Friday, January 29, 2021

Rafale Cost

For all you foreign fighter fans and believers that foreign countries can build things cheaper, here’s a cost data point for the French Rafale:


$121M (USD) each






(1)Defense News website, “France begins backfilling its Rafale fleet after selling some to Greece”, Christina Mackenzie, 29-Jan-2021,

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Climate Change and Treason

President Biden and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin have lost touch with reality.  Claiming that climate change will cause global instability, Biden has issued an Executive Order directing the Pentagon to make climate change a national security priority.


“The Department will immediately take appropriate policy actions to prioritize climate change considerations in our activities and risk assessments, to mitigate this driver of insecurity,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement. [emphasis added] (1)


I won’t even address the questionable concept of climate change.  That’s a topic for some other blog.


Instead, let’s address the idea of prioritizing climate change over warfighting, maintenance, training, readiness, etc.?  To those of you who would suggest that it won’t be prioritized over those items but, rather, will be co-prioritized, that’s a patent absurdity.  You can’t prioritize everything.  If you do that than nothing is really prioritized, is it?  This is analogous to trying to train for multiple missions.  You can’t.  You can only train to be good at one mission.  We’ve discussed this many times.


Not only is this focus on climate change a case of stupidity writ large, it is bordering on treason.  Using the military to push some kind of climate control agenda at the expense of warfighting preparation is a betrayal of the trust, duty, and obligation of the government and military to defend the United States against its enemies.  It is a betrayal of the oath these people take.


Biden’s order directs the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to include climate risk assessments in developing a new National Defense Strategy, due in 2022, along with the Defense Planning Guidance, the Chairman’s Risk Assessment, “and other relevant strategy, planning, and programming documents and processes.”


The order gives the Pentagon and other federal agencies 120 days to produce “an analysis of the security implications of climate change (Climate Risk Analysis) that can be incorporated into modeling, simulation, war-gaming, and other analyses.” (1)



Currently, the US military is struggling and losing the arms and readiness race with China and the ability of the military to protect our country is becoming more and more suspect every day.  Any action – meaning prioritizing climate change - that dilutes the military’s focus on warfighting is a gross mismanagement, at best, and a betrayal of trust and oaths, more likely, at a time when the military cannot afford to be distracted from preparing for war. 


Half our aircraft are unavailable for combat and Biden wants to prioritize climate change?


Our ships are falling into disrepair and look like rusty barges and Biden wants to prioritize climate change?


Our ships can’t sail without colliding with commercial ships or running aground and Biden wants to prioritize climate change?


The Marines have dropped tanks and artillery and have gone off the deep end and Biden wants to prioritize climate change?


We’re building and commissioning ship after ship that can’t fight and Biden wants to prioritize climate change?


We have a looming submarine shortfall and Biden wants to prioritize climate change?


There are two possibilities regarding climate change:

If you don’t believe climate change is a real threat then this is an improper use of the military and a treasonous betrayal of the trust of the people.

If you believe climate change is a real threat then the military is not the organization or means to deal with it and is an improper use of the military and a treasonous betrayal of the trust of the people.



Biden is betraying his oath and the country by putting our national security at risk and SecDef Austin is meekly falling into line.




Note:  This topic needs to be addressed but the potential for veering into pure partisan politics or pointless climate change debate is too high to allow open commenting.  Instead, I’ll be moderating any comments before publishing and only substantial, informative comments will be allowed.  Honestly, I don’t expect many, if any, comments to be allowed.  We’ll resume normal commenting with the next post.






(1)Breaking Defense website, “Biden Orders Pentagon To Include Climate Change In New Strategy & War Games ”, Paul McLeary, 27-Jan-2021,

Monday, January 25, 2021

Fleeting Trends

Since the end of the Cold War, the Navy has been floundering, desperately searching for a mission and justification for the enormous costs the Navy imposes on the nation.  Despite many aborted attempts at proffering a core reason for being, the Navy’s walls are as clean as can be.  They’ve thrown every concept they can think of at the wall and nothing has stuck.  Just for fun, let’s take a quick review of the Navy’s succession of abandoned core concepts and see what lessons we can learn.  In approximately chronological order, we’ve witnessed the coming and going of the following major concepts since the Cold War era:




Vertical Assault (mid 1980’s) – Exemplified by the MV-22 Osprey, this concept envisioned rapid vertical assault as the replacement for traditional amphibious assaults and birthed the subsequent ‘Operational Maneuver From The Sea’ and ‘Ship To Objective Maneuver’ concepts.  Vertical assault ignored the lessons of helo assaults from Vietnam and the limitations of the MV-22 in vertical flight mode.


Littoral (mid 1990’s) – As the Cold War’s obvious justification for large fleets faded and the Navy’s budget was threatened, the Navy invented the ‘littoral’ threat.  This postulated that there was some characteristic or threat inherent in shallower waters that the existing Navy couldn’t deal with and that the Navy couldn’t successfully operate in such waters.  Of course, the entire history of naval warfare refutes this and ‘littoral’ turned out to be nothing more than a budget grabbing ploy by the Navy to secure more shipbuilding funds.  The Navy has now all but abandoned the LCS and the ‘littoral’ threat appears to have evaporated.


Operational Maneuver From The Sea (1996) – This concept, published in a paper by then Marine Commandant Krulak (5), sought to avoid the perceived threat of future: precision weapons against traditional beach assaults and, instead, to bypass the beach to attack enemy ‘centers of gravity’ with ‘decisive effects’.  This was, arguably, the first step in the process of intentionally avoiding the hard work associated with assured success.  This was an attempt to gain a fast, easy victory without the hard work.


Ship To Objective Maneuver (1997)(4) – This concept, which flows from the ‘Operational Maneuver From The Sea’ concept, defined the operations and tactics associated with direct airborne amphibious assault against the ultimate objective rather than landing and building up and supporting a force ashore.  Arguably, this was the beginning of the now prevalent tendency by American military thinkers to assume that everything we do will work and that the enemy will passively acquiesce, if not outright cooperate, in his own destruction.  The degree of fantasy that appears in this work laid the fantasy-foundation for all future strategies and concepts.


Thousand Ship Navy (2006)(1,2,3) – The Thousand Ship Navy envisioned a vast, cooperative,  global navy comprised of naval forces from every freedom loving country in the world.  The US Navy would be just one small component of this immense force and the Navy’s shortcomings would be compensated for by the global naval force, thus relieving the Navy of the need to maintain an appropriately large fleet.  Again, this was an attempt to avoid the hard work of global sea power projection.


A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower (2007) – This marked a deviation from military combat strategy to one favoring the promotion of global ‘goodness’ and the common commercial interests of the world.  This movement defined the Navy’s denial of real world threats and the rejection of the Navy’s core mission of warfighting in favor of warm hugs and fuzziness.  This also led to that idiotic recruitment slogan, “America’s Navy: A global force for good”.


The Great Green Fleet (2009) – This was an attempt to refocus the Navy from combat to the supposedly greater threat of global warming and environmental disaster by emphasizing biofuels and environmental awareness over combat.


Distributed Lethality (2010) – This concept envisioned a proliferation of individual ships, deployed deep in enemy waters, each with a handful of anti-ship missiles and all of them waiting to pounce on enemy ships in massive, coordinated attacks.  No one ever explained how individually weak, almost defenseless, ships would survive in enemy territory nor how targeting and communications would occur in enemy territory.


Third Offset (2014) – This was an attempt to leapfrog the technology development path and achieve an easy, quick dominance on the battlefield via networks, unmanned assets, artificial intelligence, and machine-human teaming.  Again, it was an attempt to avoid the hard work of proper and effective technology development and superiority maintenance.


Networks (2015) – This envisions the supremacy of data sharing and networks over firepower and has led to a significant de-emphasis on, and loss of, firepower in the fleet.  It assumes absolutely unhindered, secure, and utterly reliable data communications which is an unachievable fantasy even in peacetime.


Unmanned (2018) – This concept envisions a multitude of small, individually weak ships somehow being more powerful and capable in the aggregate than large, powerful ships.  This appears to be the Navy’s means of countering the Chinese navy’s numerical superiority and reversing our own numerical decline.  The fact that our numbers would consist of very weak vessels does not appear to be a concern to the Navy and, again, represents an unwillingness to do the hard work.




In addition, there have been many lesser trends.  In no particular order:


Lasers – Lasers were going to revolutionize naval warfare and they were just a months away from full implementation – as they have been since the 1980’s when the Air Force operated the Airborne Laser Laboratory in a Boeing NKC-135A.  To date, we’re still waiting and development has been limited to a couple of low power test units on Navy ships that have barely been able to be effective against slow, small drones or small boats with prolonged exposure to the laser beams.


Railguns – Once the hottest trend in the Navy, railguns were going to revolutionize naval warfare by providing incredibly long range, near-instantaneous kinetic impacts while removing the risk of volatile magazines from ships.  Railgun development has now been officially abandoned by the Navy.


Minimal Manning – This envisioned immense cost savings due to greatly reduced crew sizes and was an example of a business case driving force design instead of combat requirements.  The reality is that ship maintenance and readiness nose-dived and the Navy has yet to recover from this ill-conceived effort and, in fact, is still attempting to implement it.


Modular – The LCS was supposed to have been the start of a completely modular force that could swap function modules on the fly to execute any mission.  The result is well known and nor worth further discussion.


Distributed ARG – This took the concept of a reasonably powerful, self-contained, multi-faceted Marine combat group, the MEU, and split it among three widely separated ships incapable of mutual support and each individually incapable of effective combat.


Hypersonics – This is the latest fad and, unfortunately, it’s a follow-the-leader movement with China and Russia in the lead! 






As outlined above, we’ve seen the Navy lurch from one ill-conceived concept to the next with a regularity that is breathtaking in the degree of aimlessness it demonstrates.  The Navy is truly lost and floundering.

The lessons from this are as painfully apparent as the idiocy of the string of failed concepts.


  • Recognize your core mission and develop a strategy/concept that directly supports the core mission.
  • Embrace hard work and stop looking for shortcuts.
  • Assume the enemy is every bit as competent as you are and plan accordingly.  Drop the fantasy planning.
  • Design for combat, not business cases.
















Friday, January 22, 2021

Distributed Lethality Silliness

Distributed Lethality - the Navy fad that promises to revolutionize naval warfare and bring our enemies to their knees using just a handful of miscellaneous ships armed with a half dozen or so anti-ship missiles. 


Okay, that was slightly unfair and somewhat overstated – though not by as much as you might think.  Still, let’s be just a bit more accurate in describing distributed lethality (DL).


For starters, DL now sees threats as targets.


“We have to stop thinking of adversary maritime forces as ‘threats’ and instead what they really are: ‘targets’ for our increasingly lethal, distributed surface, amphibious, and submarine forces,” Dr. William Bundy, director of the Gravely Group at the Naval War College, asserted during a recent interview.” (1)


Sure, the threat didn’t change but what was a serious threat yesterday is now just a target waiting to be destroyed.  Wait a minute, you say, how did a serious threat suddenly become just a hapless target?  Is simply changing the descriptor ‘threat’ to ‘target’ really all it took to defeat high end threats?  Why didn’t we think of this before?


By the way, did you catch that bit about our “increasingly lethal … forces”?  I’m not sure what navy Dr. Bundy is looking at but there’s nothing increasingly lethal about our forces.  In fact, a pretty good case could be made for the exact opposite.  The Navy is in the process of sidelining 6-11 Aegis cruisers, never to be returned to the fleet.  How is that an increase in lethality?  The LCS, sans any functional module, has replaced the entire 55 ship Perry frigate class.  How is that an increase in lethality?  Our carriers have dropped from 15 to the current 10.  How is that an increase in lethality?  Our air wings have shrunk from 80+ aircraft to around 60.  How is that an increase in lethality?  We’ve dropped to only 9 air wings.  How is that an increase in lethality?  We have removed Harpoon missiles from the Burkes.  How is that an increase in lethality?  We have a looming shortfall of submarines.  How is that an increase in lethality?  I can go on all day but you get the idea.  Dr. Bundy is delusional or intentionally deceptive.


Setting aside the lethality issue, how is distributed lethality going to work? 


“In broad terms,” Jeffrey Kline, chair of the Systems Engineering Analysis program at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS), observed, “distributed lethality proposes creating small offensive adaptive force packages comprised of surface action groups with a variety of support elements that operate across a wide region and under an adversary’s anti-access sea denial umbrella. Its purpose is to confound adversary locating and targeting while introducing a threat to their sea control ambitions.” (1)

Really??!  That’s amazing.  Apparently, surface action groups (SAG) will freely roam through an enemy’s A2/AD zone, undetected, unassailable, or, if detected, will ‘confound’ the enemy’s targeting, thereby inducing total enemy paralysis of action, so we’re led to believe.


How, exactly, will the presence of a few to several SAGs “confound” the enemy’s detection and targeting?  Is there some degree of confusion inherent in the mere presence of several additional ships in a region?  Do additional ships somehow make detection more difficult?  I don’t think so.  If the enemy detects a SAG, they’ll simply attack it and, by definition, the SAG will be lightly armed and relatively defenseless so the attack will be more along the lines of a live fire exercise than a battle.


In WWII, both Allies and Axis powers managed to track and attack hundreds of ships without being confounded and yet, today, the mere presence of a few lightly armed SAGs will utterly confound the enemy.  Absolutely incredible!


Doesn’t it seem far more realistic, historically supported, and logical that the enemy, upon detecting one of these lightly armed SAGs, will simply smile, offer thanks to our stupidity, and proceed to sink it and will do the same to each SAG, in turn, as each is detected?


The notion that relatively defenseless SAGs will freely roam an enemy’s A2/AD zone with impunity is nonsense yet typical of the increasingly delusional operational thinking that assumes the enemy will allow us to do whatever we wish, without opposition.  Nowhere in any distributed lethality discussion does any proponent describe how these small SAGs will survive long enough to carry out their functions.  Apparently, the enemy has almost no sensors and any they might have will be ‘confounded’ by more than one target.


In June of 2015, the Navy established a Distributed Lethality Task Force (weren’t “task forces” originally actual ocean going fleets rather than study groups?  But, I digress …) to “… operationalize the concept of a distributed, more lethal force, and … synchronize and lead a transformation across the surface community …” (2).  As part of that effort, the Navy has conducted 10 wargames to try to understand the value of DL and VAdm. Tom Rowden, Commander of Surface Naval Forces, assures that DL “… works, it delivers value.”


I’m all in favor of wargames although given the Navy’s history of rigging games to produce a pre-determined outcome, the pronouncement of success has to be viewed with skepticism if not outright disbelief.  It would go a long way towards strengthening the Navy’s claims if they made some of their game scenarios and results public.


The Navy is attempting to use the results of the DL wargaming to guide weapons procurement.


“We’ve done a lot of analysis and wargaming to see which weapons are probably going to be the most effective and where we should put the next dime that we have.” [RAdm. Peter Fanta, Director of Surface Warfare] (2)


Using wargame analysis to guide weapons procurement is excellent.  That’s exactly what should be happening and I commend the Navy for doing this.  Of course, the value of this is entirely dependent on the validity of the wargames.  If the games are rigged, as Navy history suggests, then the value of the resulting weapons procurement analysis is invalid.  As computer programmers have long known, ‘garbage in, garbage out’.  Again, the Navy should release some of the wargame scenarios and results to strengthen their case.


Further, the Navy is trying to relearn how to command small surface groups. 


“The Navy will also send out a three-destroyer Surface Action Group to re-learn how to command and control a group less complex than a carrier strike group but more complex than three independent deployers operating in the same vicinity.” (2)


The fact that the Navy has to relearn how to command small surface groups is a scathing indictment of Navy leadership.  What have they been doing for the last several decades?  We knew how to do this.  Heck, we knew how to command vast fleets.  Who let this fundamental capability lapse?


The referenced articles are a bit old, being from 2016.  During the ensuing months, we’ve seen that the ballyhooed DL anti-ship missile competition has turned into a highly questionable, single-source procurement.  I’ve seen no further significant DL reports or articles.  Is DL just another Navy fad that is fading away or is it a serious, if stupid, idea that will become our operational and doctrinal foundation for naval combat in the future?  We’ll have to wait and see.







(1) USNI News website, “Opinion: Gaming Distributed Lethality”, Scott C. Truver, July 26, 2016,


(2) USNI News website, “A Year Into Distributed Lethality, Navy Nears Fielding Improved Weapons, Deploying Surface Action Group”, Megan Eckstein,

January 13, 2016,

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Unmanned Improves Nothing

There is a common myth being propagated by senior civilian and military leaders that unmanned assets are some kind of magic assets that increase our military capabilities to undreamed of levels.


For example, here’s a statement by Michèle Flournoy, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and a top contender for the job of defense secretary in a possible Biden administration,


“We want to augment our manned forces with unmanned systems that are still controlled by a human being, but that dramatically improve ... our ability to project power …” (1)


Ms. Flournoy suffers from the common misconception that unmanned equates to greater capabilities.  This is bilgewater.


As a general statement, unmanned systems have no greater capabilities than equivalent manned systems.  For example, the Large Unmanned Surface Vehicle (LUSV) that the Navy is currently trying to acquire will not be faster, more stealthy, or carry more missiles than an equivalent manned vessel – it simply won’t have crew on board.  The Fire Scout unmanned helo is not faster, stealthier, or able to carry a heavier payload than an equivalent manned helo – it simply doesn’t have crew on board.  The MQ-25 Stingray will carry no more fuel and have no greater range or endurance than an equivalent manned aircraft – it just won’t have crew on board.   And so on. 


Unmanned assets don’t have any magical capabilities – they just don’t have crew.  They’re built using the exact same components and equipment as manned assets so why would there be any huge improvement?  There wouldn’t!  Yes, there could be some scattered marginal improvements in performance such as an unmanned aircraft being able to tolerate greater g-forces than an equivalent manned asset.  However, there are also significant decreases in performance from not having an intelligent human controlling the asset.  Even remote controlled unmanned assets which have a human in the loop have significant performance decreases due to the communication lag time and decreased situational awareness for the remote operator.


Okay, so there’s a tendency to overestimate the capabilities of unmanned assets – what’s the big deal?  The big deal is that this overhyped belief is being used to determine our future force structure and remake our armed forces.  The Navy, for example, is going to decrease the number of surface warships (Burkes) in favor of unmanned vessels despite the unmanned vessels being markedly inferior in capability.  The justification is that unmanned vessels will somehow, in some unexplained way, provide greater overall capability than the same number of manned Burkes.  That’s right … Individually inferior unmanned vessels will somehow prove superior in the aggregate than the same group of individually superior manned vessels.  Does that seem plausible?  Of course not!  It’s insane.


Let’s change gears, for a moment, and consider the Army’s quest for an unmanned replacement for the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV).  The replacement won’t have any engine, gun, munition, speed, or range that an equivalent manned vehicle wouldn’t have and yet the Army is spending gazillions of dollars to achieve the unmanned aspect of this.  Sure, I get that in combat you’ll save a few lives but you won’t gain any combat performance and, almost assuredly, the unmanned replacement will perform worse than the manned equivalent because our feeble attempts at artificial intelligence are nowhere near ‘Terminator’ levels of sentient intelligence.  There is every reason to believe that the unmanned replacement IFV will suffer much higher loss rates than manned vehicles.  Now, if the unmanned version cost a small fraction of the manned version so that we could build several for the price of one manned vehicle and we could, literally, throw waves of vehicles at the enemy then it would be worth it but since the vehicle will be identical to a manned equivalent in every way except seats for the crew, the cost will be the same.  In fact, the cost may well be greater since the remote, automated control costs additional money.


So, why the big push across the military to develop unmanned assets?  Our limited combat experience with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) demonstrates that UAVs are nothing but cannon fodder in a contested environment.  Yes, there’s a small niche for unmanned assets in the highest risk missions so as not to endanger operating crew but that doesn’t justify the kind of wholesale conversion to unmanned assets that we’re seeing the Navy push for.


The unmanned push is yet another example of latching on to an idea and leaping right over the justification and straight into implementation.  We did this for ‘littoral’ and the Navy got the LCS.  We did this for minimal manning and the Navy got a maintenance and readiness hole that we have yet to dig ourselves out from.  We did this for gender equality and we got a Marine Corps that is demonstrably less capable.  We did this for long range naval guns and the Navy got the Zumwalt with no gun.


Unmanned offers no substantial increase in performance and yet we’re converting our entire military to it.  We desperately need to pump the brakes and establish actual performance gains, if any, that are sufficient to justify this kind of wholesale makeover of our armed forces.  In the Navy’s case, the makeover is trading capable surface ships, the Burkes, for small, marginally capable unmanned vessels.  This is a serious mistake.






(1)Defense News website, “Flournoy: Next defense secretary needs ‘big bets’ to boost ’eroding’ deterrence”, Aaron Mehta, 10-Aug-2020,

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Networks or Firepower?

Today’s military is myopically focused on data and networks as the key to future warfare.  However, no matter how much data you have, you eventually have to kill the enemy’s troops and destroy their equipment.  That requires firepower … explosives.  ComNavOps has stated that the military is substituting networks and data for firepower, not supplementing and supporting firepower.  Is this true or just a misconception?  Let’s look.


Since … oh, I don’t know … say, Desert Storm in 1991, how many new networks, sensors, and data collection and analysis systems has the Navy developed?  Here’s a partial list:


  • CANES (Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services) – provides shipboard network
  • NIFC-CA (Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air) – integrated area wide data/targeting sharing
  • CEC (Cooperative Engagement Capability) – provides data/targeting sharing and remote fire control
  • TTNT (Tactical Targeting Network Technology) - waveform technology providing high throughput, anti-jam, low latency and quick net join waveforms for IP connectivity
  • SQQ-89 – anti-submarine software that integrates ASW sensors and weapons
  • NMCI (Navy Marine Corps Intranet) - provides a shore-based enterprise network in the continental United States and Hawaii via a single integrated, secure information technology environment for reliable, stable information transfer
  • ONE-Net (OCONUS Navy Enterprise Network) - evolved from the Base Level Infrastructure Information (BLII) Modernization Program in 2005, ONE-Net provides secure, seamless and global computer connectivity for the DON outside the continental US
  • NGEN (Next Generation Enterprise Network) - provides secure, net-centric data and services to Navy and Marine Corps personnel
  • NTCDL (Network Tactical Common Data Link System) - allows the Navy to share large quantities of critical ISR data across platforms and networks
  • NIWC (Naval Information Warfare Center) Pacific Command and Control - fleet support center for command, control and communication systems and ocean surveillance
  • Link 16 – data transmission
  • AESA Radar – provides detection, tracking, communications, and electronic warfare
  • JADC2 (Joint All Domain Command And Control) – overarching network that connects sensor from every service into a single network


The preceding list is only a partial list that barely scratches the surface of all the Navy’s data and networking applications.  A new networking command and control scheme comes out seemingly every day!


Now, for comparison, let’s list the new Navy ‘explosives’ that have been developed over the same time period.


  • LRASM (Long Range Anti-Ship Missile) – Tomahawk replacement
  • NSM (Naval Strike Missile) – Norwegian small anti-ship missile
  • JSOW (Joint Stand Off Weapon) – guided glide bomb with altitude dependent range


That’s it.  That’s all there are unless I’ve missed one - which I'm sure I have and I have no doubt that someone will triumphantly point it out!


Regardless, it’s clear where the Navy’s focus has gone, isn’t it?  We truly have stopped pursuing firepower and have replaced it with networks and we’ve done so without testing those networks in realistic combat conditions against full spectrum anti-network effects (cyber, jamming, disruption, spoofing, etc.).


There’s a few other weapons that you might be tempted to think of as new but they’re actually just upgrades from existing weapons or they’re pre-1991:


  • Mk54 torpedo – upgrade from Mk50
  • JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) – not a weapon but a guidance package for dumb bombs
  • ESSM (Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile) – upgrade to Sea Sparrow
  • SLAM-ER (Stand Off Land Attack Missile – Expanded Response) – modified Harpoon
  • Mk77 Incendiary Bomb – napalm replacement
  • AARGM (Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile) – upgrade to HARM


Note that most of the weapons are just minor evolutionary improvements of existing weapons that have been given a new designation, like Standard -1, -2, … -6.


There’s absolutely nothing wrong with weapon system upgrades but they offer no new capabilities, just generally minor enhancements to existing weapons.  Good but not new capability and not any increase in firepower.



Now, here’s a list of weapons that haven’t been developed but desperately need to be. 

  • Cluster munitions
  • Supersonic anti-ship missile
  • Short range conventional ship launched ballistic missile
  • Intermediate range conventional ship launched ballistic missile
  • Self-propelled, armored, medium range SAM vehicle for Marine Corps
  • Self-propelled, armored, short range SAM vehicle for Marine Corps
  • Littoral torpedo
  • Anti-torpedo torpedo
  • Large caliber naval gun (8” and larger)
  • Navalized MLRS
  • Navalized 5” rocket launcher
  • Wake homing torpedo
  • High explosive, 1000 lb warhead torpedo


These would offer substantially new capabilities (or revival of old, dropped capabilities!) and increased firepower but the Navy clearly has no interest in developing firepower.  They’d much rather focus on the sexy, shiny, high-tech networks – which won’t work in a contested environment, anyway.


It’s also quite depressing to recall some of the weapon systems that have been dropped, with no replacement, since 1991: 

  • 16” Battleship Gun
  • Tomahawk Anti-Ship Missile (TASM)
  • CAPTOR Mine
  • Cluster munitions
  • Marine Corps Tanks
  • SHORAD (AAW Short Range Air Defense)


We have got to regain our focus on firepower.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Light Amphibious Warship Update

The Navy has released some new information on the Marine’s desired Light Amphibious Warship (LAW), as reported in a USNI article.(1)  As you might expect, the information was contradictory and silly.  For example,


… the services are eyeing a 30mm Gun Weapons System as the ideal system needed as a proportional response to the most likely threat to these ships.(1)


Even a cursory moment of thought concludes that the most likely threat will be aircraft and missiles.  How is a 30 mm machine gun a proportional response?  That’s just ignorant.  And, since when is ‘proportional’ the desired response to a threat?  The best response is overkill.


Moving on,


Their primary defense would be their ability to move quickly and evade detection … (1)


Their primary defense would be the ability to move quickly?  The Navy revealed that the proposed speed of the LAW will be around 15 kts.


… the Navy and Marine Corps want about 15 knots … (1)


‘Evade detection’?  Unless the LAW is an ultra-stealthy configuration - which none of the artist’s renditions have yet indicated – a 200-400 ft, slow ship is not going to ‘evade detection’.


Does This Look Like It Will Evade Detection?

However, it may be that the Navy/Marines don’t think the LAW will have to defend itself.  Apparently, it will be protected by … wait for it … an LCS or LPD.  Of course, neither of those vessels has any AAW capability beyond point defense for themselves and only the LCS has an anti-ship capability (assuming the Naval Strike Missile actually gets installed). 


Regarding cost, the Navy is looking for a price tag of $100M - $130M.  Remember when the price target for the LCS was $200M?  How’d that work out?  If the LAW comes in at $100M it will be a bare bones, stripped down, shell of a vessel which ComNavOps might actually agree with as it fits my vision of single function, dedicated ships – although this particular ship and concept is idiocy floating on the water.


Regarding survivability, remember when the Navy tried to claim that the LCS met level 1+ survivability standards?  We blew that claim out of the water and proved that the LCS was actually level nothing (see, “LCS Survivability”).  Well, the Navy is trying the same non-existent, made up route again.  They’re claiming the LAW will be Tier 2+:  able to take a hit and survive until another LAW can come and rescue the crew and troops and ‘return them to the fight’ (yes, they used that phrase).  A bare bones, stripped down vessel with no AAW protection is not going to be Tier anything.


The ship is projected to have a 20 year service life.  I guess the Navy has been reading this blog and my calls for 20 year ship lives!


You can just see the LAW disaster taking shape in front of your eyes.  Someday, people will be asking how this abortion came to be.  Well, we’re seeing it develop right in front of us.  There’s no hindsight involved.  The future disaster is readily apparent today.


This isn’t really relevant to the merits of the vessel but you recall how we all got a great deal of enjoyment out of the Navy calling the LCS a Littoral COMBAT ship despite its utter lack of combat capability?  Well, to call this tiny transport vessel with only a 30 mm gun a Light Amphibious WARship proves, yet again, the Navy’s sense of humor.








(1)USNI News website, “Navy Officials Reveal Details of New $100M Light Amphibious Warship Concept”, Megan Eckstein, 19-Nov-2020,

Monday, January 11, 2021

Status Update: Marine Corps Ship Sinkers and Sub Killers,

We’ve discussed and dissected the Marine Commandant’s ill-conceived concept of small units of hidden,  missile-shooting, sub-sinking wonder-warriors winning a war with China single-handed and we’ve, rightly, scoffed at it.  Setting aside the mockery, let’s take a look at the status of the effort to establish that capability and see what kind of progress the Commandant is making.


To ever so briefly review, the concept calls for Marines to launch anti-ship missiles, with a range of several hundred miles, from island bases using modified ‘jeeps’ and light trucks.  Two missile systems have been commonly proposed:


Tomahawk Anti-Ship Missile (TASM) – The use of a land based Tomahawk cruise missile has been made possible by the termination of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty.  Unfortunately, the Tomahawk is slow, non-stealthy, non-maneuvering, and likely has a very poor survival rate against a peer defender.  It’s essentially a subsonic target drone and can only succeed if fired in overwhelming numbers which the small unit concept cannot generate, so …  On the plus side, the missile has a range of several hundred miles and is designed to use mid-course guidance.  Where that initial targeting and subsequent mid-course guidance will come from in the Marine’s concept is unknown and, thus far, unexplained.  Given the two hour travel time at maximum range, some type of mid-course guidance will definitely be required.


The U.S. Navy’s subsonic Block Va (i.e. Block 5a) Maritime Strike Tomahawk (MST) is capable of being reprogrammed and rerouted in flight to attack moving ships out to around 900 nautical miles (or 1,035 miles/1,666 km…the exact range has not been fully disclosed) with a 1,000-pound warhead. Maritime Strike Tomahawk is by far the longest-range ASCM option although it would take about two hours to fly 900nm miles at a speed of around 550mph. The MST is slated to become operational in 2023 with the probable preferred U.S.M.C. ground launcher being a quartet of MK41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) cells mounted on a towed semitrailer. (4)


A towed semitrailer is not exactly a small, nimble, easily transportable, easily hidden piece of equipment which renders the basic concept of small, hidden units somewhat suspect.  Such a vehicle requires roads or flat, open terrain which, again, renders the ‘hidden’ aspect questionable.


Also, a quartet of cells provides a ‘magazine’ capacity of 4 missiles.  That’s not enough to bother any peer defender warship.  Reloads are both problematic and useless for a single engagement since the reload delay time would preclude effective massing of missiles.


Of course, the small unit could always be provided with several, or a dozen or more, semi-trailers to increase the ‘magazine’ size but that would negate the small, hidden, rapidly relocatable attributes of the Marine’s platoon size units.

Test Firing of Tomahawk from Trailer

Naval Strike Missile - The Navy Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System (NMESIS) combines a Remotely Operated Ground Unit for Expeditionary Fires (ROGUE-Fires) drone vehicle, which is a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV), and the Naval Strike Missile (NSM).(2)  Seriously, there must be an entire department that works exclusively on catchy acronyms, right?  The NSM, as you recall, is the Norwegian Kongsberg anti-ship missile intended for the LCS.  It is subsonic, moderately stealthy, and has a range of 200-300+ miles.


NMESIS uses the Marines’ High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) on the chassis of a remotely operated version of the Army’s Oshkosh-built Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, loaded with a Kongsberg/Raytheon Naval Strike Missile.(2)


USMC will likely integrate the NSM on unmanned Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) “ROGUE Fires” vehicles. (4)


Regarding the launcher,


The Remotely Operated Ground Unit Expeditionary-Fires (ROGUE-F) is the launcher vehicle for the NMESIS/GBASM [ed. GBASM stands for Ground Based Anti-Ship Missile] system.  … The GBASM project will procure a USMC system while leveraging other Service-developed missiles to provide a ground based anti-access/area denial, anti-ship capability.(3)


If we were shooting acronyms and abbreviations, we’d win the war in a few hours!


ROGUE Fires 


So, those are the two missile systems.  What’s missing from that?  Targeting, of course!




The glaring weakness in the Marine’s concept is, of course, targeting.  The Marines have not discussed this aspect, at all.  They’ve simply hand-waved away the issue and, just as every discussion of the overall concept begins with the Marines already firmly established on an island, hidden from view, fully equipped, and with the enemy absolutely clueless, so too, does every discussion of the missiles begin with the assumption that they already have targets sighted and locked. 






So, now that we understand what missile systems are being developed and what the glaring weakness of the concept is, what is the status of the equipment and funding for the various components?  Listed below is a summary of the equipment and funding status of the various components of the concept.  Items in red indicate gaps or shortcomings related to the anti-ship concept.  Funding information largely comes from the FY2021 Marine and Navy procurement documents (3) on the SecNav budget website.  Note that missile funding was stated in the documents as being classified at a higher level than could be shown in the public documents so information is fragmentary, at best.



Tomahawk Anti-Ship Missile (Maritime Strike Tomahawk)


Status – The missiles are currently non-existent and under development, however, TASMs previously existed so this shouldn’t be a drawn out development and the upgrades appear to be ready to implement.  The Marines originally requested 48 missiles in FY2021.  The Marines consider this a longer term option.


Funding – The Marines requested $125M for FY2021.  Reports suggest that amount was cut but it is unclear by how much.


Naval Strike Missile


Status – The NSM exists and is currently being procured by the Navy for the LCS although production rates and, therefore, acquisition rates are very low, at the moment.  There is no indication in the FY2021 budget document that any NSM will be procured for the Marines.  So, the missiles are available but either not being procured or not in any significant quantity.


Funding – There is no line item listed in the budget document for the NSM


JLTV ROGUE Fires Launcher


Status – While JLTVs are currently operational and plentiful, modified versions to carry a HIMARS launcher are developmental.


Funding – The FY2021 budget shows a quantity of 7 HIMARS for $30M.  The JLTV vehicle is being procured at a quantity of 752 for $382M but that is for all of the Marine Corps, not just the anti-ship concept.  It is unclear whether any of the HIMARS or JLTV are modified for the anti-ship role and the budget language suggests that they are not which, in turn, suggests that there is no funding for any actual launch-modified vehicles.



Tomahawk-MST Launcher


Status – Likely a modified semi-trailer.  Currently non-existent. 


Funding - Unfunded




Status – No sensor currently exists that has been linked to this concept.


Funding - Unfunded





Regarding FY2021 funding, here’s a general statement that is lacking in specifics but conveys a certain reluctance by Congress to fully fund the Marine’s request.


The Marines had requested $125 million for Tomahawks and $64 million for GBASM as well as $75 million for long-range fires. The final bill essentially cuts the GBASM budget in half and trims almost $20 million for LRPF research and development — roughly a 25 percent cut. (1)


Note that the Marines have, at various times and by various people, mentioned Tomahawk Anti-Ship Missiles, Long Range Precision Fires (LRPF), Ground Based Anti-Ship Missiles (GBASM), Navy Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System (NMESIS), Maritime Strike Tomahawk, and Remotely Operated Ground Unit for Expeditionary Fires (ROGUE-Fires), all, apparently, describing the same or different aspects of the overall concept.  It’s difficult to know exactly what refers to what.


Acronyms aside, the takeaway is that Congress is funding less than the Marines requested and by a significant amount.


Noting the status of equipment existence, or lack thereof, and funding, the anti-ship concept appears to be currently severely underequipped and underfunded.  Admittedly, much of the anti-ship concept remains conceptual and under development so this is not, alone, worrisome, at this time.  Of greater concern is the fact that Congress has cut funding for the concept to some significant degree and the Commandant’s time in office is becoming limited.  A Commandant serves for 4 years with an option for a single additional term, however, there has not been a two-term Commandant since Gen. Lejeune in the 1920’s.  Commandant Berger has a bit over two years left in office.  Therefore, it is reasonable to question whether significant progress can be made on the concept before the Commandant’s term expires and someone else, with possibly a different or more Congress-friendly agenda, takes over.  The inescapable conclusion is that this entire anti-ship concept may die before it can be implemented.  When other items such as the Light Amphibious Warfare ship which is critical to the implementation of the concept and is barely even in the early developmental stage, are factored in, the future of the anti-ship concept becomes even more suspect.


Regarding implementation timing,


The Marine Corps had planned to move quickly on GBASM and wanted to field an operational battery by FY23.(1)


This would appear to be optimistic based on reduced funding and possible changes in concept and priorities.  It would also be somewhat disappointing that simply mounting an existing HIMARS on an existing JLTV and launching an existing NSM would require two years of development.






(1)Defense News website, “Lawmakers slash funding for Marine Corps’ long-range fires development”, Jen Judson, 23-Dec-2020,


(2)Defense News website, “To combat the China threat, US Marine Corps declares ship-killing missile systems its top priority”, David B. Larter, 5-Mar-2020,


(3)FY2021 Budget Justification Book, “Procurement, Marine Corp”, Feb 2020,


(4)Naval News website, “Land-Based Anti-Ship Missiles and the U.S. Marine Corps: Options Available”, Peter Ong, 27-Sep-2020,