Friday, September 1, 2017

MH-60R Radar and Distributed Lethality

The Navy’s MH-60R Seahawk family helicopter operates from various ships, including the LCS, and performs various roles such as search and targeting, ASW, ASuW, search and rescue, etc.

One of the keys to the usefulness of the MH-60R is the on-board radar.  The APS-147 and its successor, the APS-153(V), are multi-mode radars with long/short range search capability, Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar (ISAR) imaging, and periscope detection modes, among others (1).

The MH-60R radar is derived from the APS-143(V) which is claimed to have a maximum range of 200 nm (3).  Of course, maximum range is for a large target on a clear day with calm seas.  A more realistic range for smaller targets, such as naval vessels with a degree of stealth, in typical seas with wave clutter will be much, much less.

The APS-147 radar’s design features include wide bandwidth, high average power, fast scan rate (108/minute), frequency agility, scan-to-scan integration over nine scans, and a track-before-detect capability (4).

APS-147 Modes (2)

  • Small Target/Periscope Detection
  • Long Range Surveillance
  • Weather Detection and Avoidance
  • All Weather Navigation
  • Short Range Search-and-Rescue
  • Enhanced Low Probability of Intercept (LPI) Search
  • Target Designation
  • Inverse Synthetic Aperture Target Imaging

The APS-153(V) adds Automatic Radar Periscope Detection and Discrimination (ARPDD) capability to the list of modes.

Note that long range search and LPI are two separate and distinct modes.  LPI uses less power and produces much shorter detection ranges while long range search is more powerful but increases the probability of intercept to a certainty.

Radar is not the only means of finding targets.  The ALQ-210 Electronic Support Measures (ESM) system for provides passive detection, location and identification of emitters  and threat warning (1).  The system emphasis seems to be on threat warning.  I don’t know how effective the system is for targeting or whether it can even generate targeting quality data.

At least among public observers and commentators, if not naval professionals, the helo is seen as the key to distributed lethality and is accorded near-magical capabilities.  As we’ve often noted, long range anti-ship missiles are useless without equally long range target detection and identification.  The helo is seen by non-professionals as being able to provide that long range search, detection, and targeting capability.

When I distinguish between public observers and naval professionals, the distinction I’m making is that I know what observers believe but I have no idea what naval professionals think about this subject.  I have no idea whether the Navy believes that helos are an integral and major component of distributed lethality or not.  It may be that the Navy sees no more than an incidental role in the long range search that is necessary to support distributed lethality.  Of course, if this is true then I have no idea how the Navy thinks they’ll find targets.

The maximum range of the APS-147/153 is unknown but, for sake of discussion, let’s assume it’s around 200 miles.  Again, that’s the maximum range for detection of a large, non-stealthy, non-ECM active target under ideal conditions and using maximum output power – say, a large tanker sailing in good weather.  For a smaller, semi-stealthy, active-ECM target such as a modern frigate or destroyer, the detection range is considerably less than the maximum – let’s call it a third to half the max range.  That puts our useful detection range at 66-100 miles and against a modern, semi-stealthy, ECM cloaked naval vessel even that may be optimistic.

Of course, even if the helo’s detection range is relatively short, the helo itself can fly out from the host vessel thereby extending the effective detection range.  Thus, the effective detection range is the helo’s flight range plus the radar range.  The flip side of this is that if the helo is radiating, it’s going to be seen and tracked at longer ranges than it can detect a target at and will be targeted and shot down before it can detect the shooting platform.  In other words, if the helo is close enough to detect an enemy vessel, the helo is probably already dead.

This is the key concept and it invalidates the use of a helo as the means of providing long range targeting for the distributed lethality concept.  A radiating target (the helo) can be detected at a much greater distance than its own radar can detect the targets it’s looking for.  This is not a prescription for survival and it is not a prescription for successful long range targeting.  Couple this with the helo’s demonstrated non-survivability in a surface-to-air missile environment and it’s patently obvious that the helo cannot survive long enough to find a target.  Could it find a small patrol craft that has no significant SAM capability?  Sure, but that’s not really the kind of target distributed lethality is intended to find and destroy, is it?  Even then, in enemy waters and airspace, an enemy aircraft will likely be called in to dispose of the helo before it can do much good.

As with so many modern naval assumptions, the concept of distributed lethality depends on the enemy allowing us to freely roam the skies conducting our targeting searches.  In a peer war, this is a ridiculous assumption and distributed lethality simply will not work because we have no long range survivable sensor.

I’ve told you why distributed lethality won’t work and why the helo, specifically, can’t be used as the long range sensor.  Now, I’ll tell you how the concept could work.  The key is a survivable long range sensor.  We do have such a sensor available – it’s the small UAV. 


If a ship can put out a constant stream of small, cheap UAVs with a combined flight range and sensor range of 200 nm, then we have a chance, at least, of finding a target.  Of course, many UAVs, being non-stealthy, will be spotted and destroyed.  This is where “cheap” factors in.  If the UAVs can be made cheaply enough then they can be considered expendable, almost one-way, assets.  So what if some, or many, don’t return?  If we have to expend a bunch of UAVs that cost tens (or even hundreds) of thousands of dollars in order to sink an enemy ship that costs hundreds of millions (or billions) of dollars, that’s a great trade.

The key to this cheap, expendable UAV is the sensor’s field of view.  It doesn’t matter how many UAVs we throw out if each one’s field of view is so limited that we can’t cover a significant swath of ocean.  If the field of view is too limited, the search devolves into dumb luck and that’s no way to win a war.  Do we have UAV sized sensors that have a sufficient field of view?  I don’t know.  Manufacturer’s claims are always ridiculously exaggerated so those are useless in assessing this.  This is one of those areas that only the Navy knows for sure.  The fact that I’ve seen no attempt to outfit the distributed lethality ships with a multitude of UAVs suggests that the sensor packages are not up to the task but I just don’t know for sure.

So, we now know what won’t work.  The helo is not the magic answer.  We also know what could work if appropriate sensors were available.

As a parting reminder, distributed lethality is a flawed concept for more reasons that just the long range sensing issue.  Simply solving the sensor issue offers a chance of making the concept work but it is still flawed.  For example, the enemy is going to be searching for us at the same time we’re searching for them.  What happens when a small, lightly armed distributed lethality vessel is found by the enemy before we can find the enemy?  The answer is a foregone conclusion: our distributed lethality ship will be sunk.  When the Navy idiotically starts talking about using amphibious ships, logistic ships, etc. as distributed lethality vessels, we’re talking about risking high value, but nearly defenseless, assets against the remote possibility of surviving long enough to find a suitable enemy target.  It’s not a risk that’s worth taking.


(1)Lockheed Martin MH-60R informational brochure,

(2)Telephonics data sheet

(3)Data sheet,

(4)U.S. Navy Journal of Underwater Acoustics, “A History of U.S. Navy Airborne and Shipboard Periscope Detection Radar Design and Development”, January 2014, John G. Shannon,


  1. So basically you propose to navalize the so called "swarm" UAV concept but just in a observation role.

    Problems here first are the software issues while technically feasible there is currently no written software to control 20-30 UAVs simultaneously and process the gathered data

    Second, small UAVs can carry only a limited amount of useful payload in this case the only thing will be a EO/IR optical sensor witch do not come cheap ( sometimes the EO/IR sensors cost more that the vechicle it self )

    Third is the "expendeble" issue , just how expendable do you want them to be because if they're too cheap they won't be able to be that useful , and at least during peacetime training you do want them to be recovered and used again..

    And about the MH-60R no matter how good its radar is, the MH-60R does not pack the long range punch to knock out a heavier vessel at longer distances, its good to smack small craft like say Iranian swarm boats with Hellfires but you cannot use it agains a modern corvette/frigate just because it cannot carry a longer ranged missile with a heavier warhead ( i don't know do they still keep the Pinguin missiles at least ) .

    1. Wow! You missed almost everything about this post! Let me see if I can help you out.

      "So basically you propose to navalize the so called "swarm" UAV concept but just in a observation role."


      "control 20-30 UAVs simultaneously"

      Again, no. Where did I state that? We would need a stream of UAVs to conduct long range surveillance - meaning, one is going out as another is returning - a steady state. That's not 20-30 simultaneous! Further, one would hope that we would not have to conduct 360 degree target searches - that we would have some idea of the threat/target axis and so could narrow the search a bit via passive sensors or other ISR asset information.

      "Second, small UAVs can carry only a limited amount of useful payload"

      Yep, that's the idea behind a cheap UAV - don't ask it to do too much or carry too much.

      "the EO/IR sensors cost more that the vechicle it self"

      Don't believe you. Give me a cost and a reference for a relevant UAV and sensor package.

      "the MH-60R does not pack the long range punch to knock out a heavier vessel at longer distances"

      Whose idea was that? Not mine! Nowhere did I state or imply that the helo would be the strike platform. Did you actually read the post?

      "you cannot use it against a modern corvette/frigate"

      You also cannot use a canoe or rowboat against a modern warship. Did someone say otherwise? I know the post didn't!

    2. Ok then, but you did not specify the technical questions.
      First of all how "big" will this so called small UAVs will be, something in the size of a Schiebel Camcopter S-100 ( because thats about the right size in witch you can put some useful optics) Or something like a Scan Eagle.

      Give me the desired size, endurance and payload options of the vehicle and ill tell you how much it will cost ;)

      About the cost of modern Electro-optical systems the best reference are targeting pods, a modern pod goes around 1 mil $ or less depending how much you buy.
      A modern FLIR turret costs between 50.000$ and 100.000$

    3. "Ok then, but you did not specify the technical questions."

      Because I was presenting a concept - a concept that may or may not be technically achievable. Hence, my statement in the post,

      "Do we have UAV sized sensors that have a sufficient field of view? I don’t know."

      If we can develop a suitable small, cheap UAV with a useful sensor then the concept could work. If not, it won't.

      The NanoSAR family of radars is one example of a potentially cheap but useful radar that is being developed. There are others, too.

  2. I like the idea of using UAV's of some sort, particularly cheap ones.

    The sensors are expensive, no doubt, but there has to be a way to crack this egg with our computing prowess and manufacturing ability.

    The key to making them cheap is to make a lot of them, and keep the requirements down to 'good enough' and already existing/lightly modified for job.

    If we can get this to work, it might also help with ship affordability by not requiring a Helo with the ship.

    I've been thinking a lot about how to make an affordable UAV as a targeting solution. I think its a good idea all by itself given the discrepancy between the weapons range and sensor range that currently exists.

  3. My preference budget wise would be funding for the further development/priority to be given to tethered drones which have the great advantage over UAVs with persistence as the ship towing the drone supplies the power and with two way non jammable communications/control.

    There is the DARPA Talons and the French IT180 captive drone currently under testing. Talons has a payload of 150 pounds for ESM, EO/IR and comms to a height of 1500 feet extending ships horizon to approx. 38 nm.

    Future developments may take drone higher further extending the ships horizon though sure expense will be high, the higher you go, other drawbacks I'm sure but tethered drones look doable and effective.

    1. How would this solve the distributed lethality targeting problem given that the targeting range needs to be 100-200+ nm?

      Do you see a problem with having a radiating beacon floating over your ship?

    2. With difficulty :)

      Re. targeting range you would need the tethered drone to be able to reach a height of ~5,000 feet for range of ~100 nm. What is the cost/budget to push range to 200 nm.

      Does it need to be radiating, ESM and/or EO/IR,(EO/IR range would be lower), and if radar required would it be possible use a LPI radar, if so ship could be operating under radio silence/EMCON with its main radar silent and no UAV/ship transmitting signals subject to jamming or anti-ship ARM missile.

    3. EO/IR are very short range. ESM is passive and generally unsuited to provide targeting quality data. It can provide approximate bearings and if you have enough receivers you might be able to triangulate. Passive systems are not generally targeting capable.

      LPI is LPI because it uses far less power. Less power means less range. If you want range, you have to use power. There's no free lunch. Did you note my comments about LPI in the post?

      There's a reason why I'm down on distributed lethality (several reasons, actually!) and the inability to target at the 100-200+ nm range is why.

  4. If a helicopter is using a EO/IR sensor is it emitting? Would a helicopter with a variety of passive sensors be suitable to identify a target by its emissions, whilst remaining silent and hidden itself? Of course if a UAV can do the same job for less risk and vastly less expense it makes much more sense. I wonder if the use of cheap, quick to build low value UAVs, especially as the technology is changing so fast is something best left to experimental units, rather than mass production until needed.

    1. EO/IR are passive. However, they are both short range. Targeting naval vessels requires longer ranges in order to be survivable.

    2. "changing so fast is something best left to experimental units, rather than mass production until needed."

      You raise an interesting point but the answer is no, we can't leave it until needed. We need to build and train before it's needed. Besides, if the UAVs really are cheap then we can readily dump obsolete ones and build new ones but in the meantime we need to train with them and develop tactics and doctrine and find out if the concept is even viable.

    3. Yes and no. If we build a vast fleet of UAVs and develop a doctrine the risk is that in 10 years time we have a vast fleet of obsolete assets and a doctrine that does not survive first contact with a peer enemy. This I think ties in with your thoughts on prototyping. Experimental units and troop trials could be a better way to test a variety of concepts and doctrines to see what works, with the plan to be able to scale up quickly if and when needed. An analogy might be pre WW2 anti tank weapons, where the vast stocks of anti material rifles deployed by major combatants became obsolete even before they were used in anger and new anti tank doctrines had to be developed on the fly with new weapons.

      Yes units need to train and be familiar with them, but this could involve a variety of experimental and trials units operating a number of different UAVs and sensors to see what works.

      e.g. Contrast between very cheap literally disposable possibly 3d printed UAVs that are designed for single use, transmitting radar vs more expensive units that return to the ship and are more survivable.

    4. "doctrine that does not survive first contact"

      You seem to have a fixed point outlook on UAVs - that we'll develop one and never again improve it. It's no different than buying airplanes or tanks or rifles. You buy the best you can at the time and as you develop improvements you either upgrade or dump and buy new. UAVs are no different. You buy what you need (remember cheap is the main criteria), develop doctrine and tactics, and when you have a significant improvement ready, you upgrade the UAV or dump them (they were cheap, so who cares) and buy new ones. If the improvement is significant enough that it changes the doctrine or tactics then you'll be on top of it and ready for war.

      Buying now also maintains an industrial base, production lines, and design knowledge.

      To use your logic, we'd have a military with no equipment because by the time a war comes it might be obsolete. We'll just wait for a war and then begin building airplanes, tanks, ships, and rifles. That's foolish, obviously.

      Further, you can't effectively train with a few experimental units. Every person who would use the unit in combat has to use it every day to be effective with it. You can't have one person train one time and call it done.

      Honestly, the more I think about this the more silly the notion is.

      Let's look at history. Our F4F Wildcats were outclassed, nearly obsolete, at the start of WWII but thankfully we had them. We were able to get usable service out of them until better aircraft came along. Your logic would have had us with no aircraft. The war would have been lost long before we could have designed and produced new aircraft.

    5. "Buying now also maintains an industrial base, production lines, and design knowledge." Yes and no. If we are talking cheap UAVs we probably want something made with available material and using where possible civilian OTS equipment. There is potentially no industrial base needed. Design knowledge could come from developing, prototyping and testing different versions.

      That's not my logic at all. My logic is that if we equip for a particular doctrine in an area where all the technologies are moving forward very quickly we end up with the risk of following a tangent and getting stuck in a doctrinal rut that ends up not working. I don't see why experimental units and trial units wouldn't allow effective training. The experimental units come up with an idea/concept. It gets trialled on various ships and then refined and tested. Again these UAVs are supposed to be dirt cheap, that means easy to make. Sailors are still using the things, they just have to be more flexible in how they are used.

      My logic would have had no impact on the production of wildcats, but I might have had some units using different weapons loads etc.

    6. You're flat out contradicting yourself. You're saying these UAVs are "dirt cheap" but seem to want to avoid procuring them. If they're cheap and a new technology comes along in a year, we throw them away. They're cheap so who cares?

      To deny training because of the remote possibility that some revolutionary new UAV technology will come along is just silly. And yes, training means for everyone who will use them - not just a few people associated with development. The analogy would be building ships with no sonar because a better sonar might come along and training one operator on whatever we have currently in development and expecting the entire fleet will be proficient at ASW when the time comes. That's insane.

      "no industrial base needed"????? Who do you think is going to make these? There is no civilian industrial base for the kind of UAVs that would be needed for distributed lethality search and targeting!

      We shouldn't buy rifles for soldiers because a better one might come along. That's crazy but that's exactly what you're saying.

      Are you seriously proposing a military where we have no doctrine because something new might come along and invalidate a doctrine?

      I'm trying not to be too nasty about this but it's silly on a plate. My advice is to drop this and move on to some other topic.

    7. You keep arguing strawman arguments, rather than what I am saying.

      "We shouldn't buy rifles for soldiers because a better one might come along. That's crazy but that's exactly what you're saying."

      No I'm saying that we don't know exactly what we want the UAV to do, or what capabilities and sensors we want it to have, and the exact combination of performance and sensor capability is not obvious. If we embark on a program of UAV building we run the risk of either having a long drawn and expensive out military program with the requirements constantly changed as everyone with an agenda tries to add their pet project, or we end up with a UAV and doctrine that flat out does not work.

      What I am suggesting is that as we are dealing with new and constantly changing technology, and a technology that enhances are current capability rather than creating a new one (i.e. to use your example: we already have rifles, what we are doing is finding the best calibre, or the best sights to equip them with) then we want to know exactly what it is and what we want. This means more testing, which means a variety of exercises testing different UAVs with different concepts to find out what works. At the end of the day, what training do you think will be needed? We need to know how to launch them, how to recover them, how to maintain them and how to use the data gathered. Most of that should be pretty simple once the doctrine is worked out.

      If these UAVs are going to be cheap then chances are they are going to be fairly simple devices composed of various MOTS and COTS equipment that already exists, or is simply modified from already existing concepts. We are not talking about ramping up a major project with new, and exciting production techniques and materials. A near disposable UAV with a simple sensor and transmitter is not an F35.

    8. You keep contradicting yourself and your theory is ... unusual ... to be polite. I'll leave it at that.

  5. FYI, your last link is to a location on your computer and not DTIC.

    1. Oops! Corrected. Try it now. Thanks for the heads up.

  6. "For example, the enemy is going to be searching for us at the same time we’re searching for them."

    So presumably they will be radiating too if they're using their radars. It works both ways. It may be that the helo detects the enemy's emissions before the enemy detects the helo.

    If anything, it seems like everyone is going to be so afraid of radiating in a near-peer conflict that ships and aircraft start stumbling into another at IR/visual detection distances. As I'm pretty sure you've mentioned before, that's why we need to invest in heavier guns and armor.

    If you do happen to catch a wiff of the enemy's radar, maybe you send a few decoys out, such as a MALD, to try and get a targeting-quality fix. It looks like the MALD-B/J come in at between $75k ($187 million for 2,500 air frames) to $125,000 (unitary cost for ADM-160B) according to Deagel. If the Navy AND Airforce start buying a lot more, presumably that price comes down further. Maybe cheap enough to send out for IR/visual searches too?

    1. "So presumably they will be radiating too if they're using their radars. It works both ways."

      Yes, it does. However, we'll be fighting in the enemy's air and water space (South/East China Sea, for example, or around Taiwan). An enemy that is radiating from an airplane (AEW) or land base is immune to our distributed lethality strike capability since our small, scattered (distributed) ships will have neither the AAW to engage at long ranges nor the land attack capability. So, in a sense, the enemy gets a free look at us and can radiate with impunity. Of course, they may draw attention from non-distributed lethality assets (Air Force fighters, for example) but the distributed lethality scenario seems significantly one-sided.

    2. Yeah, Gripen287, and of course china has never heard of decoys and do not intend to use them to saturate a opponents defence and his missiles ;)

      here's a nice write-up

      China has had a program running for over a decade that converts surplus PLAAF fighters into rudimentary drones.

  7. Distributed Lethality also relies on a lot of long distance secure data links. In a world of EW/cyberattacks how dependable will that be?

  8. There are other airborne assets that monitor the open seas, like the P-8 and soon to be the MQ-4C Triton. Granted they fly a higher altitudes, but they both have active radars.

    Obviously any aviation asset operating in a contested environment is subject to being shot down. Helicopters are more suceptible operating at lower altitudes.

    But, what are the Sea Hawk's techniques, tactics, and procedures in searching for surface contacts? I think knowing this would better inform the discussion.

    1. Don't lose focus. This discussion is about the Navy's distributed lethality concept and the role the helo plays in it and I described the problems with the helo/radar in this concept. Distributed lethality vessels will, by definition, be operating well within the enemy's water and air space. Thus, there won't be any P-8s or any other non-stealthy aviation platform available - they'll be quickly shot down.

      The helo is as a search/targeting asset has a nasty choice: stay low and it's sensors have no range. Fly high and it is easily spotted and shot down.

      One could try flying low and occasionally popping up for a quick look but that is risky (you're liable to pop up next to an enemy) and results in spotty, sporadic coverage.

      There's just no good option. The helo is not a suitable long range search/targeting platform. One has to seriously question the distributed lethality concept when we don't have a survivable, long range search/targeting asset.

    2. I understand the premise of the post, but knowing how the Sea Hawks and their equipment operate is relevant to the discussion. For example, are there special radar operating modes or techniques that make the Sea Hawks less detectible?

      Putting that to the side, one solution is teaming unmanned UAVs with helicopters like the Army has been doing their UAVs and Apaches.
      The unmanned aircraft can search ahead and eliminate areas that don't need to be searched or report what they find and let the Sea Hawks take it from there.

    3. Everything that makes the helo less detectable makes the helo's search range shorter. There's no getting around it. If there was some magical solution, we wouldn't have U-2's, P-8's, Global Hawks, Reapers, E-2 Hawkeyes, etc. We'd just have magical, undetectable helos doing all our surveillance. I know you'd like to believe there's some magic mode but there isn't.

      The Army can team UAVs and Apaches because they're short range (on a relative basis) and the Apache IS THE STRIKE PLATFORM. The Seahawk IS NOT. Therefore, there is no point to teaming them. We just need to send out UAVs, as I suggested in the post.

    4. Like the Apache, the Romeos can fire Hellfires as well, making them a strike platform too. Granted Hellfires are only effective against smaller boats.

    5. "Like the Apache, the Romeos can fire Hellfires as well, making them a strike platform too. Granted Hellfires are only effective against smaller boats."

      This is an utterly irrelevant statement since we're talking about distributed lethality and the targets are surface ships. A Seahawk has no useful anti-surface ship capability and no hope of reaching Hellfire launch range against a surface ship. This is ridiculous.

  9. CNOps, the BQM-74 could be a good solution for your concept, if you can install a search radar on it. Per Wikipedia it's cost is $405.000 a copy. It flies at high subsonic speeds and has about an hour endurance:

    Ah, and normally it can be recovered.

    1. Good thought although $400K is still a lot of money to expend on a device that is probably not going to find a target on any given flight. I don't know if combat recovery is feasible - meaning recovery without having to stop the ship. The range looks okay at 170 nm or so, out and back.

      Larger production runs might lower the cost somewhat.

      Good idea.

    2. After installing the radar and comms, how much does it cost then?

  10. The UAV concept of yours is interesting , but until there's a totally autonomous UAV operations from all stages (launch and recovery and refuel / rearm also autonomous without human in the loop) there wont be any more advancement in UAV operations.. Sure the UAV will be better every iteration , but the operation itself still same old same old.

    Until there's autonomy in every facet of UAV/UCAV operations , there wont be any large scale use of them in combat environment.. Also AI for autonomous operation is mandatory field to be reaearched and implemented. Losing human control in UAV ops should be considered normal during peer vs peer warfare.

    just an observatipn

    1. Addendum :

      An example of totally autonomous comtrol can be seen in this segment of video, granted it is science fiction but the ideas within it are not beyond the reach of possibility :

      - All Flying Helicopters have AI backup control if the pilot incapacitated , this include the refuelers
      - The helicopters can fly autonomously controlled by a single help as master controller
      - these AI controlled helos perform their own air refueling routines
      - these AI controlled helos have 3 possible control mechanism , by onboard human , by AI and by central HQ (a helo carrier in this case).

  11. Space based systems with their own ASAT defence system.

    1. Tanks with active defense systems.

      Are we just listing equipment or do you have a point to make?

  12. A cheap UAV with a combined flight range and sensor range of 200 nm doesn't exist. The RQ-21 Blackjack and MQ-8C (maybe the B too) come close, but neither are cheap.

    And, if you lose a bunch to destroy a target, unless immediately replaced, the ability to maintain a constant stream of UAVs is diminished.

    1. The 5 foot long, 40 lb Scan Eagle has a cruise speed of 60 kts and an endurance of 24+ hours. Theoretically, that gives it a one-way range of 1,440 nm or an out and back range of 720 nm. The current Scan Eagle is comm/control range limited but that can be rectified with different comm/control and some partial autonomous cruise software (autopilot, in essence), so that's not a problem. The sensor is, as stated in the post, the question. However, even a 20 nm sensor combined with a 200 nm flight range would provide all the sensor range needed.

      From the Barnard Microsystems website,

      "All versions of the ScanEagle cost less than $100,000 each."

      It's unclear what sensors, if any, that includes.

      Presumably, mass production would significantly lower that cost.

    2. "And, if you lose a bunch to destroy a target, unless immediately replaced, the ability to maintain a constant stream of UAVs is diminished."

      And, if the Air Force lost a bunch of aircraft to destroy a target, unless immediately replaced, the ability to maintain a constant stream of sorties is diminished.

      And, if we shoot all of our ammo, unless immediately replaced, our ability to maintain a constant stream of fire is diminished.

      And, if we lose a bunch of ships to destroy a target, unless immediately replaced, the ability to maintain a constant stream of naval strikes is diminished.

      Do you have a point beyond stating the painfully obvious?

      Very poor quality comment.

    3. "The current Scan Eagle is comm/control range limited but that can be rectified with different comm/control and some partial autonomous cruise software (autopilot, in essence), so that's not a problem."

      If it's not a problem, why hasn't it been done before? If it's communicating over longer distances, you need more power, and, usually a larger antenna. All of which adds weight to a 40-lb UAV.

      According to open sources, Scan Eagle has a 7.5 lbs payload. That's good for EO and IR. But, what radar or signals collection? A Scan Eagle can't carry that kind of equipment.

      The UAV you envision simply doesn't exist.

      In your scenario, you're depending on a "constant stream" of cheap UAVs to locate the enemy. When you lose a bunch, your ability to search for the enemy is reduced, making you more susceptible to attack. Another defect in your argument.

      Besides, how many Scan Eagles can a ship carry? 20? 30? How many do you need in flight at anyone time? Two hundred miles of ocean is a lot to cover.

      I've seen the $100,000 cost mentioned a few times. But, is that for the basic airframe or does that include the payload too? I've also seen 4 scan eagles and a ground station listed at $3.2 million.

    4. I debated whether to delete your comment for argumentativeness and stupidity, per the Comment Policy page, but I've opted to leave it and address some of the points for the sake of other readers who can benefit from by remarks.

      "If it's not a problem, why hasn't it been done before?"

      A. No has had a need to do it, yet, on a small UAV. Duh.
      B. It has been done. We routinely do long range comms/control with the Global Hawk, Reaper, and others. Do some homework before you comment.

      "A Scan Eagle can't carry that kind of equipment."

      As an example of where technology is going, the NanoSAR radar family weighs 2.6 lbs. The range is quite limited (a couple of miles or so), at the moment, but the trend to small, light, longer range radars is quite evident. So, yes, a Scan Eagle, as an example of a small UAV, could carry such a sensor.

      "The UAV you envision simply doesn't exist."

      Of course not! Where did I say that it did? Read the post and comments.

      "When you lose a bunch, your ability to search for the enemy is reduced, making you more susceptible to attack"

      Nice statement of the obvious. If a carrier loses all its aircraft it, too, is more susceptible to attack. That's the risk of war. What an idiotic statement and indicative of your desire to argue rather than discuss.

      "how many Scan Eagles can a ship carry?"

      As many as we want. A small UAV boxes up quite compactly and even an LCS has giant amounts of room. An LCS could carry hundreds, if we wanted to. Again, an absolutely idiotic question.

      Your blatant argumentativeness and stupidity have forfeited any politeness and respect from me. Feel free to reply but unless the quality of your comments dramatically improves, they'll just be deleted so I wouldn't put too much time or effort into it!

  13. What about the idea of using a long range rocket (Astrobee or Chinese WeiShi style) to place a recon drone above the suspected area. It deploys at enough altitude to get a look at a large region of the ocean and can immediately send targeting data to the missile launching unit.

    Even if the enemy takes it out the information is sent, and you can launch another when you calculate the missile should be close to impact for last minute targeting updates.

    They can be loaded on boat as an MRL and the launch unit could even double as an actual MRL if shore bombardment is needed.

    1. Interesting idea.

      Would the enemy be able to backtrack the rocket (counterbattery type radar) and see the launching ship's location?

      Have you heard of anything like this being done?

      What kind of drone did you have in mind? The challenge with a drone small enough to fit on a rocket is that the sensor, no matter how high it's deployed, will still have a very small field of view.

      Regardless, interesting idea!