Monday, March 6, 2017

Future Naval Battle

We talk about individual weapons and sensors but almost always in isolation.  The more important question is how will the overall ships perform?  The Navy is experimenting with independent surface action groups.  How will they perform in combat?  What will happen when they meet an enemy surface action group?  Let’s have a little fun and speculate about future naval combat.  Specifically, what is a future naval surface battle going to look like? 

Well, at one end of the predictive spectrum, it may be a combined arms action with airborne, satellite, and subsurface surveillance contributing to the situational awareness and various air, land, and sea networked forces unleashing an exquisitely timed concentration of firepower on the opposing force – at least, that’s the Navy’s rosy view. 

At the other end of the spectrum, the opposing naval forces will be operating under a no man’s sky with only sporadic, if any, surveillance available and few, if any, other forces available for added firepower when the two “blind” forces stumble across each other, since all other forces will be tied up with their own, immediate concerns while the opposing air forces hammer back and forth at each other, largely uncaring about the naval situation beneath them, until they can establish aerial supremacy – at least, that’s ComNavOps’ and history’s realistic view.

So what happens when these two forces meet?  What will the resulting battle look like?

Let’s start by stipulating that the surface forces will consist of a few to several destroyer type ships, typical of modern navies.

Each side will have the same type of short range UAVs that may offer some “early” detection.  We’ll assume that both sides simultaneously detect each other at around 30-50 miles distance. 

An anti-ship missile exchange will ensue.  Of course, the US Navy has no anti-ship missile, currently, but we’ll assume that this hypothetical battle occurs far enough in the future that the USN has the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) or an equivalent.  Neither side will have enough anti-ship missiles (ASM) to overwhelm the other’s defenses.  The ships will have a relative handful of ASM’s each, unsupported by any electronic support or penetration aids.  The ASM’s will be going up against the other side’s Aegis-type defenses.  Odds will favor the defenses.  One or two ships may be damaged.  Perhaps one ship from each side will be mission killed or sunk.  This will leave both sides with their anti-ship missile inventories exhausted and their AAW inventories severely depleted.  Will the remaining ships choose to use their remaining, precious AAW missiles in the much-hyped anti-ship mode even though they can’t do much damage or will they elect to save them for the AAW role they were intended for since the commanders will have no idea whether the enemy has any anti-ship missiles left?  The prudent commander will save his AAW missiles.  Thus, we now have two surface forces, largely intact, headed towards each other and out of anti-ship missiles.

Why do I assume that the anti-ship missile exchange will be inconclusive and largely ineffective?  After all, aren’t many people scared to death of large, heavy, supersonic missiles?  Well, the answer is that the historic database on anti-ship missile effectiveness is pretty bleak (1).  Anti-ship missiles have just not proven to be effective in combat and until there is evidence to the contrary, I’ll stick with actual data.  Interestingly, there are as many proponents of impenetrable AAW defenses as there are unstoppable anti-ship missiles.  One of the two sides is wrong and history says it’s the unstoppable anti-ship missile that is overrated.

What happens next?

Assuming neither side veers off, a naval gun battle is what happens next.

Now, here’s what it could look like. 

Both sides have roughly similar naval guns, meaning 5”.  Burke class ships have a single 5” gun each.  Ticonderogas have two 5” guns.  The Type 051C, 052B, and 052C destroyers carry a single 4” (100 mm) gun.  The newer Chinese Type 052D destroyer and the upcoming Type 055 destroyer carry a single 5” (130 mm) gun.  Interestingly, the older Sovremenny type destroyers carry 4x 5” (130 mm) guns and would offer a significant advantage.

Firing would begin around 12 miles or so with a significant probability of hits occurring around 5 miles.

Structural damage would be light.  The 5” gun is not a ship sinker.  However, exposed sensors and weapons would be quickly damaged and destroyed.  Modern 5” guns are mounted in weatherproof, unarmored housings and, hence, are quite susceptible to shrapnel damage.  Guns would be quickly put out of action.  Sensors would be quickly damaged and degraded which would significantly decrease the accuracy and rate of fire of the surviving guns.  The ships would have to continue closing to make up for the loss of accuracy and the gun battle would devolve into an extremely close affair.  Neither side would be able to sink the other’s ships and the result would be individual ships breaking off and withdrawing as casualties mounted and effectiveness diminished.  The net result would be a gradual, mutual separation and withdrawal.

What could tip the balance is a couple of lucky, early hits that incapacitate the other side’s guns either via damage/destruction of the guns or damage to the sensors of the fire control systems.

The other aspect to this gun battle that bears discussion is torpedoes.  All destroyers carry torpedoes.  Both side’s ships typically carry 6 lightweight torpedoes (two triple tube launchers) intended for anti-submarine use but they presumably have an anti-surface mode.   The US Navy’s torpedoes have a range of around 6 miles.  Presumably, the Chinese and Russian versions are similar.  Thus, as the ships close in their gun battle, a second, parallel torpedo exchange could take place.  Given the lightness of construction of modern warships (US warships, at any rate – I don’t know about Chinese and Russian ships), torpedo hits, even from lightweight ASW torpedoes, could prove to be the ship sinker weapons that the 5” guns are not.  Again, victory could go to the side that achieves the greatest success in the torpedo phase of the battle.

Another aspect that could significantly impact the outcome is the presence of external support.  While we ruled that out for the purposes of our scenario, it is fair to note that the US will likely be fighting far from any air or naval bases and external support will be unlikely.  In contrast, any likely enemy will be fighting in their home waters and will have an abundance of external support in the region, if not readily available.  Thus, the odds that the enemy will actually benefit from external support is much greater than the odds that the US will.  That’s a significant factor to consider as the US heads down the LCS-reliant surface action group path.

Admittedly, one can reasonably debate my vision of a future naval battle but recognize that it is based on logic and what little actual data there is so if you want to argue, you have to account for the actual data regarding ASM performance and ship construction practices (lack of armor and structural strength, for example).  Finally, remember that this is a for-fun mental exercise.  Don’t get too twisted up about it!



  1. Your scenario would argue, IMHO, for a modern version of the Japanese Long Lance to be on board American vessels.

    It might be easier to make a mount for that than a mount for a newer, bigger gun.

    1. There are many implications from my scenario. As you astutely suggest, a long range, anti-ship torpedo is one. Larger, and more, naval guns is another. Armor would be strongly indicated. Enhanced organic surveillance assets for ships would be another. And so on. Examining scenarios like this (wargaming, in essence) is a way to examine our warship design philosophies and re-evaluate how we're building ships.

    2. I seem to recall that the Tomahawk was deployed in to flavors TLAM and also as an anti ship cruise missle. What happened to the anti ship version? BTW you do know we still ave harpoons don't you? Not sure about the Burkes, but each cruiser carrys 8 harpoons like the Spru Cans, does it not?
      Also, the MK 46 torpedo would have to be modified to be used in the anti surface ship mode. Even then it only has about 100 pounds of explosive. Not very effective. The MK 50 has a limited surface attack mode, but would still be more effective than MK 46. Can't say more than that.
      Chief Torpdeoman.

    3. The Tomahawk anti-ship variant was withdrawn from service in the 1990's. The shelf life on Harpoons has expired. That's the reason very few ships are putting to sea with Harpoon embarked. The Navy is desperately trying to save the few remaining missiles that can pass their diagnostic checks. For all practical purposes, the Navy no longer has a viable anti-ship missile.

    4. The Mk 48 has 650lbs warhead, IIRC. How hard would it be to modify that?

      Do we have a dedicated anti surface torpedo?

      What do the SSN's use if they want to torpedo a surface ship?

    5. "Do we have a dedicated anti surface torpedo?"

      The Mk48 is a dedicated anti-sub and anti-ship torpedo but it is currently only sub launched. The surface ship torpedoes are the "light" family of anti-sub torpedoes although they may have an anti-surface mode. They are not, however, intended for anti-surface use as their primary function.

  2. Time then to upgrade the two triple-launchers from Mk.54 13" diameter 600lbs torpedoes with 100lbs of explosives to Mk48 21-inch 3500lbs torpedoes with 650lbs war-head up to 55 knots to a claimed range of 17nm. Another upgrade-generation of Mk.48 is being funded as we speak.

    The added weight for the two 3x21" launchers will not be a serious concern on a 9500-tons vessel.

    The added reach and punch of Mkl.48s would alter the stated equation substantially.

    Perhaps the DDG-51 single 5" is adequate if there were more 21" launchers aboard reaching farther with more explosives than the gun can.

    Comparatively easy upgrade.

    1. Some Russian vessels already carry heavy weight torpedoes with significant range.

    2. Trudy, absolutely astute observation! Read my reply to Jim Whall for other implications of this scenario.

    3. The Russian Admiral Grigorovich 4,000 ton class frigates have two 21" torpedo launch tubes as does the new Italian PPA frigates, will be fitted with two stern 21" torpedo tubes, as well as TAS and RHIB launch ramp.

      The Arleigh Burkes have minimal weight and space allowance remaining and the LCS's less to none. The Flight IIA's HED, Hybrid Electric Drive, only being backfitted to one shaft, not two as originally intended, and HED not fitted on Flight III's, only reason can think of is weight limitations. The LCS has had to have the winch for the VDS re-designed to reduce its weight. So for either ship fitting 21" torpedoes would be a major problem.

    4. Yep, weight's an issue! However, this may be a case where the weight is warranted and something less useful should be removed. See my comment below about the degree of threat that a torpedo poses.

  3. I wonder how cheaply this could be done. Undoubtedly the Chinese/Russians would make countermeasures, nixie-ski, anti torpedo torpedoes, etc.

    It would be nice to make them cheap enough that we could be on the positive side of the cost/countermeasure equation.

    1. The WWII Fletchers carried 21" torpedoes with 800+ lbs of HBX and a range of up to several miles. Our current Mk 48 torpedo has a smaller warhead but greater range. I don't think they're particularly expensive as modern weapons go.

    2. The more you'd leverage 'Distributed Lethality' to plant 3x21" launchers on all sorts of vessels, the more likely you'd insist on a volume-discount.

      Then demonstrate what 17nm x 50kts x 650lbs means versus 5" guns, and you might convince allies with modest guns to buy a few more sets of the big-bore-torpedo rig, ammo, and adapters to plug into existing torpedo-controls.

      Unit costs should drop.
      After all Mk.48's structural-, propulsion-, warhead-R&D has long been paid for.

      New subsystems like advancing seeker/guidance-technology and related software are the only new R&D items to pay for.

      As a footnote, the MARINES M-777 towed 155mm artillery piece is being experimented with by Picatinny Arsenal to get the range out to 70km/38nm...

    3. Distributed lethality is an absurd concept that we've discredited in previous posts.

      It's also far from clear that modern, fast warships are particularly vulnerable to torpedoes. In WWII, torpedoes, if detected, were easily avoided. Of course, today we have guidance/homing systems that enhance the threat from torpedoes. However, I've seen nothing about any tests to demonstrate the degree of threat from a torpedo to a fast, aggressively maneuvered destroyer. Torpedoes may be inescapable wonder weapons but they may also prove to be vastly overrated. I simply don't know and am unaware of any field trials that would demonstrate this one way or another. How many wonder weapons in history have proven to be far less deadly than advertised? Most, actually. Just something to think about. This is why we should be conducting far more extensive and realistic testing. Fire an actual torpedo (minus warhead, of course) at a Burke and see if the Captain/ship can evade. Let them play and see if they can develop useful tactics. I'm betting torpedoes, while deadly if they hit, are not the degree of threat that is commonly believed.

    4. In terms of torpedoes it still can be true that SMALL is beautiful:
      - Taiwan and Spain bought decades ago MD500-series antisub helos - the smallest such systems known.
      - They had/have inflatable floats, a hydrophone, a decent search-radar against surface-ship out to find them and could carry up to 2x Mk.54 torpedoes.
      - Combat-Radius over 80nm.

      - Picture sending up a few of those simultaneously to drop their ordinance from several directions at the ship and launch Mk.54s simultaneously from well out of the reach of AA-guns, 2-3nm STINGER SAMs etc.

      Swarming the enemy with Mk.54 from 'all sides' might see just enough making it to the target.

      By now, MD-500/550 has been flown with autonomous controls, meaning by 2017 sending up a 2xtorpedo-wielding drone.

      Then pare the airframe down to just structure without any human-accommodations to gain more range or ordinance-load and you end up with a mini-AH-1-type drone spitting 2 Mk.54 at a time.

      Just start digging at and then search for Taiwan's MD-500 ASW helos.

      And e.g. 1980-81 JANE's ALL THE WORLD'S AIRCRAFT, pp. 361-362 with pictures of the MD500ASW type.

      Cheap effectiveness, if swarming 'sacrificeable' MD-500 DEFENDER helo-drone-based Mk.54s in war-gaming holds the promise of a devastating strike well out of reach of either party's gun or torpedos.

      More low-cost 'Distributed Lethality' fit to be planted even on oilers, RoRos etc.

    5. And here video of an Italian license-built MD-500/BREDA of their airborne (!) IRS on permanently inflated float, water-borne:

      Add the magnetic anomaly-detector, the hydrophone and at least one Mk.54, and she could sit quietly, listening, waiting.
      In the path or just off to one side of the advancing adversary.

      Manned or as a drone.

      By the time she is 'seen' floating, her weapon(s) could already be on its/their way.

    6. "How many wonder weapons in history have proven to be far less deadly than advertised? Most, actually."

      Another reason for cheap cost.

      We might be looking at having to build another ship type... but as an aside I think I'd like to see an improvement in firepower that takes into account the other guys countermeasures. I.E. the PK for a torpedo might be 30%.... so it would be dumb to carry 2.

      Same with guns. A gun with a good range and a lot of shells is, I think, alot more valuable than the next generation gun on the Zumwalts even if it had worked as designed.

      As to the Mk. 48's I think testing is a good idea. I don't think CNO is writing them off, just we don't know what we don't know at this stage. The same way I'd like to see a retired Aegis ship to a sinkex in auto mode against a swarm attack of ASCM's.

      To be fair, in WWII I don't think the homing torpedoes were all that good, at least on the German side. You'd hope the Mk. 48 can be much better than that.

      But I also think there's a difference, Trudy, between a ship and a sub, in terms of range and stealth. A Virginia class might be able to get alot closer with its torps which would increase Pk.

    7. "By the time she is 'seen' floating, her weapon(s) could already be on its/their way."

      Radars can detect periscopes but aren't going to see a helicopter floating on the water?

    8. "Picture sending up a few of those simultaneously to drop their ordinance from several directions at the ship and launch Mk.54s simultaneously from well out of the reach of AA-guns, 2-3nm STINGER SAMs etc."

      You realize that the AAW systems on the kind of ships I discussed have ranges all the out to hundreds of miles? How do you think helos are going to survive long enough to reach torpedo launch range? Come on, think this stuff through. I'm going to delete ridiculous comments.

    9. ComNavOps are you back dooring this as a Segway making the BB v2 topic even more relevant? This topic seems custom made to show our surface warfare slide into oblivion and incapacity.

    10. "This topic seems custom made to show our surface warfare slide into oblivion and incapacity."


    11. A comment was removed for stupidity.

    12. Might as well delete the Helidcopters on some ships. Not everyone needs a helo.

  4. One question this scenario brings to mind is, how well protected from damage are the fuel bunkers on the potential combatants? The small caliber shells might indeed be ship killers if they are able to set the fuel alight - fire at sea has been proven time and time again to be a severe danger, even for well trained damage control crews. A floating, burned out hulk might as well be sunk.

    1. Fire at sea (and flooding) is dangerous and common in battle but I've rarely heard of ship's fuel being a source of fire or reason for sinking. Good question, though, given the many design changes the modern Navy has implemented that are unwise.

  5. Vessel speed and the ability to resupply may also be significant to your battle.

    NATO also operates significant Helo born weaponry, ASM and torpedoes among them.

    As ever in Naval battle Manouver will be a primary factor.

    1. Helos have proven to be extremely vulnerable on the modern battlefield. I don't expect helos going up against Aegis-type AAW systems to survive long enough to contribute much to a naval battle.

      Speed is significant only if you could double it or more. An increase from 30 kts to 60 kts might offer some tactical benefit but an increase from 30 kts to 34 kts is useless and just uses up ship's internal volume and weight to trying to squeeze out a few more knots.

      Resupply is irrelevant in the context of a single battle. It might be a factor after the battle but not during.

    2. Id have to disagree. Naval battles like the one your engineering, equate to the WW1 WW2 battles of old. All you have to do is be able to pull over the horizon and your gone. A 2 - 5 knot difference is enough to do this, then you can manouver and resupply and re-enguage.

      It depends heavily on the environment, are we talking costal or 4000 miles out to sea away from your base.

      In the deep blue, a 10 knot sustained speed advantage is everything you need to withdraw reposition and re-attack repeatedly converging your forces on individual vessels whilst keeping yours over the horizon until you ready to attack.

      This is where your Helo comes in.

      You did specify virtual exhaustion of AAW missiles, and the ASM magazine for NATO helos are usually significantly deeper than the ship bourn missiles.

      Helo resupply of these from a sealift vessel at 100nm is fully possible.

      I have to say your sinario is a little contrived though ? Almost feels like its designed to get a specific answer, rather than being realistic ?

    3. Ben, you're on the verge of perceptively analyzing my scenario. The scenario is completely contrived in the sense that it is one specific scenario from an almost infinite number of possible scenarios. Given the size of a post, I couldn't even begin to factor in all combinations and permutations of external forces and support. I chose the most basic scenario and analyzed how it would play out. In that sense, there was no preconceived result. However, the result is wholly dependent on the scenario conditions. A different scenario yields a different result, for sure.

      The Navy ought to be wargaming umpteen variations of these scenarios to examine what kind of ships and weapon systems are needed - but they aren't.

      So, if you're disagreeing with my choice of scenario conditions ... feel free to construct your own scenario. The conditions will be no more right or wrong then mine - just different.

      If, on the other hand, you're disagreeing with how my scenario played out, then feel free to describe how you think it should differ and why.

    4. "pull over the horizon and your gone. A 2 - 5 knot difference is enough to do this, then you can manouver and resupply and re-enguage."

      No one is going to re-engage after a scenario like this. Given the fragility of modern combatants and sensitive electronic systems, every ship involved is going to wind up being a mission kill and require extensive repairs. No one is going to retire, resupply, and re-engage. Reread the scenario and imagine the ships being peppered with 5" shells and shrapnel. There won't be any sensors left to re-engage with. Casualties will be high and damage control will fully occupy everyone's time for several days. No one is going to re-engage.

      Therefore, a few more knots of speed is irrelevant.

    5. What I'm actually suggesting is its unlikely you would see a committed enguagement. In this type of sinario.

      Combatants would hover on the sensor horizon, allowing them to pull back as I describe.

      We would most likely see a stagnant game of cat and mouse as each side tests, pokes and pulls back, manouvering and repositioning trying to get a clear advantage that's not going to come. ( As long as nobody makes stupid mistakes )

      This will continue until something changes. Most likely an SSN
      Perhaps overwhelming Air support either long range land based or a carrier air group.

      Possibly another SAG, Although if that would swing it ?

      Of course distributed leathality with over the horizon capability might allow for a coordinated saturation attack, but the USSR had this type of capability quite some time ago.

      And it would come down to who have the right assets in the right place ( so flip a coin basically )


    6. "We would most likely see a stagnant game of cat and mouse"

      Even though I picked the most basic scenario possible to minimize the number of outcomes, there are still an infinite number of possible results. Could both sides opt not to engage decisively? Sure. But, that would make for a very short, uninteresting post, now wouldn't it?

    7. Ben, here's a little insight into my thought process on this kind of posting. This is a navy blog rather than an overall, joint forces, military blog. Thus, for a post like this, I'm interested in the naval component of a battle rather than the myriad and hugely complicated interactions of all the joint forces on both sides.

      Simplifying the scenario allows me to look at the naval forces in isolation. That is likely not the most realistic scenario but it is the simplest way to examine the naval aspects.

      Does that help explain how I approach these things?

    8. "We would most likely see a stagnant game of cat and mouse ... trying to get a clear advantage that's not going to come."

      Does that assessment make sense to you? If we opt to risk putting a surface group of a few to several ships costing $1-3B each into enemy waters, is it likely that their objective is to find an enemy surface group and engage inconclusively so as to possibly inflict some minor damage and then withdraw after a while?

      That seems unlikely. If the goal is no more than to play cat and mouse, why be there? Why risk billion dollar ships at all?

      No, I think it's an absolute certainty that if a surface group were sent into enemy waters, their objective would be to engage conclusively.

      Also, bear in mind that a surface group in enemy waters is living on borrowed time since the enemy, by definition, is far more likely to receive external support and assistance. That means that a surface group in enemy waters, if they find the enemy, needs to hit hard and fast, not play a drawn out game of cat and mouse, every hour of which just increases the chance of enemy supporting ships, subs, aircraft, etc. joining in and overwhelming our group.

      The pattern for a surface group was set by the naval battles around Guadalcanal - find the enemy, hit hard, inflict maximum damage, and withdraw.

      Does that make sense?

  6. "At the other end of the spectrum, the opposing naval forces will be operating under a no man’s sky with only sporadic, if any, surveillance available"

    In this situation, at least in a blue water scenario, wouldn't the Navy have an advantage? Even with the issues we have with carrier air, we have carrier air. At the very least we could have something like WWII recon, which would be greater range than what the other nations would have, at least for the time being.

    1. No. Consider the context. If we're operating a surface action group somewhere, it's because we don't have a carrier group to spare to assign to that area.

      In almost any reasonable scenario, the USN will be fighting far away from friendly bases and the enemy will be fighting in, essentially, home waters. The external recon advantage would lie heavily with the enemy. China, Russia, and even Iran/NK have the same types of tactical recon assets (long range patrol aircraft, UAVs, etc.) that we do. We have no advantage.

    2. Okay. My bad. I was thinking surface action group might include a CVN, but my terminology was wrong.

  7. A few things:

    1. I think that submarines will play a big role as well, both the nuclear type in blue water and closer to the coasts, conventional submarines. I think that the decision to not have a diesel/AIP submarine class could be costly in a shooting war.

    2. Closer to the coasts, coastal patrol and other recon aircraft are likely to play a big role.

    I'd advocate for the use of sea planes as well for recon.

    3. A big question is how far you are from the coast. Shore launched missiles will be in play near enemy coastlines, as of course will coastal aircraft.

    4. Naval mines will be used as a sea denial strategy extensively.

    5. How well combined arms work together might be very important for success.

    That I think will be a big part of the problem. That requires a lot of peacetime inter-service training.

    1. I know you're speaking in general terms rather than critiquing the post scenario because the post made clear that there are an infinite number of possible scenarios and I merely chose one that was simple enough to be covered in a single post rather than a book!

  8. As for individual ships:

    1. Training to use anti-missile type systems and sensors is very critical. Sailors need a lot of very realistic training.

    2. They need weapons that will work. DOT&E in particular is very important in a situation like this. In rough seas near enemy waters, weapons need to work.

    Otherwise they tend to break ... when you need them the most.

    3. Damage control is very important. You will take hits. The only question is how many, and how many ships will be lost?

    4. Armor as you've noted can be useful, as can bulkheads and perhaps an underwater defense mechanism.

    5. Jamming as you've discussed is a problem.

    6. Guided weapons like smart bombs from aircraft will also be in short supply. They ran low on smart bombs bombing ISIS. That means they won't have enough to bomb a nation state. That could be a problem for aircraft effectiveness and although dumb bombs can be produced, they won't be as accurate. Even if guided weapons are available, there may be jamming to consider as well.

    That limits somewhat the effectiveness of aircraft versus ships. Torpedo bombing though might make a comeback against smaller sized ships.

    7. I think that multiple guns is worth looking at and armoring the hell out of them like WW2 turrets.

  9. I've read that, based on expert eyes who have seen inside of PLAN ships, PLAN ships were not as well build and fire/damage control conscious as USN/Japan ships. So, if it's a few-on-few knife fight, PLAN ships are going to lose.

    However, as for ship design philosophy, we are kind of boxed in with this few-on-few constraint. CNO, if I remember correctly, you prefer, for the same cost, 2 America-class carriers (with two air wings of 100 fighters) than one Ford-class (50 fighters) go into harms way against near peer foe. PLAN, beside being inexperience in building ships, might go with quantity than quality, and play the statistic game of hits/launches.

  10. If I understand your premise correctly, after an inconclusive engagement of anti ship missiles and anti missile defences the battle will become like a WW II battle but without any ships suited for this kind of fight.

    This would call for bringing back heavy cruisers (or something with a bit less armour like the Pensacola class): 8 inch guns to really harm other ships, enough armour to only receive superficial damage from 5 inch guns.

    In a modern build, you might replace some of the main guns and the secondary armament with enough VLS cells (for ESSM) and CIWS to defend against missiles.

    With modern ammunition you should also be able to get the kind of range that is wanted for shore bombardment.

    1. "the battle will become like a WW II battle but without any ships suited for this kind of fight."

      Yes, this is how I see it, at least for this specific scenario. And yes, that does lead, inevitably, to questions about the design of our warships. Our ships lack the heavy guns and armor required to fight in this scenario, hence, my frequent comments about warship design, guns, and armor throughout the blog.

  11. Sensors gone, guns out of commission, all torpedoes fired and incoming ones dodged. Engines are good, hull is reasonably intact, and the enemy is insight. That is the result of your scenario.

    So 2 options.

    First, standby boarding parties. Opps no small arms weapons or Marines.

    Second, ramming speed. Opps thin skinned hull can't take that very well.

    Ironic how this scenario could take us back to the early 1800s.

    1. Yes, that is the end result - an inconclusive engagement. The more likely finishing option is that both sides mutually disengage as individual ships accumulate too much damage, become mission kills, and opt to retire.

      I don't know if it's ironic but it is interesting how history tends to repeat itself. If one is willing to learn the lessons of history then one will be prepared for the repeats of history. Conversely, if one fails to learn the lessons of history then one will be ill-prepared for the inevitable repeats. The Navy, currently, is ignoring the lessons of history as regards ship design and is going to be ill-prepared for the repeats of history.

    2. It would make a GREAT FULLBORE FRIDAY write up though!

  12. In the scenario as described, in addition to LSRAM, our ships could fire a salvo of SM-2/SM-6 missiles at the opposing ships. I would imagine ESSM has anti-ship capability too. Neither missile would be able to inflict serious damage by itself and it would limit the ability to defeat their anti-ship missiles. But, it is an option to get in a stronger first strike.

    1. Walter, you read the post, right? I addressed that possibility. Here's a portion of the relevant quote,

      "Will the remaining ships choose to use their remaining, precious AAW missiles in the much-hyped anti-ship mode even though they can’t do much damage or will they elect to save them for the AAW role they were intended ..."

  13. CNO, we've discussed:

    - Guns
    - Armor
    - Training
    - Damage control

    Might it be worth looking into more torpedoes?

    If missiles are not so decisive, then it means that an all or nothing approach should be adopted.

    1. Carry few or even no missiles. If anti-missile defenses are that good, very few will get through anyways.

    2. Carry lots of missiles to try to overwhelm an enemy defense.

    For ships that have no missiles, guns and armor, but also carry lots of torpedoes, since they are likely to sink an enemy ship.

    Such a ship might resemble a torpedo boat in that rather than using anti-ship missiles, it relies on large numbers of torpedoes to destroy an enemy.

    It will have at least 2 guns of reasonable calibre, and extensive anti-missile armament, but few anti-shipping missiles, no helo support, and will be primarily a ship for launching torpedoes, then using its gun after the torpedoes are gone.

    1. Oh and in the case of the torpedo boat and if option 2 is selected, either way, fire lots of torpedoes or missiles at once to try to overwhelm the enemy defenses.

    2. "If anti-missile defenses are that good, very few will get through anyways."

      I fear I may have given you an incorrect impression. In my scenario, the success of the anti-missile defenses was partially about the effectiveness of the defenses but also a recognition of the fact that a surface action group of 3-5 ships just can't muster enough anti-ship missiles to overwhelm sophisticated, Aegis-type defenses.

      Does that make sense?

      So, before you draw any radical conclusions, be sure to factor that into your thinking!

    3. "Such a ship might resemble a torpedo boat in that rather than using anti-ship missiles, it relies on large numbers of torpedoes to destroy an enemy. "

      I'm all for heavy torpedoes on warships but recognize that torpedoes have a couple of significant drawbacks.

      1. Range is quite limited compared to missiles.
      2. Impact time is very lengthy due to the very slow speed of torps vs missiles. This will be crucial in a battle. The side the hits first with the most will likely win. Launching torpedoes that may not arrive on target for 30-60 minutes is a recipe for defeat in the meantime.
      3.Surface ship torpedoes are unlikely to be able to use wire guidance like subs do. Thus, the torpedo, while it has its own terminal sonar for guidance, is quite likely to fail to arrive in the target area due to the maneuvering of the target. Submarine torp shots depend on the sub remaining undetected during the torp's approach phase so as to be able to guide the torp until it can reach terminal guidance range.

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. I'm saying that if you cannot overwhelm, then there may be little point in carrying, unless you get lucky.

      My point is that if the defense systems work as well as you say, in many cases, not much short of an Arsenal Ship would do the job.

      Might as carry fewer missiles in that case, maybe even none, if favor of guns and torpedoes.

      Hence my all (Arsenal ship) or nothing (few missiles or even no missiles on some ships) design.

      I'd agree that torpedoes have a drawback in range. It would not be the only ship in the battlegroup. You'd want a mixed fleet. Maybe 1-2 torpedo ships, 1-3 gun ships, with a couple of missiles. Having a few missiles forces the enemy to develop anti-missile systems and keeps them guessing, but again not that many (leaning towards the "nothing" of all or nothing here).

      The gun ships might want to have a gun in the 8" range. That should be enough to bring down a light destroyer.

  14. Another matter that a few other posters don't seem to be getting - if the AAW systems can make short work of enemy missiles, why bother with helicopters? Any AAW system, designed to shoot down much faster fixed wing aircraft and missiles will make short work of helicopters.

  15. 2 SM -2 missiles Destroyed a Turkish destroyer with armor

    Our 5 inch guns shredded Japanese cruisers. We have decent weapons just not a lot of them

    1. "2 SM -2 missiles Destroyed a Turkish destroyer with armor"

      Are you referring to the accident with the Turkish destroyer Muavenet in 1992?

    2. The Turkish destroyer was hit by two Sea Sparrow missiles, not SM-2's. The missiles were fired by the carrier Saratoga which did not carry Standard missiles. The hits caused a fire but that was extinguished in 10 minutes. The ship was not destroyed though fatalities resulted from one of the hits impacting the bridge. Reports are sketchy, to say the least, but it appears that the two missiles caused two fires, one on the bridge and one in an aft magazine. Both fires were extinguished. Depending on which report, damage was characterized as minor to severe - that pretty well covers the spectrum!

      The ship was the former US Navy destroyer/minelayer Gwin, built at the end of WWII. It carried no armor other than that typical of construction practice for that time.

  16. CNO, I've never posted here before, as I am in no way expert in any aspects of the discussion. I really commend you on your site, and your provocative commentary. It occurs to me though, and forgive me if you've already touched on this before, but, perhaps what we need is a relatively cheap option to boost missile capacity for surface combatants. Perhaps a relatively simple drone vessel large enough to carry a significant quantity of either anti-ship, or anti-air missiles, could be slaved to each destroyer or LCS. Then the calculus might be more in favor of the ship first launching a wave of missiles that might overwhelm the enemy systems.

    1. First, welcome aboard. There is no need to be a subject matter expert in order to comment. Nothing more than common sense is needed. Feel free to comment!

      Your idea has been proposed in the past and is referred to as an "Arsenal Ship". It's essentially a missile barge that provides missiles for the Aegis cruisers and destroyers to control after launch, thereby increasing their apparent missile inventories.

      The Arsenal Ship has never been built but the idea keeps resurfacing. You've stated the advantage to it - increasing missile inventories. The disadvantage is that it concentrates a lot of missiles on a single vessel should that vessel be sunk.

      The idea has its share of proponents, for sure, though there are no plans to build one, at this time.

  17. Given this "homework post" you should be an instructor of "TACSITS" at TAO School.. Not sure if they still have that school, or TAOs in the Navy anymore- another dead school probably. Can't have schools/training like that today- the 20% failure rate would create too many mental health issues!


  18. If we were to focus back on gun based weapon systems, we wouldn't necessarily have to go all-big gun, which necessitates newly designed ships. A more palatable proposal to the powers that be could be to look back to the high rates of fire 5" Mounts. The mk42 mount from the cold war and the OTO 5" both have designed rates of fire in the 40 RPM range. Certainly a 5" mount with 40+ rounds per minute could be developed/fielded. It isn't perfect, but it is double the rate of fire of the current 5" guns in the fleet.

    1. The biggest disadvantage to the 5", regardless of rate of fire, is that it is not a ship sinker. It is very difficult to sink a ship with 5" shells.

      To your point, towards the end of WWII, the Navy was developing high rates of fire guns in larger sizes. There is no technical reason why that can't be done today and would probably prove easier due to advancements in automation and manufacturing.

      To build on your suggestion, another simple approach is to return to dual 5" mounts to achieve increased rates of fire.

  19. How would a zumwalt preform in such a scenario? Is thus not one of the few situations where the zumwalt becomes a valuable asset in a battle group? 2 6" guns, potentially with some lrap rounds

    1. The short answer is it wouldn't. That's not its intended mission. Even if the Navy wanted to use it that way, it's not capable. The LRLAP munition has been cancelled due to runaway costs. The Zumwalt, currently, has no munition for its guns. Even with the LRLAP, it had no anti-surface mode. Believe it or not, the Navy built a ship with 6" guns that couldn't fire at another ship due to the GPS guidance nature of the LRLAP! The name, LRLAP, means Long Range LAND ATTACK Projectile which accurately reflects the limited nature of the munition.

      Zumwalt, even before the cancellation of the LRLAP, was a very limited ship.

  20. The Zumwalt guns are useless against moving targets unless they stay on the same course and speed for the several minute flight time.


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