We’ve discussed the utter stupidity of the Navy’s distributed lethality concept. We’ve pointed out the idiocy behind risking high value amphibious or logistic support vessels in an attempt to mount 4 or 8 Harpoons and somehow “complicate” the enemy’s tactical situation. We’ve pointed out that none of those ships have access to the long range targeting that distributed lethality would require.
Despite the obvious stupidity of distributed lethality, the Navy has decided to double down on “distributed” and is now proposing distributed mine countermeasures (MCM). (1) Having recognized that their all-in bet on the LCS as the future of MCM has turned into a dismal failure, the Navy now proposes a piecemeal distribution of MCM components across the fleet.
“…the Navy now wants at least some mine-hunting gear on a vessels ranging from modified oil tankers to catamarans to aircraft carriers.” (1)
It’s a grand vision, isn’t it? A task force encounters a minefield and barely even hesitates as every ship unleashes remote MCM drones that clear the field in short order and the task force sails on, hardly even delayed. Another enemy stratagem foiled!
Breaking Defense website at least sees part of the problem with this concept.
“The new plan could finally infuse mine warfare into the mainstream of the Navy — or diffuse responsibility to crews that see it as an unwelcome distraction from their ships’ main mission.” (1)
They’ve got it right. A Burke, carrier, or other ship has a main purpose and many other side functions that already occupy all their time. Adding yet another responsibility to an already overloaded crew is pointless – they won’t be any good at it. Once a year (at best!) the ship will run through a quick, scripted MCM exercise to check off a training box and then promptly store the equipment out of the way and forget about it and the skills required to be competent at MCM. Despite what the Navy would have us believe about the magical capabilities of remote, autonomous MCM UUVs, mine detection and identification still require a great deal of expertise from the human operators. Do you think a Burke captain is going to spend his precious training time practicing MCM or AAW? That’s right, when the time comes for real, the crew won’t even remember how to spell MCM let alone be able to competently execute it.
Do we really want to take a carrier or Burke or high-demand logistics ship away from their main mission and park it next to a minefield for weeks on end?
Do we really want to risk multi-billion dollar ships near a minefield?
Do we really want to tie high value warships to a fixed location for weeks on end, offering the enemy a perfect target that they can pick off at their leisure?
Breaking Defense website sums up the problem.
“Navy culture makes it all too easy for surface commanders to ignore mine warfare unless that is their vessel’s only mission. And hunting mines is a slow, laborious task that requires a ship to stay in one small area until it’s done.” (2)
As retired Navy commander Bryan Clark puts it,
“…adding MCM to the task list of ships that are already unable to stay proficient and certified in their current mission areas is not a good idea.” (2)
Our crews are overworked and unable to master basic seamanship and now we want to add another task to the list of things they’re not competent to do?
I give the Navy the tiniest bit of credit for recognizing that the LCS MCM concept has failed. However, instead of doing the obvious and building a fleet of dedicated MCM vessels, ranging from small Avenger replacements to large MCM motherships, along with squadrons of MCM helos, the Navy has chosen the stupid option, as they always do.
|Our Next Minesweeper!|
By the way, does any of this sound vaguely familiar? It should. We built six Burkes that had organic MCM capability in the form of the WLD-1 Remote Minehunting System (RMS) which was to be housed and launched from a pocket built into the side of the Burke’s hangar. That program failed and was cancelled – now we want to do it again and think it will work. Does anyone recall the definition of insanity?
|Burke With Minehunting Modification|
Distributed lethality. Distributed MCM. I’m waiting for someone to come up with distributed aircraft carriers with every ship carrying one aircraft.
(1)Breaking Defense website, “Every Ship A Minesweeper? Navy Looks Beyond LCS”, Sydney J. Freedberg, Jr.,
(2)Breaking Defense website, “Worries Surface On New Navy Mine Warfare Plan”,
J. Freedberg, Jr., Sydney 31-Oct-2017,