Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Cruise Missile Characteristics Related To Detection and Engagement Range

The US Navy is committed to an anti-air warfare path of long range intercepts using the Aegis and Standard systems.  The wisdom of this is debatable for a variety of reasons.

Long range intercepts depend on being able to detect the target at long ranges.  You can’t engage what you can’t see!  For targets that obligingly fly at high altitudes, this is a viable approach.  For targets that fly at low altitudes or are less detectable due to small size and/or stealth, this approach is not feasible.  Unfortunately, the trend in anti-ship missile (ASM) technology is towards stealth and sea-skimming altitudes.  Many missiles have options for an initial high altitude cruise phase followed by a sea-skimming attack phase.  The question is how far out from the target does the cruise phase terminate and the sea-skimming attack phase commence?  If the cruise phase terminates and converts to the low altitude attack phase beyond the effective range of defensive missiles then the ASM is, for all practical purposes, a purely sea-skimming missile.  This is what seems to be the typical case today.  Thus, it is quite likely that a defending ship will never see, or at least not have the opportunity to engage, the attacking missile until it enters the radar horizon (20 miles or so).

Another problem with the Navy’s long range intercept path is that it’s very expensive.  For example, the Standard SM-6 costs around $4M each and has a claimed range of 150-300 miles.  Launching volleys of $4M missiles quickly becomes prohibitively expensive.  Of course, the cost of a volley of $4M missiles is, arguably, a bargain if it prevents the destruction of a multi-billion dollar ship!  Still, the price tag of Standard missiles does impact the budget and the number of missiles procured. It’s not just the missiles that are expensive.  The Aegis system that enables the Standard missile costs hundreds of millions of dollars and the developmental costs for the ever-changing software are astronomical.

Before we go any further, let’s take a moment to look at some characteristics of common potential enemy anti-ship missiles as provided by readily available open source information.  Note the attack altitudes and relatively small sizes.  These missiles will be hard to detect and engagement windows will be very short.

Speed   Mach 0.75
Flight Altitude  <20 m
Attack Altitude  <20 m
Range  40 km
Length  5.8 m

Speed  Mach 0.9
Flight Altitude  7 m
Attack Altitude  5 m
Range  120 km
Length  6.4 m

Speed  Mach 0.92
Flight Altitude  2 m
Range  72-180 km
Length  4.7 m

P-270 Moskit (SS-N-22 Sunburn)
Speed  Mach 3.0
Flight Altitude  20 m
Attack Altitude  <7 m
Range  90-240 km, depending on version and flight profile
Length  9.7 m

P-700 Granit (SS-N-19 Shipwreck)
Speed  Mach >1.6
Flight Altitude  high
Attack Altitude  <25 m
Range  625 km
Length  10.0 m

P-800 Oniks (SS-N-26 Strobile)
Speed  Mach 2.5
Flight Altitude  high
Attack Altitude  10 m
Range  370 miles
Length  8.9 m

Kh-59 MK (AS-13 Kingbolt)
Speed  Mach 0.8
Flight Altitude  7 m
Attack Altitude  ?
Range  285 km
Length  5.7 m

Speed  Mach 3.0
Flight Altitude  high
Attack Altitude  5 m
Range  280 miles
Length  8.4 m

Even if not designed as stealthy airframes, ASMs are small and have an inherently small radar cross section.  A small missile, in sea-skimming mode, down in the wave clutter, will not be readily detected.  First detection is likely to be inside the radar horizon.  Even the presence of an airborne radar plane will not greatly increase the detection range of an incoming sea-skimming missile. 

Also, detection and targeting are two separate issues.  An airborne radar may detect a missile further out but being able to maintain a steady lock sufficient to guide a defensive missile is another matter and likely will not be achievable until the attacking missile has gotten much closer to its target.

What is the overall point of this discussion?  It’s that I suspect that the actual targeting detection range of most ASM’s is going to be very short.  That being the case, one can’t help but ask whether the Navy’s focus on very long range Standard missiles is appropriate.  It would seem that the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (RIM-162 ESSM) would be a more likely and useful defensive system.  ESSM range is given as 27 nm which would seem to be an appropriate match to the expected detection range.

In fact, I have doubts that intercepts at ranges of hundreds of miles are even feasible given the cruise characteristics of enemy anti-ship missiles.  What enemy missile or aircraft is going to fly obligingly high, straight, and level for an extended period while we guide a Standard missile to it?  Ballistic anti-ship missiles do fly predictable paths and, for those, long range intercepts are both feasible and desirable – but that’s another topic.

If my conjecture is correct and the vast majority of anti-ship cruise missile engagements are going to occur at radar horizon ranges, shouldn’t the vast majority of our defensive systems also be optimized for those same ranges?  Wouldn’t it be better to emphasize ESSM defenses over Standard missiles?

Further, given engagement ranges of radar horizon and closer, shouldn’t we also greatly beef up our short range engagement capabilities such as RAM, SeaRAM, and CIWS?  Sure, debris from a successful short range intercept may still impact the ship and cause damage but it will be a lot less damage than having an intact, functioning anti-ship cruise missile hit the ship.  Consider that most Burkes have only a single CIWS for close in defense and, for a time, Burkes were built with none.  Burkes do not mount RAM/SeaRAM.  Our short range defenses are lacking, to put it mildly.

We need to do several things to beef up our medium range (out to 30 miles or so) AAW capability.

  1. Install multiple RAM/SeaRAM launchers on every ship.
  2. Provide at least 3 CIWS for every Burke.
  3. Focus on electronic anti-missile defenses (soft kill).
  4. Develop radars/sensors optimized for medium/short range use.
  5. Develop methods to effectively launch and utilize high density volleys of ESSM and RAM.  This would include the ability to track the incoming target even in the presence of high clutter returns due to near miss defensive missile explosions.  Given the short engagement window, it is vital that we can continuously track and engage rather than have to wait for the radar picture to clear after a near miss.  The traditional engagement sequence of shoot-shoot-look is no longer viable.  The engagement sequence has to be shoot-shoot-shoot-keep shooting!  We also need to be able to track the incoming missile in the presence of many outgoing missiles.

The last point also suggests that Aegis is likely not the optimum AAW radar.  We don’t need bigger and longer range AMDR radars (well, we do for ballistic missile defense but, again, that’s a topic for another post); we need very high definition, very rapid response, enhanced capability medium/short range radars combined with much greater numbers of medium range ESSM and integrated fire control systems.  We need to greatly reduce our emphasis on Aegis/Standard and put far more emphasis on medium range engagement.

We also desperately need to improve our AAW electronic countermeasure (ECM) capability.  The venerable – and never all that effective, according to reports – SLQ-32 needs to be enhanced far beyond even the current SEWIP (Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program) block improvements.  We need massively more capable and powerful detection and active jamming/decoy systems (remember our discussion about an electronic warfare version of the Zumwalt?).

In summary, future naval AAW engagements are not going to be the long range intercepts that the Navy has designed for – they’re going to radar horizon, close range, short window, affairs that require an optimized radar fire control system capable of operating a continuous fire defensive system, backed up by extensive short range and ECM capabilities.


  1. The US has also been unwilling to acknowledge that potential peer enemies will analyze our capabilities and work around them. If they see we are focusing on long range SAM intercepts, they will develop weapons and tactics to minimize the effectiveness of LR SAMs.

    And we should not forget that it's not 1 SSM vs. 1 Burke and only focus on the technical minutia of the encounter. Weapon systems are deployed in tactical patterns to negate known defenses. So what if our enemy uses a wave of SSM cruise missiles against a task force in order to bunch and distract the targets for a submarine to launch torpedoes against the carrier. If the carrier is damaged to where it can't perform flight ops, the TF is basically useless and has failed it's mission.

    1. Given the difficulty in communicating with a submerged submarine, the odds on coordinating a successful simultaneous air-sub attack are vanishingly small. Nonetheless, I understand your point.

      To be fair, the reverse is also true. The Navy doesn't defend one Burke against a anti-ship missile. It defends as a group using combine area anti-air defense, Cooperative Engagement Capability, NIFC-CA, layered defense, etc.

      But, yes, you're quite right that the Navy has been unwilling to acknowledge our enemy's capabilities.

    2. Agreed. I was thinking more in terms of how military history enthusiasts tend to look at "system vs. system" (T34 vs. Panther; Iowa vs. Bismark). It's the interplay of systems that's critical and was a costly lesson (set of lessons?) for the USN in WW2.

      And I'll also echo your point about fleet diversity. You really don't want to send a mini-Burke after a sub contact. You want a small unit that isn't a critical part of your AAW layer. Leaving aside the risk of losing the ship, if it's chasing a sub contact, it's not in a position to perform AAW.

      I see your point about timing a air-sub attack, but then again, we're basically talking about a CV battle group moving to striking range of coastal targets which means the other guys can basically lay in wait for us which simplifies some of the logistics of this sort of approach. And again, if an enemy determines that this is a viable tactic, they could put in the R&D to come up with a way to coordinate this sort of attack. US planning always seems to think that our enemy will not evolve and develop in response to what we do.

  2. I have an original idea, a long range fighter with look down/shoot down radar and lots missiles to thin out ashms beyond the radar horizon. Maybe long range ASW planes to look for cruise missile subs, as per J. Kay.
    Bob of Bethpage.

    1. Tomcat and Viking. Quite right!

    2. You guys aren't being nearly transformational enough.

  3. A few thoughts -

    The ships radar acts as homing beacon for the equivalent Chinese/Russian AShM to the new LRASM which uses a passive homing with ESM,IR+

    I'm an advocate of tethered drones as think they have the great attribute of enabling operating in EMCON mode with passive IR and ESM sensors and also can be used for extending comms range, especially if satellites go down. DARPA testing the Towed Airborne Lift of Naval Systems (TALONS) and the French using a conventional quadcopter. Tethered drones powered by ship and enabling high capacity wired connection to use ships computing power, 24/7? and operate up to 1500 feet, expanding horizon to may be 3 to 4 times if not more than any 50 feet high radar.

    They have drawbacks as unable measure distance but in conjunction with ship's radar would increase the minimal warning time of a surface anti-ship missile attack, especially the newer super sonic missiles.

    The Navy planning to replace the old X- band AN/SPQ-9B high definition surface search radar with the ONR Future X-band Radar, FXR, program, to fit on the FFG(X) with the volume search S-band EASR. FXR industry day was 13 September 2017, budgeted at less than $30M flyaway costs, seems expensive, most surprising is the in yard need date in FY2027, nine/ten years out. The new generation Saab 1X GaN is already in production.

    Re. RAM, understand normal practise to fire two missiles at single target, i.e. AShM, suggestions that if successful the second RAM with its IR head will home on the exploding AShM and miss a second follow on AShM. No of no testing of this scenario. ... dment-0002

    1. Nick, the obvious problem with a tethered blimp is that it is a giant radar beacon that pinpoints the ship's location. It is a ready made targeting solution for the enemy! What's your thought on that?

      Yes, there are some pretty capable radars already out there. I don't know why we insist on developing our own.

      Your link is incomplete (the ...) and non-functional. See if you can get the entire link and try reposting.

    2. TALON's doesn't look that large. I wonder if it could provide radar *or* a high def TV camera to passively keep a look out for things. If it's not emitting or it's doing passive sensing it might give you a boost to your sensors without really increasing your RCS that much due to its own small RCS. Especially if you make the chute of something which doesn't easily reflect radar.

      Not saying it's perfect or the answer, just something that we could research and test.

    3. " tethered blimp is that it is a giant radar beacon "

      The French quadcopter does not look too large, as always a trade off of cost, size and capability. Would thought it would be doable in relatively small package as computing power on ship.

      "Your link is incomplete (the ...) and non-functional. See if you can get the entire link and try reposting."

      Appears broken, did keep a copy of the ONR draft FXR pdf, assuming you have my email and if so send email will copy to you if required.

      Googled, another ref.

      FFG(X) Notional Warfare Systems list it as Next Generation Surface Search Radar (NGSSR)

  4. "Wouldn’t it be better to emphasize ESSM defenses over Standard missiles?"

    Are we not doing just that, or at least putting equal emphasis on them? ESSM Block 2 development seems to be wrapping up. Block 2 incorporates an active/semi-active seeker.

    Aegis, ESSM, and SM-6 are basically the equivalent of Russia's vaunted S-400 system. SM-6 targets the archer/spotter and ESSM targets the arrows.

    No argument that the USN needs to beef-up short-range defenses.

    1. "Are we not doing just that"

      No. Emphasizing the medium/short range engagement means more than just having a medium range missile available. As I described in the post, it means developing a radar/sensor system optimized for that type of engagement - one that can work in a very short time frame and operate in a cluttered view. We need medium range engagement tactics. We need continuous engagement capability. And so on.

      I'm not at all sure that the ESSM is even the right missile for the envisioned engagement scenario. Is it capable of finding the target in a cluttered field filled with airborne debris from immediately preceding or concurrent engagements? Can it distinguish incoming targets from simultaneous fellow ESSMs? I don't know but I suspect not. It was developed for a one-on-one kill not a many-on-many kill.

      I also suspect that the very idea of a one-on-one kill won't work in the face of a barrage of incoming missiles. The one-on-one kill takes too long and the other missiles will approach too quickly to wait for each one-on-one engagement to resolve itself. We need a many-on-many engagement protocol. In essence, we need to create an ESSM wall of shrapnel in front of the incoming missiles. Can the ESSM do that? I don't know but I suspect not since it wasn't designed for that.

    2. "Can ESSM do that?"

      You don't know. But I suspect the Navy doesn't either. Because we don't realistically test our stuff do we?

      that could cost us massively in a peer conflict.

      we no longer have shipbuilding capacity like we used to, for a variety of reasons.

      And our designs are expensive, elaborate, all in one uber systems.

      So if Standard/ESSM/CIWS *doesn't* work in real life, we'll be short a Navy really quickly. And won't be able to do much with the ships left.

    3. "As I described in the post, it means developing a radar/sensor system optimized for that type of engagement - one that can work in a very short time frame and operate in a cluttered view."

      ESSM Block 2 has a digital data-link and a x-band active seeker. It can prosecute the terminal phase of intercept on its own. This means the the number and duty cycles of the illuminators are no longer limiting factors with respect to volley size.

      X-band radars can pick up targets in sea clutter and have high resolution. X-band radars can be used in SAR mode, for example. AN/SPQ-9B is an X-band radar that is currently in service. It's used for periscope detection.... The 13th Block III Burke is supposed to have the X-band GaN component of AMDR that should have outstanding horizon-search capability.

      These issues are not new to the Navy. We're working on it.

    4. "X-band radars can pick up targets in sea clutter and have high resolution."

      You're missing the problem. I'm not talking about picking out a periscope in wave clutter - which, by the way, would be totally unsuitable performance for anti-ship missile engagements as it's far too slow and fleeting. I'm talking about the clutter of a sky filled with exploding missiles, incoming missiles, outgoing missiles, and clouds of shrapnel from hits and missses. Can a radar distinguish the one real target from a return filled with metal? I'm not aware of any radar that has been optimized for that. In fact, that's why we have the shoot-shoot-look engagement sequence, so that we can allow the radar picture to stabilize and clear to see if we hit anything.

      In an engagement against a high subsonic or supersonic missile that starts at the radar horizon (20 miles or so) we aren't going to have the time to wait and see what happens after each shot. We're going to have to fill the sky with ESSM and they'd better be able to find the real target among clouds of targets.

      Periscope detection occurs over many cycles and the detection is slowly assembled from sequential scans. This is perfect for detecting a periscope that isn't approaching at mach speed but for an incoming missile, this kind of performance is utterly inadequate.

      I highly doubt that a small, simple, on-board ESSM seeker is going to have the capability to find a legitimate target in a sky full of legitimate looking targets.

      Do the math on engagement window times and then imagine trying to deal with, say, a dozen incoming missiles all in the same window. We don't currently have the sensors or weapons to do that.

      You're just repeating ESSM and radar factoids without assembling the entire tactical picture and working through the math and the detection realities. Give it some more thought. I mean this in a sincere, analytical sense. Work it through as an actual "wargame" and see what result you get. I've done it and the result isn't good! Try it yourself and let me know what you find.

      To the best of my knowledge, the issue is new to the Navy and, no, they're not working on it. Give me one citation of this specific problem being worked on. I'd love to see it!

    5. I just finished re-reading Admiral Woodward's account of the Falklands War and he covers a lot of what is being discussed in this thread from a ASM recipients perspective in his accounts of planning for and responding to the threat of exocet attack.

      In addition to the problems of trying to take-out fleeting long-range targets (after all the missile or launcher isn't simply going to hang about waiting for your missile to get a good lock) there was the further problem of false alarms leading to both crew exhaustion & complacency, in addition to disrupting other fleet activities due to the need to regularly redeploy into tactical formation. Given the US Navy's demonstrated inability to manage crew exhaustion in peacetime an adversary might do well to hit a US task force with a constant stream of attacks of one or two missiles over a prolonged period.

      One other element that Woodward noted was the problem for defensive hard-kill systems introduced by the heavy use of chaff during attacks. Exhaustion of the chaff supply seems to have been a considerably greater concern than the exhaustion of missile batteries.

      I suppose that ultimately the US Navy should undertake something like a continuous week long exercise in which ships are required to operate under regular attack or active threat of attack (incorporating spoofing attacks) by enemy missiles. In a perfect world this would also entail numerous un-pre-planned missile launches against appropriate targets.

    6. Excellent comment. It's also worth noting that many of the targets in the Falklands were high-flying (relative to sea-skimming missiles) aircraft rather than low flying, high subsonic or supersonic missiles. In other words, the Falklands scenario was an "easy" AAW scenario, in theory, and yet the results were disappointing overall.

      The U.S. Navy refuses to conduct large scale, realistic, stressful exercises. I guess we'll wait until we lose battles, ships, and men to start learning lessons.

      Did Woodward offer any lessons or solutions to the problems he faced?

      I don't recognize your name from any previous comments so, if this is your first time, thanks for contributing. I look forward to more!

  5. Bravo.

    I think this has been a huge hole in our defensive thinking for awhile.

    We've abandoned the outer air battle due to lack of aircraft to execute it properly. That might have thinned out the incoming amount of missiles.

    But we've also ignored the economic disparity. It makes sense for them to have a ton of missiles to shoot at our task forces.

    Finally, I think we've created our own logistics problem. With VLS that aren't re-loadable one raid could conceivably mission kill the group, whether or not it is successful.

    If a CVBG is out there, and everything works the way we think, and we defeat a concentrated raid but have to nearly empty the magazines to do it; the the group has to go home to reload. Whoops.

    I believe very strongly in emphasis on ESSM and CIWS; but especially think we have to work on 'infinite ammunition' defense like EW.

    We've been the standard so logn people have had a lot of time and money to come up with ways around our philosophy. And our dithering in terms of the soul of the Navy, and in proper ship development, is going to lead us to a real possibility of block obsolecense if someone figures out AEGIS.

    1. "With VLS that aren't re-loadable one raid could conceivably mission kill the group, whether or not it is successful."

      Consider the history of naval warfare and WWII, in particular. Can you find any example of a task force engaging in more than one battle without returning to port for reprovisioning? There probably are some but I can't think of any offhand. Naval forces simply do not stay at sea, fighting battle after battle. One battle is the max. So, the lack of reload is not a major issue.

    2. I'm thinking more of Coral Sea, where IIRC several 'rounds' happened over two days. Here a 'round' might be one missile raid.

      I think that more endurance might be needed today. In a coral sea type situation if you are defending against a raid, you can do it with aircraft and re-arm the aircraft after the raid.

      Here, if a raid is a missile raid then if the magazines of the escorts are emptied then what? It's go home.

      Even if you are using the cruise missiles as your 'strike aircraft' doing a land strike you have to get within 1000 miles or so, best case scenario. And that provides the enemy ample opportunity to go after you. Maybe in several attempts as you get closer.

      Just my opinion. :-)

  6. CNO writes, "It would seem that the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (RIM-162 ESSM) would be a more likely and useful defensive system. ESSM range is given as 27 nm which would seem to be an appropriate match to the expected detection range."

    I think you would want your detection range to be at least double the range of an ESSM to allow time to launch a missile to ensure a hit furthest away from the ship. At sea-level, a Mach 3 missile can cover 27 nmi in 49 seconds. That's not a whole lot of time to respond. And, you wouldn't launch just one missile at a target like that, more likely 2 or 3 to ensure a kill. And, if that fails, there would be some time left to launch a fourth and fifth missile.

    1. We already have missiles with several times the range of ESSM but you can't shoot at what you can't see. That was the whole point of the post - that we won't see an incoming missile until it reaches around 20 miles or so. And, yes, the engagement window is very small! That's why we need to be able to flood the sky with ESSM and still find targets.

    2. The Navy is counting on NIFC-CA to extend detection range. Do you think NIFC-CA is a bust?

      Also, the SPY-6 radar is many times more powerful that the SPY-1, which should extend detection range. The problem is there won't be enough of these in service to make a difference for quite some time.

    3. "The Navy is counting on NIFC-CA to extend detection range."

      The Navy was counting on Zumwalt to provide naval gun support - until it utterly failed and they cancelled the gun's only munition.

      The Navy was counting on the LCS to be the dominant littoral combat machine of the future - until it was proven to be a complete fiasco.

      I can go on with these examples all day but you get the point. Just because the Navy believes something, doesn't make it true. The Navy probably believed they knew how to sail a ship without being rammed by a cargo ship - oops, I said I wouldn't go on all day with examples but I just did. This time I'll stop.

      If you've been following this blog, you already know all the reasons why NIFC-CA is unlikely to be the success the Navy believes. If you haven't been following the blog then you need to hit the archives and come up to speed before you continue commenting.

      I also get the impression that you don't understand the fundamentals of some of this technology. I don't mean this in a mean way, just an observation from your comments. For example, the SPY-x radars are surface ship mounted. It doesn't matter how powerful the radar on a surface ship is, it can't see past the curvature of the Earth (I'm glossing over some exceptions and making a generalized statement). Thus, when trying to detect a sea-skimming missile, the SPY-1 and -6 have the same inherent range limitation which is the radar horizon. Once the incoming missile breaks the radar horizon and is detected, the SPY-6 may (or may not - I don't have detailed performance specs!) achieve a higher resolution return but, at that point, it's a moot issue as both radars will see the target sufficiently well to engage.

      As I note on the comment page, this blog requires at least a basic level of knowledge about naval technology, tactics, etc. in order for commenters to contribute meaningfully. There are many websites you can go to to study naval fundamentals and I encourage you to do so.

  7. Isn't the whole point NIFC-CA to engage long range threats?? The E-2 will hopefully detect that incoming OTH ASM and provide targeting and tracking data so the long range SM-6 can engage.

    1. I addressed this in the post. While a Hawkeye is certainly going to offer a better chance at detecting an incoming missile farther out than a surface ship radar, the likelihood of detecting a sea-skimming missile in wave clutter at a hundred miles plus, or so, is poor. A Hawkeye is not magic. An aerial target that's smaller than an aircraft and flying at wavetop height is simply not going to be seen all that far out.

      I also addressed the difference between detection and targeting. There's a difference between getting an intermittent return, sufficient to suspect an incoming missile, and getting a rock solid targeting lock sufficient for launching a missile.

      I'm also not at all sure what degree of success an ESSM or Standard will have at spotting a sea-skimming missile in wave clutter with just its own small, on-board seeker. I don't know that it can and I don't know that it can't. The Navy has thus far declined to share that information with me!

      You sound like you've been reading Navy brochures and buying into their glowing descriptions of weapon systems. You might want to read the many DOT&E reports that paint a radically different picture of weapon and sensor performance. The difference is that the Navy descriptions are based on wishful thinking and manufacturer's claims while the DOT&E reports are based on actual testing.

  8. Not an electronic warfare/ESSM targeting expert so I don't really have anything to add to that discussion, but adding more CIWS might have a couple of issues.

    With Burke sailors already stretched to near breaking point with existing responsibilities , would the crew of a DDG be able to effectively maintain and operate 3+ additional CIWS/SeaRAM? DDGs also have pretty limited hull space for multiple modules of that size without having to remove/move around existing hardware.
    Additionally, a CIWS module seems distinctly non-stealthy and might noticeably add to the radar signature.

    1. Obviously, the Navy needs to get a grip on its manning problems before anything substantial can be done!

      Non-penetrating CIWS has the advantage of being able to be mounted on any horizontal surface such as on top of the hangar. Burkes also had two CIWS emplacements designed in so that would be a minimum and I'm sure we can find some other locations. Recall the Perry class had a CIWS mounted on top of the hangar?

      Given all the non-stealthy illuminators, antennae, masts, RHIBs, etc., a few more CIWS isn't going to appreciably change the signature of a Burke. Besides, as an Aegis escort, they're often going to prefer the incoming missiles come at them rather than whatever they're escorting.

  9. CNO, if you want to simulate some of you concepts you can try this game, i know a few people who play it and simulate exactly air sea battles:

    Command received an enthusiastic reception in the hardcore wargaming genre, being praised for its combination of scope, detail, realism, accuracy and user interface functionality

    1. Sensors and weapons work just like in real life, with all their strengths and weaknesses. Units move, detect, fight and win or die based on what their systems can and cannot do. Electronic warfare and technological levels can tilt the balance of battle. The weather can be your best ally and your worst enemy. The terrain, both overland and undersea, can hide you from the enemy but also can block your weapons from firing. Your aircraft can choose different mission profiles and loadouts, each with its advantages and limitations, and can dash high (speed, range) or scream low (protection). Thermal layers, convergence zones, surface ducting, the deep sound channel and factors such as water temperature and terrain slope may decide the sub vs ship duel. Thick clouds or rain can render your fancy laser-guided bombs useless. Stealth may help you avoid detection, or a jamming barrage may tip the scales when you are out of options. Command’s battle environment is as unforgiving as the real thing – and as rewarding for those who understand and use it.

    2. I'm thoroughly familiar with Command. I also extensively used its predecessor, Harpoon. The simulations are quite interesting and educational. They are also subject to a major limitation which is that can only use open source data for the weapon and sensor database. They have no more idea what the kill percentage of a Standard against a SS-N-22 is than you or I do. No one knows how effective a Chinese missile electronic countermeasure will be against a U.S. Standard. Heck, the Navy doesn't know, either! Thus, the game is based on a bunch of database guesses. On the plus side, the people who have assembled the database have put a great deal of effort into ensuring that the data is the best that can be had.

      The game is most certainly useful for exploring the basics of naval combat but it is hampered by the lack of real world data. The missing data is the kind of data that the Navy should be assembling but is not, as far as I know. For example, the Navy should be conducting maximum effort electronic attacks against our own ships and aircraft as a starting point, to see what our electronics can do both offensively and defensively, and then working in Russian/Chinese electronics (I assume we can obtain them one way or another, just as they have no problem obtaining ours). That's real world data. However, to the best of my knowledge, the Navy has made little or no effort to conduct such tests.

      The game is informative but not definitive or compelling.

  10. How effective is SeaRam? I have tried looking but all I can find is manufacturer ads etc. We need to get defense cheaper than offense, and I don't see lasers ready for a while.

    1. "How effective is SeaRam? I have tried looking but all I can find is manufacturer ads "

      And that's the problem! No one, including the Navy, knows. The manufacturer's claims are utter fiction. The Navy's tests have been very limited, unrealistic, scripted exercises designed to "prove" the success of the missile rather than to find out what it can do, for example, in a maximum electronically disrupted environment or in a radar cluttered environment. The Navy should be putting SeaRAM through every severe test scenario it can imagine but they're not. We'll only find out what it can do in real combat and then we'll pay the price in blood to find out.

      That said, all I can offer is the historical performance record of all surface to air missiles, which I've reported on in previous posts, and that record is dismal. Kill probabilities range from around 1% to possibly as much as 25%, depending on circumstances. There's no reason to think SeaRAM would be markedly different.

  11. Hey i thought of a way how one could guesstimate the level of missile testing - just see how much target drones they buy yearly, for example the Coyote supersonic target drone how much do they buy and use in a certain amount of time.

    1. Good idea. That would, indeed, indicate the number of tests but not the usefulness of the tests. The scripted, set-piece exercises that the Navy does prove nothing other than the mechanical operation of the system.

    2. I took a quick Internet scan and found a Orbital GQM-163 Coyote fact sheet that claimed 50 drones have been launched since the drone was put into operation in 2005. The fact sheet is dated 2015. That equates to 5 per year.

    3. Ha, that's a small amount, if one would want a realistic Aegis saturation missile attack test you could launch 5 Coyotes at a single time heading from multiple locations at that ship for the terminal "attack"

    4. Why cant we just buy up a bunch of old Exocets? No need for anything fancy with an extended range since we should only be testing inside 20 miles. Fire salvos of those and Harpoons at any old junky hull with a Tico nearby and see what happens. You could even bolt CIWS and SeaRAM mounts to the junk ship, and experiment with different numbers and configurations of those systems. Maybe limit the Tico to only firing ESSM's. And if you really wanted to spice it up fire a Coyote or two right in the middle of the others.

      Could they be doing this? It would definitely be classified since advertising the missile threshold required to overwhelm these systems would not be a good idea. But they could still release some of the testing info without giving too much away.

    5. "It would definitely be classified"

      The exercise couldn't be kept secret in an open society like ours but the detailed results would be. Even there, we would see the results in the form of subsequent acquisition programs. If the Navy ran such an exercise and then ordered 500 new CIWS then we'd know that CIWS proved effective. On the other hand, if they then removed CIWS from every ship we'd know the reverse. If they suddenly stopped retiring the Ticos then we'd know the Aegis system worked. And so on. The results, at least in broad terms, would become known. Nothing wrong with that.

  12. I've always wanted to see a Tico or Burke given a target to defend and taken off the leash to see how they do against as realistic scenario as possible. Multiple incoming missiles, from multiple vectors. There is no reason to expect that against a peer-level enemy that they can't execute a time-on-target strike with missiles.

    1. The Navy is retiring Ticos so there's no reason they couldn't do exactly that - other than they might be embarrassed by what they find.

    2. When you propose a scenario such as this one (cruise missile attack on a CBG??) and point out all the difficulties in defending against it you have also take a similar hard line against the attacker. Getting enough units together, getting close enough to a CBG on a warfooting, getting targeting data on the CBG which is also OTH from the attacker, and coordinating a saturation attack would be a very difficult.

    3. "similar hard line against the attacker"

      Absolutely!!! I've addressed this repeatedly when I've talked about the Chinese "carrier killer" and how it's useless without thousand mile range targeting. I've addressed it when I've talked about targeting issues associated with distributed lethality. I've addressed it when I've described how P-8/Triton will be useless for targeting in combat. I've addressed it in the "fight a fort" discussions where I've pointed out the challenge facing a land based attacker in finding a ship at sea. And so on. Nothing I've ever written has even remotely suggested that the attacker has an easy task!

      Coordinated attacks suffer from all the same difficulties that the Navy's NIFC-CA and distributed lethality networks will and, trying to coordinate submerged, slow submarines will be even more difficult.

      None of that changes the challenges the U.S. Navy faces as a defender, however. If the Navy wants to enter the Chinese A2/AD zone, they will face attacks whether coordinated or not and that defensive challenge is what I'm addressing.

      The Soviets had the best anti-carrier doctrine with their regiments of cruise missile carrying bombers escorted by electronic warfare aircraft and Bear search planes. That had a chance of working.

      I don't know what the Chinese have in mind to try to defeat a carrier group. In fact, I don't see anything they have that is remotely viable at the moment other than massed aircraft and missiles if we wander too far into the A2/AD zone.

  13. I believe I understand your point with this (original post) and acknowledge it, but reading this a few things just don't exactly sit right with me.
    Understand, this is just me speaking from my personal experience and understanding of the various mechanics involved, so consider this a clearly labeled speculation piece or (if being generous) a somewhat educated conjecture.
    It's presented 'as is' because of text limitations, but please understand it's all 'as far as I am aware'.

    You raise the point
    "Even if not designed as stealthy airframes, ASMs are small and have an inherently small radar cross section. A small missile, in sea-skimming mode, down in the wave clutter, will not be readily detected."
    and seem to base a large part of your argument on this, but I'd like to raise a counter argument.

    To the best of my understanding, Missiles are not inherently stealthy.
    At all.
    In fact, I would go so far as to say most (if not all) AShMs are inherently NON-stealthy by nature of their functions; at least, nowhere near to the same degree as Stealth Fighters or Stealth Warships.
    It may surprise you, but it's actually relatively simple to design a warship with a smaller effective RCS than most AShMs.
    The design function of AShMs does not lend itself to stealth, they rely on going really long distances quickly and with as little fuel load as possible. Speed and fuel efficiency do not lend themselves to stealth design very well.
    But that's just hullform, missiles have another, larger problem.
    Yes, I mentioned that already, but then I was referring to a hullform designed for speed; here I'm referring to the actual speed of the aircraft.
    Speed does not lend itself to stealth, it doesn't matter what spectrum of battle you are on.
    Cyber, Land, Sea, Air; if you are making speed, you are not being stealth.
    The mere act of moving generates a return, moving faster generates a larger return.
    But this problem is exacerbated for jet powered aircraft, including missiles.
    Jets produce thermal trails, thermal trails produce returns that are visible to radar, and I don't mean FLIR (this and that are different).
    Consider for a moment that they decided to forgo stealth on the SR-71 because the radar return from its exhaust alone was the size of an American football field and when making speed it was several times that.
    Not even the F-22 classifies as stealth when supercruising.

    As for wave clutter, even just 330 knots (Mach 0.5) makes the target stick out like a sore thumb against the ocean. A Hawkeye would have very little trouble picking that out at range, I have seen the print outs from when they've done it, unaware they were being tested; of course, this came from back when the Navy did care a little bit.

    Simply put: Flying pencils are not stealthy, flying pancakes are, but neither of them are stealthy when supersonic.
    Even the AGM-158C LRASM has the RCS of an F-16, from what I've heard, and that actually is amazing when it comes to AShMs (enough to floor some of us in design).
    For comparison, the much feared P-700 Granit had a return of just under the size of an American football field; not detecting one would require rather bad weather or the operator to be either blind or untrained.

    This goes both ways, of course. Our own AShMs are essentially useless against peer Russian equipment, which is also mounted on most of the Chinese warships, as long as the crew is trained.
    Unfortunately, that the Chinese and Russians train with their equipment is observably provable, but for the US? ...Not so much, so to speak, as as been the topic of many posts on this blog.

    - Ray D.

    1. Cylindrical cruise missiles have relatively modest RCS owing just to their size. IIRC, Tomahawk is quoted at around 0.05m2-.1m2 (aspect and band not specified).

      Specifically shaped missiles like JASSM and ACM likely have very low RCS over certain aspects and bands (e.g. <-30dBsm frontally in X- through S-band). Likely good enough to make their med-high altitude ingress with terminal dive profile survivable, with proper mission planning.

      Just an opinion based on what I've read.

    2. I have a lot of problems with your contention. Let's see if we can discuss them and learn something.

      1. Once again, you are making a lot of statements that are unsupported by anything other than your experience. As I've said in the past, I have no problem with that but it makes verification, education, and discussion problematic. I've read LOTS about stealth and radar and I've never come across many of the aspects that you mention. That doesn't mean they aren't true but it is odd. For the rest of this discussion, I'll assume that what you say is true.

      2. Inherent stealth. By this I mean simply that missiles are smaller than aircraft, many signficantly so. All else being equal, smaller size means smaller radar cross section. A grain of sand has a smaller RCS than a boulder. Just that, nothing more.

      3. Easier to design a warship with a smaller RCS than a missile. Unless you're talking about a very small warship, this is difficult to believe. Every description I've seen of warship stealth (and there aren't many and they're quite vague) relates the signature to things like "the size of a fishing boat". Give me any documented example of your contention.

      4.Radar return as a function of speed. Nothing about this makes sense. If it did, there would be no such thing as stealthy aircraft since they all fly at mid to high subsonic speeds. I'm unclear what you're referring to, here. I'm aware of doppler radar phenomena. Is that what you're talking about?

      5. Exhaust radar return. While this seems plausible, I've seen nothing about this in any scientific article. That aside, what you're describing seems like it might be suitable for detection but not targeting. Detection and targeting are two separate and different issues, as I noted in the post. Logically, the radar return from an exhaust would be miles long, hugely wide, and be strongest (center of return) the farther you get away from the actual missile. Thus, it would be suitable for detection but not targeting unless one could develop an algorithm to "aim" at the "front" of the return where the missile would supposedly be. In essence, the algorithm would be "don't aim at the biggest (center) of the return, but aim at the smallest point". That's theoretically possible, I guess, but I've never read anything that even remotely hints at that type of guidance.

      Further, many defensive missiles are semi-active homing. A radar return off exhaust would lead the defensive missile to guide on the exhaust rather than the missile, itself. Again, one could, theoretically, develop a compensating guidance mode but, again, I've never heard even a hint of such a thing.

      You seem to suggest that even if an airframe, be it missile or aircraft, had an inherent 100% stealth (totally invisible to radar), that the airframe would still stand out like a radar beacon due to its exhaust. Demonstrably, this is not the case. Our stealth aircraft are hard (not impossible) to detect even at high subsonic speeds. What's more, according to your proposition, an F-22 and and F-15 flying at the same speed should be equally detectable and yet that's not the case.

      I've read, repeatedly, that detecting sea-skimming missiles is very difficult. In fact, the Navy has taken to dedicating a radar set, the SPQ-9B to just this horizon search, sea-skimming detection function due to the difficulty. Why would they do so if a sea-skimming missile has such an enormous radar return?

      There are a lot of logical problems with this concept. To be fair, you've acknowledged that you're speculating and that's fine. Consider the points I've raised and see what you think.

    3. Well, CNO, this is indeed a lot to chew on and respond to, but I'll try my best.
      The character limit in comments is a mighty hurdle to climb for the verbosely inclined such as myself, and my point seems to have failed to come across in the truncations.
      In that interest, the same stipulations apply to this comment as the above (speculation, etc).

      On the subject of warship stealth; the reference being officially a 'Fishing Boat' is a clear indicator of RCS in range value.
      'Fishing Boat' implies a wide range of ships that include most small pleasure craft, the RCS of which generally falling in the ~0.005m2 (Bass Boat) to ~3.0m2 (9m Trawler) range, both values being minimum (bow on).
      Here's a German chart on small ship RCS' which include a 9m Trawler as the smallest entry:
      I ought to restate for clarity that I was speaking of EFFECTIVE RCS when I made that warship comment, not static RCS.

      But that brings me to the topic of speed.
      That a static object is easier to make stealth than a moving object is such a simple concept that I ought not need to defend it, yet here I am.
      For Aircraft, the General 'sweet spot' for balancing speed and stealth is considered to be around 480kts (M 0.72, or 'high subsonic'), which is why that's the standard operational speed of all US designed jet aircraft. When they go faster, stealth has already become unreasonable. This is also the speed US Cruise Missiles travel at for a reason.
      Comparatively, Transonic (M 0.8-1.0) is the single worst speed range when it comes to stealth. The 'sonic boom' is broadcasting the exact location in real time.

      As to thermal bloom on radar, and targeting using the 'detection' type returns, look into how the Soviets ended up defeating the SR-71.
      It is the same concept involved in detecting stealth aircraft in general.
      These 'detection' type returns, and there are hundreds of them, can all be combined to create a targeting solution on the high-supersonic or stealth aircraft, if you have enough computing power to keep up.
      Back in the day, it was luck. Today, this is where missile semi/active homing comes in, particularly thermal guidance.
      The characteristics of the thermal plume and the target's own thermal characteristics are different enough that a sensor can easily distinguish between them, I never implied or suggested otherwise.
      On the US side, the MIM-104 Patriot, RIM-161 SM3, and RIM-174 SM6 ERAM were all designed to do this.
      On the Russian, the S-300 and S-400 systems and their naval counterparts were both designed to do this.
      The mere existence of Active Homing suggests using 'detection' to get a 'close enough' was good enough for somebody.

      "I've read, repeatedly, that detecting sea-skimming missiles is very difficult."
      I didn't say otherwise. At least, not in context.
      I said a sea-skimming missile can be relatively easily picked out from sea clutter by an E-2 Hawkeye.
      An Aircraft, not a surface ship.
      For a Burke to detect a sea-skimming missile before it's too late is so difficult in my opinion that I consider it virtually impossible.

      I hope this addressed your points in your reply.
      I apologize again for the information bias and general assumptions made on my part.
      I was mostly commenting to spark thought and reasonable discussion, ergo speculation and conjecture.
      However, I can see that I was in error doing so.
      Again, I apologize.

      - Ray D.

    4. I have severe doubts about the validity of most of this. However, I'm going to treat it as true and try to better understand what you're proposing. Since you've offered no sources other than your experience, I have nowhere to turn for information except you. With that in mind, I'm going to ask some questions and try to come to grips with your concept.

      You seem to be equating speed and stealth. Further, you seem to be equating exhaust (as a function of speed) with stealth in that the greater the speed, the greater the "exhaust". If I've got that much correct, then are you suggesting that exhaust is a function of speed in terms of greater volume of exhaust, greater turbulence, or something else?

      You didn't answer this question so I have to ask again, if a F-22 and an F-15 fly at the same speed and stealth is mainly a function of speed/exhaust, why aren't they the same degree of apparent stealth?

      If exhaust equates to radar return, the return for a jet plane should be miles long and very wide. If an aircraft were to weave back and forth a bit (and up and down) wouldn't the aircraft get lost in an enormous radar exhaust return and be undetectable? This would seem to offer an unbeatable countermeasure to the defender's radar.

      How long does the exhaust radar return last?

      If there were a trail of aircraft, wouldn't all the following aircraft be completely lost in the enormous radar return of the first aircraft?

      You're familiar with signal to noise ratios, I'm sure. Wouldn't a stealth aircraft with a very small radar return be utterly lost and indistinguishable in the "noise" of the enormous exhaust radar return? And yet, nothing I've ever read suggests that radars that are searching for stealth aircraft have to try to filter the tiny, tiny aircraft return out of an enormous exhaust radar noise.

      I've got to be honest here, assuming I'm not just utterly missing the concept (and I may well be!) you're offering, there is nothing about this that is logically consistent or supported by any evidence that I've ever seen.

      Are you just speculating about the exhaust radar return phenomenon? If so, that's fine. I don't think it's correct but I have no problem with speculation when it's identified as such and you have done that. The problem is that I'm not sure how much of what you're presenting is speculation and how much you believe to be fact.

      If what you're proposing were true (exhaust radar returns), you'd have an absurdly easy way to detect and track stealth aircraft and that's clearly not the case in the real world.

      Now, the phenomenon of turbulence is an interesting one and has practical applications in submarine tactics (creating sonar anomalies, for example). I could believe that it might be theoretically possible to develop some type of airborne turbulence detector. Is that what you were leading to?

    5. "I said a sea-skimming missile can be relatively easily picked out from sea clutter by an E-2 Hawkeye."

      I've never read anything that suggests that to be the case. An airborne radar would certainly have a better chance than a surface ship but "easily" detecting a sea-skimming missile? You'll have to provide a reference for that. Look down/shoot down radars have always been a challenge. They've gotten better but I've seen nothing that suggests it is "easy" to pick out a small missile flying at wave top height. Give me a report or reference on that (something other than a manufacturer's claim!).

    6. "how the Soviets ended up defeating the SR-71."

      Huh? The SR-71 was never more than moderately stealthy and was detected fairly easily by everyone. The SR-71 was stopped when the Russians developed an aircraft (MiG-31) and missile that could match the SR-71's speed and altitude.

    7. Okay, I think I see the problem here.

      I was NOT equating Speed or Exhaust to Stealth.
      Not in the slightest.
      I was simply presenting them both as major negative aspects of Missile function to Stealth form, almost with various other tertiary aspects that are byproducts of my use of general terms (almost all of them apply).
      My argument somehow managed to end up conflated to something I never intended it to be.

      Speed and exhaust related returns are just two of many groups of related giveaways to stealth aircraft, let alone airframes that are not actually trying to be stealthy (P-700 Granit). Turbulence is another (byproduct of speed).
      These and more have traditionally been considered clutter signals because they fell into the noise very easily, but since the 80s they have been figuring out how to draw them out into usable elements.
      This is how you defeat stealth, to pull the usable signals from the clutter noise.
      I was not trying to focus on the 'exhaust' or any other singular tattletale sign, so I will not dwell on those (unfortunately, I am not an expert on their functions, so I cannot explain; I merely know they exist and a general concept of application) I was trying to express that there are certain aspects of signature characteristics that a missile will be completely unable to mask as a result of its function; yet could not for the life of me remember the term I was looking for to explain this all in much, much simpler manner: 'Low Frequency Radar' (LFR).
      Speed, Thermal Plume/Bloom, Turbulence, etc; all of these returns are low to really low frequency returns that have been for years overlooked.

      I think Low Frequency Radar is an ubiquitous enough of a concept that I no longer need to try describing that.
      Naturally, Low Frequency Radar is a detection system and not a targeting system.
      The Russians actually used Low Frequency Radar to detect the SR-71s.
      As did everyone else, air traffic controllers use Low Frequency Radar (S-band and lower) and can detect F-22s - that is just physics at work and I will not bother to try to explain that when talking about small/medium aircraft designed to defeat X-band or higher radar.
      The USSR introduced the S-200 SAM system in 1967, which used the P-14/5N84A LFRs as Early Warning systems (itself introduced in 1959).
      This is how the USSR detected the SR-71s in combat. Even their ships were using LFRs.
      The Russians have long had more advanced LFRs than the US, to this day they still use LFRs when the USN just added those back into service in 2004 on the E-2s (ships are still waiting for that).
      Long story short, the SAMs failed so the Soviets ended up putting an Interceptor in the sky that they could try to use for pseudo-terminal guidance, the MiG-31 as you say.
      But knowing where to send that MiG-31 was the result of a LFR.
      Interception required only a general idea of where the aircraft will be when the interceptor gets there; the same is true of missiles when the missile can target for itself (see: thermal seeking terminal guidance systems).

      As to the E-2s and Sea Skimmers, I was speaking relatively (you even quoted me saying that). Only relative to the impossible (as I called it) is the incredibly difficult relatively easy.

      Sorry about the communication bungling.
      I'll give this commenting thing a rest.
      - Ray D.

  14. CNO,

    You've mentioned lack of data and testing many times. Does that also apply to testing the effectiveness of different CIWS guns? I ask because I've been quite attracted to the versatility of the Oto Melara 76mm gun- 8-40km range (ammo dependent), high firing rate compared to the 5 inch gun (although the shell is far far lighter than the 5 inch), and the Italians even have a system for using the 76mm as a CIWS- Strales.

    Engaging a missile at 8km, rather than 2km from the ship has to better. But...this is the it effective?

    Have you any information about this?


    1. Andrew, the CIWS has been tested many times. The CIWS has rarely (never?) been tested in an operational realistic manner. The typical test has a target drone cruise back and forth in front of the CIWS.

      I've read lots about guns (76 mm or larger) as anti-aircraft weapons and have yet to see any documented test of a naval gun in the AAW role in any remotely realistic scenario. Claims are easy, performance is not. Until I see a documented test, I'll continue to believe that naval guns are ineffective in AAW. Now, that doesn't mean that if I were on a ship under attack from missiles that I wouldn't shoot my gun. Even if there's only a one-in-a-million chance, hey, you might get lucky!

      The tests I've seen indicate that naval guns have a very hard time killing something as easy as a speedboat. Video of tests confirms this, repeatedly. One can only assume that killing a high subsonic or supersonic, tiny (frontal cross section) missile must be far more difficult.

  15. CNO,

    Here is a link that may be of interest if not already known:!Global/Directory.php?Location=ProductsServices:PhasedArrayTechnologies

    A medium-short range PAR solution tailored for ASMD, with separate search/FC elements, quick reaction capability and multiple FC channels per array face. Lightweight and scalable arrays, so easily added to smaller combatants - or other ships requiring enhanced defences. And not nearly as expensive as SPY-1 or APAR.

    Unfortunately the ship class it is fielded on has only 8 Mk41 VLS cells for a max load of 32 ESSM. In theory there was space and weight for another 8 cells but I don't know if that is still the case.

    It would make sense for each amphib and support ship to have such a capability, ESSM, then RAM, then CIWS. The USN went the opposite way, essentially disarming its AOR/AOEs when they became T-AOE or whatever. Engaging crossing targets down low is hard from the few escort ships the USN will have in each TG, and if the target is supersonic it becomes almost impossible.

    Decent hard- and soft-kill defences would be a wiser investment than further LCS purchases.

    1. The Navy's theory is that support ships are either not going to be in combat or, if in a danger area, would be protected by Aegis escorts which are area AAW. Therefore, they've opted to save money. If Aegis works as advertised, that's not an unreasonable position.

      What do you estimate the cost of a CEAFAR radar, 8-cell VLS, 32 ESSMs, and an integrated fire control hardware and software system to be? Can you justify adding this cost to every support ship?

  16. So, obviously the Strategic Capabilities Office has been reading this topic on the blog so they came up with tis statement in time.

    A new weapon system developed by the Strategic Capabilities Office — a secretive Pentagon agency meant to advance cutting-edge technology — could improve integrated air and missile defense by reducing overall costs and increasing flexibility, said an official Jan. 25.

    The technology — known as the hypervelocity gun weapon system, or HGWS — is a small, flexible hypervelocity projectile, said Vince Sabio, program manager for the system.


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