Thursday, November 30, 2017

Supercavitating Torpdeo Kinetic Energy

Recently, there have been a few comments asking about the kinetic energy of a supercavitating torpedo with the suggestion being that the kinetic energy, alone, makes the torpedo a one-hit killing weapon against any size ship – essentially vaporizing the target.  Well, kinetic energy is  easily estimated. Here's the calculation for the Russian Shkval supercavitating torpedo.

k.e. = 0.5 * m * v2

m = mass = 2700 kg; Russian Shkval torp

v = velocity = 100 m/s; 200 kts


k.e. = 0.5 * 2700 kg * (100 m/s)*(100 m/s)
k.e. = 13,500,000 (kg*m2)/s2 = 13,500,000 J

By comparison, a kg of TNT releases 4,184,000 J. Thus, the k.e. of the supercavitating torpedo is equivalent to around 3 kg of TNT. To put that into context, a U.S. Navy lightweight Mk54 torpedo has a warhead weight of 44 kg (we'll assume it's TNT even though it isn't). That means the supercavitating torp would have kinetic energy equal to 7% of the explosive energy of a Mk54 lightweight torpedo - not enough to even be noticed, by comparison and certainly not a one-shot kill/vaporize due to kinetic energy alone.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Torpedo and Mine Damage History - Part 2

In Part 1, we examined some of the historical examples of the effects of underwater explosions from mines and torpedoes on ships.  We found, as we did with our scholarly examination, that the myth about torpedoes breaking the back of ships is just that – a myth, at least for ships the size of large destroyers and above.  Further, we found that even significant structural damage – significant in the sense of threatening to sink the vessel – was rare to non-existent.  The next obvious question is, why?  Where does this torpedo damage resistance come from?  What is it about the structure of a ship that provides such resistance?

The answer is both obvious and largely unknown and unrealized, at least outside naval architect circles and possibly even within.  The answer is keels.  Note that the answer is in the plural – keels.  Few people realize that ships have multiple “keels”.  Now note the enclosure of the word in quotes, indicating that the word is not to be used literally.  Huh?  What are we talking about?

Ships have multiple “keels” (I’ll now stop putting the word in quotes, for ease of typing), most of which are unintended as such but are nevertheless present.

Consider …  A keel, without getting too technical, is the bottommost, main structural longitudinal member of the ship.  It runs the length of the ship and provides the backbone upon which all the other structural elements attach, either directly or indirectly.  For this reason, the torpedo bubble crowd believed that if the keel (the ship’s “back”, like the spine of a human) were broken the ship would automatically sink.

What few people realize is that there are other longitudinal structural members in a ship that act as keels. 

Armor belts on the side of a ship are complete, solid structures that run a significant length of the ship and are intimately attached to the ship’s structure.  Thus, they constitute two additional keels.

Armored (or even simply thick) decks also run the length of the ship and act as longitudinal structural members or keels.  There can be one or more, depending on the number of armored decks the ship has.

Some ships have longitudinal bulkheads which also act as keels.

Each of these keels has the strength to hold the ship together by itself.  Thus, even in the unlikely event of the failure of one keel, the others are sufficient to protect the ship from breaking in two and sinking.

Noted naval historian Robert Lundgren discussed this phenomenon in a NavWeapons website forum topic (1).  Here are some of his comments.

“A ship with a fully developed side protective system is not subject to the type of break-up a lesser vessel is due to under-keel explosions. No capital ship ever in history ever broke in half due to an under-keel explosion even when it was a nuclear explosion.”

“In a battleship, the ship has what they call a soft keel. Any longitude bulkhead that makes up over 50% of her length becomes a strength member of the hull girder. In an Iowa as an example, her four bulkhead system on each side gives her eight additional strength members and her third bulkhead is her armor belt which is extremely difficult to place into sheer. The side protection system is so strong it can support the weight of the ship even if the flat keel is destroyed. Each layer of the side protective system acts as an additional keel so in an Iowa she has 8 side keels and her flat keel and she actually has three upper strength decks with the second deck being an armored deck which is also difficult to bend. In the roughly 2 seconds an under-keel explosion has to work on the hull the side hinges that form on lesser ships never form on a battleship or even a fleet aircraft carrier. Therefore, the upper strength deck or decks are never placed in stress. What does occur is the under-bottom is either holed or crushed in and depending on the damage will depend on the amount of flooding just like a side hit by a torpedo. The ship will whip just like Tirpitz did but not break up.”

“The 4,000 lb warheads under Tirpitz were roughly equal to 4 x MK 48 torpedoes or a 1,500 lb warhead detonating 50 feet under her keel. All underwater explosions work the same. So if a MK 48 1,500 lb warhead gives X amount of force at 50 feet this can equal a 4,000 lb warhead at 100 feet and the 28 kiloton nuclear warhead may be the same at 2000 feet and so on. So the distance and the amount of ocean on top of the explosion is important. Even Arkansas did not break up at Bikini. She basically was flipped over and landed upside down on an empty sea bed as all the water had been blown out of the lagoon.  Her hull was crushed when all that water came back down. Her sides held her together while she was in mid-air and her armor is cracked in one place near her bow but she is intact.”

There you have it.  There’s the explanation (well, one of them) for the resistance of ships to underwater explosions.  Additional resistance is also imparted by the numerous other shorter, smaller structural elements, all of which function to spread the stress load throughout the entire ship’s structure rather than having it concentrate in one spot.  The spreading or dissipation of the stress helps to prevent structural breakage at the point of impact.  We’re wandering into structural engineering, now, and that’s well beyond the scope of a simple post so we’ll leave it at that.  Suffice it to say that ships have a greater inherent resistance to underwater explosions than most people realize.

This is not to say that underhull explosions are not powerful and damaging – they are and for smaller, lighter built ships they may well prove fatal.  But, as we proved in our examination of the torpedo myth, and in our examination of historical data, they are not the instant death that the torpedo myth crowd believes. 

This concludes our examination of the torpedo myth and puts it to rest, once and for all.


(1)NavWeaps website forum, Topic: “Threat: Torpedoes That Go Under The Keels31-Mar-2014, username: rlundgren,

Monday, November 27, 2017

Torpedo and Mine Damage History - Part 1

We previously examined torpedoes and their lethality and debunked the “broken back over a bubble of air” myth by examining available experimental data and applying simple logic (see, "Torpedo Lethality Myth").  However, it’s always worth looking at actual operational experience so let’s look at some historical examples of ships subjected to large underwater explosions due to mines and torpedoes and see what we can learn. 

This is the first of a two part post.  In this part, we’ll look at the historical data.  In the second part, we’ll examine an explanation for the historical data.

I’ve tried to pick a cross section of ship types, sizes, eras, and nationalities while working under the constraint of known data.  Many ships suffered mine/torpedo damage but the damage was too poorly documented to analyze.  The following examples are presented in no particular order.


Tirpitz is one of the most documented and relevant examples.  According to Wiki, X-Craft midget submarines laid four 2 tonne mines on the sea bed under the bottom of the target.

“first exploded abreast of turret Caesar”

“second detonated 45 to 55 m (148 to 180 ft) off the port bow”

A fuel oil tank was ruptured, shell plating was torn, a large indentation was formed in the bottom of the ship, and bulkheads in the double bottom buckled. Some 1,430 t (1,410 long tons) of water flooded the ship in fuel tanks and void spaces in the double bottom of the port side, which caused a list of one to two degrees, which was balanced by counter-flooding on the starboard side. “

The mines were massive explosions and caused extensive damage but no threat of sinking and no significant permanent structural damage.  In fact, the damage was repaired over the course of a few months.  These mines probably represented a worst case under-the-hull explosion of the type we’re interested in.

In a later attack, RAF Lancaster bombers attacked with 6-short-ton Tallboy bombs with 5200 lb Torpex D1 explosive.  A single hit on the ship's bow penetrated the ship, passed through the keel and exploded on the bottom of the fjord.  A thousand tons of water flooded the bow and caused a serious increase in trim forward but the ship did not sink.

Along with many bomb hits distributed over several aerial attacks which eventually sank the ship, Tirpitz absorbed three massive underwater explosions of the type we’re concerned with.  In fact, the explosions were probably much more powerful than a torpedo and yet they failed to inflict significant structural damage.

Prince of Wales / Repulse

-          torpedo hit on outer port propeller shaft exit causing extensive flooding and an 11 degree list to port
-          torpedo hit starboard bow
-          torpedo hit starboard alongside B turret
-          torpedo hit starboard alongside Y turret

-          Four or more torpedo hits

Note that Repulse lacked anti-torpedo blisters and modern internal compartmentation.


The Japanese battleship Yamato was subjected to multiple waves of attack.

First wave:

-          torpedo hit port side, forward which caused little damage
-          two torpedo hits port side near engine and boiler rooms
-          probably torpedo hit near auxiliary steering

Hits cause an initial list which was corrected with counterflooding.  Top speed was only slightly affected.

Second wave:

-          three or four torpedoes hit port side and one to starboard

This attack caused additional listing but did not put the ship at risk of sinking.

Third wave:

-          Three torpedo hits port side concentrated along the engineering spaces
-          Torpedo hit starboard

At this point, the ship began to sink.  In addition to the numerous torpedo hits, many bomb hits caused additional damage.


Musashi was a Yamato class battleship that was sunk on 24-Oct-1944.  The ship suffered numerous bomb hits and the following torpedo hits.

-          1 torpedo starboard amidships which caused some flooding
-          3 torpedoes port side
-          4 torpedoes, three of which hit the forward bow
-          3 torpedoes starboard bow
-          11 torpedoes various locations

The ship sank intact.

Belgrano (Brooklyn class light cruiser)

The Argentinean cruiser was a 44 year old pre-WWII ship, poorly maintained, served by an ill-trained crew, and sailing with all watertight doors open when it was hit by three British 21” torpedoes.  The first exploded just forward of the armor belt and damaged the bow but did not threaten the ship’s stability.  The second hit just aft of the armor belt and opened a large hole which caused severe flooding.  Reports suggest that the third torpedo hit but it is uncertain whether it exploded.

None of the torpedoes broke the ship’s back and the first didn’t even hazard the ship.  The second caused flooding beyond the ill-trained crew’s ability to handle and led to the ship sinking.  It is likely that a well maintained ship, sailing at combat readiness (watertight doors closed), and with a trained crew would have been able to contain the damage and save the ship.


Prior to the action that directly resulted in the sinking of the Bismarck, the ship had suffered shellfire damage though the damage appeared to have no direct impact on the ship’s survivability.

On the evening of 24-May-1941, Bismarck suffered a single torpedo hit which caused only superficial damage to her armored belt.  Other reports suggest several torpedoes hit but did no significant damage. (1)

On the evening of 26-May a torpedo struck Bismarck’s port side and jammed her rudder.

On 27-May, British battleships and cruisers eventually wrecked Bismarck’s upper decks with the Bismarck absorbing as many as 500 shell hits. (1)  Torpedoes were launched by the British ships but the number of hits, if any, are unknown.  Two possible hits were reported. (2) 

Dorsetshire fired two 21 inch torpedoes and both hit the starboard side with no appreciable effect observed.  Another torpedo struck the port side, again with no visible effect.

Bismarck settled deeper into the sea and eventually capsized and sank.

In all, Bismarck suffered at least 5 confirmed torpedo hits and possibly 7 or more.  Other than to contribute to the cumulative flooding, the torpedoes caused no catastrophic structural damage.

HMS Belfast (light cruiser)

The cruiser Belfast struck a magnetic mine in November of 1939.  The ship suffered moderate damage and was repaired and returned to service.  Belfast was 613 ft long and around 11,000 tons displacement.

Photos of the ship in drydock suggest that the mine exploded under the hull, slightly offset to one side.  The explosion caused little direct damage to the hull, leaving a small hole, but did cause shock damage and warping of decks and structural members.  The keel was bent upwards by three inches.

The ship was, apparently, in no danger of sinking at any time.

This was a nearly classic example of the torpedo/mine exploding under directly under the hull and should have been a perfect example of the “broken back due to  suspension of the ship over a bubble” if the phenomenon were true.

Lexington (CV-2)

Two torpedoes hit the carrier on the port side but the ship was able to continue flight operations until a series of massive gasoline-sparked explosions occurred which eventually led to the ship being abandoned.  A US destroyer was ordered to sink the carrier and fired five torpedoes at which point the carrier settled into the sea on an even keel.

Princeton (CG-59)

During Desert Storm, Princeton suffered two bottom-moored influence mine explosions, one under the port rudder and the other under the starboard bow.  The explosions caused superstructure cracks and hull deformations along with various piping damage, shaft damage, and rudder damage but the ship’s weapons were back on line in 15 minutes.  The ship was able to leave the minefield under her own power.

Again, this was a near perfect example of the “explosion under the hull” and yet they did not break the ship’s back nor threaten the ship’s survival.  Further, this is a case of an explosion occurring under a modern, weakly built (as compared to a WWII ship of similar size) hull and yet still did not sink the ship.

Tripoli (LPH-10)

During Desert Storm, Tripoli suffered a mine explosion from a sub-surface moored mine which caused a 16x25 ft hole in the hull below the waterline.  The ship continued operations after damage control measures.

Again, this is a near perfect example of the underwater explosion effect and the results were negligible as regards ship survivability or even mission effectiveness.

Tripoli Mine Damage

Samuel B. Roberts (Perry class FFG)

A mine explosion blew a 15 ft hole in the ship and broke the keel triggering flooding and fires on multiple decks.  The mine is believed to have exploded in contact with the ship’s hull.  The explosion occurred on the port side at the forward end of the hangar.  Despite the near fatal damage, the ship was able to maneuver using thrusters at 5 kts and her combat systems and weapons remained operational.  The ship was saved, repaired, and returned to service.  Repairs took 6 months and cost $89M.

This explosion took place a bit to the side as opposed to directly under the ship and came as close to sinking the ship as any of the examples.  This is also the smallest ship in the examples and a modern, weakly built ship.  Despite this, the explosion did not break the ship in two.


The observation that leaps out from an examination of the historical data is that no large ship has ever had its back broken by a mine or torpedo in the popular “suspended over a bubble of air” scenario.  Yes, a sufficiently large number of mines/torpedoes can cause enough cumulative damage (usually cumulative flooding) to eventually sink a large ship but none has ever been broken and sunk with a single mine/torpedo shot which is the commonly cited claim by the “torpedoes are invincible” crowd.  In fact, not only has no large ship ever been sunk by a single torpedo/mine hit but most have absorbed at least several such hits prior to sinking along with, in most cases, many aerial bombs which contributed to the sinkings.

It is also notable and, frankly, a bit surprising, that even smaller ships have been able to absorb surprising amounts of underwater explosion damage.  The 450 ft long, 4200 ton displacement Samuel B. Roberts was an example of such.

It must be noted that WWII torpedoes were not designed as under-the-keel weapons.  Most WWII torpedo hits impacted the side of the target’s hull somewhere in the lower half of the underwater hull depending on the depth setting of the torpedo and the draft of the target’s hull.  As such, these are not direct representatives of a perfectly placed under-the-keel explosion but they are informative data points, nonetheless.

There is also a school of thought that WWII weapons were not as powerful as today’s.  This is nonsense, as least as far as torpedoes and mines are concerned.  Supersonic, heavyweight anti-ship missiles are another issue but that’s a topic for another time.  Mines haven’t appreciably changed in terms of their explosive power.  Yes, fusing mechanisms have gotten more sophisticated but the raw explosive firepower has not.  The same holds true for torpedoes.  For example, the standard US torpedo of WWII was the Mk14 with a warhead weight of 643 lb.  The current standard US torpedo, the Mk48 has a 650 lb warhead.  They’re identical.

We previously disproved the commonly held belief that torpedoes kill by suspending a ship over a bubble of air and breaking its back.  The empirical evidence in this post further proves that the belief is a myth.  In fact, the empirical evidence suggests that ships can absorb far more underwater explosive effects than anticipated and that even destroyer and frigate size ships are capable of absorbing tremendous damage without structurally collapsing and sinking.

This post should not be read as a claim that torpedoes are insignificant - far from it.  They are powerful and damaging.  The smaller the ship, the more damage an underwater explosion will inflict – no great surprise – and, for smaller ships, such damage may well be fatal.  Still, all ships seem to show a surprising inherent resistance to underwater explosions. 

In part 2 of this post, we’ll examine one of the main, but generally unrecognized, factors behind this resistance to underwater explosions.


Friday, November 24, 2017

Chinese Type 071 Amphibious Ship

It’s always good to stay current on a potential enemy’s weapons.  Today, let’s take a look at China’s Type 071 amphibious landing platform dock (LPD).

The ship is 689 ft long, 91 ft wide, and displaces around 20,000 tons.  There are four ships of the class in service with two more planned or under construction.  Range is given as 6000 nm at 18 kts (2).

The Type 071 appears to be both a functional and visual equivalent of the US LPD-17 class.  The ship has a flight deck making up the aft 30% of the ship’s length and capable of operating two Z-8 troop transport helos simultaneously.  A hangar can accommodate four helos.  The ship also has a well deck that can house four Type 726 air cushioned landing craft (LCAC).  Side door/ramps located port and starboard below the bridge can also offload vehicles.  Troop carrying capacity is a battalion of several hundred along with storage for up to 18 armored vehicles (1). 

Armament is defensive and consists of a 76 mm gun and four 30 mm CIWS (2).

The ship has very slightly sloped sides but also significant vertical bulkheads and is likely to be only slightly stealthy, at best.  This is curious and somewhat flies in the face of modern naval ship design. 

Type 071

It is worth noting that amphibious ships are purely offensive assets.  This class plus numerous LCU/LST type vessels and the coming Type 075 amphibious class gives the Chinese a significant offensive amphibious capability.  China is clearly gearing up for major combat operations.  The question is who is this capability aimed at?  The obvious answers are Taiwan and the surrounding Pacific Rim countries and, ultimately, the U.S.  Another likely use is to gain control of key strategic locations in Africa.  As I’ve stated repeatedly and as China’s actions have demonstrated, China is intent on nothing less than global domination and has not hesitated to use the threat of military force to achieve that goal.  This enhanced amphibious capability will only increase China’s reach and intimidation.


(1)War Is Boring website, “Five Ships Of The Chinese Navy You Really Ought To Know About”, Kyle Mizokami, 14-Dec-2013,

Monday, November 20, 2017

Just Say No

How do you fix readiness issues?  According to the Navy, you cut back on maintenance!

“In prepared remarks for the House Armed Services Committee, Vice Adm. Troy Shoemaker testified that some carrier air wings have already cut maintenance back from two shifts to one due to lack of manning amid constant deployments" (1)

Only the Navy could be dumb enough to do this. 

What’s the solution?  Just say NO to constant, worthless deployments.  When the choice is between saying no or creating a hollow force, the choice is easy and obvious.

Just say NO.

Wait, you whine, the military can’t say no.  They have to follow orders.  Right, but they’re not even attempting to say no.  You say no and force the Commander in Chief to publicly order you to conduct a deployment that will jeopardize readiness.  No president is going to do that.  The problem is that the Navy keeps saying yes and then keeps cutting maintenance to enable the ill-advised deployment.

Just say NO.

How bad is the situation?

“As of October, Shoemaker said, only half of all Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets were flyable, and only 31 percent were fully ready to fight and deploy.” (1)

Only 31% of Hornets are combat capable today.  If this isn’t the time to say no, when is?  0%?

Just say NO.


(1)DoD Buzz website, “Navy Cutting Maintenance, Cannibalizing Planes Amid Readiness Crisis”, Hope Hodge Seck, 9-Nov-2017,

ASW Corvette

Well, the frigate debate is on!  Observers are weighing in with their favorite candidates for the Navy’s frigate competition.  Here’s a couple relevant thoughts.

-          ComNavOps is on record as saying that the Navy will go with the Freedom LCS frigate which would be the worst possible decision in every sense.

-          ComNavOps is also on record as stating that the Navy does not need a frigate – it needs a small, cheap, expendable ASW corvette.

However, observers are all enthusiastically promoting large, powerful frigates which are just mini-Burkes.  I’ll say it again, we don’t need mini-Burkes because we have plenty of full size Burkes!  Instead, observers and, sadly, the Navy are focused on how many VLS cells they can squeeze in and how powerful a radar they can mount.  In essence, they’re trying to see how close they can get to a Burke.  Hey, if you want a Burke, build a Burke.  A “frigate” that is nearly the match for a Burke is going to have a cost that is nearly a match for a Burke.

Here’s an example of what we really need: the Indian Kamorta class corvette

The Kamorta is a stealthy shaped ship that is small (358 ft) and ASW focused with

  • single ASW helo/hangar/flight deck
  • RBU-6000 anti-submarine rocket launcher
  • 4x heavyweight torpedo tubes
  • towed array
  • bow mounted sonar
  • sound isolating, raft mounted machinery

Additional armament is defensive

  • 76 mm gun
  • 2x CIWS

The radar is a reasonable medium range 3D planar array.

Add an 8-cell VLS for 32 ESSM and you have the basis of a nice, small ASW corvette which would be immensely useful to the Navy as opposed to mini-Burkes.

Kamorta Class ASW Corvette

Being slightly smaller than the Freedom class LCS and without the expensive focus on high speed, hopefully the construction cost would be a good bit less than the LCS.  If costs were too high, though, I’d drop the helo/hangar/flight deck since a single helo doesn’t contribute all that much to ASW simply due to its very limited availability.

This kind of ship can perform the peacetime “show the flag” and patrol duties that are currently using up our Burkes and preventing their proper maintenance and crew training.  In war, these ships can provide the numbers and expendability we need for shallow water ASW, peripheral patrol duties, can augment task forces, and can perform convoy escort duties.

This is what we need, not mini-Burkes.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Korean Supercavitating Torpedo

As reported by Navy Recognition website, South Korea displayed a supercavitating torpedo it’s developing at the MADEX 2017 International Maritime Defense Industry Exhibition held in October 2017 (1).  Development began in 2013 and at sea tests will take place around 2020.

The “vehicle” as it’s referred to in the article, is 125 mm (~5 “) diameter, is solid fueled, and has a top speed of 100 m/sec (around 200 kts).

If one believes Russian reports (always a risky business!), their supercavitating Shkval torpedo is 533 mm diameter, 200 kts, and 20 km (~12 miles) range.

Iran supposedly is developing a reverse engineered version of the Russian Shkval and a German firm developed a supercavitating torpedo although it never transitioned to a service weapon.

The takeaway from this is that the US Navy is falling significantly behind in torpedo development.  The Navy’s standard heavyweight Mk48/ADCAP torpedo was designed in the 1960’s and became operational in 1972.  There has been little development since then although some effort has been directed towards enhancing shallow water performance.  Beyond that, though, torpedo development has been stagnant.

On a related note, the major challenge with a supercavitating torpedo is guidance.  The formation of the air "bubble" that the torpedo travels in is deafeningly loud as far as sonar guidance is concerned.  Supercavitating torpedoes are blind.  Supposedly, a Russian version was intended to sprint to the target location and then slow down to "normal" torpedo speeds in order to acquire the target.

Torpedo development is one of several areas that the Navy has, bafflingly, neglected.  Offensive mine warfare has all but halted, mine countermeasures have atrophied to near non-existence, naval gun support is non-existent, anti-ship missile development has only recently made any advancements after many years of neglect and, even now, significantly lags Russian, Chinese, and Indian weapons.

The Navy’s myopic focus on new Burke, carrier, and LCS funding and construction has led to neglect of vital but less “sexy” weapons, equipment, and systems.  We are now being surpassed by friend and foe alike in many of these areas.


(1)Navy Recognition website, “MADEX 2017: South Korea Developing a Supercavitating Torpedo”, 10-Nov-2017,

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Marines, Sea Control, and HIMARS

I love the Marine Corps but, I’m sorry, they’ve gone off the rails.  What is their core mission?  Well, actually, that’s a good question because I don’t think Marine leadership currently has a viable answer – they’ve forgotten their mission.  Presumably, though, the answer ought to involve some form of amphibious operations (I won’t say assault because it doesn’t have to be although that would be the classic example).  With that in mind, the Marines should be focusing on how to get as much firepower and armor ashore against peer opposition as possible, right?  But, that’s not what the Marines are concentrating on.  Instead, they’re concentrating on becoming a third air force, a light infantry force (for what reason, I can’t imagine since light infantry will get annihilated on the modern battlefield), a social/psychological warfare service (hearts and minds), a 3D printing force, and all kinds of other non-core activities.  Their latest is an apparent desire to become a land based navy to conduct anti-surface ship operations using their high mobility artillery rocket system (HIMARS).  The Marines want to get into the business of sea control from the land.  I guess they’ve solved every other problem they face and are looking to expand.

We’ve talked about this recently in somewhat general terms but let’s get into the weeds and really look at this.

A Breaking Defense website article describes the Marine’s newly desired mission (1) thusly,

“It also means the Marines need a highly mobile system that can come ashore with the grunts and keep moving to evade retaliatory fire while staying connected to Navy fire control networks. That’s a much more demanding mission than static coastal defense, the role of most anti-ship missile batteries around the world …”

The article hints at some of the challenges.

“But buying the missile is just the start. You need to integrate it with a launcher, a fire control network and a supply chain.”

The launcher is the easy part, in the Marine’s eyes.  They already have the HIMARS so they just need to find a missile that can fit it.

How is all this going to work?  Here’s the Marine’s vision.

“The Marines would provide additional “distributed” firepower from Expeditionary Advance Bases. Carved out of hostile territory by landing forces, kept small and camouflaged to avoid enemy fire, EABs would support F-35B jump jets, V-22 tiltrotors, and drones, as well as anti-ship missiles for the fleet. It’s a high-tech version of Henderson Field on Guadalcanal (part of the Solomons) in 1942. Like Henderson Field, the EABs would provide a permanent presence ashore, inside the contested zone, to support Navy ships as they move in and out to raid and withdraw.”

The unspoken assumptions that go into this vision are staggering in their magnitude and fantasy.  Let’s examine them.

That we’re going to be able to enter a “contested zone” with a big enough force to land heavy construction equipment, build a base, equip it with advanced computers, comm. gear, sensors, spare parts, fuel, and munitions without the enemy noticing is wishful thinking at its best – and we’re going to have several of these bases!

That we believe we’re going to be able to operate the highly temperamental F-35B which, under ideal and pristine conditions on a highly advanced and well equipped airbase, has only a 50% readiness rate is ludicrous. 

That we’re going to be able to transport fuel, food, munitions, spare parts, etc. to these bases in the “contested zone” without being seen is pure fantasy.

It also occurs to me that another unspoken assumption in this concept is that the expeditionary base will either be on a previously unoccupied island or chunk of land or the Marines will have to seize it.  If the Marines have to seize the land then there is no secrecy.  The enemy, having had the location wrested away from them, will be fully aware of our presence and any base that we might construct there.  That kind of defeats the fantasy of secret bases with missiles and aircraft appearing and disappearing as if by magic.  That leaves the use of previously unoccupied land.  Are there really that many unoccupied pieces of land in a “contested zone” and near enough to something of value that the enemy will have ships passing by but will not be monitoring the land for just such secret bases?  I’ve got to believe that the number of such locations are exceedingly few.

I’ve got to stop here.  We’re wandering off topic by discussing the fantasy of these disbursed, magically invisible bases.  The topic is the use of HIMARS anti-ship missiles so let’s get back to that.

There’s a fundamental problem with launching a missile, any missile.

“Once you launch a rocket, however, the enemy can see your location on radar and infra-red, so the missile batteries must practice “shoot and scoot” tactics: move to a firing point, launch, and move again to a hiding place before enemy retaliation rains down.”

Shoot and scoot!  Well that’s easy.  The HIMARS will be able to move before any counterfire can arrive.  Just out of curiosity, though, how does a 12 ton HIMARS scoot through the jungle, mountains, or whatever that the Marines have carved their forward expeditionary bases out of?  And if we limit ourselves to only relatively flat, open areas that a HIMARS can easily travel, doesn’t that negate the “hidden” part of the expeditionary base concept?  Plus, doesn’t the act of firing kind of call attention to the base itself?  Presumably the enemy can reason out that an anti-ship missile didn’t just appear from land by magic.  Once alerted, the enemy has only to conduct a cursory scan of the area and they’ll notice any base big enough to operate F-35B’s, MV-22s, drones, HIMARS.  Plus, they’ll likely notice the buildings, warehouses, comm. facilities, sensors, etc. that even a “primitive” base requires.  Henderson Field was not a secret to the Japanese!

Let’s consider the missile’s range.  The Marine Request For Information to industry (2) cited a range of “80 miles or greater”.  The problem, here, is that the longer the range, the bigger the missile must be and the bigger and less mobile the launcher must be – refer back to the “shoot and scoot” issue.  Further, the larger the missile, the more expensive it is.  This strongly suggests a fairly short range missile.  Range leads us directly to the next problem which is sensor/targeting.

HIMARS - Scooting Through The Jungle?

An 80+ mile missile is useless if you don’t have 80+ mile sensors to provide targeting data.  What are these sensors and where are they going to come from?  The obvious sensor is radar.  The problem is that a land based radar has a range of only the radar’s horizon, say, 20 miles or so.  Of course, the radar could be mounted on top of a high hill or mountain (how do we get it there from a primitive expeditionary base without calling attention to the effort?) if one happens to be handy.  Data transmission from a remote radar sensor presents another problem. 

Also, if we have a powerful 80+ mile radar scanning the area, that will certainly call the enemy’s attention to it and our “secret” base won’t be secret anymore.

Well, why not use networked sensors from other assets in the region, like the Navy?  The Navy has made an extensive investment in, and commitment to, distributed sensor networks so tapping into that should solve the problem, right?  Of course, if the Navy has to be in the area to provide sensor coverage then that means that the Navy can’t leave the area and if the Navy is in the area, why do you need a land based anti-ship missile since every ship that floats will be armed with anti-ship missiles anyway, according to the Navy (remember the Navy’s oft-repeated, “If it floats, it fights.”?)?

This smacks of budget grabbing at its worst.  With all the problems the Marines currently face, is trying to take on a new, non-core mission really the best use of their time and budget?  The Marines are on an out-of-control power (meaning budget) grab and need to be reined in.


(1)Breaking Defense website, “Marines Seek Anti-Ship HIMARS: High Cost, Hard Mission”, Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., 14-Nov-2017,

Monday, November 13, 2017

Lockheed Proposed Frigate

Lockheed Martin recently displayed their US Navy frigate concept at the DSEI trade show in the form of a concept model (1).

The relevant features included:

  • 1x Mk110 57 mm gun
  • 16 cell VLS
  • 16 anti-ship missiles in rack launchers
  • 1x SeaRAM

  • crew=130
  • length=125 m
  • displacement=likely 6000+ tons

That’s a little light for a ship that’s 80% the length of a Burke.  In comparison, the original Perry class frigates had a single arm missile launcher with a magazine of 40 missiles which could include a mix of Standard and Harpoon.  This LCS frigate, with 16 VLS cells is limited to 16 Standard missiles (assuming the VLS length is adequate as suggested by the article), up to 64 quad-packed ESSM, Tomahawks, VL-ASROC, or a mix thereof.

While 64 quad-packed ESSM is quite useful for a frigate size ship that would preclude more capable Standard missiles.  Having anything less than 16 Standards would be just about pointless which probably limits the frigate to the 64 ESSM.  Of course, if any cells are to be used for Tomahawk or, more likely, VL-ASROC, that would cut deeply into the ESSM loadout.  For example, if the ship carried 8 VL-ASROC, as would seem reasonable for an ASW focused frigate, that would only leave 8 cells for a maximum of 32 ESSM.  As I said, for any reasonable and likely mix of missiles, the loadout is a bit light for a ship that’s 80% the size of a Burke.

The crew size of 130 is a recognition by the Navy that its LCS minimal manning and deferred (pier side) maintenance concept is a failure.  It is also quite likely that 130 crew would turn out to be too small. 

The final noteworthy aspect of this is that unless the fundamental structure of the ship is changed, an LCS frigate retains all the inherent weaknesses of the base LCS.  These include stability problems and inadequate stability margins, non-existent weight margins, structural weaknesses, use of aluminum for a ship that is now expected to stand and fight, loud waterjets (a concern in ASW), apparent lack of a hull mounted sonar (due to excessive self-noise in the base LCS), inadequate range/endurance, etc.  To be fair, what was presented was just a simple concept model but it’s hard to believe that all the inherent flaws that make the base LCS such a poor warship can be rectified in a somewhat enlarged frigate version.

Honestly, this is just warmed over LCS crap and compares quite poorly to the many outstanding frigate designs around the world.  I hope the Navy has the sense to walk away from this.  Sadly, given the Navy's history of horrible decisions, I think it's quite likely that you're looking at the winner of the frigate competition.  


(1)Navy Recognition website, 13-Sep-2017,

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Constitutional Misuse Of The Military

I dislike posting about articles for which I offer no value-added analysis.  However, occasionally an article comes along that is so good that I feel I simply must bring it to your attention even if I have little or no analysis to offer.  Such an article is a Breaking Defense piece about the use and misuse of the military.  It’s written by Daniel Davis, a former Army lieutenant colonel with four combat deployments who is now a defense expert at Defense Priorities, a Washington think tank

The author touches on the Constitutional issues of military control and purpose and the current misuse of military forces and the abdication of Congressional control over the military.  It should sound familiar to regular followers of this blog.

It’s a short article so do yourself a favor, follow the link below, read it, ponder the Constitutional issues, and let me know what you think. 


(1)Breaking Defense website, “Stop The Malignant Misuse Of America’s Military”, Daniel L. Davis, 9-Nov-2017,

Friday, November 10, 2017

Collision Comprehensive Review Findings

The Navy has issued its comprehensive review report of the recent ship collisions (1).  The report has generally garnered praise for its openness, honesty, and degree of self-examination ……  Bilgewater!

The report is the typical Navy collection of low level fault finding, meaningless recommendations (few of which will ever be implemented), calls for more oversight (as opposed to more competence), and vague generalities and platitudes about the Navy’s desire to prevent this from happening again.  The reality is that these are not the first collisions and groundings that have ever occurred and will not be the last.  If the Navy were serious, all these “fine” recommendations would have been implemented long ago – but they weren’t.  When we investigate the next incident – and there will be a next – we’ll find the same low level faults and make the same useless recommendations.  The Admirals will congratulate themselves on another investigation well done and move on with no meaningful improvements made.

Here’s a specific example.  The Aegis cruiser Port Royal ran aground a few years back for all the same reasons that are identified in this report.  Why didn’t the Navy implement the obvious and desperately needed changes after that incident? 

Here’s another.  The Iranians seized two of our riverine boats after the boat crews committed every mistake possible, wandered into Iranian territorial waters, and allowed themselves to be captured.  The Navy initiated studies and wrote reports which identified the myriad failings in training of basic seamanship and failure to follow procedures.  What impact did those studies, reports, and recommendations have?  None – as evidenced by these recent incidents.

Those examples produced no change.  Why do we think this report will produce any change?  It won’t.

Now, just to beat the issue to death, I’m going to highlight a handful of findings from the report for you to consider.  The page numbers of the quotes are included for your convenience.

The report begins on an incorrect note,

“Today, proficiency in seamanship and navigation competes for time and attention with the expanding tactical duties of our naval professionals at sea.” (p.6)

Fundamental seamanship proficiency is not competing for training time with tactical duties, it’s competing for time with gender equality seminars, women’s sensitivity workshops, diversity training, sexual assault awareness counseling, climate change studies, green energy initiatives, uniform redesigns, transgender accommodation efforts, endless surveys that change nothing, and inspections that improve nothing.  The failure to understand even this basic truth demonstrates that the report’s authors are as incompetent as the people they investigated.  This complete lack of understanding sets the tone for the rest of the report. 

The report notes that nearly every ship had/has expired certifications.

“…nearly 100 percent of Japanbased ships have one or more expired certifications, and in each case, a Risk Assessment Mitigation Plan (RAMP) is in place.” (p.71)

The report authors then go on to discuss the proper use of RAMP and the shortcomings in the program as it was being applied.  The real finding should have been that not a single flag rank officer had the moral courage to say “no” to the continued excessive demands that led to every ship having expired operating certifications.  Every single one of those officers is, therefore, complicit in the deaths of the sailors.  They violated the trust of those they were charged with leading and protecting.

Written policies codify minimum standards and exist due to a lack of competence.  If the personnel involved were competent there would be no need for a written policy – it would never come up.  Consider the following statement from the report regarding the temporary assignment of outside personnel to a ship.

“… the Review Team found no formal ISIC or Type Commander policy exists that specifically addresses the temporary assignment of the right personnel or manage their qualification process for the (temporary) gaining ship for Yokosuka-based ships.” (p.73)

The report notes that no written policy existed and finds fault with this lack.  What this statement is really saying is that no command authority had the competence to manage this practice.  This statement is actually a condemnation of every command authority involved in the practice even though the authors of the report are too incompetent to realize it or lack the moral courage to say it, if they do recognize it.

The report presents a Matrix of Mishap Attributes for the various incidents (p. 115-6).  The matrix includes 33 attributes.  The matrix omits the most important attribute: the fact that every flag officer in the Navy had full knowledge of the condition and state of those ships and chose to do nothing about it.  There’s the attribute that is common to every incident!

The report’s authors made 68 recommendations, if I counted correctly.  However, there is only one meaningful recommendation and they failed to make it so I’ll make it.

Recommendation:  Replace every serving flag officer with people who will hold themselves accountable to those they lead.

Implement that and all the other recommendations will take care of themselves.


(1)“Comprehensive Review Of Recent Surface Force Incidents”, 26-Oct-2017