Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Separation and Redundancy

We’ve talked a great deal about designing warships to be survivable and, during the course of those discussions, the topics of separation and redundancy have come up time and again.  Well, it’s time to examine them in greater detail.


Survivability encompasses not just physical survival – the ability to sail away without sinking at the conclusion of a battle – but the ability to stay in the fight, functioning effectively, albeit limited, as damage accumulates, right up until the battle concludes or the ship sinks.


Two important elements of survivability are separation and redundancy.



Separation – is just what the term implies.  Important items are physically separated by as wide a distance as possible.  The rationale is straightforward:  the desire to minimize the likelihood of a single hit destroying multiple, identical items.  For example, it would be a poor design that locates all of a ship’s radars within the space that a single weapon explosion could affect.  Separation can sometimes be aided, to an extent, by interposing structures.  For example, radar faces on two sides of a superstructure may not be separated very far in terms of straight line distance but the structural elements between them may offer an enhancement to the effective separation.  Of course, if the separating structural elements are paper thin sheet metal then the gain is minimal.


Redundancy – recognizes that items will be damaged and destroyed in combat and survivable ship designs mitigate this by mounting more than one of each critical item.  For example, it would be a poor design that allocates only a single gun or a single CIWS to a ship.  A single hit could remove all of a ship’s capability for that function.


Redundancy concerns were highlighted in the recent post on defensive weapon fits where we saw how few defensive weapons are mounted on each ship class.  There is very little redundancy.  Our most important, powerful, and expensive ships, the Nimitz class carriers, have two of each defensive weapon.  How is that redundancy?  WWII ships typically had dozens of each type of weapon – that’s redundancy!  A single hit barely scratched the surface of a WWII ship’s fighting capability.  A single hit on a modern ship can almost eliminate the ship’s entire combat capability!


Now, let’s consider some actual examples of separation and redundancy - or the lack thereof – in the Navy’s ship classes.



Burke Class


Radar/Illuminators – The heart of the Burke’s anti-air capability is not its VLS or even the Aegis system;  it is the fire control radars/illuminators.  The Burke class depends on three fire control radars (SPG-62) to guide its anti-air missiles.  Without those three radars the various missiles that depend on semi-active radar guidance are useless.  Unfortunately, two of the Burke’s three fire control radars are clustered on the aft superstructure within about ten feet of each other.  A single hit in the area will eliminate 2/3 of the Burke’s fire control radars.  This is an incredibly poor example of the lack of separation for incredibly important equipment.  On the plus side, the remaining fire control radar is located atop the forward superstructure, well separated from the other two radars.


Burke - Note the two illuminators clustered together along with the CIWS

Guns – The Burke class has a single 5” gun and a single CIWS … the epitome of lack of redundancy.


VLS – The Burke’s VLS is split into two groups, one forward (32 cells) and one aft (64 cells).  While the separation is excellent, the redundancy for the ship’s main weapon system is poor with only two unarmored ‘mounts’.  The VLS ought to be split into at least 3 groups and, preferably, 4 or 5.  That’s less efficient but much more survivable. 


Harpoon – For those Burkes that carry Harpoons, the missiles are mounted in two Mk141 launcher racks that are located side by side with no separation.


It is clear that the Burke is a very poor design as regards separation and redundancy.  The fire control illuminators, in particular, are an extreme vulnerability in the design with two of the three being located next to each other.  Similarly, a couple unlucky hits could completely eliminate the ship’s entire VLS weaponry.



Ford Class


Radar - The Ford radar arrays are tightly clustered on the small island.  A single hit on the island will likely see all the radars lost.


Anti-Air Weapons – The Ford defensive weapons are well separated around the periphery of the flight deck.  Unfortunately, there is very little redundancy with only two each of RAM and ESSM weapons and three CIWS.



Zumwalt Class


VLS – The Zumwalt’s VLS cells are spread along the sides of the ship.  This is not the classic separation of discrete mounts but it does provide a degree of separation – ‘spreading’ is a more apt description.  In a sense, this spreading of the VLS provides not only a degree of separation but also a degree of effective redundancy.


Radars – The Zumwalt radar arrays are scattered along the massive superstructure which provides good separation.


Guns – The Advanced Gun System (AGS) that was to be the ship’s main weapon consisted of two guns located on the forward deck with about 20 m center-to-center separation.  This is poor example of both separation and redundancy.  Of course, since the weapons are non-functional, the point is moot.


Ironically, the Zumwalt, for all its other flaws (like no close in defensive weapons at all !) actually has better separation and redundancy schemes than other Navy ships.



Ticonderoga Class


Radar/Illuminators – As with the Burke class, the Ticonderogas use fire control radars/illuminators.  There are four illuminators, which is better redundancy, but the are located in two widely separated fore/aft pairs with individual units of each pair being located within around 10 ft of each other.  As with the Burkes, this clustering of the main component of the ship’s defensive capability is a very poor design. 


The Ticonderoga’s SPY radar arrays are split into pairs which are widely separated with one pair on the forward superstructure and the other pair on the aft superstructure.  Unfortunately, each pair of arrays are tightly clustered within several feet of each other.  So, some good separation and some bad.


Compounding the problem is the fact that the fore and aft illuminators are located close to the radar arrays.  A single hit could easily eliminate two arrays and two illuminators.  That’s a very poor design.


VLS – The VLS is split into two groups, one forward (61 cells) and one aft (61 cells).  While the separation is excellent, the redundancy for the ship’s main weapon system is poor with only two unarmored ‘mounts’.  A single hit on either group will cost the ship half its weapons.  The VLS ought to be split into at least 3 groups and, preferably, 4 or 5.  That’s less efficient but much more survivable. 


The Ticonderogas have better redundancy than the Burkes but have a significant design flaw with the fore and aft groupings of the radar arrays and the illuminators.  Added to this is the lack of redundancy in the VLS groups.


Guns – The Ticonderogas have two 5” guns, one far forward and one far aft which is excellent separation although the redundancy is lacking.  The class has two CIWS which are located within around 30 ft of each other which is poor separation and poor redundancy.


Harpoon – The Ticonderoga Harpoon missiles are mounted in two Mk141 launcher racks that are located on the port corner of the stern, side by side with no separation.

Ticonderoga - Note the two Harpoon launchers side-by-side on the stern.


 San Antoinio Class


Radar/Illuminators – The San Antonios have two radars, each mounted on its own enclosed mast, with wide separation.  Unfortunately, neither radar is capable of performing the other’s task so there is no redundancy. 


RAM – The San Antonios have two Rolling Airframe Missile launchers, one on each corner of the superstructure with excellent separation but, with only two launchers, poor redundancy.


Well Deck – The well deck has only one opening, in the stern.  A hit (or simple mechanical failure of the door) would render the entire well deck and the ship’s very reason for existence – landing troops and equipment – non-functional.  This single point of failure is the epitome of the lack of redundancy.  Before someone snidely asks how else the well deck could possibly be accessed, let me remind you that the WWII Attack Transports (APA) carried two dozen landing craft scattered around the ship and no single hit or failure could possibly render the transport non-functional.  It’s time we re-examine our design philosophy about amphibious assault with an eye to remaining functional even in the face of combat damage.







It is clear that our CRUISEships are not designed for combat and are not survivable.  We have all but abandoned combat-effective levels of redundancy and are ignoring separation of critical equipment.  We need to recall the WARship design lessons of WWII and return to designing ships for combat.


One of the things that the Navy has forgotten in its quest to design ships as business cases is that combat is not an accounting exercise.  Many/most aspects of a good, robust, survivable WARship design are antithetical to accounting and business practices.  In short, combat is an inefficient, costly activity that often rewards inefficient designs.  Clustering most of a ship’s weaponry into two VLS groups may be efficient but it is not a combat-survivable design.  Combining several individual radars into a single radar may be efficient but it is not combat-survivable.  Separation and redundancy are, almost by definition, inefficient and yet they are vital to combat survival.  We need to stop designing based on accounting and business and start designing for combat, as our fathers did in WWII.







Note:  Closely related to redundancy is backup.  Backup items, as opposed to identical, redundant items, should be functionally the same but use a different technology and be as completely isolated and separated from the primary item as possible.  This includes using separate power and computing sources.  Otherwise, a single hit resulting in loss of power (severed power cable, for example) could render both the primary and backup inoperative.  An industrial example of a primary and backup system would be a chemical reactor water cooling system using typical pumps for circulation.  The backup system would be a gravity fed water tank that can be cross-connected into the reactor in the event of electrical power loss.  A naval example of a primary and backup system would be a radar guided fire control system.  The backup would be an optical fire control system, possibly in local mode.  This is exactly the arrangement that was used in WWII, by the way.  We understood all these design concepts once upon a time.


Saturday, November 27, 2021

Australian Nuclear Submarine

USNI News had an article about Australia acquiring asymmetric military capabilities to help deter China.  Unfortunately, the article was just a useless collection of vague babbling by John Lee (former national security advisor to Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, 2016-18) who clearly has no idea what asymmetric means.  For example, he cited ‘unmanned and undersea technologies’ as examples of asymmetric capabilities, apparently unaware that unmanned equipment is pretty much standard by now and hardly constitutes ‘asymmetric’.  I have no idea what he meant by ‘undersea technologies’;  presumably unmanned undersea vehicles which, again, are now commonplace.


There was, however, one good thought in the article which appeared to reference Australia’s nuclear submarine acquisition desire:


“Leasing has to be an option” to fill the timeline gap in undersea readiness, but the submarine does not necessarily have to be an American Virginia-class boat. “We need to learn how to operate them” and maintain them, he said. [1]


Now, I’m not sure what, exactly, the leasing reference was to …  perhaps SSKs? perhaps a nuclear sub from some country?  perhaps training simulators or facilities?  Regardless, this raises the intriguing possibility of Australia acquiring an early-retired Los Angeles class submarine … of which we have many.


The LA class subs would provide valuable nuclear submarine and nuclear power plant operating experience.  While the subs may not have thirty more years of operational life left, that’s not a requirement for a country that first needs to simply learn how to operate the subs and their reactors. 

Los Angeles Class Submarine

 Of course, there are practical considerations to deal with:


  • You don’t become a [safe] nuclear capable navy overnight.  Australia has no nuclear plant operating expertise that I’m aware of.  It would require years to build up that level of [safe] competency.  This is also not something that can be done on a part-time, occasional basis which leads directly to the next consideration …
  • Nuclear subs require fairly substantial crews and long term, sustained expert manning.  This is not something that can be done using one-enlistment term sailors.  I’m thinking now about the difficulty Australia has had manning the few conventional subs that they have.[2]  Where are the needed long term, professional nuclear organizations and personnel going to come from?
  • It’s not enough to train a crew to operate a nuclear sub.  It also requires a substantial shore-side nuclear support organization for specialized maintenance, inspection, repair, refueling, etc.  Again, given Australia’s manning challenges, where will the shore support people come from?
  • Assuming an Australian nuclear submarine force would operate much closer to China than is currently the case for Australian submarines, this would require substantial open ocean and first island chain oceanography/mapping support.  Perhaps the US Navy would share their data but, if not, Australia would have to generate their own which requires a large investment and effort.
  • Nuclear submarines are a major commitment.  I hope the Australian military/navy has carefully thought out the CONOPS for a [very?] small force of nuclear subs and thought through how these fit into, and support, the country’s overall geopolitical and military strategies.  If not, it will be a massive waste of resources and effort.  I hope this isn’t just a knee-jerk reaction to something … you know, the way the US Navy does things.  Given that the desire for nuclear subs seems to have appeared out of nowhere, this is a concern.
  • Finally, operating nuclear powered ships does impact political interactions in the region.  New Zealand, for example, bans ships with nuclear weapons or power from their waters. 



Assuming Australia can successfully address the various concerns, acquiring an LA class sub(s) would provide a rapid (on a relative basis) route to nuclear submarine operations and is well worth pursuing.  However, this is not something to be entered into lightly.  It requires a massive commitment of people and resources and needs to be carefully thought out prior to acting.



Note:  I am not well versed on Australian naval matters so some of the preceding may be inaccurate and, if so, feel free to [politely!] offer corrections.







[1]USNI News website, “Australia Needs Asymmetric Capabilities to Counter China in Indo-Pacific, Former Australian Official Says”, John Grady, 26-Nov-2021,



[2]The Guardian website, “Crew shortage could leave Australia's new submarines high and dry – report”, Lisa Martin, 8-Oct-2018,


Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Joint High Speed Vessel Missions

As reported by the Pacific fleet commander’s website [1], the Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV [5]), USNS City of Bismarck, has been conducting training missions with partners in the Pacific region.  From the beginning, ComNavOps wondered what kind of combat useful mission a JHSV could perform and could never find a satisfactory answer (see, "JHSV" and "More JHSV" and "JHSV Update").  Well, with JHSV ships now actively serving, the question is being answered. 


Let’s see what kind of actual missions the ships are training for.  The current training mission, running from July of this year through December, is Koa Moana 21 which involves exercising with the Republic of Palau.  From the fleet commander’s website,


Koa Moana, which means “Ocean Warrior,” is designed to strengthen and enhance relationships between the United States and partner nations in the Indo-Pacific region, improve interoperability with local security establishments and serve as a humanitarian assistance survey team afloat in support of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command strategic and operational objectives. [1]

Okay, that was, I hope, just the usual buzzword garbage and doesn’t really indicate what the ship was doing.  Fortunately, the website provides a few more specifics:


Participants, like the USNS City of Bismarck crew, take part in exercise activities that enhance interoperability necessary during humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. These include engineering projects on the island of Peleliu and the capital island, Babeldaob. Other capabilities exercised as part of Koa Moana include medical, maritime law enforcement and explosive ordnance disposal.

During one interagency law enforcement training event, the crew of USNS City of Bismarck, U.S. Marines and agents with the Palau Narcotics Enforcement Agency conducted training with a team of canine working dogs.


USNS City of Bismarck performed various other functions during Koa Moana, providing the Marines involved with a base of operations that includes berthing, flexible meal times, communications support, including secure communications, and working spaces for exercise planners. [1]



So, the exercise/training involves: 

  • humanitarian assistance
  • disaster relief
  • engineering projects
  • medical
  • law enforcement,
  • explosive ordnance disposal
  • drug enforcement dogs
  • berthing for non-crew members
  • providing meals at flexible hours for non-crew members (take that, McDonalds!)
  • communications
  • rooms for planners

Um …      Where’s the combat training?  How is this helping the US Navy prepare for combat?


Now, I understand that the US military engages in peacetime activities that don’t involve combat – whether they should is a separate topic – but when the resources of a half year exercise involve no combat training one has to begin to question the wisdom of the effort.


As a reminder, the JHSV was ?apparently? intended as an intra-theater, high speed transport.  I say ‘apparently’ because, like all Navy ships, it had no pre-design CONOPS that I could find.  Further, the high speed aspect is quite constrained.  From Wikipedia,


One disadvantage of the ship's design is instability in rough seas and at high speeds. At 10 knots in calm sea states, the hull can roll up to four degrees to each side, while conventional ships would roll very little, which would increase if the ship goes faster in rougher conditions, raising the possibility of seasickness. To achieve its top speed, the ship has to be traveling in waters not exceeding sea state 3 (waves up to 1.25 m (4.1 ft) high). At sea state 4 it can travel up to 15 knots, travel only 5 knots in sea state 5, and has to hold position in any sea state higher; while this might be seen as an operational limitation that can delay its arrival to port facilities, the ship was intended to operate closer to shore rather than in blue-water conditions. [2] [emphasis added]


Thus, in the open oceans of the Pacific theater, the high speed is something that is only sporadically available which is not exactly a sterling quality for an open ocean, intra-theater transport vessel.


Has the Navy built an entire ship class that has no combat value?  As ComNavOps noted when the JHSV program first began, it would appear so.  Even worse, it appears the Navy may have built an entire ship class with only limited peacetime use, as well.


This would seem to be another example of building a ship and then trying to find a use for it and, as we have seen with the Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB), it turns out that there is no use – at least, no combat use.  So, why are we building such vessels?  If something doesn’t enhance our combat capability we shouldn’t be touching it.


The JHSV is another useless, wasted ship class.  When will the Navy learn? 







As a reminder, the Spearhead class has a range of 1,200 nautical miles and can transport up to 600 tons of troops and material.[3]  The JHSVs cost a little over $200M each.[4]







[1]Commander, Pacific Fleet website, “Expeditionary fast transport ship supports Marines during Koa Moana”, Leslie Hull-Ryde, 9-Nov-2021



[2]Wikipedia, “Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport”, retrieved 9-Nov-2021,



[3]USNI News website, “Low Cost Ship Options for U.S. Navy’s Drug War”, Sam LaGrone, 20-Mar-2013,



[4]Government Accountability Office, “Defense Acquisitions - Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs”, Mar 2012, p.93


[5]Since renamed expeditionary fast transport by the Navy in a public relations attempt to make everything ‘expeditionary’ without actually changing anything, so … T-EPF, but we’re going to stick with JHSV.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Hypersonic Conventional Prompt Strike Missile

The Navy is looking to deploy Mach 5+ hypersonic missiles (called Conventional Prompt Strike missiles, CPS) on the Virginia, Zumwalt, and Burke class ships.


Let’s see how the effort is coming along.


To briefly review, the missile is a joint development effort with the Army to produce hypersonic missiles with a common hypersonic glide body (CHGB), booster, and overall design.  Each service will then develop its own launchers and any warhead-specific capabilities it needs.  The Navy is taking the lead in developing the CHGB while the Army focuses on establishing an industrial production base.  The Navy’s version is called the Conventional Prompt Strike missile and the Army's version is the Long Range Hypersonic Weapon (possibly referred to as ‘Dark Eagle’). Requested funding for hypersonic research in FY22 is an almost unbelievable $3.8B !  It would seem almost impossible to spend that amount of money in a year’s worth of research!  But, I digress …


As a reminder, there are two broad types of hypersonic weapons:


  • Boost/Glide – These missiles are boosted to very high altitudes where the warhead separates and then glides, unpowered, to the target.
  • Cruise – These are low level, ramjet/scramjet powered missiles.


Boost/glide hypersonic missiles, which are what we are discussing in this post, use a two-stage, solid fueled rocket motor to boost to hypersonic speeds at the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere, just short of space, where they glide along the atmosphere before dive/gliding at unpowered hypersonic speeds to the target.  The ‘warhead’ is non-explosive and relies on kinetic energy for its destructive effects.  Range is reported to be >1700 miles. [2]  The missile is reportedly around 3 ft wide and will not fit into standard Mk41/Mk57 VLS cells.  It is unknown if the hypersonic weapons currently being developed will have anti-ship capability or if it is just land attack.  Likely, it will initially just have land attack capability with a goal of later adding moving target (anti-ship) capability.


Concept For A Hypersonic Glide Body

As explained in a Popular Mechanics article,


CPS is a boost glide weapon system, using a rocket booster nearly 3 feet wide to propel the weapon into the upper reaches of Earth’s atmosphere. Instead of continuing into low-Earth orbit like a ballistic missile warhead, the glide body stops short of entering space, pitching its nose downward toward the target. The glide body then streaks down upon the target at hypersonic speeds, decreasing the amount of time the defender has to shoot it down. [1]


The missile's range is also secret, but the Union of Concerned Scientists estimates the May 2020 test weapon flew a total distance of 2,485 miles, while noting it was half the distance originally forecast for the weapon. [1]


The big question about CPS is how the Navy will fit the weapon on the Burke-class destroyers. The Burkes, largely considered the backbone of the surface fleet, are heavily armed, and there isn’t much room for new weapons. Each destroyer has between 90 and 96 vertical launch missile silos, but the silos are too small to fit a weapon nearly 3 feet in diameter. [1]


One possibility: Perhaps the Navy installs larger silos as it upgrades older Burkes. The lead ship, Arleigh Burke herself, was commissioned in 1991 and needs to be retired or refurbished by 2026. That said, it may not make financial sense to refurbish the new ships. [1]


The Navy also wants more silos in the fleet, and bigger hypersonic silos will come at a cost of smaller silos capable of carrying a broader array of both offensive and defensive weapons. Or, as Defense News writes, the Navy could instead develop a smaller version of CPS that can fit in the existing silos. [1]



Here’s a few aspects for further consideration:


Detection.  There are claims that hypersonic missiles will be difficult to detect.  It is not intuitively obvious why this would be.  In fact, given the altitude of their flight, the opposite would seem to be true with very long detection ranges possible.  Raytheon seems to believe missile detection is straightforward [3] although they are attempting to sell a radar system so, of course, they would make such a claim.


A CRS report offers the likely explanation for the seemingly contradictory claims by referencing radar line-of-sight.[4]  Hypersonic missiles are fairly easily detected with the detection range limited by the earth’s curvature (radar line-of-sight) and, of course, the power/capability of the radar itself (hence the Raytheon claim of enhanced detection range due to gallium based radars).  However, given the speed of the missile, even very long range detection still only provides a very short time period in which to take defensive measures.  So, it is not that hypersonic missiles are difficult to detect, it’s that their speed makes effective defense difficult regardless of detection range.


For example, a missile flying at 18 miles altitude (98,000 ft) has a maximum radar detection range of 434 miles [5] – plenty of range!  However, at Mach 5 the missile would cover that 434 miles in just 6.8 minutes which is not much time to conduct an effective defense.



Zumwalt and Mk57 VLS.  It appears that the first Navy application of hypersonic weapons will be on the Zumwalt class.  The hypersonic missile systems will be retrofitted to the space currently occupied by the defunct Advanced Gun Systems.  This will require the development of a new type of ?vertical? launch system referred to by the Navy as the Advanced Payload Module launcher (everything the Navy touches has to be ‘advanced’ and ‘modular’, doesn’t it?).


This touches on one of the long-standing mysteries about the Zumwalt - what was the point of the Mk57 Peripheral Launch VLS system?  The Mk 57 was touted as the VLS of the future with larger cells than the standard Mk41 but it appears to have been designed and procured with no suitably sized missiles in development or even contemplated and now we see that the hypersonic missiles won’t fit in the Mk57 cells, either.  Why did anyone think the Mk57 was a good idea?  The peripheral location is interesting and debatable but could have been achieved with standard Mk41 cells simply arranged differently. 



Burkes and Hypersonics.  Unlike the Zumwalts, the Burkes have no available, unused space in which to install large hypersonic magazines and launch systems.  Presumably, significant portions of the existing VLS cells would have to be removed to make room for new hypersonic launch systems.  This would mean reduced AAW (Standard and ESSM) and strike (Tomahawk) capacities although, presumably, the reduced Tomahawk capacities would be at least partially offset by the added hypersonic strike weapons.  Still, reducing the AAW capacity on a ship whose primary purpose is AAW seems like an undesirable situation. 


Installing even a minimally useful hypersonic capacity of, say, 30 missiles, would likely require the total removal of one of the two current Mk41 VLS clusters which would eliminate either 32 or 64 VLS cells depending on whether it was the forward or the aft cluster.  This strongly suggests that a purpose built hypersonic-capable ship would be a better option.  This might even be justification for the ever elusive, but never built, arsenal ship/barge.



Destructive Effect and Target Set.  We’ve discussed this in previous posts and comments.  Kinetic weapons (no explosive warhead) depend on the transfer/conversion of their kinetic energy into thermal energy and resulting shock/pressure effects.  In order for this to happen, the kinetic projectile must encounter sufficient resistance to quickly and efficiently transfer/convert the kinetic energy.  This is the bullet/paper problem: a bullet (lots of kinetic energy) fired at a piece of paper, will do very little damage, leaving only a bullet size hole as it passes through the paper and the paper will emerge virtually undamaged because the paper offers insufficient resistance to transfer/convert any of the bullet’s kinetic energy to the paper target.  Similarly, a hypersonic kinetic projectile that encounters a soft target like a ship will likely pass through, causing relatively little damage.  Conversely, a substantial, solid target such as a concrete bunker, fortification, or hardened aircraft shelter will offer sufficient resistance to facilitate the energy conversion and the target will be destroyed.


This suggests that the target set of hypersonic weapons will be limited to substantial, fixed structures.  Hypersonics would be useless against an army in the field since the combination of mobility (tanks, vehicles, men on foot, etc.) and softness would preclude effective hypersonic performance.



Infrared.  One aspect that I’ve not seen discussed is the heating of the glide body and how that relates to detection and defense.  A glide body will develop significant heat due to high speed friction with the atmosphere.  On the one hand, in addition to blinding the glide body’s sensors, if it had any, this should be easily detected at very long ranges which would seem to facilitate defensive efforts.  On the other hand, defensive missiles would suffer the same effect and be blinded in their attempt to intercept the hypersonic missile.[5]





It appears that we are spending nearly unbelievable sums of money on a weapon system with a very limited target set.  Hypersonics weapons seem to offer little advantage at the tactical and operational level although the ability to impact strategic concerns is, potentially, significant.  For example, hypersonic weapons offer the possibility to quickly and efficiently destroy an enemy’s port facilities, warehouses, airfields, key factories, and the like.  Of course, the converse is also true and an enemy can similarly impact our facilities.  This suggests that a revised approach to facility design and operations may be required.


Another implication of hypersonic weapons is that they are most useful when used against an enemy’s military infrastructure which, almost by definition, is located in the enemy’s mainland.  This means that, in order to be effective, combat must be expanded beyond proxy wars or distant battlefields and brought home to the enemy’s homeland.  Depending on the initial scope of a war, this might well be a major escalation in scope.  This implication holds true until such time as hypersonic weapons can be ‘down-scaled’ to the tactical level for use against small, mobile, fleeting targets.  Of course, we already have effective weapons for those targets so there may be no need for hypersonics at that level and certainly not for the cost required.


Given the incredible expenditures involved, I hope the military has carefully, realistically, and thoroughly gamed out the ‘CONOPS’ for hypersonic weapons so as to completely understand how and under what circumstances they would be used and what their effectiveness would be and, most importantly, how they would support our [non-existent] geopolitical and military strategies.  Unfortunately, given the Navy’s utter disdain for CONOPS, I’m not hopeful.







[1]Popular Mechanics website, “All 69 Navy Destroyers Are Getting Hypersonic Missiles”, Kyle Mizokami, Oct 22, 2020,



[2]Naval News website, “Latest Details on Hypersonic Missile Integration Aboard Zumwalt-class Destroyers”, Peter Ong, 28-Oct-2021,



[3]Investor’s Business Daily, “Army's New Raytheon Radar To Detect One Of The Deadliest Emerging Threats”, Gillian Rich, 17-Oct-2019






Friday, November 19, 2021

Marines: The Few, the Woke, the Diversified

Marine Corps Commandant General Berger seems determined not just to redefine the Marine’s role but to totally destroy the culture and strength of the Corps.  His latest emphasis is on diversification.


The goal that's driving what amounts to a cultural shift within the service, is for the Marines "to reflect America, to reflect the society we come from," Gen. David Berger, commandant of the Marine Corps, said in an interview with NPR's Morning Edition. (1)


It’s pure insanity to set a goal for the Marines to reflect society at large.  Society at large is not idealized for war.  Large segments of society are poorly suited to the realities, brutalities, and rigors of war (I’m looking at you, women).  Many other factions of society want nothing to do with war.  By inclination, choice, and nature many people have no interest in the military so why would we want to reflect them in the Marine’s composition?


The core of America's strength lies in its diversity, Berger said, adding that the same is true for the military. (1)


No, General, the military’s strength lies in its firepower and finding the few, the very few, from among society who have the temperament to use that firepower in the most brutal and horrifying way possible.  What sane person would expect society at large to meet that requirement?  What sane person would want the military to reflect a society at large that wants nothing to do with the military or war?


I don’t know what his motives are but Berger is destroying the Marines.  Pure and simple. 






(1)NPR website, “The Marine Corps is reinventing itself to reflect America, says top general”, Bowman et al, 12-Nov-2021,


Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Air Force Looking To Eliminate Kinetic Effects

The two decade long Afghanistan debacle has clearly demonstrated that our military leaders are absolute idiots who have no idea how to conduct a war.  This is no longer even debatable.


Now, these same demonstrably failed military geniuses are leading us down the path of an ever weaker military chasing the illusion of data and networks.  Here’s something that should scare you to your core: the military is now envisioning replacing kinetic effects with data.  According to Air Force chief of staff Gen. CQ Brown,


… advances in artificial intelligence, supercomputing, cyber weapons and space point to an ever-increased reliance on data and software, as well as a trend toward non-kinetic effects. (1)


Gen. Brown is looking to significantly reduce our kinetic combat capabilities.


“I can’t predict the future, but I would bet the non-kinetic effects will reign supreme,” Brown said during the Dubai International Air Chiefs Conference. “Now we’re somewhere stuck in the thinking that mass needs to be physical. What if we did not have to produce sorties to achieve the same effect? What if a future small diameter bomb looks like ones and zeros?” (1)


Mental masturbation about data and networks is all well and good until a Chinese amphibious fleet appears off Guam and none of our data matters at all.  At that point, it’s all about firepower and attrition and we are voluntarily and systematically giving up both firepower and numbers, steadily weakening our forces.


We just got kicked out of Afghanistan – a war in which we had total information dominance – and our military leaders want to double down on that failure by further eliminating firepower and emphasizing data?  Remember the definition of insanity?


China doesn’t even need to build up their military any further, they just need to wait while we tear down ours!






(1)Breaking Defense, “Could kinetic warfare go the way of Blockbuster?: US Air Force chief ”, Valerie Insinna, 16-Nov-2021,


Monday, November 15, 2021

Tactical Resupply?

The Navy is just making things up now because they have nothing worthwhile to promote.


For example, the Navy is testing two small, unmanned, resupply vehicles (UAV):  Tactical Resupply UAS TRV-150 and Blue Water Logistics UAS.


Blue Water Logistics UAV

Blue Water Logistics UAV with Cargo Basket Containing ?Circuit Board?


Um … okay.


So … what can these UAVs do?  From a Breaking Defense article,


From the Navy’s perspective, TRUAS [Tactical Resupply UAS TRV-150] is viewed as a likely candidate for missions ashore with the Marine Corps, given its shorter range but heavier 150-pound lift. Blue Water, as the name implies, could be used for resupply at sea where its small footprint makes it suitable to be stored onboard ships, according to a service statement. (1)



A lift capacity of 150 lb or less?  How is that useful?


The standard Navy 5” projectile weighs around 70 lb so you could transport one or two shells.  A single small Hellfire missile weighs over 100 lb.  A RAM missile weighs over 160 lb.

Tactical Resupply TRV-150 Quadcopter with Cargo Bag Hung Underneath


How would the ability to deliver one shell or one small missile be of any benefit?


I guess you could deliver mail or a circuit board or a replacement coffee pot.


I know the Navy is going to claim that there could be a scenario where a ship suffers a critical casualty (breakdown) due to the failure of a single, small part (if it’s critical, you’re supposed to have a spare!) and a small UAV could deliver that part more efficiently than a full size helo – and I suppose that’s true.  However, the odds that a ship will suffer a critical casualty, not have a spare on board, not need anything but that one single part, and has to have it immediately is vanishingly low.  And, if that scenario were to occur then the fact that a small UAV could do the job more cost effectively than a full size helo is utterly irrelevant.  If the need is that critical than the cost of the helo flight is immaterial.


The flip side of using a small UAV is that you have to store, operate, maintain, and fuel these UAVs on ships that are already severely space-limited and, at best, you’d be duplicating a capability that already exists (a helo).  Why?  To save a few pennies in a very unlikely scenario?


How does this enhance our combat capabilities?  It doesn’t and yet that’s the only criteria that should matter.


So, why is the Navy wasting time on this?  There are so many other, far more important things the Navy should be addressing.


This is technology for the sake of technology.  It has no combat value.






(1)Breaking Defense, “Navy conducts live test of resupply drones for ashore, at-sea missions ”, Justin Katz, 9-Nov-2021,


Thursday, November 11, 2021

Are We Still A Maritime Power?

In a recent post/comment, a reader offered a thought about the US as a maritime power:


… we are no longer a maritime power in the traditional sense.(3)


Such a simple statement has enormous implications and this led me to consider … are we still a maritime power?


The knee-jerk response is, of course we are!  But … are we really?


Answering the question requires that we set some criteria for what constitutes a maritime power.  Setting aside any definitions from anyone else, here are the common sense requirements for a nation to be considered a maritime power:


Extensive Merchant Fleet - We don’t have many US flagged ships but the US is the central node in an extensive international shipping ‘fleet’.  From Wikipedia,


As of October 1, 2018, the United States merchant fleet had 181 privately owned, oceangoing, self-propelled vessels of 1,000 gross register tons and above that carry cargo from port to port. Nearly 800 American-owned ships are flagged in other nations. (1)


So, while it is disturbing that the US flagged merchant fleet is almost non-existent, the US does have a very substantial merchant fleet supporting the nation.


Extensive Shipbuilding Capacity – The US has a pitifully small shipbuilding capacity, bordering on non-existent.  This was not always the case.  The US built around 77 commercial ships in 1975.(2)  In 2000, the US built around 17 commercial ships.(2)  The WWII Emergency Shipbuilding Program (US Maritime Commission) produced around 6000 general purpose cargo ships for the war effort.  The causes of the decline of US shipbuilding are well known and the reader can research the subject, if they wish.  Suffice it to say that the decline was largely self-inflicted and that the current situation has resulted in nearly non-existent shipbuilding capacity for the US.


Powerful Navy – It should go without saying that a powerful maritime nation requires a powerful navy to protect its maritime interests.  The US has a large navy relative to the rest of the world, however, that navy is steadily shrinking, aging, and has become woefully hollow, demonstrably incompetent, and lacks support in terms of shipbuilding capacity, repair facilities, drydocks, logistics, and foreign bases/ports.  For example, in the Pacific/China theater, we have almost no relevant bases/ports.


Given the above, can we still be considered a maritime power?

Maritime Power?

 I’m not going to offer an answer.  Instead I’ll leave it to you to answer the question for yourself.  You might, however, consider the following:


If we are still a maritime power, 

  • Why are we allowing our navy to decline so precipitously?
  • Why have we allowed our shipbuilding industry to decline so precipitously?
  • Why have we created the legal/regulatory conditions that prevent our merchant fleet from being US-flagged?


If we are not still a maritime power, 

  • How can we assure our continued unhindered access to global shipping?
  • Who will defend our global maritime interests as our navy fades?
  • Can we continue to remain a powerful nation if our access to global shipping is threatened or reduced?
  • How will we compete economically with other countries if our maritime access is further reduced?
  • Can a country with reduced maritime access and capability even be an economic power in the long term?









(3)AndyM, November 8, 2021 at 8:19 AM