Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Navy Interaction With Sri Lanka

I want to take any opportunity I can to point out positive events involving the Navy and one such event occurred recently off Sri Lanka when the carrier Stennis conducted resupply from Bandaranaike International Airport near Colombo.

From a Navy article,

The cargo transfer conducted in January contributed approximately 25 million Sri Lankan rupees to the local economy, supporting local businesses.

“Sri Lanka’s leaders have outlined their vision for the country’s regional engagement that reflects its location at the nexus of the Indo-Pacific and seizes the opportunities that this unique position presents,” said U.S. Ambassador Alaina B. Teplitz. “We are happy to support this vision through a range of mutually beneficial initiatives, such as contracting Sri Lankan services and goods to support U.S. military and commercial vessels that often transit the Indo-Pacific’s busy sea lanes.” (1)

Sri Lanka’s location in the Indian Ocean off the southern coast of India makes it strategically important and, as we noted previously, China has established a major port in Sri Lanka (see, “China Seizes Sri LankaPort”).  Anything we can do to counter that is a welcome development even if we’re playing catch-up.  We need to do much more and not just militarily.  Solidifying relations with Sri Lanka should be a major geopolitical objective. 

Good job, Navy.  Keep it up.


Monday, January 28, 2019

Chancellorsville Drone Strike Accident

You may recall that on 16-Nov-2013 the Aegis cruiser Chancellorsville, CG-62, was struck by a rogue drone during a tracking exercise (see, Chancellorsville).  The drone penetrated the ship’s side causing various fires though, fortunately, no deaths.  The Navy’s investigative memos, made available through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and presented on a Navy website, offer some interesting aspects for consideration.

The investigation revealed all the usual suspects associated with any disaster:  poor communications, violation of standards, ignorance of facts about equipment and procedures, lack of preparation, failure to anticipate the worst case scenario, equipment failure, misjudgments, and so on.  I’m not going to bore you with a recitation of the details because, frankly, they read exactly the same as for any and every other accident and there is nothing worthwhile in them.  Reports have been written, endless recommendations have been made (closing the barn door after the horse is out), and the same incident will, inevitably happen again sometime because no real change will occur.  So, moving on …

Chancellorsville Drone Strike

As a reminder, here is a brief description of the drone from the report memos.

… the BQM-74E ia an aerial target drone produced by Northrup Grumman. It is turbine-powered, recoverable, remote controlled, and subsonic. It. is capable of speeds up to Mach .86 or 515 knots at sea level. It is 12.95 feet long, 5.78 feet wide, weighs 455 pounds, and resembles a small Tomahawk cruise missile, though is painted bright orange. (1)

On a macabre note, the test range personnel issued a “Rogue Drone” call 17 seconds AFTER the drone struck the ship. 

The drone struck the ship at 13:14:00. The Test Conductor called "Rogue Drone" at 13:14:17. (1)

While there was plenty of failure on the part of the ship’s company to anticipate, observe, and engage the rogue drone, I’d like to focus on the drone control failure.  The drone is controlled by the test range System for Naval Target Control (SNTC).  From the report,

The SNTC consists of the following major components: Master control Consoles (MCCs). Target control Consoles (TCCs). Ground Radio Frequency Units (GRFUs). UHF antennas, GPS antennas, Model 53 Portable Test Set (PTS), Model 280-l UHF Transponders, Shipboard Transponders, Airborne Relays and associated ancillary equipment. The SNTC provides system operators with a Microsoft Windows based interface enabling system configuration and control. (1)

On a more complex scale, this is the equivalent of the handheld controller that you would use to control a remote control model airplane.

I’d now like to look a few specific aspects of the incident.

Network Issues“The investigation determined that the SNTC was incorrectly configured and caused a significant increase in network message transmissions and system instability.” (1)

On a relative basis, the networking involved in controlling a target drone is about as simple as it gets.  Further, this network had been in use for some time.  Despite this, the network failed, to an unspecified degree.  How many times has ComNavOps warned about our headlong pursuit of networks as the advantage we’re going to pin our war-winning hopes on?  If we can’t make even simple, isolated networks work reliably how are we going to make staggeringly complex networks work in the face of enemy electronic countermeasures and cyber attacks?  The desire to place all our hopes on data and networks is lunacy and this incident is yet another piece of proof.

Electromagnetic Issues – “The frequency spectrum that SNTC operates in is a congested electromagnetic environment and susceptible to interference that can result in difficulties controlling drone flight operations.” (1)

What the military fails to grasp is that ALL frequencies, across the entire spectrum, will be congested and susceptible to interference.  This vulnerability will only get worse once the enemy initiates electronic countermeasures, jamming, and cyber attacks.  We’re currently using the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum as if it’s a free tool that we have exclusive and unhindered rights to – and, in peacetime, that’s somewhat true.  The enemy will quickly change that when war comes.  This is analogous to our addiction to, and dependence on, GPS positioning.  We need to accept that our free and easy use of the EM spectrum will not continue in combat.  To that end, we need to build in much more simplicity, redundancy, and brute force in our EM use.  We also need to train to operate in a compromised EM spectrum, something we’re only doing to a very limited extent, right now.  Every exercise we do should include an OpFor dedicated to degrading our own EM environment so that we learn what equipment works and what is vulnerable and how to operate without an unhindered EM battlefield.

System Degradation “Prior to the launch of the BQM-74E drones, one of which impacted CHV, the control team knew the target drone control system had failed or exhibited abnormalities several times that day;” (1)

Consider this statement:

Prior to the [fill in the blank] incident, it was well known that problems existed in the [fill in the blank]. 

This statement appears in almost every incident ever reported.  The recent Burke collisions were laced with known manning, training, and certification problems prior to the incidents.  The riverine boats that got lost and were surrendered to the Iranians were known to have problems with leadership, training, readiness, planning, and mechanical issues.  And so on.

Despite this consistent element to every incident, the Navy has made no effort to change the culture which encourages personnel to ignore obvious problems.  Until this changes, incidents will continue unabated.  This is a leadership deficit, pure and simple, starting at the highest level.

Discrimination“Based on previous tracking presentations, drone tracks would coast and appear to be inbound to the ship even after turning outbound.” (1)

We want to construct massive, regional, all-seeing, all-knowing networks with perfect awareness and real-time data so that we can bring our enemies to their knees with our overwhelming situational knowledge.  You’d think firepower would play a part in victory, too, but our Navy leaders seem not to think that.  But, I digress …

The point is that our very best Aegis radar system appears to have a systemic “latency” or inertia in that the displayed tracks “coast” toward the ship even though the actual object has turned away.  Presumably, all tracks have this latent inertia and, if so, that’s got to make missile intercepts a lot more challenging since we never know whether that incoming missile that is engaged in terminal maneuvering is actually where it appears or if it’s jinked onto a new course!  So, much for all-seeing, all-knowing, real-time, perfect awareness!  If our very best sensor system has that kind of reality “delay”, you have to question the very foundation of our network/data wishful thinking.

There was nothing in the reports indicating that this latency inertia was a brand new phenomenon, just discovered in the course of this incident - quite the opposite.  It appears to be a well known system flaw that has been around for quite some time.  So, why hasn’t it been addressed?  This ties back into the System Degradation comments and the deficiencies and culpability of Navy leadership.

Summary – Every incident like this is yet another in an endless string of opportunities for the Navy to institute real, positive, effective change and yet they never do.  Instead, they write reports, generate long lists of recommendations, create more and more layers of paperwork, and accomplish nothing.  The Navy’s biggest problem is not maintenance, readiness, training, manpower, numbers of ships, or anything of that nature.  The biggest problem is leadership – the total, complete absence of effective leadership.  Until that changes, nothing else will improve.


Saturday, January 26, 2019

Austal Raided By Feds

USNI News website reported on an interesting LCS shipbuilding development.  It appears that Federal agents are searching the Austal LCS manufacturing site at Mobile, Alabama as part of an investigation related to costs linked to the USS Jackson which was commissioned in Dec 2015.  Jackson, you’ll recall, took part in shock testing in June and July of 2016.

Federal agents visited Littoral Combat Ship manufacturer Austal USA in its Mobile, Ala., shipyard as part of an unspecified investigation involving the U.S. Navy, according to local media.

“Department of Defense, NCIS and [the Defense Criminal Investigative Service] have been seen on site,” according to NBC 15 in Mobile, Ala.
“Investigators are expected to be on site for several hours.” (1)

Apparently, Austal’s troubles are not confined just to the US.

Earlier Thursday, Australian media reported Austal was under investigation by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission over market updates related to losses around the Independence-class LCS.

The Australian authorities are said to be focusing on statements issued by Austal regarding the blow out, or sudden increase in costs, associated with finishing USS Jackson (LCS-6). (1)

The Jackson was the first of a block buy contract and, according to the article, Austal implemented a variety of production and productivity improvements that failed to produce the expected cost savings.  From a Dec 2015 Austal statement,

Austal’s ability to apply lessons learnt and productivity enhancements from LCS 6 to vessels in advanced construction, namely LCS 8 and LCS 10, has been more limited than anticipated. (1)

The most interesting part of the article was this somewhat cryptic statement,

A significant portion of the company’s loss for the year was the US $115 million charge Austal recorded to account for the increased cost in LCS construction. The sudden increase in cost was related to work required to make the ships meet the Navy’s military shock testing, according to a July 4, 2016, release from Austal. Jackson conducted full ship shock trials in June and July 2016, which required the shipyard to prepare for the trials and then conduct maintenance afterwards to repair anything that broke during the underwater blast. (1)

This would seem to suggest that the shock testing resulted in far more costs, both in immediate repairs and required construction design changes, than the Navy had previously acknowledged.  You’ll recall that the Navy declared the shock testing an unmitigated success.  Shockingly (no pun intended), it would appear that the Navy’s declaration was inaccurate, misleading, and borderline fraudulent, as usual.

Here’s some additional information which further emphasizes just how bad the shock trials really were.

On June 30, 2016, after the preliminary trials, Austal entered into a trading halt and issued an earnings announcement. The firm cautioned that it would have to increase its cost estimate for follow-on hulls due to "design changes required to achieve shock certification and U.S. Naval Vessel Rules." 

10 contracted ships were already in various phases of construction at the time of the announcement, and Austal anticipated "significant modifications to vessels already nearing completion" in an "extensive rework program." LCS 6, 8, 10 and 12 would all require at least 4,000 specific modifications each. The expense amounted to a $115 million writeoff and a full-year loss groupwide for FY2016. (2)

Thus, it appears the Austal has been hit with massive, unforeseen (unforeseen by Austal), cost increases related to shock trial deficiencies.  Does this sound like the spectacular success the Navy declared the shock trials to be?

USS Jackson, LCS-6
So, what do we make of this? 

There are two possible scenarios.

One is that Austal made contract cost commitments based on anticipated production cost savings that did not materialize and was left facing large cost increases that it tried to pass on to the Navy in some manner that triggered a criminal investigation and the Navy, for unknown reasons, has picked this program and this manufacturer to contest the charges and has opened a criminal investigation. 

The alternative explanation is that this is strictly an Australian stock exchange investigation that the Navy is assisting on although the use of NCIS for a foreign financial investigation seems odd. 

Regardless of which scenario, there are a few aspects that warrant some additional consideration.

Systematic Underestimating – It is no secret that systematic and chronic underestimating of production costs is a widespread and, indeed, accepted practice.  It is used routinely to secure contracts and mislead Congress.  The Navy is not only complicit in the practice but is the leading practitioner.  Navy cost estimates are ridiculously underestimated as proven in program after program.  For example, the Navy’s original cost estimate for the LCS was $200M which immediately rose to $220M, then to $700M or so, and has steadied out somewhere around $500M depending on what numbers are used – and this doesn’t include module costs!  The Ford is $2B-$4B over estimate, depending on what numbers are used!!!!!!

Unrealized Savings – Every program builds cost savings assumptions into its cost estimates – especially long term cost estimates – and those savings rarely, if ever, materialize.  Savings are assumed from serial production, manufacturing efficiencies, computer aided design, block buys, wildly optimistic labor hour reductions, optimistic inflation estimates, etc. and they simply never materialize or, if they do, they’re swamped by other cost increases.

Frigate Competition – Austal is one of the contenders in the Navy’s new frigate competition.  The inability to estimate costs and achieve production efficiencies should be concerning in the extreme to the Navy and, if the rumored issues are true, should disqualify Austal from the competition.

Inexperienced Builder – There were clearly massive shock trial deficiencies that now require correction and for which Austal appears to bear the responsibility for.  These deficiencies were, presumably, unforeseen by Austal which can only be ascribed to their inexperience at building naval warships.  I suspect that they’ve never experienced shock trials for any vessel they’ve built so they would have no way of knowing what should or should not have been designed into their LCS.  This is what happens when you turn warship design over to industry and over to and inexperienced builder.  This is also what happens when the Navy abdicates its design responsibility and eliminates its in-house expertise.  No one in the Navy was able to competently review the LCS design and identify shock deficiencies.  This is also what happens when you start construction of a ship while the design is still being worked on.  We need to bring back BuShips but, I digress … 

Why Austal? – Was Austal engaged in deceptive cost estimating, intentional underestimating of costs, and overcharging?  Probably, but why single out Austal for criminal investigation?  Given the exact same practices for the Ford, LPD-17, Zumwalt, and F-35 programs but on a massively larger scale, why choose Austal to focus on?  The Ford is billions of dollars over cost but no one cares.  The F-35 has demonstrated fraud on a scale that defies belief but no one cares.  The LCS program, and Austal’s portion of the LCS program, is small potatoes by comparison.  This suggests that the investigation is more likely the stock exchange scenario.  We’ll have to wait for more information.

The most interesting aspect of this story is the emerging information about just how badly the shock testing went and how many modifications are required as a result.


(1)USNI News website, “Federal Agents Comb Through Austal USA Shipyard as Part of Apparent Financial Investigation”, LaGrone, Werner, & Eckstein, 24-Jan-2019,

(2)The Maritime Executive website, “Austal Confirms Investigation into its Market Announcements”, 25-Jan-2019,

Thursday, January 24, 2019

The New Frigate - A Knee Jerk Reaction

The Navy is well along the path of acquiring a new frigate.  Well, it’s more of a mini-Burke than a frigate.  Before we celebrate what so many people have wanted for so long, let’s rewind history a bit and review how we got here.

The LCS that we produced looked nothing like its original war game lessons form.  Instead, it developed into a hodgepodge of almost random characteristics and capabilities with no clear cut mission.  Why did this happen?  It was due to the lack of a Concept of Operations (CONOPS).  Even the Navy eventually admitted that they didn’t have a fully developed CONOPS for the LCS when they designed it.  This begs the obvious question, how can you design something that you have no concept of operations for?  Well, the answer, as we saw, was that you can’t.  You inevitably wind up with a product that has no purpose and isn’t an optimum fit for whatever purpose you ultimately give it. 

CONOPS …  This is an incredibly important point so keep it firmly in mind as you read the rest of this post.

It was no surprise, then, that the LCS was met with an avalanche of justified criticism.  The Navy was relentlessly mocked and criticized.  LCS detractors loudly and continually shouted about all the supposedly wonderful frigate designs in the world that we could have had instead of the LCS.

What was the Navy’s response to the failures of the program and the incessant criticism? 

Was it to shut the program down?  No.

Was it to conduct a thorough study of fleet needs as defined by our military strategy?  No.

Was it to develop a CONOPS?  No.

The Navy’s response, in 2014, was to propose a “frigate” version of the LCS to appease the critics.  Again, the idea of a “frigate” LCS was born without a supporting CONOPS or analysis of needs and alternatives.  Well, the Navy would claim they formed a study task force and did an analysis of alternatives but it was a pre-ordained public relations exercise which, to no one’s surprise, recommended the LCS as the basis for a new “frigate”.

Again, the mockery and criticism poured in as it became clear that the “frigate” LCS was just a slightly upgunned LCS.  Congress and some high ranking military civilian leaders began to seriously question the Navy’s decision. 

As all this was going on, the Navy also experienced systematic failures with the new Zumwalt and Ford programs due to the attempt to incorporate non-existent technologies.  Again, to no one’s surprise but the Navy, the attempts failed and we witnessed the embarrassing spectacle of a Zumwalt with no gun and a carrier that couldn’t launch or recover aircraft and couldn’t move munitions because it was commissioned with no weapon elevators.

The Navy was becoming increasingly gun shy about new programs and new technology but were desperate to keep their budget slice intact and construction funds flowing.  Their solution?  Their solution was to appease critics by reopening the frigate issue once again only this time they would require that the frigate designs be based on an existing, operational ship.  This, the Navy believed, would silence critics since they would, at long last, be getting the frigate they’d been clamoring for and would eliminate risk by only using existing technology.  Of course, notable for its absence is any mention of a CONOPS for the new frigate or a rigorous analysis of alternatives to define what capability gaps exist and whether a frigate is even the best way to address those gaps.  See, the CRS report for a summary of the issues. (1) 

Clearly, the frigate’s real “mission” is to appease critics.

We see, then, that the new frigate is a knee-jerk reaction to the failure of the LCS program rather than a carefully thought out, needs-driven, CONOPS-backed, analytically based, addition to the fleet.

That brings us to today.

Setting aside the appeasement mission, what is the new frigate going to do for the Navy?

Well, it won’t gain us large numbers of cheap ASW vessels – ASW being the main role of modern frigates.  Even the Navy’s cost estimates are around $1B and when was the last time a Navy cost estimate wasn’t seriously underestimated?  The new frigate will most likely cost $1.5B+.  This ensures that only a fairly limited number will be built.

It won’t gain us any significant improvement in AAW.  We already have all the AAW we need, and then some, plus our inventory of VLS cells already far exceeds our inventory of weapons.  We have nothing to put in all these new cells unless we short cells elsewhere!

This is a classic example, once again, of building a ship without a CONOPS.  We have no idea what the new frigate will do or how it will contribute to the fleet’s warfighting capability.  It will be a ship looking for a mission.

And, hanging over the entire issue is the likely (ComNavOps believes, certain) specter of the LCS being chosen as the basis for the new frigate, as the Navy previously did in 2014, with all the attendant and inherent flaws that the LCS brings with it.  Navy leadership wanted a LCS frigate in 2014 and nothing has changed so why would the decision change?

We see, then, that ultimately the new frigate is the result of not having a CONOPS for the original LCS.  Incredibly, the Navy is repeating their original mistake by failing to have a CONOPS for this ship!!!!  I wonder what misguided, knee-jerk abomination will eventually be born out of this failure?


(1)Congressional Research Service, “Navy Frigate (FFG[X]) Program: Background and Issues for Congress”, Ronald O’Rourke, Oct 2018

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Air Force Declines To Buy Light Attack Aircraft

Almost every reasonable person recognizes that the very low end kind of air activities we often engage in (plinking pickup trucks, for example) simply don’t require a carrier and a front line F-18 jet.  A simple propeller driven plane is more than adequate.  After years of pressure the Air Force seemingly bowed to the inevitable and reasonable and began the process of evaluating and acquiring a simple prop plane.  

Or did they?

It appears that their “interest” was all for show and they have no intention of acquiring a small, simple, prop plane.

The Air Force won’t issue a Request For Information on possible Light Attack aircraft, originally scheduled to come out December, in favor of doing a lot more experiments, Air Force Undersecretary Matt Donovan told reporters this morning. (1)

“I wouldn’t expect an RFI any time soon,” Donovan told [Breaking Defense]. (1)

We know exactly what the candidate aircraft can do.  There’s nothing left to “experiment” with.  This is just the Air Force’s way of saying they have no intention of purchasing anything less than a state of the art, front line, jet aircraft.  This is the Air Force’s not very subtle, “screw you”, to everyone who suggested a prop plane. 

Okay, this is interesting in a disappointing way but, let’s be honest, not all that much of a surprise, is it?  The Air Force doesn’t want the A-10, the best close air support aircraft ever built so it’s not likely they’re going to run right out and buy a prop plane for ground support, right? 

So, this is a pathetic development from the Air Force but, hey, this is a Navy blog so why do we care?  Well, you may recall that ComNavOps has proposed a two-tier, peace-war force structure (see, "Hi-Lo, War-Peace") and has suggested that a very simple carrier, quite similar to a WWII Essex, combined with a basic prop plane air wing would take care of the vast majority of our peacetime ground support requirements.  I was hoping that the Air Force’s selection of a prop plane would pave the way for a Navy prop plane.  Unfortunately, this now appears to not be the case.  The Navy is going to continue to use up flight hours on already overstressed front line aircraft carrying out worthless mundane missions. 

Seriously, a Chinese agent couldn’t sabotage our military as badly as we’re doing to ourselves!


(1)Breaking Defense website, “No Light Attack Planes Any Time Soon: Air Force Undersecretary ”, Colin Clark, 18-Jan-2019,

Monday, January 21, 2019

Out Of Control Marine Corps

The Marines are now trying to tell the Navy how to build ships.

The Marines want better-armed amphibious warships for high-end combat … (1)

… the naval force must upgrade the C2 (command and control) suites and introduce Vertical Launch Systems,” Lt. Gen. Brian Beaudreault the Marines’ three-star deputy commandant for plans, policies, & operations, told the Surface Navy Association conference … (1)

Since when did the Marines become experts at fleet structure, naval tactics and operations, and ship design?  The sheer arrogance of the Marine Corps of late is breathtaking.  They’ve moved into the Air Force and naval air arena in a bid to build their own air force, they’ve moved to take over the Army and Air Force deep strike role, they’re moving into the Air Force large UAV realm, and they’re trying to take on the role of land and sea based anti-ship combat.  Bizarrely, they’re doing all this while simultaneously downsizing and lightening to become nothing more than light infantry.  They’ve ignored acquisition of an amored personnel carrier (although the ACV may function as a poor man’s APC), an infantry fighting vehicle, improved tanks, and greater numbers of tanks and artillery.  The Marines are dictating to the Navy while ignoring their own core mission.  How odd is that?  Presumably, it’s all in a bid for greater budget slice.

The Marine’s stated rationale for their demands reveals a basic misunderstanding of naval operations and ship costs.

In a major war against Russia or China, or even Iran, amphibious warships — as currently equipped — would have to rely on escorting destroyers both defensively, to shoot down attacking missiles and airplanes, and offensively, sinking enemy ships and bombarding targets ashore.

Of course, the amphibious ships would rely on escorts for protection.  That’s how it’s always been and it’s been that way for a very good reason:  if we build totally self-contained, do-it-all ships then they’ll become unaffordable.  An amphibious ship is a troop/cargo transport – nothing more.  There’s nothing wrong with a few point defense weapons but expanding into broader AAW requires more advanced radars, a more advanced combat control software package, a more sophisticated command center, more personnel, more high tech maintenance, and more support – in other words, hugely increased construction and life cycle operating costs.

The Marine’s rationale continues,

But those destroyers might not always be available and, even if they are, they might overwhelmed by the sheer volume of incoming fire. So the Marines want better-armed amphibs that can, ideally, operate unescorted or, at minimum, take on some of the burden of their own defense. (1)

If an enemy can overwhelm an escort of Aegis/AMDR Burkes and Ticonderogas, we’re screwed anyway.

Since when did the Navy become subordinate to the Marines?

I’m a huge supporter of what the Marines were and what they should be but I’m fed up with what they’ve become and where they seem to be going.  The Marines no longer bring anything unique to the fight and they’ve all but abandoned their core mission of amphibious assault in favor of all these other areas and they’re totally ignoring what I consider to be their core mission which is port seizure.  I never thought I’d say this but I’m ready to disband the Marines.

The Marine’s arrogance and ambition is out of control.  If we won’t disband them, then they need to be smacked upside the head and brought back into line.


(1)Breaking Defense website, “Marine, Navy Wrestle With How To Upgun Amphibs”, Sydney J. Freedburg, Jr., 18-Jan-2019,

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Type 26 Global Combat Ship

Here in the US there is a strong tendency to view everything foreign as superior to everything native.  Foreign weapon systems often take on a near-magical degree of fame.  For example, the 30 mm  Millenium gun is seen as vastly superior to the Phalanx CIWS, despite no actual supporting data that I’m aware of.

Another example of this is the reverence with which the non-existent UK Type 26 Global Combat Ship is held.  Let’s take a look and see if the respect is deserved.

For starters, the ship is not yet built so it makes comparisons a bit difficult but we’ll do the best we can.  The non-existence of the ship probably also explains why it is held in such high regard – everything sounds good on paper!  The F-35 sounded good.  The LCS sounded good.  The Ford sounded good.  And so on.

Anyway …

Here’s a brief summary of the ship’s characteristics and how they compare to the US Burke class DDG.  Recognize, though, that the Type 26 is not intended to be a functional equivalent to a Burke.  This comparison is just to give readers a point of reference that is familiar.

                 Type 26                Burke

Cost              $1.6B(USD)(1)         $1.8B
Length            492 ft                590 ft
Displacement      6900 t                9200 t
Speed             26+ kts               30+ kts
Range             7000 nm @ ? kts       4400 nm @ 20 kts
Gun               1x 5”                 1x 5”
AAW Missiles      48 VLS                96 VLS, any mix
Strike Missiles   24 VLS                above, any mix
Radar             Type 997 Artisan 3D   SPY-1D
Sonar             Towed Array and Bow   Towed Array and Bow
Aviation          1x Merlin/2x Wildcat  2x MH-60R

The Type 26 is described as a multi-mission, “global combat” ship with an emphasis on anti-submarine warfare (ASW).  The ship is claimed to have an acoustically quiet hull, whatever that means.  One would hope that it means that the ship’s machinery is rafted and acoustically isolated from the hull, among other quieting measures.

Type 26

The ship’s anti-air weaponry consists of vertically launched Common Anti-Air Modular Missiles (CAMM), also known as Sea Ceptor.  Sea Ceptor has an advertised range of around 15 miles.  Guidance is via mid-course datalink and terminal active radar homing.  The missile is credited with a limited anti-surface capability against small craft.

The ship’s ASW fit is credible but not outstanding.  The inability to operate two large ASW helos is a drawback as is the lack of on board ASW lightweight anti-submarine torpedoes and a quick reaction Hedgehog/RBU type weapon.  On paper, the Type 26 ASW capability appears to be on par with the Burke or even a bit below since the Burke can operate two large ASW helos.

In summary, allowing for the inevitable cost increases, the Type 26 will equal or exceed the cost of a Burke and have around half the capabilities.  There is nothing that stands out about the Type 26 to warrant any special attention.  It appears to be a capable albeit overpriced ship.


(1)Royal Navy news website,,
article cites £3.7B(UK) contract for first three ships which equates to $1.6B(USD) assuming a 1:1.3 conversion rate to USD;  already this represents an increase over the $1.3B cost cited in 2016 (2)

(2)Defence Committee hearing, 20-Jul-2016,,
assumes a 1:1.3 conversion rate to USD

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Sea Dragon 2019 ASW Exercise

Well, there appears to be a common theme in the Pacific theatre regarding ASW :  we aren’t very serious. 

We just discussed the joint Japanese, Royal Navy, US ASW exercise in which the US sent a single P-8 and one sub.  Now, for the annual Sea Dragon ASW exercise, we’re sending four P-8s and one Los Angeles class sub. (1)   The exercise begins on 14-Jan and ends 25-Jan.

On the plus side, that’s four times the commitment for the other joint exercise but, on the negative side, it’s a measly four P-8s – not much of an ASW commitment in a theatre in which ASW will play a major role in the event of war. 

Again on the plus side, they’ll get to work against a live submarine.  On the negative side, they’ll get to work a little bit against a live submarine and the rest of the time against a simulated sub, whatever that means.  Seriously, we can’t even make an exercise that small an all-live exercise?

Slated to run 11 days, the exercise is “an exciting opportunity to ... focus on building anti-submarine warfare proficiency and increase warfighting lethality,” Capt. Brian Erickson, Commander of Task Force 72, was quoted as saying in a 7th Fleet news release. (1)

Capt. Erickson, can you tell me how an exercise with only four P-8s are going to build ‘anti-submarine warfare proficiency and increase warfighting lethality’?  Is this an example of Navy officers who are so out of touch with reality that they really think exercising four P-8s will build our Pacific Fleet ASW capability or is the good Captain simply parroting what he’s been told to say, thereby demonstrating an utter lack of integrity and credibility?

I’ll ask the same question I asked in the previous ASW exercise post:  what is the rest of the fleet so busy with that they can’t participate in training for, arguably, the most important aspect of Pacific theatre naval warfare?

This is becoming a recurring embarrassment.

CNO Richardson, are you even aware of what your fleet is and is not doing on a daily basis?


(1)Washington Post website, “Recent developments surrounding the South China Sea”, Christopher Bodeen, 14-Jan-2019,

Monday, January 14, 2019

LCS Idle Thoughts

Here’s a few idle thoughts about the LCS:

  • The first LCS was commissioned in 2008.

  • There are 14 commissioned LCS, 7 of each variant.

  • The LCS fleet has a total of 53 commission-years.

  • The LCS fleet has performed 3 deployments.

  • No LCS deployed in 2018.

  • No LCS has ever participated in a mine countermeasures (MCM) exercise – MCM being one of the three primary missions.

  • No LCS has ever participated in an anti-submarine (ASW) exercise – ASW being one of the three primary missions.

  • No module exists yet in a useful, effective form.  ASuW consists of two 30 mm machine guns,  a RHIB, and a helo/UAV – utterly ineffective.  ASW and MCM are still under development.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Type 055 Cruiser vs. Burke

Let’s take a brief look at the new Chinese Type 055 cruiser (I can’t bring myself to call it a destroyer) and how it compares to the Burke.

As a reminder, the Navy is retiring the Ticonderoga class and is not directly replacing it.  Navy descriptions of the replacement suggest a wide range of possibilities with most sounding like a collection of buzzwords rather than an actual ship design concept.  The Navy has stated that the replacement cruiser may not be a cruiser at all but, rather, a “family of ships” or a “systems of systems”.

Currently, the Ticonderogas are being replaced by more Burkes, specifically, the Flt III which the Navy has acknowledged is too small to support the required AMDR radar and will, thus, be fitted with a smaller, less capable radar.

In contrast, the Chinese are building a true cruiser, the Type 055, with four already launched and at least two more underconstruction.  Sources suggest at least 8 ships will be built with more being possible. 

Here are some basic comparative specs for the Type 055 and the Burke, per Wikipedia.

                        Burke  Type 055

Length, ft                509       590
Displacement, tons      9,100    13,000
Range, nm               4,400     5,000
Gun                     1x 5”   1x 5.1”
VLS, cells                 96       112

The specs show that the Type 055 is significantly larger although the radar and weapons are reasonably similar in number and capability. 

So, what else can we infer about the Type 055 as compared to the Burke?

Stealth.  One obvious difference is the shape of the ship with the Type 055 being decidedly stealthier than the older Burke, at least by visual observation.  Of course, it’s anyone’s guess what the true degree of stealth of the two ships is but the Type 055 certainly looks stealthier!  Assuming that’s true, this gives the Type 055 an advantage in terms of detection range.  Aircraft will have to approach closer to “see” it and it can approach its targets much closer without being seen.  The Burke, being an early stealth design, and cluttered with all manner of topside gear, is at a distinct disadvantage.  I would go so far as to say that the Burke is no longer a front line warship design as regards stealth and its impact on the ship’s combat capabilities.

Type 055 Cruiser
Photo from China Defense Blog

Power.  Another likely difference is that the Chinese are actively and aggressively pursuing directed energy weapons (lasers) and it would be almost inconceivable that a high degree of excess electrical energy generation hasn’t been built into the design.  The Chinese have seen that electrical power limitations are one of the US Navy’s challenges with their current fleet and with the Burke Flt IIIs and it’s unlikely that they haven’t incorporated that lesson into the Type 055 design. 

Upgradability.  The Type 055 design has much greater potential for future upgrades and new sensors/weapons due to its much greater size and, presumably, power, than the Burke class does.  Despite the inherent limitations and very limited growth potential of the Burke, the Navy continues to build them even at the cost of sub-optimal equipment performance.

Almost unbelievably, the Navy continues to build Burkes and are now going to build sub-optimal Flt III Burkes rather than a clean sheet design.  China has opted to build a new design cruiser.  To be fair, the Chinese had no Burke type class worth upgrading so a new design was a given.  That aside, the Type 055 appears to be larger, carries more weapon cells, and has more growth potential.  Of course, it’s an open question about the radar performance and control software.  On paper, the Type 055 is setting the standard for modern cruisers while the US Navy continues to build sub-optimal, nearly obsolete Burkes.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Outranging The Sensor - Long Lance Torpedo

We’ve repeatedly noted that a weapon that outranges its targeting sensors is useless.  The current classic example is the much-hyped Chinese DF-21D ‘carrier killer’ anti-ship ballistic missile.  The missile has a range of around a thousand miles but there are no Chinese sensor systems capable of providing targeting data at that distance.  Thus, the missile is useless as a carrier killer.  The weapon outranges the sensor.

Let’s take a look at a historical example of this phenomenon, the Japanese WWII Type 93 Long Lance torpedo.  The torpedo had a range of up to 25 miles at slower speeds of around 35 kts and was capable of 14 miles at around 50 kts!  On paper, this weapon should have allowed the Japanese to stand well off from the US Navy ships and utterly wipe them out but it failed to do so.  Certainly, the torpedo did do serious damage but fell well short of being the weapon that it could have been because the Japanese had no sensors capable of detecting targets at ranges equal to the range of the weapon, especially in the up close, night battles that were typical of the fighting around Guadalcanal.

It was longer than 9 meters, could travel up to 20 miles at speeds up to 52 knots, and had a warhead in excess of 1000 lbs. This torpedo “out-sticked” (had a longer range) and outperformed the American Mark XV torpedo in all aspects. But, fortunately for the U.S. Navy, its range exceeded the range at which Japanese ships could detect their American prey. (1)

The reality was that most battles involving the use of Japanese torpedoes occurred at point blank ranges where the torpedo’s range advantage was completely negated.  This is not to downplay the torpedo’s lethality in any way.  It was a deadly weapon at any range.  However, it was not the long range threat that its capabilities indicated it could be.  If the Japanese had had effective long range radar, for example, to provide targeting data, the results could have been far worse for the US Navy than they were.

We see this phenomenon of weapons outranging sensors being played out repeatedly, today.

The Zumwalt’s 70-100 mile rocket propelled LRLAP munition (set aside the fact that it never performed to spec and cost too much) required fixed target coordinates and no one ever explained where those target coordinates were going to come from.

The Navy wants to equip its ships with the new, long range anti-ship cruise missile (LRASM) with a range two or three hundred miles but no way to consistently provide effective targeting.

And so on.

As with the Japanese torpedo, those weapons may still be effective at shorter ranges but that fails to take advantage of the full range capability of the weapons.

The lesson is obvious.  We need to devote as much or more effort to developing long range sensing as we do to developing long range weapons.  Further, the sensing needs to be something that is effective in high end combat, unlike the UAVs and P-8’s that the Navy seems to think will somehow provide targeting despite being easily detectable and non-survivable.

Sensors may not be as sexy as shiny new weapons but they’re far more important and the Navy has completely forgotten that.


(1)USNI Proceedings, “Ten Seconds To Live Or Die”, Dec 2018,

Monday, January 7, 2019

Littoral Combat Group Analysis

We recently noted the Navy’s formation of a so-called Littoral Combat Group which consisted of an LPD-17 class amphibious ship and a Burke class destroyer.  On the face of it, It was a bafflingly idiotic concept but there was very little information available about the concept so we had to hold off on drawing any definitive conclusions.  We even speculated that it might have been a one-time public relations stunt with a catchy name rather than an actual combat concept.  Now, a little more information has become available and the concept does, indeed, seem to be an actual combat concept that the Navy is testing out.

The Navy deployed a new ship pairing – a destroyer (DDG-51) and an amphibious transport dock (LPD-17) – to test out a new concept that could supplement amphibious squadrons and surface action groups as a formation in future operations. (1)

Okay, it seems the Navy is serious about this as a combat group (again, are two ships really a group?).  What was the immediate goal of the deployment?  According to the Navy,

The goal of the LCG-1 deployment was to work out the command and control, which placed a Navy captain as the commodore of two ships … (1)

Is this for real?  The Navy has to “work out” how to command and control two ships?????!!  Have things gotten that bad that we don’t already know how to command and control two ships?

How complex is command of two ships?  Well, apparently, it requires a staff … and not a small one.

LCG-1 was led by Capt. Ken Coleman, the PHIBRON 3 commodore, and included a staff of 30 to 35 on temporary assignment and embarked on Somerset. (1)

It requires a staff of more than 30 people to command and control two ships?????!!

A commodore?  Seriously?  For two ships?  Why not just put an admiral in command – we’ve got enough of them sitting around with nothing productive to do.

Well, since the Navy seems serious about this lunacy, let’s go ahead and analyze the concept.

Combat Power – What combat power does an LPD and a Burke have?  An LPD is the smallest of the three ships that typically make up an Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and, therefore, carries around a quarter of a MEU and almost no aviation (an LPD has room for a single MV-22 in the hangar).  What is a quarter of a MEU going to do in combat?  They could deal with an angry Boy Scout troop, I guess but that’s about it.  Remember the Somalia (Blackhawk Down) debacle?  Small units simply haven’t got the combat power to deal with actual combat.  That pretty well limits the “group” to very low end, non-combat scenarios which, of course, is at odds with the word “combat” in the group description.

The Burke, itself, has combat capability, of course, but it has that without the LPD and, in fact, is less capable with the LPD than without because it has to protect the LPD as well as itself, thus diluting the Burke’s combat capability somewhat.

The pair have no more credible combat capability than the Burke alone.  This is stupidity on a plate.

Risk – Doctrinally, the Navy won’t risk ships within 25-50 miles of land so how will this pair conduct operations?  Again, a quarter of a MEU, with no significant aviation element, can’t transfer power ashore from 25-50 miles out in any peer level combat scenario, even setting aside the ineffectiveness of a quarter of a MEU.  Again, that limits the “group” to inshore, non-combat scenarios.

This grouping also puts a rare and valuable amphibious ship in harm’s way for no gain in combat power.

Thus, there seems to be no combat enhancement to this “group” over and above the Burke, itself.  So why is the Navy even looking at this?  I have no idea.  From the article, we see the supposed guidance that the Navy is operating under.

The Navy and Marine Corps are revising their concepts to align with the National Defense Strategy that focuses on warfare against a peer or near-peer adversary. (1)

That makes this all the more baffling.  How does a single LPD and a single Burke contribute to warfare against a peer? 

Navy leadership needs to be drug tested.


(1)USNI News website, “Navy Tests ‘Littoral Combat Group’ Concept That Pairs DDG, LPD in South America Deployment”, Megan Eckstein, 3-Jan-2019,