Friday, November 15, 2019

Frigates in the US Navy

Despite ComNavOps’ indifference, nay, disdain, for the idea of frigates in the US Navy, the Navy, in its infinite wisdom idiocy has opted to go ahead and acquire 20 frigates.  Of course, this was done without any Concept of Operations so no one has yet given any thought to how these frigates would be used. 

What does the US Navy have to say about the role of the frigate?  From USNI News we get this,

The RFI [frigate program Request For Information from industry] states that one of the FFG(X)’s two main purposes is to “relieve large surface combatants from stressing routine duties during operations other than war.” It goes on to say later that “this ship will reduce demand on high-end cruisers and destroyers that currently conduct [anti-submarine warfare], [surface warfare], and theater security cooperation missions, allowing for an increase of more capable assets to maintain a stabilizing presence in regions where tensions with nations that have highly capable naval forces may exist.” (1)

Unfortunately, this is just a bunch of gibberish that says nothing and doesn’t even mention actual combat use.  Total, pointless garbage.  As with the LCS, I guess we’re on our own to figure out how to fit the frigate into combat operations.  So, why don’t we lead the way and engage in some speculation about frigate use?

In order to assess and ‘fit’ the frigate into the US Navy scheme, we need to recognize and bear in mind a few key aspects and characteristics of the frigate:

  • The frigate will be a mini-Burke with 50% of the capability and 60%-70% of the cost (let’s face it, no one believes the Navy’s cost estimate and history guarantees that the cost will be much greater than current estimates!).
  • Only 20 will be built.
  • The design appears to have a bit of an ASW focus.
  • It will carry one helo (MH-60R) and one UAV (MQ-8C).
  • The Navy has around 70 Burkes in service.

So, what can we do with a frigate that will be procured in small quantity, is very expensive (likely $1.5B each), and has a bit of an ASW focus?

One of the obvious uses is as part of a surface group escort. 

As an escort, frigates would offer almost nothing extra in the way of group AAW defense since we already have more than enough high end, AAW focused Burkes and Ticonderogas with Standard missiles having ranges of hundreds of miles. 

What a frigate could offer is extended, outer zone ASW screening.  Several frigates, pushed well out along the group’s front and sides could extend the ASW awareness significantly.  That would relegate the Burkes to inner zone ASW and their main function which is, of course, AAW.  The frigates, with their own self-defense AAW, are capable of surviving when pushed out a bit from the group especially if they remain under the Burke/Ticonderoga Aegis umbrella.  Obviously, a concerted, focused attack on an individual frigate would overwhelm it but that’s where the Aegis umbrella comes in.

The limitation of carrying only a single helo for ASW is a problem and a design flaw in an ASW frigate (recall that the Perrys were designed to carry 2x Seahawk helos) but it’s better than nothing and the Burke’s helos could stage through the frigates to supplement the outer helo screen although the response time operating that way would be a problem.  What we need is to pair the frigates with a long range, high speed, persistent ASW aircraft like the S-3 Viking.  The frigates would provide initial detection and the S-3 would confirm and prosecute.  But … we don’t have S-3 Vikings so the frigates and their single helo will have to suffice, if poorly.

Regardless of the helo limitation and lack of an S-3, frigates could effectively extend the ASW screen.

The other obvious use for frigates in war is as convoy escorts.  The Perrys were intended to act as escorts for the US-to-Europe resupply convoys in the event of a war with the Soviet Union.  Similarly, we will have need of regular convoys from the US to Pearl Harbor, Guam, and whatever other bases we might operate in a China war.  In this role, the frigates would be providing limited area AAW protection and ASW coverage. 

The limitation in these concepts is numbers.  We are only building 20 frigates.  A war time carrier group of 3-4 carriers would require around 8 frigates to effectively extend the screen given the vast area that a carrier group occupies.  That means that there would only be enough frigates to provide screening for 2 surface groups at a time and, if we use frigates in this role, there won’t be any available for the typical frigate missions of convoy escort and patrols of peripheral combat areas.  Again, recall that we had 71 Perrys!  The reverse is also true – if we assign frigates to convoy escort, we won’t have any available for surface group escort.

Before we leave the ASW application, let’s also briefly consider what this means for the Burkes.  Nominally, the Burkes have ASW capability.  In fact, they are the only surface ASW capability we have!  Even at that, Burkes rarely train for ASW and are not even remotely proficient at it.  If we introduce frigates as our ASW assets, it is only reasonable to believe that Burke ASW training will be further de-emphasized.  If we had, say, 70 ASW frigates that might be acceptable.  However, with only 20 frigates we can’t depend on just the frigates for ASW.  We will still need Burkes to provide ASW and I don’t see our Burke ASW training being able to meet that continued need.  It’s a concern and a capability gap due to training issues. 

We’ve discussed war uses for a frigate but what about peace?

As far as peacetime uses of the frigate, the Navy has suggested that the frigate will ‘free up’ Burkes for more pressing duties.  However, with 70 some Burkes running around, how many more do we need to ‘free up’?  Are we short of Burkes somewhere?  No, we’re not.  As far as the claim that the frigates will ‘relieve’ the Burkes for more pressing duties, we’ve already demonstrated that there’s nothing more pressing for the Burkes to do since we’re following a policy of non-confrontation and appeasement.  Further, there’s no significant, practical difference between a $2.5B Burke chasing pirates in a skiff and a $1.5B frigate chasing pirates in a skiff.  Both are a colossal waste of time and resources.

What’s more, if we assume the usual peacetime ratio of three ships rotating to keep one deployed, that means that the 20 frigates will only generate 6 deployable ships at any given moment.  Six useful frigates.  Six.  That’s not a lot and it’s certainly not going to ‘relieve’ the Burkes from much of anything.

So, what did this thought exercise tell us?  It tells us that a frigate can be an effective ASW escort but the lack of numbers means we have to choose between surface group escort or convoy escort.  We don’t have enough numbers to do both.  It also tells us that in peacetime the frigates won’t accomplish anything since we have more than enough Burkes and there’s no difference between an expensive Burke and an expensive frigate when it comes to showing the flag, chasing pirates, participating in the many ‘exercises’ with third rate navies, or hanging around during humanitarian assistance and handing out a few meals.  A Burke and a frigate are both huge overkills for peacetime work.

Did anyone really think through the balance of costs, numbers, deployable numbers, and missions?  In other words, did the Navy develop a Concept of Operations for these frigates to see if they could actually be useful?  It doesn’t seem like it.  Once again, it seems as if the Navy simply jumped on whatever they thought they could get funding for with no thought, whatsoever, as to how to use them.

Twenty frigates simply aren’t all that useful.  I’d much rather have 60 dedicated ASW corvettes.


(1)USNI News website, “Navy Releases Details of New FFG(X) Guided-Missile Frigate Program in Request to Industry”, Megan Eckstein, 10-Jul-2017,


  1. On peace time duties. Since the USCG is already sucked into that, just expand the Guard and build the armed version of the NSC, build an armed Offshore patrol cutter and also the Sentinel class (up armed I guess to Cyclone level), and arm the new ice breaker (since Russia is). Not going to happen since that would mean a budget battle.

    With just a few Burkes about they can sail through the straits of Taiwan, play embargo enforcement, anti piracy patrol about Africa, or help nations in Pacific confront China's tiers of navy milita and coast guard squatting on other people's fishing rights.

    For ASW. I'd loose the helo and build dedicated frigates quiet from the ground up. Build a frigate leader as a small dedicated helo carrier to provided sufficient Helicopters for full coverage of a contact. The Mistral class was not all that expensive it could probably retain the aircraft capacity and up the speed losing all the troop stuff (600,000 million 2012 dollars). If google translating right the Abukuma in current dollars was ~500,00 million dollars. I might doing geek numbers stuff but that says two FFx can get five DEs and a DE leader for the same cost all focused on you know their primary job.

    But that all would violate the navy MBA plan to have reduced amounts of sailors at all costs. Overwork and under train the ones they retain.

    So the new verbiage dropped the Electronic Warfare line. Which seems like something best realized in a small purpose built ship as well.

    1. Addendum maybe just a landing deck and minimal refueling on the DE? That would aid any helos deployed on a response mission.

  2. I have several thoughts on the FFGX program. 1.Does anyone think that there will only be 20 after Congress gets done they could replace the early Burkes after Burkes have been around since the 90s and hopefully replace Some LCS to
    2.You can never have enough ASW platforms especially when it comes to convoy escorts
    3.These frigates will number more than a lot of nations navys even if they stop at 20 (doubtful).
    4.Depending on which design is chosen Fremm or F100 probably the front runners they cant possibly be any worse than what we have right now with LCS

  3. Agreed, the plan feels like a do what other people have done for the last 30 years and make an expensive ship that is less intimidating than ships a generation ago. Even if they meet their estimate between 800-900mil that's too expensive to seriously improve numbers. If they are to build a frigate it should really try to be a baby Burke and assume the high end will turn into a larger platform with less numbers. 5 inch gun, 2 H-60, 32-48 VLS. It needs to be at or cheaper than a National Security Cutter. Something that looks price competitive with a B-21. Go cheap on ASW and propulsion. Then there is absolutely a need for focused ASW that would still fit on a dedicated corvette that has propulsion designed for that role. The end product would need to cost less than an Offshore Patrol Cutter, ideally cost competitive with a P-8 and still have room for 2 H-60. The corvette would be about 3250 tons and the frigate 6500. I like the idea of moving aviation off the corvette and onto a dedicated platform so as to get the most out of an aviation component, but the challenge of numbers will come back into play.

    1. If LCS wasnt so God awful it could fill the corvette role you describe but that ship has sailed or in LCS case stuck in port awaiting repair

    2. What kills me here is how bad the LCS has sullied the breed. I think an aluminum catamaran with the hybrid propulsion plant of the Damen 10514 would be cheap, fast enough, long range, and ample room for some VLS and all the tows of the ASW package, plus gas and space for 2 H-60 or whatever comes next. The trick would be could you mount some kind of hull sonar. The Frigate I describe seems a whole lot less feasible at the price I am talking unless we go for maybe a Danish design.

    3. So true especially simce Austal submitted a ffgx design with 33 VLS amd countless other proposals over the years included VLS from 8 cell all the way up 32

  4. OK I might Have underplayed the cost of Helicopter destroyer as lead. The Hyuga looks to have cost lead ship 1.2 billion. But since I doubt the USN will hit 800-900 million per unit of the FF(x)... It looks those 30+ knots did come at some cost. But it does a sold VLS ASW load and torpedo tubes so its not just a bystander in the ASW role.

    If one was paired with a CV its someplace at least F35's could land on it the shit hits the fan...

  5. Targets, the frigates will be targets.
    In war there WILL be casualties, at least decide what the casualties will be.

  6. There will ultimately be something like 82 Burkes. As the earlier ones start to be paid off, we will need to replace them with something. That could be new Burkes or something else. Let's assume we are looking at $2.8B to replace a Burke with a new Burke. Or $1.4B for a mini-Burke, or $400 million for some kind of ASW frigate. On those numbers, replacing 42 Burkes with 42 new Burkes would be $115B. We could do 60 GP mini-Burkes for $84B, and 80 ASW frigates for $32B, or $116B total. I could be off a bit on the numbers, but I think they're in the ballpark. A force of 40 Burkes, 60 GP mini-Burkes, and 80 ASW frigates sounds better to me than 82 Burkes.

    I would replace the Ticonderogas with a larger, true cruiser, say something around 15-20,000 tons on a Des Moines hull, to have room for 2x3 12-inch guns, fore and aft, newer and more powerful radars than Aegis, 156 VLS cells forward, and a large unmanned vehicle handling area in between.

    I would also build 8 battleships, probably along the proposed battlecarrier lines, with 2x3 16-inch forward, 256 VLS cells, and a Kiev-type flight deck with up to 10-15 VSTOL and 10-15 helos, and would pair them in 8 surface action/hunter-killer groups with Hygua-type helcopter ASW cruisers.

    I would have 12 CVBGs, each with a large carrier and a small carrier.

    And I'd escort each of the CVBGs and SAG/HUKs with 1 cruiser, 2 AAW Burkes, 3 GP mini-Burkes, and 4 ASW frigates.

    1. "12 CVBGs, each with a large carrier and a small carrier."

      You keep talking about this 1-1/2 (that's being generous!) carrier group. What can it accomplish in peer combat? It would barely be self-defending and would be incapable of any significant offensive operation.

      You might want to review "Carrier Strike"

    2. Do we need 82 Burkes? They already been turned into multi-task over priced wonders - mini Ticonderogas. Is there a reason not to build AA/Ballistic defense destroyers that are not also supposed to do ASW?

      The Keiv type is plunging back into needless muti tasking.

    3. ComNavOps, What you are calling derisively a half carrier is not a match for a Nimitz. Not making any claim that it is, although I would argue that until they get EMALS and the recovery and weapons lift systems to operate, it might kick butt against a Ford. But it's going be fighting with, not against, Nimitzes (and unfortunately Fords). It is a pretty good match for whatever it would go up against in any peer war, and in conjunction with a Nimitz, it would support about 100 combat aircraft (making a single Nimitz/small carrier task force roughly the 40th largest air force in the world).

      I'm kind of looking for something to do with the LHAs and LHDs, since they are relatively expensive ships that don't really fit in any viable amphib CONOPS. And I'm really not sure exactly what we want or can afford in a long-term carrier, so they strike me as cheap interim alternatives. Long-term, I could see something like your Midway option or something like an old RN Ark Royal, but I'm trying to bridge a gap while we figure that one out. They cost around $3B initially, so I'm guessing they could be converted (sponsons to widen flight deck, ski jump, turn troop berthing and equipment spaces into larger hangars and aircraft maintenance shops, and upgrade propulsion plants to get to at least 28 knots) for about $2B.

      I know you want something bigger and more powerful for your second carrier, and I'd like to get there too. But money is a constraint, and I think this is the best we can do for the money that the Navy is going to get in the near future.

    4. "What you are calling derisively a half carrier"

      Not at all! I'm just assessing the missions of a carrier relative to the capabilities of the small carrier and noting that it has about half the capabilities needed - meaning, no E-2, EW, tanker, or helos. I am not engaging in an emotional criticism, just an objective assessment.

      "in conjunction with a Nimitz, it would support about 100 combat aircraft"

      ??? You've thrown out a lot of design ideas so I may be mistaking what you have in mind but a LHA-carrier can only operate around 20 F-35s. Combined with a Nimitz/Ford air wing, that gives a total of around 58 combat aircraft, currently. That number will bump up by around 6 if/when we get some alternate tanker.

      58 combat aircraft is not enough to conduct any worthwhile mission. I assume you've refreshed your memory, by now, on the "Carrier Strike" post and recognize that the requirements of simultaneous strike and group defense require far more than 58 aircraft.

      As a reminder, I've posted and demonstrated that a viable carrier group for peer war should consist of 4 Nimitz/Ford size carriers. Any less is simply not combat effective.

      "making a single Nimitz/small carrier task force roughly the 40th largest air force in the world"

      And if/when we fight the 40th largest air force then that would be an appropriate comparison. While we're frantically trying to match or overmatch the Chinese, that's not really a useful comparison.

      "I'm trying to bridge a gap"

      That's not the right approach. If it's peacetime then there is no gap that needs bridging because our carriers aren't fighting. In war, a gap-bridging solution is just going to get sunk because it doesn't meet the needs/requirements of high end, peer combat. When war comes we'll form 4-carrier groups and operate that way. If that means we can only form 2 such groups at a time, then so be it. We'll have to adjust out operations planning accordingly. We've seen, repeatedly, throughout history what happens when gap-solution, sub-optimal forces try to fight - they lose!

      If you get forced into a battle you didn't plan for then, of course, you fight with whatever you have on hand (Taffy 3, for example) but you don't plan for operations involving inadequate forces.

    5. You keep comparing the CV-LX to a Nimitz. It's not going to have to fight against a Nimitz, it's going to have to fight with a Nimitz. So anything that it provides to complement the Nimitz is an add. And while it may lose a comparison to a Nimitz, it's going to be competitive with a Liaoning or Kuznetzov, the ships it could end up fighting. And the bad guys only have one Liaoning or Kuznetzov, whereas we could have a dozen CV-LXs working with a dozen Nimitzes (or Fords).

      As far as the number of aircraft, 100 truly combat aircraft may be a bit high. But if we are going to go back to a 1980s air wing, that would give about 60 combat aircraft. And yes, the America carries about 20 F-35B. But it also has berthing space for 1500 Marines and some space for their equipment. If we get rid of that and make it a pure "Lightning Carrier" then we should be able to get at least 5, and probably up to 10, more aircraft in the resulting enlarged hangar. That gets us to 90, and I would guess in a pinch we could find away to get another 10 on between the two. And if we add an additional few feet of width to the flight deck with sponsons on both sides, then improved ability to move aircraft around should increase sortie rates.

      As far as the 40th largest air force, or whatever it would be with 90 instead of 100, remember that's in one place. Those larger air forces are going to be spread out over several bases, and except for the really huge ones would probably have to scramble to get 40 into one place at one time.

      I'm not going to argue that a CV-LX type carrier is the equal of a Nimitz. But it could supplement it, much like CVLs and CVEs did in WWII. And if we can convert the LHAs/LHDs for $2 billion versus spending $6 billion to build something a bit larger, then we save enough to buy an additional 40 aircraft. And I think we agree that aircraft numbers are the critical need at this point.

      10 Fords at what looks like $15B a shot is $150B. 12 Nimitzes is $108B, and if we can convert LHAs/LHDs for $2B, 11 of them would be $22B and one new one would be $4B, for a total of $134B. That's a savings of $16B for 14 more ships, which gives us the money to buy 160 aircraft at current prices of $100MM apiece. We could certainly look into cheaper aircraft as another way to leverage the numbers further. But either way, we would have the capability to blow any other naval air force out of the water.

    6. For that matter, if all the other navies in the world sailed against us, we'd beat all of them combined. That's where we belong, and that's where we need to be. I'm trying to figure out how to stay there with the money that I'm expecting congress to give the Navy.

    7. I guess that where you don't like the smaller carrier is in a scenario where we are trying to invade China, and that brings all their shore-based air into play. I agree that would be a huge problem. We'd need a lot more than a Nimitz and a CV-LX. But I don't think your idea of 4 Nimitzes would be enough, either.

      But I don't think that's a realistic scenario. What I think is doable is sea control, and the CV-LX can be very useful in that effort. In a peer war with China, if we can deny them the seas past the first island chain, we win fairly quickly. Why? Because they can't survive without Mideast oil, and there are no pipelines across the Himalayas. If we cut off their oil supply chain, their only chance to survive would be to invade Siberia. And if they had to fight us and Russia simultaneously, and we could bring in people like Japan and India on our side, then they have no chance in a conventional war.

      If they go nuke, then it's a whole different ball game. But the fastest way I know to make them escalate to nuke would be for us to launch an invasion. Starve them first, and then conquer.

    8. "You keep comparing the CV-LX to a Nimitz."

      Not in the least! I'm comparing the small carrier to its mission requirements and it comes up short. You're the one who is focused on carrier vs carrier fights but the reality is that carriers have so many other missions. A carrier group in a China war will have to conduct strike missions, establish local air superiority zones, escort Tomahawk shooters, conduct ASuW, support ground offenses, etc. Doing so requires carrier groups of 4 Nimitz/Ford size carriers with 4 full size air wings, especially with today's shrunken air wings. That's why a 1-1/2 carrier group is not viable. We'll need every one of the 160 combat aircraft (and all the E-2, tankers, EW, and helos!) in a 4-carrier group to have a chance of accomplishing the missions and surviving. There's just no use, or survival, for a 1-1/2 carrier group. My objection is not the LHA-carrier, it's the 1-1/2 carrier group - it's just not combat effective.

      It has nothing to do with comparisons to Nimitzes, it has everything to do with comparison to mission requirements.

    9. "a scenario where we are trying to invade China,"

      I have stated in multiple posts that we would have to be idiots to attempt that!

      I have also stated that some sort of half-effort war of standoff blockade and return to status quo would be a criminal failure and waste of effort on our part. If we're going to have a war with China (and we will) then we need to achieve a result that is definitive, final, and lasting. I've also laid out how to do that.

      If all we're going to do is stand off and just try to maintain the status quo then we don't need carriers at all. Subs can do the job much better. But that would be failure on many levels.

    10. CDR Chip, I think your comments about your force structure are interesting.

      However, I think that I would avoid your battlecarrier concept. It seems to me that it starts to multi-task the ship and you could end up with a jack-of-all-trades but master-of-none scenario.

      To replace the Ticonderoga class ships, I would do something similar to what you are talking about by making it a cruiser. But instead of using the Des Moines hull, I was thinking to use something more like the Cleveland class. My reasoning on this is that the Cleveland hull gives you an extra 40 ft of length and 11 ft of beam.
      After the Cleveland design's gun turrets are removed, all that open deck space would give copious amounts of space for VLS cells. It would also be possible to replace the superstructure to something that accommodates the Aegis system.

      I wouldn't put any sonar of ASW capability on this ship at all, just AAW and lots of CIWS to protect the ship. The 3-5 inch belt and 2 inch deck armor should be enough to deal with anything but a direct missile hit. The Cleveland hull would be more affordable than the larger Des Moines, which would be a factor as I'd want to build a lot of these ships, like at least 50.

      To fill the battleship role I would update the four Iowa class ships. However, I would use them sparingly, rotating them through limited deployments to keep from wearing those ships and saving them for when they are really needed.

      To supplement the Iowas, I'd build four Alaska class battlecruisers, but with 3 x 12 inch gun turrets fore and aft, with the deck space using as many VLS cells as they could carry and lots of CIWS to go with the 5-9 inch belt armor and 4 inch deck armor.

      The Des Moines hulls would be used for a heavy cruiser, configured like the Alaskas but with 3 x 8 inch gun turrets fore and aft.
      In place of helicopters on the fantails of these ships classes, I'd use that space for 'inexpensive' drones for surveillance and targeting.

      For ASW screening I'd use new long-hull Perry class frigates that were built for ASW and with only ASuW and AAW capabilities for self-defense.

      My jack-of=all-trades ships would be the Burke destroyers. They could supplement the Clevelands with AAW, the Perrys with ASW, and the carrier aircraft and cruisers with ASuW.

      My really weird idea would be to build 6-8 small carriers off of the Des Moines hull. Their primary role would be to provide some added capabilities to surface battle groups of Iowas, Alaskas, and Des Moines.

      They would have radar drone aircraft to perform some of the roles of the Hawkeye to get eyes up high looking far out. They'd be less capable but also relatively expendable.

      I would have on these a couple of S-3 Vikings in both the ASW and intel gathering configurations, along with a few ASW helicopters to assist the frigates and destroyers.

      I would also put on these small carriers a drone strike aircraft like the X-47B. It would carry either 4 HARM/Maverick, 2 Harpoon, or 1 Mk48 torpedo.

      These would not be flown from the carrier but instead would be sent on pre-programmed missions, either to run a strike against a known target or to loiter in a specific area for a given amount of time waiting for targets of opportunity.

      I would also stop building nuclear aircraft carriers after the Ford, and for the foreseeable future build conventional Kitty Hawks. My goal would be to have 15 to 20 super carriers (depending on how many air-wings I could afford).

      So, after all that, I'd have ships built with specific purposes. The only real multi-taskers would be the destroyers.

    11. "I have stated in multiple posts that we would have to be idiots to attempt (an invasion of China)."
      "A carrier group in a China war will have to conduct strike missions, establish local air superiority zones, escort Tomahawk shooters, conduct ASuW, support ground offenses, etc."

      I’m trying to reconcile those two statements. The approach I'm envisioning for a China war doesn't really require air strike missions. The strike platforms would be SSGNs. And if we're not invading China, what ground troops are we supporting?

      “If all we're going to do is stand off and just try to maintain the status quo then we don't need carriers at all.”

      I’m not talking about standing off and maintaining the status quo, I’m talking about hitting their weak spot by choking off their supply of the one commodity that they can’t survive without. We are the USA, we don't win wars by out-fighting people, we out-logistic them. We won the Civil War that way. We won WWII that way. Reagan won the Cold War by leveraging our economy. It's why we are so bad at asymmetric warfare. It's hard to win with logistics when your opponent doesn't depend on logistics. We cut off their oil supply and they're dead. And we can cut it off at the first island chain, or in the Pacific, or in the Indian Ocean, far away from their land-based air. We cut their oil, and the only chance they have is to invade Siberia. Suppose they dedicate all the oil they can get to the war effort. They keep a lid on their populace today by keeping them busy on make-work projects. Shut down those projects and what do you have? When there isn't work and they're starving, you're talking major insurrection, and quickly. We don't have to send one soldier ashore anywhere to beat them. Maybe we send some special forces to do raids on specific targets in the Philippines and Taiwan (assuming China has captured them), and maybe we have some AIP SSK's pick off some merchant traffic inside the China Sea, but that's about all we would have to risk

      “That's why a 1-1/2 carrier group is not viable. We'll need every one of the 160 combat aircraft (and all the E-2, tankers, EW, and helos!) in a 4-carrier group to have a chance of accomplishing the missions and surviving.”

      Pulling a 4 carrier group from 10 Fords/Nimitzes pretty much means blowing off everything else everywhere. Pulling 4 from 12 Nimitz/CVN-LXs and 12 CV-LXs (using RAND's terminology) still leaves you with some extra capability. If we go with a 1980s load-out on the Nimitz/CVN-LX, we’ve got 60 combat aircraft there, and if we have another 25-30 on the CV-LX, that’s over halfway to your 160 target, so 2 CVBGs would get you there for combat aircraft. The tanker numbers would be the problem, so maybe we heavy-load the big boys with them. Or bring in 4 big carriers and let the little guys handle the backwater missions. And saving money on carriers gives you more money to buy aircraft, which seem to be the critical numerical shortage.

      But I don’t think we really have to fight. China is a paper dragon. Their energy dependence and over-extended financial sector could bring them down at any time. Put those elements under pressure, the way Reagan did with the USSR, and they crack. We can defeat, and in fact destroy, China without setting foot inside the first island chain. It's our history to fight and win that way.

      My comment above about asymmetric warfare leads to my idea of having the Marines focus on mobile, commando, and special forces warfare. Put them in charge of figuring out how to win asymmetric and counter-insurgency conflicts. They are used to fighting with a short stick logistically, and doing hit-and-run stuff. So make them our experts. They can't do any worse than we do now. Westmoreland lost Vietnam by trying to fight a conventional war, and we haven't gotten any better at it since then. We can overwhelm you with force, but we can’t win an asymmetric conflict that way.

    12. You won't be putting them under stress like Regan did (that is a bit of myth anyway or at least very much over hyped). You would be putting the US economy under pressure to the breaking point and beyond. Roll back every tax cut put in place since Reagan and you might be able to afford that plan, but not otherwise. While you are you at it roll back Reagan's disastrous gutting of US ship building subsidies and you get a shipbuilding base that sustain building your plan.

      In any case the sad thing is the USN looks to just be making a smaller Burke and not really solving any issues.

      You know 20 billion over time might just be better spend designating a primary responsibility for each Burke: ASW, Air Defense, or Ballistic missile defense. And maintain sufficient ammo so that the crews could practice heavily on the primary roll and of course surface war for all, on a regular basis.

    13. Your strategy is to cut off oil imports with the assumption that China will collapse shortly (on a relative basis) thereafter. However, China has significant oil production capability. Here's a Wiki quote on production versus consumption:

      "In 2002, annual crude petroleum production was 1,298,000,000 barrels, and annual crude petroleum consumption was 1,670,000,000 barrels."

      That's not a wide discrepancy and with wartime rationing, China would be close to oil independence.

      China has also built two major oil pipelines, that I'm aware of, to Russia to further alleviate their oil import needs. The two lines transfer 600,000 barrels/day. Unless we're willing to attack Russian pipelines, those are untouchable given their location deep inside China.

      Interesting that China only became a net oil importer in 1993 - again demonstrating that China's internal oil production capability is significant.

      The short of it is that I don't think you can oil-starve China into submission and China is strengthening its oil position every day.

      Do you have data that leads you to believe that China can be oil-starved?

    14. I would be slightly careful on relying too much on China's energy dependence.

      In the timeframe you are looking at to build your force structure, China is spending huge amounts of money building pipelines and developing their internal energy resources.

      Russia is currently the biggest oil supplier to China, and there are a number of new pipeline proposals on the table. I expect one or more of them to happen in the next few years.

      The new Myanmar - China pipeline means you have to isolate MADE Island, and its certainly within range of Chinese land-based air forces in Yunnan Province. It is also conceivable that as tensions escalate Myanmar might allow Chinese basing which would complicate any fight in the Indian Ocean.

      I think you can safely assume the Chinese have long ago figured out their energy risk exposure and everything I've seen says they are working flat out to minimize it.

      Pipelines to Russia, increased domestic exploration and production facilities, building up their strategic petroleum reserve and so on.

      I guess you could call it a race. Its going to take a while to develop a force structure to really contain China militarily (as its arguably going backwards at the moment), and its going to take China a while to "harden" their energy log train to withstand potential US/China hostilities.


    15. "In 2002, annual crude petroleum production was 1,298,000,000 barrels, and annual crude petroleum consumption was 1,670,000,000 barrels."

      I'm not sure where you are getting those numbers. I have the following, from

      China, 2002
      Production 3,390 BOPD
      Consumption 5,161 BOPD

      Those are fairly close to your numbers, and your assertion regarding 1993, but:

      China, 2013
      Production 4,164 BOPD
      Consumption 10,480 BOPD

      As far as the Myanmar terminal, they still have to get the oil around India, and India doesn't like China very much. China has a bigger navy, but India has more carriers and the numbers that China could deploy to the Indian Ocean are probably about equal. They have to maintain a sizable naval force in the China Sea, particularly in any peer war context. Plus India has a large coastal force that could interdict tankers, while China's coastal force presumably could not deploy in opposition.

      If the South China Sea turns into Saudi Arabia, China could be okay. But significant development of that is probably 30-40 years from now, at the earliest, and thee are a lot of ifs between now and then. The other place they could get oil is Siberia. As I understand it, they recently opened a second pipeline, so that flow could increase. I could also see the Tom Clancy scenario, where China and Russia go to war over Siberia. In a grand strategy context, we could do some triangulation between Russia and China.

      I think we are far better equipped to choke China today than they are to protect their critical energy supply chain. That may not always be the case, but it will be a while before it changes significantly.

    16. Even using your numbers, it's clear that critical consumption (meaning processes that couldn't run without oil) didn't double in 11 years. That's not even remotely believable. China didn't double their oil-critical processes in 11 years. I suspect what we're seeing is non-critical consumption (I call it convenience or luxury) making up most of the increase. That being the case, a simple return to critical-only consumption would return China to near parity between production and consumption and some war rationing discipline would take care of the remaining discrepancy.

      Oil blockade simply won't do it.

    17. Per IMF data, China’s GDP (in US dollars) was $1.5 trillion in 2002 and $9.6 trillion in 2013. See:

      That’s pretty consistent with the growth in oil consumption. The two are typically very closely linked. Growing economies need oil and gas in growing amounts.

      Yes, at least in theory China could do like we did in WWII and cut way back on non-essential commercial and consumer use of oil and gas. But here’s the problem. They keep their population under their thumb by a combination of make-work projects to keep them busy and the threat of military violence if they act up. See Hong Kong. Without that non-essential oil consumption, a lot of those make-work projects go away, and then that military has to expend a lot more effort directed toward keeping a lid on things. I don’t think China can afford widespread economic collapse and famine. And without oil, that’s what they are looking at.

      And remember, a blockade would not be just an oil blockade. Exports and other imports would also be impacted in major ways. The Chinese model right now is basically export cheap stuff, invest what you receive in make-work projects to keep the peons occupied, and keep a big stick handy to beat down the population when they act up.

      I still don’t see why we would have to confront China in the China Sea, nor any way that we could do so without being at a huge disadvantage. I also think they would have great difficulty taking Taiwan, or even more so the Philippines or Japan. They can do the Battle of Britain stuff, but that didn’t work for Hitler because he couldn’t get any boots on the ground in UK. I think they are a long way from having an amphibious lift capability that will permit any kind of significant assault.

    18. "I still don’t see why we would have to confront China in the China Sea, "

      Your victory conditions depend on the total collapse of China by nothing more than a simple blockade. That's an incredibly optimistic assumption. Consider the historical example of Japan in WWII. They had almost no internal oil production and were subjected to what amounts to a blockade and yet managed to continue fighting until their military was beaten into submission. Similarly, Germany was able to keep fighting and keep sufficient oil supplied until their military was reduced to ineffectiveness. If those two small countries with little internal oil production could keep fighting for several years despite what amounted to near total blockades, why do you think China, with substantial internal oil production capabilities and untouchable pipelines from Russia (presumably, they'd increase that supply in war - Russia would do anything to spite us!), would collapse in a relatively short time? That seems unrealistic in the extreme.

      Well, you've laid out your position so I'll let it go at that. I urge you, though, to carefully think through your proposed strategy and the historical precedents I cited and see how you reconcile them.

    19. Blockades sre a historically effective means of prosecuting a war and would be a fundamental part of any US vs China war. They take years to be effective though.

    20. ComNavOps,

      You and I may be the only people who care about proposed fleets, but I’ve been trying to fit your proposed fleet structure into your proposed operations task groups. You have listed carrier groups, battleship groups, and cruiser groups.

      Based on your 3 supercarriers per carrier group, and 15 supercarriers, you would have a maximum of 5 carrier groups. That would require, in total, 15 supercarriers, 5 smaller carriers, 50 AAW escorts, 50 destroyers, and 60 ASW escorts. With 6 battleships and 2-4 per battleship group, you could do 2 groups with 3 battleships each. That would also require 2 UAV carriers, 8 AAW escorts, and 12 ASW escorts. With 8 cruisers and 2-4 per cruiser group, you could do 3 groups with an average of 2.67 cruisers each (obviously doing some rotation there). That would also require 3 UAV carriers, 12 AAW escorts, and 18 ASW escorts.

      So to fill out your proposed operational task organization, you would need 15 super carriers, 5 smaller carriers, 6 battleships, 8 independent cruisers, 5 UAV carriers, 70 AAW escorts, 50 destroyers, and 90 ASW escorts. Your proposed fleet would be short 10 AAW escorts and 30 ASW escorts for that organization, but would have 30 extra destroyers, so you could swap some out. You have 40 ASW corvettes and 6 ASW carriers that are not assigned. I would guess from your comments elsewhere that those would be primarily convoy escorts. You also have 7 small carriers and 1 UAV carrier left over.

      If you went with 2 supercarriers and 2 small carriers per carrier group, you could get 6 carrier groups, with 3 supercarriers left over (or maybe you could assign them to 3 of the 6 groups). You’d be 20 short of AAW escorts, 42 short of ASW escorts, but 20 over on destroyers, so again you could swap some out. Maybe your group compositions are just notional, and in wartime those would be the targets but you would just have to mix and match based on what was available and running at any time.

      I started from a loose CONOPS and based my proposed fleet on 12 CVBGs, 8 surface action/HUK groups, and 10 amphib groups. Each CVBG would have 1 big carrier (Nimitz/RAND CVN-LX), 1 small carrier (RAND CV-LX, saving money on carriers to have more for airplanes), 1 cruiser, 2 AAW destroyers, 3 GP escorts, and 4 ASW frigates. My surface/HUK groups would have 1 battleship, 1 ASW carrier, 1 cruiser, 2 AAW destroyers, 3 GP escorts, and 4 ASW frigates. And my amphib groups would be 1 smaller LHA/LHD (like Juan Carlos), 1 LPH, 1 LSD/LPD, 1 LST, 1 LPA/LKA, and 1 gunfire support frigate. A phib group would be escorted by a CVBG and/or SAG/HUK when going in harm’s way. I would also assign one SSN/SSGN to each CVBG and SAG/HUK, and one UNREP ship to each CVBG, SAG/HUK, and phib group. I would envision that my task groups would be identified and be trained, maintained, employed, and deployed together on a common schedule, kind of like the British Army regiment system.

      Your proposed air wing sizes would give 116 VF/VA with one large and one small carrier. My big carrier would carry 36 VF, 24 VA, 4 AEW, 6 EW, 6 ASW (fixed), 6 tanker, and 8 helos, total 90, with room for more, and the goal for my CV-LX would be 24 F-35 and 12 helos (6 ASW/GP and 6 Merlin Crowsnest AEW), so my CVBG would have 84 VF/VA aircraft. Two of my 12 CVBGs together would have 168 VF/VA, 12 EW, 12 tankers, and 8 AEW, 200 total, which exceeds your proposed strike requirement posted elsewhere.

      You’ve got 398 total ships and I have 600. I’ve got 91 auxiliary/service force ships, more amphibs, and 105 corvettes, patrol ships, mine warfare ships, and AIP submarines in coastal/littoral squadrons. You didn’t project auxiliaries or your “peace” ships. You have 6 dedicated UAV carriers where I plan on larger cruisers (say, Des Moines size), and including a large UAV deck on them, plus UAVs on my ASW carriers.

      Bottom line: Either your approach or mine would work better than a small number of high-cost Fords and LCSs and Zumwalts.

    21. "I’ve been trying to fit your proposed fleet structure into your proposed operations task groups."

      You seem extremely focused on group structures and given numbers of groups. That's not how naval war operations are conducted. Naval combat uses whatever assets are needed to accomplish the mission. Groups form and unform as needed. There are no permanent groups.

      For example, in WWII, when an operation was initiated (an island assault, for example), the required naval support was assembled from whatever overall resources were available and when the operation was over the assets were released back into the 'pool' for use in other operations.

      Yes, there some ships that tended to stay together such as destroyer squadrons or a battleship squadron but those squadrons were mixed and matched as needed for operations.

      Thus, trying to do the arithmetic on my force structure to come up with a certain number of groups is pointless. Even the group compositions I described are merely notional examples.

      Naval operations are extremely fluid. Consider the Guadalcanal campaign. We ran the same interdiction mission multiple times and each time the naval force composition was different as our resources came, went, and sank. The campaign was a good example of mixing and matching ships/groups to accomplish the mission. There might have been an ideal, desired, pre-war group composition for such a campaign but the real world war quickly put an end to any such planning and we used what we had available.

      I'm beginning to belabor the point so I'll simply repeat, focusing on group composition and numbers is pointless. Assets will be mixed and matched as available and needed.

      Group composition is useful for planning purposes and gives us targets to try to attain in our procurement efforts but that's about all it's good for.

    22. OK, so I think we are doing similar things under slightly different constraints, and that's driving most of our differences.

      I see two major differences in our approaches:

      1. I think you are starting from what we need to win a peer war, and I'm approaching it more from how close can we can get to that with a spending constraint. I've used the projected costs of the 355-ship Navy as my starting point (although that may no longer be valid), and tried to get as much bang for the buck as I could with that approach. Take carriers. Given the choice, I'd rather have your carrier force than mine. But I don't think we could build your carrier force in peacetime and have enough left over to put your air wings onboard them. Assuming your big carrier and mine cost $9B each, and your small carrier costs $6B and mine costs $4B, building your carrier force would cost $207B (15 x 9 + 12 x 6) whereas mine would cost $156B (12 x 9 + 12 x 4). And at an average cost of $100MM an airplane, your air wings would cost $218B ((15 x 110 + 12 x 44) x 100) and mine would cost $151B ((12 x 90 + 12 x 36) x 100). So counting ships and aircraft, my approach is $118B cheaper (or roughly $3B a year over 40 years). I think that buys a lot of something else. And while your carrier force could overwhelm the rest of the world's navies combined, I think mine could pretty well overwhelm any enemy we are apt to see in the next half century.

      2. I understand that your operating organizations are notional, whereas I'm actually trying to structure organizations that would train and work together in peacetime. As I said, it's kind of the British regimental concept--people who train and work together in peacetime will fight together better in wartime.

      I totally agree with your comments about fluidity. I just think you can start out ahead by combining units that have trained and worked together. So I've tried to structure my units as building blocks for operations.

      You have 398 ships and I have 600. That's because I have included auxiliaries, and because I have included about 100 very cheap littoral ships, kind of a mini-NNFM. If you add auxiliaries to yours, I'm guessing you end up close to 500, and your "peace" ships probably close the gap even more.

      I think I understand the differences. I think we are both of the opinion that we can't spend as much as we have on expensive boondoggles like the Fords or LCSs or Zumwalts--particularly when they don't work. We need to build cheaper ships or we run out of money. Your war/peace and my high/low are two different approaches to the same problem. I think either would produce a fleet far better equipped for what we need than what the Navy will get from their approach.

    23. "regimental concept--people who train and work together in peacetime will fight together better in wartime."

      The problem with this approach is that they won't fight together in war. If you're a very small military, like the UK or Australia, that might be true. However, if you're a massively large military you'll wind up doing massively large combat operations and you'll, inevitably, wind up mixing and matching units. See our entire WWII history.

      Even at the start of a war, peacetime units won't likely fight together. Units will be destroyed. New units will filter in. You'll get an infux of new personnel. Initial operations will pull bits and pieces of units apart to fill operational requirements.

      Trying to train as a peacetime group is not only pointless but it's potentially counterproductive. What happens when war comes and you're forced to combine two groups that haven't trained together for a decade? They'll have two different ways of doing things. Chaos! The world will crumble! Whoa, sorry, I inadvertently bumped the hyperbole dial up. I'll dial it back.

      What you can and should do in peacetime is not emphasize constant groups but, rather, constant doctrine. Doctrine is the set of standardized actions that form the foundation of operations. If your entire army or navy all trains to the same doctrine then you can freely mix and match units secure in the knowledge that all elements understand what each other will do even if they've never worked together before. Doctrine, by the way, is one of our Navy's major failings - we don't have any!

    24. "you are starting from what we need to win a peer war, and I'm approaching it more from how close can we can get to that with a spending constraint."

      The military is what ensures your continued existence as a country. With an insufficient military, you cease to exist because, sooner or later, someone will get around to conquering you. Ask any country that's been conquered!

      The military is an existential requirement. It's not an option AND IT'S NOT A COST-CONSTRAINED ITEM. You build the military that you need to ensure your continued existence. It costs what it costs. You find a way to pay for it. If a doctor says you have to take a pill every day to stay alive, you find a way to pay for it. If that means not going on a vacation or skipping a few restaurant meals or whatever, you do it. Same with the military. If paying for it means you drop some welfare programs then that's what you do. You find a way to pay for the required military.

      Now, that doesn't mean you don't impose cost discipline. You do! You don't buy LCS, Zumwalt, and Ford. You buy good designs, executed responsibly.

      The belabored point is you don't design your military to cost targets, you design your military to existential, peer war targets. There is no point designing a thrifty military that can't win the existential war. This is also why so much of my focus is on peer war.

    25. "The belabored point is you don't design your military to cost targets, you design your military to existential, peer war targets. There is no point designing a thrifty military that can't win the existential war. This is also why so much of my focus is on peer war."

      Even with all its problems, our current Navy could probably defeat the combined navies of the rest of the world. I think we satisfy the existential requirement pretty well right now. We need to get better, and we need to quit buying LCSs, Zumwalts, and Fords. I think we both agree on that.

      I'm just trying see if there is a way to work within what I see as likely budget constraints. You design what you want and/or need, but you get what congress gives you. And quite frankly, I am not sure that even my budget is achievable.

      Our biggest difference is over the second carrier in a two-carrier CVBG. We pretty much agree that the first carrier should be a Nimitz or equivalent, and definitely not a Ford. Your second carrier and its air wing are both more capable--and more expensive--than mine. You want something like a Midway or Forrestal for your second carrier, while I am willing to go with a less expensive option. If we are truly talking a peer war--against actual existing peers--then my CV-LX second carrier is basically a match for anything that any peer opponent has. And they have 1 or 2 or 3, whereas I would have 12. And that doesn't even consider that I have 12 big carriers to go with it. Ideally, I'd like my second carrier to be more in line with yours. But right now, I don't think we can get the money for that, or the necessary air wings (which are really the critical piece), and we have these LHA/LHDs that don't really have a viable CONOPS as amphibs, so why not adapt them?

      As far as the training together thing, I agree that once war breaks out we won't necessarily be fighting together, and obviously if that ship you've been training with gets sunk, you won't be fighting with it. But I also think that group strategy and tactics are a separate skill from individual ship sailing and warfighting, and the more experience we have in groups in peacetime, the better we will integrate in wartime.

    26. "then my CV-LX second carrier is basically a match for anything that any peer opponent has. And they have 1 or 2 or 3, whereas I would have 12."

      I don't understand why you're locked in to carrier vs carrier comparisons. To repeat, a carrier's traditional job is land attack strikes or enabling such. The seat of purpose is on the land. Yes, a carrier on carrier battle could happen but, historically, that's quite rare. Our carrier fleet during the Cold War was not intended to fight the Soviet's carriers. They were intended to strike or enable strikes.

      You are incorrectly focused on carrier vs carrier matchups which are very unlikely to happen. You need to focus on carrier vs likely missions/targets and the likely missions are land related.

      " But right now, I don't think we can get the money for that, or the necessary air wings"

      Of course we can! I've described how many times. Simply reverting to Nimitzes would save around $8B per carrier built!!!!!!!! Had we not built the idiotic Zumwalts, we'd have around $26B extra!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Had we not built the LCS, we'd have $19B!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We have mountains of money IF WE SPEND IT WISELY. We can easily afford my approach (or yours). MONEY IS NOT AN ISSUE UNLESS WE INSIST ON REMAINING STUPID. If we insist on building $15B carriers that are getting more expensive all the time then, yes, we have a money problem and our trend of shrinking fleets and shrinking air wings and submarine shortages will continue.

      If you're going to engage in 'what if' scenarios - which I do all the time! - then you have to assume a basic level of competency by the actors. If not, you have the train wreck that we are currently witnessing. You are engaged in 'what if' speculation, as am I, so why limit yourself to a stupidity-budget scenario? Assume better fiscal and procurement behavior because without it, even your more limited scenario is not achievable - as you, yourself, hinted.

      If the Navy continues to pile stupid on stupid, as they're currently doing, then there is no 'better' scenario that can work.

    27. "If the Navy continues to pile stupid on stupid, as they're currently doing, then there is no 'better' scenario that can work."

      Looking for common ground, I think we are in total agreement on that. The Fords, Zumwalts, and LCSs are unconscionable wastes of taxpayer dollars. If this country ever made me president, I would immediately fire everybody who ever signed off on any of the three of them.

      I also think we agree that an amphib CONOPS that involves standing 25-50 miles offshore, because the ships are too valuable to risk closer in, and flying everybody and everything in with helos and V-22s is patently absurd.

      We have some differences of what to do about it, but the discussions we have had here probably make more sense than anything the top Navy brass have had. And that is truly unfortunate.

    28. "We have some differences of what to do about it, "

      This perfectly illustrates the necessity to have a geopolitical strategy and a coherent military strategy that supports it. One of the reasons for our differences is that you're designing to a completely different military strategy (standoff blockade) than I am. Not surprisingly, that results in radically different force levels and structure. If we were both designing to the exact same strategy, our solutions would likely be pretty similar.

      You can't design a ship without a CONOPS and you can't design a fleet structure without a military strategy. Seems simple enough but the Navy utterly fails to grasp the concept.

    29. Agree 100% about the need for a strategy. I've said before that I see three potential hot spots--China Sea, Mideast, and Eastern Europe. My strategy would be to contain each--at the first island chain, the Straits of Hormuz, and the GIUK gap, the Skaggerat/Kattegat, and Bosporus/Dardanelles, respectively--and to support our allies to the point of keeping sufficient balance to keep the would-be hegemons--China, Iran, and Russia--at bay. I don't see us going inside those perimeters to conduct direct assaults. Nor do I see carriers going inside those perimeters to conduct ground strikes or troop support.

      I guess my question is what strategy do you embrace? I am guessing that our different concepts of future force structures are derived to at least some degree by different grand strategies.

      I would describe my objective, at the end of the day, to mean having the biggest, baddest military in the world, and never having to use it, because nobody dares pick on us, and we don't go around picking on them. I think that before we can get there, there is going to have to be somebody who tries to pick on us, and we are going to have to respond by killing them until they get tired of dying. We haven't done that yet, but I predict that things will get better for if and when we do. I think we worry too much about being liked and not enough about being respected. There are people who are not going to like us no matter what we do. But if they respect us, that's good enough.

    30. CDR Chip,

      You have mentioned part of your Navy "fantasy fleet". What does the rest look like? Maybe we can compare it with the upcoming 2019 Navy FSA when it comes out.

    31. Anon2,

      I've laid it out, probably in bits and pieces elsewhere on here, but will do a quick summary:

      I was on active duty in the Zumwalt years, and really like his high/low mix philosophy to build some top of the line ships and flesh out the numbers with cheaper ships. ComNavOps has a somewhat different war/peace approach, reflected in his proposed fleet at the tab here. Either way, I think we are way better off than under the current Navy approach of ever smaller numbers of ever more expensive ships. Here’s my “dream fleet”:

      12 CVBG, each consisting of 1 large carrier (Nimitz or RAND CVN-LX) and 1 small carrier (RAND CV-LX or converted LHA/LHD "Lightning Carrier")--ComNavOps and I have disagreed here. He wants the 2nd carrier to be more like a Midway or Forrestal. I would like that, too, but just don't think the money to do that will be there, and I don't like the LHAs/LHDs as amphibs, or the stand-off CONOPS that they dictate, so I'm trying to find a different use. I’d also like to go with a cheaper second carrier to save more money for aircraft.

      8 Surface action/hunter-killer groups, consisting of 1 battleship (like the 1980s proposed battlecarrier, 2x3 16" forward, 256 VLS cells, and Kiev-type flight deck with 15 STOVL and 15 helos) and 1 ASW helicopter carrier (like Japanese Hyuga, 10 ASW helos).

      20 screening task units for each of the CVBG/SAG/HUK groups, consisting of 1 true cruiser (Des Moines class hull, 2x3 8" fore and aft, 192 VLS cells, Aegis/successor radar, and a large helo/UAV deck), 2 AAW Burkes, 3 GP mini-Burkes, and 4 ASW frigates.

      Total surface fleet, 12 large carriers, 12 small carriers, 8 battlecruisers, 8 ASW carriers, 20 cruisers, 40 AAW Burkes, 60 GP mini-Burkes, 80 ASW frigates, 240 ships.

      Submarines--12 SSBN, 20 SSGN, 30 SSN Virginia, 30 smaller SSN French Barracuda/DARPA Tango Bravo, 30 AIP SSK Swedish A26 or comparable. Total 122 submarines.
      Strategic forces would include the 12 SSBNs, and 12 San Antonio class converted to ABM cruisers.

      Amphibs. Convert LHA/LHD to "Lightning Carriers" and San Antonio LPDs to ABM Cruisers. Replace with a more conventional amphib force, 10 PHIBRONS, each consisting of 1 smaller LHA/LHD like Spanish Juan Carlos/Australian Canberra, 1 LPH like French Mistral, 1 LPD/LSD like UK Albion, 1 LST like Australian Kanimbla modification to Newport class, but with conventional LST bow, 1 LPA/LKA, and 1 shore bombardment frigate with 2 or 3 5" guns and a bunch of anti-surface missiles. Total 6 ships per squadron or 60 total.

      Littoral forces—15 squadrons, each consisting of 2 ASW corvettes, 1 patrol ship (like Swedish Visby), 1 Mine countermeasures ship (like small LSD, mother ship for drone sweeps and helicopter sweeps), 1 MHC, total 75 ships (plus the 30 AIP SSKs).

      Auxiliary/service force—40 UNREP ships, 25 MPPF ships, 26 miscellaneous, total 91 ships.

      Total ship count
      240 Surface (including carriers)
      24 Strategic command (SSBN and ABM cruisers)
      80 Submarines (excluding SSBN and SSK)
      60 Amphibious forces
      105 Littoral force (including SSK)
      91 Auxiliary/service force
      600 total

      We can build the 24 carriers for about the cost of 10 Fords, and the 200 screening ships for about the cost of current 22 Ticonderogas, 82 Burkes, and proposed 35 LCSs. The battlecruisers and ASW carriers would be incremental. We can build the 30 smaller SSNs and 30 AIP SSKs for less than the cost of 30 Virginias. We can build a squadron of 6 amphibs for about the current cost of one LHA/LHD, so total amphib costs are comparable. Overall, because of the high/low mix approach, this fleet could be assembled with annual shipbuilding costs of around $23-25 billion, which is about the range that the navy is looking at for its proposed 355-ship fleet.

    32. Some random thoughts:

      1. I like the focus on putting together groups, rather than looking at ships individually.

      2. The RAND CVN-LX was the size of a Forrestal (~70,000t). The combination of CVN-LX and CV-LX may not cost that much more than a Ford, but it may only be incrementally more capable.

      Also, I suspect that "going back" to Nimitz is not an option anymore, and wouldn't produce massive cost savings anyway, once required modernization and inflation is factored in. Might shave off a couple billion, at best.

      3. I suspect your fleet will cost considerably more than the Navy's proposed "355" fleet, especially the submarines. If the SSGN is based on the Columbia-class, they could be $7-10B each. And the sheer numbers of subs will be expensive.

      4. Estimating the cost of the Battlecruiser is difficult. My guess is well north of the DDG-1000s, but that's just a guess. To be honest, I'm not a huge fan of this kind of hybrid. Not a huge fan of battleship-like vessels either.

      In my opinion, there are better ways to do NSFS nowadays. Definitely not with an extremely expensive, low density warship, regardless of how "survivable" it is.

      5. I like the bimodal design as well, though I'd stick to fewer types that can swing-role to different missions. But that's just personal preference.

      Thanks for the description, interesting stuff!

    33. "I suspect that "going back" to Nimitz is not an option anymore"

      Why not? We could go back to Civil War ironclads, if we wanted to. What do you see preventing us from going back other than our own desire to spend even more money?

    34. If you did, it wouldn't be the same Nimitz we last bought in 2001. It would be an "Advanced Nimitz" with the commensurate set of changes to reflect technology obsolescence and growth (e.g. retirement of SPS-49).

      But in any case, if you use the Navy's shipbuilding cost growth index (3.96% annually), a Nimitz that cost $4.9B in 2001 would cost $10.4B in 2020.

      CVN-81 is estimated to cost $12.5B in 2020 (assuming they hit it), so not nearly as huge of a difference.

      You can't go back to a $4.9B Nimitz.

    35. "It would be an "Advanced Nimitz" with the commensurate set of changes to reflect technology obsolescence and growth "


      "You can't go back to a $4.9B Nimitz."

      Oh but you can. I've described how in previous posts and comments. The Navy's shipbuilding index is based on run-amok designs. Go back to good, solid designs. You don't need a Dual Band Radar or AMDR or Enterprise radar on a carrier. It's not going to radiate in combat, anyway. A basic, short to medium range radar for point defense is all that's needed. We don't need EMALS, AAG, magic weapon elevators, etc. We don't need nuclear power. We don't need spacious, luxurious berthing for the crew. And so on. We can duplicate a Nimitz with just modern updates for the obsolete equipment.

      I've been over this so I won't belabor it.

    36. "We don't need nuclear power."

      Well then it's no longer a Nimitz. It's something else.

      It's doubtful that you can recreate a full on, 2020 Nimitz with cost growth rate any lower than the DDG-51 class.
      They have had a very stable design and production history and yet still exhibited a 3.4% cost growth per year between 1990 and 2004.

      At that rate, a 2001 Nimitz costing $4.9B would still cost $9.4B in 2020.

    37. "At that rate, a 2001 Nimitz costing $4.9B would still cost $9.4B in 2020. "

      Using the actual rate of inflation, a 2001 Nimitz at $4.9B would cost $7.1B today - thereby saving $8B!!!!!!

      Even using your numbers, we'd save $5B-$6B!!!!!

      "Well then it's no longer a Nimitz. It's something else. "

      That's right, it's a conventional Nimitz. Knock another billion or two off the cost!

    38. The first number (3.96%) is probably the best, since it's the Navy's reported growth in labor and materials costs in the carrier shipbuilding industry from 2007 to 2013. In theory, that doesn't include cost increases due to new, more expensive technologies.

      The DDG-51 rate might apply over time, once we were building a carrier design at a stable rate.

    39. “The RAND CVN-LX was the size of a Forrestal (~70,000t). The combination of CVN-LX and CV-LX may not cost that much more than a Ford, but it may only be incrementally more capable.”

      Compare the Forrestal (Mid-1980s)/CV-LX Air Wings to the Ford Air Wing, and there is a significant difference. Plus, for my big carrier I’m looking at something between CVN-LX and Nimitz, so more like 80-90,000 T.

      Aircraft Type/Forrestal Mid-1980s/CV-LX/Total/Ford
      AEW Helo/0/6/6/0
      ASW Helicopter/2/5/7/6
      GP Helicopter/6/0/6/6

      That looks to me like more than incrementally more capable. As for cost, see below.

      “I suspect your fleet will cost considerably more than the Navy's proposed "355" fleet, especially the submarines. If the SSGN is based on the Columbia-class, they could be $7-10B each. And the sheer numbers of subs will be expensive.”

      The theory of the high-low mix is to fill out the numbers with low-end ships, so the costs become more manageable. Going through by categories:

      Carriers: The 355-ship Navy calls for 12 Fords at $15B each, or $180B total. I am calling for 12 Nimitz/CVN-LX at $9B each and 12 CV-LX at $4B each, or $156B total. That $24B savings could translate into 240 additional aircraft at $100MM each. The difference could actually be greater to the extent that existing LHAs/LHDs could be converted to CV-LX for perhaps $2B each.

      Submarines: The 355-ship navy calls for 12 SSBNs at $9B each, and 66 SSNs at $2.8B each, or $293B total. My sub fleet is 12 SSBNs at $9B each, 20 VPM Virginias at $3.2B each, 30 Virginias at $2.8B each, 30 FR Barracuda/DARPA Tango Bravo SSNs at $1.5B each, and 30 AIP SSKs at $750MM each, or $323B total.

      Surface combatants: The 355-ship Navy calls for 22 cruisers at $4B each, 82 AAW Burkes at $2.8B each, and 52 LCS/frigates at $600MM each, or $349B total. My fleet would include 8 battlecarriers at $5B each, 20 cruisers at $4B each, 40 AAW Burkes at $2.8B each, 60 mini-Burke GP escorts at $1.25B each, 80 ASW frigates at $450MM each, 12 ABM cruisers at $1.7B each, and 8 ASW carriers at $1.2B each, or $373B total.

      Amphibs: The 355-ship Navy calls for 11 LHA/LHD at $3.4B each, 12 San Antonio LPDs at $1.7B each, and 15 Harpers Ferry LSDs at $325MM each, or $63B total . My fleet would include 10 each of Juan Carlos LHA/LHD at $1.6B, Mistral LPH at $600MM, Albion LPD/LSD at $600MM, Newport/Kanimbla LST with LST bow at $450MM each, LPA/LHA at $350MM each, and land attack frigates at $400MM each, or $40B total .

      Littoral combatants: The 355-ship Navy calls for none. My fleet would include 30 corvettes at $300MM each, 15 patrol ships at $200MM each, and 30 mine warfare ships at $175MM each, or $17B total.

      Auxiliary/service force: The 355-ship Navy calls for 32 UNREP ships at $600MM each, and 39 command and support ships at $500MM each, or $39B total. My fleet would include for 40 UNREP ships at $600MM each, and 51 command and support ships at $500MM each, or $49B total.

      All told, the 355-ship Navy would cost $923B, or $23.1B per year over a 40-year time frame, while my high/low fleet would be 600 ships for $959B, or $24B per year over a 40-year time frame. The cost differential is $36B in total, or $900MM per year. The Navy’s cost per ship is roughly $2.6B, while the high/low fleet has an average cost per ship of $1.6B.

      You may quarrel with individual ship type costs, but overall I think the costing out of both fleets is reasonably close.

    40. CDR Chip,

      Thanks for the details. I see your SSGN is actually a VPM'd Virginia, not a Columbia. That helps.

      I do think you're underestimating in a few areas, especially the amphibs. IMO, we'd be very hard pressed to build an LPH/LPD/LSD for $600M. But overall, most seem reasonable. The battlecarrier might also be low, given its size and complexity, but you only buy eight, so a few billion more won't change the bottom line that much.

      I'm curious about the CONOPS for your amphibious fleet. Given numbers and types, it appears to be similar to the current fleet, just with a composition that's more like what we used to have.

      Again, thanks!

    41. The SSGNs would be the primary strike platforms. I am envisioning one would operate with every CVBG and SAG/HUK group, along with one SSN.

      Those amphib prices are about what Europe has been building similar ships for, bumped up about 10%. Some of the Europeans have been built to Lloyd's DC standards, not naval, so 10% might be a bit light. Part of the cost savings is that the US Navy has been insisting on speeds of 20-22 knots, whereas I backed off to 18, which is what the Europeans get, and about the most you can get out of a conventional LST hull. Those extra 2-4 knots can be extremely expensive to build and operate.

      The current amphib CONOPS calls for standing 25-50 miles offshore and sending almost everybody and everything in by helo or V-22, because the platforms are too expensive to risk coming in closer. That seems absurd on so many levels.

      I am envisioning a more conventional amphib CONOPS where the ships would come in close enough to make the transit to the shore by boat/LCAC. They would still be capable of helo/V-22 ops, but would not be limited to that. Because they would be cheaper and the loads would be more dispersed, losing one would not kill the whole assault. Also because they are relatively cheap and versatile, I would foresee them as fulfilling some of the roles that ComNavOps has in mind for his "peace" ships.

    42. A little more on CONOPS.

      I don't see doing an opposed amphibious assault against mainland China or Russia, although I could see a possibility for one in southern Iran.

      I do see unopposed landings in situations such as landing on the east side of Taiwan if Chinese amphib forces were approaching or threatening from the west. Same for the Philippines, and for that matter Japan. I also see multiple opportunities for landings in lower risk combat situations. And there is definitely some advantage to having them as a show of force. For example, the murder of our ambassador in Benghazi could likely have been prevented if we had company of Marines onboard a gator just offshore. The big problem there, once the incident was underway, is that we really had no forces anywhere capable of responding. Won't go further to avoid politics.

      I also see them as relatively inexpensive and versatile platforms that could carry out many of ComNavOps's "peace" missions. They would clearly have great utility in disaster relief scenarios. My T was prepared to evacuate American citizens from Beirut during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. They can be kind of a Swiss army knife that can do a lot of different things. And using them in this way would enable combatant ships to avoid having to be tasked for such evolutions.

      More than anything else, I see them as a way to achieve the Marines' troop lift requirements in a cheaper and more versatile manner than the current amphib force of LHA/LHD and San Antonios.

  7. I'd like the navy to have frigates. But I would build long-hull Perry class frigates.

    These new Perry frigates would be the dedicated blue-water combat group ASW escorts. They would have bow sonar, a towed array, the full complement of ASW weaponry, and two ASW helicopters.

    Their AAW and ASuW capabilities would only be enough for self-defense.

    They would be made with a heavy steel hull for strength and at least some reasonably priced survivability provided by a limited amount of kevlar armor.

    1. I like the concept. A lot.

    2. I still get rid of the Heliotropes and go with a DE lead ship for those. Two helicopter on each ship is a lot men and deck space and capacity.

    3. Kath, I don't have any experience at all in naval design to two helicopters might be too much.

      But the reasons that I would keep the helicopters is that I think that they are very useful in sub-hunting and since these would be the primary ASW escorts for all the battle groups.

      In my overall plan, the only other helicopter ASW assets would be on the frigates, the destroyers, and maybe some supplement on the carriers (but the carriers wouldn't have the operational connection that the escort would have with it's own helicopter).

      The Perrys had two helicopters on them so I know that it is possible, but maybe not wise.

      If the ASuW and AAW were only self-defense, what do you think would need to be left off to have two helicopters?

    4. Fair enough. Again I think working in conjunction with a Helo Destroyer Escort leader you have better efficiency. I suggusting a Helo carrier could sustain a higher tempo of operations, and be more able to have crew, spares, and repair capacity. Freeing the DEs to maneuver as needed and not stop to maintain their helo launch or landing etc.

    5. uggg I wish their was an edit option.

      Addition. I can see 2 if you are envisioning independent escorting or such got no choice.

      In any case the really key is getting some 20 ships at minimum whose job is ASW warfare and that is their critical design criteria. 20 smaller than a burke jack of all trade ships is not really solving any problems.

  8. With regards to ´freeing up the other ships´, I wonder what people here think of the (universally despised) german f125 concept, which was once discussed here with regards to shipbuilding quality.
    Sure, it´s way to expensive and has problems like everything nowadays, but I kind of like that it seems to be getting the focus right. By being able to stay somewhere on a peacekeeping / anti-piracy - mission for 2 years and defend itself while being tough enough (2 island principle) to survive a hit - it should really be able to free up the ships meant for high-end conflict which are doing the job at the moment.
    Still, I don´t know much about ship design and wonder if the idea is stupid after all.

    1. "Still, I don´t know much about ship design and wonder if the idea is stupid after all. "

      What's stupid is the Navy's approach! Your concept, if I understand it correctly (correct me If I'm getting it wrong) is to build dedicated, low end of the combat spectrum, vessels for peacetime activities. This is close to my peace fleet from the peace-war fleet structure so it seems potentially worthwhile to me.

      I'm not sure that the F125, specifically, is the model I would choose (it's quite large for a low end threat vessel) but a downsized version would do nicely.

      The major drawback with your concept is the 2 years on station. That wreaks havoc on a ship in terms of maintenance and leads to premature retirement, as the US Navy has found out. A simple rotation of ships to allow for maintenance would solve the problem.

      Overall, not a bad concept and I like the idea of a dedicated low end vessel for peacekeeping work.

    2. But the German ships is basically a mini Burke. The US has Burkes. Sure it should be fielding a new Destroy with all the nifty feature of a modern Destroy. redundancy, low profile, enclosed masts, etc but the Navy sort of admitted it can't figure out to do that , by making more Burkes.

      For the peace time stuff I can't help think but a one of HI National security cutter 'frigate' variants is the war to go. Their up armed (*), and huge endurance and range and can do all the stuff we are often wasting Burkes on now. I mean the reality is we way did not need to have Burkes floating around doing anti piracy for Somalia, that could have been with cutter/frigate boat and some cyclones (if we had extra). Even frankly the sailing through the Taiwan strait. Any USN ship will do if the goal is to piss China off. If China is pissed off enough to shoot the asset will be toast be it a CV or Cyclone.

      * that is not the one that might be the FF(x) but the cheaper ones they have floated.

    3. "The major drawback with your concept is the 2 years on station"

      I missed that.

      @Mathias. Are you thinking the Ship or the Crew or both.

      The Cyclones and Island cutters in the Persian Gulf are sort of been there for over decade but both have to go into dry dock every 18 months or so for maintenance. I'm not sure how you keep a large ship on station for 24 months unless it ready access to local fully functional maintenance dock.

    4. Sorry, made a reply in the general comments section.
      @Kath - the idea (as I get it) is that there will be 4 F125 that can be 2 years on station - with 8 crews that are rotating in and out.
      So, this seems quite comparable to the ships you mentioned, only with 24 instead of 18 months.

    5. Difference is the Cyclone and Island are both small and not cutting edge. Of all maintenance that needs done I suspect the crew can do far more while on station (not dry dock and including jury rigging) than a similar crew could do for a large bleeding edge ship. Does F-125 concept ship carry significantly more replacements and 'shop' space than a typical modern war ship?

  9. What a surprise, USN not sure what it wants,so asks for everything. If it's in a low treat theater,does it need Standard 2 missiles and top notch radar? If you dont need a BURKE and AEGIS, why so worried with AAW??? Why not just stick to ESSM? OHP had a 40 round magazine, Standard 1 was smaller but maybe 32 might be too much, 24 might be enough? For all we know, 16 ESSM and 8 Harpoons/NSM is plenty. Put a 57mm or whatever USN has in inventory and call it a day.

    OHP had 2 SH60s on 4200 tons, we should be able to have 2 in 2020! IF USN would really decide what it needs FFGX for and what it's going to do, you could get a cheaper ship, more focused on ASW with 2 helicopters, instead we are going to get a warmed over LCS. Haul and inside frame should be optimized for ASW (do we still know how to do that?). Most of what this ship should be doing is ASW with some showing the flag/training against Allied SSK.

    I'm afraid we are just going to get an LCS with a little better weapons fit.....

    1. "I'm afraid we are just going to get an LCS with a little better weapons fit....."

      And there's the headline!

      Now, to be fair, the distinction is that the LCS has NO capabilities whereas the FFG(X) will be capable though perhaps not in the right areas, not for the right price, and not well suited for USN overall needs.

    2. Needs a bigger gun. As the USGC found out you really can't sink a even a large fishing hulk with a 57mm gun.

    3. I'm hoping I'm wrong when I say its LCS 2.0 but USN track record speaks for itself...we'll see. It's just crazy after all the problems USN has had with its acquisitions that USN still doesn't bother asking why and how we going to operate....

    4. Because you don't want anyone on the hill to notice that aside from buzz words and stuff you have not been doing this for a while.

  10. Interesting point about the 2 year on station-problem. That explains why the Marine made a big point out of this and the rotating-crew-concept when this is indeed difficult to pull off. I will have to pay attention if they are able to use these ships as intended in the future.

    I fear F125 is neither low end nor small nor inexpensive. But I am of the opinion that peacetime is a good time to buy and test and train with the gold-plated stuff to learn what would work in war - and personnel is the main problem anyway, so when having a ship at all, why not have an expensive one.
    I always wondered if it is really hardware cost that prevents the US from having a fleet the size that is advocated here.

    1. "I always wondered if it is really hardware cost that prevents the US from having a fleet the size that is advocated here. "

      In the Reagan era, we had a 600 ship fleet and it was fully manned. Now, Navy leadership claims to be struggling to field and man a 280 ship fleet which is patently absurd since we've already done a 600 ship fleet. The difference is that we weren't building $15B Fords in the 1980s and we weren't spending money on sensitivity training, gender integration, etc.

    2. In the 80s when we were at 600 or so ships, how many of them were deployed and running around chasing pirates compared to our 280ish or so fleet today? Are we running harder today than 80s? What was the percentage of in port to deployed? Those would be some interesting numbers to compare.

    3. "how many of them were deployed "

      I don't know but my recollection of the time is that we had carrier groups deployed with many escorts rather than the three that we use today and we had ships all over the place riding herd on Soviet subs. So, I think we were extensively deployed.

    4. My question about the F125 concept is why does it have literally zero ASW capability? No ASW sonar and no ASW weapons, except for what might potentially be carried on embarked helicopters.

  11. "The difference is that we weren't building $15B Fords in the 1980s and we weren't spending money on sensitivity training, gender integration, etc."

    The first is true I am pretty sure however 'sensitivity training' is not draining the budget.

    More importantly we were not not fighting the endless global war on terror (nor dealing with the debt load from such, not the ongoing operational costs), nor had we permanently cut revenue under Bush and Trump. There really is not now the fairly tight budget policy base of End Nixon/Ford/Carter to base a massive debt load on top of (Reagan moving to around 4 times the average of the 70s in terms of deficits).

    1. "however 'sensitivity training' is not draining the budget."

      Set up and staff a department to administer sensitivity training and then apply it to the entire work force and you're talking about absolutely huge investments. Now, do the same for all the different feel-good programs the Navy has and that huge investment becomes mega-huge. There's Navy departments, Admirals, staffs, and groups working on green energy, diversity training, gender equity training, sexual assault awareness training, and on and on. Add to that the enormous cost to convert submarines to mixed gender crews - we've been putting subs into drydock to, in part, convert their berthing facilities. Huge cost. Every ship in the fleet is being converted. Huge, huge cost.

      It all adds up.

      This is on top of $15B Fords, $8B+ Zumwalts, $100M+ F-35s, etc.

      We've had research groups, ships, and personnel working on LCS modules for two decades. Huge costs.

      And on and on.

      That's why we can't afford a 600 ship fleet.

    2. Theres certainly too much buteauacracy...the Navy is very top heavy!! The fact that we have an Admiral for almost every ship in the fleet says somthings off.....

    3. I am willing to table the line of sensitivity training. I know we disagree. Although I would not be so quick to dismiss sexual assault training. Male on male sexual assault occurs and it helps the US little if residents in Okinawa get raped.

      Anyway the 600 ship navy was simply the willingness to use massive amounts of debt and more or less let all other discretionary funding dwindle in real dollar terms (and no not welfare but funding for science, infrastructure, colleges, etc). That was possible because the US had not been taking on much debt since the end the Vietnam war (and of course winding that down slowed and then eliminated war fighting costs). Again trying to look at facts. A GB jr could have come into office and sans his tax cuts easily got a 600 ship navy. Because again the US had slack financial capacity for such an endeavor at the time.

      After that the lack subsidies had not yet fully killed the US shipbuilding industry so the government was not constantly beholden to on just a handful of vendors or just one. So somebody could be punished for cost overruns in may cases or feared that it might happen.

      More importantly a 600 ship navy is a war navy. Its size would have appalled most of the Framers of the Constitution as a peacetime edifice. But again fine if was going to win the cold war it should have been paid with tax increases not 100% debt. Critically that was awful choice in the 80s. Volker made the right choice to tank the US economy in order to deal with inflation. It had to be done in a post Brenton Woods environment. But later the deficits created real problems because the Fed maintained high interest rates in the face of continuous fiscal stimulus. Had the military expansion been at least partially tax based we would have had lower interest rates and investment in the US more competitive rather than say Mexico or China.

      But whats past is past simply now after 3 major rounds of tax cuts, and almost 20 years of war deficits, there is not much room to really build up.

      Finally the Ford and Zumwalt are uber expensive because they a cutting edge techno toys designed for I dunno gee-wiz factor.

      Look it will have the a rail gun one day or lasers because those are obviously (not) right around the corner (and have been that way for decades). Look the Ponce set a couple (one?) small boats on fire with a laser!. When I pretty sure a Typhoon 25mm mount with the 2 spike missile add on box could have done the same for less money (and more decisively). You want a cheaper ship don't add the failed in an accident touch screen controls on the Fitzgerald.

      I mean maybe just maybe the all the Ford systems could have been built into a one off light CV. Sure that would be expensive but last I checked the Fords just keep getting more expense and still don't work.

    4. Just to inject some actual data, the US military spending as a percentage of GDP was 4.9$ in 1980, peaked at 5.7% in 1985, and had dropped to 5.0% by 1989 to close out the '80s. (see link below)

      By comparison, the military spending in WWII peaked at 35.5% in 1944.

      For further comparison, the Obama years saw 4.0% - 4.5% and our spending under Trump is steady at 3.1%.

      So, the '80s weren't exactly breaking the bank in military spending.

      Defense Spending

    5. I really think that we need to be spending money on things that work.
      I assume that the navy is trying to use this time that we are at peace to vault forward technologically, but the ships need to work.

    6. @CNO

      This is drifting off topic but you numbers don't capture the reality of the now if will or the then.

      Tossing in numbers from an actual total war for all the marbles does not seem particularly useful.

      Look I will quote Forbes that should be apolitical. Regan killed US ship building in a decision that was and remains bizarre (I mean why not all the farm subsidies? Why not all the Jones act? Why not at least try to negotiate a general reduction in subsides and protections for all OECD nations - you know level playing field? Did Reagan get fired from a shipyard as a teen or something?)

      The thing is he did not have pay for that decision in the term of his presidency. The capacity remained in the short term and 600 the ship navy could be built off the back of slowing dying industry. A ship like the Perry could be dangled in front of any number of about to be dead ship yards (Todd for example) with the knowledge cost overruns could be punished quickly. Who gonna get a that Ford contract now but the one place it can be built no matter how expensive it gets?

      But you link still does not encapsulate the problem. Better are these.

      The thing is a 600 ship navy is a war navy without a war actually happening. In the past Korea or Vietnam the US paid for those wars with taxes. Which is why the US debt load (to GDP) declined during that era. Growth in the 60s might have helped but the 50s were not exactly a decade of excessive growth.

      Regan chose poorly a total war sized navy with a tax cut. That was possible because of the careful policy of the previous two administrations. As we stand now however 3 different administrations have rolled back taxes in a persistent way. The US ship building industry is a shadow of itself in the past, and the US is carrying the debt load of the GWOT, and the last very serious recession. There simply is no room to suddenly have a 600 ship navy. Maybe before 9/11 and the Bush tax cut.

    7. "numbers don't capture the reality of the now if will or the then."

      They most certainly do! They clearly demonstrate that the '80s era of 600 ships was not achieved by breaking the budget.

      Thus, on the face of it, we could easily build a 600 ship fleet today. Now, if your contention is that there are other mitigating factors today that would hinder/prevent a 600 ship fleet then I agree completely. Those factors include lack of vision/focus from leadership, distraction and cost from implementing social issues, lack of shipyard competition, flawed design concept (bigger, more complex ships rather than smaller, focused ships), drawn out build cycles, bloated Admiral ranks, and … well, I could keep going but you know the factors as well as I do.

      The overall conclusion is that, as the '80s demonstrated, we could easily afford a 350-400 ship fleet (note, I'm not even calling for a 600 ship fleet) and it's the other factors that are preventing it, which, I think, is largely the point you're making.

    8. As I said I think we are far OT and I really don't want drag this out. It really better served I am sure in posting in some other topic post on this site.

      I just don't think the 600 ship navy was easy affordable. It rather had a cost. A significant cost, and I don't think its one the US is in a position to pay now. Due to past decisions and wars.

      In any case the thing is the FF(x) is going to be at least 20 billion if not more. So the real question is 20 billion worth of mini burkes a good use of US dollars in debt or taxes now? I don't think so because if for no other reason we have tens and dozens of jack of all trades burkes and 20 (now) useless jack of trades LCS ship. Can nobody ask for you know a purpose built ship?

      The other question is that some of the Euro mini burkes look better than the dragged out flight III burkes (If ships are not really designed to survive damage why even build cruisers or large destroyers better 2 ships with the same missile load). Maybe we need 40-60+ FF(x)s and no flight III burkes, and just design a new real cruiser to be big enough to have all the uber cutting edge radar stuff for top line ballistic missile and AA defense

    9. "I really don't want drag this out."

      Fair enough.

      "If ships are not really designed to survive damage why even build cruisers or large destroyers better 2 ships with the same missile load"

      That's some wise thinking! Agree completely.

    10. I think that we need to stay out of political whining, specifically taxation policy in this thread.

      Looking at the amount of federal revenues over the years I don't see any drop offs during tax cutting eras, just during recessions.

    11. Err not whining just making a point.

      1975 (page 6)

      1986 (page 7)

      which set of little coins looks sustainable. Note that drop from 27 cents (on the coin) to 15 cents on non defense spending it is why you pay more college and your bridges collapse and the ARS is not producing a new free nifty crop this year..,

      My point was you can only max the credit card so often without paying it down. The US did that after Vietnam. Thus you could go on a spending spree. That was then this now and there is very little room for that now. Technically long into an expansion and still fighting a endless war we really should be raising taxes.

    12. I really don't think that this is the place for an economics debate (although I agree with you that our spending in out of control-regardless of party in power).

      I would rather see this discussion be about how we can deploy an effective navy for as little cost as possible-which we currently don't seem to be doing.

    13. "I really don't think that this is the place for an economics debate"

      As you noted, this is not a political blog although I do recognize and allow some degree of peripheral politics if it directly impacts military matters. In that vein, I don't mind a reference to policies that may impact fleet size as long as it doesn't become a political discussion.

      Kath, you've laid out your position so that's probably as far as this needs to go.

    14. I agree. Nuff said lets get back to if or if not the FF(x) will be a mess

  12. @Kath. I like this blog because it stays out of politics so I'll stay away from naming names BUT I really think you hit on the head with GWOT. We basically are bankrupting ourselves fighting asymmetric enemies with gold plated peer war weapons. Its unsustainable in terms of money, manpower and maintenance.

    Interestingly, in a strange way being so focused on Cold War Soviet Union, we were more balanced overall than today where we have exquisite weapons, no reserves,nothing cheap and old fashion to get the job done, decaying support and limited production and design,etc....

    1. @Nico... Agreed...the good ol days of the Soviet Union were, well, simple and predictable. The Cold War arms race was a constant tit-for-tat of response and upgrades, and the huge amount of WWII vintage hardware helped carry us through much of it. Now we face having a diminished fleet with no depth of numbers, skyrocketing costs, and a clueless Admiralty at the helm, and the peace dividend is coming back to haunt us...

  13. I was pretty impressed with the specifications of the Royal Navy's new Type 31 General Purpose Frigates, which would I think be a better value option than the expensive and not especially capable Italian designed FFG(x)s.

    Specifications are; 5,800 ton displacement; Crew of fewer than 100, but accommodation for 160; Good search radar, and good hull-mounted sonar; 24 x VLS cells; 1 57mm main gun, and 2 x 40mm Bofors; 1 x Merlin ASW helicopter; 4 boat bays (or space for USVs); space for ASM canisters, and 28 Knots.

    The Royal Navy has placed an order for an intial 5 of these modular construction ships at a fixed unit price of $300m.

    In other words, even with some tweaking around the propulsion and weapons fit out, we could buy around 100 of these for the cost of 20 FFG(x)s.

    Small, cheap, and - let's be candid - expendable. Would probably make useful sub-chasers too.

    1. I'm not intimately familiar with RN ship designs. My vague understanding is that the VLS is not the USN standard Mk41 but a much smaller system for Sea Ceptor missiles?

      The various reports I've read also somewhat restrainedly describe the vessel as a low end or reduced capability ship. It sounds like it's not really a frigate as the term is commonly used today.

      As far as costs, the LCS will only cost $200M - and we know how that turned out. So, before you commit to buying 50 of these for your personal navy, you might want to wait and see what the actual cost turns out to be. Also, one of the favorite budgeting gimmicks is to fit a ship 'for but not with'. Is that the case for any of this ship's systems - or do we know yet?

      Is the ship being built with acoustic quieting?

    2. The Type 31 is based on the Danish Iver Huitfeldt. It has 32 Mk41 cells in place of the Sea Ceptor cells.

    3. Yes, these are all good points and questions. The VLS cells are designed for Sea Ceptor (or CAMM) as per the Type 26 Frigates. Mach 3 up to 25k range - not too shabby.

      The hull hasn't been acoustic quietened, and nor does the Type 31 have an electric propulsion option, as the RN intends to use its Type 26s in the ASW role. But it could be, if that's what the customer wanted.

      Both the RN and the manufacturer have been absolutely clear that the unit cost of GBP250m is for the delivery of a complete warship including full weapons fit out as specified (i.e with not for).

      The hull design is tried and tested, based on the Ivor Huitfeldt class) and the Danish architects have been embedded into the winning Babcock team.

      So, yes, it's very much been designed down to a price, but the designers are wearing 100% of the risk of cost blowouts, and think that modular construction will allow them to inject further competition into the manufacturing and assembly process.

      Perhaps a bit noisy for ASW then, and a bit too slow to keep up with the carriers, and a bit light in the guns too, but as the builders and the British government have both said, this has been designed with exports in mind, and with flexibility built in.

      Seems like a lot of ship for not very much money, even with a production run of only 5.

      Why can't we do something like this, only better?

    4. According to this,

      The Arrohead is a “quiet hull”, whatever that means, and had space for raft-mounted engines, but the RN didn’t ask for them.

    5. Nice link. Thanks. My impression from the link and various other sources is that this is a strictly peacetime vessel with diminished combat capabilities, enhanced crew comforts, minimal ASW capability, and lots of unmanned capability. In short, a nice, comfortable patrol/cruise boat although significantly larger than necessary. It adds little combat capability so I'm more than a bit puzzled by the rationale for acquiring it.

      The ASW fit, in particular, seems sub-optimal with no acoustic isolation and a sonar described in your link as having 'some utility' below 12 kts.

      An odd acquisition.

    6. A towed array/VDS could be added later. There is space in the stern for up to 4 x 20' containers.

      It's a budget frigate. The RN needs numbers as much as anything. The Type 45s and Type 26s are too expensive to buy enough of them.

    7. OMT offered an ASW focused version to Australia with a towed array and a double hangar.

    8. The Type 31/A140 used the Iver Huitfeldt as basis of the HM&E, but as mentioned as all diesel so not good for ASW as would need the MDEs and DGs silenced which would cost so do agree on your point ASW sub-optimal. The Type 31 as appears specified would classify as a long range OPV not a frigate.

      The Iver Huitfeldt class is an AAW frigate, 120 crew excluding air component, 6650t, max 28+ knots, range 9,000 nm at 18 knots designed with survivability in mind, separated engine rooms, ship went through FSST and FOST, very well equipped, 32 Mk 41 VLS cells with their SM-2 Block IIIA and 24 Mk 56 VLS cells for ESSMs plus CIWS 35mm Millennium with a high class suite of sensors, SMART L-band VSR and the MFR four panel X-band APAR radar. Additionally fitted with 2x 76mm main guns, 16 deck cell launchers for Harpoon and a HMS, hanger and flight deck to take large AW101 15t helicopter.

      All above for less than $1 billion for the three ships in class, 2008-2011, the stand out design of a AAW frigate in terms of capability verse cost.

      Navy rejected it as a contender for the FFG(X) conceptual phase, with the current competence of the Navy that can be read as a plus :), outside possibility Ingalls who have kept their FFG(X) design totally secret might be using the Iver Huitfeldt as basis of their bid, their other option a simplified Burke, think the NSC would need total costly re-design to meet survivability level 2 standards.

    9. "The RN needs numbers as much as anything."

      If that's true, then they should buy a thousand canoes. That'll give them numbers!

      What you're really saying (I hope!) is that they need USEFUL, COMBAT EFFECTIVE numbers. The problem is that I'm not sure the Type 31 is going to produce a useful, combat effective ship. In fact, it appears that it won't. If that's true, then what's the point of having numbers of ships that can't effectively contribute to a war effort?

    10. "A towed array/VDS could be added later."

      You don't really believe that, do you? Those things are never added later. If a war starts, they'll be fighting the way they're delivered. When the Falklands war started, the UK didn't say, hey, wait a couple of years while we update all our ships with whatever 'could be added'. No, they went to war the way they were.

      The entire 'could be added later' and 'for but not with' memes are just for placating critics. They aren't actually meaningful.

    11. "All above for less than $1 billion for the three ships in class"

      I'd take that reported cost with a huge grain of salt. For example, the Danes used recycled weaponry and systems which is good but obscures the true cost of a new ship. The ships were built in sections in Estonia and Lithuania, if I recall, and getting true costs of that is highly questionable and, even if accurate, would not even remotely translate to a US shipbuilding effort.

      I also have no idea to what extent the Danish construction was subsidized by the government and to what degree they used government furnished equipment and other accounting gimmicks to obscure costs.

      So, at best, the claimed costs apply only to the unique Danish situation and would not even remotely translate to a US Navy build of the exact same ship.

    12. The USN does the same thing. Sure you buy a sword for X cost and tell congress that. However then fail to mention that the USN has to provide the cost of sharpening them and putting a grip on them and really they only cost X if we buy billion of them.

    13. "The USN does the same thing."

      Absolutely. That's why I know to look for those things from other countries/navies. Nobody's costs are really what they say.

    14. CNO "I'd take that reported cost with a huge grain of salt. For example, the Danes used recycled weaponry and systems which is good but obscures the true cost of a new ship. The ships were built in sections in Estonia and Lithuania, if I recall, and getting true costs of that is highly questionable and, even if accurate, would not even remotely translate to a US shipbuilding effort.
      I also have no idea to what extent the Danish construction was subsidized by the government and to what degree they used government furnished equipment and other accounting gimmicks to obscure costs. So, at best, the claimed costs apply only to the unique Danish situation and would not even remotely translate to a US Navy build of the exact same ship."

      CNO do have a source for your comments including "Danish construction was subsidized by the government", we need more info, my view colored by statement that Danish Government re-butted these claims, though only found the following briefing notes from 2013/2014 from Cdr. S.g. Per Hesselberg Project Manager Danish Frigate Program.

      Re the cost of the re-cycled weapons, list - Stanflex module with 1 x 76mm OTO Melara Super Rapid gun mount x2 ; Stanflex module with Mark-141 Harpoon missile launchers x2; Stanflex module 12-cell Mark-56 VLS for ESSM x2 - Cost $209 million, $70 million per ship.

      What makes me think figures might be believable is that ten years later Babcock agreed a FP for the Type 31 of $325 million each for the five ship contract including the limited GFE, CMS: radar; Bofors 57mm & 2x 40mm guns etc plus first year maintenance/training/manuals and "other" items.

      Do take on-board "would not even remotely translate to a US Navy build of the exact same ship" which is depressing in the sense if the Navy wants to get back to a 355 ship fleet let alone the 600 ship fleet of the 80's.

    15. "source for your comments including "Danish construction was subsidized by the government","

      The full statement was that I have no idea to what extent shipbuilding was subsidized. At one time, it was significantly subsidized. EU regulations, at one point, allowed state subsidies up to 9% of the contract value. I have no idea what the degree of subsidizing was or currently is.

      Here's an interesting article on the subject:

      Danish Subsidies

  14. The T31 sounds like exactly what the Brits need, given their budget-constrained defense environment, and extreme difficulty in recruiting and retention (sound familiar).

    And, as the classical role of the frigate was convoy escort, patrol and 'flag showing', scouting and comms, and generally harassing or capturing, and not to stand at fight it out with bigger and better armed enemy warships, the T31 sounds like a pretty reasonable approximation of a frigate.

    But the main point is, with respect, that if the RN can procure these for $300m apiece with such a short production run, then the USN, with its much longer potential production runs, and huge purchasing power, should be able to demand from its suppliers something similar, but better armed and protected, and better suited to its needs, for not a great deal more.

    Is a FREMM really 5 x more capable than a T31, if it were upgraded to USN requirements, or a Burke 8x more capable?
    Numbers do count for something after all, your reference to canoes notwithstanding, if only because a single ship, regardless of its capability, can't be in more than one place at the same time.

    Or to put it another way, if you can buy 50% of the capability for 25% of the cost, why would you not consider doing just that?

    1. "Is a FREMM really 5 x more capable than a T31,"

      Yes. It actually does sound that much more capable. From what I read, the Type 31 really is a very dumbed down warship. Don't take my word for it, do a comparison yourself and let me know what you think.

    2. Are you kimda saying the T31 is the British LCS then?

    3. No, not necessarily. It all depends on what they want it to do. If all you want is a very low end, peacetime patrol boat then a lightly armed vessel is exactly the right ship. The LCS is a dismal failure for the US because we wanted it to be the single-handed, war winning, miracle machine of the future and, instead, it turned out to be barely a glorified harbor patrol boat.

      So, it depends what the UK wants the Type 31 to do and be and I don't know what it is they want. It may perfectly match their needs or it may be a disappointment.

      Does that make sense?

    4. Sure does i still have a small amount of hope the navy see's the failure of LCS before they see any combat and the sailors on them pay the price with their lives

    5. It seems to aside from stopping them the only possible use is to keep tinkering with the surface warfare ability. And deploy the 20 we are stuck with the the Persian Gulf, Horn of Africa and maybe SE asia to minimize the load on Burkes doing low end stuff. But stop pretending they will ever clear mines or hunt subs.

    6. It is absolutely stunning to me that after over a decade in service, not a single LCS has ever participated in an ASW exercise or a MCM exercise.

    7. "It is absolutely stunning to me that after over a decade in service, not a single LCS has ever participated in an ASW exercise or a MCM exercise."

      Not stunning to me. They have zero capability in either area.

      USCG needs cutters. Give them to USCG, if they will take them.

    8. " Give them to USCG, if they will take them."

      They won't. Remember that the LCS, by design, requires a massive shore side maintenance commitment. The Coast Guard operates on a very austere budget. They want no part of a maintenance black hole.

    9. Also for a ship that size their range and endurance don't add up and I suspect they are not rated for arctic operations. Who knows what their sea keeping is like. Poor as I understand.

    10. The LCS has to be one of the worst procurement options the US has made recently. It can't usefully be pawned off to the USCG. Its too expensive and useless to pawn off on allies (vs old Perry types or even old cutters). It can't even be forward deployed to any actual hot spot. The USS Detroit is going to 'forward deploy' from Florida to do drug interdiction? A what 600+ million dollar ship doing a job an Heritage cutter could probably do better at something like one quarter or less in terms of cost per ship.

      I really can't see why they don't kill the last LCS (12-15?) run and add 5-10 more FF(x)s. They have to end up as better ships and that many more is useful and would be better than more LCSs

    11. On this most everyone agrees Except the Politicians they added more of these targets in spite of the navy not wanting them up to 35 of LCS Now!!!maybe Conops can add more to this continuation of a disaster

  15. And I still think the AB flight III will be the new cruisers and the frigates will end up being designated as destroyers after all the flight III is almost yhe same displacement as the Tico's

    1. Problem is the flight III can't do that job. Frankly the USN just needs to stop them and design a new cruiser. Since the Radar combo won't even be ready anyway. Why rush into a ship that can't actually do what it is supposed to do.

    2. @kath Thats a question that someone shouldve been asking the Navy for the last two decades...

    3. Yeah but how would it cost and based onbthe last decades junk piles would it actually work?


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