U.S. Central Command says that one Iranian drone crashed into the sea after the USS Boxer took what Central Command called "defensive action" against it last Thursday. It said the Boxer also "engaged" a second Iranian drone at the same time, but could not confirm it was destroyed. (1)
Set that aside, for a moment, and recall that the Navy wants to operate a distributed lethality concept which is based on a vast network of all-seeing, all-knowing data links assembled into a master picture and then distributed to all the ships in the region. Thus, every ship, whether it uses its own sensors or not, will know, with unerring accuracy, the location and targeting information about every enemy asset in the region. This will allow the distributed ships to co-ordinate and mass their fires on the unsuspecting and hapless enemy fleets.
The Navy is applying the same basic concept of vast networks and data links to AAW defense in the form of an advanced co-operative engagement capability (NIFC-CA).
Now, let’s return to the Boxer engagement. According to the Navy, one drone was downed and the Navy doesn’t know what happened to the other. Consider the implications of that statement … they don’t know what happened to the other drone. The ship had all manner of radars, sensors, optical sensors, EW equipment, Mk1 Eyeballs, and who knows what else applied to a drone that was, by all accounts within a thousand yards so of the ship, and they don’t know what happened to it.
Recall the Burke destroyer that supposedly engaged several incoming anti-ship missiles off Yemen a while ago? Despite Aegis and all manner of other sensors, the Navy couldn’t say whether any of their missiles hit any targets or what happened to the targets. In fact, careful analysis of the reporting revealed that they couldn’t even say for sure that there were any actual incoming missiles.
Recall the giant hulking cargo ships that two Burke destroyers never saw and collided with.
Are you seeing the pattern? Despite the manufacturer and the Navy’s claims of omniscient sensing, we can’t actually keep track of ships, UAVs, and incoming weapons right next to us! So, how are we going to achieve this regional, distributed lethality, all-seeing, all-knowing master sensor picture or the perfectly networked NIFC-CA AAW defense?
We’re basing our naval offense and defense on a claimed capability that has been proven, time and again, to be woefully inadequate. When you can’t keep track of a drone a thousand feet from you under non-combat, perfect conditions, how are you going to track every enemy asset in a regional distributed lethality network under electromagnetically challenged conditions? The answer is obvious – you’re not! And yet, we’re proceeding with the assumption that we can and will. At what point do you stop believing unfounded claims and start believing actual field performance evidence? I think that point is now. The Navy needs to stop believing in Unicorns and Fairy Dust and start looking at reality.
(1)Miami Herald website, “US now says it ‘engaged’ 2 Iranian drones, not 1”, Associated Press, 23-Jul-2019,https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/article233033167.html