Thursday, October 25, 2018

Ship Magazine Size

Let’s suppose we’re contemplating a new warship design.  Raise your hand.  How many VLS cells should the ship have?  70?  100?  125?  150?  More than 150?  Be honest, now, how many of you said 150 or more?  I’m betting it was most of you.

From WWII on, and probably before, how many ships have exhausted their magazines during a naval battle?  Very few, bordering on none. 

For example, the Guadalcanal naval battles were short affairs, typically lasting minutes and the participating ships sank or retired from battle with relatively little expenditure of their magazine inventories.

The final ship to ship battle that sank the Bismarck lasted a little over an hour and a half.  No ship ran out of shells or, to the best of my knowledge, even came close.

The final battleship to battleship engagement at Surigao Strait lasted around 30 minutes and saw the following battleship main battery expenditures from their magazines which typically contained 100 or so shells per gun for a total of 900+.

West Virginia  93 shells
California     63 shells
Tennessee      69 shells
Maryland       48 shells
Pennsylvania    0 shells

And so on.  There may be an example somewhere in history of a ship emptying its magazines but the general conclusion is that naval battles are short and vicious and magazine size is rarely, if ever, a factor.

The situation for land attack is, of course, different.  In many amphibious assaults, the battleships and cruisers fired the majority of their magazine inventories spread over days of bombardment but that was a planned event with an orderly schedule for resupply already in hand.

Okay, so how does any of this apply to modern naval battles and warship design?

Well, the most likely naval battle will be an anti-air (AAW) defense against an enemy’s anti-ship cruise missiles.  We’ve previously noted that the engagement will most likely start at the radar horizon which we’ll call 20 miles.  We further noted that the realistic engagement window would be on the order of 30 seconds.  That’s time for a single shoot-shoot-look sequence.  So, let’s simplify this and say that a single Burke is attacked by 15 anti-ship missiles.  Using a single shoot-shoot-look engagement sequence, we’d need two ESSMs per incoming missile for a total defensive missile requirement of 30 ESSMs.  ESSMs are quad-packed so 30 missiles translates to 7.5 VLS cells.

Note that 15 simultaneous attacking missiles is a major engagement and defending against it required 7.5 VLS cells.  Suppose a third (say 30) of the Burke’s VLS cells are loaded with ESSMs (120 ESSMs, total).  That means the ship can conduct 4 major engagements of the nature described.

We’ve also previously noted that, historically, naval engagements consist of a single battle after which the force returns to base to refuel and rearm.  Naval forces simply don’t stand and engage in multiple battles.  Yes, there can be multiple attacks per battle and, with that in mind, we’ve just noted that a Burke could engage in 4 such major attacks.

Now, let’s take a moment to consider the reality of a future naval battle.  A carrier group, for example, will consist of 3-4 carriers and 20+ Aegis escorts (seriously, you’re not going to expose 3-4 carriers with anything less than 20+ escorts, are you?).  Some quick math reveals that 20 escorts, each with 30 ESSM quad-packed VLS cells, totals 2,400 ESSM missiles.  A major attack against a carrier group might consist of, say, 60 anti-ship missiles.  If not detected until the 20 mile mark, that would require 120 defensive ESSMs.  Thus, the group could engage in 20 such major attacks before running out of ESSMs.

We see, then, that the need for AAW defensive VLS cells – the AAW magazine - is small; on the order of 30 cells per ship, if even that.  Throw in some cells for longer range Standards, say, 30, and you have a fully equipped and capable AAW escort ship whose magazine, meaning VLS cells, doesn’t need to be much more than around 60.  That will have a significant impact on ship size and resulting cost.

Pure AAW escort ships wouldn’t need helos/flight decks/hangars which would cut 130 ft or so from the ship length.  You can see that we could build top of the line, pure AAW escorts that would be half the size of a Burke and with 2/3 the number of VLS cells at, one would reasonably hope, half to a third of the cost.

However, this post isn’t about specialized AAW escort ships.  The post is about magazine size (VLS capacity).  We can see that the trend towards more and more VLS cells is misguided.  The odds of ever needing more than a third of the magazine capacity are poor.  We’re overbuilding our ships and when they sink, they’ll take most of their magazine with them, unexpended, just as their WWII forebears did.  While a WWII ship taking shells costing hundreds to thousands of dollars each is grudgingly acceptable, a modern ship taking, say, 90 cells worth of missiles that cost $1M-$3M each represents a loss of up to $300M dollars.  Worse, our current inventories of most missiles numbers around a few thousand, at most.  Thus, losing 90 unexpended missiles represents a significant hit to our inventory.  This is exactly the same argument that highlights one of the disadvantages of the arsenal ship. 

We need to start doing some serious combat simulations and planning and start basing our ship designs on the realities of combat rather than just unthinkingly trying to cram as much as we can into every ship.


  1. KMS Graf Spee had almost exhausted its 11" munitions after the La Plata battle. This contributed to the decision to scuttle the ship (the other troublesome damage was an inability to produce hot food).

    1. ...and the earlier Battle of the Falkland Islands in 1914 was also coined by the German armoured cruisers running out of munitions after a victorious previous battle.

      So these are two examples where largely exhausted magazines were extremely troublesome for follow-on battles.

      Furthermore, NATO was very concerned about the false contact rate in ASW during the Cold War. NATO planners calculated that convoy escorts would run out of lightweight torps (MK-44, Mk-46) before crossing the North Atlantic once if they defended aggressively against contacts.

    2. Please address the main premise not irrelevant trivialities.

    3. Well, you spent about 40% of the article on those "irrelevant trivialities".

      Wargaming showed a great need for munitions for decades - and the giant expenditures of SAMs in the MidEast and Vietnam wars supported that notion especially regarding SAMs.

      "Thus, the group could engage in 20 such major attacks before running out of ESSMs."

      That, of course is way too simplistic, but you know that.

      I argue that you need a lot of VL ASROCs for you'd want to expend three per very likely (hostile) sub contact to trap the sub in a no escape triangle where countermeasures by the sub have least chance of success.
      Now keep in mind even such very likely contacts may often be false contacts, very slow-moving electric torpedoes or outright undersea decoys. 30 VLS cells for ASuMs alone may be very justifiable for an ASW or GP warship.

    4. The article specifically discussed pure AAW vessels, not multi-function, do-everything ships. Don't be obtuse.

    5. Okay, I'll bite. A pure AAW ship could get away with what you propose. The obvious counter is that a pure anything ship is so tactically limiting, especially once losses have been taken in battle, that I believe it would be foolhardy. That's just swinging from one extreme to the other. Now a largely AAW ship with a handful of cells devoted to cruise missiles and/or VL ASROC, sure. I don't think I'd do away with a helicopter flight deck, either, at least a minimal one. No hangar or on-board helos needed in a carrier task force, but having a place for a helo to set down or at least drop a sling load is awfully useful.

    6. Does adding 10 tomahawks and 10 harpoons really make you a multi function vessel?
      Not really, it's just playing at multi function

    7. "a pure anything ship is so tactically limiting"

      Quite the opposite, actually. A multi-function ship can only be in one place at a time and only perform one function at a time. Multiple single-function ships can be in multiple places at the same time performing multiple functions. Further, each single function ship is a specialist and far more capable than a multi-function ship which has to split limited training time among multiple functions. A good example is the Burke which claims to be ASW capable but, in reality, has little ASW expertise because they train almost exclusively for AAW.

      You need to peruse the archives and come up to speed. We've addressed this issue extensively.

    8. To be fair, we can sort of see an example of this in the JMSDF's escort flotillas. You have an Aegis AAW DDG acting as the flotilla's longrange AAW umbrella, you have 1-2 AESA-equipped frigates supporting the AAW DDG with close AAW and ASW defense, and then the rest of the ASW frigates in the escort flotilla do ASW. That said, this works for the JMSDF because it's essentially an ASW-focused navy, and it's worth noting that all their warships, even the ASW frigates, carry Harpoon for ASuW (IMO self defense SAMs do not really make a ship capable of AAW).

  2. In addition to air defense, Burkes are also used for land attack and ASW. Reducing the number of VLS cells would limit the ability to conduct those missions.

  3. A couple of thoughts

    Chinese do you think with their industry they now have the capacity and tech to be able to build anti-ship missiles in the thousands and so a game changer.

    Secondly Navy has no short range anti-hypersonic/ ballistic missile the equivalent of the Army Patriot Mach 5 LM PAC-3 MSE, have seen range quoted as 35 km, the new ESSM Block II in development appears an update of an older generation missile without the required capability to counter the new threats, still open question if hypersonic and ballistic will become credible anti-ship missiles.

    1. Nick, Patriot is a medium range SAM; the USN doesn't need it when it has SM in the mix.

      The US has traditionally not preferred supersonic or hypersonic AShM because of the detection issues, as well as the limited observation window making supersonic AShMs more susceptible to softkill measures; that said the Japanese are working on a hypersonic AShM of their own and the USN is observing that. It's not inconceivable that the USN may become a partner with the JMSDF (the way SM-3 is a joint US-Japan partnership), to leverage that R&D work.

    2. "not preferred supersonic or hypersonic AShM because of the detection issues"

      ?????? What detection issues?

    3. "?????? What detection issues?"

      Unstealthy supersonic AShMs are easier to detect vs stealthy subsonic AShMs because of the larger radar cross section and the higher IR signature (on account of being supersonic); the latter particularly makes supersonic AShMs more vulnerable to point defense missiles, particularly when a supersonic AShM in terminal phase isn't going to be wildly maneuvering lest it moves its seeker away from being able to observe the target. Meanwhile with stealthy subsonic missiles like LRASM and NSM, you've got a reduced RCS and less heating of the airframe. On the other hand, supersonich AShMs are also faster, which reduces the engagement window. It's all tradeoffs.

      (Otoh one could also make the argument that the US has been a bit complacent in the field AShMs since the primary AShM platform is a Hornet. There's less urgency for your missiles to be superfast to hit the enemy if you can use carrier fighters to attack enemy ships without risking your own ships, as opposed to being Russia and needing to spam missiles from your warships at American warships.)

    4. "Unstealthy supersonic AShMs are easier to detect vs stealthy subsonic AShMs"

      Do you have any reference to support this statement?

    5. Physics, and an off the record conversation with an acquaintance of mine who worked procurement for Singapore MINDEF and another acquaintance who was a Sea Sparrow guy. Higher radar cross section + larger IR sig from friction heating is going to be more detectable than smaller RCS & lower IR sig. Note the larger size of Brahmos, Moskit, Granit etc vs NSM (this is part of the USN's confidence in RAM as a point defense missile, since the high IR sig of supersonic missiles gives a good target for the heatseeker to guide onto).

      I got the impression that while detection was part of the issue, the real concerns were more that the high speed cut both ways against the missile; the supersonic AShM has a shorter time to target, but less time to observe the target, and so it's more susceptible to being defeated by softkill measures (EW and decoys) and the heat means you can only really use radar guidance. Subsonic AShMs allow you to fit in more seekers (radar seeker, IIR) to reduce vulnerability to softkill measures.

    6. So, this is just speculation on your part. There's nothing wrong with speculation - I do it all the time - AS LONG AS IT'S INDICATED AS SUCH.

      The reality is that you're technically correct but practically wrong. Yes, the faster an object moves, the more heat it generates which makes it susceptible to IR detection. However, the US Navy has no area IR surveillance capability that I'm aware of. Thus, no ship or AEW aircraft is going to be able to IR detect a super/hyper sonic missile sooner than radar. Thus, your statement about easier detection is wrong in the real world.

      You have a tendency to make these kinds of inaccurate statements and I really need you to think about this kind of statement before you write it. I'm wasting a lot of time correcting these inaccuracies. From now on, I'm going to simply delete them without explanation. Fair warning.

    7. I feel like I need to elaborate more.

      I think you're too overly focused on the IR side of things, and you've overlooked the matter of the radar cross section. It's a combo thing. All things being equal, the surface launched supersonic/hypersonic missile is going to be larger than an air launched subsonic missile because it needs to be bigger to accomodate the engine and fuel for going really freakin' fast. So, all things being equal, the large supersonic missile is going to be more easily detected on radar compared to the small subsonic missile, because it's got the larger RCS. That's detection by the warship/AEW aircraft.

      Meanwhile, both CIWS and SeaRAM's sensor dome uses a combination of Ku-band radar and FLIR - this is where the higher IR signature becomes an issue: engagement by point defenses, as well as the nature of RAM being a heatseeking missile meaning that a fast, hot supersonic missile is a very unsubtle target for RAM to intercept.

      I think you've misunderstood me - I'm not talking about IR for area search, we both know how utterly terrible an option that is for area search (and now I'm triggered because I've now been reminded of arguments with someone elsewhere, tl;dr they insisted that carriers were trivially easy to find because all China had to do was make cheap hundreds of thoussands of cheap hundred dollar drones with IR cameras to scour the seas. Yeah. :/). I'm talking about radar for area search and IR for point defense engagement.


      As an aside, the French and British are working on their own supersonic stealthy missile, Perseus, as a replacement for Exocet. Given that that's now two sets of US allies working on supersonic missiles, there's an argument to be made that perhaps the US should reconsider its preference for subsonic antiship missiles. Certainly it seems that the Japanese, British and French have decided either that they're willing to put up with the cons of supersonic antiship missiles, or perhaps have found ways to mitigate some of those issues. *shrug*

    8. WIld GooseOctober 25, 2018 at 7:49 PM
      Nick, Patriot is a medium range SAM; the USN doesn't need it when it has SM in the mix.

      Would question above - The Patriot missiles as understand, both PAC-2 and the newer HTK PAC-3 MSE are short to medium range when used in anti-aircraft warfare mode, targets at mach 1 to 2, but when defending against a mach 5 short range ballistic missiles the effective range decreases drastically with a closing speed of mach 10, said to be ~ one third of effective range normally quoted.

      The mach 5+ PAC-3 MSE range not disclosed, mention made of a max effective 35 km range against a ballistic missile (have seen the original PAC-3 range quoted as 20 km) the SM-2 is slower mach 3.5, and not designed to counter mach 5 targets, either ballistic missiles or hypersonic missiles, as Raytheon now pushing Army to adopt their 'PAC-4' missile the Israeli Stunner missile, think that confirms the limitation of the SM-2. The SM-6 Block 1 and II are said to be capable of hitting ballistic missiles at longer range.

      PS The Army original PAC-3 and newer updated PAC-3 MSE with a 19 foot body and new dual pulse 11" diameter solid rocket motor said to nearly double the range designed as back up to the longer range THAAD missiles with a minimum engagement range was 40 km, but in 1999 Hans Mark, who was in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, previously a Secretary of the Air Force, suggested that BMDO should consider raising the THAAD intercept requirement from 40 kilometers to 60 or 80 kilometers to simplify the problem of guiding the missile and make operation of the seekers easier to manage (globalsecurity).

  4. I think what's driving the large VLS cell counts in the USN - 96 on the Burkes, 122 on the Ticos - is how the USN wants generalist ships that can do anything (or at least carry the missiles for multiple roles). On average something like 30-odd cells in a generalist loadout are allocated for Tomahawk, since the DDGs are the Navy's main shore bombardment platform, so while they remain the main TLAM shooters in the USN i don't think we're going to see DDGs drop below 96 cells.

    1. The article specifically discussed pure AAW vessels, not multi-function, do-everything ships.

    2. I realise that and I agree with your idea that you can get by with fewer cells for a pure AAW ship (and 64 cells still gives you some space to carry VL ASROC and NSM). I'm just making an observation that so long as the USN's shipbuilding wants do-everything ships, I don't think it's likely that we'll ever see a reduction in VLS cells.

    3. "so long as the USN's shipbuilding wants do-everything ships, I don't think it's likely that we'll ever see a reduction in VLS cells."

      This blog deals in both the current reality and the future 'ought to be'. To limit the blog to just current reality is pointless. The Navy already has a website where they tell you how great they are.

      This blog is the Billy Mitchell, Rickover, Boyd type of blog where I tell you what changes need to be made. I don't really care what the current reality is other than to note its problems so that I can devise improvements. You wouldn't have thought it likely that we'd see any change from the battleship line prior to WWII. Thank goodness there were people with greater vision who could see past the current reality.

    4. Look, I actually agree with you that you don't need 64 cells for a pure AAW ship. I was making an observation on the present reality, and with an implicit acknowledgement that for your idea to happen, there needs to be a shift in the USN's shipbuilding priorities, and an alternative option for the role of shore bombardment TLAM shooter has to come about.

    5. Correction: you don't need 96 cells for a pure AAW warship in the US context.

      For the sake of the audience: 64 cells for an AAW DDG is perfectly viable if you are the USN operating multiple AAW DDGs in concert, as opposed to either Japan or South Korea who only have one Aegis DDG for each desron, so they pack as many missiles as they can into that one ship.

  5. What Wild said....

    Does USN really have a true AAW ship? We pretend that we do but we really have a dominant oriented AAW ship that is used a multi role ship.....

    1. To be fair, it's not like the USN hasn't previously had escort ships capable of carrying out multiple missions. BBs did shore bombardment, ASuW and AA escort; Fletchers did everything, the list goes on. *shrug*

    2. For that matter, other than carriers, when was the last time the USN had a single-purpose surface warship since PT boats?

    3. "not like the USN hasn't previously had escort ships capable of carrying out multiple missions."

      "when was the last time the USN had a single-purpose surface warship"

      This issue has been thoroughly addressed in many previous posts and comments and I'm not going to relitigate it. You need to peruse the archives and come up to speed.

    4. I'm not trying to relitigate anything, I'm simply making an observation on the historical trends.

  6. The 'Burkes have a 5" magazine capacity of 600 shells. Since the Navy refuses to let these thin skinned warships get closer than 30nm from a hostile shore, air defense and ship to ship are nearly non existent, why carry more than 225 shells? Even that number is several times larger than any single engagement would require.

    With the idea of Distributed Lethality, I would think the Navy would want a higher number of smaller ships, instead of fewer and bigger ships. Maybe the FFG is the Navies version of a smaller multi-purpose ship.

  7. We are finally pulling out of the INF treaty. Pop the corks! Now we can offer a credible deterrent to our vulnerable wespac problem
    addressed in previous "lesson". Now, how many vls cells did you say was enough?

  8. I know I broke the rule stated in the question about AAW ships. But. Pop the corks! Unleash the bubbly!

  9. "Pure AAW escort ships wouldn’t need helos/flight decks/hangars which would cut 130 ft or so from the ship length. You can see that we could build top of the line, pure AAW escorts that would be half the size of a Burke and with 2/3 the number of VLS cells at, one would reasonably hope, half to a third of the cost."

    I wouldn't completely discount a flight deck and a hanger in for a pure AAW ship as replenishment by helicopter is common. And, in some cases the ship might have to refuel the helicopter for the return journey.

    But, I would like to know what are the cost drivers for destroyer, their relationship to each other, and the their relationship to the design design and function of the ship itself. For an AAW escort, electronics, especially the air search radar, must be a driver. I did a quick Google search, but didn't find anything relevant.

    1. "replenishment by helicopter is common"

      Replenishment does not require a flight deck, just a small, clear area on the deck. Those markings that used to be common on the bow and stern areas were for helo replenishment.

      "in some cases the ship might have to refuel the helicopter for the return journey."

      No. A pure AAW escort is never going to be away from its carrier or LXX. Thus, the helo will never be far from its host ship.

      "I did a quick Google search, but didn't find anything relevant."

      The best itemized breakdown of costs is the Navy SCN budget docs and they're readily available on the Internet.

    2. But, your description of a Cruiser and Battleship Surface Group have those ships operating without a carrier or LXX. Therefore, some form of resupply independent of a carrier or LXX is necessary. Perhaps, then supplies are brought first to the UAV or ASW carrier and later distributed to the group.

    3. You do recall that we supplied a fleet of thousands of ships during WWII without using helos, right?

    4. A flight deck doesn't really add that much cost, not if you're not trying to do something crazy like the danes and make it take Chinooks because they're making hybrid frigate/LHDs. /smh :V But helos are limited in what they can sling lift to the ship, and there's only so much you can fix on the ship itself.

      More importantly, the kind of resupply that DDs/DDGs will need in a war - reloading of missiles, refueling, emergency repairs - this sort of stuff is going to be done alongside tenders, or at forward bases (either in partner nations, like Changi or Sepanggar, or an atoll base in a remix of War Plan Orange).

    5. We use VertRep because we have helicopters and flight decks, not because its he best way, or even a good way
      We would be far better off if ships had a cargo deck and a 10t crane, with 25t cranes bigger warships or resupply vessels.

  10. A regiment of Backfires, 61 planes, 2x KH22 per plane (3rd not loaded for speed and range). For an assured kill on 4 CVG, we'd use 3-4x Rgt. Sending in penny packets is a waste of good aviation. That was back in F-14 times, maybe 2 Rgt today. The good old days of the outer air battle.
    Cheap AAW ships, and lets put some planes back on the CVs,
    they used to be capable of long range AAW.

    The good old days, they're gone forever.

  11. The Chinese and our Korean/Japanese allies seem to be focused on building large do-everything surface combatants of ever-increasing size and huge numbers of VLS cells. Are they just copying the US, or is the concept valid? I'm sure they've all run independent studies of big generalists versus small specialists, which makes me wonder if they're right.

    1. I don't know about the Chinese but other countries build as large and multi-functional ships as they can because their budget is limited. If you can only build a few ships you'll pack everything you can into them. That doesn't make the design a good one, just the best they can do with limited resources. We have the luxury of designing a naval force independent of budget concerns, to an extent.

    2. The (cool) Koreans used to build considerable numbers of smaller specialist vessels like the ASW Ulsan Frigate, and the ASuW Pohang corvette, but these days they're churning out massive 11,000 ton Sejong The Great DDGs, which are essentially really big Burkes.

      The Japanese have always embraced multi-role. Even their old Hatsuyuki DDs from the 70s and Abukama DEs from the 80s tried to do ASW, ASuW, and AAW on one platform. Now, they also build big Burkes in form of the Atago. Considering that they're planning to have 55+ surface combatants by 2030, Japan could have also chosen to specialize with that kind of budget, but they didn't.

      As you very well know, the same goes with the Chinese Their yards are now turning out substantial numbers of huge multirole Type 55 destroyers(cruisers?). It seems like every serious Asian Pacific power independently settled upon the idea that a big multirole destroyer is the best way to build a ship, and I don't think that's an accident.

    3. "every serious Asian Pacific power independently settled upon the idea that a big multirole destroyer is the best way to build a ship, and I don't think that's an accident."

      Consensus doesn't equal correct. Most countries pre-WWII believed the battleship was supreme. All were wrong. I've explained the logic behind smaller, single function ships. You can accept it or not. Your choice.

    4. To an extent I think all warships, regardless of role, should either carry AShM or have provision to install AShMs if necessary: shooting missiles at enemy ships is kinda a core competency of a Navy. More importantly, carrying antiship missiles doesn't interfere that much with the warship's role. I'm reminded of WW2, on how DDs, DEs and CLs all carried torpedoes.

      "I've explained the logic behind smaller, single function ships. You can accept it or not. Your choice."

      Perhaps it might be best to relink your past logic? He might be more convinced if he could more easily be directed to your past workings on the subject.

    5. "I'm reminded of WW2, on how DDs, DEs and CLs all carried torpedoes."

      The main role of destroyers was torpedo attack!
      The main role of DEs was convoy escort (ASW/ASuW)!

      Of course they had torpedoes!

      I've never heard that CLs carried torpedoes. Do you have a reference for that?

    6. I mean if you look at the Fletchers they had depth charges for fleet ASW, they had DP guns for AA and ASuW work, torpedoes for ASuW... *shrug* I mean I'm not saying they did everything at once, but the ships had a primary role, and secondary capability that they could perform.

      "I've never heard that CLs carried torpedoes. Do you have a reference for that?"

      I was thinking of the Omaha, Atlanta, and Pensacola-class CLs, although to be fair it appears more often than not the USN WW2 CL was an all gun cruiser, in contrast to other nations' CLs where they put torps on all their CLs.

  12. I thinks its not the number of the overall VLS cells that matters rather than making the VLS cells future proof witch basically means make em bigger so that 15 years from now a totally new missile will fit in .

    1. No, no, no! We have no current or in-development missiles that require a bigger VLS cell. It takes decades to develop new missiles so even if we started today on a bigger missile, it would be decades before a larger VLS cell was needed. A ship being built today would be near retirement before needed a larger VLS cell.

      Future proofing ships simply adds cost for potential capabilities that are never used. It makes far more sense to switch from trying to build future-proof ships (which is an inherent impossibility) intended to serve 50 years to building "today" ships that are only intended to serve 15-20 years at which point you build a new ship and can incorporate any new technology that might have come up.

      As an example, the Zumwalt's Mk57 VLS larger size serves no purpose and never will. They just take up more space and probably cost more.

    2. @StormShadow: The only reason to go to a new VLS is if you're doing a new class of ships and so you're going to introduce your new VLS to your new construction.

      The alternative is simpler: continue using the same VLS, and when you start shopping for your next batch missiles, you make it very damn clear to your manufacturers that whatever they do with the missile, it must fit the existing VLS cells.

      "building "today" ships that are only intended to serve 15-20 years at which point you build a new ship and can incorporate any new technology that might have come up."

      @ComNavOps: Agreed. I've mentioned this before, but I rather like how the JMSDF plans its shipbuilding: it budgets a 30-year lifespan for its ships, and arranges its shipbuilding so that once a ship hits the 30 year mark and decommissions, its replacement is commissioned into service, so your fleet numbers remain steady year to year, and there's no sudden downswings and shortages of ships.

    3. "The only reason to go to a new VLS is if you're doing a new class of ships"

      No, the only reason to go to a new VLS is if you have a missile that requires it.

    4. "No, the only reason to go to a new VLS is if you have a missile that requires it."

      True, albeit that's from the development side of things; I was thinking more of the installation angle. IMO makes more sense to install a VLS into a ship to last the lifetime of the ship, as opposed to trying to swap out the old VLS for a future VLS on a ship decades old.

    5. But, if they come up with a new supersonic AShM in the future that does not fit in to existing VLS at least the Zummwalt will be able to carry it.

    6. Any notional future supersonic AShM developed by the US is going to be made to fit in the Mk 41 cells, of which there are more of than the Mark 57 cells.

      Furthermore, assuming the USN partners with the JMSDF's hypersonic AShM development, said hypersonic missile is going to be made to fit into Mk 41 because the Japanese only have the Mk 41 VLS.

    7. "if they come up with a new supersonic AShM in the future that does not fit in to existing VLS at least the Zummwalt will be able to carry it."

      But, what if the new missile is an inch too big for the Mk 57 cells? Maybe we should build cells that are twice as large as the Mk57? But, what if we develop a missile that's even larger than that? I guess we should build cells that ten times larger than the Mk57. But, what if we develop a missile that's larger than that? ...

      'What if' is a game that has no ending and trying to build to 'what if' standards just results in generally useless capability that drives up costs. The better approach is to build ships with 15-20 year lives using only existing equipment and then incorporate upgrades, if needed, in the next round of shipbuilding.

    8. My point was that if you want a supersonic AShM for example i doubt that they will fit into existing Mk.41 cells, just look how big the Bastion is

    9. So you want to design and install an entire new launch system for a missile that not only doesn't exist in the US Navy but, to the best of my knowledge, isn't even in development? That seems kind of illogical and wasteful.

  13. I tend to agree with your point on placing helicopters on everything.

    I'm questioning how the notional escort you just described is *not* a multi-roll ship.

    It has 60 VLS. You could load most with Tomahawks for land attack, or VLASROC or some future ASM for ASW or ASuW.

    Is machinery quietening that costly? Is adding a sonar and/or TAS? Ideal for any of those mission? No. But then again it is a cheap escort.

    I think multi-role isn't the problem per-se. It is making every combatant a capital ship.

    1. "I'm questioning how the notional escort you just described is *not* a multi-roll ship.

      It has 60 VLS. You could load most with Tomahawks"

      Sure, we could load it with Tomahawks but that negates its primary role. We could add a flight deck and call it a carrier. We could add 16" guns and call it a battleship.

      It's a single function AAW escort.

      Any attempt to make it mutli-role results in a substandard platform. For example, adding Tomahawks decreases its AAW capability. Even if you loaded it with 100% Tomahawks it would be a poor land attack platform because it lacks sufficient numbers. A good land attack platform is the SSGN with 150+ Tomahawks and superb stealth. Plus, every escort converted to a land attack ship subtracts an escort which diminishes the overall fleet AAW capability.

      I've had too many questions about this so I've got a post coming very soon on the subject. Look for it.

  14. The historical example would be HMS Fiji at Crete, she ran out of AA ammo after 2 hours, was sunk soon after. 12x 4in DP guns
    with HACS.

  15. So here is my thing. Why don't we just make a group of ships that are more like the Danes Flex Frigates? The Absolons are command ships but a slight change in design makes them good AAW ships.

    So a fleet of small almost totally single purpose ships that share a common hull form, and engineering equipment, power plants etc. This means that in the future the ships can be fitted with more of a ASuW load out and then trained or a ASW load out as needed. No massive rebuilds as the spaces are already there.

    1. To expand on that. The Absolons sister ships are the Iver Huitfeldt class.

    2. "a slight change in design makes them good AAW ships."

      No, it makes them poor AAW ships. A good AAW ship has an Aegis/AMDR level sensor suite, cooperative engagement capability, integrated passive defense, a mix of long/medium/short range missiles, a large enough VLS/missile capacity to deal with saturation attacks, extensive point defense (SeaRAM and Phalanx - missile and gun), etc. To the best of my knowledge, the Absalons have none of that.

      There's nothing wrong with some common equipment (propulsion, for example) but to obtain an optimum function you simply have to have an optimized ship. Modular does not work in combat. Modular is great for non-combat applications like converting from a cargo ship to a hospital ship but it doesn't work in combat.

    3. The Absalon-class ships are a hybrid of frigate and LHD because the Danes have much, much smaller budgets than the US.

      With US shipbuilding capabilities and economy it makes more sense to build a dedicated frigate/destroyer and a dedicated LHD because of the exclusivity of the roles.

    4. As an aside, looking at the Italians and their PPA program, they seem to have come to the decision that if you're going to try do a modular approach to ships, then you might as well go with a frigate hull (They're recapitalising 6 ship classes with this one program, comprising frigates, offshore patrol vessels and minesweepers). On the other hand they aren't doing the mission module hotswapping memes either; PPA Full is a legit frigate that's going to frigate squadrons to replace their frigates; the PPA Light config is going to patrol and minesweeper squadrons.

    5. Sorry, let me correct what I said. What I meant was that they would be built on a common hull with common machinery AND hull spaces. Basically the ship would have the room for all the equipment in every hull but not the equipment which is the insanely expensive stuff. So you have a AAW Frigate that is using the same hull as your ASuW Frigate it just lacks the common key equipment and mission focus.

    6. Again, no. Ships need to be optimized for their primary mission. An ASW hull is going to be very different from an AAW hull, for example. Yes, you might be able to share some common machinery and pumps and valves but the overall seaframes must be significantly different. If not, you wind up with substandard ships and that's how you lose naval battles.

    7. Ah ok I didn't realize that ASW and AAW required different frames.

      And sense i see you have answered the question I was going to ask there that is all. Thanks,

  16. " Worse, our current inventories of most missiles numbers around a few thousand,..."

    Self inflicted wound that could be solved my simply maintaining larger inventories. Perhaps if congress pressed the Pentagon on how long the US could sustain maximum usage of its missiles and also what the rate of new procurement was, the situation might change.

    "We need to start doing some serious combat simulations"

    That thought occurred to me after the last RIMPAC. It was nice the the USN and allies (and US Army) all got involved in a practice at surface warfare. Very nice altogether it proved that 12 missiles across 4 type fired from different platforms could hit a ship. And that's about it as far as I know they did even have to look for it.

    It occurred to me this test would have been far useful if the ex USS Racine had had a been fitted with a CIWS and SeaRAM and at least the box launcher for the ESSM, add a some decoy systems. Put them all on remote control and see how well the attack did then.

    1. "been fitted with a CIWS and SeaRAM ..."

      Could not agree more!

  17. To continue on my post above (which was labeled Unknown). Since the USN cannot reload VLS tubes at sea, I can see the logic of more tubes. How far would a US destroyer have sail to get reloaded in naval war with China.

    How many ESSMs do need to make an intercept - is it two? Obviously the USN has no very realistic testing to know for certain. But more importantly I was thinking of the Silkworm shoot down in the Gulf War. All three ships involved expended munitions, Phalanx gun fire, decoy/chaff, and sea darts.

    Now to be fair it was ships from 2 different navies and none of them were nifty Aegis ships with all their command and control features. Still it opens up the potability that in attack many ships might be expending various munitions and not just a clean 2 shot kill from one ship.

    But I agree the the Burke (reboot) does seem like its trying to do everything, when it should rather be a Air/Missile defense DD with a secondary role in surface warfare and probably not try to also make be a ASW ship.
    Dropping the 3rd role would be nice but in this case I think it might allow more VLS tubes. So have to have more staying power in its primary roles

    1. "might allow more VLS tubes"

      This is incorrect and has been addressed extensively in previous posts. Check the archives.

    2. I'm not sure I follow.

      "Pure AAW escort ships wouldn’t need helos/flight decks/hangars which would cut 130 ft or so from the ship length."

      I was simply noting there are two choices if you eliminate the helicopters - a large hull with more VLS (or deck mounted items) or have the smaller AAW ship you had in mind.

      The problem is to implement that (a dedicated AAW ship of destroyer size) you would need a really radical change in navy thinking. You need smaller dedicated ASW ships as well. That would likely be a good thing since I doubt Burke crews can be masters of everything - ballistic missiles defense, AAW, ASW warfare and surface strike etc...

      A few random thoughts.

      Without at sea rearming I can see a reason for a maximum missile load. If US ships were engaged in a battle in the south China sea where is the nearest port they could be rearmed at? One assumes the Chinese would need only run home near by.

      Are you confident in the 2 ESSM for a kill? If the missile was destroyed close enough is it likely that fragments might trigger CIWS or seaRAMs?

      Would one ship fire only the needed 2 missiles per attack? We are a long way from any real data. One thing that comes to mind is the silkworm shoot down during the Gulf War. All three ships involved did something, firing sea darts. Using a CIWS and deploying decoy chaff (and shooting a friendly ship). Seeing as far as I know the USN has never actually practiced a wide ranging simulation of missiles attacking a CV group how many rounds would be fired?

      As I said I would be in favor of much larger stockpiles of munitions. In any case seeing as the USN is committed to very large and very expensive ships that cannot be quickly replaced, worrying about the missiles seems secondary.

      In any case the pick for the new Frigate will be telling. Is really going to be the most affordable ASW platform first with a strong secondary surface attack ability, or will it be a mini Burke. The goal of only 15-30 VLS (?) seems reasonable enough for ASROC, ESSM and some mix of the new tomahawks and LRASMs. With seemingly box mounts for the NSM.

      What is with the 8 missiles thing on US/NATO ships for box mounts. Why not 12 or 16?

      On a related note. How do you feel about the new Burkes dropping the 2 quad harpoon boxes? Sure I suppose they will eventuality get the LRASMs in a VLS format, but would it hurt to have 8 NSMs in boxes on the back? Seems useful to have two different missiles to shoot at a target makes their defense job a bit harder. Compare the Russian and the Su35, they load it with different kinds of long range BVR missiles. Or is it a functional nod to the fact the Burkes are supposed to focused on Air/Missile defense.

      If you go with a dedicate AAW ship than you need a dedicated ASW ship. But with the F-35 sort of sucking the functionality out of the CV air wing would the USN consider a blue water s surface missile combatant as well?

    3. "What is with the 8 missiles thing on US/NATO ships for box mounts. Why not 12 or 16?"

      Operational research from the Cold War suggests that 8 is about the right number of AShMs. Less than that is too few and insufficient effect, more than 8 is wasteful because the ship likely will not survive long enough to fire more than 8 missiles, given the relatively short range of surface-launch Harpoon and engagement windows.

    4. Seems fair enough. But if that is true why than is the navy so attached to very large ships vs small ones. If you don't expect ship to survive that implies more smaller ships.

    5. Referring to "Fleet Tactics and Coastal Combat" by Captain Wayne P. Hughes, he puts forth the argument that the USN's choice to build large is defensive, rather than offensive in nature. There's the need to stack the defensive side of the missile equation as much as possible, which means more cells to carry more SM (ESSM only entered service in 2004, over a decade after the Burkes were designed and began commissioning). And then there's also the consideration that as a global blue water force, the US has to build large ships anyway.

      As an aside, I'm reminded of the issues the Royal Navy had with their Type 45 AAW DDGs overheating in the Persian Gulf. Turns out they'd been optimised for operating in British waters and in the North Sea (which is barely above freezing), and their cooling system used seawater as coolant. Which is great in the North Sea, not so much in the Persian Gulf where the water is HOT. Oops.

    6. "As an aside, I'm reminded of the issues the Royal Navy had with their Type 45 AAW DDGs overheating in the Persian Gulf. "

      If recall correctly the Kidd was altered for the Persian Gulf (seeing as they were going to be for Iran) for those kinds of issues. Does point out the cost of tying to have a blue water navy for everywhere.

  18. "90 cells worth of missiles that cost $1M-$3M "

    Yes, and that is actually a very optimistic estimate seeing as many of the new generation missiles are vastly more expensive.

    ESSM costs ~$1,5M , block 2 more than $2M
    SM-2s is in the 2,5-3,0M dollar range
    SM-6 is about $5 million and SM-3 is anywhere from $10M to $25M depending on version.

    TLAM and ASROC are presumably in excess of 1 million too.

    LRASM and NSM are also going to be much more expensive than Harpoon. So all in all a Burke's full complement of missiles might very well represent a value upwards of half a billion dollars or more.

    1. The USN claims the NSM will be "slightly" under the TLAM unit price of $868,00 in 2018 adjusted dollars. So kind af a bargain and less expensive than using a SM-6 as an anti-ship missile.

  19. My question here is, how long would the US Navy be able to fight before they ran out of missles? In a large confrontation where it wouldnt be over in a few weeks, that provided a ton of targets, it sounds like a real problem!! Whats our capability of actually spooling up production to produce hundreds, even a few thousand in the amount of time required to prevent ships sailing around with no offensive capabilities left?

  20. I know that this debate was about two years ago, but I have a questions related to this topic.

    First question, how many missile would each class of ship need? ). If we have a destroyer and a cruiser that are both anti-surface combatant, how many more missiles would the cruiser have over the destroyer and of which type?

    Second question how much does the role of that ship come into play with respected to the number of missile that ship needs? Let say that we build a destroyer for the anti-air role and other for the anti-sub role, they would both have very different needs and there for very different missile counts. But how do you figure out how much we need for each. An anti-air role require a lot of Surface to air missiles to destroy a lot of aircraft. But sub now also carrier anti-ship missiles that need SAM to shoot them down. So how do we come up with the number for each?

    Last question how much does the number of missiles change, related to their launch method. Arm Launchers and RAM have a set number of missile for their system. VLS are placed into pack, like the 61 cell on a Burke or the 8X8 on a Slava-class. Harpoons and harpoon weapons are in packs of 4, thought there are also larger missiles that are in packs of four like those on Soviet-era Destroyers.


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