Thursday, August 24, 2017

Frigate? That's A Battleship!

The cry from observers for the US Navy to build a frigate is incessant and deafening.  Further, most observers want the frigate to carry almost everything a Burke does and they cite a long list of foreign designs as proof that it can be done.  ComNavOps, on the other hand, has expressed ambivalence about a frigate, opting instead for a small, dedicated ASW vessel as being far more useful and relevant. 

So, who’s right – nearly everyone or ComNavOps?  I think you can predict the answer – it’s ComNavOps, of course.  That makes everyone else wrong.  Why is that?  There’s a lot of pretty smart people included in “everyone”.  How can they all be wrong?  Well, that’s what we’re going to look at in this post.

The explanation for “everyone’s” wrongness is two-fold:

1)     Definitions
2)     Relevance (CONOPS)

The first, definitions, is where a lot of people get tripped up and the discussions are largely a matter of semantics. 

What is a frigate?  Well, unfortunately, there is no actual, useful definition.  A frigate is less than a destroyer.  Less what?  Less size?  Less missiles?  Less crew?  Less range?  Less sensors?  The answer is, yes – less of everything.  That’s not particularly helpful because one less missile is still less.

Of course, that leads to the next question, less compared to what?  For the US Navy, that answer is easy – less compared to a Burke which is a “destroyer”.  Thus, anything “less” than a Burke is, by “definition”, a frigate.  To the rest of the world, however, the “less” comparison is far less (no pun intended) clear.  Russia doesn’t have destroyers comparable to a Burke so what is their “lesser” frigate compared to?  In fact, few other countries have a ship comparable to a Burke.

At this point, we need to take a small detour and discuss the classification of the Burke.  For that, we need to take yet another small detour and discuss historical ship classifications.  Historically, the biggest, most powerful ship was called a battleship.  A ship half that size/capability was called a cruiser.  A ship half the cruiser’s size/capability was called a destroyer.  A ship half the destroyer’s size/capability was a frigate/destroyer escort.  Smaller than that was a corvette.  So, we see that ship classifications were relative. 

Now, let’s return to the Burke classification detour.  To call a Burke a destroyer is ridiculous.  The ship’s size and capabilities are far beyond any reasonable historical description of a destroyer.  Further, and more importantly, the Burke is the largest, most powerful surface ship in the fleet and, arguably, the world.  Thus, by any criteria, the Burke is not a destroyer and a very good argument can be made that the Burke is the battleship of today.

Okay, this is mildly interesting but how is it relevant to this post?  It’s relevant because what most people are describing as a frigate is, in today’s world, a cruiser relative to the Burke’s battleship status.  Further, for most countries, the “frigate” is their most powerful ship.  If a “frigate” is your most powerful ship, of course you’d want to load it with as much firepower, sensors, armor, stealth, and whatnot as you could, right?  After all, it’s the “battleship” of your navy.  That’s fine but the problem is that US Navy observers have gotten caught up in the nomenclature and descriptions of other countries’ battleship-frigates and come to believe that is what a frigate really is.  It’s not.  What other countries are building and calling a frigate is really their attempt at a top of the line ship within the constraints of their budget.  The US Navy already has top of the line ships.  Lots of them.  We don’t need more.

So, what most people call a frigate is anything but.  It’s a poor man’s Burke.  The US Navy doesn’t need a poor man’s Burke – we have actual Burkes!  What we need are smaller, ASW specialized frigates.  Which leads us into the relevance explanation for everyone’s “wrongness”.

Every ship in the fleet should be designed and exist to support the overarching geopolitical and naval strategy.  As we’ve noted so many times, we have neither type of strategy and so we wind up with haphazard ship designs, types, and capabilities that do not meaningfully support our “desires”.  The lack of an actual, viable strategy makes this next part of the discussion a bit difficult because I’m going to have to substitute my own strategic thoughts and other people may have different thoughts – that’s fine.  I have no problem with anyone who has considered the strategic and operational level and concluded that a mini-Burke frigate is needed.  They’re wrong but at least they thought it through.

The problem is that most people just want a frigate in the abstract.  We need a frigate because everyone else has one and, therefore, we should, too.  That thinking is utterly divorced from any actual fleet need.  I’ll repeat – we don’t need mini-Burkes because we already have big Burkes and are continuing to build more as fast as we can.  The last thing the fleet actually needs is more Burkes.  Therefore, logically, why would we need mini-Burkes?

What does the fleet actually need to execute almost any type of strategy?  We need dedicated mine countermeasure ships, dedicated ASW ships to counter the burgeoning nuclear and, especially, non-nuclear (SSK) submarine fleets around the world, aircraft carriers, UAV carriers, logistic support ships of all types, small patrol ships (along the lines of upgunned Cyclones), and so on.  Nowhere in that list of needs is a mini-Burke or the mini-Burkes main characteristic, AAW.

Thus, anyone who calls for a mini-Burke frigate is doing so in isolation, divorced from any relevant context and that’s wrong – just plain wrong.

There you have it.  We don’t need frigates.  ComNavOps is right and everyone else is wrong.


  1. Well, we do know that LCS ain't a frigate!


    1. The tragedy is that LCS *could* be a good dedicated ASW platform if they would largely ditch the mission bay concept (a much smaller mission bay, as proposed for BAE's global combat ship, could still provide a bit of flexibility), build them as dedicated ASW vessels, and properly man them. Both classes are probably still be a little larger than necessary, but at least they're in the ball park. They should also be turboelectric. That IS the future, and I can think of a few reasons why being able to operate off batteries/fuel cells could be a useful tool for an ASW vessel....

      - Gripen

    2. I respectfully disagree. The LCS with its jet drive, huge turbines, and lack of silencing is an ad hoc solution at best.

      redoing the propulsion and silencing for what they need is a dodgy prospect.

    3. "The tragedy is that LCS *could* be a good dedicated ASW platform"

      No, the LCS can never be a good ASW platform unless it is completely redesigned and rebuilt to the point that it's not even remotely the LCS.

      For example, it doesn't have any kind of acoustic quieting. To be an effective ASW platform, ALL of the ship's machinery would need to be acoustically isolated from the hull. This would necessitate a complete redesign and rebuild.

      The waterjets are loud - not a good thing in an ASW vessel. The entire propulsion train would have to be swapped out for something inherently quieter.

      The LCS cannot currently accept a hull mounted sonar - kind of a necessary item for an ASW vessel.

      And the list goes on.

      The Navy's belief that they can make an ASW ship by simply loading a module aboard is stupid. The hull has to be tightly integrated with the payload. Modular does not work for ASW (or anything else!).

    4. Re-posted for style, grammar, and additional info:

      I recognize that I'm proposing an essentially new ship. Retrofitting all this into the existing designs would undoubtedly be foolish. At this point, yes, I agree, we might as well start over. My point is that LCS was an opportunity to build the type of ship that ComNavOps is proposing that was wasted at the alter of modularity.

      I do think that jet drive and/or ducted propellers would be an important aspect of a dedicated ASW ship to reduce cavitation. See for example, the Virginia and forthcoming Columbia class subs. And you are not outrunning an ASM using high-speed screws or impellers, but you might outrun a torpedo.

      I might as well expound on turboelectric propulsion too, which is advantagous in the ASW role at least because no mechanical connection between the screws and generators will make acoustic isolation much easier. Prime movers and generators can also be optimized to operate most efficiently. An energy buffer (be it batteries, SMES, flywheel(s), or fuel cell(s)), enables "silent" operation as well as reducing the maximum capacity of the generators (i.e., higher speeds do not require larger, heavier generators). Use a couple of gas turbines with a bottoming cycle (e.g., supercritical CO2), advanced electric motors and generators (e.g., cryogenic superconducting or non-superconducting motors and generators and a refrigerant plant that also provides cryogenic cooling for thermal imaging systems, radars, and EM weapons, and quantum mechanical sensors) and Bob's your uncle! And if you're willing to tolerate storing liquid or super-critical H2 on board, your energy storage system and/or coolant are one and the same (coolant for motors, generators, and electronics and the fuel for a fuel cell or as coolant for SMES). Okay, so this is getting expensive, but I think these are a few of the technologies in which we could have the greatest return on investment in the next 10-25 years. Just my $0.02.

      - Gripen

    5. "I recognize that I'm proposing an essentially new ship."

      Fair enough!

      Now, before I address any specifics, let me ask you one question - the most important design question: what is the main characteristic of a good, dedicated ASW vessel?

      Hint 1: It's not sonars, weapons, or any other equipment.

      Hint 2: What made tiny WWII corvettes so effective at ASW?

    6. Numbers!

      And four questions of my own:

      Does every ASW ship in a task force or convoy need helo(s), active sonar, passive sonar, towed sonar, ASROC, crew...?

      What should "flexibility" or "modularity" mean?

      How much "flexibility" or "modularity" is desirable?

      Inefficiency WILL exist somewhere. Where should that inefficiency exist?

      - Gripen

    7. "Numbers!"

      You've basically got it. It's affordability/expendability which, of course, translates to numbers. If you're going to play tag with subs, you have to be affordable/expendable. WWII corvettes were effective not because they were individually powerful ASW vessels but because they hounded U-Boats through sheer presence and weren't, generally, worth expending a torpedo on (cheapness confers a degree of protection!). Even a marginally effective ASW vessel (corvette) can be effective simply by being present. A sub will go far out of its way to avoid detection and the more ASW vessels (corvettes) there are, the further out of its way the sub has to go - which translates to a mission kill.

      That is also the answer to your first question. No, not every ASW ship needs to have a mega-ASW outfit. A basic outfit on a small, cheap, expendable vessel can be effective. Helos, in particular, are not needed on every ASW vessel.

      Your next two questions about modularity, I've answered many times in many posts. Modularity is a fool's vision that sounds good on paper and fails utterly because, by definition, it results in sub-optimum platforms and sub-optimum platforms are what we call, in combat, dead.

      Not sure what you're talking about with inefficiency but here's an answer that may or may not be what you're talking about. A platform should have a primary purpose that it is exquisitely designed and optimized for (air to air, for example, or ASW). Ultimate efficiency in the primary purpose. Secondary functions can be inefficient - the F-14's bombing function, for example. Inefficiency can reside in the secondary functions. Was that what you were asking?

    8. "Numbers!"

      Your answer is also the guidepost to deciding what equipment to fit on your ASW vessel. When the equipment you're adding begins to drive the cost up too much, you've added too much or you've added inappropriate equipment.

      If that turboelectric, supercritical, anti-gravity, warp drive propulsion unit adds too much cost then you've got to return to a V-8 outboard motor. And so on with every piece of equipment.

      Just as WWII naval forces had multiple levels of ASW capability (basic corvette, capable destroyers, quite capable destroyer escorts), so too, I envision multiple levels of ASW capability on multiple types of ships. I'd like a very low end corvette (no helo - too expensive), a destroyer escort (an ASW frigate), and a generic destroyer (currently non-existent).

    9. With respect to inefficiency, I simply refer to the near universal truth that no perfect solution exists. In my experience the best engineers (and attorneys, for that matter) are the ones that recognize the biases of EVERY position and clearly articulate the reasons that they are willing to accept the costs that are incurred for the benefits inferred by a particular design choice.

      As I've said before, reasonable people can differ. And there isn't necessarily only one "correct" decision, just advantages and disadvantages.

      The original sin of many "reformers" (e.g., Pierre Sprey, Tyler Rogoway, David Axe, and the rest of their ilk) is the failure to acknowledge these things. Failure to do so will, or at least should, extinguish the credibility of such people. Which is a shame, because sometimes they have a point, even if they don't always understand themselves why that is so.

      - Gripen

    10. "no perfect solution exists"

      Quite right! All ship designs are compromises. You trade off capabilities depending on what you want the ship to accomplish and what you want it to cost.

    11. Also, all of the technologies that I mentioned exist in either working prototype form or early commercial products. They are also critical areas in which we should be investing to maintain a technological edge. We need to be considering these things NOW if we want to incorporate them into new hulls anytime soon. Sure, a double or triple pressure steam cycle or a massive diesel will get you where you need to go and a 5" gun and depth charges have and still do "work," but we can and should do better. If we can get enough people involved that can think beyond the next election, quarter, and/or promotion, maybe we will.

      - Gripen

    12. This goes to my "How To Build A Better Aircraft" post where I called for using only existing, proven technology. You use existing technology for production and do research and development in R&D.

      If your engine is proven and affordable, use it. If not, leave it in R&D until it's completely ready. Common sense for all of us - complete mystery for the Navy.

    13. "If your engine is proven and affordable, use it. If not, leave it in R&D until it's completely ready. Common sense for all of us - complete mystery for the Navy"

      But it's more complicated than that.

      The F-35 program is a good example. In my view, the F-35 program, concurrency specifically, is giving us a more advanced airplane, sooner than we would have had otherwise. The opportunity cost is more dollars and cost predictability (e.g., to retrofit fixes and new equipment to existing air frames, although this was always acknowledged as a risk and the airframes are designed with this in mind) and fewer airframes versus upgrading existing airframes, old and new build, and waiting on F-35 type technology (necessarily delaying "6th gen"???). CONOPS issues aside, if we are in a shooting war with China in the next five years or after the J-20 and J-31 prove superior to the F-22 and F-35, and we're all still alive, I will be the first to acknowledge that the reformers were right. The trade offs weren't worth building the F-35 when we did. If we get in a shooting war with China 5-25 years from now, and we're all still alive, I think we might look back at the F-35 program differently. Hindsight is 20/20. Procurement is not.

      - Gripen

    14. "concurrency specifically, is giving us a more advanced airplane, sooner than we would have had otherwise"

      We are getting an aircraft whose technology is between pedestrian and obsolete because it's taken so long to field - and we are still some years away from the full capability due to software delays. The couple hundred aircraft we've bought have cost $150M each, or thereabouts, and we still aren't done paying for them as additional monies will be required to deal with the ongoing concurrency. For that same money, we could have had twice as many upgraded Hornets or F-15s or whatever - and using my "Build A Better Aircraft" principles we could have had a state of the art aircraft at a fraction of the cost.

      I note that the F-35 and F-22, our two most advanced aircraft, still can't talk (stealthily) to each other or most other platforms, thereby negating much of their supposed strengths.

      Had we not committed to concurrency and wasted gobs of money and, more importantly, time into trying to deal with mundane issues (tailhooks, engine blade rub guards, stress cracks, engine fires, etc.) we could have put all that focus onto the advanced technologies, in an R&D setting, and solved the magic helmet, communications, sensor fusion, software, and other advanced technology issues by now. Instead, our effort and money has been split and diluted trying to deal with just getting the basic airframe and engine to work.

      There was/is an opportunity cost associated with concurrency in the sense of dealing with mundane issues when we could have been focused on the advanced technology issues.

      The concurrency has another opportunity cost, in addition to what I just discussed, and that is the cost to other military programs. Because of the hideously high cost of the F-35 due to its concurrency, many other acquisition programs across the breadth of the US military have been cut, curtailed, or postponed in order to pay for the F-35's concurrency approach. We have lost rifles, artillery, tanks, navy tanker aircraft, Marine AAVs, and on and on to the budgetary black hole of the F-35 - all sacrificed at the altar of the F-35. "Opportunity cost" doesn't begin to describe the devastating effect the F-35 concurrency approach has had on the overall military. We need to come up with a new word that describes the devastation wrought by an unregulated, concurrency driven, out of control program.

      Hindsight is not required. This was all plainly visible many, many years ago.

    15. That's one view. I don't necessarily disagree with all of it. But this also seems to speak to an assumption that most, if not all, the alternatives would have come in on time, under budget, and delivering all of their promised capabilities. That's far from likely. Who the hell knows the problems we would have run into upgrading existing jets. Who the hell knows how useful gold-plated F-15s, F-16s, and F/A-18s would be in 50 years when they're still flying. Who knows whether it will turn out to be more important to have more 4+ gen jets in five years or the same number of 5th gen jets in 10. Who knows which would end of being more cost-effective or how important that really is.

      Who knows how much inflation the nation would have tolerated to do all of it? Oh that's right, none because it's those millenials and left-leaning individuals who are so anti-defense that it's not worth asking us to pay $0.75 more for our craft beer, cocktails, and other recreational substances in order to maintain a credible deterrent to the foreign adventures of China and Russia, and that's why no Republicans would compromise on anything with Obama to increase defense spending, or something.

      And, of course, the USMC is still using the M16A4 and AAV just because of the F-35 and not also because of sequestration, the human and material costs of 2+ wars, procuring the V-22 en masse, developing and procuring the F-35-priced CH-53K for a single service, developing the M27 instead of procuring the M4A1, developing the MK 318 instead of going in on M855A1 because "MARINES!!!," and pulling the plug on the EFV after how many millions exactly. And certainly not because of DoD politics, nope, of course not.

      Maybe, just maybe, the F-35 is not quite the bogeyman you make it out to be. Maybe, just maybe, most of the F-35 coverage is shaped by people who have no clue what they're talking about (how quick are people to snicker and get frustrated, often deservedly so, when the left starts misusing and misinterpreting basic aspects of firearm design and engineering when discussing gun control?). The F-35 is not perfect. There are problems. Most are being solved or ameliorated, at some cost, as we speak. You would have built it or an analogue later. Maybe you're right that we should have pulled the plug. Maybe you're wrong. Is the USMC better off with the AAV SUP and some future replacement instead of rolling out the EFV or a simplified EFV, in quantity, sometime in the last five or so years?

      These aren't easy problems with easy solutions.

      - Gripen

    16. "These aren't easy problems with easy solutions."

      They aren't. However, the guiding principles behind wise, responsible acquisition are and we violated all of them with the F-35 (and, to be fair, the LCS, the Ford, the Zumwalt, etc.).

      The other incontrovertible fact is that we have, and are continuing to sink huge sums of money into the F-35 and that is negatively impacting other acquisitions. You may believe the impact is worthwhile or you may not but the impact is undeniable. Yes, there are other impacts as well but the F-35 is a major, major impact.

      Sequestration is not a factor, as I've demonstrated in a previous post. Also, if you look at the year by year military budget, sequestration has had no discernible effect and, in fact, we have hit our highest budget in history while under the effect of sequestration. We can blame a lot of things but sequestration is not one of them.

    17. Sequestration IS a factor. How likely are Democrats to compromise on defense with Republicans when the Republicans hold the budget hostage because they don't like the guy in the White House? But enough politics....

      On to "modularity"!

      Part 1:

      "The Navy's belief that they can make an ASW ship by simply loading a module aboard is stupid. The hull has to be tightly integrated with the payload. Modular does not work for ASW (or anything else!)."

      My view is that "modularity" IS a good thing, but LCS (and the F-35, for that matter, although to a less extent) went about it exactly backwards. The LCS is about building modules around not one, but two ships. I believe that "modularity" should refer to the concept of building ships around modules.

      "The hull has to be tightly integrated with the payload."

      Precisely! As you advocate, each type of ship should be optimized around a specific, narrowly-tailored set of operational requirements and a specific cost-curve. This all but demands a unique hull form and mission-specific equipment. The fact that there are TWO LCS hull forms is a perfect example. However, every ship, at some level, requires power, propulsion, electrical systems, thermal management, sensors, and weapons, among other systems. I believe that a much better approach to modularity would be to have a catalog of "modules" that could scale in number to accommodate ships of different sizes and requirements. This is not a new concept of "modularity" by any means. In aviation circles it's sometimes called the "Sweetman" model. It's entirely possible (if not probable!) that it has been discussed in posts or comments here over the years.

      In a perfect world, we'd begin structuring an entire fleet around the concept. Heh, optimizing for maximum efficiency comes with its own risks. Because smaller hulls will be most affected by any structural or operational inefficiencies created by a standardized set of physical and operational requirements, you'd want to design each “module” around these vessels. Due the expansive spectrum of displacements and missions across a navy, you might actually want to have modules of two or more “bases,” small and large, for example. You might use “small” modules for very small craft, such as landing craft, patrol boats, extending up to maybe corvettes and dedicated minesweepers. You might use “large” modules for anything larger. For the purposes of this post, I’m going to assume that our dedicated ASW vessel is about the smallest ship that would utilize the large modules.

      Part II to follow.

    18. Part II:

      Using power as an example, each module would represent a standardized physical volume and a standardized set of components representing a prime mover, electrical generator, and as many subsystems as is practicable. Each module would also represent a standardized set of locations (within some margin) for the piping, electrical, and data connections necessary to support the equipment therein, with sufficient setback to allow for some customization, if necessary. As long as any upgrades are consistent with the specifications, new-build modules could be upgraded over time at the expense of commonality across the fleet. An ASW frigate and AAW frigate might each have two power modules, a “destroyer” four, a “cruiser” six, and very large vessels, such as an “escort carrier” or LHD eight. While you’d lose some design efficiency by not being able to optimize the physical volume, equipment, and connections for each vessel (e.g., two large engines can be more efficient than four smaller ones), one benefit is that all of these things are PREDICTABLE across a wide range of vessels. This should make it much quicker, easier, and cheaper to design hulls that are optimized for specific missions. You’d also have greater parts commonality across the fleet. Effectively, you're trading decreased absolute structural, chemical, and mechanical efficiency for mission-effectiveness, OVERALL design flexibility, and parts commonality. When the bullets fly, I believe the latter matter more than the former. And irrespective of these benefits, I contend that human factors alone FAR outweigh the likely decreases in efficiency. Moreover, optimizing the modules around smaller ASW and AAW frigates will ensure that these vessels are least affected. If the power modules represent, say 16% of the mass/volume of the ASW vessel, but only 4% of the mass/volume of the LHD, which would you rather optimize the modules for? Modules for cryogenic and H20 refrigeration, power management, various life-support functions, and other systems could work similarly.

      Electrical storage systems and power electronics are also an attractive application for this concept of modularity. All ships, but turboelectric ships in particular, need a way to store and dissipate electrical energy as power demands vary (e.g., as a systems go on and off line). The requirement will grow exponentially as EM weapons (i.e., laser, rail, and/or coilguns) proliferate. Utilizing common storage modules and common power electronic modules and merely varying the number based on the size and requirement of each ship could go a long way to increasing commonality across the fleet while ensuring that the needs of each vessel are met. These modules would likely be more “fine-grained” than the others. An ASW frigate may have 4 (for redundancy), an AAW frigate might have 6 due to having a very large radar, destroyers 10, cruisers 15, and so on.

      Part III to follow.

    19. Part III (Last):

      It’s important to understand that this concept of “modularity” is not exactly, the “containerization” of modules as utilized in LCS, although it doesn’t necessarily preclude that either. Theoretically you could preposition modules (or at least the corresponding equipment) around the world and/or operational area where they would be available to any ship that utilizes the modules. While less applicable to power modules because they’d likely be deeper in the hull, if some or all of the components in a module are containerized or palletized, repairing damage could be as “simple” as peeling back a bit of the hull, inserting the container/pallet(s), and making the necessary connections while repairing the hull.

      In some cases, the modules may just be common across one or two subclasses of vessels within a class. If, for example, we went to podded propulsor modules, ASW and AAW frigates of about the same size/displacement might utilize common propulsor modules while destroyers, cruisers, and very large vessels might utilize propulsor modules that are optimized for each class of ship, which might similarly include subclasses having hulls optimised for their different rolls (e.g., AAW and ASufW destroyers) and utilizing the same propulsor modules. While I am an advocate of podded propulsion modules, I don’t advocate azipods for warships because the rotatable thrust bearings are heavy, complex, and mission-critical. And if one gets jammed, for whatever reason, drag AND thrust, will be highly asymmetrical. My concept of a propulsion module is a hydrodynamic pod incorporating an electric motor (preferably cryogenic), fixed-speed reduction gear, screw, integral rudder, and possibly a transverse thruster if worthwhile for the mission. Basically this:

      While a pod is arguable more susceptible to taking damage, from a collision or weapon, it is also more easily replaceable and repairable. If one does take damage, the ship could dry dock and a new one installed while the damaged pod is repaired or salvaged. Obviously, this would be preferable to having to cut holes into the hull.

      Again, just my $0.02 sense. I am no expert, but this a concept I’ve been thinking about and keep coming back to.

      - Gripen

    20. I'm not completely sure exactly what you mean by modularity. Your concept seems to be akin, maybe identical, to the MEKO concept which was also used on the Spruance class in which standardized "pits" were allocated for weapons, for example, and any weapon module that could fit in the pit would work. I have absolutely no problem with that because the hull has already been optimized to work with the module/pit contents - which I think is your point.

      The LCS modularity concept, in contrast, envisions absolutely no integration between the module and ship other than provision of standard utility connections. The ship, having absolutely no optimization is nothing more than a cargo carrier for the module. This is utter nonsense and I've demonstrated it repeatedly.

      So, within what I believe to be your concept of modularity, I have no disagreement.

    21. It goes further than that, and is less about re-configuring existing ships than it is about making it easier to design and sustain new ships.

      Say for example, the Navy had proclaimed that all ships after 1980 would be turboelectric and utilize a standardized LM2500 generator set, each generator set fitting within the same space, weighing the same, and including all the pumps, electronics, and sub-systems needed to run one LM2500. For any one ship, you just need to figure decide how many you need, where you want to put them, and how to get air and fuel in and exhaust out. The Perrys would use two, the Burke's Four, and anything bigger probably more. You might have saved some weight and volume by optimizing the type and number of generators for each ship, but now the same fuel injector, blisk, etc. works in everything bigger than a Perry. Had we done that and later decided that we wanted a faster, longer-ranged Burke-sized ship (i.e., longer but narrower) to escort our carriers and provide BMD using a more powerful radar, we could design a new hull form for it, add a fifth generator set and rearrange the generator sets within the hull, but each generator set would have an existing supply chain with parts that could theoretically work in any large US combatant built after 1980.

      This model of modularity would be most advantageous if designing and building a lot of ships quickly. If you're building a few ships slowly, maybe it makes sense to keep your engineers busy optimizing the performance of each ship as much as possible.

      I, however, believe that a competent skipper will be able to compensate for the fact that his ship is 3% slower than it might have been more easily than if his ship is sitting idle for longer and more often waiting on spare parts or if he's fighting a sub with one helo instead of two because his ASW frigate shares a hull with an AAW Frigate.

      - Gripen

  2. Burkes are Battle Cruisers.

    “If you want to make a true picture in your mind of a battle between great modern ironclad ships, you must not think of it as if it were two men in armour striking at each other with heavy swords. It is more like a battle between two egg-shells striking each other with hammers.” WS Churchill

  3. IIRC the Knox's and FFG-7's were originally 'Destroyer Escorts'. The FFG's had the extra air defense portion because of the extra threat from Soviet subs.... but the original concept of the Knox's and every DE going back to WWII sounds just like what you propose. A ship that does ASW and is just heavily armed enough to do GP stuff.

    It sounds like that is what you are proposing. Am I correct?

    1. Australia has two options, Not heavy on the manning very capable ASW and good enough for GP.

      Adelaide class post upgrade (FFG-7's with better radar, other systems and an 8 cell Mk41 VLS)

      Anzac class with 4th gen phased array radar and 8 cell VLS.

      Adelaide class too old but gives a good idea, Anzac class though is a bit too much on the small side causing it to be top heavy preventing anything else worth while going on it.

      Get a ship hull in the 4,500 - 5,000 ton range with top notch ASW and an 8 to 16 cell VLS and you got a good asset. Hell the CEAFAR radar on the Anacs is only about $20m each.

  4. For this type of ship, I'd think we want A) Range, B) just enough cruising speed to keep up with a CVBG if needed (use Diesel?) C) SILENCING, D) Good Sonar/TACTAS, E) whatever upgrades of SLQ-32 are out there, F) a 76mm cannon, G) Phalanx or SeaRAM. H)Torpedo tubes or ASROC launcher. I) Helo facilities. J) You're 'Russian hedge hog' weapon is interesting. Not sure if its vital.

    I'd *like* ESSM as I personally view it as a 'module' that could be used for ESSM or ASROC, but its not absolutely necessary if cost becomes an issue.
    Okay, that sounds like a pretty involved ship already. But one made mainly for ASW.

    I'm actually okay if this isn't overly armored. To a certain extent we want these ships cheap enough to be attrition units.

    1. "I'm actually okay if this isn't overly armored."

      Armored against what? Armor isn't an isolated item. Armor is a countermeasure against -something-. What is it you want to armor against? Answer that and you'll know whether you actually need armor and, if so, how much.

    2. "enough cruising speed to keep up with a CVBG"

      Why? The ASW corvettes of WWII couldn't keep up with a carrier group. The destroyer escorts (Buckley class, for example) couldn't keep up with carrier groups of the time.

      How do you reconcile your statement with the historical precedents?

      Something is missing from this discussion. What is it?

    3. My own pick for an ASW frigate would be based on a version of the new USCG Offshore Patrol Cutter being designed/built By Easter Shipbuilding Group, FL, some call it the 'Other' LCS. Pick mainly based on cost and up to date design, FP of $264.4 million for HM&E, USCG budget total including GFE $421 million per ship. May be able to fund three including necessary modifications for frigate version for the cost of a single Burke.

      USCG spec. approx. FLD of 3,400MT, Length: 360 feet, Beam: 54 feet, Draft: 17 feet: Sustained Speed: 22+ knots: Range: 8500+ nautical miles, Endurance: 60 Days.

      An outside bet as Eastern Shipbuilding was not on list at FFG(X) RFI INDUSTRY DAY, ATTENDEES-25 JULY 2017, RFI specifies it must be current design. Attendees included Austal-LCS Independence Frigate, BAE Surface Ships-Type 26, Bollinger-??, Fincantieri Marine-LCS Freedom frigate/PPA/ FREMM ?, GD-BIW ??, Odense Maritime - Iver Huitfeldt class

    4. "My own pick for an ASW frigate would be based on a version of the new USCG Offshore Patrol Cutter"

      Okay. Would you include a helo? If so, how many and what would that do to the cost?

    5. The OPC's only have 1 hangar and it can only hold 1 helo and a UAV.

    6. The OPC's already have a hangar and pad for a MH-60 or 65 and a UAV.

    7. That's what I'm asking ... Would you keep a helo for a relatively small vessel that can only operate a single helo (if you have one helo, you have none)? Is it worth it?

    8. Since the USCG uses them for certain purposes, like SAR and interdiction, I would say yes. For the Navy, I'm not sure as that's not my area.

    9. CNO "Okay. Would you include a helo? If so, how many and what would that do to the cost?"

      An ASW frigate needs to be able offer a credible threat to a SSK/SSN and helo or UAV able to deliver LWTs is one option, LWTs launched from frigate and ASROC are short range and would not be realistic deterrent against subs with mew generation long range HWTs, not a cheap option, would not be surprised if Navy MH60R + MQ-8C $50 + million with necessary equip. fitted to frigate so total $100+ million per ship? The Helo and UAV also bring dipping sonar and radar, as always a trade off/cost to capabilities.

      Much less expensive option would be fit out frigate for a long range UUV, HWTs, or possible new long range ASROC, the Italians have the 800kg MILAS with range of 35km+ and Chinese reported testing theirs in 2016. The only current western frigate know of so equipped with HWTs is the new Fincantieri PPA frigate class, which has two HWT launchers in stern, MILAS and has helo and hanger.

    10. The problem so many people have in suggesting ship designs is that they try to put every capability they can think of into it without regard for cost for concept of operations.

      No one would argue that having a helo isn't a useful capability but why stop at one helo? Why not two? Or better yet, four or eight? Where do you stop? Before you know it, you've designed an unaffordable large deck helo carrier.

      I've argued for a very low end, CHEAP, expendable ASW vessel patterned after a WWII corvette. It's ASW value lies in numbers and presence moreso than outright submarine sinkings. Also, remember that ships don't operate alone. They operate as part of an overall force. If a corvette-ish ship finds a sub, they can call in a P-8 or helo. Not every ship has to be capable of winning a war single-handed.

      A helo adds around 80 ft of length to a ship for the flight deck, around 60 ft of hangar, maintenance shops, helo weapon magazines, weapon elevators, helo spare parts storage, maintenance electronics gear, machine shops, helo crew berthing, helo fuel storage, etc. The cost of adding a helo to a ship design is huge - the opposite of what we want in a CHEAP, expendable, low end ASW corvette.

      So, I repeat, is a helo worth it on a low end, ASW corvette that will have generally have access to other airborne assets?

    11. "Also, remember that ships don't operate alone. They operate as part of an overall force"

      I think this is a big issue. In peace time ships do frequently operate alone. A DD like a Burke or Type 45 can and will operate independently and has the flexibility and firepower to look after itself in the face of most casual threats. In essence it can operate like an old style cruiser ranging the seas to carry out missions. It would be expected to carry out offensive air, land or sea attacks. It can also play a role in a battlegroup as an escort.

      A FF should also be able to operate individually, but may not be able to carry out all three roles (Offensive air/land/sea). Being smaller it would perhaps only be able to carry out 2, or even one of those roles. Think OHP class, or the type 23 which is very ASW focussed. They can still operate independently, against most low to medium level threats and take a role in a battle group.

      Below a frigate you have corvettes and offshore patrol vessels. These might be entirely defensive, or only able to carry out one role, or be very short ranged and defensive. Such ships would probably need to be escorted, they could play a very specific role in a battle group, but would rely on other ships for protection in some spheres of battle.

      As you say, what the USN goes for is very dependent on what is needed within its needs, order of battle and doctrine. A vast fleet of short ranged, small limited ships poses a number of problems. They require more escorts, more crew, to operate in packs to protect themselves. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but for example, can politicians tell the difference (an OPV looks very like a destroyer to a politician), does the cost of the low end damage the higher end actual fighting ships etc.

      WRT low end corvettes without helicopters doing ASW, I was under the impression that the copter was a major ASW tool. If the role of the frigate (or equivalent) is ASW then a mothership light helicopter carrier carrying a collection of unmanned vessels, manned cutters and other specialised equipment could be a better option. Specialised, clearly not a 'fighty' ship and less likely to have every shiny toy added to it.

    12. "WRT low end corvettes without helicopters doing ASW, I was under the impression that the copter was a major ASW tool."

      It is a major tool. Similarly, artillery is a major tool in the Army but not every soldier or even unit is equipped with artillery. Likewise, there is no reason why every ASW platform absolutely must carry a helo. Helos are not a magic platform. I've got a post coming shortly on this very topic. You'll enjoy it.

    13. Oh I fully agree and I don't know enough (anything really) about ASW technology or tactics to make a very informed comment.

      At the risk of speaking out of my proverbial however.

      How effective would a light helicopter free ASW ship be? Would it need its own escort? Could it operate independently?

      Would a light ASW corvette (think a modern day flower class) designed to provide the ASW component in a battlegroup and unable to defend itself against local threats be the best option.

      A fleet of low end single purpose corvettes and cutters has a certain appeal, but there would be political pressure to upgun them, make them multi purpose, or to scrap them to allow more high end assets.

      Doctrinally, are they where they are needed at the right time. Can small ships keep up with the battlegroup in war, can they operate independently in peacetime, or in policing roles?

      What I'm getting at is that and I may be agreeing with you from an angle is that these dedicated patrol ships/mine counter measure ships/ASW ships need to be designed from the ground up with how they fit into both peacetime and wartime doctrine. Otherwise you end up with a fleet of useless boats that need more assets to protect and are never where they are needed.

      My reaction to your original post, which I largely agree with, is that lots of small dedicated ships may be the wrong way to go about it. A mothership concept, possibly a fast converted merchantman with a large helicopter deck would allow large specialist boats fitted out mission specific equipment to provide multiple roles to the battlegroup without the disadvantage of having multiple independent small ships to protect, supply, crew etc. I suppose the question is how small can the equipment for mine sweeping ASW patrol be packed down. A mothership with say 6 helicopters plus UAV and 10-20 40ft specialist boats plus USW would allow further savings as even less expensive capability would have to be duplicated in each boat (think food/sleeping kit)

      Again I'm not criticising you, its just your post made be think about how best to apply the concept of getting useful and relevant specialist equipment into a battlegroup without the disadvantages of small ships, and without ending up with mini Burkes.

      I look forward to your post on helicopters.

    14. "Can small ships keep up with the battlegroup"

      Don't take my desire for a low end, small, cheap, ASW vessel as saying that there is no need for any other ASW platform. These vessels would perform a specific role(s): harbor defense, convoy escort, periphery patrols, chokepoint monitoring, etc. What they would NOT do is sail with carrier groups or surface task forces. They would NOT be the primary blue water, anti-SSN ASW force. They would NOT replace helo-carrying destroyer (escorts). Instead, they would be part of a multi-tiered force structure. They would be the individual policeman walking the beat who would call in a SWAT team when heavier firepower is needed.

    15. Ah ok.

      I was trying to work out how to build specialist ASW escort ships to support the battlegroup, without ending up with a versatile ship, perhaps specialising in ASW. So how not to end up with an Americanised type 26 copy or a bastardised mini Burke which would allow no real savings.

      Are you thinking something more like the RN batch 2 River classes (good article here )with a few sans helicopter deck to allow for a more specialist role.

  5. The Navy RFI for the FFG(X) Tier 1 requirements are AAW centric, ASW is relegated to a Tier 2 requirements.

    CNO you are not totally alone but definitely in the minority.

    At the SASC hearing end July on the 355 ship Navy Dr. Jerry Hendrix, a retired captain and senior fellow and director of the Defense Strategies and Assessments program at the Center for a New American Security, that as opposed to senior fellow Bryan Clark of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments who appears be influential in Washington, advocated for a smaller AAW Burke, Jerry Hendrix worried too much emphasis was being placed on the addition of VLS cells and anti-air warfare capability for the FFG(X). His comments seem eminently sensible.

    “I’m a little concerned about the emphasis on the air defense factor in this. I believe that the ship should provide self-air defense. But, we … have been buying excess capacity of air defense in the [Arleigh Burke class of guided-missile destroyers] for a number of years. Where we have a real deficit is anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare. And, any time that you cause a ship or require a ship to be good at all things, you’re going to drive up the cost factor on this, and I think that there’s a certain sweet spot on costs that if you exceed that – and by that, I look generally in the $700 million to $850 million range per unit – if you exceed that by adding in air defense capability, certainly we start edging over $1 billion per copy. And, at that point in time, we’ll find ourselves in argument which is to the extent of, shouldn’t we just buy some more Burkes? We really need something that we can buy in high enough numbers, so we can drive up that portion of the fleet. We talk about the need for 52 small surface combatants. Currently, we consider the LCS to be part of that 52. I actually think that number is higher, that you need something in the 70 to 75 range on small surface combatants to be able to fill out the requirements from the combatant commanders around the world. And I would like to see this to be a robust ASW, anti-surface design with a 6,000-mile range. I think that that’s a good starting point.”
    On the 6,000-mile range issue, the RFI notes the “minimum distance the ship can sail without replenishment when using all of its burnable fuel” is 3,000 nautical miles while sailing at 16 knots. Hendrix told the SASC subcommittee that “given the reserve fuel requirements, because we’ve never run the ships all the way down to zero, we always want to keep fuel for ballast and emergencies, that would actually limit that ship to have to at least take one refueling for even a transatlantic convoy escort. It would seem to me that any type of ship that’s built, and it’s written into the document, needs to be able to do [anti-surface warfare], anti-submarine warfare and convoy escort, that it ought to be able to do convoy escort without having to peel off and hit the tanker on the way over,” he said.
    “So it struck me that something in the 4,500- to 6,000-mile range ought to be, sort of, a walking in the door minimum, and the higher the better in order for it to give the most independent steaming out of it.”

  6. "Why? The ASW corvettes of WWII couldn't keep up with a carrier group. The destroyer escorts (Buckley class, for example) couldn't keep up with carrier groups of the time. "

    Fair enough. But I believe the difference between then and now is that in WWII our Destroyers could actually do ASW as well as *some* anti-air. Having a Burke do ASW now is equivalent to having an Alaska class do it in WWII. We're missing that mid level destroyer (vacated by the retirement of the Spruances). I believe the CVBG's need *something*.

    1. Excellent! You've got it. The missing piece is the WWII destroyer. The Burke is our battleship. We don't have a destroyer that can do ASW with a bit of ASuW and self-defense AAW thrown in.

      The key to a modern destroyer, in this context, is affordability/expendability like the WWII Fletchers. We can't use a billion+ dollar destroyer that we're too afraid to risk doing ASW. We need a $500M-$700M destroyer (since when did $500M+ become affordable and expendable???). We also need the small, dedicated ASW vessel I've so often called for ($200M or so).

  7. "Armored against what? Armor isn't an isolated item. Armor is a countermeasure against -something-. What is it you want to armor against? Answer that and you'll know whether you actually need armor and, if so, how much."

    Fair enough. These ships shouldn't be armored because I don't believe that at the size I'm thinking of (2-3000 tons) you can pack enough armor on to be successful against what they'll face: Torpedoes and ASCM's.

    They can be stoutly built (Like a fletcher) but not armored.

    1. It all depends on your definition of "armor". I generally refer to armor as the totality of the hull plating and any additional plating or protection added specifically as armor. Thus, the Fletchers had 1/2" - 3/4" general armor plus 1-1/2" or so on the mounts and in other locations. That amount of armor wouldn't stop torpedoes or 16" BB shells (ASCMs of the time) so why do you think they bothered to put that degree of armor on the ship? What were they protecting against?

      The answer to that is probably the answer to your situation.

  8. And another thing is that if the US launches a vessel in big numbers that is a little bit cheaper than the Euro frigates, it can also make some good export sales driving the price even more down.

    The US needs a new vessel ( call it whatever you want) that it can also export to allies at a good price

    US weapons systems after the end of the cold war have become increasingly uncompetitive in the world markets .

    1. A good point about foreign sales although that raised the question of whether we have the shipbuilding capacity to build our own and foreign. For example, Congress seems willing to fund one or two additional subs per year but the sub building yards are maxed out at our current rate!

      Whether our destroyer and smaller surface vessel yards could produce more is something I don't know.

    2. The funny thing here is that the if the US desires they can muster large homogeneous industrial building a lot more faster than Europe ever can .

      What do i mean, for example European ship builders have great frigates but thing is they are all more or less different designs
      The Spanish navy has one frigate type, the German another , French and Italian another one and the British are about to introduce, well hmm another frigate design .. so you guys get the idea :)
      thats why euro frigates cost so much and come in small numbers

      So say in an alternate reality the USN decides to build a class of say 30-40 frigates at prices that are say 20% cheaper than what european ship builders have to offer with similar capabilities and offer that vessel to allies around the world - i bet that would be at least that would get you 20 EXTRA export vessels who would be bought in say a 10 year period.
      Here's you cost savings

  9. I think the Corvette's success in WWII wasn't just numbers, it was also focus. One mission. Hunt and kill subs.

    The old Restigouche class Canadian DDE was a pretty good ASW platform. Just under 3000 tons. 4500 mile range. ASROC, Limbo mortar, hull and VDS sonar. 214 crew which you could reduce now. Single focus on ASW which we practiced relentlessly.

    A modern version built in large enough numbers would make a submariner quite nervous. I couldn't put a price tag on it but it has to be somewhat reasonable if you don't let capability growth get out of hand.

    1. Excellent comment about a vessel I was unfamiliar with.


    This has to start from how any ship is expected to operate within the system that is the US NAVY. Strictly ahereing to this will produce a ship that is able to fulfil its designed role without any unnecessary things being added.

    If we need a ship to carry out ASW type work, design a ship to do that without adding to it. It is likely that such a ship would need to be able to protect itself from other threats, but it's AAW and ASuW fitout should be viewed as reasonable self-protection only, nothing more. This removes a huge amount of complexity that doesn't need to be there. Multi-role everything ends up as the earlier stated mini-Burke.

    Scope creep is always the killer with any of these things and needs to be resisted at every step.

  11. Love this piece.

    And I love the way you have tried to bite of the thorny question of warship classification.

    Particularly the frigate \ destroyer question.
    Which over the years has changed and changed. And now has virtually no meaning, or at least a meaning that changes from year to year, and navy to navy.

    Obviously “Destroyers” we formally called torpedo boat destroyers, and were very small craft designed to make up for the deficiencies in large cruisers ability to defend themselves from small fast moving torpedo carrying speed boats. That morphed into the aeroplane destroyes of world war 2 and today Anti-Air Warfare destroyers, ( if that even reads well any more ? ) and they are now large not small and armed for all environments.

    Frigate is just a nightmare to fathom, back in the day of sail they were front line fast warships. HMS Victory is 3000 tonnes and 25 knot capable with 3 large gun-decks and over 100 guns.

    Nower days in Royal Navy Parlance Frigate is synonymous somehow with ASW, unless specifically denoted GP (General purpose).

    Destroyers are dedicated AAW.

    Designations are not even related to displacement anymore. Simply job. But that could just be that the British, they operate a very de-marketed fleet, each type having 1 specific job it specialises in.

    FLEET CONOPS is key, make a single class optimised 70-90% to be the best blue \ green and brown water ASW assets they can possibly be. Whatever than means in modern terms. If you do this there is no reason to necessarily believe they will be cheap, but they will provide the defence for the USN fleet that simply is not there right now. And that is absolutely critical.

    In a recent interview with Burke crew I read, they like to play tag with subs occasionally in war gaming the crew said “the sub always wins” that’s a very scary statement isn’t it? Particularly when it was said so glibly.


    1. “the sub always wins”

      The problem with statement is that it's coming from our MAIN surface ASW platform. If your main ASW platform loses consistently, you have a problem.

      There's a bigger problem, however. If your main ASW platform is also your main AAW/BMD platform, as the Burkes are, then every Burke you lose playing tag with submarines in an unwinnable game is a lost MAIN AAW/BMD asset and $2B down the drain. This is why I keep harping on the need for a low end, CHEAP, expendable corvette-ish ASW ship that can be procured in sufficient numbers to replace the inevitable attrition that occurs when playing tag with submarines.

  12. I don't think many people are as confused about it as you believe. Most people envisioned the replacement FFG as an updated OHP, only with a better hull mounted sonar, a bow mounted VLS and a similar price point(inflation adjusted).

    The problem, as you've noted before, is that big Navy lost the bubble and started dream of the brown water engagements and that ASW was a waning threat.

    1. "Most people envisioned the replacement FFG as an updated OHP"

      Why would the USN want an updated OHP/FFG? As I've said repeatedly, we have all the surface warships we need. What we don't have any of, and need desperately, is a dedicated, small, CHEAP, expendable ASW corvette - AND THAT'S NOT AN OHP, updated or otherwise.

      People are utterly confused because they don't stop to consider the overall fleet structure and likely fleet strategy/operations needs.

      The OHP was built to escort convoys across the Atlantic in a war with the Soviet Union. That need no longer exists. Our current need is ASW, pure and simple.

    2. Wikipedia's figures for the DE/Frigate/LCS familytree (all weights are "full" weights), in chronological order:

      Evarts-class Destroyer Escort: 1,360 tons, 5,000 nm @ 15 knots, 97 completed

      Buckley-class Destroyer Escort: 1,740 tons, 5,500 nm @ 15 knots, 102 completed

      Cannon-class Destroyer Escort: 1,620 tons, 10,800 nm @ 12 knots, 72 completed

      Edsall-class Destroyer Escort: 1,590 tons, 10,800 nm @ 12 knots, 85 completed

      Rudderow-class Destroyer Escort: 1,740 tons, 5,500 nm @ 15 knots, 22 completed

      John C. Butler-class Destroyer Escort: 1,745 tons, range not listed, 83 completed

      Dealey-class Destroyer Escort (1st post WWII class DE): 1,270 tons, designed for 6,000 nm @ 12 knots, 13 completed

      Claud Jones-class Destroyer Escort: 1,970 tons, 7,000 nm @ 12 knots, 4 completed

      Bronstein-class Frigate: 2,960 tons, 4,000 nm @ 15 knots, 2 completed

      Garcia-class Frigate: 2,624 tons, 4,000 nm @ 20 knots, 1 helo, 10 completed (+6 Brooke-Class Frigates, adding one RIM-66 launcher)

      Knox-class Frigate: 4,260 tons, range not listed, 1 helo, 46 completed

      Oliver Hazard Perry-class Frigate: 4,100 tons, 4,500 nm @ 20 knots, 2 helos, 71 completed

      Freedom-class LCS: 3,900 tons, 3,500 nm @ 18 knots, 1 helo, 2 UAVs, 4 completed, 13 planned

      Independence-class LCS: 3,421 tons (878 deadweight tons), 4,300 nm @ 18 knots, 1 helo, 2 UAVs, 5 completed, 14 planned

      - Gripen

    3. So basically, an OHP is the only post WWII US ship built in anything remotely close to WWII DE numbers. It's also slightly over twice as massive as a WWII DE. That size gets you two helos and maybe a bit more range, but I don't how their thermal efficiencies compare (OHP's 4,500 nm @ 20 knots vs. the Buckley's 5,500 nm @ 15 knots).

      - Gripen

    4. 'What we don't have any of, and need desperately, is a dedicated, small, CHEAP, expendable ASW corvette - AND THAT'S NOT AN OHP, updated or otherwise.'

      Driving a towed array, hull mounted sonar and helo around the ocean isn't cheap.

    5. "Driving a towed array, hull mounted sonar and helo around the ocean isn't cheap."

      Come on, now, follow the discussion. I'm NOT calling for a small, cheap ASW vessel with helo. I'm specifically calling for a small, cheap ASW vessel WITHOUT a helo. The lack of a helo is what makes it small and cheap. We built hundreds of these in WWII. We just need to update the sensors and weapons.

  13. I think part what throws some people off is the "cheap expendable part". They are so used to seeing a 300 millions plus ship listed as "cheap" (i.e. LCS) and assume any new design must be equally as expensive.

    What you are talking about is not difficult.They should adapt the old Air Force philosophy that gave us the F-16 & F-15. Back then they yelled "not a pound for air to ground" because they wanted a true air superiority fighter. Now the Navy needs to say "not a pound for AAW", "not a pound for fire support" and "to hell with anti-piracy anything that floats can do that" and so produce a pure, simple ASW. Expendable may mean an aluminum or perhaps even a composite hull to meet the budget. That may sound a bit LCS-like but that need not be the case.

    1. The last Cyclone class PC cost around $20M. A small ASW vessel wouldn't be a whole lot bigger or more complex than that. Say, double the size and call it $40M and add some specialized ASW equipment and call it $60M. Heck, let's be generous and call it $100M. That's it. We're done. A cheap, expendable, ASW corvette-ish vessel that can be procured in numbers.

    2. I've got to respectfully tell you, CNOPS that your heavy push on Frigate and ASW capability has me questioning your premises.

      Since WW1, of the three basic ASW platforms- air-surface ship-sub, the surface ship as an ASW platform was primary for both our world wars and during the first third of the Cold War. (IE- "Bedford Incident" movie) After that advances in submarine capability by our main adversary the USSR, eclipsed the surface ship as the main hunter of subs into a role of defensive ASW. The CVS ASW hunter killer groups were superseded by the CVBG and the CV concept.

      Concurrently, the advent of the MPA aircraft (shore based P-3), CV based S-3, ASW helicopters CV/LAMPS, and the super quiet for its time LA Class SSN eclipsed the surface ship DDG or OHP for reliable efficient ASW. IMO, when a surface ship can't easily go significantly faster (nuke or diesel/AIS) than the target it is hunting (think WW2/Cold War diesels diesels) that slower surface ship becomes a defensive asset only. Plus, approaching top speed it probably obviates most passive track/attack solutions.

      I am not against surface ships w/ASW capability I would be suspect of a surface ship, any surface ship of any size (even a speedboat), being built from the ground floor up and touted as an "ASW ship"...

      For any attack submarine of any nation a surface ship (commercial or combatant)is a target, pure and simple and submarines have seemingly infinite patience. Forcing contact and holding contact aren't surface combatant strengths from a physics standpoint...


    3. Where on Earth did you get the impression that I believe surface ships are the one, the only, and the best means of conducting ASW? I'm pretty sure I never said that nor even hinted at it!

      The best ASW platform is a cruise missile striking submarine bases and subs in port along with destroying submarine building yards.

      The next best ASW platform is another sub. However, we only have around 40-50 of those and they'll be tied up on a variety of missions. Their availability will be spotty, at best.

      Maritime ASW patrol aircraft can be effective but require benign environments to operate.

      So, with all that understood, it's obvious that we will have a need for many, many small, cheap, expendable ASW vessels to cover all the areas that the preceding assets cannot: home ports, choke points, peripheral sea lanes, convoy escort, etc.

      If you want to disagree with me please be sure that you're disagreeing with something I've actually said!

      I've also never said or even hinted that I believe that a surface ship can be a 100% effective, unbeatable ASW platform. It can't. That doesn't mean we don't need them. A small, dedicated, cheap, expendable ASW corvette-ish vessel is exactly what we need to fill in the many, many ASW gaps we'll encounter in war. No, the individual ship won't be very likely to defeat a sub but as one member of a combined force, able to call in other ships, helos, and aircraft, it can be effective. Such a ship, built from the ground up as an ASW vessel will have the characteristics of effectiveness, to the degree possible, and cheapness, by having no other functions increasing its cost. That's exactly what you want for a vessel that's going to play tag with submarines.

    4. "Forcing contact and holding contact aren't surface combatant strengths from a physics standpoint..."

      I question your grasp of physics. A fixed-wing aircraft has to convert fuel into considerable forward velocity (airspeed) to lift itself, its weapons, and its fuel. A fixed-wing aircraft can only "hold contact" with a sub in the very loosest sense. A rotary-wing aircraft can "hold contact" with a sub but has to burn proportionally more fuel per unit flight time than a fixed-wing aircraft. A rotary-wing aircraft has less range and/or payload per unit fuel. A surface vessel does not need to burn any fuel to keep itself from going to the bottom of the sea and has less wetted area than a submarine, which means it needs less power for a given speed and less fuel for a given range. A surface vessel is at the mercy of wave action. A submarine is not. A submarine is an order of magnitude more expensive than a surface vessel of the same enclosed volume for reasons that should be obvious. Forcing and holding contact is THE STRENGTH of a surface vessel. And which one do you want dutifully escorting a slow-bound convey through the South China Sea?

    5. “The last Cyclone class PC cost around $20M. A small ASW vessel wouldn't be a whole lot bigger or more complex than that. Say, double the size and call it $40M and add some specialized ASW equipment and call it $60M. Heck, let's be generous and call it $100M. That's it. We're done. A cheap, expendable, ASW corvette-ish vessel that can be procured in numbers.”

      The Cyclone-class specifications seem to be all over the place, but Wikipedia lists the Cyclone-class at 331 tons and having a range of 2000-2500 nm @ 12 knots. That doesn’t even get you across the Atlantic. Even if we double the displacement just to increase range, will even that get us enough range for operations in the Atlantic? The Pacific? I doubt it. I’m starting to think the WWII DE range, 1,500-1750 tons, is the realistic minimum for a small ASW, sans helo, that is capable of convoy escort duty. Even if we include tankers in the convoy for underway replenishment, I think we also have to give some consideration for the crew. What is morale going to be like on a 750 ton, “expendable” vessel on the fringes of a slow convoy in the Western Pacific during typhoon season?!

      To make any real progress I think we need to have as precise a definition for what we mean by “expendable” as is possible. I’m not going to pretend like we can eliminate all loss of life in war, but I think we do have a duty to give our soldiers, seamen, and airmen the best chance of coming home within what is reasonable and realistic. I do not doubt that we are all in agreement about that. If by “expendable” we mean that we expect to lose these vessels “regularly,” I think that means an unmanned platform in this day and age. If by “expendable” we mean that we recognize that a skilled adversary will sink these vessels “occasionally,” a manned vessel may provide enough added capability to justify the risks.

      As stated above, I believe a modern analogue to a WWII DE is the smallest realistic vessel. 1,500-1,700 tons is roughly half the displacement of a LCS (3,421 and 3,900 tons). Assuming that cost is proportional to displacement on a 1:1 basis, we’re looking at around a $180 million/copy based on the $360 million figure for each additional Independence-class LCS. That’s approximately double the cost of the enlarged cyclone-class ASW vessel. Is that vessel still “expendable” in that we expect to lose them “regularly.”

      A displacement of 1,500-1,700 tons also means one or no helo (which are the same thing in my book), which is fine for its mission, which will primarily be escort of merchant convoys and amphibious forces. Still, we’re losing something. What is that? Can we get some of it back by another means? If a ship isn’t truly “expendable” at $180 million, does it make sense to build something bigger, even if we still don’t want to devote resources to aviation assets?

    6. Helicopters are inefficient beasts. There’s no way around that. The ONLY reason to use a helicopter (pure or compound) or tiltrotor is if you need it to do what nothing else can; take off and land vertically and move faster than is practicable on the surface of the land or sea. Do we actually need those things just to drop an active sonar in the water or put a torpedo in range of a submarine? No. Yes, a helicopter can cover more area in the same amount of time than a surface vessel, but its endurance is also extremely limited in comparison. The RUM-319 ASROC has a range of about 13.7 miles. Would your rather have, at most, two helos per DE, each with 1-3 LWTs, operating within that radius of the vessel or 4, 6, or more 11 meter RHIB-type vessels per DE, each with 1-3 LWTs, operating with that radius for a much greater period of time? I’ll take the latter every time. As far as speed goes, 30+ or, 40+ knots is still well beyond anything that an enemy sub is going to do anywhere remotely close to an escorted convoy or task force. I would feel pretty sorry for those poor bastards out there in 11 meter RHIBS hounding a sub for hours at a time in anything above sea state 3, so maybe these things are unmanned, and while being capable of operating independently over the horizon aren’t expected to. It seems like these might actually be “expendable” by any definition too. Since we don’t have to worry about crewing these unmanned surface vessels (USVs), maybe they can be self-righting and have an electric or hybrid powertrain so that the only way they will actually sink is if the hull is perforated. Is there anything that could host 4-6 of these, large enough to host a deck-mounted ASROC launcher firing MK 54s with glide kits installed, and maybe a few ESSMS (VLS or box launcher) to provide air defense out to the horizon? Maybe those 27 LCS hulls on the books and yet to be built could prove useful after all!

      - Gripen

    7. "I’m starting to think the WWII DE range, 1,500-1750 tons, is the realistic minimum for a small ASW, sans helo"

      The Flower class corvette of WWII was 205 ft long, 925 tons displacement, and had a range of 3500 nm at 12 kts (max speed = 16 kts). This is about what I have in mind. With modern engines perhaps we can coax some additional range/speed out of it. These vessels regularly pulled Atlantic convoy duty. No, they didn't have crew hot tubs but the crews survived the living conditions.

      Expendable simply means that we can lose one without crippling the war effort. In contrast, losing a $14B carrier would be catastrophic.

    8. "11 meter RHIB-type vessels per DE, each with 1-3 LWTs"

      Interesting. I've never heard of a RHIB carrying torpedoes. Do you have a reference?

    9. It seems doable:

    10. And the Freedom-class LCS, Zumwalts, and National Security Cutters all seem to have some pretty nifty stern launch and recovery systems for this sort of thing. You could have internal cranes or a pallet system for moving USVs between storage positions and launch position(s). The Independence-class LCS systems seems to work but doesn't seem quite as robust, in my opinion. I know other vessels have similar systems, so it's not exactly new or untested.

      Zumwalt @ 2:45

      NSC @ 7:15

      Freedom-class LCS

    11. A better view of the Freedom-class's facilities:

    12. Interesting idea, using a CUSV as a LWT torpedo carrier. The major drawback is getting the craft to the desired location in time to be useful. Even at 35 kts, a sub could be long gone by the time the craft arrives unless it just happened to be deployed and in the immediate area.

      What scenario do you think such a craft would be useful in?

    13. At this moment, my idea is that you'd provide 3 or 4 ASW Escorts for each convoy. Maybe only 2 in some cases. I'm thinking each ASW Escort would be sized to operate and transport 6 CUSVs or something like it, using one or two of those stern launch and recovery systems. The ASW Escort would also have one or two box launchers for a total of 8-16 launch-ready ASROCs. Each cell might be a little bigger than on the old Mk-16 launchers. This precludes the use of any of the current VLS systems. Big enough to launch this:

      Like this:

      The booster could be the same as on the RUR-5 or RUM-139, but it would get more range by lofting the torpedo on a higher trajectory from which it would glide the rest of the way.

      Textron claims “20+” hours of endurance for the CUSVs. At what speed and with what payload I have no idea. I’d put some sort of passive and/or active sonar on it and at least one torpedo. With that kind of endurance, the answer to the speed issue might be to have as many CUSVs ahead, behind, and to the sides of convoy as the ASW escorts can sustain. The CUSVs would come back and be recovered by the ASW escorts to charge and/or refuel, re-arm, for maintenance, and shelter during especially high sea states, but they’d spend as much time deployed as possible. If the CUSVs have enough range or you plan on losing a few, maybe the convoy departs with more CUSVs than the ASW Escorts can host at any one time.

      If one CUSV identifies a contact, it and maybe other CUSVs are tasked with investigating, and if necessary, prosecuting it with their onboard weapons. If those CUSVS are too slow or don’t have enough firepower, the ASW escorts can lob in more LWTs. Perhaps the ASW escorts also have HWTs of their own. To a large extent, the CUSVs are the “pickets” or, I suppose, just large, armed self-propelled sonar buoys, and the ASW escorts are the archers. If you are worried about defending against long range HWT shots, you might need some sort of aviation asset. But even then, having a bunch of CUSVs out there should give you a much better idea of when and where to deploy that aviation asset. Or have a bigger, longer-ranged ASROC. Information from P-8s, Tritons, satellites, etc. could also help determine how best to position the CUSVs in relation to the convoy. If the ASW Escorts themselves don’t need to spread out around the convoy as much, I think we can put some ESSMs on the ASW Escorts, maybe bolt some SeaRAMs on the other vessels, and call that good enough AAW.

      The most important criteria for the CUSV should be that it is truly expendable. The ASW Escort skipper should be able to leave one or two CUSVS out there with no immediate plans for recovery without a second thought. The skipper might do it to buy time. Or to trail a sub as closely as possible for as long as possible while P-8s are dispatched to continue the pursuit. If there’s a helo available, maybe it goes out and tows any wayward CUSVs back to one of the ASW escorts. Or perhaps the CUSVs are self-righting and have electric propulsion and some solar panels, and maybe they show up in a friendly port some day, or maybe they don’t. Or maybe you radio a seaplane base somewhere to go out at the next opportunity to recover them or recharge and/or refuel them and send them on their way.

      Ultimately, the number of CUSVs and ASROCs outfitted to each ASW escort would be decided by how much capability you want to pack into each vessel. I, however, am starting to lean more heavily to a larger vessel. Perhaps one that’s large enough to accommodate a torpedo defense system sufficient to let the ship limp back to port after one, but not two, hits. Since it doesn’t seem like we have taken the design of a TDS seriously since WWII, I’m not sure how big that really is. Conveniently, any TDS would almost certainly provide ample room for fuel and thus range.

      - Gripen

    14. Yeah, I saw that 20+ hours. I doubt that's 20+ hours at max speed. Something like 20+ hours at 8-10 kts might be reasonable. Their claim is also probably with a light load and in calm seas. A more realistic endurance at tactically useful speeds and loads in typical seas might be 8-10 hours.

      ASW is conducted as far away as possible. Helos attempt to operate 20-50 miles distant - convergence zone distances. Thus, if it takes a CUSV 2-3 hours to get on station and 2-3 hours to return and they only have a 8-10 hour endurance, you can see that the useful time on station is getting pretty short. Admittedly, almost pure speculation on my part but not unreasonable.

      I don't think a CUSV size craft could carry a sonar large enough or powerful enough to detect a sub. If it could, we're wasting a LOT of money on the sonars we're putting on our full size surface ships! So, the CUSV would need another asset to find it a target. If we have to have another asset on scene anyway, what have we gained? The CUSV becomes nothing more than a torpedo transport craft and the on-scene detecting asset can, presumably, carry torpedoes. So, again, what have we gained?

      A torpedo-carrying CUSV would need to have some sort of comms and electronics to set the torpedo's initial guidance. That adds to the complexity and cost of the CUSV and begins to chip away at the expendability.

      What do you think about all of that?

    15. It’s getting late, but I’ll try to finish some thoughts.

      “You've basically got it. It's affordability/expendability which, of course, translates to numbers. If you're going to play tag with subs, you have to be affordable/expendable. WWII corvettes were effective not because they were individually powerful ASW vessels but because they hounded U-Boats through sheer presence and weren't, generally, worth expending a torpedo on (cheapness confers a degree of protection!). Even a marginally effective ASW vessel (corvette) can be effective simply by being present. A sub will go far out of its way to avoid detection and the more ASW vessels (corvettes) there are, the further out of its way the sub has to go - which translates to a mission kill.”

      I haven’t yet had time to research the Flower-class corvettes beyond Wikipedia, but it seems like it’s fair to say that they were adequate, at best, during WWII. It might be more accurate to say that they were the best that could be done at the time.

      For example:

      “A typical action by a Flower encountering a surfaced U-boat during convoy escort duties was to run directly at the submarine, forcing it to dive and thus limiting its speed and manoeuvrability. The corvette would then keep the submarine down and pre-occupied with avoiding depth charge attacks long enough to allow the convoy to pass safely. The 16-knot (30 km/h) top speed of the Flower-class ships made effective pursuit of a surfaced U-boat (about 17 knots) impossible, though it was adequate to manoeuvre around submerged U-boats or convoys, both of which ran at a typical maximum of 8 knots, and sometimes much less in poor weather. The low speed also made it difficult for Flowers to catch up with the convoy after action.”


      “Success for the Flowers, therefore, should be measured in terms of tonnage protected, rather than U-boats sunk. Typical reports of convoy actions by these craft include numerous instances of U-boat detection near a convoy, followed by brief engagements using guns or depth charges and a rapid return to station as another U-boat took advantage of the initial skirmish to attack the unguarded convoy. Continuous actions of this kind against a numerically superior U-boat pack demanded considerable seamanship skills from all concerned, and were very wearing on the crews.”

      The entry for the Castle-class corvettes, which succeeded the Flowers, also states:

      “The Admiralty had decided to cease Flower-class construction in favour of the larger River-class frigates as the Flower class had originally been intended for coastal escort work and were not entirely satisfactory for Atlantic convoy service. In particular, they were slow, poorly armed and rolled badly in rough seas, which quickly exhausted their crews.”

      I think there is a case for a vessel that is merely “adequate” against modern threats, I’m just not sure something the size of the Flower-class or Castle-class, by itself, is going to cut it, even with up to date propulsion, sensors, and weapons, against modern AIP SSKs and SSNs. The WWII DEs seem to be about the smallest vessels with the speed and range that is adequate against modern threats.

    16. “ASW is conducted as far away as possible. Helos attempt to operate 20-50 miles distant - convergence zone distances. Thus, if it takes a CUSV 2-3 hours to get on station and 2-3 hours to return and they only have a 8-10 hour endurance, you can see that the useful time on station is getting pretty short. Admittedly, almost pure speculation on my part but not unreasonable.”

      Well, we’ve agreed that this “expendable” ASW vessel doesn’t have a piloted helo. No UAVs either? So either we need a full-blown escort to chase down every contact; we need support from a “ASW destroyer,” P-8, or some other asset; or we need to think outside the box.

      If you need a helo, you need a helo. But if you don’t need a helo, maybe you have space to accommodate a handful of USVs. And if a SH-60 can lift four guys, the AQS-13, up to three LWTs, and various other sensors for four-ish hours, is it unreasonable that something in the ballpark of the CUSV can incorporate the same sonar and the same weapons and stay on station for 8-10 hours? Maybe longer? Even if it’s just four hours, what do you lose? You can also clearly launch, recover, and store any given number of USVs in essentially just the volume required to store that number of USVs. That hasn't been demonstrated to be the case with helos. The swept volume of the rotors is a real bitch to design a ship around.

      And what about all those sonobuoys we drop? Are they just broadcasting elevator music into the ocean or something? If the USVs aren’t responsive enough, can we put four or five sonobuoys on top of a ASROC booster and drop them in a pattern at convergence zone distances, using CUSVs as data relays and maybe loose a torpedo? Or maybe put individual sonobuoys on top of zuni rockets and have the CUSVs launch the individual sonobouys into the gaps between CUSVs? If the CUSVs can’t get there in time to deliver a torpedo, maybe an ASROC from the escort can.

      Or maybe all the USVs do is “be present.” Even if the USV is not an imminent threat to a sub, I’m okay with it if that sub sees a doofy-looking RHIB with a single torpedo sticking out its bow every time it comes to periscope depth in the vicinity of a convoy. It was enough in WWII. Maybe it’s enough now too.

      I think the USVs would be kind of like an ASW version of the MQ-1. Yeah, they’re not an F-16 and they’re too expensive to expect to lose them with any significant frequency, but if you have a good reason to lose one in order to deal a blow to the enemy, you do it without question. If your MQ-1 is out of weapons, there is nothing else that can get there in time, and the target you’ve been tracking for weeks shows up at a meeting in the middle of the desert surrounded by black-pajama wearing individuals, you bet you’re kamikazi-ing that thing into those dudes!

      This isn’t about replacing the capabilities of a helo. It’s about augmenting the capabilities of an ASW escort that doesn’t have a helo. If it only makes sense to have one or two CUSV-sized USVs on these escorts, fine.

      If the USVs need to be larger and fewer in number than for the CUSVs, fine.

      Maybe it’s more efficient to fire off sonobuoys and torpedoes on top of rockets instead of relying on UAVs and USVs to extend the range of the ASW escort’s sensors, fine.

      I don’t care.

      I’d love for a subject matter expert to crunch the numbers and give me a better understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of each option.

      What I’m worried about is relying on tactics and strategy that worked in WWII but MAY not work in WWIII.

      Moreover, we have LCSs that have no mission but are probably going to get built anyway. What they do have is a stupendous amount of enclosed volume with no purpose. Maybe we should take a couple of LCS hulls, fill them to the brim with USVs, UAVs, and rockets that fling sonobuoys and torpedoes and see what happens.

    17. It also occurs to me that one-issue with embarking helos on a low-end, dedicated ASW vessel might not be the size of the helos themselves, but the fact that we haven’t really explored what such a vessel would look like if optimized to carry as many helicopters as possible, whether those helicopters are manned, unmanned, or some combination. If a OHP sized vessel could carry 6-8 helos instead of just two, would it be worth using that size of a ship, but maybe fewer of them, as the low-end ASW vessel? Maybe it and the high-end ASW vessel are actually about the same displacement, but the low-end ship is a slow, stable SWATH-hulled vessel operating as many helos as possible and the high-end, blue water, anti-SSN vessel is more or less an updated OHP with no aviation facilities and a lot of ASROCs, ASW mortars, and HWTs. It’s another point on the curve worth exploring.

      One reason the USVs are attractive is that you don’t need much more space to launch and recover them than you do to store them. Because the swept volume of any helicopter during launch and recovery (plus a significant margin for safety) is very, very large compared to the dimensions of the fuselage, below some threshold of airframes, that isn’t the case. You could, however, optimize the ship for carrying helicopters by storing as many helicopters as possible below that swept volume. The Burke’s, Ticos, and OHPs, among other ships, are inefficient in this regard because they can’t/don’t put VLS or any sort of missile or gun within the swept volume. The TIcos’ aft 5” gun and box launchers are below the swept volume, which means that the the small flight deck and hangar are very high up on the ship, which isn’t ideal, especially on a monohull. Those ships also have a horizontally displaced hangar that takes up yet more deck space that could be used for something else. It is worth pointing out that the Zumwalt’s aft MK 57 VLS modules are, more or less, within that swept volume but to the sides of the flight deck so that their placement doesn’t interfere with aircraft handling.

    18. If our optimized ASW helicopter-carrying vessel doesn’t also need to have VLS, or can place them on the perimeter of the flight deck, and just needs to mount an ASROC launcher on the deck and missiles/guns/radars for self defense on the deck and/or superstructure, maybe we can carry enough helicopters that it makes sense to do so on a relatively small vessel.

      Take for example, the FSF-1 Sea Fighter. It’s 160 feet long, has a beam of 72 feet, and is 1,600 tons. In the space below the flight deck, you might be able to store four, six. or even more SH-60 sized helicopters when the rotors and tails are folded and have enough room on the rest of the hangar deck for maintenance spaces and more crew berths and facilities.

      The USVs, at least as I’ve described them, have the benefit of launching and recovering horizontally so there’s no elevator to worry about, just a door or two at at the stern. I, however, don’t think the elevator is fatal to the concept because there are ways to design around it.

      The issue is that having one, or more likely two, elevators to lift helos up to the flight deck will quickly decrease the storage efficiency because you can’t store a helo in the swept volume of an elevator, in the down position, and still have that helo and the hangar be a relatively “dry” environment. Maybe that inefficiency is fine or it’s fine to have the hangar or one or more of the helos exposed to some weather on the elevator(s) in the up position. Another option is to have sliding or hinged doors so, if necessary, you can store a helo on an elevator, in the down position, and close the doors to keep the weather out. Which it looks like is exactly what they do on the Russian Kirov-class battlecruisers. Those ships also have a door at the stern through which they can load and unload helos without using a crane or requiring the helicopters to fly on and off the ship. It seems like the FSF-1, Independence-class LCS, HSV-class, or EPF-class, and similar vessels, could be modified to test the idea.

      If you believe a bunch of small, ocean-going corvettes is the best way forward with respect to the low-end ASW vessel, maybe it’s worth considering having something along the lines of the FSF-1 tag along as a modern day ASW escort carrier.

      - Gripen

    19. And by the way, if you find any of my comments to this or other posts as worthy of using, in whole or part, as part of future posts, you are welcome to do so. Some sort of attribution would be nice, however. It needn't be to more than my screen name. I'd also consider developing some of it into a proper guest post if that offer still stands and that's something you'd be interested in me doing. At any rate, at least for now, I'm content to put my thoughts out in the aether through the comments for anyone interested enough to read them.

      - Gripen

    20. "Those ships also have a door at the stern through which they can load and unload helos"

      ??? Kirov's have a stern elevator but there is no stern door. Are you thinking of the VDS "door"?

    21. As I've stated, this low end helo-less ASW corvette is not the only ASW platform I'd have. It's simply one part of a multi-tiered ASW force which includes all manner of aircraft, this corvette, an ASW focused destroyer escort with helos, and a generic destroyer with ASW capability and maybe/maybe not helos.

      With that in mind, yes, I also have a place for a helo-carrying "carrier" to be the center of hunter-killer groups and the escort groups. What form that "carrier" takes is immaterial. It could be a miniature carrier, it could be a DDH, it could be an LCS converted for such work, or any other form that would meet the requirements. I'm somewhat dubious that you could fit all the helos into the space on the vessel you describe but if they can fit, sure, that would be fine.

    22. "??? Kirov's have a stern elevator but there is no stern door. Are you thinking of the VDS "door"?"

      I thought that flap-looking thing in the center of the stern was a door. It's about the same width as the elevator and inline and a few meters behind the elevator, but I might be mistaken. I don't see why it couldn't be made into a door.

      FSF-1 and SH-60s:

      I get that. But how sure are we that we will be able to spare high-end assets to escort enough convoys through the Western Pacific? Shouldn't the high-end vessels be focused on getting the surface-warfare vessels into range to deliver that cruise-missile strike on the enemy's shipyards? Or acting as part of hunter-killer task forces to attrit the enemy's submarines. I thought these low-end vessels were, for the most part, going to be useful merely by "being present" than actually destroying subs.

      We've built DE sized ships in large number before. My view is that a corvette is not going to be as useful or as capable in the Pacific as in the Atlantic. There's no guarantee that all the lessons of the Battle of Atlantic will be valid in the Pacific against an enemy with a greater submarine capability than the Japanese during WWII. I'm leaning towards the conclusion that a a DE-sized vessel is the smallest vessel that would be capable enough and numerous enough to do do all of the low-end ASW tasks in any theater. If an ASW destroyer, sub, or long-range maritime patrol aircraft can assist, that's great! But I'm not going to count on it.

      The devil is always in the details. If we don't give some thought to what these vessels would actually look like, with an increased degree of specificity (e.g., exactly how big, what hull form, how much range, in what numbers, and with what capabilities), we can't really say with any certainty whether the CONOPs is valid or not.

    23. If that corvette displacement is a hard upper limit, we're really only expecting the low-end ASW vessel to keep submarines at a distance, and we don't have enough range with a manned vessel, does it need to be manned at all? Maybe the the acquisition cost is higher, they sink and/or are damaged more frequently do to software bugs and equipment failures, but they might still get the job done and an increasingly personnel-constrained Navy, in terms of both numbers of "qualified" sailors and personnel-costs, doesn't have to worry about finding 40-100 sailors to man a tin can so that they can play tag with AIP SSKs in the Indonesian Archipelago.

      - Gripen

    24. "that flap-looking thing in the center of the stern"

      It's the variable depth sonar hatch cover. The VDS is pretty large! No reason why such an arrangement couldn't be a loading ramp, though.

    25. "I thought these low-end vessels were, for the most part, going to be useful merely by "being present" than actually destroying subs."


    26. "a corvette is not going to be as useful or as capable in the Pacific as in the Atlantic"

      I don't see why not. As in the WWII Atlantic, there will be a lot of convoys that are nominally out of range of active combat but need a low end escort just to be on the safe side. There will be home ports and harbors that need protecting. There will be peripheral sea lanes and chokepoints that will need monitoring. And so on. I see no reason why those tasks won't be needed in the Pacific just as they were in WWII Atlantic and no reason why a non-helo corvette wouldn't be appropriate for the job.

      Consider the convoys that will have to sail from CONUS to Pearl Harbor. They will need some escort but, being far from front line combat, will not warrant a high end escort.

    27. "does it need to be manned at all"

      We don't have artificial intelligence software capable of tactically operating a ship. In a war, we'll have plenty of manpower.

    28. “Don't take my desire for a low end, small, cheap, ASW vessel as saying that there is no need for any other ASW platform. These vessels would perform a specific role(s): harbor defense, convoy escort, periphery patrols, chokepoint monitoring, etc. What they would NOT do is sail with carrier groups or surface task forces. They would NOT be the primary blue water, anti-SSN ASW force. They would NOT replace helo-carrying destroyer (escorts). Instead, they would be part of a multi-tiered force structure. They would be the individual policeman walking the beat who would call in a SWAT team when heavier firepower is needed.”

      Okay, for the sake of discussion let’s assume that the low-end ASW vessel is your corvette. Of its missions, “harbor defense, convoy escort, periphery patrols, chokepoint monitoring, etc.,” it seems to me like one of those is not like the others. Convoy escort. For convoy escort you’re going to be out for days, maybe a week or two, far from any bases. That will require hotel facilities, of some form, adequate to sustain at least two watches of reasonably attentive and aware sailors for that length of time. It’s war, so maybe these facilities are extremely minimal. But what impact does that have on the crew’s performance? Do we really need those things, at least to anywhere near the same degree, for harbor defense, periphery patrols, and chokepoint monitoring? Do we actually need two different classes of ships for those missions? Do they share a hull? Are we planning on having at least one of the two larger types or long-range aviation pulling escort duty too?

      If the ASW corvette is going to perform all of those missions, and convoy escort is likely to be the least “dynamic,” can the vessel be optionally-manned with a control point somewhere in the convoy or maybe “flexibly-manned”? Any hotel facilities could be optimized around the shorter missions.

      If the ASW corvette is “flexibly-manned,” maybe you have a navigational and engineering crew that lives aboard the vessel 100% of the time. If the vessel is doing harbor defense, periphery patrols, and chokepoint monitoring, maybe you fly out and embark specialists in those missions. If the vessel is pulling convoy escort duty, maybe all the escorts share a smaller group of ASW teams based on some sort of tender or one of the escorted ships, along with a helo or two. When one of the escorts thinks it has a contact, you fly out one or more of those teams to a corresponding number of escorts. Maybe at the outbreak of war, you don’t have enough talented, experienced sailors with ASW training to man all of your corvettes. As you train up more people, you can embark ASW teams on more and more of the escorts and have them make do with the living conditions.

      If the ASW corvette is optionally manned, you embark a crew when the vessel is doing harbor defense, periphery patrols, and choke point monitoring. If it’s just going to be holding station relative to the convoy 98% of the time on any one deployment, you probably don’t need any crew or a sophisticated AI for 98% of the time. You have a man in the loop somewhere in the convoy when things get exciting. Or again, maybe you have specialist ASW crews and technicians, based on a tender or escorted ship, that are flown out to the ASW escorts to prosecute contacts and fix things aboard the escorts as necessary.

    29. “As I've stated, this low end helo-less ASW corvette is not the only ASW platform I'd have. It's simply one part of a multi-tiered ASW force which includes all manner of aircraft, this corvette, an ASW focused destroyer escort with helos, and a generic destroyer with ASW capability and maybe/maybe not helos.”

      So maybe the ASW DE is something along the lines of the helo-carrying SF-1 I proposed above and can flex between the low-end convoy escorts missions and the high-end missions. For the low-end convoy escort missions, it provides an ESSM umbrella around the convoy and acts as the tender, hoteling and flying specialist crews out to the ASW corvettes as necessary. Maybe it has full-up ASW helos and crews in that roll too. Or maybe not. Maybe the generic destroyer has no helos but can provide other ASW capabilities and some AAW OR some ASuW capabilities, beyond what is necessary for basic self-defense, but not both simultaneously. For the high-end missions, in which there is no fleet carrier, escort carrier, LHD, or LPD organic to the task force (aside from hunter-killer ASW task forces, I wonder how often this would be the case), two or more SF-1s supply the ASW helos and UAVs that work in concert with the generic destroyer to fulfill the ASW roll. Maybe instead of helos and/or UAVs, the generic destroyer has USVs.

      More things to think about!

      - Gripen

    30. "Convoy escort."

      This was the bread and butter of the WWII corvettes. It would be the same in a modern war. I see no difference other than today's corvette would have much more capable ASW equipment. Of course, that's offset by much more capable submarines!

      These would not be luxury liners. They would be austere combat vessels. This was successfully done in WWII. It's not like we're inventing something new. There's not even the slightest question that it's feasible.

    31. "If the ASW corvette is optionally manned"

      I have no problem, conceptually, with unmanned. I simply don't believe we're anywhere near capable of that degree of AI.

      If we think we'll have crews on some control ship monitoring each corvette's sensor readings then we haven't saved anything. We'll still have one crew per ship - they just won't be on the ship. ASW is not something that can be casually done with one crew monitoring several ship's sensors. Even with today's computerized analysis assistance (and maybe in spite of!) it still requires a constant human monitor to interpret the data and make judgments about what to do next. The Navy, mistakenly, believes computers can do ASW. We'll find out the hard way that they can't.

      So, I don't see the benefit to "unmanned". Unmanned just means manned elsewhere. Plus, unmanned requires much greater communications capability on each corvette and much greater data transmission bandwidth - possibly more than we are capable of. Many/most of our current data links are max'ed out as it is.

    32. A further aspect of the corvette issue is that we wouldn't have a huge peacetime fleet of corvettes. They're a cheap, easily constructed vessel that can be built quickly and in numbers when war comes. We wouldn't need 267 in peace. We'd only need 20-30 to maintain a design familiarity, an industrial base familiarity, and to maintain a core of ASW expertise.

      Now, if we want to assign a bunch of peacetime duties (chasing pirates, showing the flag, cross-training with tiny navies, etc.) then we might want more than 20-30 ships but that's easily adjustable.

    33. I feel like we're overthinking this. It's a basic concept.

    34. Your assumption is that the balance between ASW escort and submarine has not changes since WWII.

      Technology sure has.

      I'm not saying your stripped down corvettes aren't feasible. Maybe they are the best option. I'm not qualified to say whether they are or aren't. I think I am qualified enough to propose alternatives that can be considered based on their own merits and demerits. At least I hope so.

      I'm not wedded to any one concept, other than if we're going to build something new, maybe we should explore our options. Maybe what worked in WWII is not the cheapest or best option today, based on however you want to define what is "best."

      I don't expect you or anyone else to ever say that I was right and they were wrong. I welcome your feedback, however positive or negative. No feedback is fine too. My only hope, however dim, is that maybe someday I participate in a discussion that inspires someone with the motivation and capability to actually do something about these issues. If you just want this blog to be a place for "water-cooler" talk that promotes a single vision of what is "best," there's nothing wrong with that. Good luck with that. But I might take my thoughts elsewhere.

      - Gripen

    35. Okay, you're losing me. I'm not sure what you want to accomplish that you haven't already. You've described an optionally manned ASW vessel. I don't happen to own a shipyard and I don't work in Navy acquisition but, rest assured, this blog has a significant active duty following so you've gotten your idea across to people in the right area. The Navy is pretty hidebound so I wouldn't expect to see a new ASW vessel announced next week but, who knows, maybe you've inspired someone at least a little bit. So, it sounds like you've checked all your boxes. If you feel something is lacking, let me know what. Perhaps you'd like to guest author a post. I'm open to that.

      Yes, I do promote my idea of what is best - that's why I started this blog - but I have no problem, and in fact encourage people to offer their own visions, as you've done.

      As I say, I'm not sure what else you're looking for.

    36. That's all I'm looking for. Your post got me thinking about this stuff and I figured it would do more good out in the aether than just rattling around my brain. And I'll learn more by doing so and from any feedback. It's also pleasurable to write it down.

      And I'm trying to explain why I might choose to respond when, in my opinion, you or others are stating why something is or isn't feasible or advantageous without considering all of the advantages and disadvantages of the alternatives. As you've said before, you can't do that in every post. That's true. I understand. But I don't buy that line in the comments section. Maybe add a forum so with a better user interface for that kind of thing?

    37. Maybe what you need/want is to write up a detailed guest post? As I said, I'm open to that. Let me know.

    38. You haven't proposed anything that I have any particular disagreement with other than I'm dubious about the unmanned for the reasons I described. I'd be all for a developmental/demonstration unmanned small vessel - which is exactly what the DARPA subhunter project is! If they can make that work in a useful fashion then there's your solution!

      Regarding modifying the blog by adding a forum, the idea is excellent but the blogger/blogspot engine is extremely limited and has no capability to do that. That's why I suggest a guest post if you want to go into even more detail.

    39. I might take you up on that. I would like to read up more on WWII ASW history, cold war tactics, and modern studies before authoring a guest post for your consideration on this subject. Not sure when that would happen though.

      If I got around to writing up my thoughts on other subjects, say that "turboelectric, supercritical, anti-gravity, warp drive propulsion unit," I'd be willing to submit that for your consideration too. I've compiled quite few research papers on the state-of-the art in gas turbine, supercritical CO2 cycles, and cryogenic electric motors and energy storage systems that I might be able to synthesize into a "where we are and where we might be headed" type post. In general, I feel more qualified to offer an opinion on technical versus operational subjects (i.e.,going into more detail about the engineering issues than you might want to). I have a B.S. in materials science and engineering, so I would definitely feel comfortable seeing what I might be able to come up with on subjects like armor.

    40. Propulsion technology ... armor ... anything naval is fair game. Naval history is also good - propulsion history, for example (the old Lex and Sara's hybrid plants). Let me know if/when you want to move forward and I'll give you a contact email for more details.

    41. RE: Flower class as a template. Wasn't the Flower class known to have poor sea keeping and found to be a bit small for oceanic duty? My thinking would be something more like a Black Swan sized sloop.

  14. Responses the the FFG(X) RFI were due yesterday. How long before we get a look at what ideas industry submitted, and from who?

  15. Hi CNO,

    You wrote above :

    "The next best ASW platform is another sub. However, we only have around 40-50 of those and they'll be tied up on a variety of missions. Their availability will be spotty, at best."

    If this is the case, perhaps an alternative to masses of ASW surface ships are more subs, perhaps longer range non nuclear ones to keep cost down. These will cost much more than the $60m ships you mentioned above but subs are sexy so might be more palatable to the decision makers.

    I haven't seen any stats on how much better each platform is, except on the Australian website the Strategist

    So it's difficult to say one sub is worth how many helicopters or dedicated anti sub Corvette.


    1. CNA's "Future Helicopter Force Requirements Analysis" models ASW and ASuW helicopter requirements for task forces. Presumably convoy escort requirements would be similar, minus the plane guard.

      Not stressing - 10 SH-60
      Average case - 12-14 SH-60
      Worst case - 32+ SH-60

  16. CNOPs,

    I was only disagreeing with the idea discussed here that a new design hull built from the ground floor up for ASW was not especially wise from a standpoint of capability because I believe surface ships have inherently less desirable ASW characteristics due to their nature (physics). Look back in time to the late 1980s and check the mix of ASW assets and their suitability. While ASW has always been a challenge because enemy attack subs had/have all the advantages(surprise,dwell time, environment), we cannot create a ring of steel based on surface ship ASW. Plus the word "expendable" thrown about is not a good strategy for the USA. Only the buildup/capitalization of more worldwide based MPA aircraft, the addition of a middle/outer zone ASW aircraft with standalone capability for search, localization, track/attack like the former Viking, organic to the CSG, and the acquisition of more attack SSNs will give us the edge again before it is too late. IMO of course. Re helicopters, I believe we have a good mix available as they are the best actual torpedo attack platform followed by the fixed wing aircraft mentioned prior. 120 kts to reposition is much faster than 30 kts... SSNs for ASW are deadly but their speed (physics again) to reposition from one side of the battlespace to the other takes time...
    Just saying.

    1. "disagreeing with the idea discussed here that a new design hull built from the ground floor up for ASW was not especially wise from a standpoint of capability"

      I'm afraid I'm completely missing your point. Try again?

      Analogously, it sounds like you're saying that since a ship (like a Burke) is inherently vulnerable to missiles in terms of structural resistance and survivability that you're opposed to building an Aegis (Burke) from the ground floor up for AAW? I'm pretty sure that's not what you're saying which brings me back to missing your point.

      Just because a sub has inherent advantages is no reason not to build a purpose build anti-sub vessel. Are you advocating removing all ASW capability from all surface ships? I'm clearly missing your point.

    2. "Only the buildup/capitalization of more worldwide based MPA aircraft, the addition of a middle/outer zone ASW aircraft with standalone capability for search, localization, track/attack like the former Viking, organic to the CSG, and the acquisition of more attack SSNs will give us the edge again before it is too late."

      And what happens if these work as advertised:

      What's your backup if P-8s, S-3 analogues, and SH-60s start falling from the skies because dual-seeker, double and triple-digit SAMs are popping up in the middle of the ocean? Does every one of those aviation assets have a self-defense, high-energy laser pod or something?

      And, how exactly does "physics" imply that something of limited payload and endurance is categorically better than something capable of hosting heavier, longer-ranged weapons, and more of them, while having equal or better endurance than anything of a similar size, with the exception of a SSN.

      B2, here's a free piece of advice: people that want to be taken seriously show their work.

    3. "we cannot create a ring of steel based on surface ship ASW."

      Of course not! I'm not even remotely suggesting that. I hope you didn't think I was. When I advocate for a particular platform it doesn't automatically mean that I'm advocating against every other platform. A naval force (and military force, in general) needs a balance of types and capabilities. As I've said, we need P-8's, helos, a new carrier fixed wing ASW, ASW corvettes, an ASW destroyer escort, a generic destroyer, more subs, etc. We also need more bombers and long range cruise missiles to attack enemy subs at their home bases (open ocean is the least desirable place to conduct ASW). And so on.

      I picked out one specific platform to discuss. That doesn't mean I'm against all the others!

  17. Gripen,

    Your critique of my punch line you quoted, which proposes capitalizing the most capable ASW assets bespeaks a "chicken-little" approach with an apparent lack of respect for air ASW with your simple "Popular Science" argument of some postulated, networked underwater "counter air SSAM system" that our enemies will suddenly unmask with devastating effect should anyone fly in the same ocean! Perspective- systems like that "could" make air ASW more difficult but are not even remotely sophisticated enough to warrant much of a recap of resources from "fear" of a possibility right out of Hollywood/Comic Books. Please- no listing of all the possible systems to refute what I say.

    Take it from an operator who has seen what we once had for ASW purposes (platforms, actual training and people); what we lost or gave away after the Cold War since 1992; and now, seeing what we actually "need" to counter the threats after 25 years of paying only lip service and dithering to the ASW "team" mission... Meanwhile the resurgent and predictable fear of "The Flaming Datum" meme makes all squeak from fear...There are lessons from the not so recent past.


    Its a question of resources applied, Sir. As the discussions rage in your blog, IMO there are many here who need to know the long view. New technology will not save us. Plus, I think you know how I feel about our ability to design and field anything adequate nowadays..Please carry on!


    1. B2,

      The entire premise of my proposals are how to equip a ship that isn't large enough to have organic aviation assets and may not be operating with ships that do. Neither I nor CNOPS, if I may speak for him, are questioning the value of air ASW. I don't even know how you would reach that conclusion based on this discussion. What's the harm in having a reasoned discussion over some thought experiments?

      How is invoking "physics" a punchline. I can use "physics" to justify just about anything.

      Thank you for your service. I am EXTREMELY interested in knowing more about your experiences. But it would help to have more information than just "physics" to understand the points you are trying to make.

    2. "Neither I nor CNOPS, if I may speak for him, are questioning the value of air ASW"

      Correct. My proposal for a small, cheap, non-helo ASW corvette is not an either/or proposition. We don't have to choose between air ASW and a corvette. The corvette is a supplement to our air ASW assets, and other surface and subsurface ASW assets for a certain mission set.

      Carry on - politely!

    3. "counter air SSAM system"

      I'm aware of developmental efforts along these lines and I know the Russians claim to have deployed a system. This might be a good research/post topic for a future post.

  18. The "either big or small" confusion always seem to crop up when discussing smaller combatants. People seem to naturally assume you have to have either a few big ships or a lot of small ones, when ideally you have a mix.
    This small ASW ship--let's call it a Destroyer Escort rather than a frigate--wouldn't operate as some single ship alone. Rather you would have an ASW screen around a merchant convoy with multiple DE's and either a Burke (or possibly a frigate version of the Burke like CNO mentioned in a previous post) providing AAW escort and a couple ASW helos on the Burke/Frigate for a mixed response. The Burke or could act as an command ship. So for the price of two Burkes you have a DE wolfpack of 6-8 ships and a Burke which basically gives you an escort squadron. If faced with a WW2 scenario of heavy sub action then it could be supplemented by an small carrier with dozen ASW helos (like an America class amphib carrier or Midway style CVE also talked about in another thread.)
    It should be noted these 1000 ton DE’s would also do well in crowded waters such as the Persian Gulf or protecting major harbors. Smaller, cheaper, ships are also a great way for junior officers to gain experience in actual seamanship and command before moving on to multi-billion dollar vessels.

    1. "The "either big or small" confusion always seem to crop up when discussing smaller combatants. People seem to naturally assume you have to have either a few big ships or a lot of small ones, when ideally you have a mix."

      Precisely. But then it might be worth asking if a Burke-type ship (i.e., a lot of VLS cells a couple of helos) makes the most sense.

      Via "Anonymous" above (thank you for this reference!):

      "CNA's "Future Helicopter Force Requirements Analysis" models ASW and ASuW helicopter requirements for task forces. Presumably convoy escort requirements would be similar, minus the plane guard."

      Not stressing - 10 SH-60
      Average case - 12-14 SH-60
      Worst case - 32+ SH-60

      That Burke-type ship's 2 helos aren't enough. Granted, you have 6-8 ships and 2 helos instead of 2 ships and 4 helos, but maybe that's still not enough because those ships can't cover enough sea. It's possible long-range maritime patrol and UAVs could make up the difference, but I'm going to play devil's advocate and assume that they don't. And still, do we really need SMs, LRASMs, and/or TLAMS in the escort squadron? If not, and ESSM and shorter range stuff is good enough for our AAW needs, we don't NEED VLS. If we don't need VLS, do we need the Burke for anything other than those helos?

      I think one solution is to have a dedicated ASW helicopter carrier. If you had something like a 2,000-3,000 ton FSF-1 Sea Fighter, but built for sea-keeping rather than speed (maybe a SWATH hull?), how many helos (SH-60s) could you embark under the flight deck? I think 6 easily, and maybe as many as 10 or 12 if you keep a couple on the flight deck. That's certainly enough in combination with the DEs for an escort squadron. You put two of those in an ASW hunter-killer squadron and maybe you don't need an escort carrier and/or CNO's generic destroyer doesn't need helos and is instead a dedicated ASW destroyer that can be pressed into one of ASuW or AAW as needs require.

      And if the politicians are demanding versatility and "modularity," explain to them how good the PR is going to be when the Navy shows up in the Philippines with a LHD, its Ch-53s and V-22, and two of these ASW helicopter carriers with 20-24 transport helos embarked delivering aid after a typhoon.

      At the end of the day, it's just a medium-sized ship optimized for carrying helicopters and nothing more.

    2. What you're discussing, without explicitly saying so, is operational doctrine and tactics. Whether Burkes need helos or SM's or Tomahawks or whatever, all depends on the operating doctrine and tactics we're using. So, the answer can be either yes or no depending on how they're being used.

      To make your case, all you need to do is lay out the doctrine/tactics you envision operating with and then explain how your idea fits into that - precisely what the Navy consistently fails to do and why we end up with marginally useful equipment that doesn't well support our doctrine and tactics.

    3. "What you're discussing, without explicitly saying so, is operational doctrine and tactics. Whether Burkes need helos or SM's or Tomahawks or whatever, all depends on the operating doctrine and tactics we're using."

      Yes and no. Part of my intent is to show that adding Burkes, or anything of similar size, is a really inefficient way to add helicopters to an ASW force if they carry so few. If the Burkes don't even get you to the minimum threshold of helicopters for the mission, and you don't need the extra capability that they provide over something smaller, there's almost no point in doing so. I think we both agree that a Burke is exactly the wrong vessel to add just for "presence." I'm trying to reinforce the value of single-purpose ships.

      To your point, if you're operating under the assumption that just "being present" is not enough, maybe you decide that getting X number of DEs per Burke isn't worth losing all those VLS cells. Even in this scenario, the answer to the helicopter problem isn't to add more Burkes. It's to add a helicopter carrier. So instead of 8 DEs and an ASW helicopter carrier, you have 2 Burkes and an ASW helicopter carrier. I know you understand this. I'm just trying to provide another example in this context for my fellow readers.

      As to which CONOPS is correct, maybe they both are at different points in time depending on who our adversaries are and where each one of them is in their own development cycles. That poses an issue for a super power like us because there might not be one right CONOPS. We have to hedge our bets and do a bit of both. I think we would be able to afford that, at least I hops so, if magical thinking wasn't pervasive on both sides of the aisle and we are smart about the ships that we're building. One can dream.

    4. If you are prepared to go a little bigger than a corvette, you could easily build a VLS + advanced sonar ASW variant, a VLS AAW optimization and a non-VLS helicopter escort on the same hull.

      You would get some economy of scale, a desirable and readily tunable fleet mix, and simplified/optimized training all as part of the package.

      Modularity at the squadron level rather than the ship level.

    5. And so we have 1 Burke, 4 DEs, and a small helicopter carrier in our idealized escort squadron. And ye who lurketh beneath us shall tremble in fear!

    6. "If you are prepared to go a little bigger than a corvette, you could easily build a VLS + advanced sonar ASW variant, a VLS AAW optimization and a non-VLS helicopter escort on the same hull."

      While I think that's true, that goes to a different CONOPS that values this sort of modularity over shear numbers. You may gain flexibility and capability/hull, but that doesn't necessarily help you if you don't have enough ships for the mission. Which goes again to part of CNO's core principles of this blog, which he reiterated above: it all depends on your CONOPS. I think we all have a tendency to talk past one another if we aren't explicit about the trade-offs we're making.

      "simplified/optimized training all as part of the package"

      I think that is an important trade off worth considering when balancing competing CONOPS. Maybe the crew's training matters more than the exact characteristics of the vessel. If you can't afford the training at the numbers you need, maybe you have to settle for "being present" and hope your sailors can learn on the job. So you go with numbers, at least in the beginning.

      I think that may be a part of why the small corvettes are deemed such a success in WWII. We didn't have enough skilled ASW crews in the beginning so DEs/Frigates wouldn't have done much good anyway, not that the allies had them. We had and could build corvettes in the numbers that were required and their capabilities, or lack thereof, were a decent fit with skill of the crews. As we accumulated experienced sailors and got our steel mills and shipyards cranking, we built something better, the DEs/Frigates. Hindsight is 20/20. We could have also just gotten lucky.

      So maybe we invest in training the crews faster in more capable ships and hope they can grow into them faster than the enemy can sink them or their wards.

      Now think about the apparent state of the Navy given recent events and go pour yourself a drink.

    7. Gripen, Ive been holding off replying as I'm not sure I understand your first point.

      What I'm suggesting is a common class of small warship that has various members of that class optimized for various functions, but all on a common built hull, perhaps acoustically isolated diesel or turbine electric.

      We could in theory build a crap load of these variants, at a very low cost per hull. As far as export goes I'm not sure, but most of our customers want mini-Burkes so this might be a problem.

      We did this in Canada, although poorly. The original St Laurent class DDEs had a 3"/70 on the bow, with a 3"/50 midships and twin Limbo mortars.

      The class split into a big sonar sub hunter that retained the 3"/70 on the bow but ditched the 3"/50 aft, and got rid of one of the Limbo mortars, but gained a pretty good VDS sonar when we could stop it being ripped off the stern in heavy seas. Also a octagon box ASROC launcher while retaining one three barrel Limbo.

      The other ships in the class dumped everything aft of amidships and built a hangar and flight deck with bear trap to bring helicopters to the fight.

      We recognized early that a mixed fleet was desirable, but we never had the funds to make it work fleet wide.

      I think you could do this, and do it much better than the whole LCS idea.

    8. "Gripen, Ive been holding off replying as I'm not sure I understand your first point."

      One area where CNO and I disagree slightly is on exactly how large these ASW escorts are. CNO's thought is they can be as small as a WWII Flower-class, about 1,000 tons. The Visby and Buyan-M class corvettes seem to be the closest modern analogues, but they're clearly optimized for very short-range missions. If CNO is right about the size, we may be talking about very, very simple, but cheap and numerous, ships. There's just not enough volume and weight available to include much more than the fuel and crew they'll need for convoy escort. Those requirements go up way up if we want a enough margin so that they can freely detach, play tag, and hopefully catch back up to the convoy with another sub stenciled on the side of the ship.

      But as you say, it's not an either/or proposition. We can include other ships in an escort squadron primarily composed of these 1,000 ton corvettes if we want more capability to actively attacks subs. The CNA study suggests that two helicopters may not be enough and we don't necessarily need the capabilities that VLS provides and deck-mounted octuple (or smaller) ASROC, harpoon, and ESSM modules would be enough if distributed among the escorts. We can add the most helos/ton by using a ship that's optimized for helicopter carriage. If we arm and armor it enough for basic self defense and make it fast enough to keep up with an ASW hunter-killer squadron and amphibious assault squadron, I think you have a very versatile "single-mission" ship that can perform different functions based on the type of helicopters its carrying.

    9. "If you are prepared to go a little bigger than a corvette"

      The problem with this "little bigger" is that it leads directly to "lots bigger" costs. The military does this all the time. If a simple, basic platform meets the needs, the military showers it with gold plating and prices it out of affordability.

      Where do you stop? Sure, we could go a little bigger and add a VLS. Why not just a tiny bit more and we could include a helo/hangar. And for just a bit more size we could add a 5" gun. And it wouldn't take much more room to add some SeaRAM/CIWS weapons. For a just a bit more room we could add a couple racks of Harpoons. You see where this is going? Before you know it, we've built a Burke. We already have those, don't need more, and they cost $2B+.

      The answer to ship design is not to build the biggest and best ship you can - it's to build the smallest and simplest ship you can THAT FITS THE NEED.

    10. "Maybe the crew's training matters more than the exact characteristics of the vessel."

      It does! This is why the Burkes are a failure, in a sense. Despite the ASW equipment they have, they are not competent ASW ships because they don't train for it. One ASW exercise (which you inevitably lose) prior to each deployment is not sufficient training to become competent. Burkes train for AAW proficiency and nothing else. That being the case, why equip them for something they can't do due to lack of training. We should break up their capabilities into separate ships - hey, someone should write a post about breaking up the Burkes!

    11. "One area where CNO and I disagree slightly is on exactly how large these ASW escorts are."

      No, we don't disagree - at least not explicitly. My conceptual low end ASW corvette should be whatever size is required to fill its purpose and house the required equipment and crew. My guess is something in the vicinity of the WWII corvette. However, if it needs to be bigger then that's fine. If it can all fit into a smaller vessel, that's fine too (although there's a lower limit in terms of seakeeping).

      We need to build the smallest vessel that can hold a towed array, a hull mounted sonar, a helo-dipping sonar (my pet idea), a triple torpedo tube, a hedgehog/RBU, a SeaRAM, engines for 16 kts, and a low end radar. I'm thinking that's a pretty small ship (hence, WWII corvette). What the exact size would be is up to a naval architect to decide.

      I also believe we need a DE and a DD.

    12. That's pretty much what I figured. The engineer in me just gets a little nervous when going from 1,000 to 1,500 tons. That's a 50% increase relative to the baseline even if it's only about 0.5% of the max displacement of a surface warship (a 100,000 ton CVN).

    13. "We need to build the smallest vessel that can hold a towed array, a hull mounted sonar, a helo-dipping sonar (my pet idea), a triple torpedo tube, a hedgehog/RBU, a SeaRAM, engines for 16 kts, and a low end radar. I'm thinking that's a pretty small ship (hence, WWII corvette). What the exact size would be is up to a naval architect to decide."

      You might be able put that helo-dipping sonar, or a second one, in a USV as the source in a multi-static array in combination with the towed and/or hull-mounted passive arrays. But I might not be understanding the idea of a multi-static array correctly. Could be a useful capability at relatively little cost.

    14. "going from 1,000 to 1,500 tons"

      I have no problem with that if that's what's required. My personal opinion, based on observing existing ships and what is fit on them, is that a corvette sized vessel would work but if it needs to grow by 500 tons, so be it.

      I look at the Cyclone class PC and it could almost handle the required equipment fit so an enlarged version, which is what the corvette is, should be viable, as I see it. But, if it needs to grow to 1500 tons, that's fine. That would still leave it at half the size of the Freedom class LCS.

    15. "You might be able put that helo-dipping sonar, or a second one, in a USV"

      My problem with USV's is that they require the host vessel to almost stop for an extended period to launch/recover. That's not a good idea in combat.

      Multi-static, at its most basic, just refers to one sound source being received by multiple receivers. The sound source is any one of the active/passive sonobuoys. A separate, mobile dipping sonar is not necessary give that any of the sonobuoys can be the source. It's all about computer processing of the collated data.

    16. "Multi-static, at its most basic, just refers to one sound source being received by multiple receivers. The sound source is any one of the active/passive sonobuoys. A separate, mobile dipping sonar is not necessary give that any of the sonobuoys can be the source. It's all about computer processing of the collated data."

      That is my understanding. If the corvette has towed and hull-mounted sonar, it has all the passive sensors. Without a helo, you don't necessarily have the means to get an active buoy far enough away to use the the passive sensors to triangulate the source of any reflections. The USV, or something else, just gets the active source and communications gear out far enough out to do so and provide telemetry and depth control over the active source. Maybe someone should write a post about that!

    17. Guys, there is a huge difference between a little bit bigger and a lot more complicated where you pile weapons systems on weapons systems.

      Everyone seems to forget this. Hull tonnage is relatively cheap. Advanced weapons systems will kill you with cost.

      Also, you can build cheap simple hulls in many more places than you can build a Burke.

      This is going to matter.

    18. "Everyone seems to forget this. Hull tonnage is relatively cheap. Advanced weapons systems will kill you with cost."


      Via anonymous below:

      "There will be no time to produce more in future wars like in WWII. So their should be already available platforms that US can provide with weapon systems/ordnance. "

      Taking these two ideas together, one solution could be to build ASW DE hulls and initially outfit them as ASW corvettes. Wikipedia says the Claud Jones DE could do 7,000 nm at 12 kns and somewhere between 1,335 tons and 2,000 tons. That should be enough range to pull convoy escort duty in any theater. Wikipedia also point out that they were discontinued after four hulls because they were neither fast nor heavily armed enough for the ASW roll....

      You could, however, include provisions for mounting more/heavier weapons (e.g., an octuple ASROC launcher) on the foredeck if needs require. I would propose taking a little inspiration from the Visby-class, and include a composite shell over the afterdeck (e.g., over the towed array(s), torpedo tubes, and any davits). It could be just be strong enough to keep the elements out and provide space for launching and recovering small UAVs. At most, it could provide a spot for receiving, but not hosting, a helicopter. If it burns up in combat, who cares?

  19. CNOPs/Grippen,

    When it comes to new building possible "small boys" I should butt out and not comment.. While I have spent time at sea in gators, subs and surface combatants I spent most of my time at sea on a CV/N while conducting a couple of normal civilian yearly man hours flying from that... My actual experience inside/outside the business (Don Quixote like most of that time... especially the last 20 years) doesn't prepare me much for "way outside the box" discussions like this one (whoa), when the actual, real-time state of this nations Navy is fast becoming O.B.E. as we used to say in that Navy....


    1. ""way outside the box" discussions like this one (whoa), when the actual, real-time state of this nations Navy is fast becoming O.B.E. as we used to say in that Navy...."

      This blog has two basic levels: one is the reality of current Navy states, policies, procedures, etc.; the other is the alternate reality that ought to be. In other words, I discuss what is and what should be. I often begin with a critique of what is and then slide into a discussion of what ought to be to improve what is.

      There is more than enough room for both levels of discussion. For example, the current discussion about small, cheap, ASW corvettes totally ignores current reality. The Navy will never build such a vessel unless forced into it by something like an actual war, if even then. That's okay, though. Most breakthrough ideas throughout history started as "unrealistic" discussions that eventually took hold and became the new reality. Will a small ASW corvette become the new reality? Not anytime soon! Someday, far down the road? ........

    2. Well, at least they are following the US Navy tradition of ignoring small ships and ASW until the shooting starts.

  20. Great stuff as always!
    Sure when speaking of a frigate everyone wants a new OHP no less. Fascinating ship. It's not the Tico's that broke Gorshkovs back ).
    NATO folks should start working together on smaller ships. As larger ships won't do as everyone will be defending own projects/jobs. A start with a 1200 ton sub hunter/escort? or should it be 2000 ton? There will be no time to produce more in future wars like in WWII. So their should be already available platforms that US can provide with weapon systems/ordnance.
    It's a pity that a 5" costs so much. ) A danish "tug boat" of 450 tons has 8 harpoons, 12 ESSMs ). So 900 tons fiberglass (should we have it in fiberglass?), 3" (can we have a 5"?), 12 ESSMs, RAM, torpedoes, hull sonar, VDS, towed array, no heli deck, space for SSM just in case. Or 2000 tons steel 5", can we cram a 8 cell Mk41 16 ESSM + 4 ASROC?, plus MK56 12 ESSMs (or any other way to get 4 ASROC without Mk41?), 2 RAM (1 installed + space reserved), torpedoes, hull sonar, VDS, towed array, heli deck. Built from Korea to Estonia and Lithuania under danish supervision.

    1. "A start with a 1200 ton sub hunter/escort? or should it be 2000 ton? There will be no time to produce more in future wars like in WWII. So their should be already available platforms that US can provide with weapon systems/ordnance. "

      I though I got a notification on my phone about someone leaving a comment proposing the UK's Batch 2 River Class.

      I can't find it among the 135+ comments here, but I thought that fit the bill pretty well.

      The short-lived Claud Jones-class DE is another data point in the 1,500-2,000 ton class. Bigger than that and you have the Bronstein-class Frigate in the 2,250-3,000 ton range. It seems as though the Bronsteins are about the smallest vessels that ever mounted the MK-116 octuple ASROC launcher. Any one cell of a similar small-combatant, deck-mounted, trainable and canisterized system (i.e., a sort of VLS-light without the V) should be able to accommodate ASROCs, quad-packed ESSMs, and harpoon-type anti-ship missiles, as well as multiple 127 mm or 155 mm missiles/rockets with MK-41/MK-57 width canisters. Maybe you'd have fore and aft 4-cell launchers rather than one octuple-cell launcher on something smaller than 2,000 tons.

  21. I think this has been a wonderful thread.

    My parting thoughts are about industrial capacity. With the relative death of US military build capacity, the Chinese can bury us. They are building older generation surface combatants and submarines at a rate we cannot fathom let alone equal.

    Bad things are going to happen. Everyone needs to remember the famous saying fro Joseph Stalin.

    Quantity has a quality all of its own. And the Chinese can build quantity to drown us.

  22. re- "Quantity has a quality all its own"

    Perspective. Heard this before and all its hyperbolic cousins..Having come aboard the US Navy business in 1976 as the Cold War vs the USSR was on I remember the same meme about the Soviets and their big armies, wonderful tanks and scary submarines/capital ships. They actually attempted to project global power with their force to compete with the USA. I was taught and I believed they were formidable and that we would always have to fight against odds but that our stuff was better than theirs and that we were better trained and led, etc.... During the Cold War people accepted the "fear"..just check out the culture, books and movies of the time...

    Despite this fear, we won the Cold War in about 8 years as most may remember... and to prove a point in Desert Storm we went through Soviet frontline equipment like a hot knife through butter. Sure did take the air out of a bogetman for me... There's a lesson there for those that choose to look...

    While I ain't "Chicken Little" yet about the PRC because of their "capabilities" and slick videos showing us how well they adapt and copy others, I am concerned over our own Navy becoming so inadequate materially, personnel-wise and training-wise that I am genuinely apprehensive about the future..Do we learn nothing from the past? Seems so.

    1. "we went through Soviet frontline equipment like a hot knife through butter."

      The Soviet issues were related to the inadequate general training and low education levels of their conscripts who were unable to master and maintain equipment, the shoddy workmanship and quality of construction of their weapon systems due to their socialist economic system, etc.

      Your point about Desert Storm ignores that fact that we fought Soviet equipment (generally older Soviet export equipment) that was not manned and operated by Soviet personnel. The Soviet systems were operated by a third rate army (and that's being generous) that had no training and no desire to fight. The result was predictable.

      Had we fought front line Soviet systems manned by front line Soviet personnel, the results would have been much less one-sided.

      Consider the Iraqis who operated US front line equipment and were totally overwhelmed by the initial ISIS efforts. Are we to conclude that US equipment is inferior? No, the conclusion is that training and motivation matter as much or more than the equipment specs. Same for the Soviet equipment.

      I'm not trying to say that Soviet equipment was on par with, or superior to, US equipment - it wasn't. But, the knife through butter occurred mostly because of the operators, not the equipment. A MiG-29 or Flanker flown by a well trained, motivated pilot would have proven a serious threat to our F-15s of the time. And so on.

      Now, picture overwhelming numbers of decent assets manned by at least reasonably competent operators. Quantity certainly does have a quality all its own. The Soviets proved it in WWII. Human wave attacks have repeatedly demonstrated it. US air forces proved it in WWII. And so on.

      While China has some of the same personnel and economic issues as the old Soviet Union, they are pursuing both quantity and quality. If/when they achieve it, that's a war-winning combination!

  23. "..butter":

    My point was a fact. We fought against the highest Soviet technology available at the time and exported, Soviet contractors maintained and operated some of it.... Re your MIG-29 ex., maybe if an American fighter pilot was flying it, but I even doubt even that... Iraq had the 3 or 4th largest AF in the world and the 3rd largest Army at the time. It was no 3rd world military power until we made it so CNOPs.... Mitigate our Victory as you will though based on all Monday QBing, that is the way of history..

    Yep. Hot knife through butter and that is the way we liked it. Overwhelming force, proportionally applied, with a little Powell Doctrine thrown in... Eradicate the bad lessons of Vietnam.. All forgotten today of course by the "cognitive elite with dissonance" because we are so ate up now with "processes" and asymmetric warfare... I have small beer expectations as a result.

    Re human waves and PRC potential:

    China has zero naval warfare tradition in the modern age. Hell they even failed with a Divine Wind amphib assault on Japan! Understand me, they are not stupid, they take an incremental approach but their experience globally is minimal. Their Navy is regional at best and their Naval Warfare tradition is infantile though they improve..

    Think of it this way. Our Navy emulated/copied the Royal Navy the most powerful Navy in the world until WW1. We had successes and losses since the 1770's culminating in Midway during WW2 and the awesome power of a CVBG through the Cold War. In other words, our nation and the USN have forgotten more than the Chinese have learned or copied from us...

    We have lost most of our mojo for sure and we must gain it back for future generations sake. That will come from also looking back at what we had and what it took vice trying to develop whiz bang weapons and logic-tree, one size fits all processes...There will be no magic cure to what ails us..


    1. "My point was a fact."

      Your point was fact. Your implied explanation was not. Iraq's vaunted military force was hollow in the extreme. To believe otherwise is to not face reality. That doesn't diminish the accomplishment but it does offer a note of warning against overconfidence.

      The impact of unmotivated troops cannot be overstated in evaluating Desert Storm. Many/most Iraqi ground units simply opted not to fight. Those that did, did so without effective leadership, tactics, or motivation. Those that did fight generally offered token resistance and then surrendered wholesale. The Iraqi air force, with a couple of individual exceptions, opted not to fight and fled to Iran. The centralized and incompetent Iraqi leadership prevented any effective resistance and failed to implement any operationally sound actions. The knife sliced through exceedingly hollow butter. That's fact. Again, it doesn't diminish the accomplishment but it does put it into a more realistic perspective. It's not Monday morning QB'ing, it is a realistic analysis of the conflict.

      China does not possess our naval experience. No, wait, I'm going to rephrase that. China does not possess our naval history. WE do not possess our naval experience. The recent trend of groundings, collisons, surrenders, and systemic breakdowns strongly indicate that we have lost our experience.

      Our momentum will carry us for a little while, yet, but China is trending in the right direction. We are trending in the wrong direction.

  24. You are wrong about Desert Storm. It took 6 weeks of 1500 sorties a day for us to obtain "air superiority" (a definable term) throwing everything we had air power-wise at it after the biggest repo of military might since WW2...1500 sorties a day- we are lucky to get that a month today... Because of that the ground maneuver took less than a week. It wasn't easy in retrospect or as historic Monday morning quarterbacking has made it that the Iraqis were paper tigers- not. Trust me. Same with the historic, revisionistic review of the Cold War in general... All taught in our universities and war colleges- all B.S.

    Box it in your mind as you will however..... I reckon all y'all "new age sage"s can go off and take on the status quo of our rapidly deteriorating, dysfunctional Navy without the basics of how/why it used to work but now it doesn't..

    CNOPS- You won't find the answers to fix stuff from any Bill Gates/Ellen Musk types or friggin General Motors/GE CEOs, any other country, or even the Wharton school...It only resides in those minds from my era.. and we are going the way of the rest.... Time... You'all will soon be groping around in the blind..


    1. First, you have no idea what my age or background is and I have no intention of describing it in an open forum. Suffice it to say that I am not a kid and I intimately witnessed Desert Storm.

      We achieved air superiority from Day 1, in terms of Iraq's ability to deny us free use of the air on our terms. We had total control from the outset. Even if you include the SAM aspect, that was a minor factor after the first few days.

      Military students study history, wars, and battles. We analyze and learn lessons. For some reason, you seem to think Desert Storm is off limits to objective analysis. Or, you seem to think it's unpatriotic to question the meme of total US superiority. I've already outlined some of the major factors, which include US superiority as well as significant, crippling Iraqi shortcomings, that determined the performance and outcome of the war. I'm not going to repeat myself or offer any additional analysis since you clearly want no part of it. You have utterly closed your mind to any useful analysis and learning from Desert Storm. I'm sorry for you. I'll be moving on.

  25. I have just read this post (bit late, sorry) and I totally agree. This cheap specialised ASW vessel is what I believe the new type 31 should be. Almost A modern day Blackwood frigate. Those ships apparently had there faults but the concept was sound.

    It is great to see this concept is still being thought about! Unfortunately it looks like the type 31 will be a mini type 26 with significantly less capability rather than a cheap useful addition to the fleet with potential for large numbers.


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