Monday, January 30, 2023

Long Range Carrier Fighter - F-22 / F-15 Hybrid

ComNavOps has stated that the role of the carrier, today, is to provide escort for cruise missile shooting Burkes and to establish localized, long range, air superiority.  This requires a dedicated, optimized, long range air superiority fighter and, unfortunately, we have no such aircraft.  Many people have suggested a navalized F-22 and, while that would be a distinct improvement over what we have now, it would still only be a stopgap measure with shortcomings. 


An even better near term option would be a navalized hybrid of the F-22 and F-15 (the F2215?).  The F-22’s stealth and air-to-air (A2A) prowess combined with the F-15’s incredible combat radius of over a thousand miles[1] would make for a pretty good long range, air superiority fighter until we could develop a truly optimized fighter.


Here’s a few considerations.



Role.  This is where every US military acquisition program goes off the rails on day one.  The US military simply can’t resist making every asset a multi-role, do-everything, win-the-war-singlehanded, piece of unaffordable, unachievable crap that takes several decades to field.  This aircraft is an air superiority fighter and nothing more than that.  Not a single piece of equipment can be added that doesn’t directly support the main and only mission:  air superiority.  No strike-fighter.  No EW.  No surveillance.  No buddy tanking.  No mid-course guidance, hand off to a Boy Scout in Montana.  No mini-AEW.  Just air superiority.  That’s it.  That’s all.  Just that.  Air superiority.


Going a step further, this is just for the Navy.  No Air Force version with modifications.  No Marine jump jet version.  Just the Navy.


Size.  Almost by definition, a very long range, heavily armed fighter is going to be fairly large.  The F-22 and F-15 are both the same size as the F-14 which we operated routinely off carriers so that degree of size is not an issue. 



Length, ft

Width, ft

F-14 Tomcat


38 (swept)

64 (spread)

F-22 Raptor



F-15 Eagle



F-18 Super Hornet


44 (spread)

31 (folded)



Add folding wings to the F-22 and F-15 and their parked footprint width drops from around 44 ft to around 30 ft which is well within flight deck spotting requirements.


Thus, our notional F-2215 fighter would have a spot footprint of 64 ft x 30 ft, virtually identical to the F-18E/F which is 60 ft x 44 ft (31 ft folded).


Combat Radius.  The F-15 has outstanding combat radius for current fighter aircraft and that’s the point of merging it with the F-22.  I don’t know what gives the F-15 its great range (conformal fuel tanks / FAST pack?) but whatever it is we need to merge it into the F-22.  Note, however, that even that range is inadequate, longer term.  While a thousand mile range sounds impressive and useful, it’s not.  If all you want to do is to travel a thousand miles and then instantly turn around and return to base, that’s fine.  However, presumably, we want to get there and stay while we engage in A2A combat.  We want to have enough fuel left to ‘turn and burn’ for a while.  Thus, that thousand mile combat radius is actually only 500-800 miles or so if we want to retain enough fuel to hang around and fight.  Long term, we need a fighter with a true thousand mile combat radius which includes A2A combat time at a thousand miles.  That, however, is a development for the next fighter.


Weapons.  Obviously, we want as many weapons as possible especially against stealth aircraft where many missile shots will miss.  Below are some possible max weapon loadouts for reference to give some idea of what current max loadouts are.  It would be desirable to be able to carry around 12 A2A missiles of various types and the loadouts below show that to be within the realm of possibility although restricting ourselves to internal carry may reduce that to 8-10 weapons.



Possible Max Weapons Load

F-14 Tomcat

6x Phoenix + 2x Sidewinder

F-22 Raptor

6x AMRAAM + 2x Sidewinder (all internal)

F-15 Eagle


F-18 Super Hornet




Stealth.  The F-22 is the stealthiest operational fighter in the world so … good enough! 


Maneuverability.  The F-22 is the most maneuverable operational fighter in the world so … good enough! 


Speed.  The F-22 is capable of supercruise, however, it is not clear to me that extremely high speed is all that tactically useful.  If very high speed can be achieved without added cost, weight, or complexity then do it.  If not, leave it out and go with cheaper, lighter, simpler … you know, the characteristics that should be the creed of aircraft design.


Sensors.  US acquisition programs inevitably fall apart because we constantly try to concurrently develop non-existent technology as we enter production.  We need the best sensors currently operational and nothing more.  By all accounts the F-22 sensors are more than adequate so … good enough!


Development.  Conceptually, merging the F-22 and F-15 is easy and straightforward.  The airframe is already proven to work.  No development needed, there.  After that, it’s just a matter of packaging the internal components.  It is mandatory, however, to mature the design at the prototype level before committing to production and then to hold the design to zero changes during the production run.  That’s how you build an affordable aircraft (see, “How To Build A Better Aircraft”).





The Navy desperately needs a dedicated, long range, air superiority fighter and a conceptual merging of the F-22 and F-15 would provide an excellent near to medium term solution if it could be fielded within a 3-5 year period and we’ve already referenced exactly how to do that and this should be even easier as everything already exists – it’s just a packaging exercise.


The F-2215 fills the immediate need while we develop the truly optimized, longer term solution.


Note:  Yes, I'm perfectly aware that an adapted F2215 would need beefed up landing gear, tail hook, corrosion resistance, low speed landing, etc.  Those are the nitty-gritty details for the engineers to deal with.  We're working at the concept level.




[1]Wikipedia, “McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle”, retrieved 20-Jan-2023,

“Combat range: 1,061 nmi (1,221 mi, 1,965 km) for interdiction mission”

Friday, January 27, 2023

Carriers As Escorts - Evidence from Ukraine

ComNavOps has, on many occasions, opined that carrier aircraft strike is no longer viable against a peer defended target.  Instead, the strike weapon of the Navy is now the long range cruise missile and the role of the carrier and its air wing is to act as an escort for the cruise missile shooters (Tomahawk configured Burkes) (see, “Navy Strike Doctrine” and “Striking Power of the Fleet”) .  This role requires a long range, pure fighter aircraft instead of the Navy’s misguided strike/fighter Hornets and F-35s.  Needless to say, the concept has not been received with unanimous agreement among readers who still cling to the outmoded carrier strike concept.


Well, here’s some real world experience and lessons from the Ukraine-Russia war that directly support ComNavOps’ contention.  A Newsmax article discusses exactly this concept (applied to land based aircraft and missiles instead of carrier/naval assets, of course).


"What worries most is whether Ukraine is going to be able to keep the Russian air force out of the war," he [Norwegian Chief of Defence Eirik Kristoffersen] said, adding that they have been able to so far "thanks to Ukrainian anti-aircraft defences".


And now, here’s the million dollar prize statement:


The bulk of Russian strikes in recent months have been carried out by long-range missiles.[1]


There you have it.  Russia has found that aircraft have been unable to operate effectively and survivably against a peer defense.  Instead, they’ve switched to the use of missiles as their main long range strike weapon.


Of course, as I’ve repeatedly stated, any information coming from, or about, the Ukraine conflict must be viewed skeptically and any lessons need to be very carefully considered and evaluated because the conflict is so atypical.  That said, this information and conclusion seem to be supported by every source I’ve come across so I’m inclined to believe it.  Plus, the conclusion is simple logic regardless of the Ukraine setting.


Carriers are now escorts for the cruise missile shooters.


The Navy needs to adjust its thinking and its carrier/aircraft design requirements.





[1]Newsmax website, “Russia Has 180,000 Dead or Wounded in Ukraine: Norwegian Army”, 23-Jan-2023

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

EMALS and AAG Reliability Data

Here is the only data to appear in the entire 2022 DOT&E annual report:  It’s for the Ford EMALS and AAG.




During testing from March through June 2022 (after the PIA), EMALS achieved a reliability of 614 mean cycles between operational mission failures (MCBOMF) during 1,841 catapult launches (where a cycle is the launch of one aircraft). While this reliability is well below the requirement of 4,166 MCBOMF, EMALS showed slight improvement in reliability from FY21 (460 MCBOMF throughout 1,758 catapults). However, during the fi rst underway of IOT&E in September 2022, EMALS reliability appeared to regress …


Thus, the most recent reliability is only 15% of the requirement.





During testing from March through June 2022 (after the PIA), AAG achieved a reliability of 460 MCBOMF during 1,841 aircraft recoveries (where a cycle is the recovery of a single aircraft). While this reliability is well below the requirement of 16,500 MCBOMF, AAG showed slight improvement in reliability from FY21 (115 MCBOMF throughout 1,758 catapults).  However, during the first underway of IOT&E in September 2022, AAG reliability appeared to regress …


Thus, the most recent reliability is only 3% of the requirement.

Monday, January 23, 2023

2022 DOT&E Report

After a woefully misguided decision by DOT&E to not publish a ‘civilian’ version of their annual weapons assessment report last year (well, to be fair, they did publish a ‘civilian’ version but there was nothing in it of any use, whatsoever), DOT&E was instructed by Congress to drop the restricted Congressional version and just issue a single ‘civilian’ report this year.  Thus, it was with great anticipation that I read through the just-released 2022 annual report.


I can say with certainty that, far and away, the biggest positive from the report was the fact that it was an electronic version which saved a large number of trees from being cut down to make paper.  Beyond that, there was absolutely no information of any use in the report.  The only exception was two reliability data points for the Ford’s EMALS and AAG (both still abysmally poor despite the Navy’s glowing public statements).


I could not be more disappointed in the report.  There was nothing there.  There may be even less than the prior year, if that’s possible.


Clearly, DOT&E was angry about being rebuked by Congress, didn’t want to do a public report, and put this worthless pile of garbage out as a finger in the eye of Congress and the public.


Don’t waste your time looking at it.  I’m not even going to post a link to it.

Ships With No Purpose

The Marines have stated publicly and repeatedly that they are out of the amphibious assault business.  Let’s set the wisdom of that aside and just look at what that means for the Navy.


From the Navy’s official current ship count, the fleet consists of 220 combatants (carriers, surface combatants, submarines, amphibious ships) in the ‘Active in Commission’ category.[1] 



Combatant Type


Aircraft Carriers


Surface Combatants




Amphibious Warfare Ships




If we’re truly out of the amphibious assault business, as the Marines say, that means that 31 of the 220 combatant ships in the Navy – that’s 14% of the combatant fleet - have no purpose. 


If we subtract the 22 LCS which have no viable combat capability, that leaves a fleet of 198 combatants and that means that 16% of the fleet has no purpose.


That’s a lot of operating cost, personnel, and resources being devoted to ships that have no purpose.


And we’re continuing to build more amphibious ships!







Thursday, January 19, 2023

Ukraine-Russia War Lessons - Cyber

I’m seeing more and more examples of military observers and analysts drawing conclusions about future warfare from the Ukraine-Russia war.  I suspect most of the desire to draw conclusions and lessons stems not from any attempt to better understand combat but, rather, to support pre-existing opinions and positions.  For example, the US military, has fully committed to the pursuit of networks and data over firepower despite absolutely no supporting evidence that networks and data can compensate for substantially reduced firepower. The military, then, is eager to latch onto any glimmer of news that would support and justify continued construction of networks as the primary ‘weapon’ of the US military.  Whether those conclusions and lessons would apply to any but an unbelievably incompetent enemy like Russia, is of no concern to US military leadership.  Their concern is to use the ‘lessons’ to obtain continued (or increased!) funding from Congress.


I cannot stress enough that the Ukraine-Russia war is exquisitely unique – and largely useless – as it relates to war with China.  Russia has been astoundingly inept in every facet of war.  It is extremely unlikely that China will be equally inept.  Therefore, attempts to draw lessons from Ukraine-Russia are likely invalid.


Even the US military has rare glimmers that something might be wrong with the attempt.


After watching Ukraine take on Russia in both the real world and in cyberspace, a top American cyber official [Mieke Eoyang, deputy assistant secretary of defense for cyber policy] said the Defense Department must “think very differently” about how it will fight in both realms in the future.[1]


According to Ms. Eoyang,


… one of the things she’s seeing “is the context of the armed conflict dwarfs the cyber impacts” of the war.


“When you think about the physical destruction relative to the cyber disruption of what happens here, things that Russians tried to disrupt via cyber… did not have the strategic impact that they wanted, and they sought to destroy those things physically,”[1]


A US military official coming to the conclusion that firepower has more of an impact than cyber actions?  I’m astounded!  Isn’t that exactly what I’ve been saying for the last several years? 


This completely upends US military thinking and beliefs.  The primacy of firepower over networks is sacrilegious to the orthodoxy of the US military which has ceded firepower superiority to the Chinese in the desperate, misguided hope that networks and data can, somehow, compensate for the lack of destructive firepower!


Unfortunately, just to prove that an isolated flash of insight into reality is just that – isolated - , here’s Eoyang’s overall conclusions and cyber objectives for the US military.


… Eoyang said DoD is now thinking about cyber operations in the context of armed conflict in four ways:


Making sure government-to-government communications and networks are secure, shown in how DoD’s communications with Ukraine have helped enable its defense and intelligence sharing.


The importance of secure communications within the military, like how Ukraine’s military has been able to share information with forward commanders.


In the informational space, thinking about what it means for Ukrainian citizens to be able to communicate with the world and tell their stories through social media platforms like TikTok, Twitter and Facebook, which “has denied Russian the information environment that they want to prosecute this conflict.”


The inherent value in ensuring “essential” government functions. “As you look at attempts to destroy the kind of essential data that makes a country a country…such as passport records, birth records, property records…What do governments need to be able to continue to operate its essential function?” Eoyang said.


Sure enough, most of those objectives have nothing to do with actually fighting and winning a war.  They’re mostly about non-critical, non-combat, government functions which, by definition, are generally worthless.


Eoyang seems to recognize that Russia is performing incompetently, to put it mildly.


“I think we were [expecting] much more significant impacts than what we saw,” she said.  “And I think it’s safe to say that Russian cyber forces, as well as their traditional military forces, underperformed expectations.”[1]


Despite this recognition, she wants to draw conclusions that will guide our future military preparations.  Unless we have reason to believe that China will perform just as incompetently, we should be very , very, very, very, wary of drawing conclusions and lessons from the Ukraine war.


As I constantly say, all the networks and data in the world won’t matter one iota when a horde of enemy soldiers armed with clubs bash your brains in because you didn’t have the firepower to stop them.






[1]Breaking Defense, “DoD must ‘think very differently’ about armed conflict, cyber in light of Ukraine war: Official”, Jaspreet Gill, 16-Nov-2022,

Monday, January 16, 2023

The Stealthiest Ship Ever Built

The US military is building its entire force structure around the concept of information which includes data collection, surveillance, networks, etc.  In other words, the military is assuming – or, at least, working towards the goal of – perfect battlefield awareness, believing that will make up for vast, self-inflicted shortcomings in firepower.  Setting the lunacy of that assumption aside, the implication is that the US believes that all will be known and seen on the battlefield.  Accepting that premise for the sake of analysis and discussion, we must also assume that the Chinese will have the same degree of total vision and situational awareness.


What, then, does that suggest about the survivability of naval forces?  It’s obvious, isn’t it?  Only the most stealthy platforms will be able to evade detection for any useful time period.  Unfortunately, none of our current naval surface ships come remotely close to that level of stealth.  In order for a ship to survive on the future naval battlefield, it will need to have maximum stealth across the entire electromagnetic spectrum and beyond.  With that in mind, why don’t we have a bit of fun and see if we can come up with a conceptual design for a future ship – it doesn’t matter what type – that is the stealthiest possible given our current level of technology? 


Before we go any further, we need to briefly review what stealth is. 


While most people associate the term ‘stealth’ with radar signature, the term actually encompasses much more.  The definition of stealth is the ability to evade detection.  That evasion can include measures such as reduced radar signature, reduced infrared signature, reduced acoustic signature, altered visible signature (camouflage), the use of multi-spectral obscurants, decoys (chaff, flares, emitters), electronic warfare, tactics (avenues of approach, use of weather), etc.  It should be noted that some of these do not have to be part of the ‘hiding’ platform’s capabilities but can be provided by other platforms in support of the ‘hider’.  For example, an F-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft can provide stealth cover for other ships or aircraft by using its EW/jamming capabilities to reduce the likelihood of detection of the ‘hiding’ platforms.


Of course, having organic stealth measures helps, too!


So, understanding everything that goes into making a platform – a ship, in this case – stealthy, let’s see if we can conceptually design the ultimate stealth surface ship, just for fun.  What would it look like?  What characteristics would it have?  What unique aspects would be incorporated into this design that are not currently common? 


For this exercise, we’ll only consider the organic stealth measures and ignore the off-board measures from other platforms.  Thus, we’ll concern ourselves with size, radar signature, acoustic signature, infrared signature, optical visibility, electromagnetic emissions, obscurants, decoys, electronic warfare, and wake suppression.  Some of these factors are pretty obvious so, for the sake of brevity, I won’t belabor them.


Size – The most basic – and almost universally ignored – aspect of ship stealth is size.  Simple size.  All else being equal, a smaller ship is harder to detect than a larger ship.  A smaller ship naturally has smaller signatures across the electromagnetic spectrum.  This is a fundamental truth that the Navy has totally ignored as it continues to produce ever larger ships.  The WWII Fletcher class destroyer was 376 ft long versus a Flt IIa Burke class destroyer which is 509 ft long.  A WWII Atlanta class cruiser was 541 ft long versus a Zumwalt class cruiser (the Navy misleadingly calls it a ‘destroyer’) which is 610 ft long.  The Brooke class FFG was 414 ft long which was followed by the larger Perry class FFG which was 453 ft long which was followed by the still larger Constellation class FFG which is 496 ft long.


One of the largest drivers of ship size is the Navy’s obsession with helicopters.  The Navy believes that every ship must have a helicopter with its attendant flight deck, hangar, magazines, maintenance shops, additional crew, etc. which make up a third of a ship’s length and superstructure.  No ship should have a helicopter unless it is absolutely required for the execution of its primary mission.  For example, an AAW escort has no need for a helo which instantly reduces the ship’s size by a third – a nice chunk of ‘instant stealth’!


Included in size considerations is the superstructure.  Superstructures have grown enormously since the ships of WWII (see, “Ship Superstructures”).  Every square foot of superstructure area and every cubic foot of superstructure volume increases the ship’s various signatures.


The obvious conclusion is that our stealthy ship must have the smallest hull size and smallest superstructure possible, consistent with its mission requirements (CONOPS).



Radar Signature – This is the commonly understood measure of stealth and needs little further discussion other than to note that a truly minimized radar signature requires that there be no protruding objects such as railings, sensor domes, antennae, line handling equipment, platforms and supports, cabling, electrical junction boxes, firefighting plumbing, etc., all of which our current ships have in abundance.  Our conceptual starting point, in this respect, is the Swedish Visby which is nearly as free of protruding items as possible (see, “Ship Stealth and Visby”).


Visby - Note the relative lack of protruding objects

Acoustic Signature – Arguably, the most lethal threat to ships is the submarine and the main means of detection that a submarine uses is acoustic sensors.  Our ship must be as quiet as possible.  Every known acoustic suppression method must be used, including isolation and rafting of internal machinery, selection of inherently quiet machinery, Prairie-Masker, vibration dampening, cavitation suppression, etc.  Silence must take priority over speed.  The powertrain and propulsion must be the quietest possible.  We cannot use massive noise beacons like water jets.  I do not have detailed acoustic data about propulsion pods but I suspect they may be a good choice since they eliminate the use of long, large, noisy propeller shafts and combining gear.  I also do not have acoustic data on turbines versus, say, diesel engines.


The point is that the propulsion system must be selected for reduced sound rather than maximum power or speed, again, consistent with mission requirements.  This would be a radical departure from current ship design.


Infrared Signature - Ideally, our ship should have a temperature identical to the surrounding ambient air and water.  One of the major IR sources is, of course, the hot exhaust from the commonly used turbine engines.  If we can’t find a better choice than turbines, we need to, at least, suppress the heat of the exhaust by discharging the heated air through a water mist or exhausting the air into the water[4] or very near the waterline in a water-cooled discharge.


The rest of the hull and superstructure gets hot from internal heat sources and heat absorption from the sun.  The hull and superstructure need a cooling system similar to the Nuclear/Biological/Chemical (NBC) washdown system.  In this case, instead of washing away radioactive particles, the washdown would serve to cool the ship’s skin and reduce the IR signature.


Optical Visibility – Many weapons use optical sensing for target identification, terminal guidance, and impact point selection.  We must reduce or alter our optical signature as much as possible by reducing ship and superstructure size and by applying camouflage to break up or alter the ship’s outline.  Interestingly, early WWII Gato submarines had relatively large superstructures which, in combat, were quickly cut down to reduce their visible detectability.  We must follow this example.  The least detectable superstructure is no superstructure.  While that may not be totally achievable, it is the goal we must strive for.  We must ruthlessly eliminate any non-combat compartment in the ship.  This means no ship’s post office, no gym, no crew lounge, no chapel, no lawyer’s office, etc.  This is a ship of war not a cruise ship.  Every non-combat space that can be eliminated allows us to reduce the size of the superstructure.  I guarantee that every sailor will gladly choose survival in combat over a coffee bar or video game lounge.


An intriguing area for research is the use of adaptive electrochromic coatings/paint that can alter their color, reflectance, and other properties depending on temperature, light and light angles, and electrical state.  To the best of my limited knowledge, these are not available for field use but they should be aggressively pursued as near term research projects.[3]


Electromagnetic Emissions – This is our old friend, EMCON.  This is well understood and, until very recently, totally ignored by the Navy.  I won’t belabor this further other than to emphasize that our conceptual ship cannot have any stray emissions and must be designed to operate without active emissions to the maximum extent possible.  This means emphasizing passive detection and tracking of targets versus active.  To the maximum extent possible, fire control must utilize passive sensing.  Every piece of equipment on the ship must have a verified EMCON mode of operation.  It goes without saying that cell phones, video games, or any other personal electric device must be banned.


Obscurants – ‘Smoke’ has been developed that can provide multi-spectral interference (concealment) and can be deployed as any other shipboard decoy canister.


Decoys – This is a vastly under-emphasized aspect of stealth.  Not to belabor the obvious but decoys mimic a real target in hopes that an attacking weapon will be fooled into selecting the decoy instead of the real ship.  Decoys can take many forms from simple emitters that broadcast the real ship’s radar frequencies to persistent, floating, radar reflecting, multi-faceted ‘igloos’. 


Similar to electronic warfare, the Navy has given relatively little attention to decoy research and development.  Current decoys are very basic and limited.  What is needed is a decoy that simulates radar, infrared, and visible emission characteristics of the host ship and has a useful degree of persistence.


We also need suitable doctrine and tactics for the employment of decoys.  For example, the current tiny handful of decoys embarked on ships is woefully insufficient for a high end naval battle.  We need to be capable of dispersing hundreds of decoys, not a handful.  Let an enemy weapon find the literal one-in-a-hundred signal that is the real ship.


Insert photo: Decoy 1.jpg  -multi-faceted radar reflector


Electronic Warfare (EW) – Despite the fact that historical data shows that EW is far and away the most effective defensive technique, the Navy has virtually ignored EW for decades.  Even the SEWIP modernization program barely pays lip service to the role that EW should play.


We need powerful emitters for jamming, false signal injection, cyber attacks, etc. and the entire electronic warfare system must be tied into the Aegis combat system so that it acts in a coordinated fashion.


Wake – Our enemies have wake homing torpedoes and no truly stealthy ship would be without wake suppression measures.  Unfortunately, wake suppression is technically challenging and I’m not sure if any practical measures have been fielded.  The Navy has a patent on a wake suppression technique using ultrasonics to reduce/remove the microbubbles in the ship’s wake which are what allow a wake to be sensed and tracked.[1]  Another patent describes a means of reducing wake vorticity (turbulence) by siphoning off the boundary layer of water along the hull.[2]





Having come to an understanding of the various factors that impact stealth, we can now conceptualize a maximum stealth ship design.


The ship will be as small as possible with only a minimal superstructure – think a slanted, stealth version of a WWII Fletcher class destroyer superstructure, maybe less.  All surfaces, hull and superstructure, will be fairly sharply angled and will be completely smooth with no protruding pieces of equipment.  The ship will, externally, appear to have no equipment or weapons and items that are necessary for ship handling operations will be fully retractable in one way or another. 


Sensors will be either embedded flat panels or retractable with an emphasis on passive sensors providing complete and continuous hemispherical coverage with multitudes of redundant and overlapping sensors.  Even navigation radar will be omitted.  Instead, infrared and electro-optical sensors will provide navigational information.  This may force us to become actual sailors again but that’s not a bad thing, is it?  Radar use will be limited to active weapons employment and even that will be minimized.


Weapons will be retractable in various ways.  Even the ubiquitous Mk41 VLS will be modified with a completely flat cover instead of a multitude of separate hatches, each with its own several-sided radar reflecting surfaces. 


Except for specific ASW vessels, there would be no helo facilities. 


UNREP gear will be fully retractable.


This ship will require a complete revision in combat operating procedures.  The overwhelming emphasis will be on passive sensors and greatly reduced communications (none, during combat).  Admirals will have to trust the ship captains to understand their mission intent and then leave them free to execute as they deem best.  The constant verbal diarrhea gushing forth from today’s ships will be a thing of the past.  This ship will operate unseen and unheard.


Nothing will be allowed on the ship that does not have a verified, shielded, EMCON operating mode.  The ship will not emit a single stray electron.


The ship will embrace bad weather, seeking it out and using it tactically for whatever degree of cover it can provide.


The ship will be constantly passively ‘sniffing’ the electromagnetic spectrum for its situational awareness instead of depending on the brute force of radar.  The crew and ship’s systems will be constantly a hair’s breadth from active combat.  Combat systems will have a full auto mode which will be the standard mode in a combat zone.  There won’t be time for human reactions.


The ship will be built for war, not cruising.  Silent.  Unseen.  Stealthy.












[4]Discharge into the water will increase the backpressure on the exhaust flow thereby reducing propulsion system performance.  This is an example of prioritizing stealth over speed.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Destroyer Escort Development

Destroyer Escorts (DE), or Frigates (FF/FFG), as they’re now known, have an interesting developmental history that illustrates many of the problems we’re dealing with today.


The modern DE, as we know it, came to be in WWII.  There are earlier possible predecessors but, for our purposes, we’ll say WWII was the starting point, as typified by the Buckley class.  The type continued to evolve throughout the war and the immediate post-war, eventually developing into missile and helicopter versions, changing names from destroyer escort to frigate and leading, ultimately, to the current Constellation class frigate.


In its early guise, the outstanding characteristics of the DE were:


Focus on anti-submarine warfare (ASW)

Cheap cost and large numbers

Use as convoy escorts for which the main threat was submarines


As post-war development took place, the ships grew steadily larger and eventually lost their ASW focus, becoming more multi-function (not a good thing!), expensive, and less numerous.


Consider the steady increase in size, as shown in the table below and the scaled silhouette drawings.



Destroyer Escort Size Growth


Length, ft


















Let’s take a look at several representative destroyer escort classes.


Buckley – This is the classic destroyer escort of WWII.  Weapons included 3x 3” guns, Hedgehog, 200x depth charges, 2x stern depth charge rails, 3x 21” torpedoes and assorted 40 mm and 20 mm anti-aircraft guns.  Sensors included Type 128D or Type 144 sonar in retractable dome.  The noteworthy aspect of this class was its ASW focus which set the pattern for subsequent DE classes.  This was a focused, efficient, cheap vessel whose cost allowed procurement in large numbers with around 150 being built.  The class had a clear primary purpose and contained nothing that did not directly contribute to that purpose.  The ship was as small as it could be, consistent with its function.


In this class, we see all the characteristics of an excellent ship:  small as possible, heavily armed, single function, cheap, simple and easy to build, and numerous.


Dealey – This was the first post-WWII DE.  Weapons included 4x 3” guns in two twin mounts, RUR-4 Weapon Alpha anti-submarine rocket launcher, 2x ASW triple torpedo launchers, 2x K-gun depth charge launchers, and 1x stern depth charge rails.  Sensors included the SQS-4 low frequency sonar.  USS Willis, DE-1027, operated a variable depth sonar from the stern.  The class was later modified for DASH operations.  The class was still focused on ASW but one can already see the beginnings of a decrease in ASW weaponry with smaller, lighter torpedoes and fewer depth charges and rails/launchers


Garcia – These ships typified the major jump in size that occurred due, primarily, to the incorporation of an aviation component (flight deck, helo, hangar).  Weapons included 2× 5 in guns, 1× 8-tube ASROC Mk16 launcher (16 missiles), 2× triple lightweight torpedo tubes, and 2× MK 37 stern mounted fixed torpedo tubes which were later removed.  Sensors included the SQS-26 bow sonar.  The ship operated the SeaSprite helo. 


This class is an example of the beginnings of a fascination with technology over firepower and combat effectiveness as evidenced by an emphasis on aviation as the primary ASW tool rather than up close, volume oriented ASW firepower (depth charges and the like). 


The use of 5” guns illustrates additional loss of focus and the movement away from a single, primary function towards a multi-function philosophy.


Knox – This class further emphasizes the movement away from a strict focus on ASW and towards a broader, ocean escort role.  Weapons include 1× 5 in gun, 1× Mk16 8–cell ASROC launcher, and 2× triple lightweight torpedo tubes.  Again, the on-board ASW weapons have been decreased in favor of the helo.  Sensors included the SQS-26 bow sonar and SQR-18 towed array.  The ship operated the SeaSprite helo. 


Perry – This is where the destroyer escort concept really went off the rails as the focus shifted to ocean escort and anti-air although ASW was still a mission.  However, the Perry’s SQS-56 sonar was considered only marginally capable although the SQR-19 towed array was useful.  This class also saw the near abandonment of ship-based ASW in favor of helo-based ASW with the ship acting as a helo-host rather than an active ASW combatant.


Constellation – This class doesn’t even pretend to be ASW-focused.  The ship lacks even a VL-ASROC.  It is a mini-Burke, pure and simple, trying to be all things and being good at none.  This is a class without a mission other than to be a cheaper Burke and not be a failure (see, “Constellation Class Frigate - Success or Just Not Failure?”).



From the brief history and description of the DE classes, we clearly see that the initial primary characteristics of a destroyer escort,


  • Focus on anti-submarine warfare (ASW)
  • Cheap cost and large numbers
  • Use as convoy escorts for which the main threat was submarines


were altered, over time, to,


  • Unfocused, multi-mission
  • Expensive and few in number (only 20 Constellations are planned)
  • No clear mission or CONOPS





The WWII DE was supremely focused on one task and one task alone.  It was sized and equipped for that one task and nothing else.  This resulted in the minimum possible construction cost/time and, hence, the maximum number of ships.  We’ve lost that over the years.  Today’s destroyer escorts – which we now call frigates – are multi-focused (multi-functional) which has drastically driven up size and cost, diluted ASW weapons, and drastically decreased the number of ships we can afford.



Helo-centric ASW


We need to address one of the DE trends and that is the adoption of helos as replacements for shipboard ASW.  When they’re in the air and over a contact, helos are quite effective and useful.  The problem is that helos are only sporadically available.  Helos are good for around two 3-hour missions per day.  Even with two helos per ship (an optimistic number) that provides only 12 hours of airborne coverage per day and even that will be sporadic in the sense that in combat there will be many false contacts that will have to be pursued.  Thus, the helo won’t be flying around searching broad areas, as so many people envision.  Instead, they’ll be tied to one contact location for an extended period, trying to prove/disprove a suspected contact.  That’s point coverage, not broad area searching.  Thus, by making helos the focus of our ASW effort, we’ve effectively reduced our coverage area.





Destroyer escorts have, historically, been effective not because they were individually supremely effective ASW machines but because they were ubiquitous.  They were effective due to numbers!  Their presence forced submarines to alter course, miss intercepts, and abort attacks.  As the type has grown in size, complexity, and cost, the numbers have been reduced to the point that their main mode of effectiveness, a ubiquitous presence, is no longer viable.  Our entire supposed ASW force will now consist of 20 Constellations.  That’s not even remotely enough to be effective.  The Navy can claim that Burkes are ASW-capable but they’re not.  They don’t train for it and no sane commander is going to risk a $2B-$3B ship playing tag with a submarine.





By foolishly trying to make every ship a multi-function, do-everything, single-handed war-winning, mega-machine, we’ve lost all the positive attributes of the type.  We’ve taken a ship that was exquisitely optimized for its role and morphed it into a ship that has no defined role (or, maybe, every role!). 


Consider the Constellation.  We clearly do not have a CONOPS for the class other than ‘do everything’ which is another way of saying ‘do nothing well’.


The DE development history also clearly shows the relationship between size/cost and numbers.  We’ve gone from 150 Buckleys, at 306 ft long, to 20 Constellations, at 496 ft long.  Size equals reduced numbers.  It can’t be stated any plainer than that.  A 496 ft long frigate is an abomination and makes a mockery of the type’s traditional role while simultaneously reducing, nearly to the point of extinction, the numbers of ASW ships in the fleet.