Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Navy Tactical Brilliance ... ... ... Escorts!

The Navy is loudly and proudly trumpeting its “new” up-gunned Expeditionary Strike Group concept which is a standard amphibious ready group (ARG) plus a Burke class destroyer and an Australian Perry class frigate.

“Rear Adm. Marc Dalton, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 7 and amphibious forces in U.S. 7th Fleet (Task Force 76), told USNI News in a July 19 interview that the Upgunned ESG included the ships of the Bonhomme Richard ESG – USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6), USS Green Bay (LPD-20), USS Ashland (LSD-48) and guided-missile destroyer USS Sterett(DDG-104).  The American ships added Australian frigates, with Adelaide-class guided-missile frigate HMAS Darwin (FFG-04) leading the air defense mission for Upgunned ESG.” (1)

Correct me if I’m wrong but adding destroyers and frigates to an amphibious group has, historically, been called “escorts” and the concept was developed many, many decades ago.  Hell, sailing ships provided escorts to transports.  This is not a new idea despite the not very clever marketing phrase, “up-gunned expeditionary group”.

Does the Navy really think that they’ve developed a brand new concept in naval warfare?  Are they really that stupid?  That was a rhetorical question because they’ve repeatedly demonstrated that, yes, they are that stupid!

By the way, did you catch that bit about the Perry class frigate leading the air defense mission for the group?  I guess that’s because the Perry has a superior radar system, better command and control facilities, better communications capability, SM-3 and SM-6 missiles, and cooperative engagement capability.  Oh wait, it doesn’t have any of those things so that must be why it was leading the air defense mission.

Is the Navy comfortable with this revolutionary new idea of escorts?  Well, they’re not rushing into it.  After all, it’s just an experiment.

“Dalton made clear that the Upgunned ESG concept is still in development right now, but he said that Talisman Saber 2017 created a lot of confidence in the idea …” (1)

So, based on one exercise, the Navy now has “a lot of confidence” that escorts can help an amphibious group?  The entire history of WWII up through the Cold War didn’t give the Navy confidence in the idea of escorts but a single tiny exercise with a Burke and an Australian frigate suddenly did?

Just how eye-opening was the idea of escorts to the Navy Admiral?

“The addition of the surface combatants – in this case the destroyer and frigates – and their added air-defense and sea-defense capabilities has “enabled us to operate in a higher-threat environment where there was more risk to the force …”

Apparently, the Admiral was stunned to find that the group could operate in a higher threat environment with escorts than it could without.  Uhhh ……  Isn’t that what escorts do, Admiral?  What an idiot!

I understand the concept of positive spin and marketing but this is just embarrassing.  What are we going to discover next – that bigger engines make ships go faster?

China has to be pooping their pants over our tactical brilliance and innovations.

These are our professional warriors?  Blithering idiots.  Get rid of every Admiral in the Navy and start over.  


(1)USNI News website, “Australian Frigates For ‘Upgunned ESG’ Rehearsal in Talisman Saber 2017”, Megan Eckstein, 24-Jul-2017,


  1. HMAS Darwin after the upgrade retained the Mk13 launcher for harpoon and SM-2 missiles ( SM-2 is also going in their new AAW destroyers, with possibility of SM-6 later- SEA1360)

    The Mk41 vertical launch 8 cell unit added forward of the Mk13 will house ESSM, its remaining service life wont see it being upgared to SM-3 or 6

  2. I'd like to find out how these "escorts" could perform in a ASW exercise with a allied sub as an adversary.

  3. The farther down the rabbit hole the procurement nightmare that is the DoD, the more I think capital ships, or well - any ship, in a wartime environment is going to be on its own.

    The only ships that actually have a handful of escorts today are Carriers, and even then its half or less of what a typical cold war battle group had.

    So the question becomes, what do 'self escorting' ships start to look like?

    1. Like a modern version of a Kirov-class?

    2. Paveway, you pose a good question. For a variety of reasons it is quite likely that our naval forces will have to operate under reduced, if not non-existent, air cover. Adm. Copeman posed much the same question a couple years ago. To date, the Navy has not responded or acknowledged the issue.

  4. RDML Dalton comes from a background in the surface /air warfare community, XO USS Antietam, Commander Desron 21 etc. Surely he knows what a DDG and FFG can do.
    After what the RAN showed what can be achieved others are supporting the re-indroduction of more capable escorts

  5. They've always had escorts have they not?
    According to wikipedia, a cruisier, a destoryer, a frigate and even a submarine.

    So this whole not having escorts must be a new thing?

  6. Didn't they tell us that the Perry class frigates were too outdated to be useful anymore, and they were not worth upgrading. But, one of our old Perry's owned and operated by the Australians is now part of "up gunning" our amphib group? So, there is a role for the Perry's if we reactivate them.


    1. You caught that contradiction, did you? Yeah, the Navy flat out lied about the Perrys because they wanted them to go away so that they couldn't be viable alternatives to the LCS.

      Ironic that a lowly, unwanted Perry now constitutes up-gunning.

      Great comment.

    2. I caught that because it's part of a repeated pattern: prematurely get rid of older but still useful assets in order to create "need" for new expensive designs. I picture a teenager intentionally loosing or damaging their phone and then, "Dad, my phone broke and I need a phone so we can stay in contact. The new iPhoneX has all these new features, so can you get it for me?" But then dad finds an old working phone and says, "this will work fine". "But, dad..."


  7. This is political pre positioning for the new frigate projects isn't it ?

    They think it's going to be expensive don't they ?

  8. Most of the Perrys were 30 years old when they were retired. Who undertakes major upgrades on a 30yr-old hull? Their existing systems (SM-1) were aged out, integrating new systems would've required significant investments of time and money, and the ships were within a decade of retirement anyway.

    USN has made a lot of mistakes over the past generation, but I don't think retiring the Perrys was one of them.

    1. You act like the restoration (mechanical overhaul) and refit (replacement of obsolete systems with more modern, more compact systems) is some sort of impossible black magic!

    2. It's not impossible, but it's rarely sensible to invest significant sums of money incorporating new capabilities into an elderly warship that will have to be decommissioned within a decade anyway.

      Old ships get maintenance and minor, cost effective upgrades to see out their service lives. The time for major Perry upgrades was fifteen years ago, and even if those had occurred they would be retiring now anyway.

      If there's anything that would cause more jocularity at PLAN headquarters than the LCS program, it would be watching USN pour valuable resources into reactivating ships from the 1980s.

    3. The Australians upgraded the Perrys for around $100M. That's a pretty good investment for another 10+ years or so of improved service life. Compare that to the cost of a new frigate which would be on the order of $1B or even the inept LCS which costs around $600M.

      Upgrades look pretty good.

    4. I assume you're also aware that the Navy has decided that they now need ships to last 40 years or more in order to get to the magic 355 ship fleet? Upgrades are a very wise investment.

    5. "Who undertakes major upgrades on a 30yr-old hull?"

      Well, every country that has bought a Perry from us has done upgrades and gotten many more years of good service - most are still serving! That's a pretty good upgrade investment!

    6. To be fair, the Australian Perry's are very near decommissioning themselves - the only reason they haven't yet been decommissioned is that their replacement ships (the Hobart class destroyers) have been delayed due to blowouts in building timeframes. It's not just the US Navy that struggles to get it's new ships to live up to requirements.

      So the Darwin will be out of commission with a couple years at most.

      The upgrades were useful though and reasonably affordable for the RAN - a navy with a much, much smaller budget than the USN.

    7. I hadn't heard about a new 40yr standard for USN combatants, although that certainly was my first thought: that the easiest way to increase the number of ships in the fleet would be to delay the retirements of Ticos and Burkes that are scheduled to occur over the next decade.

      The Australian Perry-class upgrade program was initiated in the mid-1990s (twenty years ago!) and was a balls-up like every other Australian program, coming in both late and over budget. If a similar USN program was going to go forward, that's when it should have happened. The upgraded Australian Perrys are due for retirement in the next couple of years anyway, just as would be true of any USN Perrys that had gone through a similar process.

      This idea of pouring upgrades into elderly hulls is silly. Sure, you can do it, but the cost is high relative to the benefits conferred, and at some point it makes no sense. If this were not so there would be no Perry class in the first place, because USN would still be operating Knox-class frigates on their umpteenth upgrade cycle. The time for major upgrades is at MLU when the ship is ~15 years old, not when it is nearing retirement age.

      No doubt USN plans to expand the fleet to 355 ships were greeted with some concern in Beijing. But if the plan is to meet that number by reviving ships from the 1980s and forcing aged out vessels to continue steaming around with maintenance and personnel costs exceeding their operational value, I expect Beijing will relax again.

    8. "I expect Beijing will relax again."

      If the plan to reach 355 ships is to build LCS "frigates", I expect Beijing will wet themselves laughing.

  9. As long as a ship is structurally sound, it makes a lot of sense to overhaul existing ships rather than build new. When we say a ship like that is outdated, we are normally talking about the topside equipment: weapons, sensors, communications. That stuff due to its topside location will be easier to swap out. The Perry's propulsion is GE LM2500 gas turines (2). These are still manufactured and in wide use in the navy. Frigates don't need anything very sophisticated; their mission purpose is important but not high-end. Two American shipyards and shipyards in Spain and Taiwan have built these frigates, so new manufacture could easily be resumed. A number of allied countries currently use them, they could partner with us on any upgrades. The Perry's were a very good ship for the frigate mission, that's why they had to go. With workable frigates gone, there was a "need" for new ships. We need to return to building affordable ships built for their mission purpose, not overpriced over-complicated stuff we are getting now.


  10. I think the only reason that the Darwin was given escort command was to give the Australian Navy the benefit of that kind of training.
    It makes sense - the crew of the Darwin will be transitioning into the more capable, Aegis equipped Hobart class destroyer soon - and will be expected to fill the role of an AAW command ship.
    This is an opportunity for them to train in that role, and the US Navy has been generous enough to help them do that.

    1. Very true. We've been embedding an FFG into USN TGs for several years now, for exactly that reason.

      Generally, we have sent single ships off on solo missions. For decades. Picture the Persian Gulf deployments. Only ever a single ship up there, except for 'the war' of course.

      Now, with the LHD and more importantly the AWD/DDG, and the idea that we'll be sending actual TGs out, a different skill set is needed.

      And we need to practice at it to rebuild those skills.

      Just like we need to practice at ASW...

  11. Returning to the OP. WTF!

    Everything that is old was discovered anew!

    HVUs require escorts! Escorts have offensive and defensive weapons!

    Your incredulity seems appropriate, CNO. I don't see anything revolutionary that hadn't already been proven by centuries of naval warfare. All neatly documented and available for anyone to read.

    I think the RADM's comments are more information operations, shaping the narrative after 2+ decades of 'we don't need no stinking Frigates!' from the USN transformationalists and LCS fangirls.

    Since they can never just say 'we were wrong' and call it a day.

    Now, perhaps they can turn their sights to the dearth of ASW escorts (+ fixed wing ASW) for CVBG/CSGs.

    And the logistics trains. The totally defenseless CLF ships.


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