Thursday, December 15, 2016

Excalibur - LRLAP Replacement

The Navy recently cancelled the Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP) that was the sole ammunition for the Zumwalt’s 155 mm Advanced Gun System (AGS).  We’ve previously discussed the utter stupidity of designing an entire gun system that is totally incompatible with any other military munition and is dependent on a single, unique, expensive rocket assisted shell.  That lack of commonality turned around and bit the Navy in the ass when they cancelled the LRLAP program due to runaway costs.  Now they have a gun with no munition. 

There are only two options:

  1. Rip out the AGS and install a conventional gun or missile system.  Interestingly, the Zumwalt, with its cruiser size dimensions, might be able to accommodate the 8” Mk 71 and still fulfill its land attack mission albeit with reduced ranges (around 18 miles with standard rounds – an extended range guided round was proposed but not developed).  Alternatively, the AGS could be replaced with standard VLS cells and Tomahawk missiles, however, this makes the “round” just as expensive as the cancelled LRLAP.

  1. Adapt some other munition to the AGS.

The Navy has selected option 2. and the chosen munition appears to be the Army’s 155 mm Excalibur round.  Excalibur is a GPS guided, gliding projectile.

LRLAP - Too Expensive To Use

On the positive side, this brings the Zumwalt/AGS into line with the rest of the military’s 155 mm weapons and may allow the Zumwalt/AGS to use the Army inventory of 155 mm shells.

On the minus side, a host of problems must be overcome.

  • The AGS will have to be adapted to fire the Excalibur round.  This will likely cost hundreds of millions of dollars and probably take several years to accomplish.
“One defense official told USNI News it might take up to $250 million in engineering costs to modify the three ship class for Excalibur.” (1)

You know those kind of off-the-cuff cost estimates are always ridiculously low.

Additionally, it’s not just the gun barrel that has to be modified but the entire gun and munition handling system.  The Zumwalt was, literally, built around the AGS and its munition handling system which was precisely sized for the LRLAP.  Manual handling is not even an option without extensive modifications because the system was designed from scratch to be fully automated.

  • The AGS’ selling point was the extended range of the rocket munition.  The Excalibur, lacking a rocket assist and dependent only on gliding fins for its range, doesn’t even come close to the LRLAP.

“The GPS-guided round – developed by Raytheon and BAE-Systems Bofors – has about half the range of the 60-mile LRLAP ...” (1)

DOT&E cites a range for the Excalibur 1a-2 of 25 miles (40 km) (2).  Of course, this almost invalidates the Zumwalt’s reason for being!

  • While less expensive than the LRLAP it will replace, the Excalibur is not cheap.
“… The GPS-guided round … costs about a quarter of LRLAP’s estimated $1 million per round price tag.” (1)

Defense Industry Daily website cites contract costs of around $70,000 per round (3).  A Department of Defense Selected Acquisition Report shows Average Procurement Unit Costs (APUC) of around $100,000 per round (4).

  • Excalibur is GPS guided.  If GPS is jammed, the round is rendered ineffective.  To be fair, that’s true of many military weapons.  Further, GPS requires fixed targets so the AGS/Excalibur will have limited utility – the enemy is not going to sit in one spot waiting for us to shoot.  Again, to be fair, this was also true of the LRLAP.  GPS guidance for a deep inland munition was always a bit of a head scratcher.
Excalibur - LRLAP Replacement

So, after spending around $30B for the Zumwalt/AGS program, we’re going to wind up with three ships (maybe only two – the last is being looked at as a rail gun test bed) that can fire a 6” round a few miles further than a WWII era battleship’s 16” shells?  For $30B we could have reactivated and operated the battleships for many years.

The AGS/LRLAP is yet another in the seemingly unending list of programs that the Navy committed to before they were technically proven and determined to be cost effective.  The lesson keeps getting hammered home and the Navy keeps refusing to learn.


(1)USNI News website, “Raytheon Excalibur Round Set to Replace LRLAP on Zumwalts”, Sam LaGrone, 13-Dec-2016,


  1. I might need to take a break or just start wearing a mouthguard when I read about the military; lest my Dentist get another Porsche....

    This clicks so many anger buttons on me.

    I hate guided artillery rounds. There. I said it.

    Its not that they don't have a purpose. It's just that they are so damned expensive; and the 'guided' part always relies on a pretty counterable part of the kill chain: someone painting the target with a laser, or GPS.

    A guided round, able to be shot out of a normal gun, is fine in limited supply. Other than that, use artillery for the area affect weapon it is.

    Had we gone with reactivating the BB's, or even develop a 10" cannon that could fire 8" submunitions packed with HE back in the 80's we'd *have* our NGFS weapon with decent range to build ships around. And, shocker, we could use the ballistics tables we've used since WWI to be able to use them as an anti-ship weapon too!

    'But the BB's are vulnerable to submarines, Jim....' LIKE EVERY OTHER SURFACE SHIP IN THE FLEET.

    The Navy didn't like the BB's due to their age (valid) and their manning (No) and their cost to modernize (reasonable at the time). But then they pissed away as much or more money making.... maybe....something that can kind of do the same thing.

    I live in the snowy north. I could spend time, money, and energy to have my car wheels changed to treads and have theoretically the BEST SNOW VEHICLE OUT THERE with TRANSFORMATIONAL TECHNOLOGY. Of course, I'd spend thousands and have tons of technical difficulties and in the end have a vehicle that could only work 4 months out of the year; so I'd have to use whatever meager resources I had left to buy a cheap car. It would be a stupid use of my resources when I could have bought just a decent AWD vehicle from the get go.

    unfortunately, CNO, this fits in with the business model. The budget slice that could be gotten by fielding moderately upgraded BB's or Mk'71 equipped Spruance hulls wasn't *NEARLY* what could be gotten and locked in for the Zumwalts.

    Sorry if I'm ranting. I'm just sad and angry.

    1. They are basically like missiles.

      The Tomahawk costs $1.59 million (2014 USD), so that should give you an idea of the total costs.

      As far as winter goes, it's not just the vehicle, a good pair of winter tires will get you a long way. I bet that the military probably could go a long way with a few upgrades instead of trying to build another "transformational" class of ships.

      Here in Canada, there have been calls for mandatory winter tires. Costco often has deals.

    2. I'm a big Nokian fan. I am anal about tires, then brakes, then suspension parts, then drivetrain. The rest takes care of itself.

      The Army, IIRC, retired copperhead because it was too expensive. The Navy going with a gun that can only fire a unique shell was folly.

    3. The copperhead only cost $50k. The problem was reliability and succeptability to dust in the air which would create sparkling on the wrong target.
      Who would sparkle for you it you shot Copperheads from the Zumwalt? Would you use a UAV with a laser designator?
      Copperhead range is also about 10,000m less than Excalibur.
      They were right to retire the Copperhead

    4. Surf, I totally agree. I was only pointing out that the cost of a shell can kill a weapons system even if its good.

    5. Dust in the air is going to be a problem pretty much everywhere.

      Especially in the desert though where sandstorms are a regular occurrence.

      Like or not war happens in places where the climate is less than idea. If there is opposition to the US, you can safely assume that the locals are well adapted to their local climate. They've probably lived their for much, if not all of their lives after all.

      Unless American weapons systems and more importantly, training adapts to that, it will be a disaster.

    6. Very true.

      But I think copperhead in particular had issues. IIRC Copperhead was designed, like alot of our current equipment, specifically for the ETO in and around central army group. Less dust there, and the technology was 30 years older. It may have been a great idea that was put out there before the technology was ready for prime time.

      All that said, I still hate guided munitions. They are SOOOO expensive. Having some makes sense if you have a need. But designing an entire weapons system around them is a way to spend your way into defeat before you even fire a shot.

      If we could pool all of our resources and make one self aware bolo uber tank that was 50 generations ahead of everything else out there it would be stupid to build it.

      I believe we've gone too far into the Star Wars spectrum of weapons design recently, for WAY too little gain. The Ford is the poster child of that, IMHO.

  2. If understand correctly the NATO Jt MoU for the 155mm gun has gas a chamber volume of 23 l whereas the the AGS uses a non-standard chamber of 29.5 l (1,800 in3) to fire the 225 lb LRLAP. All NATO army shells are approx. 100 lbs manufactured to with stand max. pressure from 23 l of powder.

    The complications involved of firing a reduced charge from AGS round are sure to be expensive. I'm sure if the Navy funded BAES with a $billion they could adapt the AGS to fire the standard 155mm NATO rounds.

    1. OK quite interesting. Is it 2 part ammunition, as obviously we would prefer to be firing a 100lb shot with full charge for the 1,800in3 ?

      Basic Newtonian says we should be looking at over twice the muzzle velocity + the increased barrel length implied in the volume.

      Could be quite good,

      Pressure should remain constant, only problem would be can Excalibur cope with the doubled acceleration ?

    2. Do we really want to sink a ton of money into adapting the AGS to use 155 Excalibur for a gun which exists on only two (maybe three) ships in the fleet? That's a lot of money for a very small return especially when you factor in the greatly reduced range.

    3. "Do we really want to sink a ton of money into adapting the AGS to use 155 Excalibur "

      No, obviously not.

      But its either that or sink a mountain of money into re-equipping zumwalt.

      Or rename it the DGS ( Dunsel Gus System ) because although it represents a high percentage of the ship by cost, mass and volume, it serves no actual purpose.

      Its rock and a hard place time really.

      On the "bright side". By the look of the above stats ( and of course air resistance is linear, but .... ) it looks like you might be able to double Excalibur normal range if you adapt AGS to that round.

    4. "But its either that or sink a mountain of money into re-equipping zumwalt."

      Another alternative is to do nothing. Retire two of the Zumwalts and use the remainder as a test bed for electronics, propulsion, and hull form. Why sink more money into a what will, at best, be a substandard platform?

      If someone wants to play around with AGS and Excalibur as an R&D project, that's fine, and if it ever matures then we can revisit equipping the Zumwalt with it. Of course, pouring money into an R&D project that can only benefit three ships in the entire fleet seems unwise.

  3. This was so stupid and obvious that if problems or overruns occurred , USN would be in trouble and look foolish.

    I have a couple of questions: why did USN go such an unique solution? Was it just to get the extra range?

    The other question is more general, shouldn't SOMEBODY in DoD be charged with oversight and ask the teams working on these projects, what happens if XYZ doesn't work out? What's your Plan B? Shouldn't somebody be playing Red Team on these projects and asking some tough questions? This was stupid from the beginning, you have an unique gun and ammo systems that's compatible with nothing ELSE!!! Shouldn't somebody be charged with going over these programs and looking at weaknesses, traps and just plain stupid decisions?!?!?

    Somebody should lose their job ever this.....

    1. "why did USN go such an unique solution?"

      Who can say why the Navy makes the decisions they do? Still, it's obvious that the Navy wanted a very long range attack weapon and no gun could do it. It had to be a rocket or missile and the hope was that a rocket shell would be cheaper. That didn't pan out.

      Given the "want" by the Navy, a unique solution was almost a given. The other obvious approach would have been the navalized MLRS/ATACMS, however, the ATACMS appears to cost around $750K each.

  4. Personally, I would have been happy with real classic battleships. For $30 billion, the USN could have built 3 Montana Class sized battleships, if not >100000 ton battleships outright.

    1. The fact that they didn't reactivate the BB's to save money is what makes this so galling. They could have had a multi mission platform (NGFS, Harpoon carrier, etc) that worked for the cost of reactivation and upgrades.

      I agree, it would have been inefficient. Their original reasons to pursue another course were fine. But then they botched it SOOOOOO badly as to make it horribly bad.

    2. Problem with the BB's has always been manning.

    3. "Problem with the BB's has always been manning."

      We've covered this. Manning them like WWII is unnecessary. Removing the unneeded 5" secondary battery (add a couple 76 mm guns and call it a day), 40 mm AA, and 20 mm AA would significantly reduce the crew size. Adding some judicious automation and replacing the boilers with standard Navy turbines would further reduce the crew size. My guesstimate is that a modern BB could operate with a crew size of around 500.

    4. It makes too much sense for the USN.

      That said, I actually think that the secondary armament could be of use, so I'm not comfortable with removing those.

      The real problem is that the defense industry won't get as much cash as building a Zumwalt white elephant.

      At some point though, I think that a classic battleship is worth it. Heavy armor, large guns, and a powerful secondary armament.

      I've always thought that a modern day equal to the Worcester-class cruiser would be amazing for secondary armament. They might even be able to make the rate of fire even faster, considering they were using WW2 era level technology.

    5. > "My guesstimate is that a modern BB could operate with a crew size of around 500."

      For a ~700ft long ship, which is the minimum you want for a modern 8in fleet gunship (just to hold the weight of the guns - unless you want only a handful of Mark 71 mounts), 1200 men is the minimum you need for Damage Control purposes (remember, the Des Moines-class sailed with 1800).
      A Modern Battleship (a real battleship, not the monitor you call for) would still require at minimum 1300 men - with 1500-1800 suggested.
      As a matter of fact, the 1800 crew compliment of the Iowas during the 80s was selected due to being the minimum manpower to perform damage control on that ship (source: Cpt. Mike Eagan (US Navy, ret, dec)).
      A modern ~500ft long 4-Gun (12in) Shore Bombardment ship (which is to say, the monitor you call for) based on the immediate post-dreadnought South Carolina-class (modern 12in guns are a lot larger than the guns on the South Carolinas) with everything simplified to points beyond stupidity would still require a crew of almost 800 (incidentally, about the same crew the South Carolinas actually sailed with).
      So, you can go ahead and strip the ships of the secondaries and AA guns, but you still end up with one of two circumstances:
      A) Hundreds of men sitting around on the ship doing nothing except maybe playing cards and spit shining the bulkheads;
      B) a ship that cannot afford to take damage because it does not have the crew to perform adequate damage control - meaning first sign of combat, that ~$14 billion USD ship is going under with ~500 lives still aboard.

      The Burkes and Ticos are horribly undermanned when it comes to Damage Control - the cases where Burkes or OHPs have survived horrifying damage has been
      1) Not in Combat Circumstances
      2) a miracle to begin with.
      This would be extremely unlikely to repeat itself in a real fight.

      Come real combat, the world is going to learn really fast that every major navy is sailing around the ocean in glass cannons that cannot patch themselves up and keep going, and that is not how you win wars.

      This is the reason that I still design my capital ships as ~2800 crew monsters, which is the same reason the Carriers still have MORE than that many just to operate the ships, not flight or anything else - Damage Control.
      The simple fact is, you want combat power, you pay in manpower - that has always been a truism of military combat and automation can do nothing about it, you just replace low paid elbow grease (enlisted men) with highly paid technical engineers (officers), which is NOT going to lighten your manning expenditures one red cent.
      There are many ways that the Navy could reform their system that would benefit the sailors while increasing readiness and decreasing per man expenditure, allowing them to afford the massive manpower pool needed to maintain the mass standing fleet it takes to prevent wars, but they are not interested.

      I also feel it worth pointing out that the Italian Leonardo 127 mm/54 Compact gun, which uses the same 5in shells as the US' 5in guns, is considered an effective AA weapon by the Italians, Japanese, and South Koreans - all of whom regularly practice with it in the AA (Anti-Missile) role to this day.
      The Japanese and South Koreans are also under the opinion that the American 5"/62 Mark 45 Mod 4 functions adequately in the same role (albeit not as well as the Leonardo gun, which fires over twice as fast - the Japanese actually claim Leonardo understated their guns fire rate), and have been using theirs in AA Drills since the mid 2000s.

      - Ray D.

    6. When it comes to crew size, I'm discussing what the Navy would likely be able to do according to modern standards. That said, you won't get any argument from me about damage control personnel needs.

      Regarding 5" guns in the AAW role, I have yet to see any credible data (tests under realistic conditions) that shows a 5" gun is effective. All 5" gun manufacturer's claim to be able to do AAW but none have proven it to the best of my knowledge. If you think the gun you cited is capable, point me at some actual test data.

    7. Regarding crew size, I suppose I am being a little too optimistic.
      The Navies of the world are far too focused on Sudden Death Warfare to know any better.
      That being said, the standards that were used for the requirements I stated are actually still in use - Capital Ship Standards, as in use with the Super-Carriers.

      Regarding guns, at some point we both have to admit that we are asking for data that we simply don't have access to.
      The Leonardo 127 mm/54 Compact is an Italian gun that is not in service with the US Navy, and the Italian, South Korean, and Japanese governments are under no obligation to release testing data - unlike our own navy, through the valued work of the GAO and the like, which openly does not give a single hoot about the role of Gunfire, and therefore does not train for it except in the most superficial of ways which in turn produces rather horrible results in both testing and practice.

      However, I would like to make a tactical appeal here.
      From what I understand (by speaking to Japanese seamen), the Destroyer/Cruiser 5in guns' role in modern Anti-Missile warfare is not a direct Hard-Kill, but rather a supplemental aid to the other hard/soft kill assets on the ship.

      To explain the concept in brief,
      Modern Anti-Shipping Missiles use a complex Terminal Guidance System that is programmed to attempt to dodge around common close range Anti-Missile systems that any given target may be carrying, to include the classical 5in gun - but therein lies an issue that can easily be exploited.
      Unlike Kinetic Kill Vehicles (such as the RAM), the 5in gun is essentially throwing a giant air-burst grenade that automatically detonates ~600 yards from the missile, throwing shrapnel in a 38 yard wide cone ahead of it - and at the ranges involved, the gun just has to put the shell anywhere near the missile since the effected area is greater than the shell deviation.
      This leaves the missile with two choices:
      A) Attempt to fly directly through the cloud of shrapnel, which is a near certain hard-kill (according to the missile).
      B) Pull a hard angle pull up at 30-plus Gs since it's going too fast to attempt a roll around the cloud, and then burn most of its Terminal Motor trying to realign itself with the ship.
      The thing is, of course, only one of these is actually an option - they cannot go through the cloud, their terminal guidance systems just won't allow it.
      They will make a hard pull up and attempt to turn the complication into a horribly executed pop-up attack, making the missile easy prey for CIWS and ECM.

      That or the programmers are stupid and have the thing try to curve around the cloud, which means it has to burn even more of the Motor for ever more hard turns, leaving it with nothing for terminal navigation...
      Essentially, it would end up either heading in a straight predictable line (making it an easy target for CIWS) or would try to dodge around the incoming fire and miss the ship entirely because it couldn't regain speed for a second attempt and crash harmlessly into the water.
      Either way, a win for the ship.

      Now, don't get me wrong, I am not suggesting to take this concept into battle just yet.
      I'm suggesting that the issue needs to be thoroughly tested, even while hypothetical modern battleships that are theorized to use the guns in bulk are underway.
      However, I also suggest a caveat.
      Simply design the in-deck gun housing on the ship to accept a modern, hardened (armored) version of the 8"/55 Mark 71 mount (probably a new gun system, though, but nothing crazy like the AGS - just a simple derivative), similar to how the Spruance-class were (so long as the design already calls for 8in guns to begin with, which they should).
      Should the 5in gun system fail in the tests, simply replace the unneeded guns with the 8in guns, and you have greatly increased the ship's mass shore bombardment capabilities; losing virtually nothing from putting those original guns in the design.

      - Ray D.

    8. "Either way, a win for the ship."

      Finally, we have an absolutely fool-proof, 100% perfect anti-missile defense! I wonder why the Japanese, Italian, and SK navies still have surface to air missiles? I wonder why the US Navy hasn't abandoned the Standard, RAM, SeaRAM, and ESSM missiles in favor of this simple, invicible 5" gun?

      I'm mocking the concept, of course, to make a point (take no offense). Every weapon ever conceived was perfect on paper but few have actually risen to the level of "good", let alone perfect. Being more serious, my mocking point is valid. If the Japanese, Italian, and SK navies were really convinced that the 5" was that good they would abandon their SAMs but they haven't. That alone should tell us what they really think about the gun as an AAW weapon.

      Historical perspective: We had air burst 5" guns in WWII and they couldn't stop the slow propeller driven aircraft of the time. Yes, they had some limited success but not enough. Air attacks always got through. I'm sure you'll say that we now have superior fire control, which is true, but at the same time the incoming aircraft have now become supersonic missiles so the gain in fire control is balanced by an increase in the threat.

      There's no way around it, the 5" gun has an abysmal record in service.

      I have no problem firing a 5" gun at an incoming missile. If you've got the gun, anyway, why not try? Worst case, you miss and waste a few rounds but you might get lucky and get a hit.

      I'd love to see some realistic testing of the 5" gun in the AAW role (I'd like to see it tested in the anti-small craft role, too!). Until someone does that and publishes the results, I'll continue to believe what history has conclusively proven which is that the 5" gun is ineffective as an AAW weapon.

    9. "standards that were used for the requirements I stated are actually still in use - Capital Ship Standards, as in use with the Super-Carriers."

      As you know, the Ford class carriers, while being larger than the Nimitz, have reduced the crew size by 600 or so. The wisdom of this remains to be seen.

    10. I'm not so much interested in Anti-Air as much as I am in bombardment. There are going to be situations where you need a smaller gun and not the 16" guns, but you need bombardment.

      IIRC the battleships have the ammunition capacity for a much larger number of rounds than the smaller sized warships and for much heavier bombardment.

    11. CNO, forgive me, but I do take offense.
      Not because you mocked a concept, but because you are trying to claim I said something that I quite clearly did not in any way say.
      If you disagree with my comment, then by all means disagree with my comment, please, I am here to learn. But it is invariably insulting to have commentary forced into my metaphorical mouth.
      Let me repeat myself for your benefit:

      "From what I understand... the Destroyer/Cruiser 5in guns' role in modern Anti-Missile warfare is not a direct Hard-Kill, BUT RATHER A SUPPLEMENTAL AID TO THE OTHER HARD/SOFT KILL ASSETS ON THE SHIP." [emphasis added]

      On top of this, I then referred to CIWS... twice.
      CLEARLY, this SYSTEM is not only SHORT RANGED but part of the LAST LINE of defense if it is intended to SUPPLIMENT the CIWS.
      Please, explain to me how suggesting bolstering the LAST LINE of defense is magically suggesting (or even justifying) removing in its entirety the FIRST LINE of defense which is LONG (to EXTREME) RANGED?
      What you are claiming I said is essentially the same as 'We need to get rid of Soldier's Rifles, because they have Kevlar and Handguns'.
      Or, in base English, you are suggesting myself to be a moronic imbecile. Of course I would take offense.
      I DID say it would make the missile an easy kill, yes, but I was speaking relatively (and I ought to have said relatively, I assumed it was obvious, but I am now left to assume it wasn't).
      A 70% chance of failing is a whole lot easier than a 99.9% chance of failing.

      You also lifted the quote out of context and used it to justify your mocking tirade, when in context I was very clearly speaking of the outcomes of a single avoidance maneuver and why a missile would not do that maneuver. Disingenuous of you, at best!

      For another point, your deriding of the 5in Gun's performance in WW2 very clearly displays either a near-complete lack of understanding of WW2 Doctrine or a demand for unrealistic magic pixie dust defenses - in the latter case, forgive my snark, but I suggest you reevaluate the Zumwalt and LCS, you ought to love them!
      Here's real history for you:
      The 5in Gun was used as part of a SYSTEM of Anti-Air Defenses, and it was considered an EXTREMELY IMPORTANT part of that system.
      The goal of the Anti-Air Defense SYSTEM was NOT to shoot down enemy aircraft, their goal was to drive off enemy aircraft and prevent damage to the allied fleet.
      Fleet wide, the system had a Sixty Eight percent (68%) SUCCESS RATE against the Kamikaze (which are arguably harder to shoot down/force to miss than Sub-Sonic and low Supersonic Anti-Ship Missiles according to Norman Friedman).
      That is roughly comparable to the expected success rate tossed around for our modern Anti-Air Systems (about 70%)!
      The Fast Carrier Task Force had actually evolved that SYSTEM (ironically by putting MORE emphasis on the 5in guns) and had an EIGHTY SIX PERCENT (86%) SUCCESS RATE against the Kamikaze, and NINETY SIX percent (96%) against Non-Kamikaze.
      War wide, the fleet's AA SYSTEM had an astounding NINETY ONE percent (91%) success rate of driving away enemy aircraft - of the approximately 7,600 enemy aircraft that came within gun range, only 715, or 9 percent, scored hits or damaging near misses on naval and merchant vessels.
      You may call that an abysmal record, but I call that record an ASTOUNDING success.

      Here, an actual historical document to prove my point:

      Yes, yes, the 5in Guns only accounted for a whopping 30% of all confirmed AA kills in the war or about ~9% of every enemy aircraft that even thought about coming in range - even though directly splashing them wasn't even their job (as clearly implied by that document).
      I suppose you are going to suggest now that we scrap all ECM because as an Anti-Missile asset it has a kill record of a resounding ZERO?
      Of course not.

      - Ray D.

    12. Well, you obviously took offense so let me start by offering a sincere apology. Such was not the intent. I'll learn a lesson and try harder.

      To the subject at hand ...

      To be fair, the concept, as you described it, contained no option of failure. As described, it was presented as a 100% success for the defending 5" gun, whether directly or indirectly. You presented no scenario in which an incoming missile would have any chance of success. The logical extension of that is that a defending ship would not need SAMs, decoys, ECM, etc. I suspect you don't believe that but that's how it was described.

      Moving on the 5" in WWII. Yes, the 5" was an extremely important part of the AA defenses. However, extremely important is not the same as extremely effective. Let's look at the numbers in the reference you cited.

      For starters, the data and descriptions are confusing. Look at Table 1, p18. It lists 43 aircraft engaged with 17 hitting a ship or missing close enough to cause damage. That seems straightforward enough. The remaining 26 is where it gets confusing. The description for the 26 says "Number missing without damaging" which I interpret to mean that the aircraft either left the area or attempted a suicide dive but missed by a sufficient margin as to not cause damage. It does not say that the 26 were shot down. In fact, it does not say that ANY were shot down. I know that some had to have been shot down, hence my confusion. I'll speculate that the 26 consists of some that were shot down, some that left the area without attacking, and some that attacked and missed by a non-damaging margin. Again, the data does not indicate how many, if any, were shot down.

      Table II, p17 is a bit clearer. It lists an overall AA success rate of 23%. Using your number of 30% for the share of kills by 5" (not sure where you got that number?) gives an overall 5" success of 6.9% (23% x 30%). A success rate of 6.9% is hardly effective. It may be vital but it's not effective.

      I also note that Table III, p19 lists the effectiveness of the 5" gun as 1000 rounds per kill. That's not what I would call effective. The 5" was important, certainly, but not terribly effective.

      Finally, and most importantly, you're misinterpreting the data. Let me illustrate. If a bomber approaches its target and is not taken under fire, drops its bombs, they miss, and the bomber returns to its base, is that considered an AA win? Of course not, since the AA never fired. It was a simple case of the attacker missing in the face of non-existent defense. You, however, are interpreting every non-successful attack as an AA win. This is not even remotely true. Torpedo planes and dive bombers may be completely unaffected by the AA and still miss. Similarly, a suicide plane may be completely unaffected by AA and still miss. The AA didn't drive them off, they simply missed and returned to base or crashed, in the case of suicide planes.

      Also, bear in mind that the suicide pilots were barely trained. Many were simply incapable of piloting their aircraft into a ship regardless of whether there was AA fire or not. Taking AA credit for those is misleading.

      The data clearly supports my assessment that the 5" gun was not terribly effective.

    13. CNO, I appear to have read too deeply into your comment and pulled the wrong result.
      Truly, my apologies.

      The modern gun concept is something that is simply too much to get into at the moment, so I will decline to continue with it further. We may discus that later if I ever finish that proposed design (life is in the way).

      > "The data clearly supports my assessment that the 5" gun was not terribly effective."

      On the contrary, if you actually can read the document, the data is clear that the 5in Gun System was very effective.
      Note, however, that I stipulated that on actually being able to read the document - like most WW2 Era official documents, it is a tangled mess and requires a certain 'art' to read.
      (Your issue with Chapter VI Table 1 (p18) is addressed in the same chapter in Table 3 (p19) - 24/26 were kills, only 2 just missed.)

      I've been pouring over WW2-era documents (mostly ship designs) for going on 20 years now, let me try to break it down a little for you.

      Firstly, the document is VERY CLEAR that any chase away is considered an AA Victory.
      Page 8 clearly states the following:
      "Since the primary purpose of the fleet's antiaircraft is the protection of ships, the effectiveness of AA. defense is reflected not only in the number of planes shot down, but also in the damage suffered by ships from enemy aerial weapons--bombs, torpedoes, suicide planes, and others."
      The data presented by the document then proceeds under this assertion (even labeling the misses/chase-aways as 'AA Success Percentage').
      Kills do not equate to Success, Success does not equate to Kills. One can still happen without the other.
      Therefore, Kills that happen WITHOUT the ships being damaged is a Success.
      A/C that are taken under fire and then miss is considered a Success.
      That is simply the reality of AA Warfare.

      > "Of course not, since the AA never fired... You, however, are..."

      Please don't stick words in my mouth.
      The data presented in the document IS referring to A/C that were brought under fire and many tables are clearly labeled as such, no deciphering needed.
      My "5in Guns only accounted for a whopping 30% of all confirmed AA kills in the war or about ~9% of every enemy aircraft that even thought about coming in range" comment is still valid even without requiring the A/C to have been fired upon because it's just comparing numbers (number of A/C shot down by the 5in guns compared to the number of enemy aircraft that entered gun range) - limiting the total aircraft to those actually fired upon only improves the 5'/38's results!

      > "(not sure where you got that number?)"

      Page 6 and 7, 7 clearly stating:
      "Five-inch guns destroyed 30 percent of all "sures" during the war. VT-fuzed projectiles, used in only 35 percent of 5-inch rounds, were responsible for 50 percent of 5-inch kills."

      > "I also note that Table III, p19 lists the effectiveness of the 5" gun as 1000 rounds per kill. That's not what I would call effective."

      Page 7:

      "Rounds per bird, except for 1945, increased for all types of weapons as the war progressed. This was the result of the following factors:
      1) Increase in the number of weapons installed on all ships.
      2) Increase in the number of ships firing at each target as operations increased in size.
      3) Increase in the number of night attacks, in which fire control was less accurate.
      4) Increase in speed, maneuverability and armor of enemy planes.
      5) Adoption of - doctrine calling for opening fire at extreme range.
      6) Lack of sufficient opportunity for training."

      With the advent of the Kamikaze, the fleets were opening fire at ranges of 15,000 yards - they had no hope of accurate fire at this range, but they opened fire anyway because they weren't willing to give the enemy an inch.
      This clearly explains the inflated RPB.
      Do also check Page 6 for the yearly and war total RPBs.

      (cont below)

      - Ray D.

    14. (cont fr. above)

      As for the Effectiveness of the 5in Gun without requiring kills...

      Page 9 (Tactics and Equipment) states:
      "Early in 1945 fast carrier task groups developed AA. coordination plans, designed to provide concentrated 5-inch gunfire against targets at long range, guarding at the same time against further undetected attacks."
      Now, realizing this is VERY CLEARY spelling out that this primarily centered around 5in Gunfire, let us look at the effects in comparison to other fleets presented on Page 18.
      [ FCTF (AACP) Percentage AA. success: 86 ]
      Now, because they made a typo here, I take you back to page 5 (which is covering the same period):
      [ Other Forces Percentage AA. success : 68% ]
      This is a 26.4% increase in effectiveness, the only major difference being synchronized concentrated 5in gunfire (serenades)!

      HOWEVER, it was NOT increased lethality that caused this difference.
      If we look at Table II, p18, we see that the lethality spread is 23±3% compared to 18±2%, which is within the margin of error and not really significant enough to cause a 26.4% difference in chase-aways.
      The resulting conclusion is simply that the 5in Gun must have been very effective at deterring Air Attacks - the change in tactics did not generate a notably higher kill count, but still drove off a significantly greater number of air attacks.

      I believe that this is clear indication that the 5in Guns were considered VERY effective by that document.

      But, let me step away from the document for a moment.
      Consider, even if they failed to destroy the A/C in flight, the Psychological effects of the 5in shells going off in mass.
      Japanese Ace Pilot Saburō Sakai described the sensation as "Thousands of Oni (Japanese Ogres) beating on you as if you were a taiko (drum), knocking the wind from your lungs, destroying your vision, and making [life?] a nightmare." He actually went so far as to say he feared going against the 'Five Inch Machine Guns' more than going against any Fighter or Ace that the US could throw at him.
      Fellow ace Takahide Aioi (later an Admiral of the JMSDF) would corroborate this opinion, adding that many A/C that 'survived' were structurally destroyed by the beatings, rendering them unfit for service - even as Kamikaze. He also pointed out that it was not uncommon for pilots to return and end up laid up for days, 'coming back as more bruise than man', despite their A/C not being hit. I recall reading that he found humor in wondering 'if the Americans had intentionally designed their guns to kill pilots instead of sink aircraft'.
      In its proper role, the 5in gun was highly effective at deterring air attack - the 'respect' of them developed by the Japanese is clear indication of this. This alone quite probably deterred many would-have-been attacks, as the Japanese Pilots were simply too intimidated to engage unless they had something immediate and material to gain (unfortunately, this also drove the adoption of the Kamikaze, where the pilot injury and plane damage did not matter as it was a one way trip).
      The Germans even had similar appraisals of the American 5"/38cal Guns (which was the envy of the world at the time), and they were NOT flying A/C almost made out of paper.
      I call this a complete success of the 5in gun!

      Comparatively, the US Aviators didn't think much of the Japanese Naval AA, going so far as to consider it a joke.
      As a result, any opportunity to attack Japanese ships that presented itself was jumped on by the American Aviators.

      Oh, one more thing. The Japanese insist that most Kamikaze pilots were not 'barely trained' - it was completely true of the Home Guard (which made up only about 15% of the Kamikaze), but not the main force.
      Japan sent many of their vets to the deep as Kamikaze pilots, and several fighter aces - as a matter of fact, almost all of the Kamikaze pilots had at least a year's worth of experience.

      - Ray D.

    15. What are our damage control concepts based upon? There is the truism out there that damage control needs X amount of men... given that we haven't had to do damage control since the Stark, and that the ships out there now are arguably alot older, and for the newer ones, less robust, do we have any idea what damage control numbers on a modern vessel look like? Is there something like a damage control 'conops' done for a vessel as its commissioned?

      For example, I'd have to imagine that the damage control model for a hybrid electric Zumwalt looks radically different from that of a 'Burke.

    16. "damage control model for a hybrid electric Zumwalt looks radically different from that of a 'Burke."

      Remember that the waterline "footprint" of the Zumwalt DECREASES as the ship settles in the water, unlike conventional hull ships where the "footprint" INCREASES. Thus, the buoyancy of the Zumwalt decreases as the ship sinks which is the opposite of a conventional ship. In other words, once the Zumwalt begins to sink, it's going to accelerate because the reserve buoyancy is negative, not positive.

      I don't believe the Navy has clearly thought through all the ramifications of a tumblehome hull.

    17. Precisely my point! You might need X men for a Flt III Burke, but we can at least take a guess based on the Flt II's.

      Tico's and CVN's are, presumably, well known.

      But the Zumwalt might me more like the LCS which is 'Let's have real wide ladders so that men can get topside as fast as possible, and make sure there are a lot of rafts...'

      I hear much about 'Level X' survivability, but not much about how the Navy came up with how many men are needed for damage control in a ship that has X tons of reserve buoancy made to level Y standards.'

      Even in the Burkes and Tico's it seems like we take the manning necessary from older models, ut the Burkes and Ticos aren't built with STS or its equivalent. So I fear that they might get hit and we find out we have too little men on board. Or worse, that the design isn't salvageable.

  5. This is almost like inventing a gun without a bullet first.

    The solution is to supply the contractors advisers and technical people with $$$$ then lobby to have the AGS modified (read more money for contractors) to fire the ammunition that it should have been designed for in the first place.

    CNO does this qualify for a fraud waste and abuse issue?

    1. Technically they had a bullet, but decided it was too expensive to use.

      But yeah, this is defense acquisition malpractice IMO.

    2. Fraud, waste, and abuse are each separate concepts. Added to that is stupidity.

      This is not fraud. It's mismanagement, stupidity and waste on a massive scale but it is not fraud. Fraud involves lies, misrepresentation, and deceit.

    3. "Technically they had a bullet"

      Technically, they tried to develop the gun and the bullet concurrently which never works. The bullet was a technical success and a financial wreck.

    4. Because you hafta laugh rather than cry here is a story a contracting office once told me:

      Fraud is any lawyer that calls himself good.

      Waste is an empty seat on the busload of lawyers going over a cliff.


      Abuse is having to use the good lawyer that missed the bus.

  6. Raytheon developed a 5-in version of Excalibur called N5 which has much in common with Excalibur. This could be an opportunity to introduce a guided extended-range round for the Mk 45 gun.

    1. What possible purpose would a marginally effective 5" guided round serve at $70K?

    2. With about 90 5-inch guns in service today, the Navy could well buy 10,000 rounds for combat and training.

      Give there is some 70% commonality in parts between Excalibur and N5, if the Navy were to procure a significant number of N5 rounds, it could well drive down the unit cost of both rounds.

    3. I'll repeat, what purpose does a 5" guided round serve, regardless of cost?

    4. Can they just make deep cavity 5 inch shells with a M1156 PGK fuze and not need any further development?
      Redesigning a round for deeper fuse cavity an using an off-the-shelf $10000 fuze and off the shelf 5 inch guns? Seems much simpler.

    5. For starters, you can laydown accurate fire at about 3 times the range achievable with current 5-in rounds. Since flight times are in minutes, even in a GPS degraded environment accuracy should not significantly decrease.

      Secondly, Raytheon has looked at semi-active laser and millimeter wave guidance providing an option to stike a moving target.

      True the bursting charge is smaller for a guided round. But, according to, most 5-in rounds conventional rounds have a bursting charge of 7.75 lbs. By comparison, the cancelled ERGM round featured a burst charge of 7.72 lbs of PBXN-9. So, the bursting charge of the N5 round might not be appreciably less than that of a conventional round.

    6. 3 times the range of what?
      Naval Gun Fire has a big Probable Error in Range (PER) when attaching shore targets.
      PER be reduced by:
      1) shooting high angle and shortening range or
      2) putting a PGK fuse which actually slightly increases range
      Agree about the bursting charge difference being negligible

    7. Kris Osborne at National Interest wrote, "However, the 5-inch guns, called Mk 45, have a maximum effective range of only about eight or nine miles, and the current rounds lack precision so many rounds need to be fired in order to ensure that targets are destroyed." That was the basis for the first part of my comment.

    8. The 5" round has, historically, been found to be ineffective in the naval gunfire support role for any but soft targets. The 8" was considered the minimum.

      Further, no GPS guided munition is effective against moving targets which is the majority of the battlefield. We already have multiple means of engaging fixed targets (Tomahawks, artillery, ATACMS, aerial bombs, etc.), many of them more explosively powerful than a 5" round, so spending money to add guidance to a 5" round accomplishes little. Spending money to make an ineffective round more accurate is, likewise, foolish.

    9. I'm sure there are more than a few instances where a Tomahawk or ATACMS or a GPS bomb would be considered overkill or difficult to use for fear of collateral damage or some other reason. In those cases, a few guided 5-in rounds might be more appropriate.

    10. C'mon, now, think about it. You're suggesting that for the sake of a few isolated cases that we go ahead and spend many hundreds of millions of dollars adapting the Excalibur to the 5" gun just to gain a few miles in range and be able to fire a few less shells?! For the cost of the N5 round we could fire a LOT of standard 5" rounds.

      Remember, your scenario is that these rounds would be used when some other readily available munition is deemed too expensive but we're still willing to expend a ($50K?) round. And, it has to be against a fixed target with known GPS location and within, probably, 10-15 miles of shore (the firing ship will be several to dozens of miles offshore - Navy doctrine). And, it has to be a soft target because 5" just doesn't have the explosive power for hard targets. That kind of very limited target set doesn't seem like sufficient justification for another gazillion dollar program. Remember, we gave up on the 5" ERGM due to cost and technical challenges.

      It would be a LOT cheaper to just use a more expensive munition on those rare occasions, wouldn't it?

    11. One (maybe) side note....

      The point, or at least a major point, of the Zumwalt was to fulfill a land attack NGFS role. The reason for its fancy rocket shells was to allow lots of range.

      As the Navy has whiffed on this (badly) could we backfill some capability by giving the Marines alot more old fashioned tube artillery?

    12. Sure, if we could get it ashore. The reason any assault needs naval gunfire support is because, initially, the landing force has very little heavy weapons and armor and, therefore, can't support themselves. Recall, that the only initial wave landing craft we have are AAVs. The LCACs and LCUs are doctrinally considered follow on landing craft for use after the beach/port has been secured. By then, you don't need artillery (well, you do for any subsequent objectives) and before then, you haven't got it and can't get it. Naval gunfire support exists to fill the gap until follow on artillery and tanks can get ashore.

      On a related historical note, the entire evolution of the Pacific island invasions was a constant trend towards getting more firepower ashore in the initial wave, when it was most needed. We've forgotten that and have come to believe that we can unload our tanks and artillery at a leisurely pace after effortlessly securing the beach. We're going to be in for a rude awakening!

    13. The only reason I ask is that it seemed that the Zumwalts range of 60 odd miles suggested that they wanted to be hitting targets relatively far inshore; and at that point it would seem (?) that you've already got a beach head upon which you can land troops. But I'll admit that's just supposition on my part.

      We just aren't serious about amphibious assault at this point, I don't think. In a real forced assault the Gator Navy (and Marines) could take a heck of a beating; more than necessary.

    14. "hitting targets relatively far inshore; and at that point it would seem (?) that you've already got a beach head"

      Now you're starting to grasp the disconnect between our assault doctrine/operational reality and our equipment. We bought the Zumwalt because it was shiny and new, not because it would actually help in an assault.

      In the scenario you mention, we'll use air power and Tomahawks to hit deep inland, fixed targets (fixed targets generally being worth the expenditure of a million dollar Tomahawk).

      The Navy's acquistions don't match operational needs and reality. Once you've grasped this, you can start writing this blog!

  7. Now that I think about it, this whole ship is now totally ineffective.

    The range, as CNO notes, is now greatly reduced. So standing far away from the enemy to bombard is not an option anymore.

    It has 80 missile tubes and although larger, that's not as much missile firepower, as say, a Ticonderoga class cruiser (122 I believe). Originally the plan was 128 on the Zumwalt.

    In other words, with its gun it won't be able to shoot much, not very far, and its ability to defend itself will be limited.

    It also has a non-standard computer system, the Total Ship Computing Environment Infrastructure (TSCEI).

    1. Basically it can be used for short ranged bombardment and unless escorted, only in a permissive environment (Ex: against Islamic Fundamentalists).

  8. Its a test ship at this point. We should test the hell out of it. Maybe, just maybe, put a Mk 41 on one.

    It has an, er, interesting hull we could test for its LO properties. It has the hybrid electric drive I think actually has promise for a future class of ship. The TSCEI might be useful in the future.

    Lets just test them till they are scrap metal and get the best we can out of them.

  9. My biggest worry when it comes to USN: can USN design and build a ship that has combat value at a decent price again?!? Both Burkes(DDG) and Virginians(SSN) are good but older designs that dare I say, where designed at time USN knew how to do this?

    New Ford, LCS and Zumwalt aren't exactly reassuring that USN can design and put into service an effective combat ship or sub....what happens to USN if this trend continues?!?

    1. I think we need to have a cogent, future strategy before we can really design ships. We had that for the 600 ship Navy, I'm told, but haven't had a decent one recently. You build the Naval strategy, then build the ships to fit the strategy and the budget you have.

      Right now, there is no strategy. And I don't see one coming. So we'll continue to flounder. We also have people who don't understand. They just see the price tag of a Navy and the number of ships we have and say "Our Navy is 3 X as powerful as the next 'x' combined why do we need all that" without wondering about mission or why our ships are getting deployed so long and so often.

      My personal prediction is that the Navy is in a headlong decline.

      Money is going to remain static, maybe get an uptick with Trump, maybe not. Strategy will be (?) and designs will continue to flounder, with as much or more of an eye towards jobs creation and post naval careers for the flags as filling a need for the Navy. We'll still have alot of professional sailors giving the Navy backbone. But if we ever really go to war in a big way, alot of Diversity officers are going to have to learn how to put up and fight or shut up. And the Navy will have to learn how to make the best out of a bad ship situation. And in that educational process many people will likely die that probably didn't have to.

  10. More on the Worcester Cruiser.

    They along with the Des Moines were the last "gun" cruisers the USN ever made.

    Note the rapid fire 8" guns:

    Both classes were laid down in 1945 near the end of WW2, so consider what might be possible with modern technology. Accuracy of guns could be improved, as perhaps better damage control (although I will note the Des Monies class had 8" turret armor).

    If they could "scale up" for a 16" (or larger) super battleship, that would be pretty amazing. They could use a long barrel and rocket assisted projectiles for long range.

    1. The Worcester did have some reliability issues with the rapid fire guns, but the Des Moines class was very successful and the 8" guns as you can see achieved some pretty impressive fire rates.

      I suspect that a modern design could be made more reliable, accurate, and if need be, perhaps even higher firepower rates.

  11. What kills me is the Navy just figured out, after the Zumwalt was commissioned, that the rounds were that expensive? Excuse my language but BULLSHIT! They KNEW the outcry would be massive and he calls to change the ship would be deafening.

    How many more of these mega-screw ups can we taek? The LCS? a ship without an offensive weapons system to its name but is slated to make up a 1/4 of the fleet.
    Ford Class carrier? 12 billion dollars for an aircraft carrier that cannot launch or recover aircraft! If they have problems with its core mission set, what other fun things are in store?
    DDG-1000? What more needs to be said? Another massively expensive whip with no offensive weapons systems to its name. I am has one...with no rounds!!

    The Pentagon needs to be fumigated, starting with the Dept of the Navy.

    1. The F-35 is probably an even more costly failure than the above. It's an aircraft with numerous deficiencies and very expensive at that.

      Perhaps the only real success in recent procurement has been the MRAP?

  12. Its perhaps worth a mention that the quoted 25mi/40km range of excalibur is achieved when fired from the relatively short barreled (ie 39 caliber) M109 self propelled howitzer.

    In newer longer barreled artillery , like the 52 caliber gun of the PZH2000 SPG, the range of Excalibur is around 50km.

    Both the 155mm AGS and the 5" MK45(mod4) boasts L62 caliber barrels and so is likely to achieve even longer range.

    1. Good observation, and would apply if Excal followed a more or less ballistic trajectory like Copperhead. Excalibur is fired at High Angle and the extra few feet of altitude do not translate into much extra range. The extra altitude would mostly extend the range at which you can get a top-down attack.
      To get LRLAP like range, it would have to be re-designed to glide.

    2. Keep in mind that the Vertical Interval (gun altitude - target altitude) is likely to be negative (Ship will be at sea level and will fire at targets above sea level). This can shorten range a lot if the VI difference is large.


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