Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Mine Sweeping - SAAB SAM3

ComNavOps has pointed out the West’s tendency toward individual, one-at-a-time mine hunting and neutralization and how utterly impractical this would be in combat.  There’s no getting around the fact that large scale, large area, short time frame mine clearance can only be accomplished by some type of sweeping operation – the exact opposite of what the West is doing.  There is, however, one example of a minesweeping technology that is moving along the right path and that is the ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems SAM3 unmanned minesweeping vessel.  The vessel is described in a sales brochure (1) as a small catamaran design ‘sled’ (I would describe it as a pontoon style craft) that is remotely operated.  The sweep units are capable of being operated in tandem to simulate larger target signals (like carriers or large commercial cargo/tankers?).
SAM 3 Minesweeper

Length                          14.4 m
Beam                            6.7 m
Draught                                    1.2 m
Displacement                14 tons
Speed, transit               10 knots
Sweep Speed               8 knots
Power                           Diesel 2x140 KW
Sweep Depth                3-60 m
Note that the sweep speed is a very low 8 kts.  This is not going to clear large areas in a short time unless many, many units are used simultaneously and it is unknown whether this is even possible from a signal interference and command/control perspective.  A sales brochure claims that four sweeper units can be operated together.  Whether multiple groups of four can be operated in the same general area is unknown.
The main feature of the unit is that the sweep signal is programmable with “magnitude and shape tuning of both magnetic and acoustic signatures”[1], making this a ‘smart’ sweeper which allows effects such as[1]: 
  • Correct signal levels, variation and duration for a specific target vessel type, size and speed
  • Synchronization of magnetic and acoustic signature output
  • “Ripple” effect for degaussing simulation
  • Simulation of multiple passes for mines with ship-counting device
It is this output signal manipulation capability that is the key.  Modern smart mines use a combination of input signals to determine triggering and we have to have sweeps that can simulate realistic, multi-aspect output signals in order to trigger a mine.  To the best of my knowledge, the LCS unmanned influence sweep system (UISS) does not use dynamically programmable signals and, if true, this will prove to be a major failure in real world operations.
ComNavOps has also expressed doubt that current minesweeping technology is capable of clearing (meaning triggering) modern mines which can use a variety of magnetic, seismic, pressure, and electrical signatures to distinguish real targets from sweep signals.  To the best of my knowledge, there has been very little research done on modern sweeping and even less interest shown by the US Navy.  This ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems minesweeping unit would appear to be one of the few examples of ‘smart’ sweeping technology.  Of course, how well it works is unknown.
I’m unaware of any minesweeping test, in modern times, that has actually tested sweeping technology against real mines (remove the explosive and just see if the mines were triggered or not), deployed in real conditions. 
The lack of real world testing should be extremely worrisome.  Combine this with the Navy’s near absence of any functioning mine clearance assets (the MH-53E helos are decades past scheduled retirement and only a handful are even flight worthy let alone mission capable and the Avenger class minesweepers are long overdue for retirement and most are not capable of sailing) and we have a major vulnerability that can cripple and paralyze fleet operations.

Monday, May 29, 2023

LCS MCM Status Update

As you know, the poor LCS has been sailing for many years without any functional, useful modules.  The modules were supposed to have been:
ASuW (anti-surface warfare) – The module has been watered down to near nothingness.  I think, now, it consists of a guy on the bow with a 9 mm handgun.
ASW (anti-submarine warfare) – The module was cancelled and ASW has been terminated as an LCS mission.
MCM (mine countermeasures) – The module has been in development since just after the Revolutionary War.
Well now, after a dozen or so LCS have been retired or scheduled for retirement, the Navy has finally declared initial operating capability (IOC) for the LCS MCM module.  Let’s update ourselves on the MCM module.
The mission module components keep changing as they fail, one after the other, so it’s difficult to keep up with the current status but, as best I can glean, the main components of the MCM module are:
MH-60 Helicopter
Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS)
Airborne Mine Neutralization System (AMNS)
Mine Countermeasures Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV)
Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS)
AN/AQS-20C mine-hunting sonar
The helo tows or operates the ALMDS and AMNS while the USV tows the UISS and sonar.
Knifefish and other (too many to list) individual components have been tested over the years and have fallen by the wayside.
It’s been quite a wait for the MCM module, hasn’t it?  And the wait isn’t quite over.  The first LCS was launched in 2006 and the modules began development prior to that so the MCM module has been in development for an unbelievable 17+ years … and still isn’t quite complete! 
Moton [Rear Adm. Casey Moton, program executive officer for unmanned and small combatants] said the Navy planned to deploy the first LCS with the mine countermeasure package in fiscal 2025.[1]
Deployment in 2025, assuming that isn’t further delayed, would put the development at 19+ years.
The Navy’s next task is to congratulate themselves and hand out medals all around.  When asked about the development effort, Moton had this to say, 
“Overall we’ve proceeded well throughout it.”[2] 
Well done, indeed, Adm. Moton!  A mere 17+ years to develop the MCM module is a praise-worthy accomplishment, without a doubt!
Well, at least the MCM module is here, now, and we know it works because it’s been tested against simulated mines rather than real ones. 
For the IOT&E testing, Moton said Cincinnati’s crew operated the mission package “against a simulated minefield to achieve required mission objectives, including maintenance, pre and post-mission system prep, post-mission data analysis, in-mission command and control and launch and recovery.”[2] 
Does ‘simulated’ mean an inert mine body or does it mean a virtual, non-existent mine as so many of our exercises use today? 
“We completed approximately 230 hours of MCM USV mine hunt operations, over 33 missions from the host LCS as well as from a shore-based command center to fully asses [sic] the sonar’s performance. We executed a total of 12 airborne sorties, with fielded ALMDS and AMNS systems demonstrating the full integration with the MCM mission package,” Moton said.[2] 
We demonstrated 16 full launch and recovery iterations in the MCM mission package IOT&E.”[2] 
Twelve airborne sorties?!  Wow!  That’s testing the crap out of the system, all right!  That many sorties must have thoroughly tested the system in day, night, shallow water, deep water, good weather, bad weather, warm water, cold water, fast currents, high sea states, and against all types of [simulated] mines, and each test must have been conducted many times over to establish statistical validity.  The Navy managed to test all those conditions and establish statistical relevancy in only 12 sorties!  And against ‘simulated’ mines at that!  I’m impressed!  There is no chance this system won’t work flawlessly in the real world.
Sixteen launch and recovery iterations?!  Under all the conditions just mentioned?  Again … wow!
Well, obviously, I’m mocking the Navy’s LCS-MCM effort.  Specifically, I’m mocking 
  • the protracted 17+ year developmental effort
  • the pathetically inadequate testing
  • the utterly lacking statistically valid test protocols and repetitions
  • the ignoring of the many real world, operational conditions that ought to have been tested (you had 17+ years, for crying out loud!)
  • the use of ‘simulated’ mines as proof of performance
  • the Navy’s delusional, self-congratulatory attitude to what can only be classified as a fiasco of historic proportions 
If I was the Navy, I wouldn’t have even declared IOC – and, seriously, does anyone believe it’s a real IOC as opposed to a pencil-whipped, public relations stunt?  Instead, I would have left it alone and hoped no one noticed the humiliating, embarrassment the MCM module is.  Heck, in a few years the LCS will all be gone via early retirement and the MCM module status will just be a forgotten footnote in history.  Declaring IOC just brings the entire, painful, humiliating episode to the front for everyone to mock.
[1]Defense News website, “US Navy declares its mine countermeasures suite ready for operations”, Megan Eckstein, 11-May-2023,
[2]USNI News website, “Navy Talks Details on LCS Mine Countermeasures Mission Package”, Mallory Shelbourne, 12-May-2023,

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Austal and T-AGOS

One definition of insanity is to repeat a set of actions and expect a different result.
The Navy is procuring a new class of ocean surveillance ships (T-AGOS).  That’s fine.  However, they’re contracting with Austal to design them.  Austal, you’ll recall, designed the Independence variant LCS.  I won’t bore you with a litany of the shortcomings and design flaws of that ship.  I would simply ask, after the massive failure of the LCS, why would we immediately turn around and contract with Austal again?  We contracted with them before and they failed miserably so we think that if we contract with them again the result will be success?  I refer you to the definition of insanity at the start of the post.
On a related note, the T-AGOS mission is to tow sonar arrays around and collect acoustic data.  The Navy’s cost estimate is around $430M per ship.  What is the one thing we know, with 100% certainty, about Navy cost estimates?  That’s right … they’re always ridiculously low.  So, we’re looking at a $500M-$600M ship, minimum.
This ship just tows a sonar array.  It has no radars, no weapons, no fire control, no electronic countermeasures, no high speed, no stealth, no survivability enhancements, no complicated propulsion system, a crew of around 40, and is likely built to commercial standards (unverified, as yet).  It’s an upsized, ocean going tugboat!  Can it really cost over half a billion dollars?  Can’t some commercial cargo ship do the job for a tiny fraction of the price?  Couldn’t we buy a used commercial vessel for pennies on the dollar, mount some sonar array mechanisms and computers and call it a day?


T-AGOS-25 Concept Image


[1]Breaking Defense, “Austal wins contract for first vessel in ocean surveillance ship program valued up to $3B”, Justin Katz, 19-May-2023,

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Boston Class Missile Cruiser

We’ve been discussing guns versus missiles and concluded, unsurprisingly, that both are needed.  With that in mind, let’s recall a ship that pioneered the combined use of missiles and guns!
The Boston class missile cruiser (CAG-1) was originally a Baltimore class heavy cruiser (CA-68) built during WWII.  After the war, in the early 1950’s, Boston was converted to launch RIM-2 Terrier missiles by removing the aft 8” gun mount and adding two twin-arm Terrier missile launchers (144 missiles in 2x 72 missile magazines).

USS Boston, CAG-1

One of Boston's Two Terrier Launchers

Boston’s Stern Showing Both Missile Launchers

In its original configuration, Boston was well armed and armored.  From Wikipedia[1],
3x triple 8”/55-caliber guns
6x twin 5”/38-caliber guns
12x quad Bofors 40 mm guns
24x single Oerlikon 20 mm guns
Belt armor: 4–6 in (102–152 mm)
Deck: 2.5 in (64 mm)
Turrets: 1.5–8 in (38–203 mm)
Barbettes: 6.3 in (160 mm)
Conning tower: 6.5 in (165 mm)
Bulkheads: 6 in (152 mm)
Let’s now consider a modern cruiser built along those lines with the Terrier launchers being replaced by two VLS units, each perhaps 16-32 cells for a total of 32-64 missile cells (speculatively, 40 quad packed ESSM plus the remaining 22-54 cells filled with Tomahawk cruise missiles?).  With armor and two triple 8” mounts it would be a formidable ship, able to conduct anti-air, cruise missile strikes, and close range, heavy caliber gun strikes while its armor made it resistant (not immune) and resilient to combat damage.  It would be the best protected, toughest ship in the world!  It’s interesting that the original missile version of Boston had more nominal missiles than our hypothetical, modern version (144 vs. 64)
Boston was 673 ft long and around 15,000 tons displacement, nearly the same size as a Zumwalt.  Imagine if the Zumwalt had, instead, been built as a modern Boston heavy missile cruiser.  It would have been a much more combat-effective and useful vessel !
Oh, what could have been …
[1]Wikipedia, “USS Boston (CA-69)”, retrieved 12-May-2023,

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Shaft Misalignment

The Royal Navy’s carrier, Prince of Wales (QE class), was sidelined with a propulsion casualty one day into a 2022 attempted voyage to the US and has been undergoing repairs ever since.  The problem, estimated to cost $31M to fix, was caused by a miniscule misalignment of the propeller shaft. 
The investigation into the cause of the starboard [propeller] shaft fault found that there was an installation error. More specifically, Wallace added that based on “initial reports” the shaft was misaligned by as much as 0.8mm to 1mm.[1]
The reason this caught my eye was the apparent sensitivity of the shaft to very, very small misalignment.  One can’t help but wonder what would happen if the ship were subjected to vibrations, shock, and whipsawing from an explosion in combat.  Would the shaft hold up or would it inevitably wind up misaligned by 0.8 mm or more and be rendered unfit?
The US Navy encountered something similar when the Aegis cruise, Port Royal, gently drifted aground off Hawaii and suffered unrecoverable misalignment of its radar arrays.
Militaries should not be producing machinery that is so sensitive that it cannot withstand typical combat shocks.
We discussed pod propulsion (see “PodPropulsion”) in a previous post and noted that it potentially offered many benefits.  I’m certainly no expert on pods but it would seem that a pod would bypass all shaft alignment issues.
I like the idea of pod propulsion from a combat damage resilience perspective, separate from whatever its propulsion performance is.  A pod, even if it’s rendered unrepairable, can be simply unbolted from the outside of the stern and a replacement put in place.  There is no need to open the ship up, as there is a for a damaged or misaligned shaft.
Pods - No more shafts?

Again, I’m not a propulsion pod expert, by any means, and I’m sure that pods have their own unique problems but they seem well worth investigating.
[1]Breaking Defense, “Millimeters cost millions: UK still to decide who ‘should cough up’ for $31M aircraft carrier repair bill”, Tim Martin, 17-May-2023,

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Guns Or Missiles?

One of the lamentable tendencies exhibited by naval observers and commenters is to evaluate weapons in isolation.  I’ve preached about the dangers of this yet it still happens all too frequently.  For example, if one considers the use of offensive missiles versus large caliber naval guns, the discussion invariably becomes a one-versus-one comparison - a single missile’s properties versus those of a single shell.  People will cite range or speed or explosiveness or whatever supports their favored weapon.  However, that kind of comparison and evaluation is always incomplete and always wrong.  Consider the following example.
An enemy’s island base needs to be destroyed.  How do we do it?  The obvious answer is we stand off a thousand miles and launch cruise missiles at it.  The less obvious but likely more realistic answer is that we used up most of our cruise missile inventory in the first month of the war and we, essentially, have none left and our industry, which is geared towards a peacetime production of a hundred missiles per year, can’t even begin to supply replacements in any useful quantities and what few we get are reserved for only the very highest priority targets.  Now what do we do? 
We could place a carrier in harm’s way and try an air strike, however, the island base is heavily defended by SAM batteries so we’ll suffer aircraft losses that our industry can’t replace in any useful time frame.
We could have the Air Force try a bomber strike but the enemy destroyed our only base in the region on the first day of the war and our handful of flyable bombers are tasked with much higher priority missions.
Hmm …   Now what?
Well, if we had ships with large caliber naval guns we could just sail up to the island and erase it from existence.  Of course, the tactical situation would have to be appropriate but that’s always the case for any mission.
Thus, a missile might have more desirable properties but the correct answer is more likely large caliber naval guns when one considers the larger picture of the overall war, munitions inventory, and replacement cost and time frames.
This also illustrates another guiding principle and that is flexibility.  Again, so many people debate weapon systems as mutually exclusive, one or the other, instead of acknowledging that there is a need for multiple options instead of one, exclusive choice.  It’s better to have options and not need them then to need them and not have them.  Options give us flexibility.  When we lose our only useful base, when our industry can’t supply replacement munitions, when industry can’t replace aircraft losses, when the enemy upsets our plans, flexibility gives us the ability to stay in the fight.

USS Boston CAG-1
Guns or Missiles?  Both!
Note two forward triple 8" mounts and aft missile launcher.

Keep this in mind as your discuss (let’s be honest … as you argue) weapon systems.  The ‘correct’ answer is almost always ‘both’ and it’s quite likely that the less advanced system will turn out to be the preferred choice for reasons other than pure performance specifications.
Guns or missiles?  The Navy has unwisely selected only missiles when the correct answer is both! 

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Garbage In, Garbage Out

Here’s another Air Force issue that is highly relevant to the Navy and the military, in general.
Boeing’s T-7A Red Hawk is years behind schedule.  This is not a highly complex, F-22/35 type stealth combat aircraft;  it’s a simple trainer intended to replace the Air Force’s T-38 Talon.  As a Drive website article notes, the T-7A was going to revolutionize aircraft design and construction by using computers and digital models. 
Advertised by the Air Force and Boeing as the service’s first "digitally designed and engineered" aircraft, T-7A was lauded as a poster child for developmental speed.[1]
The Red Hawk was expected to begin a new era in rapid design and engineering with iterative development carried out in the virtual world via modeling and simulation without having to bend metal or conduct extensive real-world testing. Systems integration would be accelerated and the time from the first flight to production significantly compressed.
It hasn’t worked out that way.[1]

Foolishly, we assign an aura of infallibility, bordering on a religious faith, to everything digital.  The reality, however, is that everything in the digital world    everything  … let me repeat that    everything   is governed by the ancient computer programming adage, GIGO which stands for,
Garbage In, Garbage Out
It doesn’t matter how brilliant your program is, if you feed it garbage input, you get garbage output. 
“A funny thing happens when you move out of digits to reality,” Teal Group analyst J.J. Gertler said.  “Digital engineering has the capability to rapidly iterate but it’s only as good as the information you put into it. It may also help you get to a wrong answer faster which you then have to back out of.”[1][emphasis added]
There you have it.  GIGO. 
“Digital engineering isn’t going to make issues go away,” he [Dr. Will Roper, former assistant secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics] noted. “It’s going to create a new issue which is – do you trust the underlying models and simulation upon which your performance predictions are based?”[1][emphasis added]
When hand held calculators were introduced, teachers noted that they all too often helped students get the wrong answer faster.  The calculator was electronically correct but the students were too ignorant to input the correct data.  GIGO.  The same phenomenon is prevalent in industry. 
Closely related, students lost the ability to recognize obvious incorrect results caused by mistaken inputs (accidentally pushed the wrong button) because they lost the ability to quickly estimate expected results and be able to recognize that an answer was patently incorrect.  I can instantly estimate 18x20 by rounding it to 20x20=400.  Therefore, I can recognize that an answer of 3600 is an order of magnitude off.  Students no longer have the ability to do that and cannot recognize obvious errors - the calculator said it so it must be right.
We’ve become so caught up in our blind worship of technology that we’ve completely ignored the constant presence of the GIGO phenomenon.  Digital results are accorded unquestioned faith.  Whether it’s artificial intelligence, computer aided design, pilot or ship driver training via simulation, or command and control networks, they’re all plagued by the constant presence of garbage input. 
Every Navy and Air Force design and acquisition program for the last two decades has claimed to be computer designed and computer aided and yet none have been what anyone would judge a success.
We had far more successful ship and aircraft design results from people using paper, pencil, and a slide rule then we do now using computers.  Common sense is screaming lessons at us but we’re too busy worshipping at the altar of technology to hear them.
How’s that simple, straightforward Air Force KC-46 tanker coming along?  It’s been well over a decade and still counting! 
Remember the Ford?  Computer modeled and computer designed?  How’d that turn out?
The F-35’s ALIS logistics, maintenance, and mission planning program was going to solve all our problems and yet it’s been abandoned and nothing has yet taken its place.
And so on.
The problem is that the people inputting the information are all too often incompetent idiots who can’t even rattle off their multiplication tables without consulting a calculator.  Have you ever tried to get change from a cashier who hasn’t got access to the register’s computer output?  They can’t calculate simple change in their head.  Why would we expect such people to be able to recognize garbage input and avoid it?  They can’t.  We’ve crippled ourselves, as a society, by allowing calculators in schools.  But, I digress …
We now have military leaders who are inputting idiotic data into wargames, computer models, and simulations and are unable to even recognize the idiotic results.
This isn’t just about arithmetic errors.  In the military, the idiotic inputs are things such as
  • Assuming the enemy won’t respond in any harmful way to us.
  • Assuming everything we do will work and nothing the enemy does will work.
  • Assuming that we have capabilities the enemy doesn’t.
  • Assuming our systems will work flawlessly.  Does any wargame factor in, oh, say, Ford EMALS breakdowns?  We have hard data but we’re hand waving away the reality.
  • Assuming our surveillance assets will be allowed to conduct their missions without hindrance.
  • Assuming we’ll have no problem working around the enemy’s electronic warfare even though any attempt at introducing even a modicum of EW into a real exercise has ended in the complete collapse of the exercise.
  • Assuming our networks will work flawlessly even though we’re being successfully attacked and penetrated by enemy cyber forces on a daily basis.
This is the kind of idiotic, garbage inputs that are producing garbage outputs.  Unfortunately, we’re too stupid to recognize the garbage nature of either our inputs or outputs and so we blindly follow our technology down ever more incorrect paths.
Garbage In, Garbage Out
[1]The Drive website, “T-7A Delays Compound Pilot Shortage, Expose Digital Engineering Pitfalls”, Jan Tegler, 12-May-2023,

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Flat Out Lying

Occasionally, I delve into air force matters when warranted.
Hey air force (af), I understand spin and I understand differences of opinion but don’t flat out lie to my face and insult my intelligence.  
Air Force officials argue that the roughly $500 million required annually to maintain 32 Block 20 F-22s — which they emphasize are not equipped with the most modern weapons — would be better spent on developing the Raptor’s successor, the secretive Next Generation Air Dominance fighter. Lt. Gen. Richard Moore, Air Force deputy chief of staff for plans and programs, further estimated in April that making the Block 20 fighters combat worthy would take about a decade of effort and cost approximately $3.5 billion — a timeline that, ideally, would already see the NGAD system flying.[1]
Let’s look at the math on this.  The af is claiming that updating 32 F-22s would cost $3.5B.  Doing the arithmetic, that works out to over $109M per aircraft.  By anyone’s standard, that’s patently absurd.  You could tear the aircraft down to the wheels and rebuild it for that amount.  How stupid do you think I am, air force (I’ll capitalize their name and give them respect when they begin respecting me, the taxpayer)?
Moving on … a decade to convert 32 aircraft?  Really?  Our entire industrial and military might could only convert 3 aircraft per year?  We can build a hundred brand new aircraft from raw materials but updating existing aircraft has a limit of 3 per year? 
The NGAD will be flying in ten years?  Really?  The F-35 has been in development for over two decades and isn’t yet fully combat capable (Block 4 is required for that) and the automated logistics support system is non-existent in any useful, functional form.  But, we’re going to have the as-yet-to-be-defined NGAD flying in ten years?
[1]Breaking Defense, “‘Much better chance’ USAF can retire F-22s in FY24: Kendall”, Michael Marrow, 9-May-2023,

Monday, May 8, 2023

The Miracle of HIMARS

HIMARS … the unending miracle weapon system!
To briefly review, HIMARS is the single pod version of the dual pod MLRS.  The pod contains either six 227 mm rockets or a single ATACMS missile.  The pod/launcher is mounted on a FMTV 5-ton truck.  HIMARS was developed as a lighter weight, lighter firepower version of the standard M270 MLRS.
Marines, naval observers and analysts, and blog commenters have called for HIMARS to be mounted on all manner of ships for land attack and anti-ship as well as for the Marine’s small unit, hidden bases to sink enemy fleets and control the seas.  Proponents credit it with 120% accuracy.  Truly, a miracle weapon system.
Of course, HIMARS, as is, is totally unsuited for naval mounting and would require a nearly new launcher/mount (materials of construction to deal with corrosion, multi-axis stabilization, fire control integration with existing ship’s systems, electronic signal deconfliction and interference checks, etc.) and a significantly redesigned host vessel (magazines, ammo storage and movement mechanisms, reload mechanism, magazine armor and firefighting systems, etc.).  As we’ve noted in the past, there are very few examples of successful adaptation of land weapons to naval use.  However, let’s set that issue aside.
An interesting data point has come to light from the recent US-Philippines Balikatan 2023 SinkEx.  It seems that the HIMARS system missed all six of its shots.  As reported by Naval News website,
The performance of the Army HIMARS was also questionable, with it being reported on the SINKEX’s live stream that the system missed all six of its shots at the World War II-era corvette. In previous SINKEXs, such as those held at RIMPAC exercises, targets were relatively static which allowed for munitions that struggle or cannot hit moving targets to participate. One of these systems that cannot hit moving targets is HIMARS with its current set of rockets. Due to unknown circumstances, BRP Pangasinan developed a drift that threw off the HIMARS’ targeting.[1]

U.S. Army HIMARS “Tommy”
from the 5-3 Long Range Fires Battalion
of the 1st Multi-Domain Task Force fires at BRP Pangasinan.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Samuel Fletcher)

So, it would appear that HIMARS has some challenges in the anti-ship role due to target movement – assuming one classifies ‘drift’ as target movement.  If it can’t handle slow drift, is it really the miracle weapon so many are claiming?
Here’s a worrisome thought:  if the target vessel hadn’t developed a drift and the HIMARS had hit the target we’d be reading about how wonderful it is and no one would know it’s useless against moving targets.  Do the Marines know about this shortcoming?  Do they care?  Do proponents know or care?
HIMARS may be a useful, effective weapon on land – or it may not - but it’s clearly not ready for naval combat and would require an enormous effort to make it so.
Why do people keep calling for this?
This is yet another in the endless list of systems whose claims far exceed their actual performance.  We have got to stop believing manufacturer’s and the military’s claims about weapon performance.  With 100% certainty, they’re significantly overstated.  I keep hammering on this and yet people keep buying into claims. 
We’ve already got multiple anti-ship weapons (Hellfire, Naval Strike Missile, Harpoon, LRASM, Tomahawk, Standard, ESSM, etc.) that are already adapted to naval use.  Why do we need another system, especially one that is not adapted to naval use?
In the land attack role, MLRS/HIMARS has some potential but, again, would need an extensive and expensive development program to adapt it to naval use.  No, you can’t just bolt it to the deck of a ship and call it a day.
While I like the idea of an MLRS-ish weapon as a suppressive fire (area bombardment) system to support amphibious assaults and ground forces, I would much rather spend development money on an 8” naval gun that could be used against land and sea targets.
[1]Naval News website, “Kill Chain Tested At First-Ever Balikatan SINKEX”, Aaron-Matthew Lariosa, 27-Apr-2023,

Saturday, May 6, 2023

Book Review – “Brave Ship, Brave Men”

In WWII, at Okinawa, the US Navy countered Japanese kamikaze attacks with a system of outlying picket ships that screened the invasion force.  The picket ships were subjected to unending, brutal suicide attacks and, although the pickets succeeded in their task, the US Navy paid a huge price in ships and sailors.
One such picket ship was the USS Aaron Ward (DM-34) which underwent a horrific kamikaze attack by ten planes and suffered six kamikaze crashes and two bomb hits while shooting down four attackers in a 52 minute ordeal.  Not only did the ship not sink but it kept fighting effectively the entire time.  Does anyone think a Burke could do that?
Brave Ship Brave Men[1] tells the story of that battle. It's stunning reading especially against the backdrop of the weakly built ships of today, made worse by minimal manning.
The author writes in a highly readable, semi-fictional style (reconstructed dialog and thoughts) which makes the events vivid and alive.  The reader is immersed in both the daily routine of the ship preceding the battle and the terrifying events of the battle.  The routine events paint a picture of wartime life aboard the ship which, alone, makes the book well worth the read.  This leads directly into the battle itself and the writing style places the reader in the middle of the action and chaos, with combat, casualties, destruction, and damage control swirling around.
Brave Ship Brave Men reads like Red Storm Rising except that it actually happened.
The book graphically slams home the various lessons I preach on this blog about armor, ship construction and strength, weapons density, redundancy, damage control, emergency measures and equipment, adequate manning, etc.  When you read the book and compare the Ward to what we have today, you realize how far we've fallen.
If you want to understand the ‘how’s and why’s’ of what I preach on this blog, this book provides the answers.  Read the book, ‘experience’ the battle, and then reassess your understanding of naval matters.


Aaron Ward after the battle.
Note the armored aft 5" unmarked despite the mangled devastation
all around it. That's what armor is for.

The Ward was a Smith/Sumner class destroyer converted to a minelayer.  Anti-aircraft armament consisted of [1, p.29]:
3 × 5”/38 cal. dual guns
2 × 40 mm quad Bofors AA guns
2 × 40 mm dual Bofors AA guns
8 × 20 mm Oerlikon AA guns

3-May-1945  -  Note the times in this brief sequence of events during the battle:
1829 hr  -  Shot down Kamikaze
1830 hr  -  Shot down Kamikaze
1831 hr  -  Kamikaze and bomb hit on ship  -  mount 44 destroyed, mount 53 on manual/local
1859 hr  -  Shot down Kamikaze
1904 hr  -  Shot down Kamikaze
1908 hr  -  Kamikaze hit on ship
1913 hr  -  Kamikaze and bomb hit on ship
1913 hr  -  Kamikaze hit on ship
1916 hr  -  Kamikaze hit on ship  -  mount 43 destroyed
1921 hr  -  Kamikaze hit on ship  -  various 20 mm mounts destroyed
In addition to the gun mounts damaged or destroyed, almost every compartment and piece of equipment on the ship was damaged or destroyed.  However, despite the immense amount of destruction, the majority of the gun mounts were still functioning albeit at reduced efficiency at the conclusion of the battle.  This is testament to the design and ruggedness of WWII ships and the recognition by the designers that amid all the damage, the weapons MUST continue to function.
[1]Brave Ship Brave Men, Lt. Cmdr. Arnold Lott, USN (ret), Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD, 1964, ISBN 1-55750-523-3

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Naval Fighter – Weight vs Range

ComNavOps has stated that the role of a carrier and its air wing is to provide escort and protection for the Tomahawk cruise missile shooters, the Burkes.  Related missions include clearing lanes for Air Force bombers and establishing local air superiority for operations.  All these missions require a top end, pure, air superiority fighter.
One of the main characteristics of a useful carrier air superiority fighter is very long range/endurance.
Let’s look at existing and historical fighter size aircraft and ranges and see if we can project an achievable maximum range and aircraft size.
I’ve collected data on a variety of [mostly] fighter aircraft.  Obviously, range is a function of many factors including aircraft weight – and, of course, engine efficiency, flight profiles, weapon loads, fuel capacity, and so on.  However, weight is the factor we’ll examine today.
Range (combat radius, to be clear) and weight data are taken from Wikipedia and other sources and can vary widely.  I’ve tried to pick representative values.  I’m not going to debate specific data.  We’re looking at overall trends not exact values for a specific aircraft configuration and mission.  The overall trends are clear regardless of variations in exact values.
The graph below shows the relationship between aircraft range (combat radius) and weight, quite clearly.  The bigger the aircraft, the greater the range.  This is demonstrating that our desired long range, air superiority fighter is going to have to be big.  This is not really a surprise but the graph hammers the point home.

As we contemplate our desired fighter, we can see that the starting point is up in the F-22/14 area rather than the F-16.  Again, no big surprise.
It is noteworthy that the listed aircraft are all relatively old.  One hopes that aircraft engines have developed to a point that we can squeeze out additional range simply from having more modern, more fuel efficient engines in addition to emphasizing whatever other design characteristics might contribute to enhance range (shaping, maximized lift, reduced drag, conformal tanks, etc.).
One of the fortuitous benefits of a large fighter is potentially greater weapons carry.  Of course, we’re simultaneously trying to maximize both internal fuel and internal weapons so it’s a balancing act, to be sure!
We begin to see the outline of our desired fighter – it will be big and carry a large load of air-to-air weapons.  It’s going to be quite similar to an enhanced F-22 (see, “Long Range Carrier Fighter”) and may well be even larger.
As far as the actual Navy next generation aircraft, the only thing we can be reasonably sure of is that it won’t be a pure fighter and won’t have any of the characteristics that our analysis is indicating!

Monday, May 1, 2023

Carrier and Battleship “Throw Weights”

I suspect that a lot of people believe that nothing can match the weight of ordnance (“throw weight”) that an aircraft carrier (meaning, its air wing) can deliver.  It’s significant, without a doubt.  Just for fun, I wonder how a battleship compares to a carrier in “throw weight”?
Just so we’re clear, the general definition of ‘throw weight’ is the total weight of shells a ship could deliver in a broadside.  Obviously, carriers don’t have a broadside and that’s not really a useful way to compare a carrier and a battleship so we’ll modify the definition to suit our purposes.  A carrier’s equivalent to a broadside is a maximum effort air strike which, depending on the distance to the target, takes place over several hours.  Thus, a carrier can fire a broadside (strike) once every several hours as opposed to a battleship which can fire its guns continuously.  For our purposes, the comparison, then, should be the weight of ordnance delivery over some time period with the obvious time period being the duration of a carrier strike mission.  Unfortunately, a carrier mission time period is highly variable so, just for the sake of convenience, let’s pick an arbitrary time period of one hour instead of a more realistic several hour period and we’ll assume the carrier’s weapons delivery occurs within that one hour.  The time period doesn’t really matter and won’t change the subsequent conclusions.
With that settled, let’s take a look at carrier and battleship throw weights over a one hour period.
We need to start with a few assumptions and stipulations.
  • The carrier’s ‘broadside’ is assumed to be 40x FA-18-E/F aircraft.  Each aircraft has six bomb hard points capable of carrying a 2,000 lb Mk84 bomb for a total load of 12,000 pounds per aircraft and a total of 480,000 pounds for all 40 aircraft. This is the theoretical maximum full sortie capability. Two sorties of the entire wing is the single day maximum.[1]

  • A battleship is assumed to be able to maintain a firing rate of 1 shell per gun per minute which is 60 shells per gun per hour.  A battleship has 9 guns in three triple mounts.

  • The battleship magazine is 1220x 16” shells (per NavWeaps website).
With those assumptions in hand, we can derive the following table which shows the one hour throw weights for a carrier and a battleship.  The battleship is shown with the alternate cases of high explosive and armor piercing shells.  For our purposes, it’s one or the other but not both.


So, what do we learn from the table?
  • The table shows that a battleship has 2-3 times the throw weight of a carrier in a one hour period.

  • If we extend the time period to, say, two hours, the battleship’s delivery is doubled while the carrier’s delivery remains unchanged as the aircraft are unable to deliver any more ordnance.

  • We also clearly see the folly of trying to use a carrier to provide ground support.  It just can’t deliver the required firepower effectively.
Now, before we take these observations and run with them, let’s note some ‘reality’ considerations that impact our table observations.
A carrier’s theoretical maximum throw weight can never be achieved due to the necessity to keep a significant portion of the air wing reserved for strike-related, concurrent tasks such as carrier defense, tanking, protection of high value targets (HVU) such as E-2 Hawkeyes and Growlers, target combat air patrol (TarCAP), barrier combat air patrol (BarCAP), etc. as well as the inevitable ‘maintenance-down’ aircraft.  Thus, our maximum strike does not consist of 40 aircraft but, instead, some significant number less.  Thus, the use of ‘40’ as the air wing size is utterly unrealistic.  A more realistic maximum strike package might be 10-20 which reduces the carrier throw weight to 120,000 – 240,000 lb.
In addition, an F-18 would rarely (never?) carry six 2000 lb bombs.  The weight would drastically cut into the aircraft’s range, speed, and maneuverability.  A far more realistic scenario would see a Hornet with just 2-4 bombs with two being the most likely.  Thus, the carrier throw weight is further reduced to 40,000 - 160,000 lb.
Magazine capacity is an issue.  We know exactly what a battleship’s magazine composition and capacity is.  I have no information on what a carrier’s magazine composition and capacity is.  It could be that a carrier doesn’t even carry 240x 2000 lb bombs.  Or, perhaps it has several times that.  I just don’t know.
Related to magazine capacity is ‘emptying’ time.  A battleship, firing all guns at a rate of 1 rd/minute can empty its magazines in 135 minutes.  That would be a staggering total of over 2.5M lbs of munitions delivered in a short period.  A carrier, cannot deliver such large pulses of firepower but because of that limitation can – and must – spread out its delivery.  Of course, a battleship can spread out its delivery period, too, if desired.
The above should not be interpreted as saying that a battleship is overall superior to a carrier.  For example, a carrier has a distinct advantage in delivery range.  Both types have strengths and weaknesses and the purpose of this post is not to debate one over the other.  The purpose is to point out the shocking firepower a battleship can deliver under the right circumstances which can only lead one to wonder why we ever retired the battleships?
An examination of throw weights tells us that battleships can effectively relieve carriers of some missions and, for some missions, would be vastly superior.  One of the major problems crippling the fleet is the deteriorating physical state of our carriers due to overuse and the resulting deferred/skipped maintenance.  Common sense says that if we would use battleships to take on some of the carrier’s missions, the fleet would benefit enormously.
With all due respect (none) to Navy leadership, it is, was, and always will be firepower that wins wars (yes, and logistics and manufacturing and …), not networks and data.  In the final analysis, you have to be able to kill and destroy and, under the right circumstances, nothing does that like the firepower of a battleship.
[1]“Joint and Interdependent Requirements: A Case Study in Solving the Naval Surface Fire Support Capabilities Gap”, Joint Forces Staff College, Joint Advanced Warfighting School, Shawn Welch, Colonel, Army Corps of Engineers, 17-May-2007, p.81-83