Category Archives: Capability Analysis

Analyzing Specific Naval and Maritime Platforms

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Tomahawks No More? Not So Fast

 

Editor’s Note: To allay some confusion, this article is about the end of the Tomahawk program, not the elimination of existing stocks.

imagesTomahawks are on the chopping block. The most recent Defense budget, announced this month, outlined plans to shrink the number of Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAM) for use by U.S. Navy ships and submarines. And the cuts are drastic – $128 Million in Fiscal Year 2015, reducing the number to just 100 next year and zero in 2016. Phasing out weapons systems in favor of new systems capable of meeting current and future threats is a normal course of action. Cutting a highly successful program when there is no replacement on the horizon is shortsighted and threatens to eliminate the Navy’s offshore strike capabilities.

TLAMs have a long and decorated service history. They were first deployed onboard Iowa-Class Battleships, as well as integrated into the Navy’s Vertical Launch System (VLS), installed on Destroyers and Cruisers. They were also installed on some submarines. During the Persian Gulf War, Navy surface combatants struck targets within Kuwait and Iraq throughout the conflict. Superior performance during the Gulf War made TLAM  a preferred stand-off weapon throughout the 1990s, and was utilized during Operations Allied Force and Deliberate Force in the former Yugoslavia. In the War on Terror, TLAMs have been used to strike al-Qaeda training camps in Sudan and Afghanistan, as well as during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Most recently, over 120 TLAMs were fired by US and UK assets at targets in Libyan territory in 2011.

TLAMs provide the capability to strike deep into hostile territory, eliminating communications, air defense, and command and control from a safe distance, assuring successful secondary strikes by air and ground forces. Further developments have made TLAMs even more versatile – they can be prepped and ready for launch on short notice, and upgraded models can receive in-flight targeting updates and loiter in-air until ready to strike. TLAMs have been revamped and re-introduced multiple times throughout their history, and the latest block is a mainstay of offensive naval force.

Despite its success, replacement is inevitable. The platform is over 30 years old, and it is only a matter of time before a new system, upgraded with the latest technology and engineered to meet today’s threats, replaces the reliable TLAM. However, the new defense budget is instead stripping the U.S. arsenal of a proven strike capability and leaving it gapped for upwards of ten years.

The Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) is a much-needed weapon to replace the aging Harpoon anti-ship missile and maintain superiority in surface warfare and Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD). It has also, for some reason, been mentioned as a replacement for the TLAM. This isn’t a viable replacement. LRASM has a range less than half of that of TLAMs, and isn’t designed for deep strike into hostile territory. Even as a stopgap measure, LRASM isn’t an optimal strike weapon and in any case won’t be operationally ready until 2024. As a result, the U.S. will be without a primary strike weapon for the foreseeable future.

Operating with a tight budget, lawmakers are looking for any way to trim defense spending. Eliminating a weapon that is a proven success and vital for offshore strike demonstrates a complete disregard for warfare requirements and unnecessarily places warfighters in harm’s way, without a vital support weapon.

Tomahawk won’t be around forever; but it’s a vital weapon that has pulled its weight for 30 years. The U.S. already has outdated weapons systems and requires upgrades to keep pace with a rising Chinese military. Cutting more weapons systems and eliminating strike options in the name of fiscal restraint is the definition of shortsighted.

LTJG Brett Davis is a U.S. Navy Surface Warfare Officer. He also runs the blog ClearedHot and occasionally navigates Twitter. His opinions are his own and do not represent the views of the U.S. Navy or Department of Defense.

070426-N-0000X-001PACIFIC OCEAN (April 26, 2007) - A Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) is launched from the Aegis-class guided missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70), during a joint Missile Defense Agency, U.S. Navy ballistic missile flight test. Approximately three minutes later, the SM-3 intercepted a unitary (non-separating) ballistic missile threat target, launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility, Barking Sands, Kauai, Hawaii. Within moments of this launch, the USS Lake Erie also launched a Standard Missile-2 (SM-2) against a hostile air target in order to defend herself. The test was the eighth intercept, in 10 program flight tests. The test was designed to show the capability of the ship and its crew to conduct ballistic missile defense and at the same time defend herself. This test also marks the 27th successful hit-to-kill intercept in tests since 2001. U.S. Navy photo (RELEASED)

Surface Warfare: Lynchpin of Naval Integrated Air/Missile Defense

“Events of October 1962 indicated, as they had all through history, that control of the sea means security. Control of the seas can mean peace. Control of the seas can mean victory. The United States must control the seas if it is to protect your security….”

- President John F. Kennedy, 6 June 1963, on board USS Kitty Hawk.

Introduction- Our Changing World

As America begins its drawdown in Afghanistan and embarks upon the Asia- Pacific rebalance, the U.S. Navy urgently needs to assess its approach to Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) and integrate emerging IAMD capabilities that will enable the fleet to successfully contend with our new reality.  This discussion addresses the high and unforgiving end of the operational spectrum and calls for renewed emphasis on innovation and proficiency in IAMD.  Substantial enhancements in the operational concepts and offensive warfighting capabilities of near peer competitors significantly shift the operational environment. In light of emerging capabilities and in order to maintain combat advantage, especially in the areas of tactical thought and doctrine development, we will accrue great benefits with a re-immersion into the art and science of IAMD.

What Has Changed?  Back to the Future

The operational environment and technology that drove the need for innovation and proficiency in air warfare during the Cold War belong to a fleeting past  only a few active duty Sailors can recall.  Yet, the emerging challenges we face today mirror those faced not only a generation ago, when advances in warfighting technology demanded both technical and tactical innovation. Once again, we must master sophisticated threats and tactics in the aerospace domain.

The blue-water operational environment of the Cold War, relatively uncluttered by land mass reflections, dense commercial air traffic, and threats from non-state actors, envisioned a battle thick with hostile aircraft, surface combatants, and submarines launching saturation cruise missile attacks.  Especially in the 1980s, AW tactics evolved rapidly to keep pace with advances in both air threats and fleet air defense capabilities.  A well-organized spectrum of training, from classrooms ashore to advanced fleet exercises with allies, maintained tactical proficiency and often included proficiency firings of all AAW capable weapon systems.  While generally confined to the carrier battle group, some excursions ventured into multi-battle group combined operations.  Manual tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) perfected by frequent drill and regular live fire exercises achieved high degrees of proficiency and integration.

 A syndicate of naval officers renowned for their expertise in air defense came of age with the proliferation of ‘G’ (guided missile) ships and reached the pinnacle of their influence in the early days of the AEGIS program.  Commanding a cruiser designated as the Battle Group ‘Alpha Whiskey’ marked the brass ring of a Surface Warfare career.

The demise of the Soviet Union began a period without a credible naval competitor and the following thirteen years of fleet operations primarily focused on support for strike, counter-insurgency and anti-terrorism.  The Fleet’s warfighting emphasis migrated from the primary sea-control missions of the Cold War to contemporary operations in the littorals and resulted in a drift away from a fleet-wide emphasis on air defense.   Anti-piracy, maritime interdiction, strike, and other operations in support of land operations prevailed.  Absent pressing credible threats, few ships distinguished themselves in this particular warfare area.

With our focus elsewhere, technology enabled the development of increasingly sophisticated threats and countermeasures.  Today’s cruise missile threats are stealthy, extremely fast, and can be employed at great ranges, using multiple independent seekers and dramatic terminal maneuvers.  The full range of ballistic missiles display similar capabilities, in addition to being longer range, widely dispersed, and capable of carrying weapons of mass destruction.  Mobile launchers that quickly relocate and change launch axis, and theater ballistic missiles that dispense decoys and obscurants allow more capable adversaries to present daunting threats. In essence, ballistic missiles have become an asymmetric air force.

Finally, small, slow and numerous reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicles, intrusive cyber capabilities, and space based surveillance now threaten presumed net-centric advantages. We seldom contemplate the major or total loss of supporting information networks.  In most A2AD scenarios, these threats will impede the freedom of access and action of commercial shipping, naval forces, and defended assets ashore and hold them at risk of damage.

In response, we have fielded an impressive array of material solutions.  The AEGIS Weapon System remains the world’s preeminent air defense system and is evolving to include advanced IAMD capabilities.  Today our navy has thirty cruisers and destroyers capable of conducting Ballistic Missile Defense with additional ships undergoing installation and certification.  Additionally, if properly employed with the right tactics, Navy Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA), the next variant of the Standard Missile family (SM-6), the E-2D with Cooperative Engagement Capability and 5th generation F-35 fighter aircraft will be IAMD game changers.

The emergence of these quantum leap capabilities compels us to re-evaluate how we train, maintain, command, control, and employ these forces.  Efficient and effective command and control (C2) of IAMD forces ensures that we employ these new capabilities to their maximum effectiveness, which requires moving beyond the C2 approach under which we currently operate.

Fighting multiple engagements in today’s fight is likely.  We will achieve success by developing innovative C2 based on rigorous experimentation by the Aviation and Surface Warfare communities using both high fidelity simulation and fleet wargames.  The initial NIFC-CA CONOPS is currently under stakeholder review and will require testing and refinement as we deliver the tactics, techniques and procedures needed to exploit our new IAMD capabilities.  In this process, we need to apply the focus, rigor, and innovation, which enabled us to master AAW in the 1980s.

Starting at the Beginning: Warfighting Expertise

The complexity of this mission boggles the mind, spanning the warfighting spectrum from strategic defense against intercontinental ballistic missiles to defeating small, slow, drones with nothing more than a camera and a radio transmitter as their main battery.

We already possess formidable IAMD capabilities and even more potent ones are on the way.  In order to exploit these systems, there must be a relevant operational vision, a concept of operations, and updated tactics, techniques and procedures and a cadre of experts who understand the employment of joint and combined IAMD capabilities against current and emerging threats.   All of these begin with the operational idea of gaining and maintaining air superiority in the vicinity of defended assets at sea and ashore.

The inherent mobility, persistence and responsiveness of naval forces to conduct IAMD have never been more relevant.  More than ever, naval officers must think in terms of surface forces as the nucleus of IAMD forces in both developing and mature Theaters.  They must also view naval IAMD in the context of joint and combined operations.

The effort required to formulate the tactics to employ emerging capabilities is already underway in a series of wargames sponsored by Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command.  Operationally experienced SWOs and aviators are collaborating to develop innovative tactics for these advanced weapons systems.  We require pioneering naval officers to master 21st century warfighting technology, discard outdated ideas, and generate, sometimes from scratch, the tactics, techniques and procedures essential for effective employment of new weapons systems.  

A philosophy of mission command lies at the heart of this innovation.  Mission command’s three elements of trust, understanding and commander’s intent are perfectly suited to high end IAMD.  The principle understanding demands not only the “I know my wingman so well, I know what he will do next” but also, “I know this system of systems so well, I know what it will not do next.”  Highly structured and static command and control fails to optimize the new systems’ agility and full design potential.

Air Warfare has for the past 20 years been a highly scripted undertaking, yet, the modern IAMD operational environment is ill-suited to scripted solutions, and the nature of the IAMD mission demands trust in and understanding of the capabilities of the other participants in the IAMD Fight.  This will come as the result of an increased emphasis on experimentation, wargaming and integration.

Because complex new IAMD systems rely on precise technical and operational integration and a high degree of proficiency and teamwork, it is becoming increasingly apparent that we must dedicate periods of integrated IAMD training as a crucial part of deployment work-ups.  Commanders, strike leaders, pilots, TAO’s and crews from ships and air wings outfitted with these new IAMD systems must fully integrate.

Many naval officers have strong opinions, often negative, about the relevance of operational doctrine.  Doctrine presents fundamental principles that guide the employment of forces in coordinated and integrated actions toward a common objective.  It promotes a common perspective from which to plan, train, and conduct military operations and represents what is taught, believed and advocated as what works best.  It provides distilled insights and wisdom gained from employing the military instruments of national power in operations to achieve national objectives. [1]

Over the last 15 years, the lack of a pressing air threat and the reduction of commands dedicated to doctrine hindered the normal doctrine update cycle.  During this same period, the advent of ballistic missile defense, the rapid deployments of U.S. and adversary capabilities, and the introduction of IAMD as an operational concept, rendered much of the existing doctrine obsolete.  While the Navy Air and Missile Defense Command (NAMDC) and the Surface Tactics Development Group have taken steps toward improving the situation, the Navy is at a disadvantage in trying to formally articulate its IAMD equities in joint and combined arenas.  This sophistication of IAMD in this new age and the revolutionary capabilities described in the next section demand updated doctrine.

We must do better.

In a significant and profound step, the Surface Warfare community launched a commitment to develop expertise in IAMD.  NAMDC established a 19-week course that will deliver subject matter experts to the Fleet.  The IAMD Weapons Tactics Instructor (WTI) course focuses on the advanced IAMD training for individuals with the goal of improving unit level and strike group proficiency in IAMD.  Candidates will be challenged, as they become experts in the latest capabilities, TTP’s, training strategies and threats.  As the IAMD WTIs begin to reach the Fleet, their influence will extend well beyond the lifelines and impact both Fleet and Joint Operations.

Our Center for Surface Combat Systems and Afloat Training Groups developed Advanced Warfare Training (AWT) for all AEGIS ships.  AWT consists of multi-week classroom and hands on system training with individual watchstander and team training in a scenario environment.  This is a critical step in AEGIS baseline training, ensuring shipboard competency and improved performance executing the IAMD mission.

Capability to Defeat the Threat

AEGIS Wholeness – Sustaining the World’s Best Weapon System

The AEGIS Weapons System (AWS) remains the finest and most advanced IAMD system ever put to sea.  In 2011, the Navy initiated AEGIS Wholeness, a no-holds-barred approach to improving AEGIS Readiness.  Many facets comprised this effort: Interoperability, Technical Support, Logistics, Type Commander sponsored SPY radar maintenance program, replacement of high failure SPY parts, and a revival of the SM-2 Fleet Firing Program. Impressive gains realized over the past two years include, increasing operational availability of deployed ships to over 96%.  There is simply no substitute for continuous attention to the details of AWS material readiness.  The effectiveness of the AWS strongly depends on how conscientious Captains and crews are about its material readiness.

Navy BMD – From Pioneering Capability to Primary Mission

Over the past decade, Navy Ballistic Missile Defense grew from a pioneering vision to a National Defense mission.   Given the proliferation of ballistic missile described above, BMD garners the highest priority maritime missions of Combatant Commanders and as a result, AEGIS BMD ships have the highest optempo in the fleet.  BMD is an inherently joint mission and AEGIS BMD ships (and soon, AEGIS Ashore) frequently integrate into the Ballistic Missile Defense System, a globally distributed and highly integrated combat system with elements from all the services and Functional and Geographic Combatant Commanders.  As complex as BMD technology already is, radar and missiles continue to grow in sophistication.  Mastery of the BMD mission requires sequential assignments at sea and ashore.  Additionally, BMD Specialty Career Path officers are a start, but we must increase our cadre of BMD experienced Sailors at sea.

Revolution at Sea: No Kidding, Truly Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD)

Our newest AEGIS Baseline 9 represents our first true IAMD AEGIS Combat System computer program.  Unlike previous BMD computer programs which had either AAW or BMD, both functionalities in Baseline 9 now reside in a single Combat Systems computer program.  This combat system program is being tested in USS JOHN PAUL JONES (DDG 53).  One of the key features of this baseline is the Multi-Mission Signal Processor (MMSP), which allows operators to dynamically allocate radar resources in response to specific threats.

The most notable feature of Baseline 9 is the ability to conduct “integrated fires.”  Integrated fires can occur between ships and between aircraft, but the most complex variant is NIFC-CA.  NIFC-CA employs ships and aircraft to consummate missile engagements beyond the radar horizon.  This execution is operational rocket science. Those who master it will be identified as the best and brightest.

What we must change – Culture and Focus

The U.S. Navy is developing and putting to sea revolutionary IAMD capabilities with the potential to be credible deterrents to war and if necessary, decisive factors in battle.  However, in order to exploit these incredible advantages, Surface Warriors must embrace the art and science of IAMD.  As sophisticated as they may be, these sophisticated weapons will require the sharpest operational minds using the best new tactics flowing from the crucibles of experimentation in stressing virtual warfare simulation and realistic fleet exercises.

Developing a career long vocation as an IAMD expert must not be viewed as professionally stifling.  Like other specialties, the IAMD mission is so incredibly broad, deep and complex, that it takes a significant amount of education, training, and experience for any officer to master.  This is a professional commitment to which young officers must commit and senior officers must foster.  The Weapons Tactics Instructor program initiated by NAMDC is a step in the right direction.

While individual training provided ashore and within the lifelines Advanced Warfare Training are first important steps, we must redesign and revitalize our IAMD training for the Air and Missile Defense Commander (AMDC) and supporting elements within the Strike Group.  This includes building block courses prior to the Warfare Commander’s Conference for the IAMD team.  Putting NIFC-CA, SM-6, AEGIS Baseline 9, CEC, E-2D and F-35 to sea demands that we assemble Strike Group Staffs, ship crews and Air Wing personnel for significant, dedicated planning and integration periods to develop the mutual trust and the deep understanding of system capabilities and commander’s intent essential to successful operations.

These efforts, though significant, are not enough.  We must start to live and breathe Integrated Air and Missile Defense.  IAMD must become the first, the last and the many in between thoughts of the Surface Warrior’s professional day.

 

CAPT Jim Kilby is the Deputy for Ballistic Missile Defense, AEGIS Combat Systems and Destroyers in the Surface Warfare Directorate (N96).  He commanded USS RUSSELL (DDG 59) and USS MONTEREY (CG 61).  In MONTEREY, he deployed as the first ship to support the European Phased Adaptive Approach for Ballistic Missile Defense.



[1] Joint Electronic Library – http//www.dtic.mil/doctrine/new_pubs/jpintpub.htm

 

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Sea Control 28 (East Atlantic) – The F-35

seacontrolemblemFor the inaugural edition of Sea Control’s “East Atlantic” series, Alexander Clarke brings on Steve George, former engineer with the F-35 program and Royal Navy veteran to discuss the challenges and misconceptions of the F-35 program. Remember, subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher Stream Radio. Leave a comment and five stars!

DOWNLOAD: Sea Control 28 (East Atlantic) -The F-35

Tune in next week for our interview with Erik Prince!

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Preparing for the RCN’s Future: Platform Growth and Naval Vessels

The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) will begin replacing much of its fleet at the start of the next decade. To ensure that its fleet remains relevant over its thirty-plus years of service life, adequate platform growth potential must be factored into the design process of the new vessels.

The RCN has 15 surface combatants: three elderly Iroquois-class destroyers and 12 Halifax-class anti-submarine warfare (ASW) frigates. The ships of the former class were all commissioned in 1972 and the first will not be replaced until 2020 at the earliest. The Halifax were commissioned between 1992 and 1996 and the last unit will remain in service until it is replaced in 2033. All replacement dates are based on current estimates and assume no delays – an unlikely assumption given Canada’s procurement practices and the intricacies of systems integration on a new hull – and assume, of course, that there will be no project cancellation. Regardless, even in a best case scenario the last Iroquois will have served for an astonishing forty-eight years, and the last Halifax for thirty-seven years.

How can platform growth be incorporated into the fifteen-ship Single Class Surface Combatant Project? To answer this question it is useful to look at Canada’s most recent naval combatant class, the Halifax-class frigate, for lessons. The Halifax is a highly advanced warship by any standard. It is, however, primed for a single task: anti-submarine warfare (ASW). The mission requirement that determined the design was ASW for the purpose of protecting convoys in the Atlantic Ocean in the event that NATO went to war with the Soviet Union. For that mission it carries an impressive set of sonar and large numbers of anti-submarine munitions

Today the RCN has a very different core mission requirement: expeditionary operations. For this type of mission, the Halifax bow gun is inadequate for naval gunfire support and cannot take advantage of a series of new long-range naval ammunition built for larger guns. This shortcoming is made more acute by the fact that a smaller system cannot simply be replaced by a larger one unless sufficient hull volume has been allocated in the design. A similar shortcoming is its air defense system. The Halifax-class has no vertical launch cell system (VLS). VLS is a launcher system that is built into the deck to allow rapid launch of munitions. Additionally, it makes more efficient use of deck space and the ships’ volume. The Halifax-class cannot be retrofitted with a VLS system as adequate platform growth was not designed to allow for it. Instead, it has two Mark 48 eight-cell launchers that can only launch the RIM-162 Extended Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM). As surface-to-air missiles go, this is a short-range system that allows the frigate only to protect itself.

A study of the Halifax-class frigate provides important lessons on why it is important to ‘design in’ platform growth on naval vessels – especially when they will be in service for many unpredictable decades. Perhaps the three-most important platform-growth requirements today are energy generation, deck space and internal volume, and VLS cells. Energy generation is important to ensure that the warship’s sensors, particularly its radar systems, can be replaced with more powerful, energy hungry sensors. Furthermore, it is quite likely that in the future naval vessels will be able to carry various types of direct-energy weapons (such as lasers) to deal with increasingly sophisticated and fast anti-ship weapon systems. To utilize such systems a warship must be able to generate sufficient electrical power.

VLS

A SM-3 anti-ballistic missile is launched from a vertical launch system (VLS) cell. To use this system Canada will have to purchase the longest VLS system.

Deck space, internal volume, and VLS cells are related platform growth priorities. As the example of the Halifax’s naval gun has made clear, if the RCN intends to at least retain the option of arming its vessels with long-range naval guns for littoral operations then it must at least ensure that sufficient deck space and internal volume is ‘designed in.’ Moreover, the flexibility VLS cells provide makes them a priority for all navies today. The American Mark 41 VLS system offers a system that comes in varying numbers of cells and varying cell length/depth. The latter is important as the choice of cell length/depth determines what munitions can be launched from it. For example, should Canada procure a warship with the longest VLS length/cell, and if it hadn’t ‘designed in’ a margin of growth for cell length below deck, then it will be unable to ever fit its vessels with the current crop of anti-ballistic missile defenses and land-attack cruise missiles. This reduces the mission flexibility of a warship class and reduces their effectiveness over their service life. To overcome this, longer VLS cells can be procured or at least factored into the design – ‘designed for but not with.’ In a similar vein, space and volume can be allocated for VLS systems that can be added in the future.

Given past experiences it is likely that Canada’s next-generation of naval surface combatant will serve many decades into the future. Given the increasing importance of littoral/coastal operations, climatic change in the Arctic, and the need to undertake expeditionary operations, it is paramount that any naval vessel be designed with sufficient platform growth in mind. By doing so, the RCN will be able to hedge against an unpredictable fiscal, geopolitical and environmental future.

Shahryar Pasandideh is a third year student studying international relations and Middle Eastern studies at Trinity College, University of Toronto. He is interested in contemporary debates on grand strategy, maritime security, Sino-American and Sino-Indian strategic interaction, and the military balance in the Persian Gulf region.
Disclaimer:

Any views or opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and the news agencies and do not necessarily represent those of the NATO Council of Canada. This article is published for information purposes only and was re-posted with permission from the Atlantic Council of Canada from its original form. 

A big stick... but  you might need a trowel or a vice-grip instead.

The Limits of ASB

Recent events have underscored that Air-Sea Battle (ASB) is at best a necessary but insufficient solution to China’s military modernization and increasingly assertive diplomatic posture.

Although there’s a legitimate debate about whether ASB is too escalatory to be credible against a nuclear-armed adversary in any scenario, even ASB’s strongest proponents must concede that it would only be politically viable if the U.S. and China move from a state of tense peace to  open war. That is, unless China presents the U.S. with a “Pearl Harbor” type moment—most likely an invasion of Taiwan or the Senkaku Islands—no U.S. president would be comfortable ordering the military to execute an ASB operation against China.

A big stick... but  you might need a trowel or a vice-grip instead.

A big stick… but you might need a trowel or a vice-grip instead.

This is problematic in light of China’s recent successes in expanding its influence in the East and South China Seas using what James Holmes and Toshi Yoshihara have called “small-stick diplomacy.” ASB is wholly inappropriate for countering China’s “small-stick diplomacy,” which generally involves China using non-Naval assets to gradually expand its influence in maritime waters.

Yet, as I have argued elsewhere, there are compelling reasons to think that China will use these salami tactics and gradualist approach to secure its dominance over the Western Pacific, rather than wager everything on a single battle or war. At the very least, it seems highly unlikely that China will take the latter approach as long as its “small-stick diplomacy” continues to be successful. Thus, until the U.S. and its allies are able to successfully counter China’s salami tactics, a scenario in which ASB might be appropriate is unlikely to present itself. 

This is problematic for the United States for a number of reasons. To begin with, the U.S. has a much better track record at deterring or winning general wars than it does with handling lower-level types of aggression. For example, the U.S. easily overthrew the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq, but failed to beat the subsequent insurgencies and secure the peace in both countries.

Similarly, during the Cold War the U.S. successfully deterred the Soviet Union from invading Western Europe but proved much less adept at dealing with the insurgencies and terrorist groups it sponsored throughout the world. In fact, vestiges of the Soviet’s proxy strategy continue to haunt the United States today in the form of the Castro regime in Cuba and the Kim regime in North Korea. Much like the Soviet Union itself, the U.S. has successfully deterred North Korea from reinvading South Korea but has been unable to prevent its lower-level forms of aggression, including its assassination attempts against South Korean leaders and stealth attacks on ROK naval assets.  

More concretely, simultaneously countering China’s “small-stick diplomacy” and anti-access/area denial challenges will be difficult because each seemingly calls for very different kinds of procurements. Specifically, the best way to counter China’s “small-stick diplomacy” would be to acquire a large quantity of platforms that would allow the U.S. Navy and Air Force to maintain a robust presence throughout the vast waters in the South and East China Seas that China claims sovereignty over. It is less important that these platforms be the most technology capable ones the military could build since China usually relies on second rate assets to pursue its “small-stick diplomacy.” By contrast, overcoming China’s A2/AD challenges with ASB does require the U.S. Navy and Air Force to field some highly capable platforms like long-range precision strike missiles, as well as high-end cyber and ISR capabilities.

In theory, the U.S. military could field a numerically large, highly capable force. This in fact would be the best way to deal with both China’s “small-stick diplomacy” and A2/AD strategies. In reality, however, America’s fiscal constraints preclude this possibility.

Indeed, in explaining how the U.S. military could absorb the defense cuts that have already been authorized by Congress, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the Defense Department “examined two strategic approaches to reducing force structure and modernization that will inform planning for sequester-level cuts.  The basic tradeoff is between capacity – measured in the number of Army brigades, Navy ships, Air Force squadrons, and Marine battalions – and capability – our ability to modernize weapons systems and to maintain our military’s technological edge.” He went on to explain that “in the first approach, we would trade away size for high-end capability,” whereas “the second approach would trade away high-end capability for size.”

Thus it seems that the U.S. military cannot maintain a large enough force to counter China’s “small-stick diplomacy” at the same time that it modernizes its forces enough to properly execute ASB against China. Finding a way to overcome these limitations will be perhaps the biggest challenge the U.S. military faces in the years ahead.

Zachary Keck is Associate Editor of The Diplomat where he authors “The Pacific Realist” blog. He is also a monthly columnist for The National Interest, and can be found on Twitter @ZacharyKeck.

ASB

A Look at Corvettes and Air Defense

Corvettes, unlike offshore patrol vessels are meant for wartime use without major upgrades.  Their status as warships requires a satisfactory level of survivability against at the very least, common threats.

The design objectives for Corvettes, in regard to anti air warfare (AAW), is typically limited to self-defense. A typical self-defense suite as mounted on German K130 corvettes consist of a 76 mm rapid fire gun, rolling airframe missiles (RAM, short-range air defense / point defense), 27 mm auto-cannons and soft kill countermeasures. The shaping of the hull and superstructure indicates a moderate reduction in radar cross-section and some reduction in infra-red signatures was attempted as well.

This kind of defensive package can be effective against incoming missiles (preferably subsonic ones) and low-flying combat aircraft (threats similar to those the Royal Navy faced in the Falklands).

These aren’t the only common aerial threats, though: There are also guided bombs, specifically laser, TV and infrared guided bombs which cost so very little that a rolling airframe missile (of which only few dozen are on board anyway) costs more.

ASBThe U.S. Air Force demonstrated recently its ability to bomb a speedboat at speed with a laser guided bomb from high altitude, scoring a direct hit. Other munitions, meant for pinpoint attacks on land vehicles, could target and destroy the RAM launcher or the 76 mm gun from beyond their effective range, exposing the ships to almost unrestricted iron bomb attacks.

The proliferation of laser guided bombs since their invention during the Vietnam War leaves no choice but to consider them as a common threat munitions, and corvettes need to be survivable in face of this threat. This leaves but three options:

  • Avoid being targeted, for example by disguising as a civilian ship
  • Stay under the protective umbrella of a AAW frigate, AAW destroyer or a permanent and reliable combat air patrol
  • At the very least carry surface to air missiles with a high effective ceiling into a warzone, even if onboard electronics do not permit to exploit their full performance envelope without external support.

Point (3) deserves an elaboration: In theory a corvette in a picket role could serve as an area air defence missile launcher, cooperating with a separate search and fire control unit such as an AEW&C aircraft as long as the missile doesn’t require shipboard support during flight. The corvette itself does not need illumination systems if the missile seeker isn’t employing semi active radar homing and it doesn’t need an area radar search capability if it enjoys the benefits of a datalink to an AEW or AAW platform. Finally, it doesn’t need to possess a sophisticated AAW control centre, as its fire control can be done remotely, using cooperative engagement capability (CEC). If the Corvette and the controlling unit are equipped with this capability, the Corvette needs only a few vertical launch silos to be able to engage the attacking aircraft rather than weapons it drops.

Corvettes are of course not intended for employment as task force ships, but the destroyer escorts of 1944 weren’t intended to fight against battleships in defence of escort aircraft carriers either (Battle of Samar, ’44).

“Sven Ortmann is a German blogger. Since begun in 2007, his blog, “Defence and Freedom,” has covered a range of military, defence policy and economic topics, with more than a million page views. His personal military background is his service in the Luftwaffe. He has guest-blogged at the Small Wars Journal Blog and other blogs on military topics.  http://defense-and-freedom.blogspot.com/

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Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPC), the Other LCS

The US Coast Guard is currently in the first part or a two part program to select a design for a planned class of 25 ships referred to as Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPC) also called the Maritime Security Cutter, Medium (WMSM). In many respects these might be thought of a third class of Littoral Combat Ships. They have different characteristics and different strengths and weaknesses, but there is considerable overlap in there characteristics. Like the LCS they will be small, shallow draft, helicopter equipped warships with the 57mm Mk110 gun. It seems likely the OPC will be 2,500 to 3,500 tons, similar in size to the Freedom and Independence class LCS.

The only information we have on Huntington Ingalls’ concept for the OPC is this photo tacked onto the end of a DefenseNews.Com report.

The existing LCS classes emphasize adaptability, are faster and have more spacious aviation facilities. The cutters will emphasize seakeeping and will:

  • have greater range (minimum 7,500 miles @14 knots) and endurance using all diesel propulsion. Typical operations as outlined in the Concept of Operations (CONOPS) were 14 days between refueling, 21 days between replenishment, and 45-60 day patrols.
  • be ice-strengthened,
  • have ballistic protection over critical areas,
  • have a larger crew, and
  • be able to operate their boats and aircraft in higher sea states (through sea state 5).

Illustration from Bollinger Shipyards

The acquisition process:

A two step Acquisition process is being used. First, up to three contractors will be selected to develop their concepts into fully detailed contract proposals. This selection is expected by the end of the second quarter of FY2014. These three will then compete for a contract which will include all documentation, construction of the first OPC (expected delivery in FY2020) and options for up to ten follow-on ships.

Eight yards have submitted bids:

  • Bollinger Shipyards, Lockport, La.
  • Eastern Shipbuilding, Panama City, Fla.
  • General Dynamics Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine
  • General Dynamics Nassco, San Diego
  • Huntington Ingalls Industries, Pascagoula, Miss.
  • Marinette Marine, Marinette, Wis.
  • Vigor Shipyards, Seattle; and
  • VT Halter Marine, Pascagoula, Miss.

There has been international interest in the project. VT Halter has partnered with French Defense Contractor DCNS. Vigor is allied with Ulstein, Bollinger is working with Dutch Ship builder Damen. It appears Eastern may have teamed with STX (supposition on my part, based only on their concept‘s similarity to the New Zealand Navy’s Protector Class OPV.

VT Halter Marine, Inc. (VT Halter Marine), a subsidiary of VT Systems, Inc. (VT Systems), today announced its partnership agreement with DCNS to submit a proposal to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for the design and construction of the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC). VT Halter Marine will be the prime contractor and DCNS will be its exclusive subcontractor for the OPC platform design.

An early DCNS concept

The funding schedule is expected to look like this:

  • FY 2016 Detail Design
  • FY 2017 OPC #1 Construction
  • FY 2018 OPC #2
  • FY 2019 OPC #3
  • FY 2020 OPC #4 and #5
  • FY 2021 OPC #6 and #7
  • FY 2022 OPC #8 and #9
  • FY 2023 OPC #10 and #11

There was also a statement of intent to hold the maximum price of units four through nine to $310M each.

Specifications:

The ships are to be built to modified American Bureau of Shipping Naval Ship Rules excluding explosive or underwater shock hardening.

They are expected to operate in cold climates. They will be equipped “to operate in areas of broken plate, pancake, and sea ice ranging from 10 to 30 inches thick.”  There is also a required capability to operate an ice capable small boat and to have automated topside de-icers.

“The WMSM will provide increased protection for (sic.) small caliber weapons and shrapnel fragmentation around the bridge, CIC, and magazine spaces.”

It will tow up to 10,000 tons.

The ships are expected to be able to do Fueling at Sea (FAS), Replenishment at Sea (RAS), Vertical (Helicopter) Replenishment or VERTREP, and to refuel smaller vessels (apparently reflecting an expectation of sustained operations with smaller patrol vessels (WPCs or WPBs) at locations remote from their bases).

I did not have access to the latest specifications, but have deduced some details of the proposed equipment from the Allowance Equipage List included in the Draft RFP. All the systems below are referenced. (In a few cases there may be duplicate listing if different nomenclature is used for the same system.) The outfit, in most respects, repeats or even improves on that of the National Security Cutter:

Communications:

  • Military SAT com
  • Tactical Data Link System
  • IFF
  • SBU (presumably “Sensitive but Unclassified”) Network
  • SIPRNET (Classified Network)
  • NIPRNET (Unclassified Network)
  • Entertainment System

Sensors:

  • TSR-3D RARAD System, a multimode surface and air surveillance and target acquisition radar
  • Electro-Optic/Infrared Sensor system
  • RADIAC

Weapons:

  • Mk 48 mod 1 Gun Weapon System (pdf), which includes the Mk 110 57mm gun, AN/SPQ-9B  Surface search and Fire Control Radar, Electro-Optical sensor system Mk 20 mod 0, the Mk 160 GCS Mod 12, and Mk 12 Gun Computer System
  • Mk 15 mod 21-25 CIWS (Phalanx) (apparently equipped for but not with)
  • Mk 38 mod 2 25 mm
  • Gun Weapon System SSAM (remotely controlled stabilized .50 cal)
  • Four crew served .50 mounts including Mk 16 and Mk 93 mod 0 or mod 4 mounts
  • Mk 46 optical sight

Electronic Warfare:

  • Mk 53 Decoy launcher
  • AN/SLQ-32 (v)2

Navigation:

  • Encrypted GPS
  • Electronic Chart Display and Information System

Intelligence:

  • Ships Signals Exploitation Space
  • Special Purpose Intel System

Aviation:

  • Hangar for helicopter up to and including Navy and Coast Guard H-60s (There may have been some backtracking on the requirement for a helicopter larger than the HH-65)
  • Facilities for the support of unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)
  • TACAN
  • Visual Landing Aids

Coast Guard HH-65 Dolphins

Unresolved

Having watched this program develop over a number of years, it is remarkable that the specifications have moved from specific to general as the need to minimize cost has resulted in softening of the requirements. As with many contracts, threshold and objective characteristics were defined, but if there are incentives for going beyond threshold requirements, they have not been made public. For this reason there seems little reason to expect the capabilities to exceed the threshold requirement which include a speed of 22 knots (objective 25).

The aviation support requirements also seem to have gone soft and may result in the ability to support only smaller helicopters and UAVs

Potential Naval Roles

Weapons–A minimal projected fit has been identified, but the Commandant has stated that the ships will have space and weight reservation for additional weapons, but I have not been privy to the extent of this reservation. It may be limited to replacing the Mk38mod2 with a Phalanx, but there is reason to hope the ships have greater potential.

The ships do have an unusual specification. For the Alien Migrant Interdiction Operations, they are required to be able to feed and provide basic shelter for up to 500 migrants for 48 hours, all while keeping them on the main deck or above.  This actually constitutes a substantial weight/moment reserve for other missions. If we assumed 150 pounds for each person, that would equate to 37.5 tons.

Modules–While there was apparently no stated requirement to host mission modules or containers in the specifications, some of the foreign designed potential contenders may already include provision for taking containers. For instance, the Damen designed OPV 2600 (ton) has provision for five 20 foot containers. Others may use containers as part of their plan to meet the 500 Alien Migrant holding requirement.

Vigor Offshore Patrol Craft 01

Vigor concept with its Ulstein X-bow. It was reported to have a length of 328 feet, a beam of 54 feet, a draft of 16.5 feet, and a max speed of 22knots. It included a reconfigurable boat hangar.

Manning:

The Coast Guard’s latest Manpower Estimate for the Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs), completed 18 March 2011, was 104 (15 officers, 9 CPOs, 80 E-6 and below) plus an aviation detachment (five personnel) and Ship’s Signals Exploitation Space (SSES) detachment (seven personnel) for a total of 116. Accommodations are planned for at least 120 (threshold requirement) and hopefully as many as 126 (“objective”). The manning assumes four section underway watches.

Unlike the two current LCS classes, the OPCs are expected to train junior personnel: “The Coast Guard depends on cutters to expose our junior personnel, officers and enlisted, to our wide mission set. With this real world experience derived from a first tour operational assignment, these sailors populate critical billets such as law enforcement detachments, independent duty corpsmen, and XOs on patrol boats.”

These ships, like the LCS are expected to have multiple crews, with four crews for a group of three ships, allowing them to operate up to 225-230 days away from home port per year. (I personally don’t like the concept as proposed)

Survivability: The preliminary manning documents assumes that two full Repair Lockers (27 crew members in each locker) plus a Rapid Response Team (RRT) will be constituted for General Emergency Situations, but only one full Repair Locker and the RRT will be available at General Quarters. Two engine rooms will provide a degree of propulsion redundancy.

LCS Council:

The CNO saw the need for high level coordination of the introduction of the LCS to insure that they made the most of their potential. Since established they have added oversight of the Joint High Speed Vessels.

I see a need for the Coast Guard to also have a seat the Council to

  • share experiences with multiple crewing and other lessons learned
  • maximize the wartime potential of the Offshore Patrol Cutters by exploiting commonality with the LCS
  • ease coordination of Navy’s LCS and JHSVs partnership station, drug interdiction, and constabulary efforts which often involving Coast Guard detachments.

LCS 2.0, or a Missed opportunity?:

I keep hearing that many, including former undersecretary Bob Work, may not be entirely happy with the characteristics of the existing LCS designs, but that because they are the design we have, we should continue to build them. I have hoped that the Offshore Patrol Cutters would offer a possible alternative for an LCS 2.0. It may be that cost considerations and program choices will make them unsuitable, but at the very least, the eight design proposals and the three fully developed contract proposals should make interesting reading for those who would like to consider alternatives to the existing designs.

In addition, these ships, or designs developed from them, may offer a cheaper alternative basis upon which to offer our allies interested in American built corvettes or OPVs.

If I had my druthers:

If I had my druthers these ships would be designed, but not necessarily equipped, from the start, for wartime roles including ASW and NSFS.

Background: “What might Coast Guard cutters do in wartime.”

Chuck Hill blogs at http://chuckhillscgblog.net/. He retired from the Coast Guard after 22 years service. Assignments included four ships, Rescue Coordination Center New Orleans, CG HQ, Fleet Training Group San Diego, Naval War College, and Maritime Defense Zone Pacific/Pacific Area Ops/Readiness/Plans. Along the way he became the first Coast Guard officer to complete the Tactical Action Officer (TAO) course and also completed the Naval Control of Shipping course. He has had a life long interest in naval ships and history.