Monday, February 26, 2024

Abrams Tanks Being Sent To Russia

Once in a great while, I take a peek at a non-naval issue and today is such a case.
The US has sent 30 some M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine and reports suggest they’ll be committed to some kind of spring offensive when the ground dries enough to support heavy armored vehicles.  That raises the probability that Russia will eventually capture an Abrams tank.  Yes, I know that some of the more sensitive gear has been stripped out of the tanks for just that reason but what about the general characteristics of the tanks, especially the armor.  We’d be giving Russia the opportunity to study the tanks’s armor scheme, material composition, strengths, and vulnerabilities as well as other general characteristics and capabilities.  And, of course, anything Russia gets or learns will make its way to China, one way or another.  Is this wise?

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Second Unmanned Squadron

The Navy plans to establish a second unmanned squadron this May.[1]  Why not?  The first has demonstrated absolutely no combat capability or enhancements to other asset’s combat capabilities so, sure, let’s get more.  This is a hot, steaming platter of stupid served on fine china to make it look appealing instead of putting it in the pile with the dog’s contribution to the lawn’s fertilization.
Adm. Samuel Paparo made the announcement and then, rather than describe any actual combat capabilities, immediately dropped into Secret Squirrel mode, saying,  
“A “principle element within warfare is the element of operational security. So, our most exquisite capabilities, if I’m doing my job, you won’t [know] about it.”[1]
Exquisite capabilities???  Someone’s been taking PowerPoint lessons for creative writers at their local community college. 
Remember when the Navy trumpeted the increase in air wing size which turned out to be one aircraft?  I’m betting these exquisite capabilities are on the same scale as that.
Paparo goes on to note that unmanned craft have participated in Integrated Battle Problems (IBP). 
… IBPs have seen unmanned vessels log thousands of miles at sea over a period of several months.”[1]
That’s nice.  Now, have any of those miles accomplished any useful purpose or demonstrated any actual useful combat capability?
Here’s more unmanned news: 
Separately, on Tuesday, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl told reporters his service would soon test a new unmanned drone designed to stealthily carry two Naval Strike Missiles to Marines ashore without attracting attention.[1]
A drone that can transport two missiles?  That’ll bring the Chinese navy to its knees!  The general neglected to describe how this drone – or any drone – can get within sailing range of a Marine unit deep inside enemy territory.  The host ship will, apparently, be invisible and undetectable by Chinese sensors.  Of course, that being the case, why do we need drones?
The degree of fantasy being applied to unmanned operations is staggering as is the corresponding absence of firepower.
[1]Breaking Defense, “US Pacific Fleet to stand up second unmanned surface vessel squadron this year”, Justin Katz, 14-Feb-2024,

Monday, February 19, 2024

Surface Drone Swarm

Russia just lost another landing ship to a Ukrainian drone swarm.[1]  The mind simply boggles at the degree of ineptitude being exhibited by the Russians.  Let’s use this incident to examine the use of surface drone swarms.
Let’s start by looking at the drones Ukraine is using and see how deadly they really are.
Magura V5
The commonly reported Ukrainian drone craft is the Magura V5.  There have been different versions produced so the specs vary, depending on the source and the referenced variant.  The drone is a relatively small craft (5.5 m long) with a low silhouette which would make them difficult to spot visually, however, at speed they leave a very visible wake.  Their shape is not notably radar stealthy although they are smooth and relatively free of protrusions so they may be somewhat radar stealthy.  Propulsion is said to be an electric motor or hybrid (gas-electric?) of some sort.  Presumably, the craft are readily visible in the infrared and should be easily detectable at the horizon, some 12 miles distant or so, depending on the height of the EO/IR sensor.  Range is variously reported to be 250-500 miles.  Control is via optical sensor and satellite (Starlink?) communication.  Drone weight is 1000 kg (2200 lb) with a payload variously reported as 300-400 lbs explosive.  Cruising speed is 20 mph with a terminal burst speed about twice that.
Magura V5 Drone

Magura V5 Drone

Acoustically, an electric motor running at high speed and a craft sailing at high speed should generate significant noise and be readily detectable at 10-25 miles, using passive sonar.  I would imagine the sound would be similar to that of a torpedo at speed.
I would assume that, like all weapons with a range, the reported range is much greater than the effective operational range.  Thus, the operational range is likely 50-100 miles but that’s just informed speculation on my part.  It does, however, greatly impact the overall effectiveness of the drone since it impacts the launch distance from the target.
This is a surface running torpedo, for all intents and purposes.  Like a torpedo, it can be deadly if not treated appropriately.  Unlike a torpedo which can be decoyed but cannot be destroyed, these drones are easily destroyed with appropriate weapons.
Now, let’s look at the Russian landing ship.
Ropuch Amphibious Ship
The Ropucha class landing ship is a medium size (369 ft long, 4080 tons displacement), lightly armed LST with either 2x 57mm dual guns (Ropucha I) or 1x 76mm gun and 2x AK-630 30mm CIWS (Ropucha II).  Either way, that’s not a lot of armament!
The ship has multiple fire control, search, and navigation radars.  I assume it has EO/IR sensors but that’s speculation.
Crew size is around 90.
Now, let’s consider some of the relevant operational factors.
Operational Factors
Launch Site.  The drone can be launched from shore or from a host vessel.  Either way, the drones must be close enough to the target to be within the range of the drone.  It’s not as if the drone can be safely launched from a thousand miles away.  One would think that a host vessel, meaning, potentially, any unidentified vessel within 500 miles, would be easily spotted and sunk before it could launch the drones.
Alternatively, if launched from shore, the launch operation would require trucks and handling equipment given the overall drone weight of a ton or more.  This is not something that one tucks into a backpack.  It’s a fairly major operation to transport, handle, and launch the craft.  One would think that surveillance of the likely launch areas and access roads would be effective in spotting and preventing launches.
Detection.  As noted, there are multiple modes of detection including visual, infrared, acoustic, and radar.  A semi-alert defender should have no trouble detecting the drones at a distance.  The use of swarms of multiple drones further increases the chance of detection.
Satellites.  Satellites (reportedly Starlink) are, apparently, being used to control the drones.  I assume Russia is attempting to disrupt the satellite communications although given the demonstrated degree of incompetence, this may not be true.  Satellite vulnerabilities include physical destruction in space, local signal disruption, cyber attacks at various points of the satellite system (ground control, master communications, local receivers, etc.).  If Starlink involvement is confirmed, Russia would be within their rights to conduct physical sabotage of Starlink facilities even in the US.
If Russia is attempting any of these actions, they appear to be having little or no success.
Targeting.  Targeting information is likely being gathered via satellites and UAVs, probably from Ukrainian-allied countries like the US.  Again, if confirmed, Russia could conduct attacks on the targeting assets with minimal risk of escalation.  The last several years have demonstrated that the US is highly unlikely to respond beyond speeches and warnings that are never acted on.
Lethality.  The drones reportedly carry around three hundred pounds of explosive which is a reasonably substantial amount of explosive.  However, it should be noted that the explosive is a non-penetrating effect as compared to a shell, bomb, or missile.  This lessons the extent of damage relative to the nominal weight of explosive since a significant amount of the explosive force is directed away from the ship.  A similar phenomenon occurred in the attack on the USS Cole.
Proximity.  The Ukrainian drones benefit greatly from the unique geography of this situation.  The operating area is a fairly small, constrained area as opposed to the open ocean that the US Navy would operate in during a war with China.  Of course, if the Navy opted to do something stupid, like operate near land with inadequately armed and sensored ships, as the Russians are doing, then the result could well be similar.
Damage Control.  The Russians appear to have had very little success in applying damage control to ships that have been struck.  Obviously, hard data on this is difficult to come by.
To sum up the preceding, the drones are potentially damaging with a few hundred pounds of explosive but they are also small, highly vulnerable to destruction, and easily detected.  So, why are they having some success? 
Note:  We hear about the successes but we do not hear about the failures, if any, and I assume there are many.  For example, it could be that only one in a hundred drones succeed.  While that wouldn’t change the overall end result, it would certainly change the assessment of the efficiency of the drones.
There is simply no getting around the staggering degree of Russian ineptitude.  They are sending ill-equipped ships, unescorted, into known dangerous waters with, apparently, no aviation surveillance support such as helos or UAVs.  A handful of small, simple escorts with suitable sensors and weapons would end the drone threat.  Even submarines ought to be able to provide detection of drones, interdiction of host ships, if any (most hints suggest shore launches), and covert surveillance of possible shore launch sites..  Russia supposedly has seven Kilo class subs in the Black Sea and their sonars should be able to detect drones and provide early warning.
The operational stupidity is compounded by the lack of long range interdiction of the launch points and ships/trucks that are used to transport and launch the drones.  Russia should have air, land, and sea patrols dedicated to finding and destroying the transport/launch vehicles or ships.
If we consider the kill chain concept, there are several links in the chain where the Russians could take effective action to disrupt the chain (production facilities, storage facilities, transport, launch event, local detection, and local destruction).  Bafflingly, the Russians seem to be unwilling or unable to break the chain at any of those points.
In the hints we get from videos, the Russians appear unable to kill many (any?) drones with the weapons they do have.  This speaks volumes about the overhyped claims of Russian weapon performance (as we’ve seen throughout history and covering ALL Russian weapon systems) and/or the woeful state of Russian training.
Compounding all this is the Russian’s unwillingness to seek out and destroy targeting platforms.  The Russians could, simply, declare suitably large exclusion zones and then destroy any foreign (US) aircraft in the area.  Similar actions could be taken against satellite surveillance if, indeed, that is a source of targeting information.
As with all other aspects of this war, Russia is conducting the drone defense operations in the most inept manner imaginable. 
The Ukraine success is due almost exclusively to Russian ineptitude rather than any inherent capabilities of the drones which, as we’ve discussed, are not particularly formidable on paper.
So many naval observers want to jump on the drone bandwagon because of Ukraine’s handful of successful attacks but is this enthusiasm justified? 
An objective analysis suggests that drones are not a threat to an alert, suitably equipped defender who counters the threat with intelligent operations, doctrine and tactics.  The ineptitude of the Russians cannot be ignored and, therefore, trying to derive universal lessons from this is an exercise in futility if not downright misleading.
Like any threat, if one fails to treat the threat with the respect it deserves, it can be lethal.  The US needs to be aware of drone threats and train and equip to counter them but they are not, inherently, a serious threat.
[1]Redstate website, “Russia Loses Large Landing Ship to Ukrainian Drone Swarm”, streiff, 14-Feb-2024,

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Quantity Revisited

We all know the old saying,  “Quantity has a quality all its own.”
Unfortunately, our military has forgotten (or chosen to ignore) that pearl of wisdom.  We’ve made the conscious decision to opt for exquisite quality and have ceded quantity to the enemy.  Worse, as it’s turned out, the enemy’s quality is, arguably, as good or better than ours so that they now possess both quantity and quality advantages over us.
It is past time to revisit quantity.
Consider just a few examples of recent quantity limitations which, contrary to our hopes and beliefs, were not offset by quality:
  • Ukraine weapons/munitions supply has been woefully insufficient to meet military needs and the quality of the weapons we’ve provided has not compensated for the limited quantities.
  • The 2011 Libyan intervention saw weapons/munitions depletion occur in a matter of weeks with no compensating success due to quality.
  • Air wings have been steadily downsized with no compensating improvement in quality.
  • The LCAC is being replaced in smaller numbers despite the landing craft being virtually identical to the original.  Smaller quantity and identical quality.
  • We currently have more VLS cells than missiles in our inventory and our strike and anti-ship missiles are fading rapidly in quality due to obsolescence.  Our quantities are limited and our quality is stagnant.
Quality also comes with a penalty in terms of cost.  Quality is expensive.  It’s a simple fact.  As we speak, the Navy is using multi-million dollar missiles to shoot down thousand dollar Houthi drones.  What shipboard missile in the Navy inventory costs less than $1M? 
The SPY-6 radar on our latest Burkes cost $180M according to the 2024 Navy budget documentation.  The TRS-3D radar costs around $10M.  Quality is expensive.
Additionally, quality equals complexity and complexity equals unreliability.  Our exquisite aircraft struggle to attain 50% full mission readiness rates.  Aegis is permanently degraded, fleet wide.  And so on.  Dumb artillery shells, on the other hand, have 100% readiness.  Sure, there may be an occasional dud but when you’re firing thousands of shells, who cares?  We have hundreds of Aegis technicians laboring daily to keep it running.  How many artillery shell maintenance techs are there?  That’s right … none.
We’ve consciously ceded quantity to the enemy and have failed to achieve any overarching quality advantage.  That leaves us at an overall disadvantage compared to China.  We need to rethink the role that quantity plays on the battlefield.
Quality has to be pretty substantial to compensate for quantity and our quality is not substantially superior to our enemy’s.
If we can’t achieve a quality overmatch, that brings us full circle back to quantity.  Quantity is easily achievable, affordable, easily mass produced during war, reliable, and brutally effective.  What’s not to like?
Germany and Japan entered WWII with quality advantages and were beaten by overwhelming quantity, especially as their quality advantages faded as the war progressed.  There’s a lesson there for us.
We need reasonable quality in overwhelming quantities.

Monday, February 12, 2024

Squandered Opportunities

History is replete with squandered opportunities.  Consider a few examples:
Pearl Harbor – We knew, almost to the day, that an attack was coming and squandered the opportunity to prevent it or effectively defend against it.
Twin Towers/11-Sep-2001 Terrorist Attack – We had all the information required to anticipate the attack but squandered the opportunity to put the pieces together.
Hitler – The Allies had endless opportunities to forcefully confront and halt Hitler in the run up to WWII but squandered the opportunity to prevent or limit the scope of the war.
Russia – After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, we had a chance to bring Russia into the international community as, if not a friend, at least not an enemy but squandered the opportunity to integrate them into the rest of the world.
Now, some argue that those opportunities were evident only in hindsight but that’s simply not true.  We had all the information we needed to recognize each instance but we failed to take advantage of the opportunity.
This raises the question … what opportunities are we squandering, right now, that some misguided idiot in the future is going to attempt to claim were not evident right now?
Sticking with military related topics, here’s a few that are glaringly obvious and yet we’re in the process of squandering the opportunities.
Weapons Production – The Ukraine situation is bashing us across the head with a 2”x4” warning that our weapon production capacity is woefully insufficient to wage a war with China.  If we can’t supply Ukraine, we certainly can’t supply a war with China.  Now, during whatever years we have left before the war with China, we should be desperately ramping up weapons production and yet we’re squandering the opportunity.
Fleet Size – It is painfully evident that war with China is inevitable (or, to pacify you optimists, it’s at least a very real possibility, if not a sure thing) and we should be desperately building up our fleet size.  Instead, we’re squandering the opportunity and actually doing the exact opposite by retiring more ships than we’re building with many of them being early retired.  We’re also squandering the opportunity to build a reserve fleet.
Raw Materials – It is a fact that many of our critical raw materials are outside our control.  For example, our supply of rare earths, critical for the manufacture of so many weapons and sensors, comes from China!  We should be desperately building mining, refining, and manufacturing facilities to become self-sufficient in every strategically critical raw material but we’re squandering the opportunity.
Nuclear Iran – Iran is not even pretending to hide its nuclear weapons production efforts.  Now is the time to strike and strike hard to prevent this.  Instead, unbelievably, we’re not only squandering the opportunity to stop Iran, we’re actually shipping them money to finance their nuclear ambitions!
Africa – China and terrorists (is there a difference?) are taking over Africa.  Now, before either are irrevocably established, is the time to prevent this.  Instead, we’re but we’re squandering the opportunity.
Containing China – It’s obvious that China is on a collision course with the US/West.  We’ve had endless opportunities to contain China but continue to squander the opportunities.
Internal Terrorism – With the unregulated southern border admitting all manner of terrorists and unfriendly state actors, it’s only a matter of when, not if, we’ll suffer an attack similar to the Hamas attack on Israel.  We’re blatantly squandering the opportunity to seal the border and prevent a future attack.
And the list goes on. History will not be kind to us, nor should it, when the squandered opportunities are recognized and documented on some tragic day in the future.

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Burke, Zumwalt, and Deck Space

Let me ask you a question    Where do you put weapons on a ship?  It’s not a trick question.  The answer is simple and obvious:  you put them on some open area of the deck.  Guns, VLS, RAM/SeaRAM, triple torpedo tube launchers, Mk141 (Harpoon) rack launchers, Naval Strike Missile rack launchers    whatever.  They’re all mounted on decks.
The concept also applies to most sensors, decoy launchers, electronic warfare emitters, communications antennae, etc.  In some cases the deck space takes the form of a sponson or platform jutting off the side of the superstructure but we realize that the sponson/platform is simply a small section of horizontal deck welded to the side of the superstructure.
Here’s another blindingly obvious question (though a seeming mystery to the Navy!):  we want WARships to have as many weapons (and sensors and …) as possible, right?  Therefore, since weapons require deck space to mount and we want as many weapons as possible, it logically follows that we want as much open, available deck space as possible, right? 
A good WARship design should maximize deck space in order to maximize its installed firepower and to allow for future weapon additions such as inevitably happens during war when weapons that should have been installed from the start are frantically retrofitted.  Those magnificent Burkes with their single CIWS are going to quickly become loaded with additional CIWS/SeaRAM when war comes.  After all, you don’t want to protect a $2B ship with a single CIWS with a limited field of fire that only covers half the ship, right?  Where are those extra CIWS/SeaRAM going to be mounted?  Any open deck space, of course!
Further, the best deck space is the lower, main deck because it minimizes top-heaviness and stability issues.
So, a good WARship design should maximize deck space and, in particular, lower/main deck space.
We’ve covered this in a previous post where we noted that ship superstructures have grown enormously since WWII and the ‘cost’ has been usable deck space for weapon mounts (see, “ShipSuperstructures”).
So, having established that a good WARship design emphasizes and maximizes open deck space, let’s take a look at two specific examples:  the Burke and the Zumwalt classes.  How much deck space do they have?
Displacement = 9,700 tons
Nominal dimensions = 509 ft x 66 ft
For calculation purposes, let’s call the dimensions 509 ft x 60 ft to allow for narrowing at the bow and stern.  Thus, Burke = 30,540 sq.ft. of deck space
The flight deck which is around 92 ft x 60 ft = 5,520 sq.ft.  Subtracting this from the nominal total deck space leaves 25,020 sq.ft nominally available for weapons.
Displacement = 15,907 tons
Nominal dimensions = 610 ft x 80 ft
The main deck section extends 325 ft from the stern to the forward edge of superstructure where the deck begins to sharply angle in towards the bow.  Allowing for the tumblehome of the hull which narrows the available deck space, we have around 70 ft of width on the deck.  Thus the main deck section is approximately 325 ft x 70 ft = 22,750 sq.ft.
The forward, angled section is a triangular shape about 255 ft to the bow and 70 ft wide at the base of the triangular shape.  Using the formula for the area of a triangle (1/2 x base x length) = 8,025 sq.ft.
Note that the extreme narrowing of the Zumwalt’s bow makes a significant portion of that area useless for weapon installations.  I would estimate that 10% is too narrow to be useful, making the effective forward deck area closer to 7,945 sq.ft.
Thus the nominal, usable total deck area = 22,750 sq.ft. + 7,945 sq.ft. = 30,695 sq.ft.
The flight deck which is around 141 ft x 70 ft = 9,870 sq.ft.  Subtracting this from the nominal total deck space leaves 20,825 sq.ft nominally available for weapons.
Note that these calculations are for the apparent footprint of the deck area.  In reality, some portion of the apparent deck footprint consists of the slanted sides of the superstructures so all the deck area calculations are overstated by, perhaps, 5%-10%.  However, not wanting to be bothered with that exact of a determination, we’ll ignore the slanted sides reduction on the deck area and assume that it’s a wash across both ships.
We see, then, that the Zumwalt’s displacement is 64% (1.6 times larger) greater than the Burke while the deck space is 17% less.
We built a cruiser size Zumwalt 64% larger than a Burke with 17% less space for mounting weapons.
When war comes and we start looking to install additional weapons, we’re going to find that the Zumwalt was a poor design that could not readily accept additional weapons … such as close in weapons of which the ship currently has none.
Just for fun, let’s take a look at a WWII ship with a displacement similar to the Burke:  the Northampton class cruiser at 9,200 tons versus the Burke at 9,700 tons.  The Northampton is actually 500 tons lighter but that’s close enough. 
Displacement = 9,200 tons
Nominal dimensions = 600 ft x 66 ft
For calculation purposes, let’s call the dimensions 600 ft x 60 ft to allow for narrowing at the bow and stern.  Thus, Northampton = 36,000 sq.ft. of deck space
We see, then, that the Northampton, while slightly lighter, has 10,980 sq.ft. more deck space for weapons! 
We’ve lost our way in WARship design.
Caveat:  All of this ignores weight margins and stability.  Available deck space is useless if the ship can’t support the added weight and remain stable.  Of course, when war comes, we’ll strip out tons of crew comforts thus freeing up weight and stability for weapons.

Monday, February 5, 2024

A Second Life for Retiring Burkes?

The Burke class will begin retiring soon.  The early Burkes were commissioned beginning in 1991 and are now approaching 30+ years of service with a scheduled 35 year service life.  The Navy does not maintain a reserve fleet so retiring Burkes will likely be scrapped or sold to foreign countries.  With the ever-shrinking size of the fleet, one can’t help but wonder whether we could bestow a second life on the Burkes when they reach the end of their front line service.
Let’s consider alternative, second life uses for the early Flt I and II Burkes (lacking hangars) which will be the first to be retired.
As a point of interest, we did a similar post for the LCS in which we considered alternate uses for the vessel (see, “LCS Alternative Uses”).
Before we go any further, we need to address, and dispense with, the belief that the ships will have reached the end of their life and that no further service is even possible due to physical constraints.
Despite the Navy’s dismissive and foolish attitude towards older ships, any ship, even one as poorly maintained as a Navy ship, can have its service life substantially (indefinitely) extended.  Consider a few examples of extended ship service lives that we’ve seen.
  • WWII LSTs are still in service around the world. 
  • The Perry class frigates, which the Navy claimed could not be upgraded, have been upgraded and still serve in various foreign navies.
  • The WWII cruiser USS Phoenix, launched in 1938, served as the Argentine Belgrano until sunk in 1982.
We can renovate anything, if we wish.
Consider the example of the B-52 bomber which has been in active service since the 1950’s, some 70 years or so.  We can re-wing, re-instrument, re-fuselage, re-anything.  Similarly, we can replace a ship’s storage tanks, replace internal wiring and piping, replace corroded sections of hull plating, replace engines, upgrade computers, install new weapons and sensors, and so on and it’s still cheaper than building a brand new ship.
One valid concern regarding new construction is that we are currently limited not only by new construction budget but also by new construction shipyard capacity.  Congress, the Navy, and the submarine industry, for example, all want to increase submarine production by one additional submarine per year but the shipyard capacity simply doesn’t exist.  Upgrades and renovations suffer from this same constraint but to a lesser extent in that renovation/conversion work can be performed by more facilities than are available for new construction.  Thus, through renovation we can gain ‘new’ ships without having to tie up new construction facilities. 
The steady, reliable, additional work demand of constant Burke conversions would also encourage industry to expand their facilities to support substantial additional work.  Thus, we not only gain useful ships for a bargain price, we grow our shipbuilding industry.  Win, win!
Of course, there’s always the challenge of developing a sufficient skilled labor pool but we’ve already addressed how to accomplish that.
So, now that we understand and recognize that conversions are possible and that there is no actual physical service life limit, what specific alternate Burke uses could we imagine?  Here are a few possibilities:
ASW Helicopter Destroyer – The aft VLS could be eliminated and converted to a second flight deck with dual hangars each side of the stack housing.  With the existing, main level flight deck this would provide two flight decks and two hangars giving the ship the ability to operate 4-6 SH-60 type helos.  The forward 32-cell VLS could be used for a combination of AAW defense and anti-submarine VL-ASROC (we ought to develop a substantially longer range VL-ASROC!).  Adding Russian-style RBU or Hedgehog type close-in anti-submarine weapons would further enhance the ASW capability.

Concept Drawing of a Burke ASW Helo Destroyer - 
Note the second, raised flight deck in place of the VLS
 and room for two hangars either side of the stack

UAV Carrier – The ship already has a flight deck.  Addition of a half dozen or so small catapults and converting the VLS internal volume to UAV storage/hangar space would allow the operation of substantial numbers of small (Scan Eagle size) UAVs.  Retaining the forward VLS would allow the ship to contribute to AAW efforts and grant the ship a very credible self-defense capability.
Fire Support – The aft 40% or so of the Burke’s length is purely dedicated to the flight deck and one VLS cluster.  Eliminating the flight deck and VLS would allow up to 3-4 additional 5” guns to be installed.  Before anyone protests, recall that we mounted five 5” guns on a 376 ft Fletcher destroyer and three aft guns were sited within an 85 ft span!  The Burke is 505 ft long and the aft 40% represents 202 ft. of usable space.
Electronic Warfare – Remove the aviation components and, possibly, the aft VLS cluster, and install multiple, massive, high power EW emitters, signal collection sensors, and task force EW command and control facilities and produce an EW equivalent to the Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) which coordinates task force fire control.  The Burke could be the task force EW control vessel and main EW source with emitters sized to provide truly powerful active electronic defense.  One would hope this would also make for a very effective anti-drone capability.
Fast Minelayer – A Burke could be converted to use the entire aft half of the ship to store and lay mines.  With its forward gun and VLS intact, it would be well equipped to defend itself while minelaying.
Scout – Strip a Burke of every protruding piece of equipment to maximize stealth and then add every piece of passive signal intelligence collecting equipment we have to make a hard to detect, highly effective, independent, scout ship.  Once again, retaining the forward VLS would allow for effective self-defense.
Debating every proposed alternative is not the point of this post.  Some might not be effective but I’ve got to believe that most or all could be.  The larger point is that the Navy will not lay these ships up in reserve.  Instead, they’ll SINKEX or sell them and get no further use out of them.  In this time of declining fleet numbers and a looming war with China, it would be foolish and irresponsible not to get more life out of every ship.
My favorites are the ASW Helo Destroyer and the EW version.  It is noteworthy that most of the options could easily retain their forward gun and VLS cluster which makes the ships quite capable of self-defense and able to contribute to fleet area defense, as well.
For those who are going to attempt to argue that the conversion costs would be too high, ask yourself what the cost of a brand new class of ship for each of the alternatives would be?  We’re talking billions of dollars!  Even the hideously expensive Australian Perry upgrade was still cheap compared to new construction.  Conversions are a bargain! 
Let’s not throw usable Burkes away.

Friday, February 2, 2024

US Strikes Iranian Proxies

Here’s a semi-open post for comments related to the US strikes on Iranian proxies in Syria and Iraq.
Note:  US Central Command reports that it struck 85 targets with 125+ precision munitions.  However, note the following from a Redstate website report: 
The number of targets appears to be "aimpoints" rather than bases. Sky News Arabia reports only three military bases were hit.[1]
Thus, if true, the strikes were nowhere near as massive as Central Command reporting would suggest.
I’ll update if/when I can provide any worthwhile analysis.
[1]Redstate website, “First Video From US Airstrikes in Iraq and Syria Released As CENTCOM Confirms Attacks”, streiff, 2-Feb-2024,

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Luck is Not a Strategy

It is being reported that a US Navy ship, the USS Gravely, a Burke class destroyer, was forced to use its CIWS to down a sea-skimming anti-ship missile.  If this continues, there is only one possible outcome.  No defense is perfect and the Houthis only need to win once whereas the Navy has to be 100% perfect. 
This is an unsustainable, unwinnable situation.  We’ve got to either leave the area before we lost a ship or we have to engage with total force.  There is no middle ground.  The administration is hanging the Navy out to dry.

It is also disturbing that a (apparently single) missile could get that close.  Something failed.