Saturday, August 26, 2017

More Embarrassing Spin

ComNavOps understands positive spin but I’m really getting sick of the way the Navy is carrying it to embarrassing levels.  The latest is the Navy’s announcement that an LCS has used a helo/UAV to provide targeting for a Harpoon missile. (1)

“The U.S. Navy has for the first time used a UAV to provide over-the-horizon targeting information and damage assessment for a missile fired from onboard a ship.

I can’t say whether this is actually the first time a UAV has provided targeting information for a missile but it’s hardly the first time a UAV has provided targeting information for Navy weapons.  Heck, the Iowa class battleships carried RQ-2 Pioneer UAVs for targeting, spotting, and damage assessment.  They were used during the 1991 Gulf War, for example.  Prior to that, the Gyrodyne QH-50 DASH drone was used for targeting, spotting, and damage assessment during the Vietnam war.

Apparently, though, the use of a helo/UAV for targeting is something new to the Navy.  I guess they’ve forgotten.

“Speaking to Defense News, the commander of the Navy’s Task Force 73, Rear Adm. Don Gabrielson, said the Coronado’s MH-60S and MQ-8B used radar, electro-optical systems and other sensors to locate the target, pass targeting information back to the ship via data link to refine the firing solution, monitor and assess the missile, and then carry out damage assessment on the target. He noted that this is the first time the U.S. Navy has done so.

Again, while it might be technically true that it’s the first time a missile has received the targeting data, it’s hardly a new capability!  I’m sure this has been done before – I just can’t pull an instant reference out of the air.

This announcement rates a bored, “That’s nice”, coupled with a yawn.  There’s nothing new or even interesting about this.  As I said, I understand a bit of spin but this is embarrassing.  The Navy seems to be undergoing a cycle of reinventing the wheel (remember the post about discovering escort ships?) and wildly self-congratulating themselves.  This is what happens when you can’t accomplish anything substantial and you fall all over yourself trying to make mundane news seem important.

One might also note that this was the second test firing of a Harpoon from an LCS.  The first was a failure.  So, this amazing new, never before seen capability is one for two.



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(1)Defense News website, “In an LCS first, drone supports targeting mission for missile”, Mike Yeo, 25-Aug-2017,


14 comments:

  1. All these sensors sent out broadcast their presence to the target, send back the data to the ship which then launches the harpoon towards an alerted target. If I was in command of the target I would immediately used as much of the sigint as possible to get in my launch of a supersonic anti ship missile first.

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    1. You're going to launch an anti ship missile at the ISR platform? Generating a massive heat plume yourself just in case the ISR platform hasn't already refined your position? You're aware that not all transmitters are omnidirectional and that there's a thing called beam-forming now, yes? Is the target somehow part of a wide-area ESM network that is sensitive enough and has enough computing power to figure out where the transmitter and receiver are based on the trace interference patterns from the transmitter's leakage, and hasn't itself had to deal with massive levels of jamming since the opening shots of the war?

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  2. I think this counts. From Flight Global, "It is understood that the Global Hawk was used for the first time to pass targeting data to fighter cockpits, although indirectly via a ground control centre. During one engagement, the UAV used its Raytheon synthetic aperture radar (SAR) to cue the vehicle's AAQ-16 electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor onto a partially obscured missile launcher, the target location of which was overlaid and cross-referenced with data from the LR100 electronic surveillance (ESM) system."

    https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/uav-shows-effectiveness-as-a-targeting-platform-164579/

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  3. Unless the uav that is used for providing target data is low cost and of a disposable nature then all these tests are of no practical value against a competent enemy. Small helicopter type drones will not survive against even the most basic Sam systems. For this type of targeting to be of any value it needs to be done with a ScanEagle type of uav.
    MA

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    1. You're quite correct. The entire supposed kill chain assumes that enemy is going to obligingly allow us to fly a non-stealthy helo/uav within fairly close sensor range, collect targeting data, transmit it back to the firing platform, hand around to possibly provide mid-course guidance, and loiter to conduct damage assessment, all without interference and without shooting the helo/UAV down. That just seems awfully far-fetched to me. We wouldn't allow an enemy to do that to us so why do we assume the enemy will allow us to do it to them?

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    2. If we used cheap scan eagle type drones we could afford to loose a few to enemy fire and even there disaperence would be good intelligence of the enemy's location.
      MA

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    3. "The entire supposed kill chain assumes that enemy is going to obligingly allow us to fly a non-stealthy helo/uav within fairly close sensor range, collect targeting data, transmit it back to the firing platform, hand around to possibly provide mid-course guidance, and loiter to conduct damage assessment, all without interference and without shooting the helo/UAV down."

      But what's the alternative? The launch platform has to get closer so that its more powerful sensors can detect the target? And isn't the ISR drone out there looking for the target anyway? Do we make the ISR drone stealthy so it's more survivable but increase its cost?

      My view is that we're already throwing what, AT LEAST one $1,200,000+ Harpoon Block II or presumably even more expensive LRASM at the target? I'm not sure what a MALD-V costs, but they're designed to be "expendable." And they can integrate a data link (or a jamming/spofing system, a warhead, or another ISR systems). The launch envelope is only 1G, but fighters fly with them, so presumably they can withstand a few G. Maybe we can get one or two going off the boat just enough so that their turbines can light, and we send them out to try and refine the target's position before launching a multi-million dollar LRASM, Harpoon, or Tomahawk strike if we're not confident in the targeting data being provided by the launch platform's sensors? If they survive, can we have them come back and be recovered by the skyhook system? The experimental MASSM version of the MALD is supposed to be recoverable. It's an idea.

      https://ndiastorage.blob.core.usgovcloudapi.net/ndia/2010/targets/Rutt.pdf

      http://foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/the-pentagons-flying-decoy-super-weapon-is-about-to-get-1669729445

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    4. "But what's the alternative?"

      Indeed, that is the question that the Navy is failing to address. I don't have a complete, ultimate answer but I do have partial solutions.

      1. We need to make VERY CHEAP, expendable UAVs for targeting since we'll lose a LOT of them.

      2. We need to give surface ships the ability to carry and launch/recover UAVs routinely and rapidly and the ships need to be able to carry a few dozen, at least, to allow for the expected attrition. Currently, the Navy's independent, surface action group concept (closely allied with distributed lethality) has no useful UAV capability. An LCS, for example, carries one or two UAVs. Unless they get lucky and find the enemy on the first flight, they're probably going to lose the UAV and then have nothing.

      3. We need to develop a long range, penetrating sensor platform that's stealthy and survivable. Could be airborne, could be a USV (doesn't seem practical to me), could be modified cruise missiles, could be a modified MALD, could be anything.

      4. We need to stop assuming that the enemy will allow us to blithely operate unhindered.

      5. We need to tie into submarine surveillance in a useful, real time fashion (a technical challenge!).

      6. We need to emphasize passive sensing at a targeting level of quality (COBLU).

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    5. Main gun fired UAV? I'm sure it's already been done but I can't remember where I read it. I will try and find it.
      MA

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    6. There are a few micro-drone concepts in development: Perdix, Coyote, and LOCUST. Coyote can be launched from any A-sized sonobuoy tube.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXdNB7gUUcE&t=40s&list=PLy1O1SRfs4zP3X0VI2u9qzZyYAu2c58KA&index=7

      A and G-sized sonobuoys are 124 mmm in diameter. In theory, anything of 127 mm or 155 mm bore could launch them. A coil gun or rocket might be preferable to lower the G during acceleration by accelerating the drone less for a longer period of time to reach the same velocity.

      Some of the issues you're going to run into with those is the power/weight available for the datalink and speed/range.

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  4. I read that I'm the USNI news also read the NSM test scheduled for Freedom was cancelled because they ran out of money wonder if the whole over the horizon program has been cancelled because the navy thinks LCS is,armed to the teeth with SeaRam Hellfire and useless cannons and don't forget the much vaunted speed weapon

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  5. How is this going to work in an intense electronic warfare environment? For that matter how are any of our anti-ship missiles going to work?

    Makes a guy wish that we still had anti-ship torpedoes and at least a few major caliber guns on surface combatants.

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    1. Like your idea build some 8 inch triple gun turret cruisers works good for me enough with this high tech stuff all electronic signals can be interfered with where as a 8inch is mighty difficult to jamm

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    2. As an old EW guy, give me enough power and I can jam the world.

      Assuming we can do clever tactical networking stuff is dumb.

      With enough anti-satellite technology, which the Chinese have been focusing on big time, expecting strategic space superiority is dumb.


      The militarization of space is critical. Who controls the orbitals controls the world. If you don't like someone, drop the bar on them. The "bar" being a tungsten rod that you deorbit. Same effect as nukes with no radiation.

      An alternative thought is I wonder how much is in orbit already. Space Command should know in theory.

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