Category Archives: Tactical Concepts

What are the evolving ideals of tactics in maritime and naval affairs.

Update on Polish Navy Progress

Maritime Infrastructure Protection System: The sharks with lasers are mod 2.
Maritime Infrastructure Protection System: The sharks with lasers come in mod 2.

Last week was a good one for Polish Navy. A few things happened which look minor if considered separately, but put together show a glimpse of how the Polish Navy will look in the future. As publicly available information about military matters in Poland is still scarce, there is also room to put these events in broader perspective and explore their philosophical underpinnings.

The week started with information that REMUS 100 won a tender to provide 2 systems for harbor-defense use by the naval bases in Swinoujscie and Gdynia. Later, at the Maritime Systems and Technologies 2013 Europe (MAST) conference and the NATO Naval Armaments Group meeting, both taking place in Gdansk, participants had the opportunity to see a live demonstration of Maritime Infrastructure Protection Systems, a multi-sensor maritime-monitoring system designed by CTM Gdynia. The next day, the Polish MoD issued a Request For Information (RFI) for just such a system, and, the very same day issued an RFI for patrol ships and corvettes. Little is known about these ships but the patrol ship is supposed to be in the range of 1,700 tons and possess the “capability to search and destroy naval mines and other dangerous underwater charges”. The corvette, which is officially called the Coastal Defense Ship, is expected to carry among other things weapons for “precision strike of land targets”. In parallel, the MoD prepared a tender for highly publicized project of Air and Anti-missile Defense, which will consist of 6 medium-range (100 km) and 11 short-range (25 km) batteries. Although that was not a predominantly naval development, the Navy’s modernization plan foresees 2 short-range batteries to be included in force structure. Add to that announcement the following and the overall picture becomes clearer: the newly commissioned Nadbrzezny Dywizjon Rakietowy (Coastal Defense Battery), equipped with Kongsberg NSM missiles will be extended to have a 2nd unit, there are rumors that planned submarines should be armed with “deterrence weapons”, and an ambitious plan that 3 new mine-hunters should join the fleet starting from 2016.

The first impression that comes to mind is that the protection of infrastructure and naval bases is viewed as a critical priority. This is also the message from the recently concluded mine-counter measures (MCM) exercise, IMCMEX 2013 – “It is more than just MCM”. The logic is simple – Two naval bases, one Swinoujscie and one in Gdynia, requires two sets of defensive weapons and systems. Taking a step back, the MoD seems to be building A2/AD fleet or modern version of Jeune Ecole, which is not surprising for a continentally oriented armed forces. At this point I start to have some problems with terminology in defining what kind of navy the Polish Navy will be. If we measure distance between major ports or naval bases in the Baltic Sea in a straight line we get following results:

Szczecin to Kiel, Germany: 147nm
Szczecin to Korsoer, Denmark: 139nm
Gdynia to Karlskrona, Sweden: 144nm
Gdynia to Baltijsk (In Kaliningrad, Russia): 47.5nm

Too close for comfort, or sea control.
Too close for comfort, or sea control.

This situation is not unusual in narrow waters but raises the question as to what degree we can speak about “area denial” when this area is congested, contested, and probably beyond control for anybody. In such a case the term “sea control” should have a very Corbettian meaning: “here and now”. In the extreme case of Gdynia and Baltijsk we observe a sort of direct contact within the range of modern artillery. It becomes hard to speak about any area to deny.

On the other hand if we use term Jeune Ecole, which heavily relied on torpedo boats, then another question emerges: how effective was this asymmetrical weapon of époque against an enemy battle force? Sir Julian Corbett, as Prof. James Holmes recently reminded us, was very concerned by the fact that the first torpedo-armed flotillas made fleets structureless, the weapons greatly empowering small craft and upsetting defined roles. Can we say something more on that subject after 100 years of experience? My not very scientific and brief review of Conway’s Battleships reveals that out of roughly 194 battleships constructed and commissioned (including a few completed as aircraft carriers), only three have been sunk as a result of torpedo attacks of surface flotilla ships [Scott C-P did an unscientific review last year of all types of sinkings]. These were Szent Istvan, Fuso and Yamashiro. In addition four were torpedoed and sunk by submarines, which at least at the time of Corbett’s writing were considered flotilla vessels. They were Barham, Royal Oak, Courageous, and Shinano. This produces a total of 3.6% — not much, and an invitation to reconsider the viability of a coastal navy focused on asymmetric weapons only. We need some symmetry in force structure as well.

The conceptual roots of the Polish Navy maybe lies in von Clausewitz’s thesis that defense is a stronger form of war than offense, but seeks an opportunity to switch to offense as soon as possible. Using Sir Julian Corbett’s subtitle from his “Green Pamphlet”, this Navy will seek a decision on land engaging in “offensive operations used with a defensive intention”. It leads me to my final and perhaps banal conclusion that the closer to the coast the Navy acts, the more land-warfare theories apply.

Przemek Krajewski alias Viribus Unitis is a blogger In Poland.  His area of interest is broad context of purpose and structure of Navy and promoting discussions on these subjects In his country

Putting the Human in Information Dominance

Where would Col John Boyd locate tactical information synthesis?
Where would Col John Boyd locate tactical information synthesis?

Building on the concepts of Col John Boyd1, the U.S. Navy’s Navy Doctrine Publication (NDP) 6, Naval Command and Control describes the decision-making process as a recurring cycle of observe-orient-decide-act (OODA). A human decision maker that can process this cycle quickly, observing and reacting to unfolding events more rapidly than an opponent, can thereby get inside the opponent’s decision cycle and gain the advantage.

As Boyd noted: “Machines don’t fight wars. Terrain doesn’t fight wars. Humans fight wars. You must get into the mind of humans. That’s where the battles are won.”2

According to NDP-6 the humans that make command decisions at the tactical level are the Composite Warfare Commander (CWC) and his/her principal warfare commanders. The Composite Warfare Commander is the central command authority and overall commander. Under the CWC architecture, the Officer in Tactical Command (OTC) delegates command authority in particular warfare areas to subordinate commanders within the CWC organization including: Sea Combat Commander (SCC), Surface Warfare Commander (SUWC), Undersea Warfare Commander (USWC), Air Warfare Commander (AWC), Information Warfare Commander (IWC), Strike Warfare Commander (STWC), and Mine Warfare Commander (MIWC). To dominate in combat, information has to be integrated, presented to, and easily understood by these humans.

This integration of combat information3 has to occur once and, from all indications, onboard ship in order to realize the advantage of superior information and gain the decision/time advantage. When not in EMCON, this knowledge in the mind of the commander is derived primarily from combat information from tactical unit/force (aka “organic”) sensor systems and, to a lesser degree from sensor systems external to the force. The reverse is the case when operating in EMCON. The integration of combat information from external active and passive sensor systems with information from a tactical force’s passive sensor systems dramatically increases the potential for continued information superiority and tactical advantage.

The Navy Strategy for Information Dominance 2013-2027 contains Objective 3.3: “Integrate all-source information across kill chains”. It states: “Disparate information sources will necessarily span physical locations, security classifications and Navy warfighting domains, but they must be synthesized4 to create actionable knowledge.”  The Strategy doesn’t indicate where this integration will occur, or whether sensor information from tactical-force sensors will be included.  If integration of only external sensor information, the resulting product would at best be incomplete, at worst misleading, delivered late to the tactical user; and, in a form not suitable for further integration (de-correlation/re-correlation) with information from tactical sensors.  If the concept is for organic sensor information to be communicated to some rear area facility for integration with external sensor information and disseminated back to the fleet then there are multiple negative implications. These include communications loading and vulnerabilities, OPSEC considerations, and especially time delays. If presented with two or more separate “pictures of the situation” based on the integration of different sets of information, tactical commanders will still have to mentally synthesize multiple situation awareness inputs – a recipe for misinterpretation, delay and loss of tactical advantage.

As stated in the Strategy:“The Information Dominance pillar can be our most powerful asset, or it can be our greatest liability. If we integrate it intelligently, and if we execute it correctly, we will be able to seize the operational initiative, gain tactical advantage, and win future battles with overwhelming speed.”  The “we” has to include not only the Information Dominance Corps, but also the Surface Warfare community and the requirements and acquisitions organizations charged with getting combat systems on surface ships right.

To paraphrase Boyd: Information doesn’t fight wars. Humans fight wars. Information must get into the mind of humans. That’s where dominance occurs and battles are won.

Dick Mosier is a recently retired defense contractor systems engineer; Naval Flight Officer; OPNAV N2 civilian analyst; SES 4 responsible for oversight of tactical intelligence systems and leadership of major defense analyses on UAVs, Signals Intelligence, and C4ISR.  His interest is in improving the effectiveness of U.S. Navy tactical operations, with a particular focus on organizational seams, a particularly lucrative venue for the identification of long-standing issues and dramatic improvement. The article represents the author’s views and is not necessarily the position of the Department of Defense or the United States Navy. 

1. The OODA Loop was developed by Col John R. Boyd, USAF (Ret), An Organic Design for Command and Control, A Discourse on Winning and Losing. Unpublished lecture notes, August 1987.

2. John Boyd, quoted by Henry Eason, “New Theory Shoots Down Old War Ideas,” Atlanta Constitution, March 22, 1981

3. Joint Pub 2-01: “Combat information: Unevaluated data, gathered by or provided directly to the tactical commander which, due to its highly perishable nature or the criticality of the situation, cannot be processed into tactical intelligence in time to satisfy the user’s tactical intelligence requirements.”

4. Joint Pub 1-02: “Synthesis: In intelligence usage, the examining and combining of processed information with other information and intelligence for final interpretation.”

Navy Combat Information Integration

Trying tying.
      Trying  tying:  the info streams.

The U.S. Navy at a high level has recognized the potential value of the concept of integrating combat information from own-force tactical sensors and sensors external to the force to achieve information superiority and dominance of an adversary. However, there is little evidence of concrete action to implement this vision.

On 26 November, 2012, the Navy Strategy for Achieving Information Dominance 2013-17 was published identifying the “Integration of Combat Information” as one of its four major goals. Joint Pub 1-02 defines Combat Information as “Un-evaluated data, gathered by or provided directly to the tactical commander which, due to its highly perishable nature or the criticality of the situation, cannot be processed into tactical intelligence in time to satisfy the user’s tactical intelligence requirements.” Navy Strategy identifies the specific objective of the “integration of all source information across kill chains with outputs from all sensors in all domains accessible in time to facilitate freedom of action, targeting, and the employment of weapons, both kinetic and non-kinetic.”

In its January 2012 Report on Arleigh Burke Destroyers, (GAO-12-113), GAO reported that Navy planned to leverage offboard sensors such as Performance Tracking Support System (PTSS) to enhance performance of the DDG 51 Block III Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR). Navy envisioned ground and space-based sensor systems providing target cueing for AMDR. This cueing would have meant the shooter ship could be told by the off-board sensors where to look for a target, allowing for earlier detection and increasing the size of the area that could be defended by the shooter. While it is yet unclear why PTSS was cancelled last month, the concept still serves to highlight the potential benefits from integrating off-board sensor data with the ship’s own tactical sensor data and combat system.

Given OPSEC considerations, communications constraints, and especially tactical timelines this integration has to occur at the tactical level, e.g. onboard ship, and will therefore require the staff of Office of the U.S. Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV) and Navy acquisition to bridge some long-standing institutional seams. Within OPNAV, various codes will have to agree on the concept and their roles with respect to requirements and resources. Navy acquisition will have to decide which Program Executive Office (PEO) is responsible for the acquisition of combat information integration solutions for ship classes. The long-standing situation in which PEO Integrated Warfare Systems (IWS) acquires combat systems and PEO C4I acquires C4I systems for ship classes sustains the institutional friction that has precluded implementation of integrating combat information since at least late 1978, when OUTLAW SHARK demonstrated the concept.

Articulating visions, goals, and objectives is valuable but relatively painless. The heavy lifting is in the institutional change that is necessary to solve problems and exploit opportunities. To quote Machiavelli: “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.”

Dick Mosier is a recently retired defense contractor systems engineer; Naval Flight Officer; OPNAV N2 civilian analyst; SES 4 responsible for oversight of tactical intelligence systems and leadership of major defense analyses on UAVs, Signals Intelligence, and C4ISR.  His interest is in improving the effectiveness of U.S. Navy tactical operations, with a particular focus on organizational seams, a particularly lucrative venue for the identification of long-standing issues and dramatic improvement. The article represents the author’s views and is not necessarily the position of the Department of Defense or the United States Navy. 

Strength in Numbers: The Remarkable Potential of (Really) Small Combatants

LT Jimmy Drennan is a Surface Warfare Officer in the U.S. Navy. He is the prospective Weapons Officer aboard USS Gettysburg and a Distinguished Graduate of the Naval Postgraduate School’s Systems Engineering Analysis program. 

You are a tactical commander tasked with a mission to seek out and destroy one of the enemy’s premier capital ships in his home waters. You have two potential striking forces at your disposal: a world class surface combatant of your own with a 99% probability of mission success (Ps = 0.99) or a squadron of eight independently operating, missile carrying small combatants – each with a chance of successfully completing the mission no better than a coin flip (Ps = 0.5). Do you go with the almost sure thing and choose to send in your large combatant? As it turns out, the squadron of small combatants has an even higher overall Ps. But let’s assume now that you’ve advanced to operational commander. You might have more concerns than just overall Ps. What are the defensive and logistical requirements for each option? How much fleet investment am I risking with each option? What will it cost to replace the asset(s) if it is lost? What capability does the striking force have after successful enemy action (i.e. resilience)? An analysis of these factors, intentionally designed to disadvantage the small combatants, actually comes out overwhelmingly in their favor over the large combatant. The results verify what naval strategists and tacticians have long known: for certain offensive missions, an independently operating group of even marginally capable platforms can outperform a single large combatant at lower cost and less risk to the mission.

The War at Sea Flotilla: A Test Case

In the Autumn 2012 edition of the Naval War College Review, Captains (U.S. Navy, Retired) Jeff Kline and Wayne Hughes introduce “A War at Sea Strategy” in which they describe a flotilla of small, missile-carrying surface combatants designed to challenge Chinese aggression in East Asian waters. The flotilla ships would utilize largely independent tactics, relying little on networked command and control, to produce a powerful cumulative combat capability.

“What would the flotilla look like? In rough terms, we envision individual small combatants of about six hundred tons carrying six or eight surface-to-surface missiles and depending on soft kill and point defense for survival, aided by offboard manned or unmanned aerial vehicles for surveillance and tactical scouting. To paint a picture of possible structures, we contemplate as the smallest element a mutually supporting pair, a squadron to comprise eight vessels, and the entire force to be eight squadrons, of which half would be in East Asian waters. The units costing less than $100 million each, the entire force would require a very small part of the shipbuilding budget (Hughes and Kline, 2012).”

This flotilla concept provides an ideal test case to compare against a world class surface combatant but first we must establish a few key assumptions on which this analysis is based.

Statistical Independence. The math behind this analysis hinges on the idea that the outcome of one small combatant’s engagement has no effect on the others in the squadron. While true statistical independence is nearly impossible to achieve in real world naval operations, the War at Sea Flotilla concept models it closely with independently operating units, the potential for various ship classes, and the inclusion of allied navies which may use different tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs). This concept of operations is a major departure from today’s heavily networked forces which generate combat power through the integrated actions of several units. In those forces, the actions of one unit can have profound impact on the effectiveness of another.

Defensive and Logistical Requirements. For the purposes of this analysis, we will assume that the defensive and logistical requirements are roughly equivalent for both the small combatant squadron and the large combatant. Both would require defensive support in warfare areas not directly related to the current mission. Even a multi-mission, blue water combatant would employ inorganic support, such as maritime patrol aircraft or early warning assets, to watch its back while it conducted a focused offensive mission. As for logistics, any surface asset would need an oiler nearby to conduct sustained operations in enemy waters. A nuclear powered aircraft carrier would still require periodic support to replenish its stores of jet fuel. The logistics tail would be shorter for a large combatant than a flotilla, since it carries much of its own maintenance and supply support, but that can be a detriment in a mission involving an exchange of missile salvos. While the structure of defensive and logistical support may differ greatly between the flotilla and the large combatant, one can assume the drain on resources would be about the same for both options. 

Unit Cost. Captains Hughes and Kline estimate the unit cost of the flotilla small combatants at $80 million (Hughes and Kline, 2012). Therefore, a squadron of eight combatants would cost $640 million. The unit cost of the large combatant is assumed to be $1 billion, which is an underestimate for relevant US Navy platforms. The cost estimates in this analysis are intentionally set up to work against the flotilla concept in order to emphasize its potential for savings.

Enemy Capabilities. To further disadvantage the flotilla concept, let’s assume the small combatants are significantly overmatched by the enemy combatant. In a first strike, the enemy combatant is capable of simultaneously targeting six of the eight squadron combatants. Against the large combatant, it is capable of conducting a devastating mission kill in which the ship may not be sunk but the cost to repair it to fully mission capable would be comparable to the unit cost. As a starting argument, let’s assume in either case the enemy can achieve a mission kill with 10% probability (Pmk =0.10) since both striking forces have similar levels of defensive support. You might argue that Pmk should be lower for the large combatant because it possesses superior self defense capabilities; however, you could also argue that the mobile, distributed nature of the small combatant squadron compensates for each ship’s lack of self defense by complicating the enemy’s targeting process. It may be relatively easy for the enemy to target one or two of the small combatants, but it remains a challenge to simultaneously eliminate the entire squadron.

Selecting the Right Striking Force: Analysis Results

Using the generic introductory scenario, we can compare the small combatant squadron to the large combatant in terms of performance, cost, and risk. 

Overall Effectiveness. We are given the overall effectiveness of the large combatant as Ps = 0.99 and the individual effectiveness of the small combatants as Ps,ship = 0.5. To determine the overall effectiveness of the squadron, it is easiest to first estimate the probability that none of the small combatants successfully accomplish their mission. The probability that any one small combatant will not accomplish the mission is,

Since the outcomes of each engagement are estimated as independent of one another, the probability that none of the eight small combatants accomplish the mission is,

The probability that at least one of the small combatants accomplish the mission is the converse of the previous result, or

In other words, the squadron has a 99.6% probability of success vice 99% for the large combatant. This may not seem like much of an improvement, but it is more remarkable when considering the unit cost of each option.

Cost Effectiveness. The unit costs are given as $1 billion for the large combatant and $80 million for the small combatant, so we know that the squadron of eight small combatants is the more affordable option at $640 million. In addition, we have established that the squadron can outperform the large combatant for this particular offensive mission in which the individual squadron ships are actually overmatched by the enemy. The squadron is not only more cost effective than the large combatant; it actually delivers better performance at lower cost. As a commander, would you rather invest $1 billion in striking force that fails 10 times in 1000 attempts, or save $360 million with a striking force that fails only 4 times in 1000 attempts? To put it another way, if you were to invest the same $1 billion in 12 small combatants, you could deliver a striking force that failed only 2 times in 10,000 attempts (Ps = 0.9998).

Resilience after Enemy Action. One way to consider risk is to look at the impact to the mission if the enemy is able to successfully consummate a first attack. We have assumed the enemy is equally capable of attacking the large combatant and the squadron of small combatants. If the enemy combatant achieves a simultaneous mission kill against six of the small combatants, then only two will remain to continue the mission. These two small combatants have a combined 75% probability of successfully completing the mission.  On the other hand, if the enemy successfully conducts a mission kill against the large combatant, the probability of successfully completing the mission is 0% and you lose the other warfare area capabilities that the large combatant could bring to bear in other missions. The additional investment required to provide onboard logistics support is also lost.

Another way to look at this risk is to calculate the expected damage cost of each option in the long run. Assuming the enemy is able to conduct devastating mission kills (in which the repair costs are comparable to the unit cost) a conservative 10% of the time (Pmk = 0.1) for both the large and small combatants, then the expected damage cost for the large combatant is,

Likewise, the expected damage cost for the squadron of small combatants is,

In the long run, the enemy is expected to cause $52M less damage per mission in the case of the small combatants. Even if the enemy were more likely to successfully target six small combatants simultaneously, how much would you as a commander be willing to pay for 75% follow-on capability vice 0%?

Less Communications, Less Cost, More Combat Power: Analysis Insights

The results of this analysis seem to indicate that the squadron of small combatants is an obvious choice for naval missions involving direct action against the enemy fleet. Yet the scenario described is quite generic and says nothing about the actual TTPs and systems the squadron will utilize in prosecuting the enemy. How can such a generic scenario really prove anything about the effectiveness of small combatants? The key is that two fundamental principles underlie this analysis and can be applied in much broader terms.

First, independently operating, redundant, and at least marginally capable units will greatly increase any system’s overall effectiveness, primarily because unit faults and errors are not permitted to propagate through the system as they would in net centric warfare (e.g. flawed group tactics or a false link track). For surface combatants, an individual effectiveness of 50% is sufficient to affordably produce a formidable striking force. For less expensive systems, that number may be even less. Ultimately, this kind of system is so effective because it is highly unlikely that none of the individual units will successfully complete the mission.

The second principle that contributes to the appeal of the small combatant squadron is that the price of military systems increases exponentially as you attempt to improve individual unit performance closer and closer to perfection. Most of our warships today are designed well past the “knee” in the cost curve. Small combatants can be built with marginal capability at (relatively) very low cost. One new concept illustrates how less capable ships can affordably produce equivalent performance as more capable ones in certain situations. In his 2009 essay, “Buy Fords, Not Ferraris” Captain (U.S. Navy) Henry Hendrix proposes Influence Squadrons, composed of light amphibious ships, large combatants, littoral combat ships (LCS), and small combatants, to alleviate the need for some Carrier Strike Groups – with a smaller price tag (Hendrix, 2009). The purpose of the War at Sea Flotilla, however, is not to replace current fleet assets but to fill a vital niche not now covered to fight a war at sea in littoral waters. Therefore the cost must be small. Captains Hughes and Kline suggest the cost of maintaining a fleet of 64 flotilla ships, steady state, should be less than 3 or 4% of the shipbuilding budget (Hughes and Kline, 2012).

Think Small: Analysis Conclusion and Recommendations

One look at the writings of Sir Julian Corbett or Captain Hughes’ Fleet Tactics and Coastal Combat will show the reader that the benefits of small combatants in certain aspects of naval warfare are not a new discovery. In fact, this analysis may seem like the kind of thinking that led to the development of LCS, which was, after all, born out of wargaming and analysis that advocated for small combatants (Johnson and Long, 2007). The LCS program is not, however, a realization of the principles discussed in this analysis. Both Freedom and Independence class LCS are large multi-mission warships (albeit one at a time) in which mission packages cost a premium to achieve very high probabilities of success. The War at Sea Flotilla, if constructed as Captains Hughes and Kline recommend, would exemplify the advantages of independently operating small combatants.

None of this is meant to condemn LCS or any other ship class for that matter. Every ship in the US fleet, along with the distributed networks that multiply its combat power, has an important role in the mission of winning the nation’s wars, deterring aggression and maintaining freedom of the seas. The purpose here is to provide an analytical basis for including independently operating squadrons of small combatants in the discussion for future force structure. For targeted offensive missions at sea, concepts such as the War at Sea Flotilla can provide higher performance than large combatants at lower cost and with greater resilience to enemy action. In today’s fiscal reality and tomorrow’s projected operational environment, that is a combination Navy leaders should not ignore.

LT Jimmy Drennan is a Surface Warfare Officer. He is the prospective Weapons Officer aboard USS Gettysburg and a Distinguished Graduate of the Naval Postgraduate School’s Systems Engineering Analysis program.