Friday, March 16, 2018

Naval Cornerstones

Consider these Naval Cornerstones:

  • People matter most
  • Doctrine is the glue of tactics
  • To know tactics, know technology
  • The seat of purpose is on land
  • Attack effectively first
  • We don't rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training

The preceding truisms are time tested and proven.  Here are a few newer truisms for consideration.

  • Surveillance enables firepower.  The longest ranged weapon in the world is useless if your detection/targeting range doesn’t extend much beyond the horizon.

  • Armor sustains combat.  Ships need to be able to take a hit and keep fighting.  Today’s one-hit mission kill ship designs are idiotic in the extreme.  Designing a multi-billion dollar ship that can’t take a hit is just stupid on a plate.

  • Stealth is the terrain of the naval battlefield.  On land, terrain enables deception, delays detection, and dictates the battle.  At sea, stealth is what a ship hides behind.  That stealth can come from signature reduction, electronic warfare, decoys, etc. but without stealth in some form, ships are just advancing slowly across an open field.

  • Offense wins wars.  In recent decades, the U.S. Navy has forgotten that fact.  Our main weapon system, Aegis/Standard, is purely defensive.  Our air wings are half their size and our aircraft are short-legged and light on weapon payloads.  We have no effective anti-ship cruise missile.  We have no short/intermediate range ballistic missile.  We have no significant offensive mine warfare capability.  We have no effective naval gun support capability.  We have forgotten how to win a war. 

We need to refocus on high end, peer warfare and these truisms offer a good starting point as we design new ships, aircraft, and strategies.  Perhaps you have some of your own to offer?

89 comments:

  1. "We have no significant offensive mine warfare capability."

    Maybe I didn't pay enough attention, but I believed that there would be some quickstrike fuses with magnetic-smart acoustic fuse function in the inventory.
    CAPTOR is old, but could be considered offensive as well.

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    1. CAPTOR has been phased out. Read Offensive Mine Warfare for a review of out current mine warfare capability.

      Mine warfare requires two parts, neither of which we have to any significant degree: 1., modern, mobile, intelligent mines and 2., a means of laying large quantities in precise patterns from a survivable and viable platform.

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  2. Thoughts

    The Air Force with their 100 B1Bs have taken the lead with testing LRASM, have the range and would be main strike force against enemy ships, Chinese and Russian fleets, assuming LRASM will be procured in sufficient quantity.

    The Air Force B-52's carry and practise minelaying with the Quickstrike Mk-62, a conversions of General Purpose Bomb Mk 82, a 500lb weapon and the 2000lb Mk-64 Quickstrike-J with the smaller longer ranged Quickstrike-ER based on the GBU-31 JDAM.  Understand they can be carried by Navy’s P-3 and F-18, and by the Air Force’s B-1 and as well as B-52.

    The Army is in R&D for the conversion of their ATACMS, range approx. 180 miles and fired from a truck-mounted rocket launcher, into a guided ballistic missile capable of hitting moving warships. 

    As you note Navy noticeably absent in leading attack capabilities, relying on minor updates to the old, slow non-stealth Tomahawk.

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    1. There's also the JSM project.

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    2. "The Air Force B-52's carry and practise minelaying"

      True but the B-52s are of limited value since they are non-survivable in contested air space. Thus, they can't be used inside the Chinese A2/AD zone, for example. That limits their use to some peripheral chokepoints and ... well ... not much else.

      We need a means of delivering large quantities of mines to Chinese harbors, rivers, and coasts as well as around Taiwan. Submarines can deliver very small quantities, bordering on useless due to the small numbers.

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    3. What about container/tanker ship "Q Ships" laying "modern, mobile, intelligent" mines? Assuming that there is a clear lead-up to hostilities.

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    4. "What about container/tanker ship "Q Ships" laying "modern, mobile, intelligent" mines?"

      It's unlikely that an enemy is going to allow an unknown ship to approach any operationally important body of water unchallenged. Such an approach might be useful for peripheral mine laying of small quantities of mines as happened in the Persian Gulf.

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    5. I was thinking of a ship from a current trading partner (or maybe a foreign flagged ship) that, while in harbor or coastline transit, happened to drop a few "sleeping surprises" today - which could be activated in the future by something like a stealthy AUV ferried by sub.

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    6. I don't see the B-1 as cost effective for mine laying. I like the idea of the B-1 upgraded with AESA and LRASM for a peace time mission. The role of backup to a widely dispersed fleet of smaller/lower capacity vls ships could save money if the B-1's spend most of the time on alert and not on patrol. It would have been better if they had restored the mach 2.2 in the last upgrade. But budget, budget, budget.

      Rotating to Guam and perhaps small rotations to Philippines, Singapore, Japan, SK could make for short flight times at mach 1 in case the cold war gets a bit hot.

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  3. My truism is:
    Whoever control the oceans controls trade.

    We keep acting as though China isn’t a threat because of our trade ties. But if they dominate the pacific they control trade with everyone from Australia and Indonesia to India.

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  4. Two favorites that never go out of style:
    "Quantity has a quality all its own"
    "Better is the enemy of good enough"

    Applicable to all military branches.

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  5. "We need a means of delivering large quantities of mines to Chinese harbors, "

    Modifying the B-2 and eventually the B-21 to drop those mines, comes to mind.

    Or a big UCAV

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    1. Hey submarines can lay mines too, right

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    2. In WWII, we laid tens of thousands of mines. A B-2 could be adapted to deliver mines but we only have 20 functional B-2 bombers (some sources say only 19 aircraft are functional). They will not last long in combat especially if they have to conduct deep penetration mine laying missions!

      I'm beginning to think we need a mine laying equivalent of the SSGN submarine - a sub that can lay hundreds of mines in a single mission. An SSMN?

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    3. Using the Ohio SSGNs as a baseline, I still wonder how efficient they would be as minelayers. They carry 154 TLAMs right now, and I know that a mine would have smaller dimensions. But, even if you could up the capacity to, say, 180 or 200 weapons that's still a drop in the bucket. You might need a LOT of submarines.

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    4. The benefit of an "SSMN" is not the volume of mines delivered but the ability to deliver a useful, if not total, amount clandestinely deep inside an enemy's water space - something aircraft cannot do survivably.

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    5. How about a dedicated UUV for mine laying ;)

      That would solve a lot of problems, first of all the vessel would be significantly smaller compared to a SSN.

      And you could risk it to go a lot more closer to enemy shores, and even if its lost you don't loose any crew.

      If you have dedicated UUVs as minelayers, that could free up you're SSN's for more important tasks.

      That UUV should be conventional driven .

      So any ideas about displacement and most important how much mines it should carry ?

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    6. "So any ideas about displacement and most important how much mines it should carry ?"

      The challenge is not so much the platform - we already have manned UUVs called subs - as it is the volume. A UUV, unless we built it to the size of a Virginia or Ohio sub, would simply not have the volume of mines to lay an effective minefield of hundreds to thousands of mines. If we build a UUV the size of a Virginia or Ohio then it will cost what a Virginia or Ohio would and we wouldn't risk it going anywhere we wouldn't risk a manned sub. If the UUV is small enough to not care about losing it, then it's too small to carry a useful load. It's kind of a Catch-22.

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    7. What? There is now way a UUV carrying a few hundred mines will have the same size/displacement as a Virginia SSN.
      For the simple reason .. there is no crew!
      Whats in it
      -Engine compartment
      -Batteries and fuel
      -Guidance section
      -And a weapons payload bay for the mines

      That sound to me like the size of a small SSK ;)

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    8. What? There is no way a UUV carrying a few hundred mines will have the same size/displacement as a small SSK.

      The only reduction in size would be the elimination of berthing (maybe) and galley/food storage. The UUV still has to be fully accessible for maintenance so all the passageways, ladders, hatches, doors, and enough room for multiple techs to gather, go over schematics, assemble and store tools, etc. will still have to be included.

      Now, consider mine storage and launch. A Mk-62 Quickstrike is around 7.5 ft long. 300 of them, laid end to end, would require 2,250 ft of space. Of course, they wouldn't be laid end to end - they'd be in some kind of rows. Well, two rows would require 1,125 ft. And so on. The mines would not only have to be stored but they would have to be moveable from storage via some kind of automated movement system to the launcher mechanism. The automated movement system would be huge!!! Look at the fully automated AGS system for the Zumwalt. We had to build a cruiser size ship to accommodate the AGS automated magazine system - it is the bulk of the ship! Remember, every foot of the automated mine handling system would have to be man-accessible for maintenance and repair so double the size.

      You know what? I think you're right. There is no way a UUV carrying a few hundred mines will have the same size/displacement as a Virigina SSN - it will have more!!!! Thank you for correcting me.

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    9. And now imagine all those mines are stored in racks vertically ( similar to ICBM cells) each rack/cell holds several mines. No need for complex mechanisms.

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    10. You're speculating with absolutely nothing to back you up. Do the math. I suspect that the required deck area would far exceed the size of a Virginia sub. Let me know what you find.

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    11. First of all, how many mines do you want in that vessel?
      A SSK is able to carry around 30 mines, so i suppose a UUV of the same displacement could carry around 100 or more.

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    12. Storm, here's the statement you made,

      "What? There is now way a UUV carrying a few hundred mines will have the same size/displacement as a Virginia SSN."

      So, size a UUV for 300 mines and see how it compares to a Virginia.

      Delete
  6. Hmm, looks like an earlier comment didn't arrive. It was something like this:

    Regular surface warships would be suicidal if they attempted offensive minelaying.
    Auxiliary cruisers were sometimes highly effective as minelayers, but used much they share the fate of regular surface warships.
    Combat aircraft would either be suicidal at offensive minelaying or employing them at it would be wasteful given the alternative of ALCM and other PGM launch missions.
    Submarines are inefficient at offensive minelaying. There were dedicated minelaying submarines in both world wars, but they had little effect. All good places for offensive minelaying were also very dangerous to the subs because of the risk of defensive minefields and small coastal sub chasers.


    The apparent neglect of offensive minelaying may be justified by a lack of suitable platforms in the state of the art.
    Offensive minelaying may succeed with the element of surprise in the first 48 hrs of a conflict (similar to cruise missile barrages from container freighters), but later on it's rather unlikely against a great power.

    The one kind of possibly sensible offensive naval mines may be electric torpedoes self-deploying by about 50 nm and then using up their remaining energy for waiting and engaging.
    This still requires to move within 50 nm or so, which would be challenging even for submarines.

    So there's one niche; when your territory is so close that you can launch from your land. Malaysia could do this to Singapore, Finland and NATO to Russia's ports at St. Petersburg.

    Other than this I'm mostly interested in defensive ASW minelaying, such as in the Bosporus, Kattegatt and the entrances to Japan's inland sea.

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    1. The benefit of a minelaying submarine is the ability to do so clandestinely and deep inside an enemy's territory. No, subs would simply not have the capacity to lay a field of 10,000 mines but it only takes the threat of a single mine to produce effects all out of proportion to the actual threat. A few "SSMNs" carrying, say, 200-300 mines each could easily shut down a navy base or harbor for extended periods and at little risk. Most people fail to realize how difficult it is to find a sub that doesn't want to be found and isn't trying to push a bad attack position. A sub that can passively wait for a safe moment to lay some mines is at little risk of detection.

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    2. Sorry, but this "effects out of proportion" thing seems to be an all-too well-known marketing talk that surrounds submarines.

      Most likely the opposing forces conduct minesweeping along lanes in front of ports anyway and have to be careful of the ASW threat anyway.
      What matters is whether
      (1) an important port gets closed (likely at most for a few days in wartime conditions)
      (2) what ships get sunk or sent into repair for a noteworthy time

      A minelaying sub may be able to lay 50 mines within 20 nm of a port or in a chokepoint - but there's little reason to believe that this is more worthwhile than having it there with an alternative load of 20-40 anti-ship missiles.

      Moreover, the enemy may decide to not play along and simply send the most crappy ships forward as minebreakers, as did the Japanese in 1945. That approach works just fine if the entire problem is but 50 mines and you know how to precision navigate along a lane.
      Moving mines that are useful when not laid in the exact lane are much bigger and thus there would be rather 12-20 than 50 - and torpedo countermeasures would apply.

      The opportunity costs of offensive minelaying are usually overwhelming and no submarine-typical marketing talk can obscure that to me.

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    3. Maybe I should mention that I disregard the notion of a "SSMN" with 200 naval mines as ridiculous. Such a thing would cost USD 2.0-3.5 bn. That's the equivalent of 1,000+ cruise missiles of 1,000+ nm range, including container launchers that turn two cargo ships into the required launch platforms. Such as CM salvo would solve problems two magnitudes greater than what 50 naval mines could dream of.

      The only mineylaying sub that I would even consider is a non-nuclear sub, possibly with externally-mounted mine belts. final 100 nm to target area in AIP mode at 4 kts, same on way back. Costs per SSIM anywhere in the USD 0.3...1.0 bn range, dependent on how rotten the procurement bureaucracy is.

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    4. "effects out of proportion"

      The effect of mines has been demonstrated repeatedly throughout history. For example, the mere threat of mines in Desert Storm completely eliminated the option of an amphibious assault. The mere threat of a mine will close a naval port for an extended period of time. No one is going to risk multi-billion dollar ships.

      "Sweeping" is no longer an effective means of eliminating mines. It is one tool but modern mines are intelligent enough to ignore influence sweeping.

      Setting aside the fact that we no longer have an inventory of submarine launched anti-ship missiles, a major advantage of mines over anti-ship missiles is that the mine threat lasts a long time and does not expose the sub to counterattack.

      As far as using throwaway ships as mine sponges, we can lay far more mines than any enemy has throwaway ships!

      You might want to review the post on Mine Warfare - Operational Usage" before you dismiss the effectiveness of mine warfare.

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    5. "I disregard the notion of a "SSMN"

      We're retiring Los Angeles subs with life left and Ohios that could be saved and used for mine laying via a SSGN-like coversion to "SSMN". That would be a minimal cost relative to ship construction costs. We also have large Seawolf class subs that no one seems to know what to do with that could be converted. Whether this is a feasible conversion or not, I don't know, but it's certainly not something to dismiss out of hand.

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    6. Wait, what?

      You REALLY should look up how much the Ohio SSGN did cost per ship.
      It was a billion per ship without missiles - more than a decade ago! Nowadays you could expect USD 1.5 bn per LA conversion to SSMN without developing or buying any suitable mines. You could get 2 or 3 Type 214 for that much money!
      The realistic conversion costs divided per year left in those hulls would be more expensive than a new Virginia SSN.

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    7. And I did not "dismiss the effectiveness of mine warfare" - it just appears that it's not cost-efficient against great power OPFOR nowadays because of the lack of a suitable platform.

      My knowledge about offensive naval mine warfare goes way beyond what you mentioned in your other blog post.

      This was me scratching on the surface back in 2009:
      http://defense-and-freedom.blogspot.de/2009/04/offensive-minelaying-for-european.html

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    8. Here's the SSGN conversion cost per Wiki,

      "... the total cost to refit the four boats is just under $700 million per vessel."

      My understanding (I may be wrong about this) is that the conversion included nuclear refueling and general overhaul as well as the actual conversion. Again, per Wiki,

      "In November 2002, Ohio entered a drydock, beginning her 36-month refueling and missile-conversion overhaul."

      Thus, the cost for the actual conversion was some fraction of $700M per vessel.

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    9. Come on, you know very well that the USN could not resist refuelling the boats on such an opportunity.

      Refuelling Ohios was expected to cost USD 420 million per copy during the 90's, without SSGN conversion.
      https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/ship/ssgn-726-program.htm

      SSGN conversion itself did cost USD 400 million.
      https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/ship/ssgn-726.htm

      Total SSGN program cost was USD 4 billion for four boats.
      A minelayer conversion of the 588 series boats would cost a lot more, of course. And then there are the development and procurement costs for mines.

      In the end it's simply more economical to buy versatile land attack cruise missiles en masse and deal with targets in the port.

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    10. "Total SSGN program cost was USD 4 billion for four boats."

      Using your own reference, the conversion cost was $400M per vessel and that includes a lot of associated general overhaul not related to the conversion. Thus, the conversion cost was probably on the order of $200M or so. A bargain compared to new construction.

      "A minelayer conversion of the 588 series boats would cost a lot more, of course."

      Of course???? Nothing like a mine conversion has ever been attempted that I'm aware so there is no cost basis to make any kind of statement of assurance about costs. I suspect that modifying a sub to deliver mines would be a relatively minor conversion especially if the existing torpedo tubes could be used. That would just leave modifications to store and move the mines. I suspect the conversion cost would be around $200M in today's dollars. Admittedly, that's pure speculation though not unreasonable speculation based on the somewhat applicable data point of the SSGN conversion. There is absolutely nothing to suggest that a mine laying conversion would be more complex or more costly than an SSGN conversion and every reason to believe it would be significantly less.

      Feel free to speculate about cost but do not present it as a statement of fact.

      The mine cost, by the way, is utterly irrelevant. We already have the mines. We're simply discussing the cost of a platform to deliver them.

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    11. Let's cut this short; a SSMN conversion isn't even necessary to lay 100 non-mobile mines with a 688. That could be done using torpedo tube-laid mines akin to what was in use during WW2 (just a bit smaller).
      That would yield roughly 90-120 non-mobile naval mines or about 60 redeployable (but not fast enough for mobile engagement) naval mines or a mere about 30 Mk67 SLMM (which are obsolescent at best).

      A real SLMN conversion would require adding a section to the hull for extra storage volume (dry storage) or (much better) external tubular mine magazines (wet storage) along the hull with a saltwater-resistant expulsion mechanism.

      Any real conversion would no doubt be used as an opportunity to refuel and modernise thoroughly by the USN. You know them - they would do it and I won't take you seriously if you deny it. The refuelling (and thus increase of hull qty) would be their primary motivation.

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  7. To balance the scales:

    "The devil is in the details."

    Good ideas abound, but how we construct a fleet between peace and war, in a budget limited environment is key.

    Or to put it more cynically:

    "Truisms are the useless children of hindsight.", Brooks.

    My point is that it is easy to look at the current Navy and suggest something is wrong. But fixing it is much harder.

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    1. This entire blog is about how to fix the Navy. I've offered ways to build cheaper ships and aircraft, how to restructure the Navy, how to enhance readiness and tactical proficiency, and dozens of other improvements. Fixing the Navy is not hard. It's quite straightforward, as a matter of fact. It merely requires the intestinal fortitude to act which, sadly, Congress and the Navy lack.

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    2. Sorry, I meant to follow up yesterday with another post but real life got in the way of pontificating on the internet...LOL.

      Surveillance enables firepower.

      For the Navy today, this is number one. Persistent surveillance during peacetime enables a strong defense to survive a "sucker punch" from an enemy. That's so vital to a cold war that isn't so cold.

      On offense during war the sensor will be in the danger zone. How the Navy manages that danger will be key. I suspect that will be the new, "war of attrition" in the coming years.

      Armor sustains combat.

      I'm not sure that's true anymore. Or at least what I think you mean by armor. Because modern ship builders found that they were mission killed when getting hit by torpedoes, bombs, mines they switched their strategy on armor, but they didn't get rid of it for practical purposes.

      Stealth is the terrain of the naval battlefield.

      Absolutely. We might not put expensive coatings on our warships, but it makes no sense not to give our equipment the bones of stealth during new constructions.

      To me the real stealth of blue water navies has been and will always be the curvature of the earth. And with any truism it is tied in with other truisms. This one is tied in with surveillance intimately. This should be the true focus of ship deployed UAV.

      Offense wins wars.

      Yes, but as we saw with the Soviets, functionally bankrupting them won the war before it began. This is my thinking per China. We as a country would do well to remember that. We just might end up in the same financial/cultural boat.

      More on offense later.

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  8. UUVs and sub-based offensive mining only makes sense in very limited, specific, high-value use cases. They just can't carry enough or, more importantly, deliver enough throughput over time to be worth the cost. They can deliver a relatively large number of mines per sortie, but their turn-around time between sorties is measured in weeks.

    Aerial mining is the only real way to go. It's the only way to deliver large quantities of mines in hours or days.

    IMHO, we need a bunch of relatively smallish, simple, carrier-capable UAVs to do this. Not big and complex like the X-47B. Say Reaper-sized, but jet powered, without the sailplane wings, with internal carriage for one big bomb. They need to be stealthy to the same degree a JASSM. 1,000+nm combat radius desirable.

    Quickstrike-ER can be dropped from 40nm away from altitude. To get close enough to drop, a UAV would need stealth on the order of 0.01 to 0.001m2 RCS vs S-300+/S-400 class radars.

    http://www.ausairpower.net/XIMG/PLA-Radar-Params-2009.png

    In theory, F-35s are good enough to do this. But, unless the AF is involved, there probably won't be enough to do more than limited mining.

    Numbers plus stealth would provide the UAV with system-level survivability, even if some UAVs are shot down.

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    1. I can't see UAVs delivering a significant quantity of mines at a rate of one per trip unless you envision hundreds or thousands of such aircraft.

      For example, say 40 UAVs on a carrier - that would be a "salvo" of 40 mines. You might be able to sustain a rate of two missions per day for a few days before maintenance requirements caught up with you. So, around 240 mines delivered over three days and that assumes zero aircraft losses. Presumably, penetrating all the through the Chinese A2/AD zone would result in enormous losses. I would suspect that the UAV force would be decimated out of the mine laying business in two days.

      By comparison, two or three "SSMN" could deliver 600-900 mines in a single "salvo". Yes, the repeat cycle would be long but the initial "salvo" would be quite large compared to a UAV approach.

      Subs also have the advantage of the minefield being unknown until the first few ships explode whereas a swarm of mine laying UAVs will make it fairly clear where the mine field is and can be avoided or proactive clearing operations begun.

      The overall point is that we currently lack any high volume offensive mine laying capability and we need to rectify that. Whatever form that capability takes is fine.

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    2. I envision carrying lots of UAVs. They should be small enough to fit 4 or 5 in the same space as one fighter. 100 would fit in the same space as 20-25 Super Hornets.

      Assuming 2 sorties per day, 100 UAVs could equal the SSMN in 3-5 days. If designed to carry two 500lb weapons or one big bomb, that time would be reduced.

      But they could keep going after that time, where the sub has to make the long trip back to reload.

      It's unlikely you'd need 6-900 mines in one spot, so the SSMN would be even slower delivering to multiple locations. Reseeding fields would also be slower.

      Subs also have far more latency between when you decide to mine and when the field is established, unless you just happen to have a sub on station already.

      And your talking about putting all your mines in one basket. Not very resilient. 100 drones require 100 separate, successful engagements.


      The only high volume, offensive capacity we have is in limited numbers of aircraft.

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    3. "fit 4 or 5 in the same space as one fighter."

      ?? Have you done the math on this? A F-18E/F is 60 ft long by 44 ft wide wingspan. So, crudely, dividing those dimensions by 4 or 5 gives each UAV a length of 12-15 ft and a wingspan of 9-11 ft. That's a very small UAV to carry a mine and fly a 1500-2000 mile round trip mission!

      The Reaper which you suggested as a possible UAV design starting point is 36 ft long and 65 ft wingspan!!! What you've described is on the order of the little RQ-21 Blackjack which is 8 ft long and has a 16 ft wingspan. The Blackjack range is listed as 58 miles (comm limited) with a max speed of 86 mph and an endurance of 16 hours. The Blackjack has a max payload, INCLUDING FUEL, of 50 lbs. The Mk-62 Quickstrike mine is based on the 500 lb bomb - ten times more than the Blackjack can carry even without allowing for fuel.

      I know you want this concept to work out but you need to go back, look at specs, and do the math before you present a concept. Sometimes, no matter how appealing a concept is, it just can't work in the real world.

      I'd love to see a UAV mine delivery scheme that is viable. If you want to pursue it, and I hope you do, do the math and come back with a realistic proposal. I'd love to see it!

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    4. I'm talking about folded dimensions here.

      A folded Super Hornet is 18.3m x 9.3m, or 170m2.

      A UAV with a trapezoidal fuselage (think mini-Tacit Blue), that folded near the wing roots might shrink down to 11m x 3.5m, or 38.5m2. Four is 154m2.

      Smaller aircraft are also easier to pack than larger aircraft, and you've said we need to go back to Cold War sized airwings in the past anyway. So there's room on a carrier.

      Another option, might be to design racks to stack them vertically in the hangar. The original UCAV concept was to ship them in their own storage containers. Could use forklifts or built in elevators to move them. But I'd only go this route as a last resort or to pack more than a hundred.

      I think you could easily carry a hundred along with a decent number of fighters if you just up the air wing density back to Cold War levels.

      An Embraer Phenom burns around 77 gallons per hour. Assuming similar for this UAV, 8 hours of fuel would be 616 gal or 4,188lbs. Reapers already carry around that amount. And I bet a slender, lighter UAV could better that burn rate.

      400kts for 8 hours is 3,200nm, or 1,500nm radius with margins. Adding small drop tanks or automated air refueling would increase that.

      Reapers regularly carry 1,500lbs of ordinance and can carry up to 3,500lbs, so 2,000lbs doesn't seem out of the question.

      A 0.6m x 0.6m x 4m bomb bay would fit a GBU-31 (with seeker), four SDBs, a WCMD, or maybe a pair of GBU-38s.

      Electronics could borrow from other programs.

      - Advanced EOTS from the F-35
      - Small radar like PicoSAR or Osprey for adverse weather nav and targeting.
      - TERCOM nav and ESM from TACTOM
      - Comms could be from TACTOM too, or a higher bandwidth, phased array SATCOM antenna, depending on price.

      Nothing any more sophisticated or expensive than what Reaper has already.

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    5. You seem to basing much of this on a Reaper capability with a body half or less that size. What wingspan do you see this having? The Reaper has a 65 ft wingspan or so which is what enables it to carry the weight it does and have the range it does. You understand that you can't fold a 30 ft wing near the root, right? That would give a 30 ft tall wing sticking up or back unless you envision some kind of multi-fold accordion type wing.

      It sounds like an extremely optimistic design all around.

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    6. Reaper doesn't need a 65ft wingspan to carry its weight. It needs it to have sufficient lift-to-drag to fly and loiter 18+ hours.

      I'm not talking about a long-endurance UAV here. Out and back, that's all. Four hours each way.

      Scaling down Tacit Blue dimensions to a 11m length gives us a 9.5m wingspan, 31 feet.

      Sub-15ft wings should be able to fold upward at (or close to) the root.

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    7. Do you have any data that indicates that Reaper-like performance can be achieved by a decidedly non-Reaper aircraft? The Tacit Blue was not designed to carry heavy payloads, for example, just sensors.

      As I said, I think you're combining a lot of features from various aircraft and assuming that the best of each will be able to combine in one aircraft.

      Still, this is a concept and the general concept of unmanned mine delivery is well worth exploring regardless of whether your particular concept UAV is feasible or not.

      The aspect that you haven't addressed is attrition. This kind of deep penetration mission is bound to result in significant attrition. While such a UAV wouldn't be $100M each, the costs, even at $10M-$20M each add up and the ability to sustain a delivery schedule is impacted. Sending UAVs to mine Chinese harbors and coastal areas would produce attrition rates of 50%, I would think, from non-maneuverable, marginally stealthy, slow aircraft with little or no ECM/decoy aids. Of course, we could add ECM and decoys but then the cost goes up - bit of a Catch-22.

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    8. X-45B would've fit some of my parameters, but I'd like to see a simpler aircraft that can carry one big bomb. Assuming a wing fold at the root, X-45B would fit in a 9.8m x ~4.5m box.

      https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/aircraft/images/X-45B.jpg

      Offshore mining via UAV, by definition, wouldn't involve any deep penetration of land defenses. Release points would be 40nm away from the intended area to be mined. A -20 to -30 dBsm aircraft should be able to skirt the coast without being detected by land-based radars.

      Obviously, any reusable system has to manage attrition. 50% isn't sustainable. At that point, you might as well fire cruise missiles.

      There are numerous options to improve attrition. Standard SEAD/DEAD techniques apply here. I'd like to see a naval IRBM/SRBM added to help knock out SAM sites and airfields.

      Some UAVs could be configured to carry 6+ MALD/MALD-J to confuse and disorient defenses. We could develop a UAV variant that carries a jammer instead of munitions.

      There were also proposals for a Powered JDAM that had a small jet engine. It had a range of up to 100nm. That, along with stealth, should be plenty survivable, but individual munitions would be more expensive.

      There's no one silver bullet solution.

      But having an inexpensive bomb bus that we can replace without massive expense allows us to contemplate higher levels of attrition.

      We can't afford it now, given $70-100+M fighters and billion dollar bombers.

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    9. "Offshore mining via UAV, by definition, wouldn't involve any deep penetration of land defenses."

      Again, you're being incredibly optimistic about the ability of a very slow, non-maneuverable, moderately stealthy UAV to survive.

      Turn the situation around. Do you think a swarm of 50-100 slow, non-maneuverable, moderately stealthy UAVs could operate undetected 40 miles off the U.S. coast? The situation is worse in, say, the Chinese A2/AD zone due to the concentration of aircraft, ships, IR sensors, and good old eyeballs in the zone. It's not just land based radar that the UAV would have to evade but all the ships and aircraft flying around the A2/AD zone. There is no standoff from an AWACS that's flying a hundred or more miles offshore or a naval vessel hundreds of miles offshore. The odds of a swarm of 50-100 UAVs flying undetected through 1000 miles of Chinese ships, aircraft, and all their attendant sensors is nil. You're looking at this like it was one UAV flying against one land based radar and that's not even remotely the way it will be.

      A single UAV *might* go undetected but a swarm of 50-100 is surely going to be detected and once the swarm is detected the individual aircraft are just drone targets waiting their turn to be destroyed.

      The major benefit of a mine is that it costs nothing on a relative basis. If we have to build $20M UAVs that will suffer 50% attrition, the "free" mines suddenly become prohibitively expensive. Similarly, a powered JDAM is, essentially, a Harpoon missile with it's warhead being a mine and a Harpoon missile costs $1M-$3M depending on version. Every penetration aid we add further increases the cost.

      Unless you apply totally unrealistic, wishful thinking survival/return rates, the cost of any UAV is going to make the overall cost per mine delivered unacceptable. I know you desperately want this to work but you're having to stack unlikely assumptions on top of each other to do so starting with unlikely form factors on top of unlikely performance specs on top of unlikely payloads on top of unlikely costs on top of unlikely survival rates. If all those unlikely things can be achieved then, yes, you'd have your UAV mine delivery system. But, that's way too many unlikely events that all need to happen. We tried that with the LCS and, as it turned out, NONE of the unlikely events were achieved. They're unlikely for a reason! We tried with with the F-35 and NONE of the unlikely events were achieved in any time frame or cost we could accept. And so on.

      As I said, it's worth investigating and doing some paper research but it seems "unlikely".

      A single UAV *might* go undetected but a swarm of 50-100 is surely going to be detected and once the swarm is detected the individual aircraft are just drone targets waiting their turn to be destroyed.

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    10. "Assuming a wing fold at the root"

      I'm trying to think of any aircraft that has a wing fold at the wing root and I'm not coming up with any off the top of my head. The problem is that wherever the fold is, the structural strength ends as far as carrying heavy loads. A wing spar can't extend past the fold, obviously. Thus, to achieve stronger wings, the folds are pushed out from the body.

      The F9F Cougar had one of the closer to the root folds but it was still outside the wheel well and around (4 ft?) from the root.

      Can you think of an example aircraft with a fold at the root as you're envisioning?

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    11. It almost doesn't matter what the exact dimensions are. I feel confident that you could design a UAV with the requisite performance that could pack at least 3-4 per Super Hornet. Upping the air wing density back to Cold War levels (something I believe you've argued for anyway) will accomplish the rest. A carrier with >30 fighters and 100 UAVs seems eminently doable.

      The biggest concern is unit price. If the standard air wing of every carrier includes 100 UAVs, then we'd need a fleet of 1,500+ to include attrition spares.

      Assuming a pessimistic $30M each program cost, that's a $45B program. Not a cheap undertaking.

      Yes, I totally think a swarm of 100 stealthy UAVs could fly a sortie to within 40nm of the US coast. Day in and day out. What would detect them?

      The major detection threats off the Chinese coast would be AWACS flying offshore, high-end ships guarding the port entrance or lucky sightings by CAP aircraft. And all radar detections would be against fairly stealthy aircraft.

      They'd have to be degraded or destroyed by other means. But that's why we have other assets. A 2,000lb payload could allow for 2x JSMs externally, or one internally. Assuming offboard targeting, the UAV bus could carry anti-ship missiles too.

      You've frequently pointed out the low effective hit rate for SAMs and AAMs throughout history. Am I to believe the enemy systems are going to be far better? An S-400 regiment has maybe up to 100 missiles. It'd need to fire ALL of them AND get at least a 50% hit rate to shoot down HALF of the 100 UAVs. Seems pretty unlikely.

      Detecting one aircraft doesn't mean you instantly detect every aircraft. You may guess that there are more, but are they all in the same swarm? 20 separate swarms coming from different directions? Or did you detect a MALD?

      And these aren't loitering targets. As I said before, in and out. They're flying nearly 7 miles a minute. Better hurry. How fast can you sortie fighters? The UAVs will be more than 100 miles away, heading home, by the time +15 aircraft get off the ground.

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    12. "You've frequently pointed out the low effective hit rate for SAMs and AAMs throughout history. Am I to believe the enemy systems are going to be far better?"

      Whoa, whoa, whoa! Back the SAM up a bit. The low success rates for SAMs are for surface to air missiles being launched against highly maneuverable manned aircraft being flown in evasive maneuvers with the aid of flares, ECM, and decoys. I would expect the success rate of SAMs against slow (a few hundred miles per hour at best), non-maneuverable, non-maneuvering, UAVs with no ECM, flares, or decoys to be several times higher. I'd guess a success rate of 70%. Add in that, if detected, aircraft would be employed to attrit the UAVs using A2A missiles, again, against totally vulnerable targets.

      On a relative basis, the Chinese A2/AD zone is going to be packed with sensors on various platforms. If we had reason to believe someone would attack our shores, we'd have sensors packed for a couple hundred miles offshore, too!

      Again, you're attributing these conceptual UAVs with a level of capability that our best manned, stealthy, state of the art aircraft today can't achieve! Heck, if we could build a UAV that could do everything you're claiming, we'd put those capabilities into a manned aircraft and we'd have an utterly invincible military! Why, from a thousand miles away, we'll beyond any A2/AD zone, we could send fighter and strike aircraft to cruise with utter impunity just 40 miles off the Chinese mainland coast and rain complete and total destruction upon the entire Chinese military. Does that really sound believable to you - cause that's exactly what you're essentially saying we could do?

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    13. Crazy maneuvering is the opposite of what you want to do in a stealth aircraft.

      I'm not attributing it anything that a manned aircraft couldn't do. This is all just proper mission planning.

      I can see you aren't going to accept this idea, so I'll let it drop.

      I'll end by noting that this massively protected A2/AD zone is also going to be a significant problem for a lone SSMN that will have to creep over seabed sensor nets, past SSKs and SSNs, and patrolling ships at 10-15kts, probably spending days in danger just to get close enough to deliver mobile mines. And then all again to get back out. Good luck with that.

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    14. "I'm not attributing it anything that a manned aircraft couldn't do."

      Yeah, you are. We have no manned aircraft that isn't a large bomber that can do a thousand mile combat radius mission. We have no aircraft that is so stealthy that it can cruise with impunity 40 miles off the coast of mainland China. We have no aircraft that folds its wings at the root. We have no manned aircraft that can even do a fraction of these things for less than $100M per aircraft. And so on. You've cherry picked a bunch of individual specs from dissimilar aircraft and combined them all into one technologically miraculous aircraft. It would be like taking the flight deck of a carrier, the 16" guns of a battleship, the speed of the LCS, the range of nuke, the stealth of the Sea Shadow, the well deck of an amphib, the submergability(?) of a sub, and the cost of a patrol boat and believing we could combine them into one ship. Sure, we haven't attributed anything that a real ship can't do but we've combined them in an impossible single platform.

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    15. "I can see you aren't going to accept this idea, so I'll let it drop."

      The idea is fine as a concept that could (and should) be explored. This blog is based on data and logic and I'd just like to nudge you into a bit more fact based, realistic version of a UAV. I posed the question, is there a UAV that even comes a little bit close to this and, by your own admission (or lack of definitive answer) there isn't. That's what I mean by data-based.

      Now, there's nothing wrong with saying that as a non-existent and currently non-achievable concept we should work towards your envisioned UAV and, maybe, someday we can develop something approaching it but to discuss a moderately near term mine delivery system based on a combination of very unlikely capabilities is unrealistic.

      I'd love to see you pursue this. Find an existing UAV and make some fact based calculations to see if you can design your concept. Calculate the size of the bomb bay, the weight of the mine, the impact of size and weight on range, the realistic effect of stealth given that Russia, China, and the West all claim to be able to detect stealth aircraft, the susceptibility of slow UAVs to IRST detection/tracking, the actual (versus hoped for) wing fold location and resulting footprint, and realistic cost comparisons and let me know what you find. Tacit Blue, for example, has a fuselage consumed by its two engines. If you calc a bomb bay size and tack it onto the Tacit Blue fuselage, what does that do to the length, width, and height of the fuselage and what impact does that have on speed, range, fuel capacity, and stealth characteristics. In other words, do a paper design of your concept and present it. You may find that it can't be done as I'm suggesting or you may find that it's perfectly plausible and I'll readily acknowledge it.

      Give it a try. You seem to have some interest in it so it ought to be a fun exercise regardless of what you find.

      Let me know what you come up with.

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    16. "I'll end by noting that this massively protected A2/AD zone is also going to be a significant problem for a lone SSMN that will have to creep over seabed sensor nets, past SSKs and SSNs, and patrolling ships at 10-15kts, probably spending days in danger just to get close enough to deliver mobile mines. And then all again to get back out. Good luck with that."

      One of the things I insist on from readers is a basic knowledge of naval history. For example, you sarcastically describe the (in your mind) impossibility of penetrating an enemy zone by a sub and getting back out. What you apparently don't know is that we routinely did that during the Cold War when our subs penetrated Russian waters (sometimes territorial waters!), performed missions, and returned home without being detected. You also seem not to follow naval exercises that repeatedly demonstrate that subs, even in known, constrained, exercise areas are very hard to find, bordering on impossible.

      So, your sarcastic, "good luck with that", betrays a basic lack of awareness of both historical operations and current exercise results.

      I don't know this for a fact but, presumably, our subs our currently patrolling the East/South China Seas and monitoring Chinese harbors and bases, undetected - at least, I hope they are!

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  9. I am not convinced "armor" in the literal sense is that important in the era of super and hypersonic ASCMs.

    The power of modern antiship weapons (both kinetic and explosives) far exceeds the material strength of conventional and composites.

    It would be highly impractical - if not downright infeasible - to harden a modern combatant enough to withstand a Mach 3+ cruise missile. You'd end up with a warship that was 80% armor!

    I do think in a more general sense that a warship should have robust hard, soft and passive defenses. And that steps should be taken to ensure vital electronics are protected and/or have bakcups.

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    1. I've discussed this many times. Armor does not have to be able to withstand a hypermegasonic nuclear missile without a single scratch to have value. Armor mitigates damage. Read "Armor For Dummies" in the best blog posts list above.

      A WWII Fletcher had armor but it couldn't stop a battleship's 16" shell. Why do you think they bothered with armor?

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    2. CNO, I hear what you're saying about armor but a question remains for modern times. How to keep from sinking with a direct hit. If it's too big a hit it is going to sink us(All or nothing).

      So having enough armor in balance with compartmentalization, counter ballast, speed, maneuverability will keep the ship from sinking in the scenario that you have talked about previously is just what the navy does. Now you might disagree with the proportions they select but essentially it's the same.

      Another thing to consider is that, just adding armor of x amount of tonnage doesn't work in the real world. The weight goes up more when one considers larger propulsion to keep the same speed/maneuverability in a design. Those changes cost space for larger machinery and more room for fuel. And up and up we go. While room for weapons goes down.

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    3. If you honestly believe that we can't apply enough armor while maintaining speed and range then you need to examine the WWII designs in which we routinely did exactly that.

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    4. "How to keep from sinking with a direct hit. If it's too big a hit it is going to sink us(All or nothing)."

      History demonstrates repeatedly that single hits are rarely fatal.

      Stark, hit by an Exocet did not sink.
      McCain, rammed by ship did not sink.
      Fitzgerald, rammed by ship did not sink.
      Princeton, hit by mine did not sink.
      Tripoli, hit by mine did not sink.
      Cole, hit by suicide explosion did not sink.
      Belknap, collided with carrier did not sink.
      Harford collides with New Orleans, did not sink.
      Samuel B Roberts, hit by mine did not sink.

      I can go on but the trend is clear. Single hits by any weapon are rarely fatal. Armor is used to mitigate the damage. This is really pretty elementary.

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    5. I don't mean to imply that. My suggestion is that we won't fit 96 vls or 8 ashm, etc. But we could just make it a bigger hull. But that means... Size goes up. Number of Z compartments goes up. Number of damage control parties goes up. It's a balance. Most modern navies decide for a combo of blast walls mixed with compartmentalization, etc. With that the problems cascade downward, not upward.


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  10. CNO,could an offshoot of the LRASM deliver a mine with its ability to carry a 1,000 pound warhead? It would solve the problem of developing a survivable platform for delivery.

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    1. Theoretically, yes. The mine would have to be shaped to fit within the dimensions of the missile warhead cavity.

      The larger issue is cost. The LRASM is in the $2M-$3M range. To lay a small field of, say, 500 mines would cost $1B-$1.5B !!!! One of the great advantages of a mine is its very low cost - bordering on free by today's standards. Using an LRASM raises the cost of the mine from "free" to $2.5M-$3M. That's a very expensive mine!

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  11. I'm not up on current mines. Perhaps I missed it and if so I apologize, isn't the laying of mass numbers of mines strategically obsolete in a near peer war? Any ship in a harbor will be mission killed from 1,000 miles away along with the harbor infrastructure.

    I see mines as defensive and now as a form of cold war harassment such as the tanker wars. At that point it is better to lay a few mines over a longer period of time. Thus making a lower capacity sub the logical choice.

    As for smart mines I see using technology to merge mines and torpedoes. I would agree with most others that the answer is to put a kit on a current mine or torpedo. Ultimately making fewer mines more precise would be the way to go strategically and financially? Sort of the idea of just sink the ship with a torpedo, only without the risk of having to stay there. That would be true for mine laying, sub on sub and sub on ship battles.

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    1. "isn't the laying of mass numbers of mines strategically obsolete in a near peer war? Any ship in a harbor will be mission killed from 1,000 miles away "

      Well, that's an interesting question you raise. The obvious answers are:

      1. Targeting. Yes, we have plenty of 1000 mile cruise missiles (no, we don't, actually, but we'll say we do for sake of this discussion!) but we utterly lack the sensors to see a thousand miles inside, say, the Chinese A2/AD zone and see the ships in harbor and along the coast in real time so as to be able to target them for our missiles. A mine, on the other hand, can wait for days, months, years for a suitable target to come along and then doesn't require any targeting effort on our part.

      2. Cost. On a relative basis, mines are "free". Cruise missiles cost around $3M each. Assume a 20% hit rate on mobile ship targets and you can see that the cost rapidly adds up. We can deploy a hundred mines for every cruise missile.

      So, does that affect your thinking on this?

      Regardless, it's a very good question to examine.

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    2. "using technology to merge mines and torpedoes"

      That's already been done. The SLMM (Submarine Launched Mobile Mine) is essentially a torpedo with a smart-mine sensor/fuze. The Navy initially developed them using the old Mk37 torpedo and has a small inventory of them. They looked at making a SLMM version of the modern Mk48 torpedo but did not pursue it, as far as I know.

      This is all laid out in previous posts. Check the "mine" keyword in the archives.

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    3. Mining a harbor is mining a fixed target, it will never move. I can put a cruise missile on each spot and hit what I want. I can even use the mid-course guidance video to switch to hit a ship that's currently there or switch it to infrastructure if it's not. That's current tech. Without assuming a George Jetson/pie in the sky stance on future tech, I believe it will be reasonable for the newer cruise missiles to select between such targets on their own. That way they will work in a communication black out/EW type situation.

      If I'm in the open ocean and not a constriction point then #2 would be the proper weapon strategy.

      Either way I'm not sure why I would want to lay thousands of mines unless I'm doing it as a defense.

      Striking fixed targets tends to be more lasting for the money than striking a few (maybe) with mines. As for how many mines hit the ships, I suspect that will be far lower than any missile. Not to mention that there is less stealth the second time a sub arrives to lay some mines. Ambush of a very expensive asset is what one risks.

      As for SLMM I'm think more of an open ocean kit that allows me to silently place a torpedo in the water and using a sensor to allow it to lie in wait for the ship I know is almost there. When the time is right the torpedo activates just as though I launched it from a torpedo tube. The difference is that the time element allowed me to be functionally gone when the torpedo goes active.

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    4. "I can even use the mid-course guidance video to switch to hit a ship that's currently there or switch it to infrastructure if it's not. That's current tech."

      No, that's not current tech. That's current wishful thinking - the wishful thinking being that the enemy will graciously allow us the exact, proper conditions to make it work: they won't engage in ECM, they won't disrupt our comms, our comms will actually work over a thousand mile distance, they engage in jamming, etc. To the best of my knowledge, we have never tested mid-course guidance or terminal video (that's a pretty big bandwidth issue for contested comms environment!) in an electronically contested environment. That makes the technology mere wishful thinking that logic strongly suggests will not work.

      We've also never tested autonomous video targeting under contested conditions. Simple visual camouflage will render the expected warship profile unknown. Are we then going to let our autonomous weapons possibly hit civilian ships? That doesn't seem to be the American way of war. On the other hand, in an all out war, perhaps we don't care what we hit? I'm absolutely certain we've never tested visual autonomous terminal guidance in a visually contested environment with camouflage or obscurant smoke. Again, purely wishful technology that is unlikely to work.

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    5. "As for how many mines hit the ships, I suspect that will be far lower than any missile."

      You're quite right. The vast majority of mines never hit a target. Their real value lies only partly in the ships they sink (again, look at the post on operational mine warfare and see the number of Japanese ships sunk by mines - it was around 300, if I remember.) and mostly in the threat they represent. No one risks travel in mined waters. A single hit can render an immense area of water off limits to enemy shipping for extended periods while they attempt to determine the extent of the mine threat and neutralize it.

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    6. Your definition of current tech and wishful thinking are both different from mine. We'll probably just agree to disagree on that.
      We have never to my knowledge used the Tomahawk missile to strike Russia or China against their current EW, camo, jamming, etc. Same would be true for all of our nuclear missiles. Hell most if not all of our nuclear warheads have only gone boom on a super computer. So with your logic, because the enemy will try to counter our tech then most of our tech is not current. Fair enough. But I'm not sure how you would move forward with any kind of tech improvement as they are all wishful thinking. Let's just build more Iowa Class ships and stick to WWII tech?
      Never mind that the tech has been done before. Never mind that we can test it under those conditions.

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    7. "But I'm not sure how you would move forward with any kind of tech improvement as they are all wishful thinking."

      Come on, now. That's easy! We test our tech against our own best tech. Let's shoot a Tomahawk at a target protected by the very best ECM, jamming, disruption, radar, etc. that we have and see what works and what doesn't. If if works flawlessly despite all that then it passes from wishful thinking to "has a chance". We also need to acquire Russian and Chinese tech and test against that when we can.

      How long have observers called for a realistic, full scale missile attack against an actual Aegis system operating in full auto mode to see what will work and what won't? I can go on all night with examples of our refusal to realistically test our weapons but you get the idea.

      Can we use your idea of video re-targeting against a defended, camouflaged, obscured target? Who knows, since we've never tried to test it. That's wishful thinking tech.

      There's no "agree to disagree" on this. This is simple yes, we've tested it and it works or no, we haven't and it's just hope. There's no agree or disagree - this is factual yes or no and the reality is that most of our weapons have not been tested under the conditions they're intended to be used under. DOT&E has repeatedly harped on this, as have I.

      For example, there have only been two combat incidents involving Aegis and both failed badly: one was the Vincennes incident and the other was the purported missile attack against a Burke off Yemen in which the Navy isn't even sure if they were attacked and, if they were, whether the defensive missiles hit anything. That puts Aegis squarely in the wishful thinking category.

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    8. It's not my idea. It's in the current tactical tomahawk. DTO&E removed that missile from testing due to 9 years of success. When the Navy asked for the anti-ship variant the MTS Tomahawk was placed back on DTO&E for testing.
      So what you are calling wishful thinking the beloved DTO&E called 9 years of performance passing and called it good. Again, I'm not sure what you are suggesting is not current tech. The newer TACTOM's can be redirected, loiter and do BDA as I suggest.
      The LRASM has demonstrated that same capability and can distinguish between targets. That is not current and isn't IOC yet but there is no reason to believe it's some pie in the sky dream. Hell it's done it a few times in testing. Last time from the B-1B.
      The TACTOM has a proven record in combat. It continues to be improved with DTOE saying the latest is good to go. They stopped testing it because it works.
      Again, if that's not good enough for you nothing ever will be. And as I said, we can always agree to disagree. But on this DTOE disagrees with you also.

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    9. "The newer TACTOM's can be redirected, loiter and do BDA as I suggest."

      I was quite clear but I'll say it one more time. None of this has been tested under realistic combat conditions. We have not launched a Tomahawk against our own defenses (SAM, air patrols, ECM, obscurants, decoys, etc.) to see what it can do against peer level opponents. Until we conduct that type of testing the weapon remains wishful thinking.

      Nine years of success have been against completely defenseless, unopposed targets. We have no idea how it will work in peer opposed combat and we seem to have no desire to test and find out.

      If you really believe a Tomahawk will work as advertised in a peer opposed scenario then you, too, are operating in the military's fantasy land.

      As I mentioned, in the only two Aegis combat opportunities that I'm aware of, Aegis failed badly.

      The ubiquitous 5" gun of the Navy failed utterly in its only two combat uses that I'm aware of.

      The standard Navy Mk48 torpedo has been found to be deficient against shallow water submarines and has never been tested against threat-representative surrogates according to DOT&E.

      The LCS NLOS failed and was cancelled.

      The LCS entire ASW module failed and was cancelled.

      The Mk110 57mm gun was found to be unusably inaccurate at speed.

      The entire Marine/Navy amphibious assault concept is impossible to execute and yet it remains doctrine.

      I can list these things all day long! The Navy is built on untested, wishful thinking weapons and systems. Until we start realistic testing they'll remain wishful thinking.

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  12. I think I'm suggesting a similar idea as S.O. but instead of laying the mine I believe it a much better capability for sub on sub, sub on ship encounters.

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  13. The thing that strikes me is that we are discussing how to get a pretty cheap weapon to a specific place in the cheapest way possible, preferably quickly and en masse.

    The quickstrike-ER seems like a good way to accomplish this with a reasonable stand-off range (40nm), but the question then comes how did the mine get to be 30,000 feet up 40 nautical miles away from the target. If we had a cheap, fairly inaccurate rocket that could get the mine to that point in the sky, the JDAM guidance could then get the flounder to where it needs to be.

    ATACMS costs in excess of $500k per unit, but that is still considerably cheaper than LRASM or similar. It's just a matter of having a cheap flinging device to get the flying mines within range of the target.

    There was a Boeing proposal a while back to add an engine to the tail of the JDAM to greatly extend the range, which hopefully would be a really cheap way of launching quickstrike ER from over 400km away.

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    1. What's the range of ATACMS? What's the payload?

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    2. Range of Block 4 is listed as 190 miles (300km) which is reasonable, the unitary warhead currently weighs 500lb. So as a flinging device ATACMS has the potential to work. It is of course a large, non-stealthy ballistic thing, which will be relatively easy to track. This would negate the stealth aspect to some degree, but the enemy still wouldn't know exactly where each min had landed. As such, they would still have to spend an enormous amount of time and energy localising and destroying the laid mines to enable the harbour to be freely used again.

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    3. Given the Chinese 1000 mile A2/AD zone, will a 190 mile mine delivery weapon help? Where would it be fired from?

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    4. If the 1000 mile A2/AD zone is absolutely locked up tight, any operations within that zone would be at considerable risk. Would we ever risk valuable manned ships and aircraft in such a spcae, I don't believe so. The only asset that is likely to be tasked well within that zone will be submerged, and we already have mine delivery worked out for subs.

      To move any weapon 1000 miles through an A2/AD zone is not going to be a cheap exercise. We don't have any cheap means of flying a 5000lb mine that far (as noted LRASM is way too expensive, risking a large enough manned aircraft isn't going to happen).

      But this also begs the question of where does mining need to happen to BEGIN to be effective? If I can only fly a mine in 190 miles, that means any harbour or chokepoint within that range from a suitable launch point is at risk.

      190 miles below horizon, so a ship with enough space for MLRS in sufficient quantity could fly ATACMS launched mines to that harbour or chokepoint. As part of an integrated effort this means you can push back on the boundaries of the A2/AD zone. This isn't a perfect solution, but is a heck of a lot safer than dropping mines from an A-6 in the gulf.

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    5. "But this also begs the question of where does mining need to happen to BEGIN to be effective?"

      You're asking all the right questions! Ideally, you'd like to mine China's harbors and naval bases to prevent both merchant shipping movement and warships (and maybe sink a few in the process). Thus, to answer your question, mining should occur along the coast and mainland harbors/bases. If we wait until we've rolled back China's military capabilities to the point where we can approach their coastal regions within 190 miles then the war is, essentially, already over.

      There are no worthwhile minefield candidates within 190 miles of the first island chain except the artificial island bases and those can be easily destroyed by cruise missiles.

      So, it looks to me like we either need to mine the coast or not bother with mines. Of course, there will probably be some merchant shipping chokepoints along the periphery but those would be relatively few and fairly easily mined.

      War isn't easy and we seem to have forgotten that in our planning. We assume that all our wonder weapons will work with absolutely no interference from the enemy. It won't be like that. War is hard!

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    6. War is definitely hard.

      As soon as cost is a factor in the wartime decision making you end up with issues. If we could fly 1,000 mines into the coastal harbours of mainland China on LRASM we could have a BIG effect, the only problem being that it would cost in the region of $2Bn! But if you don't care about cost we could mine large areas really quickly. This all assumes that there are sufficient munition stocks already procured...

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  14. A couple of thoughts:

    Mines are area denial weapons. Their impact isn't really to sink ships so much as to deny areas to the enemy or to force them to spend time sweeping the area. If you have a large mine laying capacity then you force your enemy to assume that all of their choke points are potentially mined and they have to spend time and resources to sweep them.

    Any suggested mission for a nuclear capable platform runs the risk that the enemy will not take chances that the platform isn't carrying a nuke. The proposed B-21 bomber would be problematic since it could be on a nuclear mission. No one is going to take a chance that a heavy bomber headed near their airspace isn't on a nuclear attack run. My other complaint about having so many platforms with a nuclear role is that you have to keep some in reserve as a retaliation force.

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    1. "Any suggested mission for a nuclear capable platform runs the risk that the enemy will not take chances that the platform isn't carrying a nuke."

      Almost any platform can carry a nuke today. So, you're suggesting that we eliminate any platform that can sail, fly, or otherwise approach an enemy?

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    2. "Almost any platform can carry a nuke today" is only true because we choose to add a nuclear role to the platform.

      Adding a nuclear role increases platform cost, complexity and training time for operational and support crews. Why burden the F-35 fleet with a nuclear role when it will almost certainly never be needed?

      So I'm more questioning the decision to add a nuclear role to every platform than suggesting we eliminate platforms.

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    3. "No one is going to take a chance that a heavy bomber headed near their airspace isn't on a nuclear attack run."

      What's your point? Is it that if China sees a bomber it will assume it's a nuclear attack and initiate an all out nuclear war?

      What about the reverse and all the ballistic missiles China has. Are you suggesting that since they could be nuclear that we should initiate an all out nuclear war if we see one?

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    4. No, my point was that giving the B-21 a heavy mine laying role would be at odds in multiple ways with it's primary role of strategic nuclear strike.

      And your question about Chinese ballistic missiles is excellent. How long would the US President wait to find out if ballistic missiles inbound to Tokyo are conventional or nuclear? I don't know and I don't pretend to know what the "correct" answer is, assuming there even is one.

      But that's also way outside the scope of your original point due to my wandering off the topic. I appreciate you keeping me on point.

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    5. I don't mind wandering off point if the wander is productive and this is. One of the recurring themes I read when discussing Russia or China is that we have to tread very lightly lest either be slightly offended or slightly scared and immediately resort to nuclear war. Thus, we can't employ any type of conventional ballistic missile for fear that it will be misinterpreted and we can't send any bomber near them for fear that it will be misinterpreted and we can't launch massive conventional attacks because they'll resort to nuclear war. What these people fail to address is the reverse situation. Why is it that China can build and plan on launching hundreds of conventional ballistic missiles with no fear that we might believe we're being attacked by nuclear weapons? Why can Russia and China plan to launch massive heavy bomber (nuclear capable) attacks against our carrier groups with no fear that we might see them as nuclear attacks.

      Why is the onus 100% on us to scale back due to fear of nuclear escalation but the Russians and Chinese are free to pursue any action they want with no fear of escalation and no responsibility for escalation?

      Frankly, this is cowardice on the part of the people who think this way. Neither Russia nor China's leaders are insane (NKorea's is!). They are not going to start a nuclear war unless their very existence is threatened and, by that time, they'll probably be incapable of carrying it out anyway. Besides, we have no desire to actually invade mainland China or Russia. What would we do with them even if we could successfully do so? We've already demonstrated that we can't administer a small country like Iraq after we invade so why would we want to take over a giant land like Russia or China? This is a key consideration, by the way, that severely constrains our war strategies but that's another topic.

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