Tag Archives: BMD

Wrapping Up Alternatives to DDG Flight III

Last month we challenged contributors to take their best shot (or really any shot, so long as it was interesting) at articulating alternatives to the U.S. Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class DDG Flight III. We originally intended the series to run a week, but never ones to reject late-but-coherent thoughts, we kept it going as long as the submissions kept coming in. The results were quite interesting, challenging force structure/projection assumptions, as well as following the assumptions in the chain of reasoning leading to the Flight III as currently conceived:

  • The U.S. needs to conduct ballistic missile defense (BMD)
  • U.S. BMD needs a sea-based component
  • The sea-based component needs to fit on a surface ship

Most of the hard looks questioned whether the (yet-to-be awarded) Air and Missile Defense Radar is the best way forward for the BMD mission and if so, whether the Flight III DDG is the best platform on which to base it.

Here are some parting shots that focus not on the BMD side of the house, but on ways to generate more of what a Flight III would accomplish with the rest of its mission set toolbox:

LT Patrick Kiefer, USN:

“One thing that we need more of on the destroyers is more helicopters… why we stop at 2 is a little baffling and then only a carrier has more…why not look to put 4 or 6 with simultaneous takeoff and landing? And when you look at everything the MH-60 brings, it is really a force multiplier that brings significant capabilities to the anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and surface warfare (SUW) missions, especially counter-swarm, and provides some limited support to anti-air warfare (AAW) and STRIKE.”

Sebastian Bruns, Germany:

The selection of the Flight III DDG or an alternative needs to be explained to the American people. Thoroughly. It is a grave irresponsibility to not lead a public discourse about the value of sea power in general, and the value and uses of certain platforms over others in particular.

More than a joke in need of a punchline: How many MH-60Rs can you fit on a DDG?
More than a joke in need of a punchline: How many MH-60Rs can you fit on a DDG?

It follows from this that there must be a coherent policy – means selected to accomplish aims with due respect to timing and costs (“strategy”). This would serve as national security contract underpinning the use of the Navy (and Marine Corps and Coast Guard) for the better of the nation. What do you want from a (probably Aegis-equipped?) ship? FIghting pirates off Somalia or intercepting ICBMs in the Mediterranean? Counter-narco ops in Mexico or deterrence of regional rouge states? This approach is easier said than done, but one needs bold characters and ideas to really make a strategy deserving of its name (as opposed to yet another doctrine, white paper, document, etc. that’s more platitudes than substance). Vague “AirSea Battle” concepts don’t buy public support, and they rarely serve as a 10- or 20-year outlook. 30-year shipbuilding plans, on the other hand, don’t mean much to many people (in fact, as a Hill staffer, I attended a hearing where the value of a three-decade plan was questioned and IMHO misleading arguments were made for a 10- or 20-year shipbuilding plan).

U.S. shipbuilding must get its act together, along with a trimmed procurement bureaucracy at the Pentagon and a coherent Congress that sets its priorities straight. This last item might, above all, be the most “wishful” of all my thinking, as politics will always be politics. But consider for a moment the extensive list of design failures, cost-overruns, ideas scuttled at the drawing board, and procurement problems vs. the “successes” of the past 25 years. There’s quite a negative imbalance, from the perspective of an outside observer. Competitiveness must be improved. Perhaps the U.S. needs to finally look abroad for designs that could be adapted for the U.S. Navy. A joint design, perhaps, with a trusted allied partner nation from Asia or Europe?

I am under the impression that the current pace of events (and, quite frankly, developments not really in favour of a strong defense budget) might well quickly overtake the discussions that naval specialists lead among themselves, rendering these conversations irrelevant. The end state? Pooling and sharing, leading from behind by default and necessity, without the negative political connotations.

LT H.Vic Allen, USN:

The ability to base 2 helos is non-negotiable. Helos expand a great deal – from situational awareness (SA) to the weapons systems envelope to flexibility; you name it. The capabilities of the MH-60R brings a ridiculous amount of SA to the CO/warfare commander.

Rethink the bridge watch team, a la LCS. For the vast majority of the time, there’s no reason why fly-by-wire and autopilots can’t do the work of a bridge team that is probably 200% too big.

Keep VLS. Even a 32-cell install is very useful.

Hybrid power plants that support kinetic and directed energy weapons. GTGs won’t cut it anymore.

Incorporate a wide array of UAVs. Undersea unmanned vehicles (UUVs) and unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) don’t provide enough bang for the buck – a DDG is very visible, so stealthy insertion of UUVs isn’t going to help, and USVs just don’t have the range/speed necessary to make them competitive with UAVs. I foresee close-in (<10nm), local (10-100nm) and long-range (>100 nm) UAVs as assisting DDGs with their missions.

Note: The views expressed above are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their governments, militaries, or the Center for International Maritime Security.

The Capability Cost of a Flight III Ballistic Missile Sea Shield

The following is part of our series “Alternatives to the U.S. Navy’s DDG Flight III

DDG-51 Flt III and the Shifting Sands of BMD Requirements

BulletTo intercept a ballistic missile intercept, platforms must be at the right place at the right time to detect, track, and engage.  Depending on the capability of the sensors and interceptors, these three locations may not be synonymous—the laws of physics and trigonometry are uncompromising; and, the clock is always ticking.  Threats must be properly classified and their ultimate target determined.  Flight paths and opportunities for intercept must be calculated.  Interceptors must perform flawlessly, and to a degree, so must the adversary’s missile.  Any deviation in expected performance throughout the boost, mid-course, and terminal phases that exceeds parameters might be enough to cause a failure to intercept. 

Raytheon Missile Systems nonchalantly describes this manuever as “hitting a bullet with a bullet,” which still doesn’t quite respect enough the degree of complexity and luck required to conduct integrated air and missile defense (IAMD), the integration of simultaneous anti-air warfare (AAW) and ballistic missile defense (BMD).  It does, however, hint at everything that is wrong with our approach to it.  From largely ignoring cheaper ways to attack the enemy kill-chain to Aegis brand myopathy to shifting war-fighting capability requirements to fit fiscal/political constraints, the U.S. Navy is risking the credibility of its large cruiser/destroyer surface combatant force by building its justification on the shifting sands of its BMD requirements.

In 2007, the Navy completed its most aggressive, expensive ($35M) and comprehensive Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) to date, the Maritime Air and Missile Defense of Joint Forces (MAMDJF) AoA, also known as the Next-Generation Cruiser/“CG(X)” AoA.  The recommendation of the analysis was for either a nuclear-powered cruiser or a conventionally powered cruiser with hybrid-electric drive/integrated propulsion system—both larger than the BB-41 Iowa-class battleships. These were to be capable of generating more wattage than the sum of the entire surface combatant fleet, and were to have radar array faces orders of magnitude larger and more sensitive than legacy SPY radars.  The cost per hull was projected at a staggering $9B. 

Among the alternatives the study looked at, near the rear of the discounted hull forms and behind a DDG-1000 mod, was a DDG-51 derivative.  Yet in 2013, the 30-year shipbuilding plan shows 33 of these DDG-51 derivatives, now called Flt III!  What changed that has made the alternative (and its 12-14 foot radar arrays) operationally acceptable when only CG(X) (and its 36 foot radar arrays) were acceptable in 2007-2010?

“I don’t believe they [CG(X) requirements] are clear. And I think its requirements at two levels. First we need to make sure we understand what it is we want on this ship and what it is we want in the fleet, how that is all going to work together. This ship is not going to work by itself. It’s going to work with other components, as part of ballistic missile defense system [and] many other components. We need to understand how that’s all going to work…. I think this is the first time in a long time that we’ve tried to work it in this formal a process. And to work through a real detailed specification and set of requirements. And that is creating some challenges. And there are tradeoffs that have to be done. And these are more than just worrying about what type of hull form we use…”
–Former SECNAV Donald Winter, 2007

AMDR: Battle of the Bands
                     AMDR: Battle of the Bands

From the January 2012 GAO report, “…since the MAMDJF AoA was released the Navy has changed its concept on numbers of Navy ships that will be operating in an IAMD environment.”  This concept, “sensor-netting,” is not new and was in fact analyzed in the MAMDJF AoA, but the problem with relying on sensor-netting multiple sensors and shooters first observed then remains today.  The capability to fuse multiple (and disparate) sensors and pass high-quality track data (measured by its track quality index (TQI)) in real-time for BMD does not exist, nor is there currently a plan to expand existing systems such as Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC).  If the Flight III CONOPS is therefore reliant upon satellite tactical data-links, what does it mean to the Navy’s BMD capability when confronted with an anti-access/area denial (A2AD) environment, such as we may face with a near-peer competitor? The GAO for one concluded that the Flight III will likely “be unsuitable for the most stressful threat environments it expects to face.” 

The purpose of BMD is to defend the U.S. homeland, bases, critical infrastructure (including forces afloat), and Allies from ballistic missiles.  All three of the defense departments—Army, Air Force, Navy—maintain a BMD capability.  The Air Force and the Army have largely invested in developing capabilities to intercept ballistic missiles in terminal flight—their descent from space to final target.  The Navy is primarily investing in interception at the boost and mid-course phases, due to Navy’s ability to use the ocean as maneuver space and close the threat, enhancing ballistic missile defense-in-depth while providing the only means of IAMD for the sea base. 

Intercepting ballistic missiles in boost phase is the most dangerous as it requires the warship to be closest to the enemy.  Intercepting in mid- course is the most difficult due to the distance, including the altitude, and window for intercept—taxing both radar and interceptors.  In both phases, sufficient radar resources must be devoted to tracking the ballistic missile while still searching for additional ballistic or cruise missiles.  For a DDG-51 Flight III without a large radar array, such as the one planned for CG(X), this will be much more challenging. 

When Greenland attacks Africa, it's best to cover all phases of the missile's flight.
        When Greenland launches on Africa, one can’t be too prepared.

The Aegis combat system—a proprietary product of Lockheed Martin (LM)—has evolved from a robust anti-surface cruise missile (ASCM) area-defense system to a comprehensive combat system for all mission areas, including BMD.  Attempts at forcing competition, open architecture, and migration to an enterprise-shared “Objective Architecture” starting with CG(X) have all ultimately failed as LM successfully lobbied against such efforts.  While the merits of each position can be and often are debated, one fact remains: we are utilizing a combat management system that at its root was designed in the 1970s.  Likewise, the decision to go with a Flt III of the DDG-51 line ensures that the Arleigh Burke-class (or derivatives thereof), will be in service for over 100 years.  The B-52 and M-16 are the only likely other platforms that will be able to claim that dubious honor.  How much capability can the Navy continue to squeeze out of a 40-year-old, proprietary combat system (despite its upgrades in hardware and software)?  What is the return-on-investment?  What changed since 2007 when PEO IWS determined that a new combat system was required for the IAMD mission?

Land targets must be defended by hard kill; attacking ballistic missiles with electronic warfare only to cause the missiles to later fall on civilian populations is unacceptable.  Can the same thing be said about the sea base?  Is there significant heartburn over a seduced, distracted, or diverted ballistic missile falling into unoccupied ocean, killing Flipper?  The Navy should look beyond hard kill solutions for a better way to attack the kill chain that does not hazard surface combatants by closing the threat to achieve a boost-phase intercept, but also does not overly tax our radar and interceptor resources (and budgets) for a mid-course intercept.  By focusing exclusively on hitting bullets with bullets; by reducing the IAMD requirements to fit the DDG rather than finding a ship that fits the requirements; and, by building its justification for the DDG line on the shifting sands of politically and fiscally constrained BMD requirements the Navy is risking the credibility and health of its surface force.

Nicolas di Leonardo is a member of the Expeditionary Warfare Division of the OPNAV staff and a graduate student of the Naval War College.  The article represents the author’s views and is not necessarily the position of the Expeditionary Warfare Division, the Naval War College, or the United States Navy.

The Greenert Gambit: Playing Moneyball with the Pivot to the Pacific

CNO’s 30-Year Shipbuilding Strategy Reflects Lessons of his Favorite Book

Sometimes you need a Brad Pitt, sometimes you need a Jonah Hill.
Sometimes you need a Brad Pitt, sometimes you need a Jonah Hill.

Armchair Admirals and defense analysts alike lit up the blogosphere when President Obama first announced the strategic “Pivot” from Mid-East counterinsurgency operations to the Pacific, with visions of Surface Action Groups, Carrier Battle Groups, and Amphibious Task Forces the like of which haven’t been seen since former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman’s 600 Ship Navy.  Alas, the CNO’s vision of that Pivot leaves many feeling like the victims of a Jedi Mind Trick: “This isn’t the Fleet you’re looking for.” 

Afloat Forward Staging Bases (AFSBs), Joint High Speed Vessels (JHSVs), Mobile Logistics Platforms (MLPs), and Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) will never be mistaken for surface combatants; however, they represent the product of a refined understanding of what wars we are likely to fight in the future, and a sabermetric analysis of what it takes to win the peace in the Pacific—presence, lift, and command and control (C2).  While facing significant fiscal constraint, by focusing acquisitions on affordable platforms capable of persistent presence in uncontested waters and afloat forward basing of expeditionary / special operations forces, Admiral Greenert is on the cusp of successfully employing strategic Moneyball in his 30-year shipbuilding plan.

According to National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, the purpose of the Pivot is:

“…strengthening alliances; deepening partnerships with emerging powers; building a stable, productive, and constructive relationship with China; empowering regional institutions; and helping to build a regional economic architecture that can sustain shared prosperity.” 

Key to achieving these strategic aims is regional stability—a stability that can only be maintained with the confidence of regional power brokers that the status quo is acceptable and not threatened.  The U.S. supports freedom of navigation and defense of its allies against rogue actors such as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) through deployment of conventional naval forces such as Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD)-cruisers and destroyers.  However, these ships do not provide an optimal platform for two of our largest mission sets in strengthening alliances and partnerships: Theater Security Cooperation and Humanitarian Assistance / Disaster Response (HA/DR).  Relatively low-cost, an ability to embark disparate and substantive payloads, and a capability to access littoral waters make JHSV, MLP, and LCS the optimal platforms for these missions.

In his recent book, Invisible Armies, Max Boot notes that the most prolific type of war throughout history is the insurgency.  Indeed, the last true state vs state war took place over the course of a few weeks in 2008 between Georgia and the Russian Federation, while formal insurgencies continue on every continent save Antarctica and Australia.  Since 1945 and the information/media revolutions, insurgent victory rates have increased from 29% to 40% (with caveats).  As the ability to access and broadcast information increases and fractures to different mediums, Boot hypothesizes that insurgent success rates will continue to grow; with it, insurgencies will proliferate.  The United States has spent the past decade refining our doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership, personnel, and facilities (DOTMLPF) to successfully implement counterinsurgency.  Having sacrificed this capability and capacity many times in the past to refocus on building large, conventional forces to engage in rare conventional combat, the Department of Defense has the chance to make a historic deviation and retain some of that urgently needed competence.  Bottom line: insurgencies aren’t going away anytime soon, and neither should naval ability to support counterinsurgency operations.

There exists a myth of “credible presence” in some corners of naval strategy.  This myth devalues the “sabermetrics” of presence, lift, and C2 for more traditional metrics of large-caliber guns, vertical launch cells, and radar dB.  Purveyors of the myth believe that absent a Mahanian armada capable of intimidating the People’s Liberation Army (Navy) to never leave their inshore territorial waters, our presence operations aren’t ultimately successful.  The myth operates under the false portrayal of the People’s Republic of China as a monolith, the same fallacy with regards some of our recent adversaries—Ba’athists, Islamists, and Communists.  The PRC and the U.S. conduct over $500 billion in trade annually, much of that through PLA and PLA(N) companies that would stand to lose their financial backing should a shooting war break out between the U.S. and PRC—an undesirable outcome despite the testy rhetoric of select PLA generals and colonels.  The question is not how to win a war with the PRC—I am confident that we can do that, albeit painfully.  The question that should drive our acquisitions in the Pivot is “how do we win the peace?”

The capability and capacity of JHSVs, MLPs, and LCSs to successfully conduct afloat forward staging and presence operations has been demonstrated by their respective ship class predecessors both operationally (Philippines, Africa Partnership StationSouthern Partnership Station, Somalia) and in exercises (Bold Alligator, Cobra Cold).  By focusing acquisitions on these platforms, we stand a greater chance of building on both our presence and afloat forward-staging capability/capacity.  While the Air-Sea Battle and its high-end carriers, cruisers, destroyers, and amphibious task forces is an essential strategy to deter armed aggression by China, the CNO is playing Moneyball to win the peace at a bargain price.
Nicolas di Leonardo is a member of the Expeditionary Warfare Division on the OPNAV Staff and a graduate student of the U.S. Naval War College.  The views expressed by this author are his alone and do not necessarily reflect the official positions of the Expeditionary Warfare Division, the Naval War College, or the United States Navy

Whither The Flight III

081021-N-9928E-054Back in March our readers voted on topics they’d like us to cover for a week of analysis. The winner was “Alternatives to the U.S. Navy’s DDG-51 Flight III”. Alas not many have felt comfortable venturing outside their expertise comfort zones to weigh in on the issue. Those few brave writers who did accept the challenge have an interesting week for you and hopefully some food for thought.

The Arleigh Burke-class (DDG-51) first entered service in 1991 as the first “Aegis destroyer” – a multi-role combatant but notably synonymous with its anti-air warfare (AAW) radar. In 1998 the ship class morphed to the Flight II with USS Mahan (DDG-72), and has since DDG-79 used evolving variations of the USS Oscar Austin Flight IIA design. With the looming retirement of the U.S. cruisers and increasing AAW and ballistic missile defense (BMD) requirements, the U.S. Navy began planning for a tentatively named CG(X) cruiser ship class to fill the role (or integrated air and missile defense (IAMD) gap) with “a new and more capable radar called the Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR).” However, in 2010 it opted for the DDG-51 Flight III with a “smaller and less powerful [AMDR] than the one envisaged for the CG(X)” as it was deemed cheaper to continue building on the DDG-51 frame.

As part of his coverage of the Navy’s FY13 budget submission, Ron O’Rourke at the Congressional Research Service (CRS) in late March detailed in a very readable report the Navy’s intended program of record. As he states:

“The Navy wants to begin procuring a new version of the DDG-51 design, called the Flight III design, starting with the second of the two ships scheduled for procurement in FY2016. The two DDG-51s scheduled for procurement in FY2017 are also to be of the Flight III design… The Navy for FY2013 is requesting congressional approval to use a multiyear procurement (MYP) arrangement for the nine DDG-51s scheduled for procurement in FY2013-FY2017.”

Some of the issues outlined in the CRS report (pg 18) include:

  • Whether there is an adequate analytical basis for procuring Flight III DDG-51s in lieu of the previously planned CG(X) cruiser
  • Whether the Flight III DDG-51 would have sufficient air and missile capability to adequately perform future air and missile defense missions
  • Cost, schedule, and technical risk in the Flight III DDG-51 program
  • Whether the Flight III DDG-51 design would have sufficient growth margin for a projected 35- or 40-year service life

To these unresolved points follow several more foundational questions:

  • Is the AMDR the right radar to fill the U.S. Navy’s future IAMD needs?
  • Is the DDG-51 the right shipframe to house the future IAMD radar, whether or not the AMDR? (in essence a roll-up of Ron’s 2nd and 4th points above). This question is especially salient in light of the reliance on the Arleigh Burke class to fill a multitude of roles beyond IAMD.
  • Is there another way to do AAW and/or BMD in the time frame for the procurement and service life of the Flight III?
  • Is there a way to divest the Flight IIIs of some of the other mission areas that they perform? How could this alter the distribution of ship numbers?
  • Is there are a way to change the assumptions the IAMD requirements are based on?

These are the questions we don’t expect to answer conclusively, but to use as starting points to offer possibilities. For another good take on the issues, check out friend-of-the-blog Bryan McGrath’s article at USNI News.