Category Archives: Capability Analysis

Analyzing Specific Naval and Maritime Platforms

The LCS Survivability Debate

There has been a lot of discussion lately about the survivability of the LCS and smaller combatants in general. A recent US Naval Institute News opinion piece contends,

“Small warships are historically unsurvivable in combat. They have a shorter floodable length, reduced reserve buoyancy and are more likely to be affected by fire and smoke damage than larger combatants. In both World Wars, losses in ships below 3000 tons in displacement far exceeded those of larger vessels.

“In World War II, for example, the U.S. lost a total of 71 destroyers and 11 destroyer escorts — all under 3400 tons displacement and less than 400 feet in length.

“By comparison, only 23 larger ships were lost. Part of that figure is undoubtedly due to their operational employment, but in simple terms of engineering and physics, larger ships are inherently more survivable than their smaller counterparts.”

In the Coast Guard we once had a saying, “In our obscurity is our security.” I think that should be kept in mind when we consider the survivability of small surface combatants. No, they cannot take as much damage as major surface combatants, but the enemy gets a vote, and he will be less “excited” by the presence of smaller vessels, while he will normally choose to put more effort into destroying larger, more threatening ships. As in land warfare, tanks are more survivable than infantrymen, but they don’t necessarily last longer.

To look at how this factor might influence survivability, I looked at how many of the ships that were in commission at the beginning of World War II were sunk as a result of enemy action. My source is the Summary of War Damage to U.S. Battleships, Carriers, Cruisers, Destroyers, and Destroyer Escorts which is accessible here. The figures there do not correspond to those quoted above, rather they report 58 destroyers and 9 destroyer escorts sunk, along with 26 larger surface combatants, all listed by name. (The USNI post may have included constructive losses that were not actually sunk or losses to other than enemy action, and does not include the three battleships salvaged although they were out of action most of the war.)

If we look only at the US fleet at the beginning of the war, it included 233 major surface combatants of which 46 or 19.7% were sunk by enemy action during the course of the war. If we break it down by class it looks like this:

Type: Number in Commission, Dec. 7, 1941/Number sunk/% lost to enemy action
Aircraft Carriers (CV): 7/4/57.1%
Escort Carrier (CVE): 1/0/0%
Battleships (BB): 17/5/29.4% (of the 5 sunk, all were at Pearl Harbor, 3 were salvaged)
Heavy Cruisers (CA): 18/7/38.9%
Light Cruisers (CL): 19/1/5.3%
Destroyers (DD): 171/29/17%

(There were no Destroyer Escorts in commission at the beginning of the war.)

If we lump  all the cruisers together, 8 of 37 were lost or 21.6%

If we lump the lone escort carrier together with the fleet carriers then four of eight were sunk or 50%

Additionally three destroyers were lost to weather in a hurricane. They were not ballasted properly, because of the exigencies of impending combat operations.

Clearly, at least looking at the World War II experience, the US Navy did not lose a higher percentage of smaller ships. If anything it appears the opposite is true. A smaller percentage of smaller ships were lost (17% vs 27.4%). More small ships were lost simply because there were many more of them. Undoubtedly some of the DDs and DEs that were sunk, would have survived the damage they received, if they had been bigger, but presumably there would also have been fewer of them. If the decision criteria were an equal chance of being sunk, then probably taking greater risk with smaller ships is both reasonable and unavoidable.

I will note that the probability of personnel loss on small ships is probably higher because they are more likely to sink quickly and catastrophically, while larger ships are more likely to sink slowly.

USS_Newcomb_Damage_1945

Photo: USS Newcomb DD 586 was hit by as many as five kamikaze on 6 April 1945 as she was screening for the cruiser USS St. Louis off Okinawa. She survived but was not repaired.

 

 

 

I will add a bit of anecdotal evidence. As part of Operation Overlord, the Normandy Invasion, 60 US Coast Guard 83 foot patrol boats were assigned to rescue those unlucky enough to find themselves in the water or sinking. 30 went to the American beachheads and 30 went to the British and Canadian beachheads. Being wooden hulled and gasoline powered, they certainly would not have been considered “survivable.”

USCG 83 ft patrol boat, probably June 1944. Photographer unknown.

Apparently they were in the thick of it, because they rescued 1438 men from the water and sinking craft. In spite of all the fire from shore, not a single boat was sunk and not a single crewmen was killed. Apparently the German gunners were too busy with the landing craft hitting the beach and the warships that were shelling them. They simply were not a priority target.

 

This article can be found in its original form at Chuck Hill’s CG Blog.

To Safeguard the Seas

The United States Navy is the most preeminent naval force in the world.  Following Alfred Mahan dictum that “a truly powerful nation must have thriving international trade, a merchant fleet to carry these goods and a strong navy to protect its sea lanes,” the U.S. Navy has provided stability, tranquility and maintained the global order since the end of World War II.   However, in this age of austerity, the ability of our aging fleet to secure our interests, protect our allies and confront our adversaries is being sorely tested.

As we paused in remembrance of the 73rd anniversary of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, by the Imperial forces of Japan, we again see a rising power in Asia bent on changing the status quo, increasing pressure on our allies and challenging America’s preeminence in the Pacific.

China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea over the past few years is significant as it “directly challenges America’s position as the primary maritime power in Asia and as the guardian of the old regional order,” said Hugh White.  As Ronald O’Rouke, specialist in Naval Affairs at the Congressional Research Service testified before Congress, he expects China “to continue putting pressure on its neighbors’ short of war in the East China and South China Seas to get its way in the region.”

It is clear our Navy is facing ever-increasing operational challenges, including not only air and sub-surface threats but also supersonic cruise missiles and ballistic missiles (both anti-ship and surface to surface).   Individually, these threats are difficult enough to combat, however, when encountered simultaneously; these threats severely challenge the current capabilities of our Navy.  With a rapidly expanding Chinese Navy, coupled with the increased pace of Russia’s ship building efforts, the pressure to do more with less compels us to develop new technologies to maintain the advantage if or when confrontations occur.

For the last 70 years, radar has played a key role in maintaining technological superiority over our adversaries.  Over the last decade, however, our radar capabilities have proved to be increasingly incapable of addressing existing and emerging threats.  This, in turn, directly impacts the Navy’s ability to assure maritime security and freedom of the seas.

Fortunately, the Pentagon has taken positive steps to rectify the situation by making investments in the next generation of radars.  The Air and Missile Defense S-Band Radar (AMDR) is an excellent example of advanced radar technology that will fill critical capability gaps and ensure our sailors can meet the ever changing demands of today’s global threat environment.

Designed to replace the ageing Aegis combat system currently employed in the fleet the AMDR is constructed as a self-contained radar that is scalable for any platform for any mission, with the ability to exponentially increase radar sensitivity.  Not only will the AMDR more accurately detect missile threats, but it will also help ships run more efficiently.  This new system reduces space, weight, power, and cooling demands of naval vessels, thereby maximizing the service life of the ships that incorporate this new technology.   These long-term cost savings make AMDR a wise use of limited taxpayer dollars in today’s austere budget environment.

With the ability to confront multiple threats simultaneously — even in the presence of heavy land, sea, and rain clutter — the technological advancement of the AMDR is truly remarkable. Scheduled to begin installation on the Arleigh Burke class destroyers’ starting in 2016 the AMDR is the technologically advanced, low-risk, cost-effective radar solution to combat today and tomorrow’s threats.

Tasked with the daunting challenge of maintaining freedom of the seas, deterring international aggression, and playing pivotal roles in times of war the U.S. Navy has earned naval supremacy, not only because of the skill of our sailors, but also because it has invested great effort and money to provide the finest technology in modern warfare.  This trend must continue with essential defense programs so that we may stay one step ahead of evolving threats.  Doing so will protect our national interests and ensure the safety of our sailors and war fighters. John F. Kennedy said it best, “Control of the seas means security. Control of the seas means peace. Control of the seas can mean victory. The United States must control the sea if it is to protect our security.”

Commander Feldkamp is a retired Naval Electronic Counter-Measure Officer (ECMO).  He flew combat missions in Desert Storm off the U.S.S. Midway and served as the international outreach officer for the National Maritime Intelligence-Integration Office and the Office of Global Maritime Situational Awareness in Washington, D.C. He currently is an adjunct professor teaching the theories and politics of terrorism at George Mason University.

The Brazilian Navy: Green Water or Blue?

Although much attention has been directed toward the uncertain fate of the Mistral-class amphibious assault ships that were being built in Saint-Nazaire, France for export to Russia, there has been considerably less reporting on Brazil’s quiet naval expansion. The Brazilian Navy has frequently been dubbed a ‘green-water’ force to distinguish it from conventional ‘blue-water’ or ‘brown-water’ navies. Whereas a blue-water navy is concerned with operations on the high seas and engaging in far-ranging expeditions, brown-water navies are geared toward patrolling the shallow waters of the coastline or riverine warfare. Green-water navies, however, mix both capabilities, focusing mainly on securing a country’s littorals but also retaining the ability to venture out into the deep waters of the oceans.

For several decades, this green-water label has been accurate to the Brazilian Navy. Although possessing a vast array of inland patrol ships and river troop transports to exert sovereignty over Brazil’s many rivers and drainage basins, the Brazilian Navy also boasts the BNS Sao Paulo, a Clemenceau-class aircraft carrier purchased from France in 2000. But there has recently been a shift in Brazil’s maritime priorities, suggesting that it may soon be more accurate to regard the Brazilian Navy as a blue-water force with some lingering vestiges of brown-water capabilities. Begun under Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, President of Brazil from 2003 until 2011, and intensified under the Dilma Rouseff’s current government, Brazil has been on a shopping spree for military hardware. Although this has included procuring 36 Gripen NG multirole fighter aircraft from Saab for use by the Brazilian Air Force, much of the recent contracts have pertained to the purchase of vessels intended to modernize the Brazilian Navy. Brazil’s five Type 209 diesel-electric attack submarines, acquired from Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft, will be joined by four Scorpène-class diesel-electric attack submarines to be built domestically with completion of the first vessel expected in 2017.

In March 2013, Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff inaugurated a domestic shipyard at which Brazil’s first nuclear-powered submarine – the fittingly named BNS Alvaro Alberto – will be built with French support. Delivery of the completed vessel is not expected until 2025 but the success of the project would bring Brazil into a very small club of countries with operational nuclear-powered submarines: the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, India, and China.S34 Tikuna

The Barroso-class corvette commissioned in late 2008 also seems to have inspired a new series of ships for the Brazilian Navy. The domestic shipbuilder Arsenal de Marinha do Rio de Janeiro has been contracted to build four vessels based on the design of the Barroso-class but with “stealth capabilities” and which will possess both anti-ship and anti-air armaments. Delivery of the first of these new stealth corvettes is expected in 2019 and as such many specific details about the design are currently unknown. Furthermore, delivery of two new Macaé-class offshore patrol vessels is expected in 2015, while an additional two will be delivered in 2016-2017, bringing Brazil’s fleet of these patrol vessels to seven in total.

But why is there this rapid buildup in maritime forces for Brazil? To some degree, these new procurement projects are intended to offset the Brazilian Navy’s diminished capabilities following the retirement of 21 vessels between 1996 and 2005. This would not explain the focus on vessels with longer-range expeditionary capabilities, though. Some observers may attribute the acquisition of ships with capabilities clearly not intended for the patrol of inland waterways, such as the new “stealth-capable” Barroso-class corvettes, to the threat posed by Guinea-Bissau’s instability. That Lusophone West African country, which has been dubbed a “narco-state”, has been a major hub in the international drug trade; Colombian cocaine often makes its way to Guinea-Bissau from the Brazilian coast, only to then be exported onward to Europe. But President José Mário Vaz, who was elected by a decisive margin to lead Guinea-Bissau in May 2014, has quickly moved to crackdown on corruption in the Bissau-Guinean military and seems set to make counter-trafficking a priority during his term in office. Even if Brazilian policymakers believe it may be necessary to exert a stronger presence in the South Atlantic to discourage narcotics trafficking, a nuclear-powered attack submarine is not at all the right tool for the task.

Rather, it seems most likely that there are two principal factors motivating Brazil’s naval procurement projects. With regard to BNS Alvaro Alberto and the potential acquisition of a second aircraft carrier, Brazil craves the prestige of at least appearing to be the leading maritime power in the Southern Hemisphere. Participation in major international maritime exercises, such as the IBSAMAR series conducted jointly with Indian and South African forces, are intended to promote a view of Brazil as a power that ought to be respected and consulted, particularly as Brazilian policymakers continue to pursue a permanent seat for their country on the United Nations Security Council. More importantly, however, the shipbuilding projects on which Brazil has embarked are intended to build up domestic industry and contribute to economic growth.

Brazil is already attracting considerable interest as a shipbuilder. In September 2014, the Angolan Navy placed an order for seven Macaé-class offshore patrol vessels, with four to be built at Brazilian shipyards. Over the past several years, Brazil has exported various vessels and equipment for use by the Namibian Navy. Equatorial Guinea has expressed its intent to acquire a Barroso-class corvette from Brazil for counter-piracy purposes. The A-29 Super Tucano, a turboprop aircraft intended for close air support and aerial reconnaissance, is produced by Brazilian manufacturer Embraer and has been exported for use in roughly a dozen national air forces. If Brazilian industry is successful in producing submarines and stealth corvettes, demand for Brazilian military hardware will only grow, generating impressive revenue and creating many jobs.

 Of concern, however, are Brazil’s long-term intentions with regard to the construction of BNS Alvaro Alberto. There are few navies in the world with the infrastructure and know-how necessary to successfully operate one or more aircraft carriers; after all, the club of those countries with aircraft carriers in service is limited to just nine. But the export of nuclear-powered attack submarines would undermine the international community’s non-proliferation treaty and could potentially harm international peace and stability. The Islamic Republic of Iran has been rumored to occasionally entertain plans to obtain a nuclear-powered submarine, while the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has allegedly expressed a private interest in obtaining Soviet-era nuclear-powered submarines from the Russian Federation. This is not to say that Brazilian authorities would consider exporting such vessels to Iran, North Korea or other such regimes, but there is certainly a market for future submarines modelled on BNS Alvaro Alberto. It will be necessary to keep a very close eye on the Brazilian shipbuilding and nuclear industries in the 2030s, especially as domestic demand for this class of vessel is satisfied. 

To obtain a deeper understanding of Brazil’s long-term strategic goals and to perhaps exert some degree of influence over Brazilian arms exports, it would be advisable for NATO to seek a partnership with the country. In August 2013, a partnership was established between NATO and Colombia, demonstrating that the Alliance certainly is interested in security affairs in the South Atlantic. Brazil could also contribute much know-how to NATO members, especially as the Alliance attempts to find its place post-Afghanistan. Clearly, there is much work to be done in the area of trust-building if such a partnership is to be found prior to the expected completion of BNS Alvaro Alberto: as Colombian officials visited with NATO counterparts to discuss the partnership, Brazilian policymakers were among those Latin American figures who condemned Colombia for the initiative.

Partnering with Brazil will be very challenging diplomatically, but it is an effort that must be made. This rising power will soon find itself with a blue-water navy and, as such, military vessels flying the Brazilian ensign will become an increasingly frequent sight in the South Atlantic.

Paul Pryce is a Junior Research Fellow at the Atlantic Council of CanadaThis article can be found in its original form at Offiziere.ch

Experimenting With Multinational Mothership Ops

The following was reported by the German navy blog Marine Forum:

“8 January, PIRACY– Anti-Piracy Forces: Sweden is preparing for another mission (M-04) in support of EU operation “Atalanta”, this time working jointly with the Netherlands navy … COMBAT BOAT 90 fast interceptor craft, helicopters and 70 personnel to embark on Netherlands Navy dock landing ship JOHAN DE WITT.”

As you may recall, I have advocated using WPCs supported by a mother ship to supplement the larger cutters for distant drug interdiction operations.

The U.S. Coast Guard has has done cooperative counter drug operations with the Dutch Navy in the past. Early last year, the Netherlands OPV Zeeland embarked both a CG LEDET and a CG helo det.

Perhaps we could run a test using the Johan de Witt or her sister ship Rotterdam to try out the mothership concept. Their crew size is similar to that of the National Security Cutters (less than that of the Hamilton class), but they have berthing for hundreds more. They have aviation facilities for up to six helicopters. They can handle boats from both davits and a well deck. They have excellent Command and Control facilities.

“The ships have a complete Class II hospital, including an operating theater and intensive care facilities. A surgical team can be stationed on board.” 

That could make them welcome in a lot of ports.

L 801 Johan de Witt Uploaded by Oxyman
L 801 Johan de Witt Uploaded by Oxyman

Would the Dutch be interested? The Dutch Navy has already demonstrated its commitment to counter-drug trafficking. They have used these ships several times for counter-piracy. Counter-drug operations are not that much different, and piracy seems to be in decline. When it was being finished, there were reports that the Dutch wanted to sell the Johan de Witt. Operating off Latin America might be seen as an opportunity to demonstrate both this class and the Netherlands’ ship building expertise in an international market.

What might the experimental effort include? In addition to the mothership, perhaps three MH-65s, add a mix of Webber class WPCs, WPBs, Response Boat Mediums (RB-M), and Navy Riverine Command Boats (the U.S. Navy version of the Combatboat 90).

In addition to its counter-drug objectives, the deployment might be seen as a partnership station effort, training as well as working with the locals, and if there should be a natural disaster while they are in the area, it would be a ready-made Coast Guard response.

 

This post can be found in its original form on Chuck Hill’s Coast Guard Blog

Members’ Roundup Part 10

Welcome back to another edition of the Members’ Roundup. There is an array of contributors featured in this week’s post. Topics range from exoskeletons in the Navy to assessing China’s nuclear arsenal. To kick off proceedings Natalie Sambhi, an analyst for the Australian Strategic Policy Insitute, has her own roundup of sorts called ‘ASPI suggests’ and provides a quick review of recent foreign policy and military developments.

With 2015 just beginning it is prudent that plans set in motion several years prior are reviewed and readjusted. The Center for Strategic & International Studies recently published a report on how the Administration and Congress can work together to sustain engagement with Asia. CIMSECian, Mira Rapp-Hooper, co-authors a chapter explaining how to adequately resource the Defense aspect the ‘pivot’.

Of concern is the People’s Republic of China’s growing military power, of which its nuclear arsenal is becoming increasingly sophisticated. Kyle Mizokami writes whilst the nuclear force is modernising it is still relatively modest compared to other nuclear powerhouses, such as Russia and the United States. Kyle explores the history of Chinese nuclear pursuits and analyses some of the weapons in the nuclear arsenal in a post for The National Interest.

BNS Sao Paulo, the flagship of the Brazilian Navy
BNS Sao Paulo, the flagship of the Brazilian Navy

Over at Offiziere Canada-based CIMSECian, Paul Pryce, analyses recent developments of the Brazilian Navy. He argues that the label of a ‘green water’ navy was accurate in decades past but modernisation plans, however, suggest that it is well on its way to earning the ‘blue water’ title. You can access his article here.

Manpower issues will continue to be of concern for all military planners and leadership at all levels remains important during times of transition. Over at War on the rocksJimmy Drennan provides some thoughts on how to best provide leadership for personnel during ‘super deployments’ – deployments that are 9 months or longer.

Bringing the focus back to our Coast Guard colleagues, Chuck Hill continues to inform us of developments within the constabulary side  of the maritime domain. With recent debate of the LCS’ development, Chuck asks whether the Coast Guard should rethink how it designates its vessels. For the unmanned systems advocates out there, Chuck tells us that the US Customs and Border Protection Agency’s unmanned air systems program has failed to live up to expectations. You can access that post here and further discussion on the topic here.

Lockheed Martin created the FORTIS exoskeleton, which can boost worker productivity up to 27 times.
Lockheed Martin created the FORTIS exoskeleton, which can boost worker productivity up to 27 times.

Defence industry has been developing high-tech robotic suits to enhance the capability of the average soldier. There are, however, unrealised potential for ‘exosuits’ or ‘exoskeletons’  exists within HADR and shipborne operations. The Center for a New American Security has recently published a report titled ‘Between Iron Man and Aqua Man’ and was co-authored by our very own Scott Cheney-Peters. This report will certainly open one’s eyes to other applications for the emerging technology beyond its use in combat. You can also see further discussion on the topic in Scott’s post at War on the rocks.

Continuing in the same vein as his ‘Feast of Salami and Cabbage’ article in late 2014, Scott Cheney-Peters, provides clarification to the legal jargon used within maritime disputes. For those without a background in the maritime realm or an understanding of international law this article will provide a layman’s guide to those terms being used by those in the field. This post is the first instalment in a partnership with The National Interest and you can access it here.

Finally, it would not be a CIMSEC roundup without the ‘Pacific Realist’ featuring in the post. Zachary Keck returns with four contributions this week. The first is reporting that the DPRK wants to acquire Russian fighter aircraft. The second post is Keck’s roundup of the top 5 weapons in the US arsenal that Russia should fear. The third reports that there is good evidence to suggest that the DPRK will continue to test nuclear weapons. In the final contribution, Keck summarises the various insights offered during a panel discussion on national security in the changing media landscape. You can access that article here.

One of the 'Top 5': Ohio-class submarine USS Michigan (SSBN 727) prepares to dry dock, 2002.
One of the ‘Top 5′: Ohio-class submarine USS Michigan (SSBN 727) prepares to dry dock, 2002.

At CIMSEC we encourage members to continue writing, either here on the NextWar blog or through other means. You can assist us by emailing your works to dmp@cimsec.org.

 

The LCS and SSC Survivability Dilemma

HMAS Torrens
HMS Torrens (small frigate) sunk by submarine torpedo in 1999

Chief Pentagon Weapon Tester Dr. Michael Gilmore remains fundamentally dissatisfied with the survivability of the Navy’s littoral combatant ship (LCS) and its upgraded follow-on, the small surface combatant (SSC). In an emailed statement described in a January 8th Bloomberg article, Dr. Gilmore stated, “Notwithstanding reductions to its susceptibility” compared with the design of the first 32 ships, “the minor modifications to the LCS will not yield a ship that is significantly more survivable.” It remains to be seen, however, how the Navy can improve the other legs of the “survivability triangle” on a hull of 3000 tons displacement and less than 425 feet in length. Small ships have been historically unsurvivable. Modern small warships are not in any way the equivalent of the World War 2 predecessors. Every warship is a compromise in armament, endurance, speed, and survivability. This is especially true of the LCS, as its modular operational profile demands absolute adherence to weight limitations.

Small warships are historically unsurvivable in combat. They have a shorter floodable length, reduced reserve buoyancy and more likely to be affected by fire and smoke damage than larger combatants. In both World Wars, losses in ships below 3000 tons in displacement far exceeded those of larger vessels. In World War 2, for example, the U.S. lost a total of 71 destroyers and 11 destroyer escorts; all under 3400 tons displacement and less than 400 feet in length. By comparison, only 23 larger ships were lost. Part of that figure is undoubtedly due to their operational employment, but in simple terms of engineering and physics, larger ships are inherently more survivable than their smaller counterparts.

There are stories of small combatants, such as the famous Fletcher class destroyer, surviving severe damage and yet remaining capable of inflicting damage on opponents. This history perhaps influences the opinions of those who believe small warships can somehow be made more survivable than the LCS or the SSC. Today’s weapon systems such as the 57mm gun on the LCS and SSC are much more fragile than the 5’38 caliber guns found on most U.S. Navy small combatants in the Second World War. Gun mounts became lighter and unarmored in the Cold War as the expansion of radars and mast-mounted communications equipment, among many improvements, forced warship designers to adopt lighter equipment to maintain ship stability. Current gun mounts are no longer manned to allow for a backup capability in the event of damage to centralized fire control capabilities. Many commercial off the shelf (COTS) components currently in use aboard Navy warships are much more fragile and more difficult to repair under battle conditions.

The crew size of a modern small combatant is also significantly smaller than its Second World War cousins. An LCS has a base crew of 90, with the capability to accommodate more personnel for mission modules. SSC would presumably have a similar complement. The Fletcher class destroyer had a crew of 273 and later wartime destroyers had over 300 men assigned. Crew sizes in present warships are likely to decrease in the wake of greater automation and a desire to reduce personnel costs. These additional crewmen allowed for manual weapons operation and damage control vital to the survivability of the ship. In short, comparisons with past small combatants are not an effective means to measure the survivability of the LCS or SSC.

The present Navy concept of warship survivability is described in OPNAV Instruction 9070.1A as a combination of susceptibility, vulnerability and recoverability. Dr. Gilmore noted that the SSC represents an improvement of LCS in susceptibility to attack. By Navy definition, this means “A measure of the capability of the ship, mission critical systems, and crew to avoid and or defeat an attack and is a function of operational tactics, signature reduction, countermeasures, and self-defense system effectiveness.” The SSC has an increased fit of installed weapon systems that allow the ship to defeat attack. Improvements to the other legs of the survivability triangle are more difficult. The Navy defines vulnerability as “A measure of the capability of the ship, mission critical systems, and crew to withstand the initial damage effects”, while still carrying out its mission. As previously described, that’s a tall order for a ship already disadvantaged by its physically small size.

Improving recoverability is equally difficult. The Navy defines it as “A measure of the capability of the ship and crew, after initial damage effects, whatever the cause, to take emergency action to contain and control damage, prevent loss of a damaged ship, minimize personnel casualties, and restore and sustain primary mission capabilities.” SSC is supposed to have additional armor protection, but given the weight restrictions of the LCS class, it is doubtful this will be anything beyond splinter protection. The small crew size will also limit the sort of manual-intensive damage control the U.S. Navy practiced in World War 2 and the Cold War. Installed, automated damage control systems offer some relief, but if damaged or destroyed in the first attack, they will likely be ineffective. Given all of these factors and their effect on a small ship with a small crew and little spare weight for improvement; it seems impossible that the Navy will ever reach Dr. Gilmore’s survivability demands for either the LCS or the SSC.

Every warship is a compromise of capabilities and limitations on a hull of a given size. The Navy has determined that the LCS and eventually the SSC will fulfill very specific missions on the hull size it selected during initial LCS design. Dr. Gilmore’s survivability demands on the present LCS hull are respectfully unrealistic. A larger vessel such as the Spanish Navy’s Alvaro de Bazan class frigate or its Norwegian or Australian cousins may be able to support increased survivability, but such a vessel would be inherently more expensive. A traditional frigate is also not what the Navy desired when it sought a replacement for the aging mine countermeasures and patrol ships, as well as the retiring Perry class whose dated missile capabilities were removed starting in 2003. LCS and SSC are simply not as survivable, as the Navy currently defines this term, as larger combatants due to physical constraints, smaller crew size, and fewer installed active and passive defense systems. It is unreasonable to demand that they meet a higher standard on the current hull.

Steve Wills is a retired surface warfare officer and a PhD student in military history at Ohio University. His focus areas are modern U.S. naval and military reorganization efforts and British naval strategy and policy from 1889-1941. He posts here at CIMSEC, sailorbob.com and at informationdissemination.org under the pen name of “Lazarus”.

Re-Post: Surface Warfare: Taking the Offensive

Guest article by VADM Thomas S. Rowden, USN from June, 2014. Re-Posted during the SNA National Symposium this week.

I am indebted to the leadership of CIMSEC for providing a platform for me and senior members of my team at OPNAV N96 to lay out for readers key parts of our vision for the future direction of Surface Warfare. Captain Jim Kilby started it off with “Surface Warfare: Lynchpin of Naval Integrated Air/Missile Defense”, and Captain Charlie Williams followed up with “Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) – The Heart of Surface Warfare” and “Increasing Lethality in Anti-Surface Warfare (ASUW)”.   Both of these officers were recently selected for flag rank, and the Surface Force could not be more fortunate. Their years of fleet experience in these mission areas uniquely qualify them to lead our force in the future. Together with our continuing mastery of land attack and maritime security operations, the three operational thrusts they describe a Surface Force that is moving from a primarily defensive posture to one on the offense. This is an exciting development, and I want to spend a few paragraphs reinforcing their messages.

The single most important warfighting advantage that the U.S. Navy brings to the joint force is the ability to project significant amounts of combat power from the sea, thousands of miles from our own shores on relatively short notice and with few geo-political restraints. No one else can do this, and for the better part of two decades, our ability to do so was unchallenged. Without this challenge, our mastery of the fundamentals of sea control—searching for and killing submarines, over the horizon engagement of enemy fleets, and long range air and missile defense—diminished, even as the world figured out that the best way to neutralize this power projection advantage was to deny us the very seas in which we operate.

Surface Warfare must “go on the offensive” in order to enable future power projection operations. I call this “offensive sea control” and it takes into consideration that in future conflict, we may have to fight to get forward, fight through our own lines, and then fight to stay forward. Pieces of ocean will come to be seen as strategic, like islands and ports, and we will offensively “seize” these maritime operating areas to enable further offensive operations. Put another way, no one viewed the amphibious landings in the Pacific in WWII as “defensive”; there was broad understanding that their seizure was offensive and tied to further offensive objectives. It is now so with the manner in which we will exercise sea control.

What does this mean to fleet Sailors? It means that we have to hit the books, dust off old TACMEMOS and begin to think deeply again what it means to own the inner screen against submarines, to hunt down and destroy adversary surface vessels over the horizon, and to tightly control the outer air battle. We need to study the threats and devise new tactics designed to counter them. We need to master the technology that is coming to the fleet—Navy Integrated Fire Control (Counter Air), or NIFC-CA; the Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR); the SQQ-89 A(V)15 ASW Combat System; the LCS ASW Mission Module; the introduction of the Griffin missile in the PC class; new classes of Standard Missiles; Rail Gun; Directed Energy. We will need to use these systems and then do what Sailors always do—figure out ways to employ them that the designers never considered.

Going on the offensive is a mind-set, a way of thinking about naval warfare. It means thinking a good bit more about how to destroy that than how to defend this. Don’t get me wrong—we will still need to be able to defend high value units, amphibious forces, convoys, and logistics—but we will increasingly defend them by reaching out and destroying threats before those threats are able to target what we are defending.

We are moving to a concept of dispersed lethality in the Surface Force, one that presents an adversary with a considerably more complex operational problem. It will not be sufficient to simply try to neutralize our power projection forces. While these will be vigorously defended, other elements of the surface force will act as hunter/killer groups taking the fight to the enemy through the networked power of surface forces exercising high levels of Operational Security (OPSEC) and wielding both lethal over-the-horizon weapons to destroy adversary capabilities and sophisticated electronic warfare suites to confound adversary targeting. Especially in the Pacific, vast expanses of ocean will separate the carrier air wing from dispersed surface operations, so the paradigm of the past few decades that suggested the carrier would provide strike assets to supplement the Surface Force is no longer valid. We will leverage air wing capability, but we will not be dependent upon it.

Working in tandem with shore-based maritime patrol aircraft and our organic helicopters, we will seek out and destroy adversary submarines before they threaten high value units or fielded forces. Bringing together the networked power of surface IAMD forces and the mighty E-2D, we will dominate the outer air battle, eliminating threats to the force at range. The Surface Force will seize strategic “maritime terrain” to enable synchronized follow-on operations.

Those who may ask how the current fiscal environment impacts this vision, my answer is that it does so substantially. We will be forced to favor capability over capacity. We will favor forward deployed readiness over surge readiness. We will continue to invest in forward-looking capabilities through a strong science and technology/research and development budget, while ensuring we accelerate those promising technologies closest to fielding and most effective in advancing our offensive agenda.

We will posture more of the force forward, and more of it in the Pacific. While the total size of the fleet will likely decline if current conditions continue, more of it will be where it needs to be, it will be more effectively networked over a larger more dispersed area, and it will be equipped with the weapons and sensors necessary to enable this offensive shift.

I am bullish on Surface Warfare, and you ought to be too. I look forward to continuing this dialogue on the Renaissance in Surface Warfare, and I am proud to be part of the greatest Surface Force in the greatest Navy the world has ever known!

 

Vice Admiral Thomas S. Rowden’s current assignment is Commander, Naval Surface Forces. A native of Washington, D.C., and a 1982 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, VADM Rowden has served in a diverse range of sea and shore assignments.