Monday, February 12, 2018

Hyper Velocity Projectile

The Hyper Velocity Projectile (HVP) from BAE Systems is the latest fad that military observers have latched onto.  The HVP can be fired from any gun, travel several times around the Earth, has a speed of Mach 328, cost nothing (might even generate a small profit per shot?), and is a guaranteed one shot kill against any target on land, sea, or air …  At least, that’s the impression one gets from the unbounded hype surrounding this technological wonder.  Let’s look a bit closer and see where the reality lies.  Note that it is difficult to separate reality from claims in the literature and to determine what actually exists versus what is just proposed or planned.

To refresh, the HVP is a kinetic (meaning non-explosive) projectile that can, indeed, be fired from multiple weapons such as a rail gun, the Army 155 mm howitzer (with suitable modifications to the gun), and the Navy 5” gun.  The BAE product brochure claims that the HVP can be fired from the currently useless Zumwalt Advanced Gun System (AGS).  That is an unproven claim, at the moment.  Aside from the unique and non-standard barrel of the AGS which seems to preclude any round other than the LRLAP, the entire automated ammo handling system would have to rebuilt or the HVP would have to be packaged in an exact duplicate of the LRLAP round – doable, presumably, but expensive.

The projectile is a common, dart-like body that is fired from various weapons via specialized sabot adapters unique to each weapon.  The flight body is 24 inches long and weighs 28 lbs.  The payload is 15 lbs. (2)


The HVP is claimed to travel at speeds of around Mach 7 (5000 mph or so).  This presents both benefits and drawbacks.  Presumably, the speed is less when fired from a conventional gun as opposed to a rail gun.

The HVP is transitioning to the Office of Naval Research (ONR) for additional development.

Now, let’s look at some specific aspects and features of the HVP.

Firing Rate.  From the BAE product brochure (2), here are some projected firing rates for various weapons.

Mk 45                    20 rounds per minute
AGS                      10 rounds per minute
155 mm Tube Artillery     6 rounds per minute
EM Railgun               10 rounds per minute

Range.  From the BAE product brochure (2), here are some projected ranges from various weapons.

Mk 45                   40+ nm
AGS                     70  nm
155 mm Tube Artillery   43  nm
EM Railgun             100  nm

Guidance.  The HVP is claimed to be guided but that’s true only in a limited sense.  The guidance is GPS and is applicable only against fixed, land targets with known GPS coordinates.  Useful guidance is not possible against moving land targets or aerial targets due to the extreme speed of the projectile. 

One of the “side effects” of speed is inertia.  The faster an object moves, the slower and harder it is to alter its course.  Faster means a larger turn radius.  A WWI Fokker Triplane has immensely greater maneuverability than a modern F-16 because the F-16 has such high speed.  An HVP traveling at Mach 7 cannot easily change course.  An incoming cruise missile traveling at high subsonic speeds, for example, would be far more maneuverable than a Mach 7 HVP which is, for practical purposes in that scenario, ballistic and non-maneuverable.

Warhead.  The HVP is currently a kinetic weapon with no explosive warhead.  It must hit to kill.  Various reports have suggested that an explosive warhead could be developed that would enable proximity fuzed projectiles for anti-air defense.

Cost.  One of the much-ballyhooed claims about the HVP is the low cost per round compared to missiles.  This is true but only in an unrealistic sense.  The original cost of an HVP round was claimed to be around $25,000.  The current cost estimate is $86,000 per round (1) though it is unclear what version and capabilities that cost represents.  This is still much less than, say, a Standard missile but only in a one to one comparison.  In a realistic engagement scenario the costs are much closer.  For example, Breaking Defense offers an example in which each HVP is assumed to have a kill probability of 10% (pK=0.1) and 22 shots would give a 90% chance of killing the target.  Well, 22 x $86,000 = $1.9 million dollars which is the same realm as a Standard missile.  Thus, cost is not a clear cut advantage and it could turn out to be more expensive over the course of an engagement.  Note that the 10% pK was a number made up by Breaking Defense for illustration purposes.  There is absolutely no data for actual kill probabilities.  Personally, without a proximity fuzed warhead, I’d estimate the pK to be 1%-5%, at best.  If true, the cost “benefit” is even less.

Lethality.  This is a difficult issue to quantify.  Yes, we can calculate kinetic energy for the projectile but that’s only part of the story.  Consider the example of a bullet fired from a handgun at a piece of paper.  Based on the kinetic energy calculation, the paper should be vaporized and yet the only damage done is a hole the size of the bullet!  Why?  Because the kinetic energy wasn’t transferred to the paper target.  More accurately, the bullet had POTENTIAL energy that wasn’t converted to actual kinetic energy upon impact (I’m grossly simplifying some physics here for sake of illustration).  In simplistic terms, the paper did not offer enough resistance to the bullet to allow the bullet to convert its potential energy into kinetic energy on the target.  The bullet passed through the paper, converting only a very tiny fraction of its potential energy, and retained most of its potential energy.

Similarly, if an HVP hits one of today’s thin-skinned warships or even thinner-skinned missiles, will the projectile be stopped, thereby converting all of its potential energy into kinetic energy and causing significant damage or will it pass through, like the bullet through paper, and convert only a portion of its potential energy to kinetic energy?  The astute observer will note that the impressive videos of rail guns and HVP rounds always show the damage done to targets that are several inches to many feet thick of steel or some such material.  What would happen if a rail gun HVP projectile impacted a 3/8” thick metal sheet, as is typical of a modern ship?  Undoubtedly, the projectile would pass through, almost unaltered, leaving behind only a hole the size of the projectile.  In other words, it would cause very little damage. 

Now, in an actual ship, there would be multiple bulkheads (even thinner!) and pieces of equipment (really thin!) that the projectile would encounter on its path through the ship.  Each would cause the projectile to “dump” some potential energy but would the cumulative effect be enough to achieve the massive energy conversion that would constitute significant damage?  I have no idea but I suspect not.  Of course, the projectile might also encounter flammable fluids leading to fires or sever pipes and electrical lines causing more damage.  I suspect, though, that if a HVP were fired at a ship, it would pass straight through and cause relatively little damage.  This is just semi-informed speculation on my part.  One would hope that someone in the Navy has thought this through before we commit to this weapon.  Of course, one would have hoped that we would have thought about galvanic corrosion on a ship (known about since the days of sail) and yet we failed to provide galvanic protection on the LCS so I make no assumptions about what the Navy should have considered.

Of  course, one could imagine using a HVP with a contact fuzed explosive warhead.  That would solve the problem of pass-through and provide localized damage effects.  The 15 lb payload, however, drastically limits the magnitude of the explosive effect.  It is also unknown whether the entire 15 lbs is available for explosive or whether a significant portion would be devoted to fuzing, electronics, etc.  While the 15 lb compares favorably to the 5” gun round burst charge of around 8 lbs, the 5” round is a heavier walled shell which contains the burst and amplifies the damage effects versus a thin walled, uncontained burst.  I have no idea what the wall thickness of the HVP is but I suspect it is not very thick.

All of this leads one to ask whether there is any actual gain in damage effects over those obtained from a conventional shell.

That takes care of anti-ship lethality.  Next, let’s look at land attack.

For a specific, hard target such as a building or hangar, the kinetic HVP will likely cause significant damage.  However, it has a significant limitation in that a near miss will cause no damage.  The projectile will simply bury itself in the ground.  There is no explosion.  It’s a case of exact hit or no damage.  Conversely, a conventional round with an explosive warhead may well cause damage from a near miss due to the explosive effects and shrapnel.  Of course, a warhead could be added to the HVP but with a payload of only 15 lbs, it wouldn’t be much of an explosion.  Thus, the HVP looks to be an excellent choice for a specific, hard target but of limited use in general bombardment and useless for suppressive fire (one of the major uses of naval gun fire).

I have been unable to determine which HVP warheads other than the kinetic (inert) version actually exist, if any.  My impression is that all are just proposed versions.

HVP Sabot Forms

In summation, the HVP appears to be a potentially useful weapon for a limited target set, primarily fixed, hard, land targets.  The projectile is very long on claims and proposals and very short on demonstrated performance, as is typical of new, developmental weapons.  It is well worth continued development but appears to be well short of being the miracle weapon that its hype would suggest.

This is one of those subjects that some readers may have more current information on than I do.  If so, feel free to add information via the comments.  Additions will be greatly appreciated.  Just be sure to offer supporting documentation.


(1)Breaking Defense, “$86,000 + 5,600 MPH = Hyper Velocity Missile Defense”, Sydney J. Freedberg, Jr., 26-Jan-2018,

(2)BAE Systems website,


  1. There's an off-the-shelf solution; the Italian Volcano munition. It's fin-stabilised, and should be compatible to AGS chamber and barrel (though maybe not to its loading mechanism).

    It's a pretty obvious choice for army artillery as well, with hardly any competition. Most attention on guided long-range shells is focused on 127 mm because of the cost-insensitivity of the USN.

    1. "should be compatible to AGS chamber and barrel (though maybe not to its loading mechanism)."

      No. Unless you can find a statement to the contrary, this has been covered repeatedly. The Navy built a gun with a rifling that is non-standard and will not accommodate any other existing round in the world. This is why the Navy has stated that they aren't even going to look for an LRLAP replacement.

      You need to read through the blog archives and come up to speed.

    2. Volcano is not spin-stabilised. It's fin-stabilised. It needs a slip ring anyway, so the rifling is no problem.

    3. An AGS compatible Vulcano round does not appear to exist. Here's a statement from a BAE/Leonardo press release:

      "The two companies anticipate offering new adaptations of Leonardo’s Vulcano ... in a variety of gun systems, including the BAE Systems-built Advanced Gun System (AGS)"

      It appears to be a proposed product that the Navy has chosen not to pursue and, at a quick look, I don't see any indication that BAE/Leonardo are pursuing it on their own.

      If you have information to the contrary, please share it.

    4. Vulcano is sub-caliber, so it should be fairly straight forward to design a sabot that is compatible.

    5. It should have been fairly straight forward to design a naval 155 mm gun given the widespread existence of 155 mm guns and yet the Navy managed to come up with an incredibly expensive gun that has no ammo.

      "Straight forward" is a very relative term that the Navy consistently manages to screw up!

      The larger issue is the ammo handling. The AGS is 100% automated and works only with the LRLAP round. The Navy would have to produce an exact dimensional duplicate of the LRLAP or completely rebuild the handling system. I suspect either approach would be prohibitively expensive. It's telling that the Navy has opted not to pursue any LRLAP alternative.

    6. Are they even installing AGS in the next two? If it's not going to have ammo could they at least load something else in the spot? conventional 5' guns? VLS? Something other than a gun that does nothing?

  2. "More accurately, the bullet had POTENTIAL energy that wasn’t converted to actual kinetic energy upon impact"

    This tickles the engineer in me.
    "potential energy" is actually a defined term and means altitude x mass (assuming a constant gravity).

    What you meant was that the kinetic (and certainly due to air friction also present thermal) energy wouldn't come close to be transferred into shape and chemical changes completely.

    1. Perhaps this quote from the post tickled the reader in you?

      "I’m grossly simplifying some physics here for sake of illustration"

      I clearly acknowledged that I was abusing the pure physics in favor of conveying the concept.

      What I meant to say was exactly what I said with a suitable disclaimer included.

      Read the post.

  3. My understanding the long range Vulcano and the HVP use GPS guidance for targeting.

    The low power GPS signal is easy to jam, as the North Koreans have done repeatedly over large areas and Russians have been found spoofing the signal to give false positions. "GPS equipment unable to obtain GPS signal intermittently since nearing coast of Novorossiysk, Russia. Now displays HDOP 0.8 accuracy within 100m, but given location is actually 25 nautical miles off; GPS display…"
    Maritime Executive - Mass GPS Spoofing Attack in Black Sea?

    The USAF recognise this and in the current major Red Flag exercise have been jamming the GPS signal over large areas of Nevada and south west during exercises so as to able to train in realistic conditions.

  4. > which HVP warheads other than the kinetic (inert) version actually exist

    There is a version of warhead with bursting charge of up to 2 lb - see section 2.1.2 Test Description on page 2-5 in this document:

    Advanced_Gunfire_Draft EA_FONSI.pdf

    1. I read that as a proposal that is describing possible round configurations.

      "The live variant would contain less than 2 lb (0.9 kg) of explosives ..."

      "would contain", "less than" sound like proposals that no one is sure about yet. I note the use of words like, "proposed" and "may". We need something more than this to believe that actual non-kinetic HVP rounds exist. A description of an actual test would be proof. A product brochure might be proof. A government production contract would be proof. This document is not proof.

    2. At least, it puts a limit on proposed amount of explosives - 2 lb, which is much less than 15 you've speculated

    3. It also puts a limit on a muzzle velocity of HVP from a powder gun - 1300 m/s (Mach 3.82). Then the muzzle energy for a 40-lb shell would be ~15 MJ.

      Unfortunately, the energy of 15-lb payload on a target after 40 NM flight would be much less because of air drag.

    4. It puts limits on what would be tested at that site under those conditions. It is not necessarily reflective of actual operating conditions or performance.

  5. I'm not an artillery guy so maybe I'm looking at this with only out-dated book knowledge:

    In the ship to ship scenario, not sure you need so much range. If in visual contact, you don't need that much range (under 20km) and if it's "on the side" of the horizon, how do you target the HVP? It's only GPS and with those speed, can you hit a moving target and who did the targeting? Some USN SH-60 or drone? because the bad guys won't notice that.....

    In the ship to shore scenario, again, not really sure you need so much range:
    1. USMC has just hit the beach, you don't need range, you are firing almost point blank range or just a few miles of shore (around 20 miles or so),what you need is LOTS of rounds and serious explosive power, neither seems to be HPV forte.
    2. Now, USMC, maybe US Army next to them, they have moved past the shores and way inside enemy far as I know, both service still have THEIR OWN ORGANIC ARTILLERY! If they have advanced 50 to 100 miles inside enemy territory,I think we can assume ground artillery is following some what behind the advance? If so, wouldn't those services be more than capable and happy to use their own artillery? Why would you need to call USN artillery support with HPV? So you can get a maybe a few rounds of support on a real hard, deep buried bunker? OK, they might need it for that BUT again, for prompt, high level intensity, keep the bad guys heads down while we advance to take an objective, I don't see the current HPV as what is 2 cents.

  6. The projectile could have a frangible tip so that it deforms upon impact transferring more of it's kinetic energy. That would create more fragments that would cause more damage.

  7. Don't totally discount the anti ship potential. Yes it would probably go through a ship. That means that if fired at or below the waterline you could expose multiple interior sections to flooding. You could also blast a CIC in the middle of the ship taking out command. Or drive rounds through the engine for a mobility kill. And it will not necessarily be a nice clean hole inside. High velocity tank sabot rounds have a small hole otside an enemy tank but create significant spelling inside. And mach 7 means a round heated significantly by air friction so there is a small thermal component as well. If it works. Right now its more brochure than weapon. The whole GPS guidance is a money grab to add more cost and flash to sell to the admirals.

    1. "at or below the waterline"

      Have you thought through what that means? An HVP would, for practical purposes, travel a linear path, independent of gravitational drop/curve. That means that in order to effect a waterline hit, the target hull has to be fully visible to the firing gun. That means the target ship has to be fully on the near side of the visible horizon - say, 15 miles? That's awfully close!

      Further, the HVP has a diameter of just a few inches. A hole in a ship, even below the waterline, that's only a few inches in diameter simply isn't a threat to sink the ship. It would take hundreds of such holes to be a threat.

    2. "rounds through the engine for a mobility kill"

      You're describing the golden bb. Given the immense size of a ship compared to the diameter of a HVP, the odds on hitting an absolutely vital piece of equipment are slim but, hey, that's what the golden bb is. High explosive that creates pressure wave blast effects and shrapnel has a much better chance of causing significant damage.

    3. "High velocity tank sabot rounds have a small hole otside an enemy tank but create significant spelling inside."

      At the risk of stepping outside my field of knowledge, you're describing a very specialized, purpose designed tank round, the HESH/HEP. A simple HVP would not cause such an effect, as best I understand it. Interestingly, a HESH/HEP round does not even penetrate the tank's armor!


    4. Two different rounds.

      HESH - High Explosive Squash-Head/HEP - High Explosive Plastic.

      These have thin liners and large HE filling. They are designed to squash on impact before detonating. The large contact area produces resonances in the target that can detach large fragments (spalling) from the interior of the armor.

      APFSDS - Armored Piercing Fin Stabilized Discarding Sabot (aka "sabot")

      This is a hypervelocity, inert, dense-metal dart designed to drill its way through armor. The act of driving its way through the armor produces spalling on the inside, assuming penetration.

      An HVP would act more like an APFSDS than a HEP.

      There are variants of sabot rounds that are specifically designed to fragment upon penetrating (e.g. FAPDS, PELE). They produce a cone shaped pattern of high velocity fragments which can penetrate successive layers of armor (or interior walls).

      Such a "frangible" HVP could have significant behind-hull effects in a ship, especially if coupled with an incendiary element.

    5. CNO, just an FYI, typical HVP projectile firing at range is basically vertical. Only in a very short engagement would the projectile be following a horizontal path.

    6. "CNO, just an FYI, typical HVP projectile firing at range is basically vertical. Only in a very short engagement would the projectile be following a horizontal path."

      Correct. We should note that the Zumwalt, even if it had a functional gun, doesn't even have the capability to do direct, horizontal fire. Similarly, an HVP 5" gun, for example, would have to be reprogrammed to fire in anti-surface mode. Not a huge deal, presumably, but still more expense.

  8. I'm not against HVP. It sounds like an interesting idea; and while you're 100% right the holes would be small, if you could make a 'hollow point' or figure out a way to make it tumble after initial contact it could make a hell of a lot of mischief when it hit.

    These are all things that would be wonderful for a bureau of ordinance to test. I don't know if NAVSEA does that much anymore other than for basic rail gun functionality.

    Aside from that, we still have the problem of targeting. 40 miles on a gun is lovely but doesn't mean anything if you can't target the gun. And as has been repeatedly stated it seems silly to rely on external, networked targeting against a peer.

    From LRASM to HVP to TASM, it all just seems like smoke and mirrors unless we can provide targeting. Maybe the TALON system can, but we have no idea.

    You might get just as much utility out of a 20NM 8' gun if you could develop one, and not need all the whizbang stuff.


  9. How about AA use? Restoring American Seapower from suggests using HVP in air and missile defense role.

    1. As an inert, kinetic round it would be nearly useless in the AAW role. It would have to have a proximity fuze and be designed as an air burst munition. Of course, that cheap, inert round now becomes a much more expensive round and one of the main claimed benefits no longer exists!

    2. Proximity fuzes have been the staple of anti-aircraft rounds since WWII. Modern rounds like the Bofors 3P combine proximity, air burst and point detonation.

      This is hardly rocket science.

      They're going for a guided version of HVP for this role. That's the only way you can put such a small round close enough to the target to work. That will up the $$. Probably still much cheaper than an ESSM or Standard missile.

      Unclear what guidance method it'll use. My guess is some form of command guidance.

    3. How many 'VT' 5-inch fuses were produced during WW2 for use in the Pacific? The airburst technology has existed (and on the 5-inch platform) for over 60 years. Could it really be that expensive?

    4. "They're going for a guided version of HVP for this role. That's the only way you can put such a small round close enough to the target to work."

      You read the post, right? You understand that it is not possible to maneuver a Mach 3-7 projectile against a maneuvering target, right?

    5. "Could it really be that expensive?"

      This is not a WWII era fuze that is set mechanically. This would require an electronically configurable fuze, interfaced with the ship's fire control system. This necessitates a sophisticated, miniature radar for proximity sensing and electronics/computers to communicate and control the workings of the projectile. Further, the radar and various electronic components have to be hardened to withstand the acceleration and stresses. So, yes, it really could be "that expensive"!

    6. "You read the post, right? You understand that it is not possible to maneuver a Mach 3-7 projectile against a maneuvering target, right?"

      See Strales/DART.

      DART is a guided, Mach 3+ projectile that can pull 40Gs. It's designed to shoot down cruise missiles.

      Guided HVP is essentially a large, potentially faster, DART.

    7. The HVP is 4x the weight of DART. Momentum = mass x velocity. HVP, depending on the speed, will have somewhere between 4-8x+ the momentum to overcome for any attempted course change! It is just not a practical, maneuvering projectile. Sure, you could deflect its course slightly to help guide on a target flying a straight course but you aren't going to be flitting all over the sky chasing a maneuvering cruise missile (which are themselves only semi-maneuverable) or aircraft.

    8. If we bring back rail-gun, we might be able to current adjusted to launch all sorts munition, a matter of projectile/sabot packaging. For example, dial down the juice, so self-guided projectile/missile can be launched. It doesn't have to be mach-7 HPV all the time.

    9. Bring back rail gun? We have never had a railgun...that program has been burning money for over 25 years with no progress beyond being a glorified physics lab experiment. The materials and engineering needed to make it work do not exist right now and present a roadblock faced with all electromotive power. It will take a breakthrough in physics/electrical engineering/materials to make it work, one that would have far reaching effects on electric motors.

    10. "The HVP is 4x the weight of DART. Momentum = mass x velocity. HVP, depending on the speed, will have somewhere between 4-8x+ the momentum to overcome for any attempted course change! It is just not a practical, maneuvering projectile. Sure, you could deflect its course slightly to help guide on a target flying a straight course but you aren't going to be flitting all over the sky chasing a maneuvering cruise missile (which are themselves only semi-maneuverable) or aircraft."

      I'm not sure I understand your point. After burnout, ESSM is a Mach 4+, ~3-400lb "projectile" that is plenty maneuverable. HVP needs larger control surfaces than DART, sure, but not more than proportionally larger.

      It doesn't need to "flit all over the sky". HVP would have to be fired with a ballistic solution that puts it more-or-less near the predicted path of the missile. The maneuverability is just to account for missile maneuvers and the final hit. Presumably HVP is flying fast enough that the missile doesn't have a lot of time for maneuvering.

      I'm speculating. I haven't seen any specifics on the anti-missile HVP. But I don't see how an unguided HVP could possibly be effective, especially when fired from land-based 155mm guns.

      Personally, I think the whole thing is a lot of pie-in-the-sky hype, at the moment. They're a long ways from a useful and effective munition.

    11. Actually, they are pretty damn close to an airburst round. They already have both electronic and fusing solutions for HVP. The actual bursting and shrapnel is pretty simple anyways (small charge, tungsten "bb"). The main limiter is really the railgun reliability. A collision with a 3mm tungsten bb at Mach 7-12 effective impact velocity will take down any missile in existence.

      As an FYI, the tungsten bb rounds is also what is being designed for bombardment against "soft" targets as well. With each round having an effective 50M radius kill box (as a 4mm tungsten bb at mach 7 has as much energy as a .300 win mag) with ~4k bb.

    12. Do you have any documentation that a non-kinetic HVP round exists or is even under active development as opposed to just a theoretical possibility? I've not been able to find any.

    13. "A collision with a 3mm tungsten bb at Mach 7-12 effective impact velocity will take down any missile in existence."

      Give some proof for that statement. In fact, you almost contradict it with your subsequent statement,

      "4mm tungsten bb at mach 7 has as much energy as a .300 win mag"

      I don't think anyone would expect a ".300 win mag" to take down cruise/ballistic missiles.

    14. "Dispensing" charge:

      These things are primarily going to be long-range CRAM (i.e. an ESSM compliment) and counter-counter artillery/SAM systems (i.e., targeting radars and other "soft" targets). HVPs should reach targets coming over the radar horizon slightly faster than ESSM with sufficiently fast targeting and gun laying systems. At the longer engagement ranges that HVPs enable versus conventional guns, shredding sensors and control surfaces should be sufficient.

    15. If one of these rounds did hit an airplane, even just passing through it, it would likely hit a critical component as planes (excluding transport planes) typically have very little to none unused space inside them.

  10. There's a graphic with the different versions for Army, Marine, Navy versions of the HPV. The first graphic makes it look like it's being sold as a general purpose round or maybe a miracle round!

  11. I based my opinion on "Restoring American Seapower" by
    that proposed some form of guided HVP for medium range air defense in the 10-30 nautical mile layer with under 10 miles for ship self defense and over 30 miles for long range AA defense. Since former USN officer was creidited as co-author of the report, I assumed they knew what they were talking about. Am I mistaken in that?

    1. Given the near endless litany of mistakes and misjudgements by Navy leadership, why would you assume that any Navy officer has any credibility? Of course, that also doesn't necessarily mean they're wrong.

      If the Navy wants to engage in developmental work on HVP in the AAW role, I have no problem with that. My concern is when the Navy commits to a course of action that depends on non-existent and totally unproven technology, as they've done for the LCS, Zumwalt, Ford, and F-35.

      Everything sounds good on paper - far fewer actually work!

    2. > concern is when the Navy commits to a course of action that depends on non-existent and totally unproven technology

      Exactly! The problem even worse - the Navy begins to discard working technologies in favor of unproven, underdeveloped ones

  12. "Restoring American Seapower" was one of three Congressinaly mandated fleet architecture studies last year. Even if you don't agree with the authors, it makes for very interesting reading.
    It proposes changes in the loadouts of our destroyer/cruiser force which would decrease in force levels while increases the FFG/small combatants to 72 ships. Authors propose using SM-6s for long range offensive anti air warfare to shoot down attacking planes before they can launch their ASCMs, new long range ASROC type weapon to suppress subs so they cannot fire their ASCMs. For defense, the medium range zone of 10-30 miles would comprise ESSMs, High Power Microwave, ECM, lasers when available, HVPs, with RAM/SeaRAM, CIWS guns and MAD-FIRES with it's guided projectiles fired from smaller guns in the 20-76mm range to defeat ASCMs with weapons less expensive per shot than SM-2 or SM-6 with active homing SM-2 to be redesignated SM-6 medium range while the two stage SM-6 would perhaps be labelled as SM-6 extended range.

    1. Yes, it does make for interesting reading. There are a few proposals that I agree with but much of the concept is heavy on non-existent weapons and equipment (highly autonomous UUVs, HPRF, lasers, HVPs etc.) and wishful thinking. There's nothing wrong with considering non-existent or developmental weapons but to plan an entire Navy around non-existent items is folly.

  13. I thought that air defense focused on ESSM and SM-6 plus ECM at the medium range layer of 10-30 miles which, at least for ESSM Block 2, SM-6 and SM-2 active homing variant missiles were a near term prospect of perhaps 5-10 years with the other developmental weapons to be added when available in say, the mid term of 10-15 years. These weapons such as HVP for AAW, High Power Microwave and lasers and railguns will take a decade or two to mature and field in significant numbers. STRALES system using Super Rapid Oto Melara 76mm guns firing DART commmand guided subcaliber AA shells are currently in use for Italian Cavour and have been bought by a few foreign customers. USN should take a good look at it and test it realistically to see if it is a viable CIWS weapon for US to supplement or replace Phalanx. MAD-FIRES is still being worked on by DARPA and it may take many years to finish development and field but is a worthwhile program.

    1. I agree with you in relying on non existent and developmental weapons but there are some measures we could take today and that would involve greatly expanded ESSM Block 2 and SM-6 numbers.

    2. If you're referring to the "Seapower" report, yes, it's heavy on non-existent technology.

      "there are some measures we could take today"

      Did you mean simply greater numbers of ESSM and SM-6 or did you have something else in mind?

  14. The "Seapower" report does advocate near term measures to change the loadouts of DDGs to emphasize greater numbers of ESSM for the 10-30 mile 'medium range' zone as being most cost effective for ASCM defense though for escort role, some numbers of longer ranging SM-2s, of which there are a few thousands in inventory as better for killing ASCMs attacking escorted vessels, especially as USN plans to fit the ESSM active radar seekers to missiles undergoing regular planned refurbishment in a few years. FFG is to be able to use such active homing SM-2s with their range of 90 miles vs. the 28 miles of the ESSMs and since strike length VLS is required, a few SM-6 rounds might be carried, if desired.
    There has been some mention also of developing a two stage ESSM with greater range by mating the existing missile with a booster of the same diameter of 10 inches in quad paks. I don't know booster performance but we have 9.5 feet of length to play with for boosted ESSM and I'm guessing that range might be more than doubled to perhaps 60 miles, and unlike SM-2, they could be quad paked also.

    SM-6 use instead of shooting down ASCMs at five or six million a pop would be used for killing aircraft before they can launch their ASCMs that better matches their high cost, limited numbers and 200 some mile ranges and using them in surface mode as high Mach 3.5 to attack surface ships before they can fire their ASCMs with similar use for Maritime Tomahawk, with it's questionable survivability, surface launched LRASM and NSM/JSM with better penetration abilities for killing ships before they can launch or killing them after launching which still takes out archers so at least they won't come back to try again as they are sunk or severely damaged.
    You have advocated more CIWS, four mounts per DDG. I would have two SeaRAM and two Phalanx or another gun based system like STRALES firing 76mm DART guided rounds and using on mount guidance radar and the proposed non deck penetrating Super Rapid version with 50 ready rounds. Phalanx fore and aft or STRALES, or Twin Fast Forty 40 mm guns and SeaRAM port and starboard, after we test these weapons realistically so a proper decision can be made for their installation on DDGs, and CGs.

    SM-6 role is switched to concentrate

    1. I do agree with the Seapower report recommendation to emphasize ESSM but not for the reasons they do. Other than that, much of the rest of the report is fantasy.

      Regarding longer range ESSM or SM-2, you'll recall that a previous post demonstrated that missile defense won't begin until the incoming missiles break the radar horizon (around 20 miles). Thus, longer range missiles are kind of pointless.

      Of course, if we can establish some kind of long range targeting capability (like E-2 Hawkeye) then a longer range defensive missile would be helpful. However, I'm dubious that even a Hawkeye is going to be able to get targeting quality data on sea skimming anti-ship missiles at any significant range. The Navy needs to test that and see.

      My point about the number of CIWS per ship is more that we need greatly enhanced close in weapon systems rather than that exact number. I also don't care what specific weapons or combinations thereof we use (CIWS, SeaRAM, or some foreign system) as long as we test them under realistic conditions and find out what works and what doesn't. As far as I know, no foreign system has ever been realistically tested either which makes the obsession of U.S. naval observers with foreign systems puzzling.

  15. It would be good if the some of the functionality of the E2D could be placed in a drone helicopter or tilt rotor aircraft.
    I think such a aircraft could data link to the parent vessel and act to warn of incoming ASCMs and if the track quality was good enough, enable OTH engagements. This may be possible with existing technology. An EV-22 has been proposed to gift big deck amphibious vessels with organic AEW and maybe some OTH anti air targeting might be possible. Realistic testing would be needed for such a system before huge amounts of monies are committed to deploy such a system. Operation from DDG/CG flight decks would be desirable but there may be many problems in that approach that would have to be solved. Like NIFC-CA, realistic systems need realistic testing, debugging, fixing so the USN could have real confidence in a deployed surface combatant AEW and NIFC-CA, if it can indeed be done.

    1. "It would be good if the some of the functionality of the E2D could be placed in a drone helicopter or tilt rotor aircraft."

      Thomas, I fear that your desire has more hope than reality in it! Consider the size of an E-2. If we were to place that functionality into a drone, the drone would be size of the E-2 and we wouldn't be able to operate it from anything other than a carrier in which case we already have E-2s. Of course, you said, "some of the functionality". "Some" means less than. The main function is the E-2's radar which is enormous and, again, we're back to needing a drone the size of the E-2. If you mean "some" other function then it wouldn't be all that helpful because the other functions are much lesser ones - in fact, I'm not sure what other function you would mean that would be worth the effort.

      We could always put a much smaller radar on a drone but then we'd have much less capability and, besides, we already have that in the form of Fire Scout helos.

      A tilt rotor has to have specially reinforced and insulated decks to operate off amphibs plus it requires a large deck area to operate safely. I don't know that any surface ship could safely operate one. Plus, we're right back to the size/capability issue. Adding an enormous E-2 radar to a V-22 would probably render the V-22 unflightworthy in vertical takeoff and landing mode. Worse, true vertical takeoff, which would be required for operation from a surface vessel, is not considered practical due to the greatly reduced fuel load (weight considerations) required for successful vertical takeoffs. Add the weight of the radar and, again, it doesn't seem viable.

      We could put a much smaller, lighter radar on a V-22 but, again, we'd have very little capability for a huge cost and huge impact on ship operations.

      Does any of this change your thinking?

  16. There has been proposals for EV-22s using X band radar as a pod deployed from the stern ramp or AESA radars might be mounted on the fuselage sides but your point about exhust issues is correct. Bell, however, is developing a naval variant of it's new tilt rotor, the V-280 Valor that is compatible with DDG hangars with folded size to fit in the MH-60R/S space. To solve exhust temperature problems, the engines are fixed in horizontal position while the nacelle containing the gear box and prop rotor tilt up for helo and forward for airplane mode and is about 30,000lbs. gross weight. The RN is fitting AESA panels and consoles and systems in a roll on-roll-off kit for it's AEW AW101 Merlin helicopters which gross 28,000lbs. I would hope to extend the range that a fire control quality track to go out to no more than 50 miles to enable engage on remote OTH. But that may be asking too much. But if you can detect an ASCM over the horizon, you gain warning time and if you have a missile with active radar homing, an OTH engagement is possible using ESSM and the planned active homing variant of the SM-2, to be called SM-6 medium range. I don't have the expert knowledge of what can or can't be done but it seems we need some kind of sensor placed high enough to at least provide warning of ASCMs.

    1. It's debatable whether a full featured E-2 Hawkeye can detect sea-skimming cruise missiles at any significant range. It seems quite unlikely that a small, pod radar deployed from the back of a V-22 will detect them!

      Warning time doesn't really get you anything if you're already prepared - meaning, that Aegis is in full auto mode which, presumably, it will be in a war scenario. It doesn't matter if I know a missile is inbound and will appear in a minute. There's nothing more I can do other than put Aegis in auto which it already is. The system can't fire without a target lock and that won't happen until the missile appears on the radar horizon.

      Don't get me wrong, early warning is nice but it can't actually accomplish much. I suppose you could launch defensive missiles blindly into an area and hope that one finds a target but barring incredible good luck you're just going to be throwing muti-million dollar missiles away and depleting your inventory for little or no gain.

    2. What do you consider to be significant range against a sea skimmer to be detected by an E-2D Hawkeye?

    3. "What do you consider to be significant range against a sea skimmer"

      That's an excellent question. Twenty miles is the ESSM/ship engagement range on its own. Thus, a significant range improvement would be far enough out to make effective use of Standard missiles. So, if you're not detecting (meaning target lock, not just occasional detection hits) at least 50+ miles then you aren't gaining a significant benefit. If you can begin engaging 50-100 miles and get a few volleys of Standards in then you've made a significant gain.

      Can an E-2 detect a sea-skimming anti-ship cruise missile at 50-100 miles? I have no idea but I suspect not.

      Remember, when we bandy about radar detection range claims by manufacturers, they're talking about large targets, at high altitudes, and non-stealthy. That's where 200+ mile detection ranges come from. When we start talking about a small cruise missile with a very tiny frontal cross section, flying at wave top height, in wave clutter, you'll notice that the manufacturers are suddenly quiet about claims. Hence, my belief that engagements will generally begin at 20 miles.

  17. Then, only if an EV-22 had a reasonable detection range of say 50 miles and if using X band from AESA panels attached to the sponsons and perhaps a nose array, generate a fire control quality track, engage with ESSM out to 27 miles and SM-2 active seeker variant out to 50 miles on remote with the EV-22 providing mid course guidance over the horizon, you would have substantially more time to engage, evaluate the results and fire again.
    ESSM and the upcoming SM-2 active radar seeker installed on refitted SM-2s would enable you to start hitting at ranges beyond horizon, SM-2s first, then ESSM Block 2s closer in.
    This would be demanding and I don't know if AESA X band radars could provide both the necessary range and guidance for OTH SAMs on a EV-22. I don't have the tech background, but, if it could work, then SAMs wouldn't be bound by as much by the radar horizon of around 15-20 miles. I thought 50 or 40 miles might be achievable on a hypothetical EV-22 as AESA radars have very high performance in a small package.

    The V-22 has a vertical takeoff weight of 52,600lbs of which 33,000lbs. is aircraft empty weight with19,000 lbs. for fuel, radar gear, consoles for three operators as the E-2s have and AESA arrays in X band or another band for search and X band for precision guidance.

    Perhaps another frequency band such as S or C bands for search and X band in the nose for midcourse guidance with the option of providing time shared semiactive homing using the nose X band radar to guide the missile through the endgame as ESSM blk.2 and active SM-2 would have as an option for a demanding target if their usual active homing terminal guidance wasn't up to the job.

    In the meantime, we need to come up with cheaper ASCM defenses that work reliably. If HVP can be developed some day as a solution, fine. In the meantime, we need cheaper defenses that actually work in the near term.

    1. "EV-22 providing mid course guidance over the horizon,"

      Your scenario postulates a LOT of radar capability in a package a fraction of the size of an E-2 radome. Does that seem realistic to you? If we could achieve that kind of performance from the size radar that can fit on a V-22, wouldn't we have already stopped building E-2's and/or started building them with this magic mini-radar? But we're not.

      Then, to go further, you're postulating mid-course guidance coming from the V-22. You understand that simply being able to emit a guidance signal isn't quite enough? You need to be able to identify and sort all the targets, separate out all the decoys from real targets, prioritize targets, make some kind of logical allocation of weapons to targets, all while facing electronic countermeasures, and then, and only then, proceed to guide the missiles. To the best of my knowledge, E-2's can't do that. That's what the Aegis AAW engagement software does. Yes, the E-2 can (can it really? I'm not sure) possibly guide a single missile in a simplistic scenario but can it duplicate the function of the entire Aegis battle management software? I'm pretty sure not.

      In short, you're asking A LOT from a V-22 with a mini-radar (relative to an E-2)! I don't 100% know that it can't but I've seen nothing to indicate that it can and simple logic strongly suggests that it can't. Do you have some actual data that suggests your concept is viable?

  18. Looks like the navy tested the HVP for the 5" gun. No results or showy video release however or what they shot at. Maybe just proof that it works?

    1. I've seen that article. Now, analyze it. Hint: calc the cost per engagement. Hint: if the 5" gun is inadequate for AAW how does a faster projectile make it suddenly suitable for AAW?

      You've read this blog long enough to know not to accept articles at face value. Analyze! Tell me what you come up with.

    2. I have healthy doubts. But you invited update posts. I would agree that unless they put some kind of proximity fused warhead on it, its not really going to some wonder anti missile weapon.

      That being said it does look applied to regular guns to be a comparatively inexpensive ideal that adds some capability and possibly more. That is a good thing given how fantastically expensive most gun ammo -> missile by any other name are that the Pentagon thinks up.

    3. I urge you to run the engagement cost calculation. Unless you think the HVP will somehow turn the gun into a one-shot, guaranteed kill, miracle weapon, it will take several/many shots to get a kill. Pick a number and then multiply by the per round cost of, say, $100,000. Ten shots equals $1M!!!!! and an engagement would quite likely require many more shots than that. Run the calcs using whatever conditions you think realistic and let me know what you find.

    4. Every other option is just as expensive. I was thinking more along the lines of just more options. The Stark survived its hits but it lost missile launcher functionality if I recall correctly. If its gun could provide a potential air/missile defense and was working I am OK with that even if it amounts to spending the same as an SM-2/6.

      In other words its not most bizarrely expensive thing I've seen vs rail guns or staged laser tests.

    5. "Every other option is just as expensive. "

      The Navy is deceptively trying to sell things based on misleading cost/projectile type numbers without factoring in the number required to achieve the desired result. That's my concern with cost.

      I have absolutely no problem with using HVP projectiles if tests show they're effective. Hey, even with only a 1% pK, if a missile is incoming I'll shoot at it with everything I have!

      Remember, though. There's a price to be paid. For every $100,000 projectile you put in the Burke's magazine, you have to remove one $1000 (I don't know what they cost) projectile. If your task is area bombardment you don't want to find yourself with not enough cheap projectiles. It's a balancing act and the balance point will depend on generating GOOD test data which the Navy has shown no desire to do. Those 20 HVP projectiles that were fired? … Why didn't they fire them at a supersonic target drone and see how effective they'd be? I suspect they didn't because they already know how effective they'd be - not very!


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