Monday, November 4, 2019

The First Battle

The Navy has announced its intention to construct a multi-tiered fleet of unmanned vessels to supplement and, to a significant degree, replace the Burke class destroyers.  Incredibly, this has occurred with no substantive validation of the concept.  This is very reminiscent of the commitment to an entire fleet of LCSes without a Concept of Operations (CONOPS) and before the first was even designed.  With that in mind, let’s examine how the Navy’s vision of future naval combat might play out.

As always (and always ignored by readers!), this is NOT intended as a complete and realistic combat simulation.  It is an ILLUSTRATION of various concepts in a more entertaining format.



The First Battle

The #8 MDUSV (Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vessel) controller nodded slightly in satisfaction as he surveyed the picture and sonar display on his console.  The situation was shaping up nicely.  The MDUSV anti-submarine and surveillance screen of 14 vessels plus the two specially modified EA-18G Growler communications relay aircraft were arrayed to the sides and front of the carrier and its two Burke escorts (the last Ticonderogas had recently been early retired by the Navy to free up funding for the unmanned fleet) plus the four LDUSV (Large Displacement Unmanned Surface Vessels) arsenal ships and he and his fellow controllers aboard the USV control ship were receiving a steady flow of sonar, radar, and EO/IR data which, so far, had proven more than sufficient to detect and ward off the occasional probe by the Chinese as the group made its approach to Taiwan. 

Two Chinese patrol boats and a few ‘fishing’ vessels had been easily detected and dispatched with Naval Strike Missiles (NSM) from the LDUSVs.  A few Chinese long range patrol aircraft had also been driven off and one, that had approached just a bit too closely, had been shot down by a Standard missile launched from a LDUSV and controlled by a Burke.

Indeed, it appeared that the Navy’s vision of a multi-tiered unmanned fleet paired with just a few high end Burkes was paying dividends.  The Navy had gone all-in on the tiered, unmanned fleet concept and replaced (allowed to retire without direct replacement) many Burkes with combinations of unmanned vessels.  While many naval analysts had been uneasy about reducing the number of Burkes in favor of the smaller, more distributed, unmanned vessels, the argument for the unmanned vessels – mainly budget related - had prevailed.  The individual unmanned vessels were far less capable than a Burke or even a frigate but in the aggregate the unmanned vessels offered more capability, better distribution of risk, and more complication for the enemy …  at least, that was the theory.  Unbelievably, the Navy had never bothered to test the concept before wholeheartedly committing to the new fleet structure.  The concept was being put to the test now, though, in real combat.

The carrier group’s approach to Taiwan hadn’t been completely one-sided, though.  A pair of F-35s had ventured a bit too far forward and been ambushed by four Chinese J-20 stealth fighters resulting in one F-35 shot down and the other damaged but able to recover back on the carrier.

Predictably, the war had begun with an all-out Chinese assault on Taiwan and Chinese forces now occupied most of the militarily significant sites on the island.  Chinese aircraft were now operating out of hastily repaired airbases and Chinese naval forces were screening the eastern side of the island from the expected American counterattack.

The carrier group had been tasked with sweeping the seas on the eastern side of the island and taking station there to establish local air superiority for the Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) amphibious assault force that was following a day behind.  The United States had chosen to stand with Taiwan and this was the first response and first battle between China and the US.

Following the newly established amphibious assault doctrine, the MEU would be sent ashore at various points along the Taiwanese coast to establish sea control which would allow the unhindered landing of the main, follow on Marine and Army forces – again, an untested and unvalidated concept.  First, though, the carrier had to do its job and set the stage.

As the MDUSV controller settled back in his chair with a satisfied shifting of his weight – you had to learn how to meld with these chairs because they weren’t designed for comfort! – the thought crossed his mind that it was a bit surprising that there had been no submarine contacts yet.  He’d have bet that the Chinese wouldn’t allow the carrier group to approach without challenge and the Chinese had a pretty impressive collection of both nuclear and conventional submarines.  Still, he wasn’t going to complain and, likely enough, the subs would show up eventually and when they did, the MDUSVs and their controllers would be waiting.

At the same moment the USV controller settled back, an airborne controller aboard an E-2 Hawkeye leaned forward, peering intently at his screen.  He had just noticed several faint, intermittent contacts, far beyond the MDUSV ASW screen.  After a few more minutes observation the contacts began to solidify and the controller made the call.  Small, high subsonic, wave skimming contacts – small anti-ship missiles, undoubtedly - were approaching the MDUSV screen vessels. 

What the controller didn’t know was that the Chinese had long ago detected the communications activity between the MDUSVs, their communications relay aircraft, and the control ships and pretty much pinpointed the USV locations – certainly well enough to launch anti-ship missiles with active seeker heads.  Line of sight (LOS) communications were not as secure as the US Navy believed.  With its vast sensor laden ‘fishing’ fleet and a host of various other air and land based sensors all peering intently at the eastern sea off Taiwan, it had not been difficult to pin down the exact location of each MDUSV.  While short burst LOS transmissions were very difficult to detect, the continuous, high volume, high bandwidth transmissions required to transmit sonar, radar, and EO/IR data in real time offered plenty of opportunity for the sophisticated, computer aided Chinese sensors to detect and localize the MDUSV communications.  No single Chinese sensor could directly and completely ‘see’ any individual LOS comm link, however, the plethora of sensors managed to pull together enough bits and pieces to assemble an accurate picture of the communications nodes which were the MDUSVs, the relay aircraft, and the USV control ships.  It was somewhat analogous to the multistatic sonar detection techniques employed in ASW.

With so little warning and with the MDUSVs so far out in front of the Burkes and LDUSV arsenal ships, there was no time to engage the incoming missiles.  The MDUSVs would have to face the missiles on their own.  Unfortunately, the MDUSVs had no defensive weapons nor even any electronic countermeasures.  It had been determined, correctly, that the minimal defensive weapons that a MDUSV could mount would provide no effective defense and would only drive up the cost of the vessels thereby making them less expendable.

The Chinese anti-ship missiles rapidly closed on the helpless MDUSVs.  With four missiles allocated to each MDUSV there was little the MDUSV controllers could do but to try to turn their vessels head on to the incoming missiles in an attempt to minimize their radar profile and break lock.  Unfortunately, the MDUSVs were not very maneuverable and their box-like superstructures were decidedly not stealthy and all the vessels were hit.  Of the 14 screening vessels, 8 were blown to pieces and sunk outright, 3 were severely damaged and mission killed, and 1 was damaged but, miraculously, still afloat and functional.

As this took place, a waiting ring of Chinese subs noted the time and, as planned, surged forward at high speed towards the carrier and the remaining escorts.  The carrier’s location had been extrapolated from the MDUSV locations and knowledge of US Navy tactics.  In other words, if you knew the location of the USVs, you could pretty accurately surmise the location of the carrier. 

In addition, the Chinese had, for years, been laying their equivalent of a SOSUS seabed listening array throughout the South and East China Seas and the arrays had no great problem picking up the noise of an approaching carrier.

With the MDUSVs out of action the ASW responsibility fell on the two Burke escorts, alone.  The LDUSV arsenal ships, of course, had no ASW capability.  Unfortunately, the Burkes only rarely trained for ASW operations and, even then, only in highly scripted exercises that served no purpose other than checking a training box on a list.  The situation had gotten even worse with the advent of the MDUSVs which had been given the responsibility for ASW.  AAW was the training priority for Burkes, not ASW. 

Now, though, there was no choice.  The Burkes, warned by the sudden acoustic ‘appearance’ of the surging Chinese subs at multiple points around the compass, attempted to localize and engage the subs.  However, the Chinese subs, using a variation of the tried and true US Navy tactic of sprint and drift, were able to close on the Burkes and the carrier with impunity.  No sooner would a Burke begin to localize a loud, sprinting sub then it would cease its cease its high speed run and another sub would ‘pop up’.  Being completely inexperienced and largely untrained in submarine and ASW tactics, the Burkes were ineffective to the point of helplessness.  The Burke’s helos were frantically directed and redirected from one transient contact to another with no time to properly find and fix any sub’s location.

In relatively short order, the submarines began reaching optimum attack points and spreads of torpedoes were launched from, essentially, point blank range.  The outcome was inevitable.  The carrier was hit by at least seven torpedoes and its fate was sealed.  The first battle of the Chinese War would end in disaster for the US fleet.


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Here are some issues/questions from the story:


Does it make sense to place defenseless unmanned vessels far out in front of a battle group where they cannot be supported?

Does it make sense to assign a vital function, like ASW, to defenseless unmanned vessels far out in front of a battle group where the entire function (ASW) can be eliminated in a moment, due to lack of support?

Are we so sure that our communications will be undetectable?

If MDUSVs are going to be our front line of ASW, what asset will do the actual attack since the MDUSV has no helo or weapons?

The MDUSV ASW sensor is fairly short range, being limited in power and size.  Is it wise to depend on only short range ASW sensing, given the long range of submarine weapons?  Are we wise to continue to ignore the long range ASW role that the S-3 Viking filled?

Is it wise to replace Burkes with small, individually weak, unmanned vessels?  Yes, this is the Navy’s stated plan.


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As a brief refresher, here are some basic specs for the Navy’s multi-tiered, unmanned vessels.


MDUSV

40-130 ft long
Function: ISR / unmanned scouts
Networked to each other and the main group

 LDUSV
300 ft, 2000 tons
Function: Arsenal barge
Networked and fire-controlled by Burke/F-35

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For those interested, here is a good general background article:

(1)The Drive / War Zone website, “Navy’s Budget Requests Two Huge Missile-Laden Drone Ships That Displace 2000 Tons”, Joseph Trevithick, 12-Mar-2019,
https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/26915/navys-budget-requests-two-huge-missile-laden-drone-ships-that-displace-2000-tons

95 comments:

  1. First, good read.
    I thought the punchline of your story was going to be the the MDUSV controller would realize too late that his view of the battle was a giant hack, created by the PLAN crow teams.
    Followed by the compromised LDUSVs firing at the carrier group.

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  2. I haven't seen anyone walking away from Burke's or large surface combatants. The budget they are playing with appears to be well inside the cost of 2 Burkes.

    You equate unarmed with defenseless. As we don't yet know the plan I would question that as electronic countermeasures have been discussed extensively for these vehicles. My question is how much power does it take to run those systems and will the power requirements meet that need. Plus their slide presentation indicates an expecation some of them will be armed.

    You assume the ASW sensor will be short range. I am going to bet it is oversized for the platform serving as the platforms major function. I say this since they have done the LCS ASW module testing on an offshore supply ship.

    You also assume limited manuever, yet the Overlord test vessels have 4 and 5 water jets each with up to 3 bow thrusters. They will probably be the most maneuverable ships out there.

    I wouldn't assume no sensors on the LUSV. Again the slides indicate some of them will have sensors the same as some MUSV will be armed. Not every man in a squad carries the same weapons and gear, why would a small, manuevering ship?

    MUSV length spec is 164ft / 50m. Personally I would have defined this threshold around the type of ship they expect to use instead. I am guessing either a yacht or fast supply boat. 225 feet would be handier unless they plan on transporting them sideways on a Suezmax tanker.

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    1. "As we don't yet know the plan"

      No, we don't! I'm working with the current versions that have been put forth. Perhaps it will all change and they'll wind up being the equivalent of battleships. If that happens, I'll revisit the subject. For the moment, I'm working with the most commonly cited characteristics.

      "You assume the ASW sensor will be short range."

      Active sonar WILL be short range. I demonstrated that in last month's "Sonar Performance" post. Passive coverage will be the same as all passive sonars, varying from can't detect to multiple convergence zones depending on conditions.

      "I haven't seen anyone walking away from Burke's"

      Yes, the Navy has explicitly stated this is their goal. They also stated that the Ticonderoga replacement would likely be a distributed family of small vessels rather than a single cruiser.

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    2. I appreciate your optimism, but the USN has a poor record in producing effective ships. (LCS, Ford, Zumwalt) I think the unmanned vessels will be no different.

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    3. Agreed, the track record needs to improve. Fast, small batch efforts might serve well here. The Century Series of ships works a whole lot better with me than the aircraft just because we can build trucks for payloads a little easier as some of the need fits in with commercial business. I'm not sure how we overcome the detection problem you laid out aside from a more is better approach. Less certainly won't help.

      From a what we know perspective, I think these 2 are the best.

      MUSV:
      http://www.rfpdb.com/view/document/name/Medium-Unmanned-Surface-Vehicle-%28MUSV%29-Sources-Sought%5ERequest-for-Information_N00024_19_6302%283%29

      Overlord:
      https://cdn.defensedaily.com/wp-content/uploads/post_attachment/177279.pdf

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  3. If you're concerned about USV exposure, don't push them as far out. They're still useful if they operate closer to the carrier.

    Also, I don't see other options for ASW screening that are better.

    All 14 MDUSVs probably cost about as much as a single LCS, once GFE and modules are included. I guarantee an LCS can be sunk with far fewer than the 56 ASCMs shot at the MDUSVs, and it covers far less area.

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    1. I suspect you kind of missed the key point in the story and that is that the MDUSVs REPLACED Burkes. That is explicitly what the Navy has stated they are looking to do.

      So, it doesn't matter whether we saved some money by having cheaper MDUSVs sunk instead of Burkes - what matters is that the overall drop in capability results in greater vulnerability for the high value ships being escorted. In this story, sure, we didn't lose much money from losing the MDUSVs but we lost a carrier by substituting MDUSVs for Burkes.

      "If you're concerned about USV exposure, don't push them as far out."

      If we don't push them out, then they aren't worth having. We can just use Burkes, closer in. The claimed benefit for the MDUSVs is that, by being unmanned, we can push them out farther and not care if they are sunk. As demonstrated in the story, that concept of operations is flawed. That's what the story was illustrating. On the other hand, if we keep the MDUSVs in tight then we don't really need them. Push them out and they're vulnerable, keep them in and they're pointless. See the problem?

      This was my overarching point - that the Navy has committed to this multi-tiered, unmanned fleet without working through the concept of operations to see whether it's valid. I just presented an operation based on the publicly stated Navy plans and demonstrated how/why it wouldn't work. The takeaway ought to be that we need to stop and think this all through before we commit.

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    2. "I suspect you kind of missed the key point in the story and that is that the MDUSVs REPLACED Burkes. That is explicitly what the Navy has stated they are looking to do."

      Where did you see that?

      Last I read, the rough thinking was to replace the Ticos and Burkes with a combination of FFGs, LSC (not LCS), and USVs.

      https://news.usni.org/2019/04/08/navy-sees-no-easy-answer-balance-future-surface-fleet

      "“You may see the evolution over time where frigates start replacing destroyers, the Large Surface Combatant starts replacing destroyers, and in the end, as the destroyers blend away you’re going to get this healthier mix of small and large surface combatants,” he said – though the new FSA may shed more light on what that balance will look like and when it could be achieved."

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  4. What will the US Government response be when our unmanned vessels are involved in "accidents" with Chinese ships? Iran can down a $300 million dollar drone and we sit on our hands. China has already downed a manned aircraft and rummaged its classified systems. (Hainan Island Incident). China has already captured an unmanned USN drone. Will we fire first on a fishing boat that is too close to our unmanned vessel? We will not fire on Chinese vessels that cause unsafe encounters. China will act with impunity against the unmanned vessels. All the vessels should be optionally manned to raise the stakes for China and to destroy any sensitive hardware if captured.

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    1. Agree, I would add to CNO scenario that China captured an MDUSV about 1 year before invading Taiwan, US put up a meager protest and USN said nothing was gained by China studying it...which comes out to be 1 more huge mistake.

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    2. "add to CNO scenario that China captured an MDUSV"

      All too likely.

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  5. I think that unmanned systems will actually increase the chance of conflict.

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    1. A great observation. They will certainly increase the number and frequency of 'incidents'. We've seen exactly this scenario playing out in the Middle East where unmanned UAVs incidents are increasing.

      It's a little more of a stretch to make the leap from increased incidents to war but it's certainly plausible.

      Really good comment!

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  6. I know it's a short scenario so not trying to nit pick, just adding to the scenario. Don't forget how naked literally and figuratively the fleet will feel if after losing a few F35, the TF loses it's eyes and ears. It will be shock that's not really accounted for by saying they are expendable....yes, they are "cheap" but after training with them for a years and getting used to them being far forward, they aren't going to be seen as expendable, crews will get used to them and losing them will be a double shocker.

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  7. The scenario you just proposed is a nightmare for the US Navy and USAF if the PLAN got serious about electronic warfare to attack the force. Setting aside even the idea of cyberattacks, old fashion jamming could turn it into a nightmare.

    Low Earth Orbit nanosats maneuvered above the region to be between Geosynch comsats and the surface, independent UUVs with just jammers laying in wait further out to sea, and even Tomahawk style cruise missiles with jammers on board launched from submarines; all these and more platforms could turn HF, Satcom, and Line of sight data links to drone ships and aircraft into hash. Even if the effort only degraded the bandwidth and accuracy of the information, the US Navy personnel would be seeing fire control verification delayed, precision targeting information interference, and even detection data back to the controllers would drop away. And all the Chinese would have to do is set various jammers to flood the EM spectrum.

    And none of that is even sophisticated technology. It just takes power and getting enough platforms broadcasting along the various communication vectors.

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    1. My concern with the jamming argument is that it is an equal concern of manned and unmanned platforms. It keeps looking at where we have been with unmanned and not where we are going. You have to account for a geometrical growth of AI leading to independent platforms equal to or better than a manned platform of similar size and or expense. That threshold is going to happen during the lifetime of these ships whether anyone wants them to or not. The train already left the station and people need to start getting on board. Its admittedly a frightening prospect, but the team that accepts the rules of the game changed and best adapts to it will win. Our opponents have some advantages as they can start fresh easier without as much structural debt. We need to exploit our advantages and focus what new ones we need to achieve, AI in particular. Let the AI war game 4 trillion scenarios and tell us what to build, then accept or reject it. Who knows, it may say don't worry about it, go make babies, defend your infrastructure, China will implode on itself.

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    2. " jamming argument is that it is an equal concern of manned and unmanned platforms."

      Yes and no. Yes, the jamming can equally affect manned and unmanned platforms. No, the jamming will only affect communications for manned platforms, not their individual performance - meaning, men still command and act with intelligence regardless of comms loss. In contrast, unmanned platforms that lose comms either go 'dumb' or default to some low level, simplistic behavior (circle until contacted, return to base, etc.) depending on the level of AI they have. We are still far, far away from Terminator level intelligence.

      Your point that we will eventually get to Terminator level AI is valid, if frightening, but is not a relevant factor yet and won't be for many, many years. Now, Russia or China, being much less concerned with unintended civilian death and destruction, may well come out with functioning 'kill everything' AI long before we do and that's a potential asymmetric advantage for them.

      "Let the AI war game 4 trillion scenarios and tell us what to build,"

      This is, emphatically and demonstrably, a false path. The age old programming proverb, GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out) is still alive and well. A computer analysis is only as good as the data and biases fed into it. We see this repeatedly. The Navy and industry conduct simulations that always show that their weapons are miracles and yet reality always, always, proves the opposite. You feed in optimistic garbage to your simulation and you'll get optimistic garbage out. We see this in the military's war games where we program in all our good features and none of the enemy's. We win all our wargames in resounding fashion! And so on. There's nothing wrong with simulations but to believe that they tell us anything other than what we want to see is naïve.

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    3. Right on GIGO, but we are reaching the point the garbage in will be an AI product, just not the garbage out. We need to toss Terminator out on its ear and think about what this will really look like before we get there. If a program can keep and maintain a conversation with a person unscripted and achieve the objective for why it started the conversation. If it can play and win chess, jeopardy, gallop like a horse, write stories and music. If it can move a container from China to the Netherlands without a person touching anything that moved it. It can certainly take a war game and make it real. And following Moore's Law the computing power has doubled in the time even the most recent of those things has happened.

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    4. The great failing of computer output is that it's automatically accorded exalted status. The computer said so, so it's right. Again, GIGO. Even setting aside GIGO, the input determines the output. Give a war simulation one set of input and the output says one thing. Give it a different set of input (perhaps differing by only a few factors) and you get a different output.

      Even with the exact same raw input data (number of aircraft, types of bombs, and so on), the weighting that the millions of war factors are given can be almost infinitely variable. As you change the weighting, the output changes. Which output is the 'right' one? Is there a right one? Maybe there's more than one right one.

      Suppose the Germans had given a computer all the data on their proposed bombing campaign against London. Would the computer have predicted that English resolve would increase instead of decrease? Well, that depends on what weight they would have assigned to the 'resilient morale' factor. Same raw data, different weighting.

      How many battles and wars throughout history have been decided by seemingly pure luck? A computer simulation of Midway probably would have had the Japanese winning decisively. A computer simulation of Normandy probably would have had the Germans successfully defending the beach. And so on.

      For something as complex as a war, there an infinite number of input combinations which would, of course, produce an infinite number of different results. That doesn't mean we can't use simulations to explore the effects of variables on the predicted outcome but to think that there is some ultimate 'right' computer output to something that complex is to fail to understand both the complexity of war and the limitations of computing.

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    5. Sure, the computer said we won Vietnam many times. A computer with less power than the calculator I used in high school a few decades back 20 years after the war. Historic precedent is a poor hand to play at the tipping point of any big change. I'd hate to be on the side that underestimated the potential. Imagine if we used a linear model to calculate human population growth. That would be a massive oops.

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    6. "A computer with less power than the calculator"

      ?????????? No one suggested that except you. I made the point, as a thought exercise, that if the -fill in the blank- had a computer it probably would have incorrectly predicted the outcome. I did not suggest using some kind of ancient computer using vacuum tubes.

      Give a modern computer everything that was known about Midway (or any of the other examples) ahead of time and it likely wouldn't have predicted the outcome. The point is that there are simply too many variables and too many of them depend on what weighting you choose to give them.

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    7. (Don McCollor)...worse, computer simulations generally predict what the simulators want to see...

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  8. I noticed that you portrayed the Chinese having a good enough vision to launch a coordinated strike against multiple targets to include the carrier, but no mention of any Chinese ASBM...

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    1. "no mention of any Chinese ASBM..."

      Two reasons:

      1. I'm far from convinced that an anti-ship ballistic missile is practical. It has never been demonstrated which makes it totally theoretical, at the moment. Non-existence aside, Burkes are claimed to have an anti-ballistic missile capability so, if you believe that, the Chinese missiles might not achieve their objective anyway.

      2. I'm illustrating USV concerns and I have just several paragraphs to do so. I can't include every conceivable alternative!

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    2. Well it doesn't help for the antisub and MCM, but the MDUSV may have another use. If we were actually worried about ballistic antiship missiles we could use them as jammers. The ballistic missiles should be coming fast enough that the only targeting system they can use is radar. If you jam them the only recourse they have is to home on jam. By having an expendable jamming ship nearby to absorb the missiles you can save your other vessels. The jamming ship shouldn't have as much communications problems; you only need to talk to it for navigation and to control it's single function, jamming. Might have other tactical uses, but I would NOT design for them at least initially in order to keep costs down and numbers up.

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  9. Your short story illustrates exactly what I, as an old navigator, communications officer, and operations officer, think is the fatal flaw in our entire naval strategy (if it called a strategy), grossly unrealistic assumptions regarding reliability, accuracy, and stealthiness of all these communications. We navigate off satellites, but they're going to be gone day 1 or shortly thereafter. Our F-35s and drones are all going to be exchanging extensive information with each other and with ships and presumably ground forces. What if it doesn't work? What if it fails or gets jammed? How do we do it without giving our positions away?

    I would love to see us try to do a training exercise under radio and electronics silence. No SatNav, no radio, no radar. I wonder how long we could do it without running into each other or running aground. We are going to need functioning Mk1-Mod0 eyeballs. That's what Fitzgerald and McCain lacked. If that can get them hit by merchant ships, how is it going to work when the other guys have guns and missiles and torpedoes?

    I'm not that worried a Chinese ballistic missile. Targeting would be a major problem for such a weapon, and blowing holes in the ocean isn't that big a threat.

    What I am worried about is our own inability to deal with combat constraints, and you point that out all too well.

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  10. If one or two of the LDUSV were placed closer to the MDUSV picket line, then at least a couple of the questions you asked can be answered. They can provide a timely counter to the cruise missile attack and can also shoot ASROC at any detected subsurface threats.

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    1. "LDUSV were placed closer to the MDUSV picket line"

      The easy counter to that is the VLRAAM (Very Long Range Air to Air Missile) which both the Russians and Chinese have developed and fielded and which I described in previous posts. Those would either destroy the USV comm relay aircraft and E-2 Hawkeye outright or force them to operate so far back that any incoming missiles are undetectable until it's too late.

      Another likely counter would be to simply seed mines in the path of the oncoming carrier group.

      There are any number of alternatives to this scenario. I have several paragraphs to work with and wanted to illustrate one particular aspect of our plans to move to an unmanned fleet structure.

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    2. I've merely tried to provide a quick answer for a couple of the questions you've presented with this story. Seems it would be better to address them all at the same time, so let's go over them :

      1) It does not make sense to leave these unmanned vessels indefensible. While the MDUSV are intended to be attritible, that is not the same as disposable. As I previously stated, one or two of the LDUSVs can be forward positioned to provide that defense.

      2) No it does not make sense to put all of the ASW assets so far ahead of the battle group where they could be eliminated at one time. One of the biggest advantages of these MDUSV should be that we could acquire not 14, but 140 for the price of those 2 Burkes it is replacing. With only 14 needed to maintain a sufficient front line screening for subs, imagine how much this complicates the enemy plan. Within minutes of wiping out the entire screen line, a brand new front comes out of a comms silent mode to replace them. This could be repeated over and over before a true risk is realized to the carrier and destroyers being protected.

      3) No of course we are not sure our communications are undetectable. However, this is another area where unmanned has an opportunity to shine. Instead of relying on those two EA-18G as primary network nodes for linking USVs to their controllers, lets use a dozen UAVs to create a meshed network. With only two or three active at a time these nodes can be on for a short period of time before dropping out to avoid becoming a static target for long range missiles. And again if a few are lost, then we have many more to fill its place.

      4) Forward positioned LDUSV can prosecute targets identified by the front line MDUSVs. Additionally, aircraft from the carrier and destroyers should be available to surge anti-submarine weapons if needed.

      5) Given the scenario you've presented, it would not seem we have any long range ASW assets that would be survivable. Certainly, the S-3 would not be any more so than a P-8.

      6) Without a doubt, yes. Using USVs to create a force that can accept risks that we would not accept for our current Burkes in these roles while simultaneously creating a much more complicated problem for our enemy is a positive concept to explore.

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  11. Apologies off piste, CNO wondered if you think worthy of future post - Thomas Modly asking the right questions re. 355 fleet?

    USNI - Thomas Modly, the number-two civilian leader of the Navy and Marine Corps and a former Navy officer speaking October 25, 2019 Military Reporters & Editors Conference

    “Going back to the ‘80s, when we had the 600-ship Navy, the average cost of our ship in that fleet was a billion dollars, that was the average cost of all those ships. Today, our current fleet of 290, the average cost is $2 billion. And that’s in real dollars, inflation-adjusted real dollars,” he said

    "Modly noted that the carrier strike group has always been a large expense for the Navy but that today it constitutes a much larger percentage of the bill. In the 1980s, the carrier strike group cost about 14 percent of the total Navy operating cost. Today it’s 31 percent. “ "We have to think about how we reverse that trend,” he said (The answer is contained in the August 1998 GAO/NSIAD-98-1 190+ pages report on NAVY AIRCRAFT CARRIERS Cost-Effectiveness of Conventionally and Nuclear-Powered Carriers :),thanks to Jjabatie for highlighting it.

    “First of all, is the number 355 the right number? I don’t know. I suspect it’s probably more, it probably needs to be more than that – but the way we define a battle force ship, we probably have to think about that differently as well. As technology advances and we have the ability to have fairly large unmanned platforms out there that have significant lethality, do we include them in our ship force count? So we have to take a really hard look at what 355 means, if it’s the right number, does it even matter what the number is, and what are we investing in for the future."

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    1. I don't think the final total number really matters as much as how many you bring to the fight. If we get to 355 but only 10 are operational to go to war with China vs only 250 but 25 are ready to go to war with China, I think we all prefer option 2.

      Shocked at the percentage of cost of carriers in the 80s vs today. That's a trend we cant continue, it will sink the navy before China fires a shot.

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    2. "CNO wondered if you think worthy of future post - Thomas Modly asking the right questions re. 355 fleet?"

      What aspect of the issue did you have in mind?

      The number of ships is irrelevant. What's relevant is the combat power relative to our strategic and operational needs.

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    3. Modly is at least asking the question why fleet numbers so low compared to the 80's even with record Navy funding, CNO you have been explaining and expounding the numerous possibilities available to expand fleet numbers based on the operational CONOPS capability needed so as to meet the Chinese threat eg your post Single Versus Multi-Function Ships. My pet hate is the near bankrupting the Navy on the alter of the nuclear carriers, now accounting for 31% of the total Navy operating spend (six currently non-operational pierside at Norfolk). Navy ceased building nuclear-powered surface combatants after 1975 because of the high cost and scrapped the remaining nuclear-powered surface combatants which were decommissioned early because they were not cost-effective to operate and maintain, why did they not scrap the nuclear carriers at the same time?

      You as a very accomplished wordsmith need to continually repeat your message ad infinitum how this is possible so there is as a chance it might get thru to the Admirals and Congress:)

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    4. "My pet hate is the near bankrupting the Navy on the alter of the nuclear carriers"

      You're a bit off on this, if I understand you correctly. It isn't NUCLEAR carriers that are bankrupting the Navy. We built nuclear Nimitzes and didn't bankrupt ourselves - although we certainly didn't help our budget-selves! As you saw from my post on carrier costs, something has been causing carrier prices to rise faster than inflation. That unknown 'something' is what's bankrupting the Navy. The problem is that the Navy is allowing it.

      From the start of the Nimitz class production run to the end, there were no significant changes and yet real costs rose by nearly $2B!!!! In fact, over that time period, nuclear costs have fallen. Reactors have gotten smaller, more efficient, and cheaper. Despite this, carrier costs have skyrocketed.

      It is not NUCLEAR that is the problem, it is unwarranted carrier inflation.

      I will continue to beat the drum about carrier costs and I will continue to offer viable alternatives like the Forrestal-size/type.

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    5. Can you provide s source showing we pay less on reactors? (relative to inflation) I just strongly doubt this given the entire production line is a government process. We are talking about people who are still getting pensions and lots of time off. Plus the cost has to account for the entire system of systems. For example, it cost like 250 mil just to update the pier in Yokosuka for a nuclear carrier. What is the cost of a nuclear trained sailor and how many more are needed vs a modern conventional plant? Yes, power density is a huge benefit and nuclear has a huge logistics benefit, but the entire systems of systems it relies on is a delicate house of cards. Clearly the ability to surge is in question. We also don't really know what the mid life overhaul is really going to cost. The mid life overhauls are starting to cost more than the original procurement price of the carrier.

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    6. From Global Security website, here's a few tidbits:

      "CVN 78 comes with a brand new propulsion plant design. The A1B reactor plant and its associated propulsion plant would require 50% fewer people to operate and maintain than a Nimitz class. … The Bechtel Marine Propulsion Corporation (BMPC) designed the A1B to be smaller, more efficient, and to have three times the electrical power of the A4W reactor. BMPC designed the reactor to have a higher core energy density, which resulted in a decrease of required maintenance, by 2/3 of the A4W reactor.
      ... The A1B has 50 percent fewer valves, piping, pumps, condensers, and generators, which supports a projected two-third reduction in watch standing requirements and significantly less maintenance."

      Smaller, simpler, more efficient … It's fairly straightforward to conclude that the overall cost is less.

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    7. That's what we get, that's not what we paid for it. We paid twice as much for a carrier to save 5 billion in life cycle costs. Wonder what it cost for a more efficient reactor. I've hunted for this extensively before never to find an answer.

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    8. CNO my views differ as have said before and have yet convince you:), its NUCLEAR driving high costs and as mentioned the reason the Navy killed nuclear surface combatants in 1975, need to read the GAO 196pp report August 1998 NAVY AIRCRAFT CARRIERS Cost-Effectiveness of Conventionally and Nuclear-Powered Carriers - GAO/NSIAD-98-1, build costs of conventionally powered carrier 50% of nuclear.

      Nuclear Nimitz class needs the mid-life update and nuclear refueling, in took four year two months for Lincoln's RCOH, when plan by Navy to cancel Truman RCOH Breaking News quoted cost of its RCOH at $6.5 billion.

      You then have to add the future of nuclear de-commissioning cost, GAO reported August 2018 CVN-65 Inactivation Phase which took five years cost $863 million which included removing the nuclear fuel from the ship’s reactors, then need to move on to the Dismantling and Disposal Phase which Navy estimated additional $1 to 1.5 billion, Navy talking of start date of 2034, LOL.

      Why all the problems and costs,its NUCLEAR

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    9. Only a few quotes from GAO/NSIAD-98-1, its a long report !

      Conventionally powered carriers spend less time in extended maintenance, and as a result, they can provide more forward presence coverage. By the same token, nuclear carriers can store larger quantities of aviation fuel and munitions and, as a result, are less dependent upon at-sea replenishment.

      A force of 12 conventional carriers, when compared to a force of 12 nuclear carriers, can provide a greater level of overseas presence in the European Command, the Central Command, and the Western Pacific1 or that a force of 11 conventionally powered carriers can provide an equivalent level of forward presence as a force of 12 nuclear-powered carriers.

      Because a conventionally powered carrier’s maintenance requirements are not as stringent and complex as those of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the conventionally powered carrier spends a smaller proportion of its time in maintenance than does the nuclear aircraft carrier and, thus, is more available for deployment and other fleet operations

      Conventionally powered carriers can be available sooner for large scale crises because it is easier to accelerate or compress their maintenance.

      Due to the complexity of its maintenance, a nuclear carrier’s maintenance period cannot be surged to the same degree as that of a conventional carrier.

      An 18-day voyage from the U.S. West Coast to the Persian Gulf, a distance of about 12,000 nautical miles, steaming at a sustained speed of 28 knots, a conventional carrier would arrive about 6 hours later than a nuclear carrier

      GAO found little difference in the operational effectiveness of nuclear and conventional carriers in the Persian Gulf War // five of the six carriers that participated in the air campaign were conventionally powered. // Each battle group was assigned its own dedicated support ships, which enabled frequent replenishment of fuel and ordnance. Conventional carriers replenished aviation fuel about every 2.7 to 3.1 days and the nuclear carrier every 3.3 days—after only a fraction of their fuel and supplies were exhausted // both carriers follow the same operational guidance; have the same standard airwing; and, can surge to conduct additional air operations,

      GAO estimates that over a 50-year life, the costs of a nuclear-powered carrier is about $8.1 billion, or about 58 percent, more than a conventionally powered carrier . Historically, the acquisition cost for a nuclear-powered carrier has been about double that of a conventionally powered carrier. Midlife modernization4 for nuclear-powered carriers is estimated to be almost three times as expensive as a conventionally powered carrier—about $2.4 billion versus $866 million (in fiscal year 1997 dollars

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    10. More!!

      GAO estimates that nuclear-powered carriers have cost about 34 percent more than conventionally powered carriers to operate and support

      because personnel and maintenance costs are higher and nuclear-powered carriers require unique support organizations and activities. Personnel costs for nuclear carriers are greater because more personnel are required for a nuclear-powered carrier, nuclear-qualified personnel receive greater total compensation, and they are required to complete additional training. For example, a nuclear-powered carrier needs about 130 more personnel in its engineering and reactor departments than are needed in the conventionally powered carrier’s engineering department.

      Also, each year, nuclear-qualified officers receive up to $12,000 and nuclear qualified enlisted personnel receive about $1,800 more than personnel do in nonnuclear jobs. Nuclear-powered carriers are also more costly to maintain because the scope of work is larger and considerably more labor hours are required. Because of the complex procedures required to maintain nuclear power plants, shipyard workers must be specifically trained to maintain nuclear carriers. Additionally, the materials used in nuclear carriers must meet exacting standards and the shipyards must have the facilities needed for the specialized work. Also, these projects cost more because of the unique industrial base, specialized nuclear suppliers, and the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program’s exacting and stringent environmental, health, and safety standards. Shipbuilders must follow “non-deviation” plans (i.e., no deviation from the approved plans without government approval).

      An unavoidably high cost overhead structure (engineering, quality assurance, and production control) and costly production work are required in the naval nuclear propulsion industry. Based on the Navy’s maintenance plans, GAO estimates that over a 50-year life, nearly 40 percent more labor hours are needed to maintain a nuclear-powered carrier than are required to maintain a conventionally powered carrier. The Navy estimates that it will cost between $819 million and $955 million to inactivate and dispose of the first Nimitz-class nuclear-powered carrier. This is almost 20 times more costly than the $52.6 million that is estimated it will cost to inactivate and dispose of a conventionally powered carrier. Most of the costs can be attributed to removing contaminated nuclear equipment and material, including the highly radioactive spent fuel.

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    11. "Why all the problems and costs,its NUCLEAR"

      You're conflating two unrelated issues. The subject is CONSTRUCTION costs. Only the initial construction and installation of the nuclear plant is relevant.

      All remaining operating costs are another subject upon which I have said almost nothing about other than that I am ambivalent about the choice between nuclear and conventional.

      So, you may as well stop trying to convince me that nuclear power has associated operating costs. I've never said otherwise and it's utterly irrelevant to the construction cost issue.

      Finally, the report you cite has some serious methodological and analytical flaws. To offer a single example, conventional carriers require tanker ships, tanker crews, tanker operating costs, tanker scheduling administrative overhead, tanker construction costs, tanker maintenance and support costs, tanker port facilities, tanker disposal costs, port refueling equipment and facilities, port fuel storage facilities, fuel transport capabilities, fuel raw material extraction and refining facilities, and on and on. All of those costs are added costs imposed by the use of conventional power. Based on my quick scan, none of those were included in the report. As I've repeatedly stated, when ALL (that's ALL, meaning ALL, as in ALL) cost factors are included, nuclear and conventional power tends to be pretty much a wash. The problem is that very few reports make any attempt to include ALL the factors and, instead, start with a preconceived conclusion and then just include the factors that support that conclusion. If you want to seriously and objectively analyze nuclear versus conventional then include ALL the cost factors.

      Again, I'm ambivalent. What I'm strident about is not believing poor analysis methods.

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    12. I think Ranger and Saratoga were scrapped for a penny each. Constellation a whopping 3 million.

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    13. You are talking about an entire commercially available supply chain that is needed to gas the planes regardless. It's just a change in volume. If they really used the competitive commercial market, meaning no Jones Act, the ships could be had for less than a fighter. This is vs an entirely government sole source supply chain.

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    14. I dont know what to believe since it really is comparing apples to oranges, so many variables and ways to massage them to make your side look better....my little suspicious mind says somebody probably knows the truth and I wouldn't dare insinuate that USN would lie or hide the truth....case is probably closed anyways since I vaguely recall an article saying you needed a nuke to run all the electrical junk on board Ford so I guess that conveniently solves that problem. ;)

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    15. "so many variables and ways to massage them"

      This is the key. What's important depends on what you value. Do you value the tactical benefit of infinite fuel and power? If so, then nuclear is the only way to go. Do you value reduced disposal costs? Then conventional is the only way to go. And so on.

      While we can't ignore costs, by any means, the driving force in any analysis has to be combat effectiveness and in that regard, nuclear and conventional seem to be equally effective although I do worry about damage control issues with a nuke plant.

      It's the combat effectiveness wash that makes me ambivalent about the nuclear vs conventional debate and it's the damage control aspect that makes me lean ever so slightly to conventional.

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    16. Sorry, Ford related.

      I kind of like the author approach, I admit, he's not looking at pure combat value BUT more at what civilian companies approach to replacement benefit which is an interesting angle. I used to follow civil aviation lot more, usually BA and Airbus try to get about 15% better efficiencies to make it worth while for airlines to replace their older fleet, generally you get about 10% from the engine and rest from air-frame, weight saving, aerodynamics,add a few seats never hurts,etc...looking at it from Nimitz to Ford: makes more sense to me now why USN has been pushing so hard on some of the Ford metrics, if these numbers don't pan out, you do end wondering why we spent 2 to 3 times more on a Ford that's marginally (optimistic!) better than a Nimitz and not 15% better....


      https://www.forbes.com/sites/craighooper/2019/11/06/the-uss-fords-business-case-sinks-as-the-troubled-ship-finishes-sea-trials/#3078691f2309

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    17. CNO "The subject is CONSTRUCTION costs. Only the initial construction and installation of the nuclear plant is relevant."

      To me what matters is the total thru life costs, at the end of the day there is only one pot of money funding the Navy, whether its SCN, O&M etc. (As an aside GAO estimated a conventional propulsion carrier would cost half that of a Nimitz nuclear carrier.)

      Do understand your point where ALL cost factors must be included, but all those you listed are already in being and were in the 80's, they have to be to support by far the majority of the surface fleet which are conventionally powered ships, the nuclear carriers are the outliers, with all their very expensive special needs. Do not doubt the other cost factors, additional oilers etc have to be increased, needs proper analysis as you say.

      What we do know as Modly stated "In the 1980s, the carrier strike group cost about 14 percent of the total Navy operating cost. Today it’s 31 percent."

      In 1985 there were eleven carriers, seven conventional and four nuclear, today there are ten all nuclear, eleven if include Ford, so need to analyze why doubling of CSG operating costs allowing for inflation by asking the right questions, my suspicion its the cost of nuclear and the cost of the Tico/Burkes with their BMD capabilities, but maybe the reduction in size of fleet from ~ 600 to less than 300 have a bearing and consequent mix of fleet that all other operational areas have been sacrificed to keep CSGs operational due to their doubling in funding required. Even with the additional funding most the nuclear Nimitz's carriers currently non-operational and will be years off for the Ford, mention of 2024 before joins fleet.

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  12. To go back to CNO scenario, I think what's obvious is not only how we are building a fleet to fight a hard set in place plan that was cooked up deep inside DoD with ZERO IMPUT on what China really might do (remember enemy has a say!) BUT just how much our focus is on air defense. Subs? Mines? EW? Hacking? Mix of military-civilian spy ships? Social media? Is the US Military and CIVILIAN leadership prepared to fight a real multi dimensional fight? We might be able to shoot down ABMs all down and lose the fight to $1000 mines and FB buy ads from PRC....

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    1. "ZERO IMPUT on what China really might do"

      That's a problem, all right, and a severe one. However, there is an even worse problem and that is that we're making plans with zero input from our own strategic goals. What do we want to accomplish versus China? Wipe them from existence and history? Bomb them back to the Stone Age? Maintain the status quo? Concede an entire hemisphere? Meekly submit and become a tributary state? What? Only with that answer can we formulate a military strategy and, if we do that, that will tell us exactly what kind of military force we need.

      Right now, we're constructing an almost random force and hoping it will prove useful someday. Do we want to invade mainland China? Do we want to seize the South China Sea? Do we want to merely impose a blockade? Those options (and many others) each require a different force structure. Until we can answer those questions, we're just building a random force.

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    2. I think that eventually China will kick this off by going after Taiwan. It will probably hold out for a week or so. No preinvasion buildup that large should go unnoticed, and we should have some time (few days to weeks)to start preparing. Whether they go hostile against us at that time is (??)But at that point, assuming we have the political will to not hand over the western Pacific, our objectives should be to:
      1- Secure the Phillipine Sea to allow carrier operations that will...(SSNs, SSGNs, CVBG)
      2-Eliminate the defensive perimeter the first chain provides(SSGN, CVBG, AF)
      3-Destroy any/all of the PLAN until it has no relevant capability(SSN, CVBG,AF)
      4- Go after coastal bases, shipyards etc, and eliminate as much of Chinas air and sea capability as possible(CVBG, SSGN, AF)
      5-Institute a complete blockade(USN, AF)
      6-Isolate and liberate Taiwan(CVBG, USMC)
      7- Continue blocade until regime collapses
      I just threw this out as the general idea. But it tells us a basic force structure to create. I feel SSNs are important, and the SSGNs are hugely important as well, being the tools to open the door for CVN ops. I didnt touch on MCM, which will be important as well...

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    3. " Continue blocade until regime collapses"

      You might want to reread this post about a blockade strategy:

      "China Strategy - Blockade"

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    4. I certainly recall reading it, and to large extent agree. My rough-draft ideas arent even things we may be able to do... But if we were able to hain the upper hand in the SCS, then what? I dont see invasion as an option, and even just pushing them off Taiwan, may not end hostilities. Cutting their maritime trade is best we can do at that point, and ideally the govt is pressured to change at that point. Weve discussed much of that before, im just trying to focus on what the mil aspects are. Its a complex scenario and one that we can probably never "win" in the way we have in the past...

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    5. "one that we can probably never "win" in the way we have in the past..."

      Then we need to readjust our thinking to return to what we have done in the past. We seized all of Europe and all of the Pacific. And now we're too timid and weak to do anything more than just try to contain China and hope for the best? That's pathetic.

      It's not our capabilities that are failing us, it's our vision and scope and courage. The Greatest Generation didn't try to contain Germany and Japan - they utterly defeated them. Do you really see Halsey suggesting that we contain China and hope they change their behavior?

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    6. No.... And sadly i doubt we will see leaders the likes of a Halsey or Patton again. Today officers are too politically correct. Can you imagine the response to "when we're done the Chinese language will only be spiken in hell"?? Youre right, our softer outlook is sorry. But to be fair, going to war for Taiwan isnt the same as rising to defend Britain, Australia, our (then) territories, etc... And sure it can be argued that China has long term plans for much of the planet. But, I think the weaker recent generations, lack of a "rescue our allies" scenario, and a lesser world veiw of good vs evil (the lack of our populace' conviction over going after global terrorists, who clearly should be killed en masse being an example) here at home makes me question our country, short of a massive Pearl Harbor repeat, having the wherewithal to fight until unconditional surrender...

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    7. "going to war for Taiwan isnt the same as rising to defend Britain, Australia, "

      That's an interesting statement. Now, why isn't it the same? What's different? I'm neither agreeing nor disagreeing - just interested in your rationale for the statement.

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    8. "even just pushing them off Taiwan, may not end hostilities."

      Is 'end hostilities' really our goal? Is that the extent of our vision? Our society has come to consider conflict as inherent bad and that conflicts should be ended as quickly as possible regardless of the conditions of that cessation.

      Let me give you an example. Once upon a time, schoolyard recess bullies were dealt with by fist fights and those fights continued until the bully was soundly beaten. The long term result was that the bully would never bully anyone again. Today, however, any fight is instantly stopped before it can be concluded and the underlying cause is not resolved but continues to fester thereby ensuring repeat conflicts over and over with never any resolution.

      We see this in today's court system. Disputes are settled in court instead of between people.

      Now, I'm not advocating unrestricted anarchy but we have allowed the courts to remove any self-adjudication. Now our disputes can ONLY be settled by a judge.

      I've wandered a bit afield but the point is that our society has been feminized to the point that we no longer recognize that good can come from conflict and that some conflicts should be fought out to their conclusion. Just 'ending hostilities' isn't enough.

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    9. going to war for Taiwan isnt the same as rising to defend Britain, Australia, "
      In the WWII years, wed already supported and fought with Britain in a World War. They were our closest ally (or at the time, we were theirs). They were basically our parent country. Supporting them, as we are quite entwined in history, custom, culture, language etc makes it a natural alliance. Supporting Taiwan is nowhere near as natural, and I dont think the widespread support is there. Sending men to fight Nazism and save Britain, and doing the same to protect Taiwan just doesnt evoke the same emotional ties to motivate leaders OR our populace. Now having said that, Im personally all for supporting any free society in the face of Nazism, Communism, or any of the -isms!!! Im all for trouncing the Chinese monster we're responsible for creating...

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    10. Please dont misunderstand, I agree with you!!! And you make great points, BUT, when this happens, its not "Allies vs Axis". It will be the US vs China, with some small support from Britain and possibly support from Japan. The main redeeming value in the conflict will be saving Taiwan. Again, short of a repeat Pearl Harbor, there isnt going to be widespread support of a war "to beat China" either at home or abroad. That doesnt mean it shouldnt be done. The day is coming when we will need to.
      Even your off track comments about the femme-ing of society...I agree. And none of your well made points bode well for our future!!!

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    11. "Taiwan isnt the same as rising to defend Britain"

      That's certainly fair and valid. The US and UK have a special relationship, for sure.

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  13. I think the scenario here is one that is realistic--defense of Taiwan, or it could be the Pilippines or Japan. I don't think the invasion of mainland China is a viable one, but this one is. I think our best strategy is containment--in the China Sea, in the Arabian/Persian Gulf, and in Eastern Europe. Contain the conflict, and assist our allies to the extent that they can mount a credible defense against the would-be hegemons--China, Iran, and Russia.

    In that context, I think the force structure that you are postulating--a few high-end, high-value units augmented by unmanned ships, aircraft, and subs--is absurd. What we need are a hew high-end high-value combatants augmented by as large number of lower-end, lower-value manned units. ComNavOps, I think you and I are both on that page.

    What troubles me about the scenario you portray is that obviously the Chinese are way far along in their invasion of Taiwan, and we are apparently just now responding. I would like to think that we'd be on the scene in a big way long before things got that far. But if we get down to 200 ships, we just won't have the hulls to respond.

    I say we adopt a strategy with regard to the three world hot spots of 1) containment, and 2) within each hot spot, fleet up our allies to the point that they can mount credible defenses. I agree with you that such a strategy calls for a very different fleet from the one we are building. We may differ some on specific details, but I do think we are reading from the same sheet of music.

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    1. " I would like to think that we'd be on the scene in a big way long before things got that far."

      Suppose China launched the Taiwan invasion tonight. We have no combat ready LCS. Six Aegis cruisers are idled. None of the East Coast carriers are combat ready. None of the non-deployed air wings are combat ready (heck, they're barely getting enough flight hours to stay flight certified!), and so on.

      I would like to think we could respond quickly, too, but the reality is that we're not combat ready and have no surge capability.

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    2. "obviously the Chinese are way far along in their invasion of Taiwan"

      Do you really think so? Do you really think Taiwan could hold out for an extended period? I'm pretty sure that China is planning for an absolutely overwhelming, blitz assault and that Taiwan would fall in a matter of days. Yes, there would be guerilla resistance for some time but the main military installations would be quickly destroyed or seized and converted for Chinese use.

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    3. Agree with CNO, when China goes for it, they will go BIG and FAST, I doubt it lasts more than a week really...yeah, skirmishes here and there but all big cities and important military sites are obliterated or occupied. At that point, it's really up to POTUS: do we acknowledge the fait-accompli or slow build up to hostilities? I think option 1 might be very tempting to any POTUS...

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    4. China does not currently have the amphibious capability to launch an assault of sufficient scale to successfully occupy Taiwain.
      They themselves are well aware of this and are working to remediate this deficiency but are years away from achieving such a capability.
      They could neutralise Taiwanese capability with large scale bombardment over a course of months. But they simply don't . currently have the assets to launch a follow up invasion at this stage.

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    5. I know this is not a political blog...but, the entire US-China relationship is one big geopolitical non-kinetic multi-front tussle(s) on full display today. On Taiwan in specific, its leadership should take cue from Singapore, South Korea and the Philippines..to hug Panda diplomatically & economically to give China plenty 'face', and to remain steadfast US ideological & security partners 'unobtrusively'. China has as (or too) much to lose if it goes to war against the US; its pragmatism will serve as a 'release valve' of any tension AS LONG AS Taiwan doesn't tail-wags-dog the US into a war (i.e. by either aggressively or passively persuing dejure independence.)

      I know this is a place-holding 'temporary' solution, but until we decide what we really want to do with China, 'temporary' might have some permanency to it.

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    6. "China does not currently have the amphibious capability to launch an assault of sufficient scale to successfully occupy Taiwain."

      As we (the US) measures it, you're correct. However, the Chinese may measure and execute an amphibious assault differently. For example, China has an extensive commercial transport capacity and all of their 'commercial' ships have been designed and built with military use in mind. Thus, it's not just a case of counting the number of LHA/LPD or whatever. For the US, that would be true. For China, they may be planning to use many, many dozens of militarily converted commercial ships.

      This is speculation on my part. I have no great understanding of China's assault plans. I simply note that our way of looking at the issue may not be China's way.

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    7. "I know this is a place-holding 'temporary' solution,"

      No, it's really not. Inaction IS action. No decision IS a decision.

      Opting not to aggressively confront China IS a decision (whether conscious or not) to allow China to build up a more potent military and reduce our eventual chance of victory and reduce our future range of options due to China's greater military might.

      So, no, it's not a placeholder, it's a definite decision to weaken our relative position in the future by allowing China to gain strength. China is, undoubtedly, happy with this and counting on it.

      As I've repeatedly pointed out, placeholding, temporary solutions are otherwise known as appeasement. This is exactly what the world did with Hitler and the world eventually paid the price.

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    8. If you look at the actual PLA sources, like the "Course Book on the Taiwan Strait's Military Geography" or other documents from the strategists and officers of the PLA, you can see that they themselves do not consider themselves to be in a position to physically occupy Taiwan at this stage.
      They are explicitly aware of their own deficiencies in amphibious warfare.
      They are well placed to neutralise the Taiwanese air force and navy assets over a period of weeks or months. They do feel threatened by the profligacy of Taiwanese SAM capability.
      They do not have the capacity, in their own view, to surge enough forces quickly enough, and in enough scale to achieve a successful amphibious assault.
      Taiwan has the advantage that there are really only 14 possible landing beaches and 4 weeks of permissive weather twice a year.
      The window for assault is small and the options few.
      They are terrified that Taiwan might be able to obtain a fleet of SSKs.
      They are explicitly aware that China’s seaborne oil imports, which pass through the Strait, are highly vulnerable, “so protecting the security of this strategic maritime passageway is not just a military activity alone, but rather an act of national strategy.” This itself is a massive weakness not often enough acknowledged or understood in Western military circles, in my opinion.
      They do not see themselves as easily able to dominate the Taiwan strait, despite all their AD/AC capability. Hence their desire to occupy Taiwan.

      They see Taiwan as a weapon against Japan as well, interestingly. They see themselves as able to choke Japanese commerce if they were to control Taiwanese airfields and ports.

      A big focus of their military development will be in the area of amphib operations in coming years.
      They need to close that gap to make the invasion of Taiwan feasible.
      You can't do that with commercial shipping.

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  14. I'm not on-board with any of these unmanned ships or subs.

    The jobs that need to be done and the decisions that need to be made are too complicated to be performed by unmanned vehicles.

    The only way to make it work is through human control of these vehicles, which requires tactically compromising communications.

    I believe that trying to diffuse the risk out into a bunch of 'expendable' unmanned platforms is the wrong approach.

    The navy needs to design and field capable, survivable ships manned by superior crews that are better trained than any other navy in the world.

    That is what will win a war (and prevent one as well).

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  15. CNO,

    I see no reason why this couldn't be a real scenario. In fact, the details don't really matter. Any side who intends to attack, and takes the time to plan and gather the resources, will likely be successful. eg Pearl Harbour.

    If your team has a bit of ruthlessness, it might be possible to deter such attacks by making it policy that any attack from certain countries will lead to an automatic attack on that country's location.

    eg as the US fleet sails through the SCS, the US sends an automatic warning- an attack on the fleet will be assumed to be an attack by the neighbouring country with the ability to do so (obviously it'll be China, and not, say, Malaysia) and all destroyers will launch tomahawks at the assumed country's nearest, say, military base, airfield, whatever.

    Obviously, it's provocative, and China will simply build more defences to counter this. But it does up the price for launching an attack as described above.

    The lack of anti sub training is a problem. You know, if the US was able to actually track the subs, they could consider using ASROC's to do a lot of the work. You'd need a lot, but you simply launch 1 or 2 to every positive sign of a sub, and let the torpedo's do the rest of the searching. Sure, it's an expensive way of doing it, but it might work. Has it been tried before?

    Andrew

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  16. It looks to me like what the Navy is doing is committing to an ever smaller number of higher-value units that cannot be risked in combat, and is trying to make up the difference with unmanned units that at best have not been proved in combat. I don’t think it’s going to work, as ComNavOps so succinctly illustrates.

    I still like the high-low mix that ADM Zumwalt pursued to keep up numbers during the Vietnam drawdown. ComNavOps has proposed it as a war-peace mix, but I think we both end up pretty close to the same place.

    The Navy’s 355-ship plan looks like it is going to be cut down to maybe 310, but working off the 355 model for now, I have a few changes to consider:

    1. The Navy plans 12 carriers. I think they need 12 CAGs, but each would be better with 2 carriers. If they build 12 Fords at probably $15B each, that’s $180B. I would rather see 12 Nimitzes/RAND CVN-LXs at $9B each and 12 of something like RAND CV-LXs at $4B each, for $156B total. That’s a savings of $24B, which buys another 240 aircraft at $100MM a pop, among other things. I know that a CV-LX is no match for a Nimitz (although it may be more than a match for a Ford with CASREPT catapults and arresting gear and weapons lifts). But it won’t be going up against a Nimitz, and a Lightning Carrier can pretty well hold its own against what it will be facing. Moreover, it will be operating with and supplementing a Nimitz, kind of like the CVLs/CVEs did in WWII. We could look at something a bit bigger and more capable than the CV-LX, but the tradeoff would be money.
    2. They Navy plans 104 major combatants, which looks like 22 Ticonderogas and 82 Burkes. The 82 Burkes at $2.8B apiece are about $230B. Suppose we did 40 Burkes at $2.8B ($112B), 60 mini-Burkes at $1.2B ($72B), and 80 ASW frigates at $500MM ($40B), or $224B total, a savings of another $6B. Again, I know ComNavOps doesn’t like the mini-Burkes (although I think he likes the ASW frigates), but I think we need a general purpose platform, because who knows exactly what we will face and need to be prepared for. I think we can do a lot more with 180 hulls than we can with 82
    3. The navy plans 38 amphibs. Assuming 13 LHA/LHD at about $3.5B a pop and 25 LPD/LSD at about $1.7B a pop, that’s $88B. I would go to a larger number of smaller, cheaper, and more versatile ships, like the old PHIBRONS—say a smaller LHA/LHD like the Spanish Juan Carlos ($1.5B), an LPH like the French Mistral ($600MM), an LPD/LSD like the British Albion ($500MM), an LST like the Australian Kanimbla conversion with a regular LST bow ($400MM), and an LKA/LPA like Charleston or Paul Revere ($400MM), and one of ComNavOps’s land attack frigates to provide fire support ($400MM). That’s a total cost of $3.8B per PHIBRON, or $38B for the entire force, a savings of $50B.
    4. I would spend some of those savings on the submarine force. The Navy is talking about. 12 Ohio-replacements ($9B each) and 66 SSNs (say all Virginia at $2.8B each) or $293B total. I would do the 12 Ohio replacements, 30 Virginia SSNs, 20 SSGNs with the VPM ($3.2B each), 30 of something cheaper like the French Barracuda or the DARPA Tango Bravo ($1.6B each) and 30 AIP SSK’s like the Swedish A-26 ($750MM each), or a total of $326B.

    With these four changes, I’ve added 12 carriers, 98 surface combatants, 22 amphibs, and 44 submarines, and I’ve spent $47B ($24B+$6B+$50-$33B) less on ships, to spend on aircraft or maintenance or elsewhere. The other thing that I think the Navy is worried about is manpower, and running some rough numbers suggests that this fleet, along with some other ideas I have, would require about 32,000 more sailors. There are ways to address that, including better recruiting and retention and keeping some ships in reserve status during peacetime.

    We could still add unmanned vehicles to this fleet to cover gaps, but I think the gaps would be far fewer and less gaping.

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    1. "ComNavOps has proposed it as a war-peace mix, but I think we both end up pretty close to the same place."

      Just to be clear, emphatically not! Hi-Lo and War-Peace are not even remotely similar. The Peace part is non-combat, commercial standard, minimally manned, small, cheap vessels. The Lo part is military grade, combat capable, fully manned and, as such, will be very expensive relative to a Peace fleet and very capable.

      This is not a criticism of the Hi-Lo, just a distinction that needs to be kept firmly in mind.

      By the way, if you want to save even more money, drop the amphib requirement. I've documented my reasons for believing that there is no reasonably foreseeable need for amphibious assaults which means there is no need for an amphib fleet. Huge savings!

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    2. "Just to be clear, emphatically not! Hi-Lo and War-Peace are not even remotely similar. The Peace part is non-combat, commercial standard, minimally manned, small, cheap vessels. The Lo part is military grade, combat capable, fully manned and, as such, will be very expensive relative to a Peace fleet and very capable."

      And I guess my question is why spend procurement funds on really, really low-low-end showboats that are of no use in wartime? And as far as the idea of letting them handle the peacetime commitments so we can park the warships with limited operations to save them until war comes, the French tried parking their navy until neded a little over 200 years ago, and it didn't work so well at Trafalgar. My ASW frigates are definitely low end but would be of use in your scenario.

      "By the way, if you want to save even more money, drop the amphib requirement. I've documented my reasons for believing that there is no reasonably foreseeable need for amphibious assaults which means there is no need for an amphib fleet. Huge savings!"

      Confession, I am an old gator sailor, so I'll take exception to this. One, you're not talking huge savings because the cost of the amphib force I am contemplating is quite cheap, a little over the cost of two Fords for the entire force. Two, the force I am envisioning would actually have a viable concept of operations for an amphibious landing, unlike the current stand 25-50 miles offshore and helo them in approach. Three, there would actually be a use in the scenario you ave postulated here. China doesn't have the ability to ferry large numbers of troops in a short time. Any planned attempt to do so would become very obvious very fast. In that scenario, there would definitely be a role to transport troops and equipment to the defense of Taiwan in advance. And even a demonstration force standing offshore could ave a deterrent effect. Four, gators are very versatile ships with a lot of uses in a variety of scenarios. Both those ships and the Euro mini-Burkes fill what I see as a need for versatile generalist ships, because we never know exactly what we are going to encounter.

      I really don't see the reason to spend money on even cheap ships that we would park in case of war. And I do see the need to have some generalist ships

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    3. "why spend procurement funds on really, really low-low-end showboats that are of no use in wartime?"

      Because they are of immense value in peacetime and because, relative to the Navy budget, THEY ARE FREE!!!!

      "park the warships with limited operations to save them until war comes, the French tried parking their navy until neded a little over 200 years ago, and it didn't work so well"

      Where did you get the idea that the wartime ships would be parked and forgotten? Not from me!!!! The wartime ships would be intensively involved in non-stop training, punctuated by maintenance periods. The crews would train continuously with frequent at-sea exercises.

      "we never know exactly what we are going to encounter."

      We most certainly do! We proved this in WWII where our War Plan Orange almost 100% predicted the course and requirements of the war. If professional warriors can't predict the likely encounters then they aren't competent professional warriors. In this blog I've been predicting exactly what we'll encounter.

      Now, don't confuse hypothetical story scenarios which are intended to illustrate concepts with actual combat scenario predictions. The scenario in this post, for example, is ridiculous and would never occur for real. It was written to illustrate the folly of the Navy's plans for unmanned vessels as they intend to use them.

      "I really don't see the reason to spend money on even cheap ships that we would park in case of war."

      Park in the event of war???? Not even a little bit true! During war, the peacetime ships would perform all the non-combat duties that our warships - and your proposed lo end ships - are currently doing. There would still be a need to counter drug smuggling, patrol home harbors, chase pirates, show the flag, etc., all far from any combat zone. In my concept, those duties would free up ALL our warships for combat. In your concept, those duties would have to be filled by warships, whether hi or lo, thus decreasing the number of available ships for combat.

      "Taiwan"

      When you consider actual anticipated Taiwan scenarios, you have to ask yourself how it fits into our ultimate strategy. The unfortunate answer is, it doesn't. Trying to liberate Taiwan would turn into an immense, combat black hole, sucking combat resources and accomplishing nothing. Our strategy isn't (or shouldn't be) to merely liberate Taiwan and go back to the status quo. If we're going to war with China, we need a strategy of victory that produces long term peace and stability for the world and that means inflicting a significant defeat on China. I've posted on this so I won't bother repeating it.

      Too many people, the Navy prominent among them, think in isolated, abstract terms instead of actual strategy and requirements. This is what has led the Navy to substitute technology for strategy and, I say this as kindly as I can, this leads us to maintain amphibious capability when there is no reasonable real world scenario where we would attempt a significant, opposed amphibious assault. Again, I've laid out the reasoning on this so I won't repeat it.

      The rationale that 'we never know' is the rationale of the deficient strategic thinker. We do know - or should - , just as we knew exactly what a war with Japan would entail. The Navy, today, utterly lacks true professional strategic and operational thinkers and it shows every day and with every new, idiotic plan they come up with.

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  17. "Taiwan"

    As far as Taiwan, I've said all along that I think the proper strategy in the China Sea is containment. Keep the Chinese from breaking out, and see to it that our allies maintain something of a balance of power to restrain China's hegemonic ambitions. I think we differ in that I don't see an invasion of China as a realistic possibility, and therefore I don't see some of the needs that you do. Frankly, I think the most productive step in case of conflict with China would be to cut off their oil supplies and that would bring them to a crashing halt fairly quickly.

    I don't think we would attempt a significant opposed amphibious assault against either China or Russia. Maybe Iran, but not China or Russia. But that don't think that means that we don't need an amphib capability.

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    1. " I think we differ in that I don't see an invasion of China as a realistic possibility"

      Neither do I!!!! We'd have to be idiots to invade China. Why would you think I advocate invading China? See, China War - Setting the Stage for the proper strategy.

      "I don't think we would attempt a significant opposed amphibious assault against either China or Russia. Maybe Iran, but not China or Russia. But that don't think that means that we don't need an amphib capability."

      You don't see a need for amphibious assault but you think we need the capability????? You'll have to explain that bit of contradiction.

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  18. I don't see an opposed amphibious assault against the Chinese mainland. That doesn't mean I don't see one ever anywhere. And that doesn't mean I don't see the need to maintain the capability. For that matter, things could change to the point that I could someday see the need for one in Iran, or somewhere in eastern Europe, or even in China. If amphib ships cost as much as Fords, or even Nimitzes, that would be one thing. But they are pretty cheap, and pretty versatile.

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  19. ComNavOps,

    I have one question about your War-Peace concept. In your proposed fleet structure, which ships are the peace ships?

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    1. I haven't proposed any specific peace fleet structure because it doesn't matter. If the mission is to show the flag, does it really matter what type or size of ship we use? It can be anything from a million dollar yacht (good choice, actually, because foreign dignitaries could be wined and dined!), to a spare small cargo ship. The same applies for fighting pirates. Bolt a couple 0.50 cal MGs on any ship and you're all set. Again, a small, spare cargo ship could support machine guns and a couple small Scan Eagle UAVs. That's all you need to stop pirates in a skiff. And so on.

      There's no great mystery about this. Any spare boat/ship will do and they cost nothing on a relative basis. We're sending Burkes to chase pirates in a skiff!

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    2. I think we both see the same problem. Sending Burkes to chase pirates is absurd. But if that's all you've got, that's what you have to use. I guess we just differ regarding the proper approach to address it.

      My adding the frigates (and to a lesser extent, the mini-Burkes) is attempting to address that. I guess I'd rather just pay a bit more (but not a lot more) to have things that I can actually use in war too.

      I think there are times when you need absolute top of the line cutting edge technology, and there are times when you need numbers, and even times when you need some of both. Hi/Lo does the best job of responding to all of those.

      As far as prepared for anything, yes we knew how the Japanese were going to fight WWII, to use your example. But we didn't know what they were going to do on December 7, 1941. And we definitely did not know what al Qaeda was going to do on September 11, 2001. So we can know generally but not always specifically. And it's the ability to respond to those specific situations that matters.


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    3. "I guess I'd rather just pay a bit more (but not a lot more) to have things that I can actually use in war too."

      Seriously? I'm proposing, at the top end, a $1M yacht versus your $1B frigate!!!!!!!! You're going to be paying a LOTTTTTTTTTT more which is exactly what you say you won't do - "(but not a lot more)". You need to settle on a consistent philosophy! Either you're willing to pay a LOT more for ships that are a thousand times overkill for the peacetime jobs or you aren't. Which is it? I say this in the spirit of trying to help gently nudge your thinking along so that whatever philosophy you settle on, it's consistent and solidly thought out. Right now, you seem to be trying to straddle both sides of the issue.

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    4. " But we didn't know what they were going to do on December 7, 1941."

      Yes, we pretty much did. In fact, we had gamed out the Pearl Harbor attack in at least two Fleet Exercises. We had sent out war warnings to the various Pacific commands in the weeks leading up to the attack. We had mixed ideas of where the first blow would land but we had every opportunity to prepare and we had good ideas about how each possible site might be attacked. That we chose not to enhance our defensive posture at Pearl Harbor is one of the enduring mysteries of WWII. That proves that having all the foresight and intel in the world won't help if you don't act on it - and we didn't, for reasons that no one has ever explained.

      "And we definitely did not know what al Qaeda was going to do on September 11, 2001."

      Again, we kind of did. As the post-event investigation revealed, we had all the pieces necessary to predict the attack but we failed to put them together. There's also a huge difference between a one-time domestic terror attack and anticipating and planning for a complete peer war. By their very nature, isolated, random terror attacks are very hard to predict and stop whereas the conduct of a complete war is relatively easy to predict since the objectives, resources, and methods of both sides are well known. We know what China wants. We know what resources China has. We know what methods China will use. With that, we can pretty accurately predict the events of a war with China. Heck, I don't have access to any classified intel and I've been able to predict China's moves on this blog! It's actually NOT rocket science. It's actually pretty straightforward. If I had access to classified information I could very accurately predict the course of a China war - and so could you.

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    5. Maybe 9/11 is a bad example because it was a terrorist act. But my point is that yes, we know on a macro level, but we just don't know exactly on a micro level. And I'd rather have the ability to deal with as many threats as possible.

      Again, with a couple of specific examples that I mentioned in my first post on this subject, I don't think we are that far apart. But I have a hard time imagining any scenario in which your "Peace" ships would be useful.

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    6. "But I have a hard time imagining any scenario in which your "Peace" ships would be useful."

      They'd be useful in EVERY peacetime scenario. When war comes, they step out of the way. What about this aren't you getting?

      There is no downside. The cost is free. It requires almost no crew (ten guys on a yacht! - they'd be lining up for the duty!). It uses almost no resources. AND IT SATISFIES EVERY PEACETIME REQUIREMENT.

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  20. " I'm proposing, at the top end, a $1M yacht versus your $1B frigate!"

    Not exactly. Number one, I don't really have much faith that your $1MM yacht can accomplish much, even in a peacetime scenario. It's not going to have significant weapons, sensors, speed, or survivability. Number two, the tradeoff is not a $1MM yacht versus a $1.2B mini-Burke escort, but rather a $1MM yacht that would have no guns at that price against a $500MM frigate (or $200MM corvette) that would have some significant weaponry. The $1.2B mini-Burke would be a 2 for 1 tradeoff with $2.8B Burkes, with money left over for a frigates, or 1 mini-Burke plus 3 frigates.

    I'm just looking at it from a resource constraint viewpoint, and figure out what tradeoffs work best. And I'd rather have 40 Burkes and 60 mini-Burkes and 80 frigates than to have 80 Burkes. You could still do your peace ships on top of my combination if you wanted to. I don't think you could build your proposed fleet for the money that the Navy is going to get to spend. If all things ran totally efficiently, maybe so, but not in the real world.

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    1. " It's not going to have significant weapons, sensors, speed, or survivability."

      Correct! And why are any of those things needed in peacetime?

      " would have some significant weaponry."

      For what? It's peacetime. When was the last time a US Navy ship fired its weapons in anger during peacetime? Combine that with a policy of non-confrontation and appeasement and we absolutely don't need weapons beyond a couple of bolt on 0.50 cals. All the weapons on those two Riverine boats that Iran seized didn't accomplish anything. Would more weapons have changed anything?

      "I'd rather have 40 Burkes and 60 mini-Burkes and 80 frigates than to have 80 Burkes."

      That's a completely different issue from a lo-peace discussion.

      "I don't think you could build your proposed fleet for the money that the Navy is going to get to spend."

      My peace fleet is barely the round off error in the Navy's budget. It's free, for all practical purposes.

      You seem to think I'm arguing against warships. I'm not. Those are my war fleet. Within that war fleet I'd make much the same balances and tradeoffs that you're making. The difference is my war fleet wouldn't waste time and accumulate wear and tear chasing pirates or showing the flag - they'd be busy maintaining and training.

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    2. I guess the bottom line is that I just don't understand the purpose of your Peace ships. If we're trying to give shiphandling training to JO's, that's fine, but I don't see much point in spending even minimal money for a ship that has no combat value.

      The issue that I'm addressing, and that I thought you were, is that we are pricing ourselves out of business with expensive failures like the Fords and LCSs and Zumwalts, and we need to come up with something affordable and useful. I'm trying to that by filling out numbers with mini-Burkes, frigates, corvettes, and patrol ships.

      As you say, it's patently absurd to be chasing pirates with Burkes that are both too expensive and not particularly well suited for that purpose. But I do think you need to chase pirates with something that outguns the pirates.

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    3. "But I do think you need to chase pirates with something that outguns the pirates. "

      That would be a single 0.50 cal MG. Heck, they've used water hoses to repel pirate attacks. A frigate, or even a corvette, is a thousand times overkill. Why would we want to send even a $500M corvette and a 50 man crew to chase pirates when we can buy a used yacht for nothing, bolt on a 0.50 cal, and have ten guys operate it?

      I just don't understand wasting warships running around doing worthless peacetime activities instead of training and undergoing maintenance.

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  21. "I just don't understand wasting warships running around doing worthless peacetime activities instead of training and undergoing maintenance."

    And I don't understand spending money to buy and crew and fuel and sail ships that have virtually no combat value. It's a Navy, not a sailing club.

    I do agree that it doesn't make sense to have Burkes doing something like pirate duty, when 1) they're too expensive and 2) they're not particularly well-suited for the task. I'm going to address that by using the money for 80 Burkes to buy 40 Burkes, 60 mini-Burkes, and 80 ASW frigates. If a frigate or even a corvette can do it, use them instead. But I don't want to go after pirates with a .50 cal. I want something that can blow them out of the water.

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    1. Well, I'll leave it at that.

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    2. Fair enough. I think we both see the same problem, we just have different ideas about how best to solve it.

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  22. "I just don't understand wasting warships running around doing worthless peacetime activities instead of training and undergoing maintenance."

    I'm going to apologize up front, because this looks like beating a dead horse or doing anything to get the last word, but after I thought about it a bit, one more idea came to mind. After thinking about it a bit, I decided to share.

    If they truly are, "worthless peacetime activities," why are we doing them? I mean, why have a ship to do worthless things?

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    1. I've posted on this several times. I firmly believe that the deployments we do are pointless and accomplish nothing (remember the Deployments versus Missions post?). Conducting exercises with countries whose 'navy' consists of a few coast guard vessels accomplishes nothing (I've posted about training with allies). Our so-called Freedom of Navigation exercises certainly haven't slowed China's annexation of the South China Sea. We actually had a carrier group conduct fishery enforcement, once. I can go on all night listing the completely worthless things we do.

      Why are we doing them if they're worthless? Because that's how the Navy has always operated (deployments - whether productive or not) and this is just more poor decision making by the Navy. You don't want me to list the endless list of poor Navy decisions, do you?

      To answer your question … we shouldn't be doing those things. Instead, we should be training and maintaining.

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  23. Minor necro,

    I really don't see the Chinese conducting an amphibious assault of Taiwan. It would be too costly given the few landing areas, the fact that Taiwan is still heavily fortified , and simply that the Taiwanese would be cornered, and would fight like hell.

    I see China doing an air and naval blockade of Taiwan to force them to surrender through deprivation not an "frontal assault". Using missiles and planes to bombard Taiwan in a siege, and to cut off any supplies and "reinforcements" using long range cruise missiles and also their submarine force. They would blockade and simply wait out the Taiwanese to "starve" and surrender. and any US? forces that go anywhere near Taiwan during such an incident are at risk from attack from long range air and land SSM's, naval forces- missile and subs, which are all operating from or near well supplied mainland bases.

    Regards, just some thoughts as to the kind of operations you talking about all are too costly for both sides, for different reasons, IMO

    The Chinese have the advantage of position already, they can seige the island of Formosa fairly easily and cheaply, with no need to risk losing an "invasion" and a lot of elite forces and the subsequent morale problems that may start among the populace.

    Chinese play the long game , always have. They don't strike unless they have overwhelming force with a good chance to win.
    They wait on their enemies just to "dissolve" or quit fighting, such is the advantage of China's size, population, and a civilization that has remained for a long time, outlasting their enemies.

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    1. A nice comment and reasonable, from our perspective. But, is it reasonable from the Chinese perspective. Yes, they take the long view and a blockade would be just their style, however, that also invites the US to jump in. In contrast, a lightning assault (if they could pull it off) with major combat done in a couple of weeks wouldn't allow the US time to muster sufficient forces even if we wanted to. The US would have a much harder time committing to re-seizing an occupied Taiwan than to reinforcing an actively resisting Taiwan.

      A blockade would also turn world opinion emphatically against China, not that they care all that much about world opinion but it might result in some Chinese allies opting to remain neutral and might encourage the formation of an allied coalition against China. In particular, Russia might be swayed to suspend oil delivery through the Siberian pipelines due to the optics of the scenario.

      A blockade fixes Chinese forces to a fairly defined location whereas US forces would have freedom to attack from any direction and at dispersed locations. A blockade thus would give the US a strategic and operational advantage, though not a major one.

      A blockade also runs the very real risk of provoking the nearby Japanese into responding (presumably, along with the US). Japan represents a major threat due to their geographic location, the strategic importance of their location and bases, and the size of their military. Japan would also represent a second front of sorts for the Chinese to have to fight and dilute their forces. The combination of Taiwan resistance, Japan, and the US would be a very challenging operational problem for China.

      So, with all those additional thoughts about the ramifications of a blockade strategy by China, are you still comfortable with your view of how China would deal with Taiwan? If so, how do you (representing the Chinese view in your scenario) account for, and deal with, the various challenges?

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