The “Do The Math” post produced some interesting comments. Some people insist on concocting highly implausible (impossible) scenarios to cause depletion of the ships’ missile inventory and then cite that as proof of the need for reloading at sea capability. Well, there’s one further aspect that no one is considering and that is the mechanics and rate of reload at sea.
For the sake of discussion, let’s assume that, in some impossible way, our ships find themselves in an on-going battle that has depleted their inventory of thousands of missiles – or a single ship has depleted its inventory of hundreds of missiles – and desperately in need of reloads. Where are these reloads going to come from? Obviously, they’re going to come from a resupply ship. So, setting aside the issue of insane risk to an incredibly valuable resupply ship so close to a mega-battle, let’s assume that there is a momentary pause in this mega-battle and we’re going to reload. There’s one incredibly important question: how long will the reload take?
If you’ve ever seen a video of VLS loading, you know it’s a very delicate, very slow procedure due to the incredibly tight tolerances. I’ve watched videos and it’s like looking at a still picture, it moves so slowly – and that’s on land. Now, imagine doing this at sea. Even with cranes or mechanisms that compensate for the ship’s movement, there is still shifting of weight and the process is still very slow and delicate. I would guess that we’d be lucky to load one cell per hour. For a Burke with 96 cells, that means it would take 96 hours – 4 days - to reload and that’s working non-stop for four straight days. How is this relevant or useful in the on-going, mega-battle scenario?
But wait, it gets worse!
Where are the missiles that need to be loaded? They’re on the resupply ship, of course! That means they need to be transferred, one at a time, to the ship. Canister weights are on the order of 3000 lbs (1). That’s not something that gets hauled out of storage from the resupply ship and tossed over the side to someone on the receiving ship to catch! That’s a slow, delicate transfer process itself. I have no idea what the transfer rate would be but it can’t be fast.
|VLS Cell Loading - Slow!|
Further consider that the resupply ship and loading ship would have to be tethered together the entire time of the reload process. The receiving ship has no storage space to pile up canisters even if they could be transferred faster than they could be loaded. Can you imagine, during a mega-battle, a ship and a resupply ship sailing, tethered together, on a straight, slow course for four days?
Well, you say, the reloading ship would just withdraw to a safe distance to reload. With modern missile warfare, a safe distance is hundreds of miles. If that’s the case, they may as well return to port!
So, at best, we can reload one ship, using one dedicated resupply ship, every four days. Does that sound operationally useful? No, it doesn’t. Hey, related note, how many resupply ships does the Navy have?
There’s also the issue of canister movement aboard the loading ship. Transferring the canister is just the first step. The receiving ship has to have some means of moving the 3000 lb canister from the transfer point to the VLS loading mechanism.
The problems just go on and on.
I think it’s past time to let the reload at sea idea, die.