Thursday, May 28, 2020


The key to understanding this post is grasping and accepting that the engagement window for a ship to defend against attacking missiles will allow just 4 shots per target (see, “Engagement Range”).  Most of us have grown up seeing WWII videos of ship anti-aircraft gunners pouring thousands of rounds into the air as the enemy planes slowly approach and then enter their terminal dives and weapon releases.  Each target engagement can last for several minutes.  This is no longer the case.

While I view history as timeless in its lessons, irrespective of technological advances, this is an example where technology has altered the details, if not the fundamental concept.

Each target engagement will last 4 shots.  It doesn’t matter how many missiles you have in your magazine, you’ll only get 4 shots per target.  If you don’t understand this, there’s no point reading the rest of the post.  This is not an opinion on my part, this is simple and pure physics.

With that out of the way …

One of the problems that has become obvious over the course of many posts and comments is that most people do not understand the concept of escort vessels.  Really?  What could be more simple, you say?  You assign a couple of Burkes to provide anti-air (AAW) protection and, of course, being multi-function, they have the added benefit of being able to provide anti-submarine (ASW) protection, as well !  Well, there’s a little more to it than that.  In fact, there’s a lot more to it than that!

Unfortunately, far too many observers/commenters believe that around 2-4 escorts is sufficient for a high value target (HVU) like a carrier, convoy, or amphibious group because that’s all they’ve ever seen the Navy operate.  The more extreme observers might call for 6-8 escorts.  However, even this is woefully insufficient and now we’re going to see why and we’re going to correct this misconception.

As always, let’s begin with a review of history.

Historical Escorts

We forget just how many escorts a WWII carrier task force required.  Admiral Marc Mitscher described the escort requirements of a carrier task force in the following statement from Wikipedia.

Said Mitscher: “The ideal composition of a fast-carrier task force is four carriers, six to eight support vessels and not less than 18 destroyers, preferably 24. More than four carriers in a task group cannot be advantageously used due to the amount of air room required. Less than four carriers requires an uneconomical use of support ships and screening vessels.” (1)

The support vessels were cruisers and battleships.  Combined with 18-24 destroyers, the total escort requirement was 24-32 ships – a quantity that seems shocking to us, today, because we’ve forgotten the requirements of combat.

Having reminded ourselves of the historical precedents, let’s conduct an analytical examination of today’s requirements.  Escorts are needed to perform two basic functions:  anti-air protection and anti-submarine protection.  Additional functions such as electronic warfare and anti-surface protection are also required but can generally be performed by the AAW or ASW vessels.

Anti-Air (AAW) Escorts

There are several aspects to consider when discussing AAW escorts.

Threat Axis.  Unless you have absolute knowledge about the enemy’s attack plans – and you never do – the threat axis is unknown.  Yes, you may well have a general idea of what direction an attack will come from but a ‘general idea’ is far from certain. 

In WWII, the identification of the threat axis was a bit more obvious.  While aircraft could, and did, attempt to circle around and try to approach from alternate or several angles, their ability to do so was limited by their range.  Attacking aircraft were generally near their maximum range by the time they reached the target and began their terminal attack runs so they rarely had the fuel required to perform wide swings around their targets to approach from unexpected directions.  Additionally, wide swings provided more time for the defensive aircraft and AAA to attrite the strike so the strikes generally made fairly straight approaches with just some terminal maneuvering, especially for torpedo attacks.

Today, cruise missiles with thousand mile ranges can use waypoints to approach from any angle.  Therefore, every axis is a potential threat axis although more direct axes still have a somewhat higher likelihood of attack.

So, to cover ever axis requires that the escorts be arranged evenly in a circle around the high value unit they’re escorting.  This, alone, would suggest the need for at least a dozen or more escorts.

Effective Engagement Range.  We’ve previously discussed that the most likely AAW engagement scenario involves sea skimming aircraft or missiles that are detected at the radar horizon (call it 20 miles, optimistically) (again, see, “Engagement Range”) and that engagements will involve short/medium range ESSM missiles with very brief engagement windows.  Two salvos of two missiles each would be a fortunate engagement.  That being the case, those marvelous ships with a thousand VLS cells are pointless, as we’ve pointed out in the past.  Each ship, regardless of how many VLS cells it has, is likely to only get off four defensive missile shots per engagement.  That being the case, it is obvious that the only way to get more missiles into the engagement is to have more ships since more VLS cells per ship doesn’t help.  This, again, suggests the need for as many AAW escort ships as possible.  Thus, one would like to have 2-4 ships along every threat axis.  The arithmetic on this quickly leads to very large escort numbers.

Probability of Kill (pK).  It’s necessary to consider the defensive pK against attacking missiles when trying to determine the required number of escorts.  For example, if the pK is very high, you only need a few escorts because you only need a few defensive missiles but if the pK is very low then you need lots of escorts to make up for the individually low pK (recalling that each ship will only get a very few shots per engagement). 

So, what is the pK?  Well, that depends in great measure on the geometry of the intercept.  If the attacking missile is coming straight at you, then the geometry is simple, your defensive missile is not required to maneuver, and the pK is high.  At the opposite extreme, if the missile is going past you (nominally, a 90 degree off-axis defensive shot), aimed at some other ship/target then the pK is going to be very low because off-axis shots require a great deal of maneuvering by the defensive missile.

The reality is that modern attacking missiles, even one coming straight at you, enter into wild, violent, evasive maneuvers in the terminal attack phase precisely to make the defensive shot a somewhat off-axis shot and, thus, a lower pK.

There is very little data available on actual naval defensive missile engagements and what there is, is not encouraging.  Historically, the pK of defensive missiles, even against direct attacks, is 5%-25% (see, “AAW”). 

It’s readily apparent, then, that if the escort is not the main target, which it usually isn’t, the defensive pK will be very low which requires that multiple escorts be placed as nearly on the direct threat axis as possible.  The only way to ensure direct threat axis placement is with large numbers of escorts distributed evenly around the escorted target so as to ensure that there are at least some escorts in the direct path of the attacking aircraft/missiles.

Layered Defense.  The best defense is one that begins as far out from the HVU as possible.  Recognizing that the most likely engagement will occur at radar horizon distances (15-20 miles), the only way to push the initial engagement out from the HVU is to create multiple defensive layers of escorts spaced at 15-20 mile intervals out from the escorted high value unit so that the attacking aircraft/missiles have to pass through multiple layers and multiple engagement opportunities in order to get to the HVU. 

We did this in WWII with distant rings of destroyers backed by closer rings of cruisers and, finally, a very close ring of battleships (the WWII equivalent of Aegis).  To get, say, three rings requires a radius of 45-60 miles which means a 90-120 mile diameter defensive sphere around the HVU!  When one contemplates the number of ships required to attain effective engagement density across a 90 mile diameter defensive circle and still cover every threat axis, it becomes instantly apparent that many, many escorts are needed.

Positioning.  Modern aircraft and missiles are far too fast to allow for escort repositioning once an engagement has begun.  Whatever position the escorts are in when an attack begins is the position they’ll have to fight from.  Thus, we must have enough escorts to provide adequate protection from any axis.  Repositioning during an attack is not an option.

Anti-Submarine (ASW) Escorts

If the ASW function resides on ships separate from the AAW function then the escort requirement further increases.

Engagement Range.  Modern subs have torpedoes with ranges of up to 60 miles.  It is vital to detect and engage subs beyond their torpedo range to the HVU.  That means engaging at ranges of 60+ miles.  Given the slow pace of ASW engagements, great standoff distance is also necessary to allow the HVU to continuing advancing while the ASW engagement is being conducted.  If ASW engagement begins at, say, 20 miles, the HVU would have to immediately turn away and begin a high speed run in the opposite direction.  This is counterproductive in getting the HVU to its destination.

Subs also have guided missiles with ranges of a hundred miles or more although this becomes an AAW problem at some point.

Numbers.  WWII demonstrated that the most important factor in successful ASW was numbers of ASW assets.  The Cold War simply reinforced this lesson.  Thus, having a single ASW escort in any engagement is unlikely to produce a positive result.  Successful engagements will require multiple ASW assets.  Now, not all of the numbers need to be ships.  Some/all of the assets can be aircraft but, ultimately, the aircraft require ships to operate from.

Threat Axis.  Unlike the aerial threat, submarine threat axes are much more limited and are primarily centered around the course of the advancing HVU.  Subs that are significantly offset from the course of advance will be unable to achieve a viable intercept position without significantly increasing speed and making their presence known.  Thus, while a few flank and rear ASW escorts are needed, the majority can be concentrated along the forward arc of the direction of travel.

Electronic Warfare (EW) Escort

We should have a few dedicated EW escorts.  Our current ships are limited to small, underpowered SLQ-32 / SEWIP components that are designed to provide self-defense, only.   A dedicated, high powered area defense EW ship is needed that can operate antennae as large as needed and as many as needed along with numerous, high powered transmitters for jamming.  Think of this as the EW version of Aegis.

We use dedicated, large EW aircraft so why not ships?  Compare the size of even aircraft EW equipment to ship EW equipment and it becomes immediately obvious how meager our shipboard EW is.


Another factor in escort number determination is attrition.  Some extra escorts are necessary to allow for possible losses.  Without some extra escorts, the entire group would be forced to retire upon the first loss of an escort.

Escort Concept

Having considered the above requirements, let’s see if we can bring it all together and conceptualize an escort requirement.  We’d like to have multiple defensive rings similar to the following:

Escort Concept
Defensive Ring
Radial Distance, miles
No. of Escorts
engage leakers
main engagement zone
early warning / early engagement
ASW / early warning

a each ship covers a 20 deg sector
b each ship covers a 45 deg sector
c ships spread across 45 deg arc on course of advance

This gives us three engagement zones plus a distant ASW zone using a total of 38 escorts.  Most of you will be stunned at the number but it’s an historically and analytically supported requirement.  We’ve just forgotten how many ships are needed to form a survivable, defensible group. 

Another aspect that leads to larger escort requirements today is the increased range and speed of attacking weapons (aircraft and missiles).  In WWII, aircraft had to basically overfly the target ship to release weapons and their speed of approach was only around two hundred miles per hour which provided extended engagement windows (time) for the defenders.  With today’s weapon’s range and speed and the resulting short engagement windows, the only compensation is to engage further out and with more escorts.

This immediately leads one to wonder why the Navy never exercises with this kind of escort density.  Hey, it’s peacetime – I get it.  There’s no need to provide that level of escort on a routine, peacetime basis.  But, shouldn’t we be exercising this escort concept on a regular basis so that we know how to do it when war comes?  I guarantee you that none of our current admirals or captains have the slightest idea how to manage a wartime escort group, where to place the escorts, what tactics to use, or how to maneuver a large, spread out group. 

Consider the ASW escort challenge …  What will the rest of the group do if a submarine is detected?  Keep going?  Turn away?  How many escorts should engage?  Can we afford to detach escorts for prosecution of the target?  How do we compensate if we detach escorts?  This is the tactical level of control that none of our naval officers have any grasp of and never will since we don’t practice it.  We’re going to wind up learning the hard way when war comes and the price of that learning will be sunk ships and lost crews all because the Navy refuses to conduct serious combat exercises now, during peacetime.

Note that the above only applies to a single HVU or a closely clustered group of HVUs.  For a wartime group of 4 carriers, the carriers themselves will be separated by 5-10 miles so the size of the defensive rings and the number of escorts would have to be adjusted accordingly – something we should be learning about in exercises but aren’t.

We also have to make adjustments for reality.  While we might like to have thirty or fifty or hundred escorts, if we only have, say, 15 available then we have to modify our thinking.  Part of that modification might be to cancel missions that have inadequate escort availability.  Alternatively, we might have to sail with lesser numbers of escorts.  How do we adjust?  Where do we place our limited escorts?  How does inadequate numbers affect our tactical usage of the escorts?  These are the types of scenarios we should be exercising and learning, now, during peacetime, instead of wasting our time on useless deployments to show the flag or chase pirates in skiffs.  We are wasting this valuable peacetime.

Fletcher Class Destroyer
Finally, let’s compare our potential existing escort strength to the conceptual needs we’ve just described.  We have around 80 Burkes/Ticos so we can fill out two task forces – and that’s before we’ve lost any ships to combat.  Are two task forces enough to conduct a peer war?  I don’t think so.  Compare that to WWII when we built 175 Fletcher class destroyers, alone, and many dozens of cruisers and battleships.  Of course, we also had hundreds of older destroyers and destroyer escorts and, as the war went on, another hundred or so of newer Sumner/Gearing class destroyers.  We’re not even close to that level, currently, nor should we be.  We didn’t have all those ships when WWII started.  We built them rapidly as the war progressed.  The problem is that we no longer have the ability to rapidly build up ship numbers.  We lack the shipyards, the work force, and, worse, our designs have become so complex that it requires years to build a single Burke class destroyer.  We absolutely need to revisit our entire warship design philosophy with an eye towards simplifying it for rapid mass production.

All right, there you have it.  You now understand the role of escort ships and you have some idea of how many are needed and how they should be used.  For the Navy, it’s now time to start exercising these concepts and finding out what works and what changes need to be made.  We also need to start developing combat commanders who have actual command experience with large escort groups.  Peacetime is a precious commodity – it’s the time to prepare for war and we’re squandering it with worthless deployments, pirate chases, and flag waving.


(1)Wikipedia, “Fast Carrier Task Force”, retrieved 4-May-2020,


  1. Excellent breakdown!! The gap between "what we do" and "should be doing" is fairly horrifying when you look at it. Frankly the recent CVBG composition is insanely lacking. And while we've seen all those 2-3 escort photo ops recently, where the Navy describes it in glowing terms, I see it as fairly dangerous and embarrassing. Those pics show nothing but immense weakness and a true lack of capability and dedication to preparing for combat....

    1. Train like you fight, fight like you train. So why are we training for 2-3 escorts? Does the Navy really plan to fight that way? Or, do they think they'll just learn on the fly during combat - a recipe for disaster?

  2. "We’ve just forgotten how many ships are needed to form a survivable, defensible group."

    Absolutely true, and it's not just that.
    Generally speaking, USN and most of the US military has forgotten what war, actual war is.
    (Hint: Shooting at Third World heathens using pickup trucks in place of tanks is not war.)

    Thus the obsession with social engineering, ideological indoctrination and the whole circus comes as the lessons of war are forgotten.

    In particular, USN hasn't been in a real naval battle since Ten-Ichi-Go, which was seventy-five years ago, and even that was an extremely one-sided affair.

    It would be bad enough if they were still preparing to fight as in 1945, but even those lessons are not remembered anymore.

    Let's not kid ourselves: one CVN and two escorts isn't a carrier group, it's just a big juicy target with a "Please Sink Us" sign for the Chinese.

    If (when?) actual war comes, multiple defeats will be unavoidable, and then either lots of idiocy goes out of the window fast or China just wins the whole thing.

  3. Does anyone, specifically China for example, train with large groups of escorts?

    1. A good question. I think the answer is no because no one else has large numbers of escort vessels. China could probably assemble a pretty good collection but few other countries have anywhere near the required numbers. The UK's Royal Navy, for example, only has around 18 escort type surface ships in their entire Navy.

      China has been sailing with larger groups (6-8 ships, or so) and is still working on basic seamanship rather than advanced concepts like carrier group escorts.

  4. With the rate of engagement you specify, seems like an attacker would launch waves of missiles at a single sector.
    Seeking to use detonations of defensive missiles as cover for succeeding waves. Napoleonic French column assault of ASMs against the the thin Grey Line.

    1. I've discussed this extensively. It is exactly the problem the defender faces and is why you can't simply launch a hundred defensive missiles all at once. The first couple explosions, whether hits or misses, will obscure the radar picture - and, hence, fire control - for all the subsequent defensive missiles until the radar picture clears. This is why the Navy adopted the shoot-shoot-look engagement sequence. They fire off two defensive missiles and then wait to see the results. Given the engagement window, a defending ship will be fortunate to get two shoot-shoot-look cycles before the engagement is over.

      Now, note that the attacker faces the same problem from the other side. Attacking missiles will lose their fix on their target until they either fly into clear sky or the radar picture clears. This is what chaff attempts to do - obscure the radar picture.

      "With the rate of engagement you specify,"

      I don't specify it … physics does!

    2. Would the limited number of defensive missiles that the defenders can engage with increase the importance of CIWS?

    3. "Would the limited number of defensive missiles that the defenders can engage with increase the importance of CIWS?"

      !!!!!!!!! Winner!!!! Absolutely! You've nailed it! There's going to be a lot more leakers than we think and We need to significantly increase our point defenses. For example, a ship like a Burke should have around 6 CIWS. That not only allows for greater than anticipated numbers of leakers but it also allows for some battle damage - something the Navy makes zero allowance for in its ship designs. If a ship only has one CIWS, what happens when that CIWS gets damaged or destroyed in battle? You need more!

      Great comment and very astute observation. A ComNavOps' salute to you!

  5. I'm afraid that if USN would assemble even HALF that number of escorts to go to war, I bet within the first week, they have a collision...

    If you don't believe CNO numbers and contrast with the state of what USN thinks a task force is, just look at the mighty fleet USN assembled to deter China last week or so, 1 LCS (LOL!) and replenishment ship USNS Cesar Chavez (T-AKE-14). There are more examples of 2 or 3 ships being called Task Forces and media saying USA is really sending a message now! Not sure what is more ridiculous: USN saying we are sending a message or US media parroting that USA is sending a message.

    I worry more about the sub threat than the ASM threat, I figure the Burkes, remaining Ticos and new FFGX should have enough AAW and training to survive, the problem really is the sub threat. One sub sneaking inside your defensive zone and all hell breaks loose: how often do Burke crews really train INDIVIDUALLY and IN TEAMS to deal with subs? With a Burke going down as a the first notice that a sub is near by, that whole escort thing goes out the window without proper SOP and team training.

  6. A related thought that occurs to me is will the US Navy have the required repair capacity to deal with the consequences of the inevitably much higher operating tempo associated with the sorts of escort deployments required for actual warfare. Although there will be major sorties by fleet elements there will also, presumably, be a plethora of additional duties all of which will require considerable time at sea.

    If past wars are any guide the fleet units will be driven much harder than is the case in peacetime with less freedom to avoid foul weather, or maintain economic cruising speeds. All of this will place additional strain on equipment (not to mention personnel), much of which is not new.

    On top of this strain there will inevitably be regular instances of damage to ships, minor or major, with considerable pressure to get the ship back into the fight.

    At the present time the Navy seems to be struggling to adequately meet inherently predictable peacetime repair and refit requirements. If 5-10% of the deployed force (totally wild but perhaps not unreasonable guess) is suffering minor to major combat damage every six months how will they cope, let alone met the requirements for escorts at the level you suggest?

    1. "the consequences of the inevitably much higher operating tempo associated with the sorts of escort deployments required for actual warfare."

      You raise an excellent point. Many of the WWII ship classes served for the duration of the war and then were retired. As you note, maintenance was allowed to slip but it wasn't a major problem since the ships would be retired on cessation of hostilities. Will we mass retire our Burkes after a war? They likely won't be fit for much more duty.

      "At the present time the Navy seems to be struggling to adequately meet inherently predictable peacetime repair and refit requirements."

      Great observation!

  7. More than a handful of shipbuilders are needed to build at the rate that would be needed. Our current Naval ship building industry couldn't produce near the number of ships needed. Just look at the Fletcher class and how many companies built them.

    Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, Kearny, New Jersey

    Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine

    Boston Navy Yard

    Charleston Navy Yard

    Consolidated Steel Corporation, Orange, Texas

    Gulf Shipbuilding Corporation, Chickasaw, Alabama

    Bethlehem Steel Corporation, Staten Island, New York

    Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, San Francisco, California

    Bethlehem Steel Company, San Pedro, California, Terminal Island

    Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Corporation, Seattle, Washington

    Puget Sound Naval Shipyard

    Additionally, an easy to build, effective ship design is needed. Multiple shipyards need to be qualified to build the escorts that would be needed in a peer war. We cannot wait for years for ships to be built and more years to be accepted into use.

  8. In ground combat, there is the concept of overlapping fields of fire, where in a defensive line for example, your sector of responsibility overlaps the man on your left and right so you can engage a target in case the other guy can't. Wouldn't that concept apply here as well?

    1. Of course. That's exactly what I was describing.

  9. Why don't we just pull the retired Spruance class destroyers out of the reserve fleet to build up the escort groups?

    Sorry, couldn't resist...

    1. Brings an all new meaning to the expression Ghost Fleet

    2. Even if they hadn't been sunk/scrapped already it would be 15-20 years since decommissioning would they actually be usable? Missiles and radars don't age as well as guns.

  10. To callback another post of yours: the twin arm launcher has a theoretically slower engagement time when it's pointed in the wrong direction or masked by the vessel's own superstructure. An escort working as part of the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th engagement ring has no such limitations!

    The hypothetical AAW escort looks a lot more like an Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate (I wonder why) in that way: twin arm launcher and backup Rolling Airframe Missile launchers (plural) for fastest engagement speed against incoming. It needn't have a hangar (saving weight, length, and personnel) and needn't worry much about acoustic stealth. Really, that ship needn't be overly expensive.

    Burkes, with their all aspect capability, are probably the best bet for the inner ring but that probably requires a SAM with lock on after launch capability (fighters have it!) to be truly effective.

  11. I have a basic question.

    How does the task force identify an incoming missile if they are practicing emission control?

    1. The age-old question! Active or passive?

      The short answer is that if you have an incoming missile, there's no need for EMCON because the enemy has already found you!

      The longer answer is that there are many ways to detect missiles: EO, IR, signals intercept, RWR, radar, etc. Only one of those is active. So, you choose your sensor according to the situation. Of course, the passive sensors are not as 'infallible' as radar so you run a risk of an odd missile getting through undetected or detected late.

      Active or passive? It's a game that you play with the enemy and with probabilities and the choice is determined by the situation.

    2. Funny...EMCON.... I was aboard the USS Wasp (LHD 1) when we "attempted" to lock down emmissions. Major failure. Every Sailor owns a cell phone and carries them every where they are allowed, even while in the middle of the Atlantic. We attempted it for over a week and failed miserably. It got to the point the CO was ready to collect all cell phones in the hangar bay.

    3. "failed miserably"

      That's the Navy - prepared for war!

      Worse than cell phones is that fact that the Navy stopped requiring that component electronics be capable of EMCON. For example, the giant electromagnetic beacon that is the EMALS has no EMCON mode. It's a giant blinking sign saying, 'here I am!'. It's probably safe to say that the new elevators, which operate on the same principle as the EMALS, are not electromagnetically shielded. And so on.

      I would be stunned if any Navy ship is capable of EMCON today.

    4. That cell phone situation actually is quite concerning to me.

      Why do the sailors have possession of their cell phones during a deployment?
      Probably because, as CNO has highlighted, their deployments are purposeless, consisting of sailing around in the ocean.

      But the use of the cell phones, which endanger EMCON, is a matter of basic discipline.
      They should not have access to cell phones. All communications outside of the ship should be through some kind of controlled navy media.

    5. "attempted it for over a week and failed miserably."

      Just out of curiosity, how did you self-monitor your emissions to know whether succeeded or failed?

  12. Infra red search and track if you're equipped for it (USN) is not. Passive detection of the missile's radar emitter if it's on. Mark I eyeball (it's been done in the Falklands though without much success).

    Given that Russian and Chinese missiles use active radar homing, detecting the missile's radar with SLQ is your best bet. At that point it's probably very close and will be dealt with through chaff and point defense...

  13. Sorry I may be a bit dumb here but I don't understand why a single escort only has 4 shots while N escorts have N x 4 shots, if the factor that limits one escort to 4 shots applies once, why doesn't it apply to the group ?

    1. Well asked! You're delving into a sticky area that I could write a book on.

      The limitation is a combination of speed of approach of the incoming missile, radar clutter, engagement angles, etc. A single ship gets two shoot-shoot-look opportunities. Multiple ships can each get that same opportunity. HOWEVER, once things start exploding, EVERYONE'S radar picture gets messed up. What you hope is that with multiple ships, one or more will have a 'shootable' solution even if another one doesn't. Also, two ships will be able to 'crossfire' against the incoming missile, hopefully increasing the defensive odds.

      As I said, I could write a book about all the factors that go into this and this is exactly why the Navy needs to be live-fire exercising this - to see exactly what arrangement of escorts produces the best result.

  14. So the ideal carrier force is a fleet of four carriers surrounded by three dozen escorts that require support from several cargo ships. Then people write "How will an enemy find the carriers?" to target them with subs and mass antiship cruise missile attacks. With so many ships in one area, aircraft need only fire into a 100 square mile box and missiles are sure to find something, especially the newer smart ones that can fly search patterns.

    1. Come on now. Study a map and grasp the size of the potential combat area. Let's limit to, say, just the area immediately outside the first island chain bordering the South China Sea. Depending on where you want to measure from, the area is 2000 miles N/S axis by, say, 500 miles east which gives an operational area of 1 million sq.mi. Somewhere in that area are 4 carriers at the corners of, say, a 5 mile box. So, sure, if the enemy has an infinite supply of missiles to blindly shoot into a 1 million mile search area then, yes, they'd find the group. Of course, each missile costs around $1M-$2M so you'd bankrupt your war effort in your blind search.

      Then there's the problem that a single missile can't penetrate a carrier group. You'd need saturation levels of hundreds of missiles. So, unless you've, again, got an infinite supply of missiles so that you can launch saturation levels of missiles into every square mile of ocean, you'd accomplish nothing.

      Seriously, think this through!

  15. A few thoughts.
    1. I feel like inner spacing needs to potentially account for a nuclear strike.
    2. The missile dilemma and need for better EW seems to back the notion of a laser equipped escort with a lot of electricity potential for the lasers and electronic warfare. Keep the radar on board and then the missile launchers are many remote ships.

    1. The nuclear issue is a moot point. The use of nuclear weapons will trigger nuclear retaliation and all out nuclear war. Therefore, China is not going to use nukes against our ships. The downside is far too severe.

      If and when we ever develop a laser capable of instantaneously destroying an attacking missile we can revisit the entire escort topic.

      "Keep the radar on board and then the missile launchers are many remote ships."

      This is tactically unwise. One of the major problems with defensive missile engagements is the radar clutter problem. The best solution to that (barring better radars that are purpose designed to operate in clutter) is to have multiple radars each looking at the target area from different perspectives and angles. The hope would be that at least one of the several radars would have a clear enough picture to continue the engagement. Concentrating all the radar functionality onto a single ship eliminates any possibility of different viewing angles and exposes the entire group's defensive capability to neutralization if the radar carrying ship is destroyed (or if the radar suffers a simple breakdown, as electronics are prone to do).

  16. There is so much packed into that discussion that it will take several responses to work through it all, particularly with a 4000 character limit.

    One thing that is very obvious to me. The Navy is simply pricing itself out of existence because it is not considering opportunity costs. The 355-ship goal includes 12 CVNs (Fords), 104 major surface combatants (looks like 22 cruisers and 82 destroyers) and 52 minor surface combatants (these were apparently supposed to be the LCSs but now look like a mix of LCSs and the new FFG(X)s). That's 156 potential escorts, or 134 if we consider the cruisers part of the main body. Looking at ComNavOps's proposed screening concept, at 38 ships apiece, that's 4 TFs that we can screen at one time, or 3 if you exclude cruisers from the screen mix. With 12 carriers, at 4 per TF, that's only 3 TFs anyway, assuming all of them are up and running. Are we really ready to fight a major war with only 3 carrier TFs, or probably more likely 2?

    That proposed 355-ship Navy is projected by CBO to cost $865 billion to raise over a 30-year period, or roughly $29 billion per year. The Navy has never had new construction funding even remotely approaching that number. But here's where they need to look at tradeoffs. For each Ford (CBO cost $13B, probably closer to $15B when all is done), you could build another Nimitz ($9B) and have $6B left over to fund another carrier (say a Kitty Hawk at $6B) or escorts, either 2 cruisers ($3B each), 3 Burkes ($2B each), 5 mini-Burkes ($1.2B each) or 10 ASW frigates ($0.6B each), or some combination. So which would you rather have for $15B, a) 1 Ford with no escorts or b)1 Nimitz with a 1 Burke, 2 mini-Burkes, and 3 ASW frigates? Or to go another way, a) 1 Ford or b) 1 Nimitz and 1 Kitty Hawk? Or, perhaps more realistically, for $30B would you rather have a) 2 Fords with no escorts, or b) 1 Nimitz, 1 Kitty Hawk, 1 cruiser, 3 Burkes, 3 mini-Burkes, and 5 ASW frigates? I'm going b) all the way.

    The Navy doesn't think that way. Watch the video that was referenced in another thread, with CAPT Tal Manvel discussing the origin of the Fords, and it is clear that the design team made the decision in a vacuum, not considering any cost tradeoffs. It was just they thought that was the best ship, so that's what they bought, with no regard for the impact of its cost on what other fleet assets could be put with it. Whether they are right about its being the best ship is up for debate at this point. But what is clear is that they sacrificed a lot of surface capability to build it, and nobody seems to care about that opportunity cost.

    If the Navy keeps going the way it is headed, we could eventually be down to 1 Ford, 1 Zumwalt, 1 Burke, 1 LCS, 1 LHA/LHD, 1 SSBN, and 1 SSN. That's over $40B right there, in today's costs, and if we keep going that way, that will ultimately be where we end up

    1. "There is so much packed into that discussion that it will take several responses to work through it all, particularly with a 4000 character limit."

      Well, alternatively, let me know if you've got a post-worthy topic. You've got my email.

    2. Thanks, ComNavOps. For right now I'll just break mine up into bite-sized pieces and respond to your topics.

      As you can probably tell, my economist and CPA background kick in a lot and get me very interested in how much the Navy can get for what cost, and what is the best tradeoff of cost vs. benefit and opportunity costs.

    3. CDR Chip's post is eye-opening.

      Piggy-backing on that idea somewhat in regards to allocation of funds...

      We have a navy that is built around aircraft carriers.
      The first layer of escort protection should really be the carrier aircraft, yet we don't have a replacement for the F-14's role.

      The F-22 looks like it could fill that role perfectly, but the navy doesn't have their own version of that aircraft.

      If the navy isn't going to have the aircraft to perform the missions, then what is the point of having a $15 billion aircraft carrier?

      CNO's point that we are squandering this peacetime is true, and along with that we are squandering the vast amounts of money that the people of the United States are allocating to the navy under the assumption that those funds are being used wisely.

    4. "For right now I'll just break mine up into bite-sized pieces "

      Fair enough!

    5. "The 355-ship goal"

      Of course, NO ONE gives that any chance of happening, at least not without counting worthless unmanned vessels and LCSes! So, your theoretical numbers are fine but will never be achieved.

    6. "The first layer of escort protection should really be the carrier aircraft,"

      This post was only about ship escorts but your statement is absolutely correct - IF the HVU is carriers. Bear in mind that we also have to escort amphibious ships, convoys, surface groups, etc. using suitably scaled escort groups.

      Returning to your aircraft observation, the most important aircraft in the air wing is the E-2 Hawkeye. The problem is that it is mostly an active sensor. We desperately need a passive version of the Hawkeye to complement (not replace!) the radar version. After that, yes, we need an F-14-ish aircraft and, yes, the navalized F-22 would have been a decent starting point.

      Very good comment!

    7. "Of course, NO ONE gives that any chance of happening, at least not without counting worthless unmanned vessels and LCSes! So, your theoretical numbers are fine but will never be achieved."

      Of course. If that costs $865B over 30 years, or $29B a year, and the most that has ever even been proposed for Navy ship acquisition is around $21B a year, there's no way we get there.

      But if instead of 2 Fords for $30B, we build a Nimitz for $9B, a Kitty Hawk for $6B, a Ticonderoga replacement cruiser for $3B, 2 Burke AAW destroyers for $4B, 4 mini-Burke GP escorts for $4.8B, and 6 ASW frigates for $3.6B, we can get pretty close to there. That's 15 ships for $30B. 300 ships at that rate would be $600B, or $20B a year for 30 years, and that is probably doable. Add in that overall fleet will include a bunch of amphibs and auxiliaries that will bring the cost per ship down a bunch, and so you could go to 400+ total ships. And that's real ships, not LCSs or unmanned vehicles.

      I ran a model where you could get the average cost per ship down to about $1.5B by going with the high/low mix. At that price, $600B, of $20B a year for 30 years, builds you 400 ships. Add that to the legacy ships included in the Navy's 355 and that is a fleet of 450 by 2050. Running that out to 40 years, assume the 50 legacy ships are retired, you will build another 133, so the fleet could be 533 by 2060.

      I'd use a 40 year life as a target and break that down into 10-year cycles. Each decade you spend 1 year in major maintenance (shipyard/dry dock) with skeleton crew, 3 years in reserve status with 1/2 regular and 1/2 reserve crew, 3 years in local ops status with full crew, and 3 years deployed/deployable with blue and gold crews. Ships would spend year 10 in yard/dry dock, then back to back years 20 and 21 to permit FRAM type upgrades (but no touch-screen steering), and then year 31. Overall, employment would be:

      Yard/Drydock - years 10, 20-21, and 31
      Reserve - years 1-3,11-13, 22-24, and 32-34
      Home/local - years 4-6, 14-16, 25-27, and 35-37
      Deployed/deployable - years 7-10, 17-20, 28-30, and 38-40

      So at any given time 10% (45) of your ships are in shipyard/dry dock, 30% (135) are in reserve status, 30% (135) are in home fleet local ops, and 30% (135) are deployed/deployable. The home fleet ships would be able to surge within 30 days, and the reserve ships would be able to surge within 90 days. You'd have 3-1/2 crews per 3 ships, with the manning to be made up by reducing the number of people in admin/overhead jobs and transferring them to combat/combat support positions.

      CBO's force structure study (1) showed the Navy (including Marine Corps) with 210,000 active duty personnel in combat units, 93,000 in combat support, and 202,000 in admin/overhead activities, for 505,000 total active duty personnel, about 325,000 Navy and 180,000 Marines. Cut the admin/overhead in half, and put 1/3 of them in combat, 1/6 in combat support, and 1/2 to reduce active headcount to 455,000. You'd end up with about 34,000 more combat and 17,000 more combat support, between Navy and Marine Corps. The Navy share is about 20-24,000 more combat and 10-12,000 more combat support. That's where you get your extra sailors.

      CBO also showed 34,000 in reserve combat slots, 25,000 in reserve combat support slots, and 38,000 in reserve admin/overhead slots, total 97,000, for end strength of 602,000. You could double those reserve numbers to a total of 194,000, for a total end strength of 649,000. And since you pay reservists for 60 days a year, a reservist costs about 1/6 what an active duty sailor costs, meaning that overall you would save money with this approach.


  17. It seems like the missile escort to defend their portion of the screen needs to be more shoot the missile and less shoot the shooter. ESSM capable and less SM-2/6. SOmething in the range of the Korean FFX-II, III, or the Thai frigate. 290 - 455 mil, likely the latter the way our procurement works if lucky. That is still 2 for the price of 1 vs what FFGX is likely to land at.

    1. Those Korean Daegu's look like great inexpensive escorts! I don't understand how they make such capable ships for so little cost. Is it their existing ship-building base (the fixed costs are already paid), accounting games, or a bit of both?

    2. " screen needs to be more shoot the missile and less shoot the shooter. ESSM capable and less SM-2/6."

      I think I understand what you're saying. Correct me if I'm wrong but I think you're saying that the escorts need to be more short/med range ESSM rather than long range SM-x. If so, I agree completely and have posted on the need for exactly that.

      Of course, if the opportunity presents itself, shooting the archer is always preferable to shooting the arrows.

    3. "how they make such capable ships for so little cost."

      Every time I've looked at costs from another country, they're invariably artificially altered by heavy subsidies, deferred equipment (equipped for but not with), govt supplied equipment that doesn't show up in the cost, etc. It's almost impossible to compare costs between countries.

      Think about it logically. Regardless of the country, building the same ship requires the exact same amount of steel, electronics, etc. Globalization ensures that the costs for those items are approximately the same regardless of country. The man-hours of construction labor are the same (for example, it takes the same amount of time to do a weld in Korea as anywhere else). Labor man-hour costs can vary from country to country but not, generally, by huge amounts unless you get into slave labor situations. So, the overall ship costs from country to country have to be in the same ballpark. What varies greatly is, as I said, subsidies, govt equipment, degree of completion, etc.

      Don't get suckered into believing that any country has some magically cheap way of building ships. They don't!

    4. Yep, an ESSM only ship. Seems like if you can do that you can do SM-2 now also, but its about getting capacity for dollar spent.

  18. The new FFG(X) would be decent outside ASW / early warning escorts, but that doesn't take away the need for inexpensive ASW-focused ocean going corvettes. Even if they can't do this job well, they could free up more capable ships to be carrier escorts.

  19. “So, what is the pK? Well, that depends in great measure on the geometry of the intercept. If the attacking missile is coming straight at you, then the geometry is simple, your defensive missile is not required to maneuver, and the pK is high. At the opposite extreme, if the missile is going past you (nominally, a 90 degree off-axis defensive shot), aimed at some other ship/target then the pK is going to be very low because off-axis shots require a great deal of maneuvering by the defensive missile."

    Missiles often use some form of Proportional Navigation Guidance (PNG) for the terminal guidance phase. In PNG, the intercepting missile generates acceleration commands normal to its velocity vector. The acceleration commands are equal to N (a system gain, usually 3-5) times the closing velocity (Vc) times the time rate of change of the line of sight (lambda-dot) between the missile and target. The intercepting missile calculates closing velocity and lambda-dot from either its own radar in active homing or from its radar receivers in the case of semi-active homing where the ship is illuminating the target.

    When lambda-dot is zero, the intercepting missile isn't required to maneuver. But, in practice, most all target missiles maneuver somewhat during an intercept due to preprogrammed maneuvers during its terminal guidance phase, small errors in its guidance system, and even strong winds can alter a target’s flightpath. Some anti-ship missiles accelerate as they approach a target. Some anti-ship missiles, after flying low, pop up and strike at some angle.

    But, in a direct, head-on intercept, the closing velocity is at its maximum and the target presents the smallest radar signature to the missile, this makes for a more difficult intercept as even small changes in lambda-dot can cause acceleration commands in excess of what the missile can generate. Attacking an incoming missile (or aircraft) at an angle reduces the closing velocity and increases the target's radar return to the interceptor.

    However, in any missile engagement, the interceptor is launched towards the predicted intercept point, either guiding itself or directed by the firing ship. This is similar to a sniper leading a moving target or a WW2 torpedo attack. Some missiles have the ability to receive inflight updates on the target's position and speed. Terminal guidance takes over as the interceptor nears the target. Even if the missile is going past you towards another ship, the missile would be launched towards an intercept point ahead of the target. Worst case, the interceptor is chasing the target from behind, in which case, it might be possible for the target to outrun the interceptor. The SR-71 is said to have outrun more than one enemy SAM.

    For ships, the concept of Constant Bearing, Decreasing Range, where the bearing angle between two ships is constant, but the range between them decreases over time, is the two-dimensional version of proportional navigation guidance which results in a collision when the range decreases to zero.

    A great reference on the subject is Paul Zarchan's Tactical and Strategic Missile Guidance. It’s a classic text on the subject.

    1. That's fascinating. It truly is. Having done a great deal of programming in my life, the programming involved in guidance is quite interesting. Of course, it's also irrelevant for this post discussion. In theory, no missile should ever miss its target and yet, in practice, very few missiles actually hit their target. In practice, a straight on shot has the highest pK and a passing shot the lowest. From the limited data sets of actual surface to air missile combat, the straight on shot has a maximum pK of 25% or so while a passing shot has a pK approaching zero. Hughes presented all the world's known data, if you're interested.

      As far as terminal maneuvers by attacking missiles, all modern missiles are programmed to engage in violent maneuvers specifically to avoid presenting the defender with a straight on shot. This will have the effect of further lowering the already poor pKs as those data were generated from older engagements involving older, generally non-maneuvering attacking missiles.

      The British experience in the Falklands presents an interesting set of data. The conditions should have been the closet thing to a simple shooting gallery that modern combat can have and yet the observed pKs were a maximum of around 25%.

      The British lesson also made clear the folly of believing manufacturer's claims. The Brits found that some SAM weapons had severe limitations that were either unknown or unappreciated.

    2. "The British lesson also made clear the folly of believing manufacturer's claims. The Brits found that some SAM weapons had severe limitations that were either unknown or unappreciated."

      And because the Brits had sold Argentina a couple of Type 42 AAW destroyers, the Argies had the chance to find our first hand exactly what some of those weaknesses were, and how to take advantage.

    3. As I understand it, Argentinian understanding of Sea Dart's strengths forced them into lower level bombing, which in turn reduced significantly the technical advantages the Mirage and Dagger should have had over the Sea Harrier. Instead the Harrier was typically able to engage from above with a superior missile system and with the Mirage's speed advantages largely nullified.

      It also seems that the switch to low level bombing caused logistical issues with the Argentinians failing to get the right fuzing on their bombs, which meant a number of ships limped home with unexploded bombs.

      Paradoxically, maybe it was the Argentinians who shouldn't have believed the manufacturer claims, and been more willing to mix it with Sea Dart at high level, than cede height and position advantages to the Sea Harriers...

    4. "Paradoxically, maybe it was the Argentinians who shouldn't have believed the manufacturer claims, and been more willing to mix it with Sea Dart at high level, than cede height and position advantages to the Sea Harriers..."

      A fascinating and possibly quite astute observation. It's always better to play to your own strengths.

      This also emphasizes the need for peacetime training. The Argentines fully understood the Sea Dart capabilities. Since they had opted to attempt low level attacks, they should have practiced them and should have been aware of the low level bomb fusing issue. They failed to train as they would fight and they paid the price although they still had some success.

    5. You got me! Lo and behold, we still fire multiple missiles against a single target to ensure a kill. But, a head-on missile on missile engagement is difficult to achieve. But, if you have data to prove otherwise, I certainly would like to see that.

      On the effectiveness of SAMs used by the British used during the Falkland's War, I found the following from Wiki:

      From Wiki on the effectiveness of the Sea Dart missile, “In total at least eighteen missiles were launched by Type 42 destroyers, six by Invincible, and two by Bristol. Out of five missiles fired against helicopters or high flying aircraft, four were successful, but only two of nineteen fired at low level aircraft hit: just eleven per cent; however a number of missiles were fired without guidance to deter low level attacks. Exeter's success can be partially attributed to being equipped with the Type 1022 radar, which was designed for the system and provided greater capability than the old Type 965 fitted to the earlier Type 42s.”

      Exeter (a Type 42 destroyer) shot down three Argentine aircraft (two A-4C Skyhawks and a Learjet 35A; all with Sea Dart missiles. Exeter may also have shot down an Exocet missile.

      So, Sea Dart proved effective against high-flying targets but ineffective against low-flying targets due most of the Type 42's being equipped with the older Type 965 radar. And, firing off an unknown number of missiles to scare off attacking aircraft makes it difficult to calculate an effective pK. For high-flying aircraft, Sea Dart achieved a pK of .8, but given the small number of engagments at high altitudes its not a solid number.

      As for Sea Wolf, according to Wiki, “Sea Wolf suffered from problems with hardware failure causing launches to fail, broken locks from the extreme sea conditions and the Argentines' low-altitude hit-and-run tactics with multiple, crossing targets which it was designed to intercept. Sea Wolf accounted for three confirmed "kills" and two further possibles from eight launches.”

      When it worked, Sea Wolf seemed to work pretty well.

      As for the effectiveness of the Rapier missile, which was initially credited with 14 kills and 6 probable and later revised downward to 4 enemy aircraft downed, has a guidance system that requires manual tracking of the target which can be difficult to do in rough terrain. Plus, the initial version of Rapier lacked a proximity fuse which required the operator to guide the missile onto the target. This might be what you meant about some SAM weapons having "severe limitations that were either unknown or unappreciated."

      I couldn't find the number of missiles fired, but it looks to be a minimum of 20 based in the initial report of 14 killed and 6 probable. Is that where your 25% number comes from?

      I think its folly to compare 40 year-old data to advances in rocket propellants, electronics, and materials made during that time. And, as one would expect, the British incorporated their wartime experience in subsequent upgrades of these missile systems.

      I'm not saying today's Standard Missiles and ESSMs are some kind of Wonder Weapon with a perfect probability of a kill. But, they are much improved compared systems used 30, 40, and 50 years ago. But, we won’t know how effective they are for sure until we use them in combat.

    6. "But, a head-on missile on missile engagement is difficult to achieve."

      It's a given IF YOU'RE THE TARGET! If you're not the target, you've probably got a passing shot to some degree unless you just happen, by dumb luck, to be positioned directly on the attacking missile's path.

      "When it worked, Sea Wolf seemed to work pretty well."

      In games he won, the pitcher was undefeated!

      "I think its folly to compare 40 year-old data to advances in rocket propellants, electronics, and materials made during that time."

      Oh, good grief! This is the age old argument that's been made for every weapon system ever developed! The earliest AAA gun systems performed poorly but then supporters claimed that the advent of proximity fuses and radar control would make successful air attacks a thing of the past. Of course, that turned out to be false.

      Then surface to air missiles with guidance were claimed to be near 100% effective and yet, as we saw in Vietnam, they achieved a 1-5% effectiveness.

      Yes, but the next generation of missiles with more advanced radar and guidance and homing would be the ultimate solution to AAW. Of course, as we saw in the Falklands, that turned out to be false.

      And now, we claim that our newest, most modern, miracles of engineering will, this time, be unbeatable. Except that they won't.

      In addition to the 100% ironclad guarantee of history that today's systems won't perform any better than yesterday's, there's also the fact that for every advance in SAM missile systems there's a corresponding advance in attacking missile systems. So, they cancel. Neither gains any lasing advantage. It's stunning and fascinating to note that since the advent of missiles, the pKs have remained largely unchanged across many decades, dozens of systems, and several country's worth of systems. And yet, despite this, proponents continue to claim that the next system will be the one suddenly is unbeatable.

      "as one would expect, the British incorporated their wartime experience in subsequent upgrades of these missile systems."

      As one would expect, the anti-ship missile manufacturers incorporated wartime experience in subsequent upgrades of their missile systems so … no net change in effectiveness either offensively or defensively.

    7. IMO, I think modern missiles might actually have a lower PK then previous systems, old systems probably were tested more compared to today where we fire a few missiles and they are certified. Patriot was fired 6 times during development, maybe a few war time shots and maybe a few more times since when there's an upgrade, I wouldn't be surprised if one day in not too distant future where DoD will be persuaded that even 6 trial shots is too much! It works great in the simulator so why bother? Save some money!

      I'll have to look up the history of USN missiles and see if I can find number of tests shots for Talos,Terrier,Tartar, Standards,etc...

    8. "Paradoxically, maybe it was the Argentinians who shouldn't have believed the manufacturer claims, and been more willing to mix it with Sea Dart at high level, than cede height and position advantages to the Sea Harriers."

      Which IMO proves that believing the hype about any weapon system is a huge mistake until it has been proved in combat, or at the very least extremely realistic training.

  20. You've gone from "the straight on shot has a maximum pK of 25% or so" to "you've probably got a passing shot to some degree unless you just happen, by dumb luck, to be positioned directly on the attacking missile's path."

    With all due respect, that sounds like two very different statements. The former sounds its based on a report or study, the latter sounds more like an opinion.

    You mentioned that, "Hughes presented all the world's known data, if you're interested." I'm interested. If you have the data or know where it is available, please share.

    1. "sounds like two very different statements."

      ???? They are two different, unrelated statements. If you are the target, the missile has to be coming straight at you (maximum pK), barring any terminal maneuvers. If you are not the target, the missile is going past you to one side or the other unless it just, by chance, happens to directly overfly you on its path to its real target. Depending on the degree of offset from you, the pK will decrease from the max of 25% for a 0 degree offset (straight at you) to near 0% for a 90 degree offset which is a direct side shot.

      Did that explain it better?

      The Hughes data is in his book about fleet tactics. I don't recall the exact title off the top of my head but you should be able to find it with a quick Internet search. Let me know if you can't find it and I'll dig out my copy and get the exact title and ISBN for you.

      Hughes data focused on anti-ship attacks. Beyond that, there are additional pure SAM data which encompasses three main bodies of data:

      1. Vietnam which saw the Soviet systems achieve around 1%-5% SAM success.

      2. Middle East which includes various small actions and some Israeli actions which vary a good deal but are around 10% success.

      3. Falklands which saw around 10%-25% success.

      The cumulative data spans several decades, many systems, and various countries and yet is remarkably consistent, meaning defensives are not very effective. In fact, the most effective defense, according to the historical data, is far and away pure passive defenses with around a 80% success rate.

      The caveat on all of this is that there just isn't much actual data to work with. The Falklands, for example, only generated twenty or thirty launches, if I recall correctly. Still, the cumulative data is compelling.

      My favorite example is the attack on the Israeli Hanit by Hezbollah. Three C80x missiles were launched against a completely unsuspecting, unprepared, and undefended ship. Should have been three hits, right? Actually, only one missile hit and it barely hit when it clipped a railing. So, you see that lower than expected missile performance works both ways. Attacking missiles perform far worse than claimed and defending missiles also work far worse than claimed!

    2. I think I misinterpreted your definition of "target" in my earlier comments. Apologies for that.

      "If you are the target, the missile has to be coming straight at you (maximum pK), barring any terminal maneuvers."


      "If you are not the target, the missile is going past you to one side or the other unless it just, by chance, happens to directly overfly you on its path to its real target."

      Meaning that the incoming enemy missile is approaching another ship (it's real target). Got it.

      "Depending on the degree of offset from you, the pK will decrease from the max of 25% for a 0 degree offset (straight at you) to near 0% for a 90 degree offset which is a direct side shot."

      This is where I disagree, but please hear me out. So long as your defensive missile has sufficient speed, range, manueverability, and can adequately discern the incoming enemy missile, it shouldn't matter whether the incoming enemy missile is coming "straight at you" or crossing in front of you passing along side of you.

      That said, some engagement geometries are easier than others. A head-on engagement is more difficult as the incoming enemy missile presents the smallest cross-sectional area of itself to your defensive missile making it more difficult to see. Plus, the closing velocities are at their maximum which affects what accelerations your defensive missile has to generate as it still has to maneuver to hit the incoming enemy missile.

      Now, in an offset type of engagement, when your defensive missile is approaching enemy missile at some angle, the enemy missile is easier to see as more of it is presented to the defensive missile and the closing velocities are lower.

      Now, if the defensive missile is chasing after the enemy missile, it is possible for the enemy missile to outrun the defensive missile.

      But, in reviewing everything I can find, I haven't anything that supports your statement that, "the pK will decrease from the max of 25% for a 0 degree offset (straight at you) to near 0% for a 90 degree offset which is a direct side shot."

      The data sets you listed (Vietnam, the Middle East, and the Falklands) don't discern engagement geometry. And, these are engagements between a SAM and aircraft. And, aircraft are larger making them a bigger target and fly, for the most part, slower compared to an antiship missile.

      At the same time, historical review of previous missile engagements inherently include defensive measures taken by the targeted aircraft, the skills of the SAM crews, weather, plus a slew of other factors.

    3. Without getting into drawn out discussions, here's the simplest proof. In an air to air engagement, when a pilot detects a missile approaching him (his plane), what is his response? According to you, the proper response is to fly straight at the incoming missile because the head on aspect of the aircraft presents the smallest radar cross section. However, in reality, the standard maneuver is the exact opposite - it is to maneuver to turn the aircraft at right angles to the incoming missile (creating a passing shot) to force the incoming missile into a turning engagement in which the incoming missile has a much lower chance of success.

      That is the simplest proof possible and is the real world. If you choose not to believe me then feel free to do as I've done and analyze every missile encounter and data set you can find and come up with your own conclusion - which, if you do, will be identical to mine. I've already told you where to look for data so that's about all I can do for you.

      There's a lot about escort theory that is debatable but general pK trends isn't one of them.

      "it shouldn't matter whether the incoming enemy missile is coming "straight at you" or crossing in front of you passing along side of you."

      And yet it does matter. Ask any pilot.

    4. I agree with your about your caveat about the amount of data out there. But, its also important understand the data and the effect of any underlining factors, before drawing any conclusions.

      For example, you wrote that "Falklands which saw around 10%-25% success." Taken in total, that is a correct statement. But, Sea Dart proved pretty effective at targets at higher altitudes and with a better radar set. If the other Type 42s had the better radar, Sea Dart's success rate would have been higher, maybe above 50%. Sea Wolf was hampered by problems with it's launch equipment and Rapier lacked a proximity fuse which would have made it more effective.

      What's missing from this discussion is the training and skill of the SAM crews and the ability to present an integrated air defense to your enemy.

      In the Yom Kippur War, Egypt marshalled their air defenses in a tight network to protect their ground forces. Egypt was successful at first at limiting at Israel's ability to provide close air support of its ground troops. At about the same time, Vietnam presented a similar challenge to us and we loss quite a few aircraft trying to suppress their defenses.

      The best example of where training and skill demonstrated itself is probably the downing of an F-117 Nighthawk during the bombing of Yugoslavia. The Nighthawk was downed by an SA-3 Goa missile. In short, the Yugoslavian crew hunted for the Nightnawks and carefully used their equipment so as not to expose themselves. They attacked at close range limiting the Nighthawk to maneuver to avoid the missiles.

      As for the Hezbollah missile attack on the three Israeli corvettes, it certainly pays to be careful and not let your guard down. However, the missile that struck the INS Hanit it did quite a bit of damage. Four crew were killed and the resulting fire damaged the propulsion system. She remained afloat and returned to port for repairs. The missiles, thought to be Chinese made, might explain why only one hit its target.

    5. "important understand the data and the effect of any underlining factors,"

      You say it's important to note underlying factors and then you promptly ignore them in your assessment of Sea Dart Performance. Specifically, of the 7 credited kills for Sea Dart, 4 were, essentially, drones: 2 helos (1 friendly!), 1 Canberra 1950's era bomber, and 1 commercial Learjet apparently adapted for military use. That leaves 3 kills that could be called missile-like.

      Wiki notes 18 launches and 7 kills (4 'drones'). Apparently, there were more than 18 launches as Wiki then states that 19 low level launches achieved just 2 hits.

      Considering the target set, it was pretty poor performance.

      Now, you can, as apologists do, go on and explain away all the failures (poor radar, bad weather, poor training, unhappy crew, cold, sun in their eyes, tired, whatever) and conclude that the missile actually performed brilliantly or you can simply and objectively recognize that it was poor performance as has always been true of every SAM system ever built. All those factors that want to use to explain away failure are guaranteed to be present in the next great system that will turn out to be a failure also. For example, the US Navy Aegis is significantly degraded fleet wide. Some future historian will undoubtedly claim that's why the Navy only achieved a 10% pK in some future combat when the missiles were actually near 100% winners. This is how you blind yourself to reality, as the US Navy does routinely.

      I repeat, the pitcher lost almost every game he pitched but he was undefeated in the games he won so he must be a great pitcher!

    6. "Apparently, there were more than 18 launches as Wiki then states that 19 low level launches achieved just 2 hits."

      You left out an important piece of information that explains the 11% success rate. As Wiki pointed out "a number of missiles were fired without guidance to deter low level attacks."

    7. "In an air to air engagement, when a pilot detects a missile approaching him (his plane), what is his response? According to you, the proper response is to fly straight at the incoming missile because the head on aspect of the aircraft presents the smallest radar cross section."

      No. Look at it from the position of the attacker, not the defender. Would a WWII submarine commander prefer to attack a surface ship head-on (coming right at him) or at some angle? Unless it was unavoidable, the submarine commander would prefer to attack at some angle.

    8. "You left out an important piece of information that explains the 11% success rate."

      No, I just didn't comment on it because there are no numbers presented for it. It's also not clear that the 11% figure includes missiles fired with no guidance. I suspect it does but it does not explicitly state that. Was one missile fired unguided? 2? 3? x? I could just as easily read the Wiki passage to mean that in addition to the 11% figure, some other missiles were fired unguided which are NOT reflected in the 11%. The passage is unclear. Regardless, I don't think either of us believe that the success rate was anything to write home about no matter how you try to spin it.

      Also, to my way of thinking, ANY missile fired contributes to the success/failure rate. To whit, if one of those unguided missiles had happened to hit an enemy aircraft, you and everyone else would be enthusiastically claiming another victory for Sea Dart, right? So, if you're willing to count a potential victory then you have to count a miss, regardless of the reason.

    9. "Would a WWII submarine commander prefer to attack a surface ship head-on"

      You're comparing an unguided torpedo to a radar guided missile?????!!! I'm sorry but you're just plain wrong on this and now you're getting desperate in your attempt to 'win' an argument. I think you're looking to argue for the sake of argument. You're incorrect and this discussion is over. Move on.

  21. "What's missing from this discussion is the training and skill of the SAM crews and the ability to present an integrated air defense to your enemy."

    Which begs the obvious question. How much realistic training do our AAW missile crews get? My guess is next to none, particularly when that word realistic is inserted.

    I don't see how we can expect to operate effectively in combat if we haven't trained on our combat skills.

  22. A modern carrier group normally has one or two submarines. How do submarines fit in your escort structure? A force that large, I would think six would be about right. They would add to your ASW defenses and would be able to scout ahead for enemy ships.

    1. You ask a really great question! Unfortunately, I don't have a really great answer because I don't know, exactly, how subs are used as part of a group. That said, I'll offer my thoughts on how I believe they would/should be used.

      The problem with subs is that you can't communicate with them in any tactically useful time frame. Combine that with their inherent stealth and you have a situation where the friendly escorting sub quickly vanishes from the knowledge of the rest of the group. This means that ANY sub contact the group gets has to be treated as hostile. You can plainly see the problems with misidentification and friendly fire. It's almost a given.

      That said, the only logical way to use a sub as an escort is to have it operate far, far away from the group so as to not be misidentified and not cause unwarranted heartburn for the group. That means that the only logical use for a escort sub is to range far ahead of the group (like days ahead!), clearing the path, and then, ultimately, arriving early to the destination and sanitizing the area.

      Now, how many subs? Again, because of the identification problem, more than one sub is extremely problematic. One sub can assume that anything it detects is an enemy but two subs have to hesitate because it could be their partner. So, I would say either a single sub or, in certain circumstances, two subs if they can be sent to different areas.

      That's my view of sub escorts. If someone has a different view (assuming they account for the comm and identification issues), I really can't argue too much because I just don't know. Take it for what it's worth.

      There's no information about this in the public domain that I'm aware of. They call it the Silent Service for a reason, I guess!

    2. We have to be able to communicate with our subs on a routine basis, otherwise we wouldn't be able to launch our SLBMs on demand or move them around as needed. Plus, I would think a carrier group, or a surface group, would get regular updates as to where the friendly forces, including submarines, are located in there area. Plus, there must be some protocol for ships and subs to identify themselves to each other in order to avoid a friendly fire incident.

    3. Of course we can communicate with subs on a regular basis but not on a tactical basis in the middle of combat.

      Of course we'll know the general location of our subs but put yourself in the place of a ship captain who has detected a sub. You know a friendly sub is in the area but is the contact friendly or enemy? If you attack, you risk friendly fire but if don't you risk being sunk. That's why friendly subs don't operate near friendly surface ships - it inhibits the escorts and puts them all at risk.

      There is no IFF for subs/ships.

      You need to do some reading and come up to speed on sub operations!

    4. I'd imagine in this day and age, our sonars can classify most contacts by ship type and, in some cases, the individual ship itself. But, of course, there will be instances where not much more is known than that something is out there.

      But, with 38 escorts, you could easily field 50+ ASW helicopters. With that, you could easily keep 8-10 in the air at any given time. This would bolster your ASW defenses and protect against a long range torpedo attack.

      How do helicopters factor into you escort model?

    5. "I'd imagine in this day and age, our sonars can classify most contacts by ship type and, in some cases, the individual ship itself."

      Yes and emphatically no. Yes, given lots and lots of time. Emphatically no in a tactical situation.

      People don't understand that sonar is not like a radar contact. You don't get a complete 'picture' of the contact. Instead, you get occasional hints of something that might be submarine noise - or might not. An occasional sound signal that rises slightly above the background noise. You track it and see if it persists, see if it's moving. Eventually, with much tracking and many false targets that come and go, you hope to identify a sound source that is a real sub. You're very unlikely to be able to identify the class or individual sub. You'll be lucky/happy to determine nuke or diesel. If you think you have a real target then you send helos to try to fix and attack - hoping it isn't a friendly sub (that's why you don't use friendly subs as close escorts).

      Generally, ships make initial contacts and helos are used to prosecute.

      Also, helos are problematic for long distance ASW. A helo sortie might be around 3 hrs. If you have to fly, say, 30 minutes out and 30 minutes back, your time on station becomes limited in terms of keeping a constant number of aircraft in the air. That's why the S-3 Viking was so valuable. It's a crime that they were retired with no replacement. Our ASW has really atrophied.

  23. I built my proposed fleet around:

    - 12 carrier strike groups (CSG), with 2 carriers, 1 large and 1 small, 125-130 aircraft minimum, 1 SSGN, 1 AOE.
    - 8 surface action/hunter-killer groups (SAG/HUK) with 1 battleship and 1 helicopter ASW carrier, 1 SSGN, 1 AOE.
    - 10 amphibious squadrons (PhibRon), with 1 LHA/LHD (smaller and cheaper than current LHA/LHD), 1 LPH, 1 LPD/LSD, 1 LST, 1 LKA/LPA, and 1 NGFS/land attack frigate, 1 AO.
    - 20 escort squadrons (CortRon), with 1 cruiser, 2 AAW destroyers, 3 GP escorts, and 4 ASW frigates. One CortRon notionally for each CSG and SAG/HUK.

    Ship types would be:

    - Large Carrier–CVN, Nimitz or RAND CVN-LX, 48 FA-18/F-35, 12 S-3 or replacement (6 ASW, 5 KS-3 tanker, 1 CS-3 COD), 6 EA-18, 5 E-2, 6 MQ-25, 12 helos
    - Small Carrier–CV, minimum RAND CV-LX or CSBA converted LHA/LHD, up to modernized Kitty Hawk, minimum 24 F-35, 5 Merlin Crowsnest, 5 H-60, 3 UAV, 1 V-22
    - Battleship–1980s battlecarrier concept, 2x3 16” guns forward, angled flight deck aft with ski jump, 10 STOVL fighter/attack aircraft, 256 VLS cells, TRS-3D/4D or APAR/SMART-L, 8x SeaRAM, 12x Phalanx CIWS. Missions: 1) Sea control (with fighter aircraft), 2) NGFS in support of amphib/land ops (with attack aircraft)
    - ASW helicopter carrier–like Japanese Hyuga. Missions: 1) ASW, 2) support of amphib assault.
    - Cruiser–Des Moines-sized version of WWII flight deck cruiser concept, with 2x3 or 2x2 8” guns fore and aft, 192 VLS cells, and large midships flight deck for 4 helos and UAVs, plus facilities below to launch USVs and UUVs, AEGIS/AMDR, 4x SeaRAM and 4x Phalanx. Missions: 1) AAW command ship for TF/TG, 2) NGFS in support of amphib/land ops, 3) unmanned vehicle platform, 4) flagship for independent escort squadron ops.
    - AAW destroyer–5” gun, 96 VLS (Standard, Tomahawk, BMD, ESSM, ASROC), 2x SeaRAM, 2x Phalanx, AEGIS/AMDR or APAR/SMART-L, 2 helos. Missions: 1) AAW, 2) backup AAW command ship for TF/TG
    - GP escort–5” gun, 2x RBU, 32 VLS (32 ESSM 4-pak, 12 ASROC, 12 LRASM), 2 helos, 2x 12.75” and 2x 21” reloadable torpedo launchers, APAR/SMART-L or TRS-3D/4D, bow sonar, VDS and/or towed array, 1x SeaRAM, 2x Phalanx. Missions: 1) ASuW, 2) ASW, 3) AAW.
    - ASW frigate–3” gun STRALES/DART, 2x RBU, 2x 12.75” and 2x 21” reloadable torpedo launchers, 16 VLS (32x ESSM 4-pak, 8x ASROC), 1 helo, bow sonar, VDS, towed array, Virginia-type wide aperture sonar array, 1x Sea RAM, 1x Phalanx. Missions: 1) ASW, 2) self-defense.
    - LHA/LHD–SP Juan Carlos/AU Canberra, 900 troops, 10 F-35/AV-8, 10 helos
    - LPH–FR Mistral, 450 troops, 18 helos
    - LPD/LSD–UK Albion, 400 troops, 4 LCVP, 2 LCM, 2 helos
    - LST–Newport/AU Kanimbla with LST bow, 450 troops, LVT, 4 LCVP, 2 LCM, 3 helos
    - LKA/LPA–Charleston/Paul Revere, 900 troops, up to 18 LCM/LCVP
    - NGFS Frigate – 3x 5” gun, 32x VLS (land attack missiles), 100 commandos/special forces, 1x SeaRAM, 1x Phalanx

    The task force could include 2 CSGs and 1 SAG/HUK, and might also include 1 PhibRon. The aircraft provided from 2 CAG, compared to ComNavOps’s minimum requirements for strike are:

    - Fighter/attack–148 required, 144 plus 10 from battlecarrier (plus possibly 10 from LHA/LHD)
    - EW–12 required, 12 EA-18
    - Tanker–20 required, 10 KS-3/replacement plus 12 MQ-25
    - AEW–3 required, 10 E-2, 10 Merlin Crowsnest

    Notionally the 2 CSGs and 1 SAG/HUK would have 3 CortRons, or 30 escorts, which could be augmented from other squadrons, if available. Assuming 30, arrangement could be:

    - Core 9-15 ships (2 CSG, 1 SAG/HUK, and possible PhibRon).
    - Inner Ring 5 miles (to leave room for core), 3 cruisers–AAW and EW
    - Second Ring 20 miles, 6 AAW destroyers–AAW, main engagement zone
    - Third Ring 35 miles, 9 GP escorts–early warning and early engagement
    - Outer Ring 60 miles, 12 ASW frigates–ASW and early warning

    SSGNs would operate outside the outer ring. Fewer ships than ComNavOps in the inner ring, but more ships in the outer ring, and expect 1) GP escorts to have some long-range AAW capability, and 2) battlecarrier to contribute to the AAW capability.

  24. Some further thoughts:

    My idea for the second carrier is something that we could build plus a Nimitz or RAND CVN-LX for about the cost of a Ford. CBO has the Ford cost pegged at $13.1B, although in reality that will almost certainly go higher, so we can use $14B as a working number. If the Nimitz or RAND CVN-LX costs $9.3B, then the RAND CV-LX at $4.2B could work. I'm also interested in the CSBA concept of taking an LHA/LHD, adding sponsons with at least one waist cat, possibly two, and ending up with something about equivalent to the RN's old CATOBAR Ark Royal. If we have a little extra money to play with, I would look at something like ComNavOps's Midway equivalent ($4.7B) or a modernized Kitty Hawk ($5-6B). Obviously the more capable we can make the second carrier, the more powerful the two carrier CSG would be.

    I realize that ComNavOps’s carrier strike requirement was a minimum, but I have shown that two CSGs (2 large carriers, 2 small) could get there. Obviously, the more capable you make the second carrier, the larger your strike capability.

    As far as employment, I would do something like:
    CSG-peacetime 4 deployed (1 WestPac, 1 Indian Ocean, 1 Europe, fourth in transit or augmenting as necessary), 2 ready to deploy (1 on each coast), 4-5 doing local ops/training, 1-2 in yards; wartime/increased tension 4 deployed to area of concern, 1 each to other two areas, 4 (2 each coast) ready to deploy, 2 local ops/training, 1 in yards
    SAG/HUK–peacetime 3 deployed (1 Atlantic/GIUK gap, 1 MIdPac, 1 Indian Ocean/Med), 2 (1 each coast) ready to deploy, 2 local ops/training, 1 in yards; wartime deploy the 2 ready to deploy to the area of greatest need
    PhibRon–peacetime 4 deployed (1 Europe, 1 Mideast 1 WestPac, 1 in transit or area of greatest need), 3 ready to deploy, 2 local ops/training, 1 in yards; wartime deploy the 3 ready to deploy to the area of greatest need

    As for my escort squadron:
    Cruiser-a new design, bigger than Ticonderoga, with more capabiliites
    AAW Destroyer-could be a Burke
    GP Escort-cross between mini-Burke FFG(X) and ComNavOps’s Destroyer
    ASW Destroyer-pretty much ComNavOps’s ASW destroyer escort

    The PhibRon is a new/old concept, going back to ships that can be brought in close to shore to permit an actual amphibious assault. The squadron would be able to lift 3200 troops, to reflect a larger MEU with the addition of tank, amphibious armor, and artillery battalion, plus a special forces/commando unit. I’m basing it around European ships that are in use now. They may cost a bit more built to USN specs, but I still think we can build that squadron for about what an LHA/LHD plus a San Antonio class LPD cost. One big cost savings is accepting an 18-knot SOA rather than the 20-knot current Navy requirement. If 2 knots is critical to an operation, then you had them in the wrong place to start with. This PhibRon concept would fit with modifying the LHAs/LHDs to RAND CV-LX or CSBA light carrier standard, and converting the San Antonios to the HII proposed ballistic missile defense ships.

  25. So... what I know about naval matters could be written on an Asprin with a piece of chalk... but...

    Why not an Anzac frigate class?

    Swap out the 5" for a Strales 3", ditch the harpoons for a CIWS front and rear. 16 VLS instead of 8. 4 x ESSM, 2x LRASM (is that Mk41 capable?) and the rest some sort of stand off torpedo missile, ASROC thing. Ditch the hanger, but keep the flight deck. Swap out the more expensive radars for some more basic stuff, but keep the ECM, EO, Vampir, Nixie and Nulka and you could probably put two or three in the water for the price of a Burke.


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