Tag Archives: navy

The 1962 Fleet Review

For centuries, heads of state would periodically review their fleets. In the age of sail, the line of battle was nearly always concentrated, and so, to view the entire fleet was not the greatest logistical challenge.

By the early years of the 20th Century, the various naval powers of the world had evolved the Fleet Review to a major public relations exercise, almost on a scale of a World Exposition. The nation would flaunt its naval might. It was also an exercise in diplomacy, with friendly (and often not so friendly) foreign powers sending major units of their own fleets to observe and pay their respects. In addition to an excellent chance to show off your own fleet, it was a good opportunity to scope out the competition’s ships. Indeed, a good bit of the intelligence the US Navy gathered on Japanese warships before World War II was gathered simply by photographing them at various international reviews.

The Fleet Review has pretty much passed into history. One of the last I know of was the 1962 review of the Atlantic Fleet by President John F. Kennedy.

It was pretty much the ultimate in dog and pony shows. Give it a couple minutes to get going. You’ll see some serious airpower, and even better, you’ll get to see a Marine amphibious landing.  There’s quite a bit of live fire going on in the clip.

Did you notice the Terrier missiles? Did you notice they missed the drone? Friedman, in his cruiser design history, tells us Kennedy was so disgusted by the miss that he personally ordered that USS Long Beach be refitted with a pair of 5”/38s.

Also, that’s just about the only place I’ve seen contemporary footage of the LVTP-5 Amtrac.

Finally, can you imagine the Secret Service letting the President get that close to all that live fire today?

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Filed under navy


We’ve mentioned operating helicopters from smaller ships. In the US Navy, this mostly means destroyers and frigates. Which, at anywhere from 3000 tons to 9000 tons, that’s a goodly sized ship.

Other navies, like the Royal Danish Navy, often operate helicopters from much smaller ships, such as this Offshore Patrol Vessel. And in heavy seas, it can get downright sporty.

Notice immediately after touchdown, a probe extends from the belly of the Lynx. It engages a grate on the landing deck, to keep the helicopter from sliding off the deck, in spite of the pitching and rolling.

The US Navy uses a somewhat different system, RAST, developed from the Canadian Beartrap device.

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Filed under navy, planes

The Iranian Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile

There have been a lot of pixels spilled worrying about the Chinese DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile (AShBM). Now comes news that the Iranians have developed and fielded their own AShBM. Hit the panic button!

Or not.

Iran’s Khalij Fars anti-ship ballistic missile (AShBM) – a weapon that could shift the military balance in the Gulf region – is being delivered to operational units, according to the US Department of Defense’s annual report to Congress on the Islamic Republic’s military capabilities.

“Tehran is quietly fielding increasingly lethal symmetric and asymmetric weapon systems, including more advanced naval mines, small but capable submarines, coastal defence cruise missile batteries, attack craft, and anti-ship ballistic missiles,” the report’s declassified executive summary said.

This is the first corroboration of Iranian claims that the AShBM is in service. US officials declined to comment further on the report, which was submitted to Congress in January.

The Khalij Fars is a version of the Fateh-110 tactical ballistic missile with an electro-optical (EO) seeker that enables it to home in on a ship’s infrared signature in its terminal phase. The Iranian media has reported that the missile has the same 300 km range and 650 kg warhead as the more recent versions of the Fateh-110.

Vice Admiral James Syring, the director of the US Missile Defense Agency, submitted a statement to a Congressional subcommittee in June saying: “This ballistic missile has a range of 300 km, which means it is capable of threatening maritime activity throughout the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz.” Vice Adm Syring confirmed the AShBM had been flight tested, but did not comment on whether it was operational.

Let us assume for the moment that the Khalij Fars (KF)  is indeed operational with the Iranian Forces. 

The biggest challenge with any long range anti-ship missile system isn’t building the missile, nor yet even the seeker. It’s building the targeting. Detection, localization, classification and identification at long ranges is a difficult task. Most generally, you have to have some sensor platform relatively close to the intended target. Most nations use helicopters and aircraft for this role.  If you can get a helicopter or aircraft in close enough to perform the targeting function, why not make them the shooter as well? That’s one reason the US withdrew the Tomahawk anti-ship missile variant and relied instead on the Harpoon missile with its somewhat shorter range.

But let us again assume for the moment that the Iranians have addressed the long range targeting issue to their satisfaction.  How dangerous is this Khalij Fars missile?

Well, it’s not to be ignored. With a reported range of 300km, it’s got more than enough range to hold all of the Strait of Hormuz at risk, as well as significant portions of the rest of the Arabian Gulf.  And a 650kg warhead is fairly powerful. Further, the angle of impact of a ballistic warhead would tend to mean the blast will more likely do greater damage below the waterline than a conventional anti-ship missile that impacts above the waterline. And the passive Electro/Optical guidance system means that ships won’t be able to use their electronic support measures for warning of incoming missiles, nor able to jam their radars or use chaff to decoy them.

As the article notes, the Iranians are working with a spectrum of systems to hold at risk shipping, both merchant and naval, in the Gulf, and this is one more arrow in the quiver.

But all is not lost.

First, the range of a ballistic missile is a function of its speed. The shorter the range, the lower the speed of the missile. The KF has a speed of about Mach 3.5. That’s far, far less than the speed of the much longer range Chinese DF-21D missile. 

The primary difficulty in intercepting a ballistic target is the speed of an engagement. There’s nothing magical about a parabolic trajectory that creates difficulty in interception. Indeed, the parabolic trajectory makes for simpler tracking. Today’s SPY-1D radar and Aegis computer system have no difficulty tracking such a target from launch to impact. Sea skimming supersonic cruise missiles keep surface warriors up at night because their speed, coupled with the short distance to the radar horizon for surface mounted radars, means that a target has very, very little reaction time. A ballistic missile, however, actually becomes somewhat easier to see on radar as it rises along its trajectory, away from the clutter of the sea surface, or the shore its fired from.

And the Mach 3.5 isn’t terribly excessive for the Standard Missile family to engage. Any Aegis equipped ship should have multiple opportunities to engage any KF missile, from mid-course through the terminal phase, with an excellent chance of defeating it.

And while the KF’s E/O sensor is invulnerable to jamming, it’s not invulnerable to decoying via flares and other infrared techniques.

So while the KF missile might add a new capability to the Iranian forces, it alone certainly won’t fundamentally change the ability of the US Navy to transit and operate in the Arabian Gulf.


Filed under navy

Fox 2!

“Fox 2” is the radio brevity code for the launch of an infrared homing missile… like the AIM-9 Sidewinder.

And the fine folks at Detail&Scale just reminded me that today is the anniversary of the first successful launch of the Sidewinder. Clear back in 1952, the Navy was well on its way to developing a missile that is still in production and use today.

From this:

Photo: Knox posts: for reasons known only to the FB Genie, it didn't post the referenced picture so here it is again....


To this:


Filed under history, navy, planes

2014 Navy Retention Study released

Ordinarily, the results of a retention study would generate a “meh…” from us. This one is a little different. This study wasn’t done by the Navy. This one was done by a go-getter Commander with some fellow sailors on their own time, own dime.  I know less about how to craft a valid study than most, but from what I’ve seen and others tell me, it was pretty well crafted.

The Navy, like the other services, is being downsized. Not surprisingly, that has a somewhat adverse effect on morale fleetwide. That makes keeping the best and brightest in the fleet, while encouraging the less than stellar to depart, something of a challenge.

Skipper at Ask the Skipper has been tracking this closely.

I have not yet read the survey results in their entirety. I have glanced through the document briefly to get an idea of its structure so that I can best parse it and share my points of view. At the risk of tipping my hand, making a fool of myself, or both, I predict that the two most poignant takeaways from this body of work will revolve around the two following principles:

  1. People want the tools and latitude to do the job they joined to do with minimal interference from pointless distractors and empty policy.
  2. Trust in senior leadership has eroded to the point at which most officers and enlisted personnel believe said leadership prioritizes the institution above its people, while failing to realize that the institution is the people.Thus, preservation of an aspiring career cannot come at the expense of sound decisions, honest and forthright communication, and genuine care for the people who perceive their loyalty to be unreciprocated.

We haven’t read the results closely either. But we also suspect Skipper’s suspicions are on target.

By the way, we would strongly encourage you to go back to CDR Snodgrass’ original piece that started this whole discussion.

This isn’t just an issue for the Navy. We strongly suspect many of the same issues are applicable to the other services as well. Heck, the Air Force is having a hard time finding enough people willing to serve as pilots.


Filed under Defense

X-47B Video

As promised, here’s some video of the X-47B unmanned technology demonstrator at sea.

Mind you, this is just a technology demonstrator. It’s primarlily a tool to learn lessons. One thing they know is that they’ll have to be a lot quicker getting the bird out of the landing area. You can see it takes a moment for the hook to disengage from the wire. It looks like they had to jerk the wire a bit to get it disengaged. It also took quite  a while to taxi out of the landing area and fold the wings. A typical manned jet like a Hornet would be out and folded in just a few seconds. From yesterday’s press release, that’s one thing they’re working on.


Filed under navy

More Splodey

I don’t feel like writing today.

The US Navy in the early 1990s was greatly concerned with small boat swarming attacks on US surface ships, and looked at ways to counter them. A couple of different weapons were used. First, ships in areas likely to face such swarm attacks (that is, in the Persian Gulf) were quickly equipped with .50cal machine gun mounts. But the .50cal is not terribly accurate, nor particularly lethal.

A more advanced approach was to modify the 20mm Phalanx Close In Weapon System giving it the capability to engage not just missiles, but also surface targets. 

A third option was to bolt on mounts of automatic cannons. In the end, that’s what happened, with the 25mm M242 Bushmaster cannon on the Mk38 mount.

Photo: Gunner's Mate Seaman Daniel A. Wright fires an Mk-38 machine gun

Mk38 Mod 1 Mount for M242 25mm gun.

For years, the mounts were swapped in and out as ships entered and departed the 5th Fleet Area of Operations. Originally little more than a pedestal mount, todays Mk38Mod2 mount is a remotely operated, stabilized mount with day and night capability.


Mk38 Mod 2 Mount

Part of the decision making process (but only part) of what gun to mount included studies of the terminal effects of the various cannon rounds and ammunitions available. And that’s were this video comes in.


Damn shame to see the MkIII PB getting shot up. It would have been nice to see that up for surplus sale.


Filed under guns, navy