Tag Archives: navy

Underway, Undersea, Under the Russian Flag

CDR Salamander has a neat post about an encounter with a Russian submarine. As an added bonus, it has this fascinating “home video” about life aboard the Russian sub in question, the Orenburg.

Roughly the first half is exterior shots. You can skip forward to the interior stuff.

As others have noted, there’s a very different feel, atmosphere, to the Russian sub. It looks lived in and comfortably inhabited, as opposed to the almost sterile aesthetics of a US submarine.

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Hornet Ball 2014

The various “communities” of Naval Aviation, the Hornets, the Hawkeyes, the helo bubbas, have a long-standing tradition that each community will annually have a week of semi-professional symposia and at least one fancy dress ball at their home station. Awards from industry and various professional associations would be presented. Music would play, and the officers and sailors would show off their ladies and dance and socialize.

Back when there was a larger number of communities, and most were split between the east and west coast, that meant there were a great number of these to attend. For instance, Whidbey Island would annually host the west coast Intruder Ball, as well as the Prowler Ball, and usually send a representative or two to the east coast Intruder Ball at NAS Oceana.

There are fewer communities now, and some are amalgamated on one coast or the other, but the tradition of the ball continues. A trend over the last decade or so has for the component squadrons of a given community to share video taken over the past year for a highlight reel video. This year’s west coast Hornet Ball video is a winner.

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Thoughts on US Navy Anti-Aircraft Gunfire in World War II

@GuadaBattle remarked last night on the incredible losses of the Japanese air fleet during the Battle of Santa Cruz. I offered him a few thoughts on the subject off the top of my head, and since I’m lazy, I thought I’d share them with you here.

First, the obvious- radar. The early warning radar provided cut down on the numbers of surprise attacks. If incoming raids were atrited by the CAP, even better, as it tended to break up attacks, reducing the chance of saturation.

Second, fire control, both as methodology and as a technical matter. The Navy quickly devised doctrine with regard to which ships covered which sectors of a task force or group, and had officers specifically tasked to this control measure, not just gunnery officers doubling duty.

On the technical side, the Japanese had good fire control, but the US Mk37 fire control system (and variants of it) was the outstanding anti-air gunfire director system of the war. 5″/38 operating in total director control was quite deadly. Couple this with the Mk51 director control of the 40mm batteries. A separate pedestal director control station, away from the blast of the guns, featuring a gyrostabilized optical fire director controlled each 40mm mount.

Japanese ships had director controlled 5″ guns, but they never seemed to be nearly as effective as ours. They lacked a weapon in the 40mm range, using instead triple, twin, and single 25mm cannon, all of which lacked director control.

Add in the scads of relatively ineffective, but quite visible 20mm Oerlikons all over US ships, and there were a lot of tracers flying around!

Typically, a Fletcher class DD of the Guada period would mount two twin 40mm forward of the bridge, and a twin mount aft. By the end of the war, they would often have the twins forward, a quad replacing one set of torpedo tubes, two twins in the waist.

One of @GuadaBattle’s twitter respondents also mentioned another fairly obvious point- Japanese aircraft were lightly built, in a structural sense, and lacked armor and self sealing fuel tanks. That was a tradeoff that boosted their range and performance, but made them much more vulnerable to weapons effects.

The battle of Santa Cruz was where the VT proximity fuze made its Pacific debut. We’ll discuss the history of that a bit more later, but I wanted to share a picture a reader sent a couple months ago. During the Okinawa campaign, the seaplane tender USS St. George came under kamikaze attack, and engaged with VT fuzed 5”/38.

St George crop

Here’s a cropped version:

St George fuze

With an effective kill radius of about 50 feet, that’s a deadly shot and a prime example of the effectiveness of the VT proximity fuze.

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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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Lynx-Yikes!

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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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.

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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:

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