, recall the incredible damage WWII cruisers and destroyers routinely absorbed while continuing to fight.  The naval battles of Guadalcanal and the Kamikaze picket lines showed the toughness that our ships once had.

Firepower - USS Washington

We cannot allow a single hit to mission kill, or sink, a ship.  It’s even more important today than in WWII that a ship be able to take hits and keep fighting, if for no other reason than we don’t have as many ships.  Our task forces, to use the WWII phrasing, are going to have far fewer ships, therefore, each mission kill or sinking will have a proportionally greater impact on the task force’s overall combat effectiveness.  A ship has got to be able to absorb some hits and keep fighting.

Survivability - USS Aaron Ward

Here are some specific requirements for the Navy to begin meeting the firepower and survivability needs.

  • All Burke size ships need to mount two 8” guns, separated fore and aft.  The 8”/55 caliber Mk 71 would be a good starting point.  This would also move us a small step closer to meeting our naval gunfire support requirements.  We’ve already discussed that modern naval combat will inevitably see gun range encounters due to missile failures.

  • All ships need a minimum of 1.5” side armor and larger ships, of Burke size, need 3.5” side armor, the same as a WWII Atlanta class light cruiser carried.

  • All ships guns of 5” or larger size need armored turrets/mounts.  For comparison purposes, the WWII Fletcher class 5” guns were housed in mounts armored with 1”-2” armor.  Larger guns had proportionally heavier armor on their turrets/mounts.  Guns should not be disabled from mere shrapnel.

  • All ships with guns need optical aiming backup systems.

  • All ships should be equipped with 533 mm torpedo tubes and Mk 48 torpedoes.  The 20-30 mile range of the torpedo opens up all kinds of potential uses.  These, alone, would almost make the LCS a threat.

  • Every ship smaller than a Burke should have an extensive short range Hellfire-ish missile battery.

  • The current 20-30 mm naval guns should be replaced by 40 mm dual and quad mount guns.  Recall that the WWII Bofors 40 mm gun could fire 120 rounds per minute, sustained and the immediate post-war versions could fire 330 rounds per minute. 

  • All electronics need to be shock hardened and tested.  Without exception.  Without Navy procrastination and avoidance.

  • Networks, radars, sensors, and communications equipment needs to be simplified to allow on-board repair.  A greater emphasis needs to be put on training technicians and designing in diagnostics.

This is not intended as an all-inclusive list.  Instead, it’s just a sampling of fairly straightforward things that could, and should, be done to return firepower and survivability to the fleet.  Of course, hand-in-hand with this is the need to develop much harder hitting weapons including ship-launched short and intermediate range ballistic missiles, super/hypersonic cruise missiles, enhanced 5” rounds, etc.

There is absolutely no point building a fleet that has neither the firepower nor survivability to fight a war and win.


  1. My dividing line when it comes to the change in ship design is the start of the 3T missile program. Because also taken into consideration during that era was the incorporation of the helo hanger into every hull. While a critical addition, I don't think it is fully appreciated how much that accommodation has affected ship design. Based on your standards along with the hanger mandate, the only options would have be a return to a Spruance or Zumwalt type hull.

    1. Helos and hangars are a pet peeve of mine. I have nothing against helos but we've put them on every ship that is big enough to handle it and most of them have no mission. For example, a helo and hangar on a Tico is pointless. The Tico operates with carrier and amphib groups which have lots of helos. The Tico's one helo offers nothing. Ticos don't do ASW so a helo is not needed for that. The helo is used to ferry VIPs and we have ship's boats for that. Half the ships in the Navy should have their helos/hangars removed.

    2. I don't suppose that they would be of much use in a real war? ASW?

      The problem is that helos are very maintenance intensive too. They have the tendency to be broken down when you need them the most.

    3. You understood the point that Ticos will never do ASW so they don't need a helo and hangar?

      Now, consider what the real estate that the hangar represents could be used for if the hangar were not present. More VLS, more sensors, more illuminators, another, larger gun, a rail gun(?), a laser(?), electronic counter measures (far more valuable than a hangar), power generators, etc. The list is nearly endless! A hangar chews up a lot of real estate!

    4. Yep I get the idea.

      Plus you gotta take up a lot of other room for spare parts for the helicopter. If the helicopter doesn't use the same type of fuel and ammo as the ship, then you need room for that. Plus that is a lot of crew to dedicate for a helicopter.

      I personally don't see it as being useful for most ships.

      Perhaps part of the problem is that brass like to fly and not use small boats.

    5. Ironically, for some period of time, you could argue that the CGs had the best ASW suite in the fleet with its tail, helo, and ASW control systems.

      Would you argue for the utility of deck space and/or work space to allow the launch and retrieval of small UAVs? The utility may be questionable in the high end threat/mission (ie, CVN defense against high end air threats) but could be invaluable in the low to medium end threat, particularly if the helo and helo facilities are removed.

    6. I'm not sure exactly what you're asking but I'll try an answer and you let me know if I've misunderstood your question.

      I favor more focused warship designs rather than the misguided jack-of-all-trades designs we do now. Thus, for a dedicated carrier AAW escort, which is what the Ticos are, there is no need for helos, hangars, or UAVs (why would you need UAVs when there is a carrier air wing nearby?). UAVs would be completely appropriate and useful for low end vessels like destroyers which don't currently have. This would take care of the low end threats.

      You can have the greatest sniper rifle ever made but if you don't practice with it, it won't make you a sniper. You can have the best ASW equipment in the fleet but if you rarely practice with it you won't be any good at it. Ticos don't practice ASW enough to be good at it. Further, would you really want to risk the few high end Aegis AAW command vessels we have playing tag with a sub? That's what we need destroyers (which, as I mentioned, we don't have) for.

  2. CNOps, I don't know if you've seen

    Concludes for Zumwalt, largely on account of blizzard of hyper-accurate 6-inch shells.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but isn't the Zumwalt's artillery very acccurate against land targets of known fixed location, whereas against a ship moving on a variable course at over 30knots …

    Your thoughts?

    1. I haven't read the link but the Zumwalt AGS has no anti-surface capability. The rockets (they're not actually naval gun shells) use GPS guidance which is useless against a moving target. The Navy looked briefly at adding an anti-surface capability but dropped it, probably due to cost.

    2. "Concludes for Zumwalt, largely on account of blizzard of hyper-accurate 6-inch shells."

      6" shells would barely scratch the paint on a battleship.
      If they were really pinpoint accurate I suppose you could envision a system where the 6" shells entered the turret and exploded inside behind the armour.

      But a 6" shell hitting battleship, even hundreds of them, would be of limited effect.
      And the Zumwalt shells arent pinpoint accurate, they might on a good day be a couple of meters CEP.

      Bismark was hit by 400 shells of 8", 14" or 16", and despite being a wreck, was still floating.
      200 6" shells wouldnt worry it.

    3. And given what we know of the relative shock hardening between the two ships, what happens if 1 16' shell from Iowa hits Zumwalt. Those 16' shells don't have a ton of HE in them, even the HE shells, but the explosion mixed with the sheer impact of an over 2000 lbs shell might knock a ton of stuff off line.

    4. Also, Zumwalt has minimal manning for damage control. I'm assuming a Zumwalt is a one-hit mission kill, if not sink.

    5. "what happens if 1 16' shell from Iowa hits Zumwalt."

      "The Mk. 13 shell would create a crater 50 feet (15 m) wide and 20 feet (6 m) deep upon impact and detonation, and could defoliate trees 400 yards (360 m) from the point of impact."

      I think we can be reasonably sure it would all but obliterate a wooden composite Zumwalt.

    6. Like the SM family of missiles, I would think the Zumwalt's ESSM's could be used in a line-of-sight anti-ship attack. Am I wrong about this?

    7. The ESSM would, presumably, be housed in and launched from the Mk57 VLS cells. By definition, then, they would not be direct, line-of-sight, capable. That said, ESSM has an anti-ship mode, as I understand it. However, the ESSM warhead is an annular blast fragmentation explosive (it produces shrapnel) which would be effective only against small patrol boats and would nearly useless against a battleship which is what I assume you're suggesting.

    8. I know the ESSM's are launched vertically. I meant that the opposing ship was in line-of-sight contact with the Zumwalt.

      While it's smaller warhead would be more effective against a smaller ship. A salvo of several or more could a result in a mission kill against a larger vessel.

      However, the Zumwalt's 2 155mm guns ought to be capable of defeating anything within gun range, much less within line-of-sight. But, sometimes guns misfire or jam.

    9. Reading that article, I have to stick my nose in for the comedy's sake.

      As we know, the Zumwalt's 74nmi LRLAP does not have a Anti-Surface mode, which would leave it with the 24nmi BLRP.
      But, purely for the sake of argument, let's just say it can use the LRLAP in this role.
      Therefore, Zumwalt is firing a 225lb 6in projectile with a ~25lb bursting charge at roughly 2,707fps, this is more comparable to an 8in (non-super-heavy) projectile than it is a 6in projectile.
      That being said, the Iowa is effectively immune to these projectiles basically anywhere except the radar dishes or the fo'c'sle.

      Now, in the other corner...
      If one is throwing the Zumwalt against an Iowa, one ought allow the Iowa her 90s equipment and specialty shells that were approved for use in the late-80s.
      Including the 16/11-Inch Long Range GPS Concept with Sabot (which had just as much success in the 80s as the LRLAP has had so far).
      This is a 525lb projectile with a payload of 248 M46 Submunitions (for a total payload weight of 175.2lbs), the tested range was 100nmi and were capable of mid-course correction.
      Notice, this was a Tested Shell that actually managed to hit targets 100nmi+ away (the designed range was closer to 140nmi and it fell massively short).
      Every single submunition is capable of wrecking the Zumwalt and her hyper-sensitive electronics that are almost entirely exposed and her wood super-structure, and near misses are still fatal because of the 'shot spread' of the air burst.

      The Author also ignores that the Iowas have one of the most extensive ECM systems in the entire US Navy to this day.
      (Pathetically, that is because they were in service back when our current ECM systems were made.)
      On top of this, the Author completely ignores the fact that the Iowas have 20mm Phalanx systems.
      Even though they are not reliable v. SuperSonic Missiles, the subsonic Tomahawks that the author relies on would almost certainly be defeated.
      Instead, he tried to use the 5in/38cals as his AMD system.
      And this is a man who has literally wrote books on the subject of Battleships (including, IIRC, the 1980s Iowas)
      For some unknown reason, I smell a very dishonest man.

      But, lets take this farther.
      Not that long ago, I recall hearing that some people up there in power ran a simulation pitting the USS New Jersey (in her 1980s configuration) against four Arleigh-Burke-class Flt I destroyers.
      The Burkes were given every advantage, and opened fire at about 120 nautical miles (while closing) with their complete missile salvos up to and including the Anti-Ship Tomahawks (that they never carried), Harpoons, and basically every other missile they had which would perform an Anti-Ship role.
      The result was laughable, as the New Jersey either evaded, jammed (and then evaded), or shot down every incoming missile and then proceeded to slowly chase all four of the Burkes down one by one and kill them with the 16in guns over the course of the next week (due to the restraints of the simulation, fleeing or getting reinforcements was impossible).
      As a small group of bewildered individuals stood there jaws agape, the simulation operators dropped another bombshell.
      The Burkes had been given weapons that they never carried and Air Reconnaissance.
      Meanwhile, the New Jersey was NOT given Air Reconnaissance, missiles, 5in ammo, or any of the post-Korea ammo that the Iowas were authorized.
      Even with this massive handicap, the New Jersey cruised away with only a few minor scratches.
      (The purpose of this sim was to test the Large Ship v. Small Ship theories)
      (You can actually recreate this scenario in the Naval Sim 'Command : Modern Air/Sea Warfare', which is effectively a dumbed down version of the above simulator, the results will be virtually the same.)

      It is safe to say that the Zumwalt would be pounded to smithereens in a One on One with an Iowa.

      - Ray D.

    10. "However, the Zumwalt's 2 155mm guns ought to be capable of defeating anything within gun range"

      I'll say it again, the Zumwalt's guns do not have an anti-surface capability.

    11. "It is safe to say that the Zumwalt would be pounded to smithereens in a One on One with an Iowa."

      Ray, I agree with you. The author was either ignorant of his subject matter or had a pre-determined outcome in mind.

    12. Ray,

      that's interesting.

      I'm a bit surprised that the 4 'burkes couldn't get the TASM and Harpoons to swarm the Iowa. But its an interesting point.

      I think if the Iowa's could somehow be run with less than 1500 men, and if they'd gotten the 11' submunitions working, the Navy would be happy as a clam to still run them.

      Heck, the 16' cannon firing 16 or 11 shells is an effective weapons system for many missions. But expense and the fact that there is no more infrastructure are killers.

    13. "I'll say it again, the Zumwalt's guns do not have an anti-surface capability."

      The AGS's Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP) has a 25 lb unitary bursting charge. Are you saying we couldn't use such a round against another ship? If we could use a Hellfire missile against a ship, we could use the LRLAP too.

    14. No, we can't. The LRLAP is GPS guided. A moving ship has no fixed GPS co-ordinates. The co-ordinates are continually changing. There is no ballistic mode where you pick an aim point and just fire ballistically at it which is what an unguided naval gun/shell does.

      The lack of an anti-surface mode for the AGS is just one of many baffling decisions made about this ship.

      Zumwalt can't fire at surface ships with the AGS. Don't make me say this again.

    15. The problem, Jim, is that the Iowas and Battleships do not support the agenda of the established Navy Leadership.
      That is, of course, new hulls and keeping their piece of the budget pie growing larger.

      About 2 to 3 months ago, the Crew of the USS Wisconsin held a reunion. Inquiring minds asked some of the crew if they would be interested in serving again on the Whisky, the response was an almost unanimous yes, and several of these gentlemen had been involved in reactivating the girl the last 2 times, so crew and skill is not a legitimate excuse.
      (Although, 1800 men [not women, everyone needs to be able to lug 70+lbs] is the minimum for damage control on a hull that size, it is not going lower. The same is true with Carriers.)

      Each of the ships would take approximately 1 billion USD to reactivate and modernize (including replacing the ABLs with Armored VLS, and adding RAM launchers), approximately 1 billion extra would replace the dated steam turbines with nuclear reactors (and reinforce the belly of the ships). The infrastructure cost would be on the order of 1.7 billion USD.
      This is if I am remembering that ~2011 report correctly.
      So, all things considered, for the cost of 1 G.R.Ford-class Carrier (adjusted for inflation), the US Navy could have four of the world's most terrifying and awe-inspiring Capital Ships back in service to either show the flag or bomb a sandbox - which is all the Supercarriers have been doing for the last 30 years.
      And, unlike the Ford, the Iowas are considered immune to the DF-21 Carrier Killer missile, so China's threat goes out the window.

      The stupid thing is, it would only cost ~6 billion USD to just build a modern Nuclear Iowa with improved 'Carbon Nanotube' Armor.
      (Keep in mind, the replacement cost for the four Iowas as they lay is just over 2 billion USD, not counting infrastructure.)
      The technologies involved are all old, tried, and true... and therefore not-experimental and prone to error.
      Yes, even the Carbon armor.
      But it does not work with what the Navy Administration wants.
      Understand, in 2006 Congress ordered the Navy to maintain the infrastructure until 2020, but the Navy demolished it in 2011 right after the last stir was raised about the Zumwalts failing to replace the Iowas - which indicates it was agenda and not practicality/benefit that caused it.
      The Iowas were a relatively cheap force multiplier for any Combined Action Naval Task Force; as once stated by former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Albert Herman Trost, "Put a Battleship with an Aegis cruiser and you've got something that can go anywhere in the world. Put a battleship battle group within a couple of hundred miles of a carrier battle group and you've got something no one in the world can beat!".
      However, studies began to show that smaller, cheaper dedicated Air Superiority carriers fit this role just fine.
      Combine a 6 billion USD Battleship, a 6 billion USD Carrier (an evolved Midway type, perhaps), and practical escorts and you would have a fleet that does a lot more than the 15 billion USD + expensive escorts Ford Fleet, and can strike up to 2000 miles inland (with Scram-Jet Shells; and the unlike the Zumwalt, the Iowa's gunfire computer and shells were only ever capable of targeting the ground/ocean' surface/a point on a map, so they natively retain their Anti-Ship role - although it is pointless to engage that far because even scramjets take 30+ minutes to get there). The Navy loves to talk about multi-mission capability, but the Battleships are the only ships that natively did everything at one point or another, including ASW (the Iowa was carrying ASW shells when Turret #2 exploded).
      This means that it would be much harder for the Navy to justify their expensive hulls, their LCS', and their fancy magic bullet projects.
      I am sure you see my point by now.

      - Ray D.

    16. Ray D.,

      Do you have a website link or web video showing the USS Wisconsin crew reunion and their enthusiastic response to being called up again to serve on the old battlewagon? Even if you don't, it sounds like they need to form a lobby group.

      As for "bombing a sandbox," the Iowa-class battleships could do that most places with the exception of land-locked nations like Afghanistan. But there really is no substitute for a battleship when it comes to "gunboat diplomacy." Having your nation hit by nukes is bad enough, but sustained battleship bombardment can be kept up all week, is much more demoralizing, and has none of that pesky fallout.

      Interesting that you say that Scramjet shells (has anyone ever tested those in live-fire condition?) aren't useful at maximum range, because of the time it takes to travel. The current drive towards longer and longer missile ranges doesn't appear to take the longer travel times into account, unlike battleship shells which have much shorter flight times.

  3. I too am appalled at the one hit take out. However I assumed that the Naval Engineers know that missiles will go right through 3.5" steel.

    Setting aside the probability of a hit, how effective are missiles against steel when they hit? Unless the answer is like a hot knife through butter then the Naval Architects are giving up survivability for weight (for something else) and cost savings.

    Challenge the Naval Architects like Tack Designers are. Give me armor that survives near explosions, he, or glancing anti armor hits.

    And then challenge them to design the ship with redundant and dispersed systems to be able to continue the fight when they are hit.

    Defense Contractors like to tout what all you get for your money so make them deliver.

    1. Modern man portable anti-tank missile (HEAT, and tandem-warhead maybe)can go through 20+ inches of steel plate. So, I'd imagine anti-ship missile will have no problem with such thickness, and more.

    2. I'm wandering well outside my area of expertise but my vague understanding is that anti-tank munitions function by forming a shaped charge. I'm not aware that an anti-ship missile does that. ASMs still function the old fashioned way, I think.

    3. Depends on the specific missile being talked about. Warheads range from SAP (semi-armor piercing) to standard blast-frag. JASSM-ER and hence LRASM used the WDU-42/B penetrator which has a demonstrated record of being able to go through ~10-12 feet of hardened reinforced concrete or rock. How many inches of Naval steel that works to is outside of my expertise. It is claimed that the WDU-42/B has roughly the same explosive force as a 2000lb Mk84 bomb due to the increased energy density of the AFX-757 explosive fill(~1.85 RE of TNT vs 1.05 of MK84 fill). AFX-757 also has the advantage of being the most insensitive explosive in use and is also used in all new penetrating weapons like BLU/122 (it is so good that you can have 2 JASSM next to each other, detonate one and the other won't go off!).

    4. The warhead is designed to penetrate, specifically, earth, concrete, rock, and air (ECRA). It is not designed to penetrate armor. How well an ECRA penetrator would penetrate ship armor, if at all, is unknown. The warhead appears to depend on density for its penetrating power. That may be good for ECRA but I suspect that would make for a relatively poor armor penetrator. There's a reason why anti-tank missiles have gone to specialty warheads rather than relying on brute force explosives.

    5. We still build and operate tanks, even in an environment where any single direct hit can be fatal. This has been true since the advent of armored warfare. The same used to be true in Naval Warfare.

      Are you saying we CANNOT design a survivable ship in the modern environment because the explosive warheads and guidance systems are so good?

      If we cannot then we better accept that our ships are going to be lost (and their crews) and figure out what type of ship we can afford to lose that many of.

      Continuing to stick our heads in the sands is NOT helping.

    6. "Are you saying we CANNOT design a survivable ship in the modern environment because the explosive warheads and guidance systems are so good?"

      I don't think anyone has stated or implied that belief. Who are you directing the question to or what comment are you responding to?

    7. "he warhead is designed to penetrate, specifically, earth, concrete, rock, and air (ECRA). It is not designed to penetrate armor. How well an ECRA penetrator would penetrate ship armor, if at all, is unknown."

      I'd guess that it wouldn't do a good job at all. Its not designed to penetrate real armor. The armor on the Iowas is, IIRC, face hardened and then softer steel behind. Its *specifically* designed to de-cap and wreck hardened, armor piercing shells. Something that's just designed to bore through concrete likely wouldn't work.


    8. "Modern man portable anti-tank missile (HEAT, and tandem-warhead maybe)can go through 20+ inches of steel plate. So, I'd imagine anti-ship missile will have no problem with such thickness, and more."

      A modern anti tank weapon bores a very small hole through the armour and that is enough to kill or incapacitate the crew, or blow up ammunition, or destroy some key system, in a tank or IFV or APC.

      A pin point weapon like a hellfire could knock out a radar or a missile battery if it hit, but it wont do any serious hull damage to a ship.

    9. TrT

      My points are:
      1. It's a classical sword-shield evolution. If ships revert back to thick-armor, the missile will become anti-tank like. If ships stays thin-skinned, the missile will adapt otherwise.

      2. Scalability. TOW's warhead is 10-lb. Tomahawk's warhead capacity is 1000-lb. I'd imagine the damage is probably scalable too if the 1000-lb warhead is double/triple shape charged. Again, it's all about adaptation: how thick(or better) of armor can a ship haul vs. penetrants.

    10. I think you missed TrT's point. Anti-tank missiles have very specific modes that probably wouldn't scale successfully to ships. For example, a common mode is spalling caused by HESH rounds. The anti-tank round doesn't actually penetrate the tank's armor but, instead, induces shrapnel inside the tank. In the confined space of the tank, that's effective at killing the crew. Scaling that to a ship would not produce much of an effect, I wouldn't think.

      HEAT rounds, another variant, used shaped charges to penetrate armor in a very small hole. That's effective in the confined space of a tank. Modern layered armor and reactive armor have made those less effective. Again, I wouldn't think it would scale to a ship very well.

      You're correct that combat is a constant back and forth exercise between the attacking system and the defending system. Unfortunately, the Navy has stopped developing any kind of protective system that doesn't involve missiles. I'd like to see the Navy take some inspiration from land vehicle armor and try to develop some naval adaptations and get back in the game instead of ceding the full power of a hit to the attacker.

    11. The boss has it.

      A ship doesnt care if you drill an inch diameter hole 8ft deep, the chances of you hitting anything are minimal. Do that to a tank and you hit everything vital.
      A HESH suffers the same problem, theres no where the hide the spall in a tank. In a ship, its easy to block the spall, just add more compartments.

    12. Guys, I'm shaking my head on the darndest thing one can find on google,

      A 2005 doctoral dissertation on shape charge penetration.

      Too much math, but I gather the hole cavity (in one of its multitude representation) can be a thickness function of incoming and outgoing jet flows. And on page 213 was a simulation of roughly a 2" bore hole on a 3" plank in about 40 microsecond. Also, the incoming jet diameter is a matter of how much lining material. The bigger the warhead DIA, the bigger/more lining material, thus bigger jet dia, and bigger the bore hole.

      Now, if you are a tandem-charge warhead designer- what would you 'shove thru' that bore hole tens of millisecond after (and I guess it all depends on the size of hole), and use that same armor to contain/enhance the 2nd warhead explosion. The whole thing can be a lot more complicated than we think.

    13. The mechanical technology of actually producing a warhead for a particular target may be complicated but the concept is straightforward.

      One of the keys is that the munition has to actually explode in some fashion to do damage. We've all seen what happens when you shoot a gun at a paper target - it passes right through without doing any damage except for a small hole/tear. In concept, a ship made out of paper would be impervious to naval gunfire because the shells would pass straight through without causing any damage other than a hole the size of the shell. Lest you think this is a ridiculous example, there have been many documented instances of shells passing straight through a tank and causing no damage.

      So, conceptually, we need to get the munition to explode, in some fashion, inside the target. On a related note, fragmentation warheads may cause some superficial damage or may damage a sensor but are no threat to sink a ship. We need explosions inside the ship!

    14. According to Wiki, the Soviets used a 1000kg shaped charge warhead for the Kh-22/AS-4 "Kitchen" missiles that the Backfires would have used against the carriers. The results were "resulting hole measured 5 m (16 ft) in diameter, and was 12 m (40 ft) deep."

      That will ruin any ship's day....

    15. The results were "resulting hole measured 5 m (16 ft) in diameter, and was 12 m (40 ft) deep."

      A Carrier is 1100ft long, 250ft high and 134ft wide at the water.

      16ft isnt a massive diameter in that context, 40ft deep is bigger though, but again, hardly huge.
      Thats the problem ships have killing ships with gunfire, and have always had.
      The Spanish Armada lost one ship to cannon fire, three Royal Navy vessels surrounded it and pummeled it all day. No battleship was lost at Jutland, the British effectively ran out of shells to throw at Bismark before the crew scuttled it.

      If you have a single fire main, a single server cluster, a single anything, that single missile can mission kill you, it wont sink you, probably.
      If you have multiple segregated firefighting systems, multiple networked and none networked computer systems, multiple power generation systems and distribution networks, it becomes very hard to disable you as a combatant.

      If a single battle management system is the only way to control every weapon you have, once that goes, you are finished, if you have a gun turret, with its own back up power, control systems, and even a low end rangefinder, nothing stops it firing except hitting it directly, and if you have two, two hits are required, if you repeat the same for harpoon replacement launchers ect, it makes a ship far more formidable.

      No ship is going to be armoured so heavily that a "Kitchen" bounces off it, but if you build it "sturdily" so with lots of separate water tight compartments, in every dimension, each isolated by inch thick steel bulkheads, and with multiple redundant systems able to operate entirely independently you get a ship that isnt entirely incapacitated by a single hit.

    16. Problem is that hole is going be damaging something. Just the heat alone will start fires all over that 40 feet area. Also, don't forget that there would be more then one missile.

      No battleships were lost at Jutland? Um... HMS Queen Mary, HMS Invincible, HMS Indefatigable, SMS Lutzow, and SMS Pommern all never returned to port.

    17. That missile, kh-22, has a dia of 3ft, and its shape charge blew a 5-meter hole. It probably meant a secondary warhead went thru the bore hole and exploded from within. And depending where that '40-ft depth' is on a carrier, from a cross-section cut out of USS Nimitz, it looks to be where the hanger deck is. A thermobaric warhead will do damage there.

    18. "According to Wiki, the Soviets used a 1000kg shaped charge warhead ... resulting hole measured 5 m (16 ft) in diameter, and was 12 m (40 ft) deep."

      Be careful not to extrapolate too far. That sentence/paragraph in Wiki did not state what material that test was conducted against. It could have been earth, concrete, aluminum plate, steel, or anything else. As I read it, it also slightly hinted that a shaped charge was not the normal warhead - unsure about that - but it clearly did not state that that was the normal warhead. It almost sounded like a one-off experiment.

      Extrapolating that sentence to a general statement of effectiveness against all ships is shaky logic, at best. Throw in the Soviet/Russian's tendency to fabricate or overstate things and the entire thing has to be seriously questioned.

    19. Let's also be cautious about making the general assumption that a greater weight of explosive means a greater degree of damage. A WWII 16" Armor Piercing round had only 40 lbs or so of explosive but was designed to penetrate many inches of armor. By contrast, a Harpoon is listed as having a nearly 500 lb warhead (not sure how much of that is explosive weight) but it cannot penetrate armor to anywhere near the degree that an AP shell can. So, weight of explosive is not the measure of anti-ship effectiveness.

      Many years ago, the Navy tested a Harpoon (might have been a Tomahawk - I can't remember) against battleship armor (don't recall the thickness) and found that it did nothing. So, weight of warhead (or weight of explosive) is not the measure of anti-ship effectiveness. It's how the explosive is delivered.

      That's as far as my knowledge can take me. I know nothing of how modern anti-ship missile warheads are designed or what they're designed to be effective against.

      As far as mitigating anti-ship missile effects the general statement that any armor is better than no armor is, and always will be, true.

    20. The US Navy tested a Harpoon (which is more powerful than an Anti-Ship Tomahawk) against a spare 12.1-inch Armor Slat for the Iowa-class Armored Belt.
      Literally only scratched the paint (and this was without the several layers of deflection metal between the outside of the ship and the armor belt).

      They also tested it against a replica of the deck armor scheme - at the programmed attack angles it failed to get past the 1.5 inch STS weather deck (virtually unarmored by Battleship standards), let alone the 6-7 inch Bomb Deck (the Armored Deck).

      Now for laughs, the Chinese 'Carrier-Killer' DF-21 is only as powerful a penetrator as the Harpoon, it just does more damage on the other side.
      This leaves the P-700 Granit (Shipwreck) and derivatives as the only Anti-Ship missiles that could reliably knock out an Iowa, and even the Russians seem to think not.

      - Ray D.

    21. "Now for laughs, the Chinese 'Carrier-Killer' DF-21 is only as powerful a penetrator as the Harpoon"

      I'm not sure what you mean by that? The MIRV's on the DF-21 are all traveling at very high Mach. It seems the kinetic energy alone would allow them to penetrate a great deal. And then you add to the fact that they are going to hit more vertically.

      The bomb, splinter, and armor deck of the Iowa's was intended to arm HE and arm and decap AP shells travelling at much slower speeds so they'd explode before the main bomb deck. So it seems a vertically attacking high speed penetrator could defeat that armor?

      I think that one of the main solutions to the DF-21 is going to be EA of some sort.

      If it does hit it can cause a hell of alot of damage.

    22. Let's be honest, none of us has any real idea about missile effectiveness against armor. I'm aware of almost no public domain testing in this area. So, we're all just speculating but, hey, that's the fun of it, right?!

    23. True. Though I think we can come up with reasonable expectations given what we know.

      We don't really know till we test.

    24. While what CNO said is true, we do not have Public Testing on the DF-21 itself, we do have some other things to rely on.
      The fact is, the DF-21 is by all indications a nearly direct ripoff of the US Pershing II missile system, which does have public documentation.
      The physical limitations of the DF-21 shine through in the propaganda photographs, from them we know quite a few characteristics of the present DF-21D missile.
      At present, the DF-21 is a single inert warhead missile. It does not explode, it just punches a hole in something.
      It also DOES NOT carry MIRVs, merely a single inert penetrator.
      There have been TALKS about the possibilities of China upgrading the system to use MIRV, which the US Navy basically said would be an instant kill to a Carrier, but the problem is that the DF-21 is presently not capable of this. It would take an almost entirely new missile.
      In addition, the Reentry Vehicle for the DF-21 is not a pure ballistic drop vehicle. Like the Pershing II, the DF-21's RV makes atmospheric reentry, throws on the breaks and performs a high-g pull up, glides a bit while trying to find its target, then tries to dive on it or whatever.
      That is what it is built for, otherwise its features are pointless.
      The issues are simple, it loses a lot of its supposed killer speed while maneuvering and gliding, and its impacts are generally of moderate to semi-high obliquity (this was to avoid terminal kill systems, IIRC) - the type that late-era Deck Armor is designed to deflect.
      For the Pershing II, this was not a problem, it was carrying a nuclear warhead; and, indeed, for the Nuclear DF-21 this is also true. But a Kinetic Kill Vehicle in that pattern has a very high chance of just bouncing off the deck.
      Verses a Carrier, this is still going to dent the flight deck and possibly cause a lot of fires if it manages to hit exposed fuel lines/trucks, which is a mission kill to a Carrier, but to a Battleship this is Tuesday.

      Also, the Wiki has this to say on the subject (and I checked the source):
      "Though much is made of the DF-21D's damage infliction ability based solely on velocity and kinetic energy, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute has calculated that the energy of an inert 500 kg (1,100 lb) RV impacting at Mach 6 had similar energy to the combined kinetic and explosive power of the American subsonic Harpoon anti-ship missile, which is one-quarter the energy of the Russian supersonic 12,800 lb (5,800 kg) Kh-22 missile traveling at Mach 4 with a 2,200 lb (1,000 kg) warhead."

      In addition, some U.S. analysts believe that the DF-21D actually doesn't fly any faster than Mach 5 once past boost phase, which makes its terminal stage only BARELY faster than a jet fighter...

      We have tested the effects of the Harpoon verses the Belt and Deck armor schemes of the Iowa, and these are public. Against both, it was a no-sell.

      - Ray D.

  4. I think we also sometimes ignore whether armor can stop secondary effects if it can't stop the initial impact.

    I toured USS Laffey earlier this year. It was hit by something like 4 kamikaze's and 6 bombs. Sure, none of those was a Brahmos but the ship was only ~3500 tons full load.

    She wasn't armored, per se, that I know of. But she was built stoutly with good steel bulkheads. While the bombs would penetrate the bulkheads would resist allowing the explosion to wreck more of the ship.

    1. At present, the USS Laffey (DD-724) holds the record as the single ship to absorb the most damage by weight in a single incident, at 64,433-95,233lbs (depending on questionables).

      Incidentally, 2nd through 4th places are the IJN Musashi (42,700lbs-68,200lbs), IJN Yahagi (I have not done the math on her damage), and IJN Yamato (47,475lbs) in that order.

      It goes to tell you something about Good Old American Naval Engineering when the a little tin can outlasts both of the World's Largest Battleships (by weight).

      - Ray D.

    2. That's fascinating. Where did you get that data?

      Where does the USS Aaron Ward, DM-34, rank? She was hit by 6 kamikazee planes and two bombs, if memory serves, and survived.

    3. Unfortunately, it was from a class that I took quite a while back (which is where I became fascinated with the Laffey), so I do not remember the actual list very well.
      Though, even with arguable source, I can still explain the numbers, and even reassemble some of them...
      ...Actually, I just did the numbers on the Yahagi and came up with a different order than the Professor insisted, which gives me pause for concern, but these are the numbers I arrived at.

      From my notes, an underwater explosion, such as a Torpedo (or Diving Shell), is considered for 3 times the real weight of the warhead (with large caliber bursting charges functioning as ~4.5 times the real weight, but those are meaningless here).

      The USS Laffey we actually have 'good reports' on, and we still have a lot of questions as to what actually happened (which leaves us to wonder about the rest of these, I admit).
      Specifically, the low end is from CMDR (later Rr.Adml) Becton's book on the subject.
      What we know is, she was struck by...
      4 x 551lb bombs dropped from Aichi D3A "VAL"s, for 2,204lbs.
      1 x Yokosuka D4Y4 Suisei "JUDY" (Kamikaze), for 7,143lbs
      4 x Aichi D3A "VAL"s with their 551lb bombs, each weighing 6,217lbs, for 24,868lbs.
      4 x Aichi D3A "VAL"s WITHOUT a detonation, each weighing 5,309lbs, for 21,236lbs
      1 x F4U Corsair (friendly) for 8,982lbs
      Totaling 64,433lbs.
      However, some reports from the crews and shipyard go further, indicating that as much as 8,000lbs of internal ordnance (powder) detonated in Turret 3; Half to all of her torpedoes (which, the claim is, she was unable to offload) detonated on deck (3000 to 6000 lbs); and up to 34 of her Depth Charges went up on her stern (16,800lbs).
      If all of these were right, that would make for 95,233lbs of damage by weight.
      From the photographs, I do not believe that her torpedoes detonated.

      Photo from after internal repairs had been made.

      Diragram of the Attack

      The Musashi was as follows...
      17 x 2000lb AP or 1000lb AP or 500lb bombs (no clear records exist), for between 8,500lbs to 34,000lbs
      19 x Mk13 Aerial Torpedo w/ 600lb warheads, for 11,400lbs (34,200lbs after bonuses)

      Which gives us a clear cut range of damage by weight between 42,700lbs and 68,200lbs.
      The Japanese reported no ordnance detonation, she sunk via listing.
      I do not remember the source of the data.

      The Yamato was as follows...
      6 x 1000lb AP Bombs, for 6,000lbs.
      9 x Mk13 Aerial Torpedo w/ 600lb warheads, for 5,400lbs (16,200lbs after bonus)
      ...about 2,275lbs of HVAR rockets.
      On top of this, I have read reports that claim only roughly 23,000lbs of powder (or roughly 29 cases, which was almost the entire rack) going off caused the Yamato's Magazine detonation, which was the figure that I used back then.
      This would give a value of roughly 47,475lbs damage by weight.

      A larger value that has been tossed around would be roughly 60 powder cases going off, which would jump that to 69,840lbs.

      The source was a Japanese documentary on the Yamato, IIRC, which was pulling the Japanese reports on the subject.
      IIRC, the purpose of this was to throw things in the Yamato's favor in damage.
      A quick glance at the Wiki seemed to agree with most of the data, however.


    4. (...cont)

      The Yahagi I went and did the numbers on (borrowing from the wiki, I warn, so credibility is questionable), and got a different result than what I remember being told.
      7 x 6Mk13 Aerial Torpedo w/ 600lb warheads, for 4200lbs (12,600lbs after bonus)
      12 x 1000lb AP Bombs = 12,000lbs

      The Japanese reported no ordnance detonation, she sunk via listing.
      Therefore, a rather low result of 24,600lbs.

      If correct, this would place Aaron Ward above her.

      Aaron Ward I also just did the numbers on (also borrowing the report from the wiki),
      From what I can tell, she was hit by two aircraft with bombs, 3 aircraft with no mention of a bomb, and grazed by another aircraft (still a legitimate impact).
      Now, I do not have specifics, but I will assume to the higher end of the scale.

      2 x Aichi D3A "VAL" (Kamikaze) + 551lb bomb, each totaling 6,217lbs, for 12,434lbs
      3 x Yokosuka D4Y4 Suisei "JUDY" (Kamikaze), each weighing 7,143lbs, for 21,429lbs
      1 x Aichi D3A "VAL" collision (no explosion), for 5,309lbs

      This gives us a total of 39,172lbs.
      This actually puts her higher than the Enterprise and Lexington, if memory serves. It has been a number of years.

      To this day, simulations are unable to determine why the Laffey remained afloat.
      The Aaron Ward was of the same hull type as the Laffey, and you have seen the hulk she was reduced to.
      At the very least, it is useful as fodder for thought experiments.

      - Ray D.

    5. Ah, it seems the spam filter did not like a link in the first half of my post.

      If it ate it, let me know and I will repost the first half.

    6. Jim, Dr Friedman makes the case that the USN was using STS(armor grade steel) "liberally" in the construction of warships starting in the 1930s.


  5. If the Aegis was knocked forever askew by one grounding, can we even retrofit shock hardening of vital electronics into existing hulls?

    1. It starts at the lowest component level. The circuit boards must be hardened, then whatever the boards are mounted on must be hardened, and, finally, the overall "thing" must be shock hardened.

      So, yes, we can shock harden anything but we may have redesign everything. We also need to test-to-failure everything we buy. I assume that the Navy knew Aegis was too delicate for combat but opted not to do anything about it or test it because they knew the outcome without testing.

      Is it better to have a near-magical Aegis system that can be knocked out by the slightest touch or a less capable rotating radar that is much tougher and easier to repair?

      And then there's EMP hardening which is another issue.

    2. Regarding EMP (or EW), was it true about 'Khibiny and USS Donald Cook'? (or have you covered it already?)

      It seems the Russian likes to buzz the same ship, with same type of plane, on the anniversary date.

  6. " I assume that the Navy knew Aegis was too delicate for combat but opted not to do anything about it or test it because they knew the outcome without testing."

    That's just terrible.

    Part of me thinks it should be *easier* to shock harden radar panels than a rotating radar. I just don't get it.

    1. Jim,

      From google, not exactly the same, but the same principle,

      " An active electronically scanned array (AESA), also known as active phased array radar (APAR), is a type of phased array radar whose transmitter and receiver (transceiver) functions are composed of numerous small solid-state transmit/receive modules (TRMs). "

      That's why I try not to drop my smart-phones.

    2. That still doesn't make any sense. Plenty of fighter jets use AESAs, even ones that have to make regular carrier landings. That must involve plenty of shock on a regular basis.

    3. The Aegis arrays apparently require very precise alignment that is easily and, potentially, permanently altered.

  7. What about the USS Maine? That sub had a trash fire in port that someone required it to be scrapped. And what about aluminum. Look at this photo the USS Belknap, whose superstructure caught fire and burned up.

    1. The USS Maine is still in active service.

      You're thinking of the USS Miami. She was scrapped because the fire that was set by an arson burned out the forward section of the hull.

      The navy was going to use parts from another submarine but because of budget cuts the USN felt the money for the repairs would best be spent on maintenance for other ships. They had also found that the damage was much more extensive and with subs, you don't skimp on safety.

    2. I'm not sure what point you're making, if any. Are you simply providing examples of survivability problems?

    3. Would you concur that superstructures must be all-steel?

    4. Actually, that makes me wonder about whether or not a nuclear submarine could be made more survivable.

      The USSR used double hulled submarines partly for survivability reasons.

  8. I understand the USS Port Royal Aegis system was repaired and operational, it was the later structural cracks which meant it was added to the retirement list ( temporarily). It later seems that the cracks are not much different from other ships of the class.
    the grounding was 2009 and the proposed retirement was 2013, so it would be difficult to suggest the Aegis system was unusable for that time.

  9. "All ships with guns need optical aiming backup systems."

    "Networks, radars, sensors, and communications equipment needs to be simplified to allow on-board repair. A greater emphasis needs to be put on training technicians and designing in diagnostics."

    I think thats key
    Networking is great.
    Its beyond great actually.

    But everything needs to be functional on its own as far as possible.

    VLSs would appear to be a particular weakness here, a turreted gun or a turreted armoured box launcher should, in extremis, be rotated and fired by hand, thats not to say they can now, but they should be able to. I'm not sure thats practical for a VLS.

  10. If the VLS is hot launch, it would seem that you could, in extremis, be able to set it up that you could have multiple redundant paths to get some data to the missile and launch it. Even a data jack right into the side of the unit where you could plug in some (long) cat 5 and a laptop to interface with the missile.

    The cell itself could be set up with minimal moving parts.

  11. I'm thinking that a ship should be compared to a WW2 counterpart in terms of survivability.

    Seeing that the USS Laffey, an Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer has been mentioned, why not compare a modern day ship like the LCS to the Sumner class.

    The Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer was about 2200 tons empty and 3500 tons displacement full load.

    That compares to the Freedom class LCS and is a bit heavier than a Independence Class.

    We're talking the same displacement class here. Could the LCS take anywhere near the damage the Laffey did?

    Another question is if it would be wise to invest more heavily in guns for shooting down missiles - I'm talking about as many as they had in WW2 on warships. They could also be used of course like in WW2 to shoot down nearby enemy aircraft and helicopters.

    The Ticos, ABC, and similar ships should be compared as well.

  12. I think normal armour really had its day.

    An iowa's 16 inch shells had about 25kg of HE.

    A Russian Granit ASM has in the region of 750kg RDX @ Mach 1.6 and better ASM are being created all the time.

    No simple physical barrier can resist this kind of physical stress.

    We have to remember that the weight of armour restricts other design features.

    Manouverability has be proven as very significant in ASM attacks when used in conjunction with passive defence.

    Against these kind of weapons surviability depends on not getting hit.

    This i would say is a good idea with any kind of weapon.

    The idea of concentrating a design on being hit. Particually to the detrement of other considerations. Is frankly... well silly.

    We didnt spend ALL THIS MONEY on anti missile ship defence for no reason.

    On the topic of offence. Yes 100%, VLS LRASM and lots of them!

  13. Here is an idea for all those stuck in ww2 era armour thinking but looking for lighter and better protection schemes

    Look up and consider composite metal foam for armour plating on ships. Anyone think this might work and save weight

    1. There are so many possible armor innovations that could be adapted to ships and the Navy seems interested in none of them. Very sad.

      Good comment.

  14. CNO, one thing you didn't mention in the original post is internal compartmentation and damage control standards (other than the spot-on comments about having sufficient manpower to perform effective damage control). I would presume that you don't disagree with the need, but that your primary focus was elsewhere.

    The RN experience in the Falklands is instructive. They had a mix os ships built to historic naval DC standards, and other ships built to lesser standards. Both groups took direct hits. The ones built to historic naval standards stayed afloat. The others didn't.

    1. I didn't mention compartmentation, redundancy, separation, simplification, or a hundred other factors that make up survivability. It's a blog post and I've got several paragraphs of space to work with. I've got to pick and choose which specific items to discuss. I ask for your understanding!

    2. No worries, I understand, and you did address DC from a personnel standpoint. Just thought a comment on the subject was a worthwhile addition to the thread. And I do find the Falklands experience to be telling.

    3. You're quite right about the Falklands. It has so many lessons to offer and yet we persist in believing that we know better and that our technology will overcome the realities of combat.

    4. CNO, do you think that one of the lessons of the Falklands might be "bayonet charges can still work"? There was a successful British one during the Battle of Mount Tumbledown, and the British pulled off another successful one later during the "Battle of Danny Boy" in the War on Terror.

  15. I think this blog post should have included the following quote from Soviet Admiral Sergey Gorshkov (1910 - 1988). He praised the Firepower and Survivability of the Iowa-class battleships (after receiving their 1980s refit) with the following:

    "You Americans do not realize what formidable warships you have in these four battleships. We have concluded after careful analysis that these magnificent ships are in fact the most to be feared in your entire naval arsenal. When engaged in combat we could throw everything we have at those ships and all our firepower would bounce off or be of little effect. Then when we are exhausted, we will detect you coming over the horizon and then you will sink us."

    They sure don't make 'em like they used to.

  16. CNO, you might like to see this video playlist concerning what was once the pinnacle of naval firepower and survivability, all at a sustained 33 knots. I don't know if it'll make it through the spam filter so I'm putting it in a separate comment.


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