Friday, November 24, 2017

Chinese Type 071 Amphibious Ship

It’s always good to stay current on a potential enemy’s weapons.  Today, let’s take a look at China’s Type 071 amphibious landing platform dock (LPD).

The ship is 689 ft long, 91 ft wide, and displaces around 20,000 tons.  There are four ships of the class in service with two more planned or under construction.  Range is given as 6000 nm at 18 kts (2).

The Type 071 appears to be both a functional and visual equivalent of the US LPD-17 class.  The ship has a flight deck making up the aft 30% of the ship’s length and capable of operating two Z-8 troop transport helos simultaneously.  A hangar can accommodate four helos.  The ship also has a well deck that can house four Type 726 air cushioned landing craft (LCAC).  Side door/ramps located port and starboard below the bridge can also offload vehicles.  Troop carrying capacity is a battalion of several hundred along with storage for up to 18 armored vehicles (1). 

Armament is defensive and consists of a 76 mm gun and four 30 mm CIWS (2).

The ship has very slightly sloped sides but also significant vertical bulkheads and is likely to be only slightly stealthy, at best.  This is curious and somewhat flies in the face of modern naval ship design. 

Type 071


It is worth noting that amphibious ships are purely offensive assets.  This class plus numerous LCU/LST type vessels and the coming Type 075 amphibious class gives the Chinese a significant offensive amphibious capability.  China is clearly gearing up for major combat operations.  The question is who is this capability aimed at?  The obvious answers are Taiwan and the surrounding Pacific Rim countries and, ultimately, the U.S.  Another likely use is to gain control of key strategic locations in Africa.  As I’ve stated repeatedly and as China’s actions have demonstrated, China is intent on nothing less than global domination and has not hesitated to use the threat of military force to achieve that goal.  This enhanced amphibious capability will only increase China’s reach and intimidation.



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(1)War Is Boring website, “Five Ships Of The Chinese Navy You Really Ought To Know About”, Kyle Mizokami, 14-Dec-2013,



Monday, November 20, 2017

Just Say No

How do you fix readiness issues?  According to the Navy, you cut back on maintenance!

“In prepared remarks for the House Armed Services Committee, Vice Adm. Troy Shoemaker testified that some carrier air wings have already cut maintenance back from two shifts to one due to lack of manning amid constant deployments" (1)

Only the Navy could be dumb enough to do this. 

What’s the solution?  Just say NO to constant, worthless deployments.  When the choice is between saying no or creating a hollow force, the choice is easy and obvious.

Just say NO.

Wait, you whine, the military can’t say no.  They have to follow orders.  Right, but they’re not even attempting to say no.  You say no and force the Commander in Chief to publicly order you to conduct a deployment that will jeopardize readiness.  No president is going to do that.  The problem is that the Navy keeps saying yes and then keeps cutting maintenance to enable the ill-advised deployment.

Just say NO.

How bad is the situation?

“As of October, Shoemaker said, only half of all Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets were flyable, and only 31 percent were fully ready to fight and deploy.” (1)

Only 31% of Hornets are combat capable today.  If this isn’t the time to say no, when is?  0%?

Just say NO.



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(1)DoD Buzz website, “Navy Cutting Maintenance, Cannibalizing Planes Amid Readiness Crisis”, Hope Hodge Seck, 9-Nov-2017,


ASW Corvette

Well, the frigate debate is on!  Observers are weighing in with their favorite candidates for the Navy’s frigate competition.  Here’s a couple relevant thoughts.

-          ComNavOps is on record as saying that the Navy will go with the Freedom LCS frigate which would be the worst possible decision in every sense.

-          ComNavOps is also on record as stating that the Navy does not need a frigate – it needs a small, cheap, expendable ASW corvette.

However, observers are all enthusiastically promoting large, powerful frigates which are just mini-Burkes.  I’ll say it again, we don’t need mini-Burkes because we have plenty of full size Burkes!  Instead, observers and, sadly, the Navy are focused on how many VLS cells they can squeeze in and how powerful a radar they can mount.  In essence, they’re trying to see how close they can get to a Burke.  Hey, if you want a Burke, build a Burke.  A “frigate” that is nearly the match for a Burke is going to have a cost that is nearly a match for a Burke.

Here’s an example of what we really need: the Indian Kamorta class corvette

The Kamorta is a stealthy shaped ship that is small (358 ft) and ASW focused with

  • single ASW helo/hangar/flight deck
  • RBU-6000 anti-submarine rocket launcher
  • 4x heavyweight torpedo tubes
  • towed array
  • bow mounted sonar
  • sound isolating, raft mounted machinery

Additional armament is defensive

  • 76 mm gun
  • 2x CIWS

The radar is a reasonable medium range 3D planar array.

Add an 8-cell VLS for 32 ESSM and you have the basis of a nice, small ASW corvette which would be immensely useful to the Navy as opposed to mini-Burkes.

Kamorta Class ASW Corvette

Being slightly smaller than the Freedom class LCS and without the expensive focus on high speed, hopefully the construction cost would be a good bit less than the LCS.  If costs were too high, though, I’d drop the helo/hangar/flight deck since a single helo doesn’t contribute all that much to ASW simply due to its very limited availability.

This kind of ship can perform the peacetime “show the flag” and patrol duties that are currently using up our Burkes and preventing their proper maintenance and crew training.  In war, these ships can provide the numbers and expendability we need for shallow water ASW, peripheral patrol duties, can augment task forces, and can perform convoy escort duties.


This is what we need, not mini-Burkes.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Korean Supercavitating Torpedo

As reported by Navy Recognition website, South Korea displayed a supercavitating torpedo it’s developing at the MADEX 2017 International Maritime Defense Industry Exhibition held in October 2017 (1).  Development began in 2013 and at sea tests will take place around 2020.

The “vehicle” as it’s referred to in the article, is 125 mm (~5 “) diameter, is solid fueled, and has a top speed of 100 m/sec (around 200 kts).

If one believes Russian reports (always a risky business!), their supercavitating Shkval torpedo is 533 mm diameter, 200 kts, and 20 km (~12 miles) range.

Iran supposedly is developing a reverse engineered version of the Russian Shkval and a German firm developed a supercavitating torpedo although it never transitioned to a service weapon.

The takeaway from this is that the US Navy is falling significantly behind in torpedo development.  The Navy’s standard heavyweight Mk48/ADCAP torpedo was designed in the 1960’s and became operational in 1972.  There has been little development since then although some effort has been directed towards enhancing shallow water performance.  Beyond that, though, torpedo development has been stagnant.

On a related note, the major challenge with a supercavitating torpedo is guidance.  The formation of the air "bubble" that the torpedo travels in is deafeningly loud as far as sonar guidance is concerned.  Supercavitating torpedoes are blind.  Supposedly, a Russian version was intended to sprint to the target location and then slow down to "normal" torpedo speeds in order to acquire the target.



Torpedo development is one of several areas that the Navy has, bafflingly, neglected.  Offensive mine warfare has all but halted, mine countermeasures have atrophied to near non-existence, naval gun support is non-existent, anti-ship missile development has only recently made any advancements after many years of neglect and, even now, significantly lags Russian, Chinese, and Indian weapons.

The Navy’s myopic focus on new Burke, carrier, and LCS funding and construction has led to neglect of vital but less “sexy” weapons, equipment, and systems.  We are now being surpassed by friend and foe alike in many of these areas.



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(1)Navy Recognition website, “MADEX 2017: South Korea Developing a Supercavitating Torpedo”, 10-Nov-2017,


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Marines, Sea Control, and HIMARS

I love the Marine Corps but, I’m sorry, they’ve gone off the rails.  What is their core mission?  Well, actually, that’s a good question because I don’t think Marine leadership currently has a viable answer – they’ve forgotten their mission.  Presumably, though, the answer ought to involve some form of amphibious operations (I won’t say assault because it doesn’t have to be although that would be the classic example).  With that in mind, the Marines should be focusing on how to get as much firepower and armor ashore against peer opposition as possible, right?  But, that’s not what the Marines are concentrating on.  Instead, they’re concentrating on becoming a third air force, a light infantry force (for what reason, I can’t imagine since light infantry will get annihilated on the modern battlefield), a social/psychological warfare service (hearts and minds), a 3D printing force, and all kinds of other non-core activities.  Their latest is an apparent desire to become a land based navy to conduct anti-surface ship operations using their high mobility artillery rocket system (HIMARS).  The Marines want to get into the business of sea control from the land.  I guess they’ve solved every other problem they face and are looking to expand.

We’ve talked about this recently in somewhat general terms but let’s get into the weeds and really look at this.

A Breaking Defense website article describes the Marine’s newly desired mission (1) thusly,

“It also means the Marines need a highly mobile system that can come ashore with the grunts and keep moving to evade retaliatory fire while staying connected to Navy fire control networks. That’s a much more demanding mission than static coastal defense, the role of most anti-ship missile batteries around the world …”

The article hints at some of the challenges.

“But buying the missile is just the start. You need to integrate it with a launcher, a fire control network and a supply chain.”

The launcher is the easy part, in the Marine’s eyes.  They already have the HIMARS so they just need to find a missile that can fit it.

How is all this going to work?  Here’s the Marine’s vision.

“The Marines would provide additional “distributed” firepower from Expeditionary Advance Bases. Carved out of hostile territory by landing forces, kept small and camouflaged to avoid enemy fire, EABs would support F-35B jump jets, V-22 tiltrotors, and drones, as well as anti-ship missiles for the fleet. It’s a high-tech version of Henderson Field on Guadalcanal (part of the Solomons) in 1942. Like Henderson Field, the EABs would provide a permanent presence ashore, inside the contested zone, to support Navy ships as they move in and out to raid and withdraw.”

The unspoken assumptions that go into this vision are staggering in their magnitude and fantasy.  Let’s examine them.

That we’re going to be able to enter a “contested zone” with a big enough force to land heavy construction equipment, build a base, equip it with advanced computers, comm. gear, sensors, spare parts, fuel, and munitions without the enemy noticing is wishful thinking at its best – and we’re going to have several of these bases!

That we believe we’re going to be able to operate the highly temperamental F-35B which, under ideal and pristine conditions on a highly advanced and well equipped airbase, has only a 50% readiness rate is ludicrous. 

That we’re going to be able to transport fuel, food, munitions, spare parts, etc. to these bases in the “contested zone” without being seen is pure fantasy.

It also occurs to me that another unspoken assumption in this concept is that the expeditionary base will either be on a previously unoccupied island or chunk of land or the Marines will have to seize it.  If the Marines have to seize the land then there is no secrecy.  The enemy, having had the location wrested away from them, will be fully aware of our presence and any base that we might construct there.  That kind of defeats the fantasy of secret bases with missiles and aircraft appearing and disappearing as if by magic.  That leaves the use of previously unoccupied land.  Are there really that many unoccupied pieces of land in a “contested zone” and near enough to something of value that the enemy will have ships passing by but will not be monitoring the land for just such secret bases?  I’ve got to believe that the number of such locations are exceedingly few.

I’ve got to stop here.  We’re wandering off topic by discussing the fantasy of these disbursed, magically invisible bases.  The topic is the use of HIMARS anti-ship missiles so let’s get back to that.

There’s a fundamental problem with launching a missile, any missile.

“Once you launch a rocket, however, the enemy can see your location on radar and infra-red, so the missile batteries must practice “shoot and scoot” tactics: move to a firing point, launch, and move again to a hiding place before enemy retaliation rains down.”

Shoot and scoot!  Well that’s easy.  The HIMARS will be able to move before any counterfire can arrive.  Just out of curiosity, though, how does a 12 ton HIMARS scoot through the jungle, mountains, or whatever that the Marines have carved their forward expeditionary bases out of?  And if we limit ourselves to only relatively flat, open areas that a HIMARS can easily travel, doesn’t that negate the “hidden” part of the expeditionary base concept?  Plus, doesn’t the act of firing kind of call attention to the base itself?  Presumably the enemy can reason out that an anti-ship missile didn’t just appear from land by magic.  Once alerted, the enemy has only to conduct a cursory scan of the area and they’ll notice any base big enough to operate F-35B’s, MV-22s, drones, HIMARS.  Plus, they’ll likely notice the buildings, warehouses, comm. facilities, sensors, etc. that even a “primitive” base requires.  Henderson Field was not a secret to the Japanese!

Let’s consider the missile’s range.  The Marine Request For Information to industry (2) cited a range of “80 miles or greater”.  The problem, here, is that the longer the range, the bigger the missile must be and the bigger and less mobile the launcher must be – refer back to the “shoot and scoot” issue.  Further, the larger the missile, the more expensive it is.  This strongly suggests a fairly short range missile.  Range leads us directly to the next problem which is sensor/targeting.

HIMARS - Scooting Through The Jungle?

An 80+ mile missile is useless if you don’t have 80+ mile sensors to provide targeting data.  What are these sensors and where are they going to come from?  The obvious sensor is radar.  The problem is that a land based radar has a range of only the radar’s horizon, say, 20 miles or so.  Of course, the radar could be mounted on top of a high hill or mountain (how do we get it there from a primitive expeditionary base without calling attention to the effort?) if one happens to be handy.  Data transmission from a remote radar sensor presents another problem. 

Also, if we have a powerful 80+ mile radar scanning the area, that will certainly call the enemy’s attention to it and our “secret” base won’t be secret anymore.

Well, why not use networked sensors from other assets in the region, like the Navy?  The Navy has made an extensive investment in, and commitment to, distributed sensor networks so tapping into that should solve the problem, right?  Of course, if the Navy has to be in the area to provide sensor coverage then that means that the Navy can’t leave the area and if the Navy is in the area, why do you need a land based anti-ship missile since every ship that floats will be armed with anti-ship missiles anyway, according to the Navy (remember the Navy’s oft-repeated, “If it floats, it fights.”?)?

This smacks of budget grabbing at its worst.  With all the problems the Marines currently face, is trying to take on a new, non-core mission really the best use of their time and budget?  The Marines are on an out-of-control power (meaning budget) grab and need to be reined in.




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(1)Breaking Defense website, “Marines Seek Anti-Ship HIMARS: High Cost, Hard Mission”, Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., 14-Nov-2017,




Monday, November 13, 2017

Lockheed Proposed Frigate

Lockheed Martin recently displayed their US Navy frigate concept at the DSEI trade show in the form of a concept model (1).

The relevant features included:

  • 1x Mk110 57 mm gun
  • 16 cell VLS
  • 16 anti-ship missiles in rack launchers
  • 1x SeaRAM
and,

  • crew=130
  • length=125 m
  • displacement=likely 6000+ tons

That’s a little light for a ship that’s 80% the length of a Burke.  In comparison, the original Perry class frigates had a single arm missile launcher with a magazine of 40 missiles which could include a mix of Standard and Harpoon.  This LCS frigate, with 16 VLS cells is limited to 16 Standard missiles (assuming the VLS length is adequate as suggested by the article), up to 64 quad-packed ESSM, Tomahawks, VL-ASROC, or a mix thereof.

While 64 quad-packed ESSM is quite useful for a frigate size ship that would preclude more capable Standard missiles.  Having anything less than 16 Standards would be just about pointless which probably limits the frigate to the 64 ESSM.  Of course, if any cells are to be used for Tomahawk or, more likely, VL-ASROC, that would cut deeply into the ESSM loadout.  For example, if the ship carried 8 VL-ASROC, as would seem reasonable for an ASW focused frigate, that would only leave 8 cells for a maximum of 32 ESSM.  As I said, for any reasonable and likely mix of missiles, the loadout is a bit light for a ship that’s 80% the size of a Burke.




The crew size of 130 is a recognition by the Navy that its LCS minimal manning and deferred (pier side) maintenance concept is a failure.  It is also quite likely that 130 crew would turn out to be too small. 

The final noteworthy aspect of this is that unless the fundamental structure of the ship is changed, an LCS frigate retains all the inherent weaknesses of the base LCS.  These include stability problems and inadequate stability margins, non-existent weight margins, structural weaknesses, use of aluminum for a ship that is now expected to stand and fight, loud waterjets (a concern in ASW), apparent lack of a hull mounted sonar (due to excessive self-noise in the base LCS), inadequate range/endurance, etc.  To be fair, what was presented was just a simple concept model but it’s hard to believe that all the inherent flaws that make the base LCS such a poor warship can be rectified in a somewhat enlarged frigate version.

Honestly, this is just warmed over LCS crap and compares quite poorly to the many outstanding frigate designs around the world.  I hope the Navy has the sense to walk away from this.  Sadly, given the Navy's history of horrible decisions, I think it's quite likely that you're looking at the winner of the frigate competition.  


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(1)Navy Recognition website, 13-Sep-2017,


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Constitutional Misuse Of The Military

I dislike posting about articles for which I offer no value-added analysis.  However, occasionally an article comes along that is so good that I feel I simply must bring it to your attention even if I have little or no analysis to offer.  Such an article is a Breaking Defense piece about the use and misuse of the military.  It’s written by Daniel Davis, a former Army lieutenant colonel with four combat deployments who is now a defense expert at Defense Priorities, a Washington think tank

The author touches on the Constitutional issues of military control and purpose and the current misuse of military forces and the abdication of Congressional control over the military.  It should sound familiar to regular followers of this blog.

It’s a short article so do yourself a favor, follow the link below, read it, ponder the Constitutional issues, and let me know what you think. 



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(1)Breaking Defense website, “Stop The Malignant Misuse Of America’s Military”, Daniel L. Davis, 9-Nov-2017,