Tag Archives: navy

The Navy’s Smallest Carrier

The Nimitz class supercarriers are pretty big, at 1,092 feet and 103,000 tons. The Essex class carriers were a good deal smaller, at 820 feet and roughly 27,000 tons when built. Escort carriers were even smaller. The Casablanca class were even smaller, at 512 feet and 7,800 tons.

But the smallest carrier in the Navy was probably the Baylander, at 131 feet and 160 tons.

In the mid-1980s, at the Reagan defense buildup grew the fleet, a major part of the growth was in helicopters for surface combatants such as destroyers, frigates and cruisers. 

http://www.helis.com/database/pics/sis/27_1052.jpg

Take a look at that tiny flight deck on the USS Knox above. Learning to fly a helicopter is one thing. Learning to land on a ship is another. Fixed wing Naval Aviators’s training culminated with their landing aboard the Navy’s training carrier, the USS Lexington. The problem was, the Navy didn’t always have a frigate or destroyer handy for rotary winged aviators to practice landing on.

It occurred to the Navy that you didn’t need much of a ship to practice landing helicopters on. And so, they converted a harbor utility craft by adding a landing platform and having it cruise off Pensacola as needed to allow fledgling birdmen practice at landing aboard. Designated IX-514, she was often called the HLT, or Helicopter Landing Trainer.

http://www.navsource.org/archives/09/46/094651402.jpg

Put into service in 1986, the HLT served for more than 20 years qualifying Navy, Marine, and Coast Guard aviators, in addition to pilots from numerous civilian and foreign agencies.

Recently the Baylander (it cruised around Pensacola Bay and landed helicopters-what else would it be named?) was sold to The Trenk Family Foundation, and it is currently on display at Brooklyn Bridge Park.

The ship’s history before its conversion to the HLT was pretty interesting as well.

As the Vietnam War heated up in 1967, the Naval Support Activity Da Nang needed more lighterage to unload the vast sums of materiel arriving in Vietnam. And because the road network in Vietnam was poor and dangerous, the Navy need some coastal freighter capability to move cargoes from Da Nang to smaller facilities along the coast. The Navy’s LCU class utility landing craft were a bit small for the job, and further, most of them were already dedicated to the amphibious shipping fleet. So the Navy went shopping for an off-the-shelf design, and fortuitously found just what it was looking for up in Alaska. Designed to service oil pipeline construction, the Skilak class from the Pacific Coast Engineering Company fit the bill to a “T.”  The Navy quickly bought a dozen as the YFU-71 class (YFU is code for Harbor Utility Craft).  From around 1968 to the end of the war, they operated in  support of operations in Vietnam.  An Army Heavy Boat Company operated 6 of them after 1970, while one was transferred to Cambodia in 1970.

YFU-78 was sunk with heavy casualties from a Viet Cong rocket attack while loaded with ammunition.

http://www.navsource.org/archives/14/141807802.jpg

At the end of the war, the remaining 10 ships evacuated to Guam, where most of them served until the mid-1980s before being sold off or transferred to other government agencies.

Here’s the Baylander in her days as YFU-79.

https://c2.staticflickr.com/4/3286/3133569995_ce38e7a403_z.jpg?zz=1

At least one or two of the class are still in service.

Helicopter operations aboard IX-514 in 2008.

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The LCS Program continues to fail miserably.

The Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship program, while smaller than the Joint Strike Fighter program in dollars, is to my mind a bigger failure, from conception to execution.

The GAO was directed to review the deployment of USS Freedom to Singapore. It’s not a very pretty picture.

 

al.com also has a piece on the LCS program that drops this little bombshell:

Largely missing from the picture was the USS Independence built by Austal, which spent most of that time homeported in San Diego, Calif., according to the document. Navy officials indicated they had “notional plans to deploy an Independence variant LCS sometime before 2017,” according to the report. (emphasis mine-XBrad)

The LCS ships were built with a notional service life of 20-25 years (as opposed to a notional service life of 30 years for most service combatants). The USS Independence was commissioned in January of 2010. To date, she’s not made any deployments, and the best the Navy can offer is the possibility they’ll send her out before the next three years are up?

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China thinks it can defeat the US. David Axe thinks they can’t. Worse, the Chinese know they don’t have to.

David Axe takes a look at the relative naval strengths in the Western Pacific. For years armchair analysts have looked at a potential Sino-American conflict through the paradigm of an attack across the Taiwan Strait. For many years, the thought of an actual assault across the strait was rather unthinkable, as the Chinese had little or no genuine amphibious assault capability. That’s rapidly changing with the Chinese shipbuilding program producing significant amphibious shipping for both the People’s Liberation Army Navy, and for the People’s Liberation Army Ground Forces.

He sees the rapidly growing Chinese fleet as strong, but with one potentially fatal flaw- undersea warfare.

The bad news first. The People’s Republic of China now believes it can successfully prevent the United States from intervening in the event of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan or some other military assault by Beijing.

Now the good news. China is wrong — and for one major reason. It apparently disregards the decisive power of America’s nuclear-powered submarines.

Moreover, for economic and demographic reasons Beijing has a narrow historical window in which to use its military to alter the world’s power structure. If China doesn’t make a major military move in the next couple decades, it probably never will.

The U.S. Navy’s submarines — the unsung main defenders of the current world order — must hold the line against China for another 20 years. After that, America can declare a sort of quiet victory in the increasingly chilly Cold War with China.

Yes, we do have excellent nuclear submarines. And any student of naval war in the Pacific will quickly realize that long range submarines unleashed offensively will have devastating consequences upon an enemy. Our Silent Service in World War II had an impact far larger than the numbers of sailors, or the numbers of boats assigned would suggest.

But no single weapon system or approach is the single key to victory. The great American talent in warfare is the integration of all forms of combat power to overwhelm an enemy, both physically and mentally.  One role for nuclear submarines that Axe doesn’t mention is using our subs as Anti-submarine Warfare platforms to sanitize an area so our carriers and other surface ships can operate with relative safety.  That’s going to take a few boats off the table, keeping them from pursuing Axe’s goal of sinking any notional Chinese amphibious assault.

Second, a look at both US and Japanese submarine operations in World War II suggests that submarines are not likely to be terribly successful in stopping any amphibious invasion. US submarines failed to stop Japanese invasion of the Philippines, and the Japanese never succeeded in stopping any of the many, many US amphibious assaults in the war. Similarly, the German U-boat force was never able to defeat any amphibious assault, though they did try.

But the real issue is, the Chinese currently have no intention of engaging in a shooting war with the US.

As Matthew Hipple argues, while the US is constrained by a “shoot/don’t shoot” deterrence posture of credible combat power in the disputed territories of the Western Pacific, China is leveraging every tactic and means short of shooting to achieve its aims. And absent US willingness to shoot first (and there’s none of that) China is both achieving near term goals, and showing regional forces that the US is not, in fact, a credible deterrent.

Defense strategists usually discuss asymmetry in terms of operations or tactics: specialized anti-ship missiles, cyber-attacks on command-and-control functions, or insurgency against conventional forces. Strategic-level asymmetry is less discussed—in this case, a force designed to stop an opponent’s war versus an opponent using those forces for everything but a war.

The United States is leaving a gap in its strategy. At CSF14, Andrea Dew describes this gap in the context of groups in active conflict: “Although we artificially draw lines between different domains, other adversaries use them seamlessly.”Dew’s specific concernsare about armed groups fighting a state through the exploitable seams of its stove-piped perspectives. This general concept applies to non-combat operations, where China is utilizing a gap in how the West views the scope and appropriate use of military action as a political instrument. Between the committee chambers of diplomats and the joint operations center of admirals, there is a blind spot in our strategy being manipulated, the same as if it were a small boat attack against a conventional blue-water combatant.

The US could counter this current Chinese operational plan, but the current administration, and the vast majority of the defense establishment simply do not have the mindset to engage in the strategic ambiguity needed.

Most US leaders see the path forward in terms of the past, when US and Soviet forces, seeing an escalating pattern of incidents at sea, forged an agreement to minimize the chances of a tense encounter escalating into a shooting match. They worked together to minimize the tensions.

The Chinese, however, are currently working instead to determine just how far they can push, and with every push, are seeking to expand that envelope, bit by bit. The more they can antagonize both regional powers, and the US, without firing a shot, the more they demonstrate a dominance that may lead regional powers to decide that an unhappy relationship with China is better than a feckless one with the US.  And no submarine fleet, no matter how capable, can change that.

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Two Way Streets

I’ve served in units where I had complete trust in the chain of command, and I’ve served in units where simply no trust existed between the commander and the troops. And here’s the thing about units with mutual mistrust between the command and the commanded. It is always the fault of the commander if his troops don’t trust him. And it’s always because he doesn’t trust them.

Mind you, my perspective was usually that of a private soldier or junior NCO looking at the company, or battalion command, and  very occasionally at brigade command.

CDR Salamander has a guest post by an author who (likely for career reasons) takes a look at the issue from the perspective of the sea services, specifically, how junior Naval Aviation officers see their environment with respect to the admirals that run their slice of the pie.

“When the Tailhook investigation began, and certain political elements used the incident to bring discredit on Naval Aviation as a whole, and then on the Navy writ large, one is entitled to ask, on behalf of those magnificent performers who have never failed their leaders, where were their leaders?” As Naval Aviation leadership begins to face one of the worst retention crises in its history, readdressing this question, originally posed by former Secretary of the Navy James Webb at the Naval Institute’s 122nd Annual Meeting and sixth Annapolis Seminar in 1996, may help explain why some of aviation’s best and brightest have decided to leave.
Naval Aviation leadership is currently struggling with the real threat of not having enough pilots to fly the aircraft on its flight lines, and it’s not solely due to cyclic and predictable factors (economy, OPTEMPO). The more insidious problem, going largely unaddressed, is one of trust and confidence; more accurately, the fleet’s loss of trust and confidence in its senior leadership. This breakdown in trust has spread well beyond junior officers reaching their first “stay or go” milestones. Large numbers of post-command Commanders are electing to retire, instead of pursuing further promotion and increased retirement benefits. In both cases, officers are saying “no thanks” to generous amounts of money (for some, as much as $125,000), choosing instead to part ways with an organization they competed fiercely to join; one that, at some point, provided tremendous satisfaction.

I strongly suspect this dissatisfaction with the leadership isn’t restricted to this community alone. I’ve heard from quite a few people that feel the services have treated the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as a distraction from the real business of the services, of career building and social engineering.

Believe me, I’m all for hammering those who violate the regulations, those who break the law, and especially those who violate the laws of war. But it we need to ensure we’re not judging decisions made in battle with 20/20 hindsight from a safe office. Nor do we judge leaders for past actions based on the specious complaint of one servicemember, a complaint lodged months after the leader departed for another assignment. Or even years, in one infamous case.

Many people have complained of the onerous burden placed on training that is mandated, for such things as sexual harassment and assault prevention that does little to actually prevent sexual harassment or assault, but  paints the vast majority of servicemembers as potentially guilty, and adds nothing to the ability of a unit to fight and win.

There’s a great deal of life in the service that is quite attractive. It’s rewarding to be a member of something larger than yourself, to work as a team, to accomplish a hard, worthy mission, to share burdens and joys with your fellow Americans.

But there’s also a word that describes that which sucks the enjoyment and noble feelings from service.

Chickenshit.

Maybe we should look at cutting back on the chickenshit.

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Report of Investigation into the target drone that struck USS Chancellorsville in November 2013

USNINews has a (heavily redacted) copy of the command investigation that followed when a BQM-74E target drone struck the USS Chancellorsville during a tracking exercise.

It’s fairly technical, but even so, and with the redactions, you can get the gist of what happened. I’d be interested in hearing from any SWOs, particularly and AEGIS types.

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The Naval Gun Factory

Today, when the Navy wishes to buy a gun or other weapon for the fleet, it goes shopping among various defense contractors, either buying what is already offered, or starting a competition to chose from among several proposed weapons.

In the old day, when the Navy wanted a new gun, they designed it, and built it. Only if the numbers needed were too great did they call upon industry to produce the weapons. And even then, the Navy would provide the tooling, pattern and jigs for industry to build what the Navy developed.

This clip has some nice shots of the old 3”/50 gun being fired, but also has some fascinating bits on pouring and machining complex metal shapes in an era before computer controlled milling was even an idea.

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Mattis-Veterans aren’t Victims

Recently retired Marine General James “Mad Dog” Mattis is probably the single most respected four star general of recent years, at least among the more junior members of the services. Why? Because he is blunt and direct. That forthrightness means you always understand where you stand with him. It inspires trust and respect. His letter to his Marines on the eve of the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was certainly clear moral guidance:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4b/Genmattisltr.jpg

And his plea to local Iraqi leaders in to embrace the chance at peace was an instant military classic:

So now, in retirement, GEN Mattis has a new mission- to remind veterans and the public, that “veteran” is not synonymous with “victim.”

Victimhood is somewhat en vogue in America today, with virtually every possible group claiming some sort of favored status by means of some injury or slight by the “other.”

But victimhood implies a helplessness, a lack of agency, and a lack of ability or means to improve ones situation.

And GEN Mattis isn’t having any of that.

In a speech last month, Mattis tackled a concern that is on the minds of a number of combat leaders: A public that wants to paint veterans as victims and why that is potentially damaging to the fighting spirit of America’s warriors.
“I would just say there is one misperception of our veterans and that is they are somehow damaged goods,” Mattis said. “I don’t buy it.”
“If we tell our veterans enough that this is what is wrong with them they may actually start believing it,” he said during questions after a speech at the Marines’ Memorial Club in San Francisco.

“While victimhood in America is exalted I don’t think our veterans should join those ranks,” Mattis said.

That’s not to say that we as  a nation don’t have an obligation to provide care and services to our wounded warriors. That’s not to say that those veterans struggling with PTSD or other issues should not avail themselves of services, or the support of their peers and veterans associations. But it is a reminder to veterans that they hold the key to their future. The same drive and determination that made them successful in the service can carry them through the challenges they face in the society at large. It is a notice to the public that the oft portrayed deeply flawed veteran is a trope, a caricature, of the veteran. The fact is, looking back at historical precedent, veterans tend to be better educated, better paid, and generally more successful than their non-veteran peers.

CDR Salamander has, for a decade now, warned of the attempts by some in society to paint all veterans as victims of circumstances beyond their control, as children in need of the nannying care of the progressive government and culture, with no true free will to care for themselves or to make their own future. To say he’s a fan of GEN Mattis’ latest mission would be an understatement.

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Guadalcanal Diary!

Well, actually, more a timeline.

Our fellow long-time Moron ArthurK has been “liveblogging” the Battle of Guadalcanal on twitter.

He’s also covering the great battles of Coral Sea, and presumably Midway.

Follow him at:

@GuadaBattle

And:

@GuadaLive42

Coral Sea and Midway would reverse the tide of the Japanese Navy, making possible the attack through the open Central Pacific.

But the epic struggle of Guadalcanal would be just as critical, opening the drive through the Solomons, and leading the way to the little known, but incredibly important drive through the Southwest Pacific. It was the SWP that held the resources Japan had gone to war for, and it was the drive there that would, in time, cut Japan off from them.

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LCS vs PF

It’s “Beat up on LCS Day” at CDR Salamander’s. First, we’ll steal a document from the good CDR himself about the origins of the Little Crappy Ship. Note the extensive use of subjective adjectives, vice concrete, measurable metrics.

Indeed, the only hard number in the document is the 50 knot speed, which drove so much of the design process that it overwhelmed pretty much any chance of a reasonable outcome.

Of course, in contrast, one of the comments links to this document on how the “design to cost” approach to the Patrol Frigate (which would become the FFG-7 class frigate” was quite specific on just what the ship would entail.

One of the strengths of the program management of the PF was a very clear vision of just what the ship was intended to do. That vision drove the decisions of which features to include. In contrast, the LCS document emphasized features such as “netted” and other rot. Just what the ship was intended to do in the mission areas was a tad vague. The inshore ASW portion looks a lot like an underpants gnome business model.

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Liaoning At Sea

The Chinese have slavishly copied the US Navy’s techniques and procedures as they learn to operate tactical jets from their first carrier, the Liaoning. Apparently, the also realize the critical importance of releasing “hooah” vids.

 

Spill thought this was pretty cheesy. I thought it was pretty good, though obviously not “homemade” the way most US vids are.

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Some Pushback on that Lind article… and some agreement too.

URR posted about an article by William Lind. Lots of people immediately panned the article (and by my lights, rightly so), mostly about the intellectual incuriosity of junior officers.

CDR Salamander, of course, took a poke at the article. But he also gives credit where due on some parts of Lind’s piece. For my money, the biggest structural problem in the officer corps is the stupendously bloated staff sizes. Your mileage may vary.

As with so many posts at CDR Sal’s, the real fun is in the comments. That’s your reading assignment for today.

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The Maces made a video you have to see to believe…

It IS a good video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnsxWrPUHN8&feature=youtu.be

Stolen from Bill, who posted it over at The Lexicans.

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First Flight of the Intruder

Spill was kind enough to remind me that today marks the anniversary of the first flight of the Grumman A2F-1 Intruder, more popularly known by its post-1962 designation, the A-6.

Given that our dad was flying in an A-6A the very day we were born, we’ve always had a strong affinity for the Intruder.

And as someone not overly blessed in the looks department, we’ve also liked that the Intruder may have been ugly, but it got the job done.

To borrow a pic from Tailspin Tommy

And of course, there’s plenty of videos of the old gal.

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The Return of the Flying Dorito? Or “What the heck was that over Texas?

Planespotters in Texas and now Kansas have recently been seeing some very unusual looking aircraft overhead. The shape of these high flying mystery jets is similar too, but NOT the same as, the B-2 Spirit bomber, better known as the Stealth Bomber.

These sightings have, of course, cranked up the rumors and theories.

Today we have new pics that are the clearest yet.

A mysterious flying object was snapped flying over Wichita, Kansas by Jeff Templin. It resembles a similar unidentified aircraft streaking across the skies of Texas last month

The triangular shape certainly calls to mind one of the biggest procurement failures of the latter half of the 20th Century, the Navy’s failed A-12 Avenger II program.

The A-12, planned successor to the fabled A-6 Intruder attack aircraft, was eventually cancelled before the first was ever built due to staggering cost overruns and the massive weight gain of the design.

http://aviationintel.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/A-12-Avenger-II-Experimental-Stealth-Bomber-Side-View-Angle.jpg

But you can see from the picture above, the triangular shape of the mystery jet is certainly very, very similar to the A-12.

Who knows if the jet over Texas is manned or a drone, or what?

What say you?

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The Navy Needs a New Anti-Ship Missile- Here’s What They Are Looking At.

The Harpoon family of anti-ship missile has been in US service since the late 1970s. At the time of its introduction, it was cutting edge technology in small sized, sea skimming cruise missiles. But today, it is rapidly becoming obsolete.

http://www.sflorg.com/rockets_missiles_spacecrafts/albums/missiles/missiles_02.jpg

Harpoon missile

It’s range of roughly 100 nautical miles is a good deal less than the 150nm minimum that the Navy needs to stand off from enemy missile armed ships. The Harpoon’s radar seeker was pretty advanced when introduced, but today is increasingly vulnerable to jamming or deception. And while the canister launch system is quite compact, ships such as the Flight IIA DDG-51 Burke class destroyers don’t have space for even such a small mount. Ideally, any next generation anti-ship missile will fit inside the existing Mk41 Vertical Launch System that houses all the other missiles these ships carry.

Also, the Navy would like any future Anti-Ship missile to also be able to be carried and launched by existing strike aircraft like the F/A-18 Hornet family, and ideally the F-35C.

Rather than starting from scratch, the Navy has been looking around at what else is already available.

And coincidentally, the Air Force began a replacement for its air launched cruise missiles a few years ago. And the fruits of that program recently entered service as the AGM-158 JASSM, or Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missile.  A longer ranged variant has even more recently entered service as the JASSM-ER, or Extended Range.

(also counts as Daily Dose of Splodey)

Accordingly, the Navy, via DARPA,  has begun developing a variant of the JASSM-ER as a next generation Anti-Ship Missile. This program is known as LRASM, or Long Range Anti-Ship Missile.

Unlike a cruise missile designed to attack targets ashore, Anti-Ship Missiles need to attack moving targets. That means they need an autonomous seeker capability to detect and track the target. Traditionally, this has meant a radar seeker. The Lockheed Martin, the contractor, advertises the seeker as having a multi-mode capability, which, just guessing here, includes a radar seeker, possibly a passive electronic seeker, and most likely an imaging infra-red and possibly a ultraviolet spectrum seeker.

The LRASM is powered by a small jet engine for cruising to the target. But to get it up to flight speed, it needs a rocket booster. To save development costs, the LRASM is using the Mk114 booster rocket currently used by the Vertical Launch ASROC anti-sub weapon.

Leveraging existing weapons and technologies allows for the relatively low risk development of a weapon system that is cheaper than starting from a fresh sheet of paper, and yet still provides a significant improvement in capability over the currently fielded Harpoon family.

The Navy hasn’t made any announcements, but it is quite possible that the LRASM will also be developed into a land attack variant to replace the existing Tomahawk cruise missiles.

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Today I Learned…

Or, as they say on Twitter, “TIL.”

The Grumman EA-6B Prowler is a four place electronic warfare plane that specializes in jamming enemy radars and communications.

Like virtually all tactical jets, the crew rides on ejection seats.

 

In the video above, you’ll see all four seats fire at intervals of about half a second. If you look carefully, you see that they fire the back seats first, then the front seats. Additionally, the seats fire at a very slight angle outboard from the aircraft to generate separation between the seats. To cause the seats to angle outboard, the rocket motor is very slightly off centerline of the seat. Having the thrust line off centerline causes the angle of flight.

Here’s a picture of a test of the S-3B Viking, with a similar 4 seat ejection.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/54/S-3A_escape_sys_China_Lake_NAN1-72jpg.jpg

What I learned today was that the firing handles of the various seats in the Prowler were color coded so the seat maintainers could ensure the proper seat was installed in the proper location in the cockpit.

  The GRUEA-7 Ejection Seats are simply superb—all I did was attach brass handles.  On the Prowler, the firing mechanisms on top of the ejection seats are color coded to help the aviators ensure that the correct seat has been installed.  The seats were painted the appropriate colors, (white for the left rear seat; orange for the right rear seat; purple for the right front seat; brown for the left front seat) and installed.

Sadly, in the video above, the pitching motion of the Prowler as it went off the bow caused the pilot’s seat to collide with another seat, killing the pilot. The three Electronic Countermeasures Officers (ECMOs) were recovered.

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LCS First Deployment- Too Pooped To Party

Singapore is renowned through the Navy as one of the best liberty ports in the  world. And the Concept of Operations for the Navy’s new LCS class of ships sees them deploying across the Pacific to operated forward deployed to the city-state for six to nine months at a time, cruising for three or four weeks, with a week or so in port for upkeep and liberty.

But Breaking Defense brings us the news that the extremely small crew size of the LCS means simply running and maintaining the ship wears the crew to the nub, in spite of massive contractor support while in port.

 

WASHINGTON: Some spectacular glitches marred the first overseas deployment of the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship, including an electrical failure that left the USS Freedom“briefly” dead in the water. Now Breaking Defense has obtained an unpublished Government Accountability Office study of Freedom‘s Singapore deployment that raises more serious questions about a long-standing worry: whether the small and highly automated LCS has enough sailors aboard to do up all the work needed, from routine maintenance to remedial training.

By now, the Navy brass have surely gotten tired of GAO taking shots at LCS. But according to GAO, LCS sailors are getting literally tired of the ship: They averaged about six hours of sleep per day, 25 percent below the Navy’s eight-hour standard, and key personnel such as engineers got even less. That’s in spite of

  • extensive reliance on contractors both aboard and ashore, with a “rigid” schedule of monthly returns to Singapore that restricted how far from port the LCS could sail;
  • the decision to increase Freedom‘s core crew by 25 percent, from 40 to 50 — the maximum the ship can accommodate without a “significant” redesign; and
  • the 19-sailor “mission module” crew, who are supposed to operate LCS’s weapons, helicopters, and small boats, pitching in daily to help the core crew run the ship’s basic systems.

None of this was unforeseen by critics of the program. Comparably sized conventional ships might have a crew of from 150 to almost 200. Of course, one of the major design goals of the LCS was to use automation to reduce crew size drastically, as personnel costs are one of the highest life-cycle costs of a ship. And to be sure, to a certain extent, using automation to reduce the workload is a good idea.

But much as the Army found that increased automation and networking might increase awareness across a battlespace, there still remains a requirement for a certain critical mass of people.  It’s the same thing at sea.

While the engineering failures of the LCS-1 were embarrassing (especially since the ship has been in commission for years before its first deployment), to some extent, that’s typical teething trouble of a new class.

But that mechanical unreliability is also greatly troubling, in that a central part of the Concept of Operations is to have large scale contractor support forward in the theater where LCS will operate. Now, the LCS isn’t designed to operate with the battle fleets of our Navy, but rather to fulfill many of the presence missions that every navy spends a great deal of time performing.  That’s fine when the LCS is patrolling the waters of the Straits of Malacca. Singapore is a modern city, with the infrastructure to support the LCS, and finding qualified contractors willing to spend considerable time there isn’t terribly difficult.

But when LCS class ships begin deploying to less pleasant spots around the globe, the infrastructure to support them will be lacking, and finding contractors willing to support them will be more difficult (and hence, expensive). If for any reason, contractor support is unavailable, either the ship’s crew will have to do required work, or the ship will simply be unavailable to perform its mission.

Again, none of these problems were unforeseen. Critics of the program have, from Day One, bemoaned the extreme measures reducing the crew size drastically. They’ve noted that tying the ship to peirside support means the ships lack strategic mobility, as they will be unable to suddenly shift from one theater to another (say, from the Red Sea to the Levant). And as crews wear themselves out, many will make the decision to leave the service, reducing the numbers of qualified, experienced sailors, and increasing the spiral of overworking crews.

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China Commissions First Type 052D Destroyer

25 years ago, the Chinese Navy (or more correctly, the People’s Liberation Army Navy) was a joke. Crudely build ships with fire control and armament little more advanced than what we operated in World War II would have been easy pickings for our Navy. But China, leveraging the vast increase in GDP, set out to build a quality navy, and has used both domestic development, and reverse engineering of western systems to field ever increasingly capable warships.

One of the first truly modern warships the Chinese fielded was the
Type 052, a class of two ships entering into service in 1994.

Designed prior to the Tiannamen Square massacre, they were built with western powerplants and electronics, though they used largely Chinese armaments.

Type 052.

File:Chinese destroyer HARIBING (DDG 112).jpg

Next step in development was the confusingly designated Type 051B, which looked nothing like the earlier Type 051 series.

File:Chinese destroyer Shenzhen DDG167.jpg

The Chinese only built one Type 051B, and it was apparently not considered terribly successful. But clearly the clean modern hull lines and general layout can be likened to such western types as the British Type 23 frigates (though the Type 051B was considerably larger). Interestingly, the Type 051B reverted from gas turbines and diesels to a steam plant. Chinese technology wasn’t quite capable of using indigenous marine gas turbines to power a destroyer yet.

That would change with the next series, the Type 052B.

One of the problems with the earlier series was the lack of an effective area anti-air weapon system. Earlier series carried the HY-7 missile, which was in effect a reverse engineered French Croatale short range missile. Roughly equivalent to our RIM-7 Sea Sparrow missile, it was a point defense system, capable primarily of self defense, and not area coverage.

That lack of area air defense effectively restricted Chinese operations to areas that could be covered by friendly land based air-power.

With the Type 052B, the Chinese installed the Russian SA-N-12 Grizzly Surface to Air Missile. Each ship had two single arm launchers, similar to the old US Mk13, with a total capacity of 48 missiles. For the first time, a Chinese destroyer could provide decent area air defense over a battle group or convoy.

File:Type 052B Guangzhou in Leningrad.jpg

While the 052B was a big improvement, it still relied on mechanically rotated radars, and the single arm launcher system for the Grizzly SAM limited its ability to deal with saturation raids. Entering service in 2004, they were a generation behind US (and even Russian) warships which had long switched over to Vertical Launch Systems, or VLS, and phased array radar systems. The two ships of the 052B class were clearly an interim design.

Using the hull and machinery of the 052B, the next series introduced two major changes. The Type 052C introduced an Active Electronically Scanned Phased Array radar, and the HHQ-9 long range surface to air missile in a Vertical Launch System.

File:Luyang II (Type 052C) Class Destroyer.JPG

The US has operated phased array radars at sea for over thirty years, but the SPY-1 radar is a “passive” array, meaning that a handful of transmitter/receiver modules feed the phase shifting elements of the array that steer the radar beams. In an active array, each phase shifting module is its own transmitter/receiver.

48 HHQ-9 SAMs in a unique vertical launch system gives the 052C a potent very long range anti-air capability. The HHQ-9 is derived from the Russian S-300 SAM system.  It’s theoretical range of 200km is overstating its capability, but it is still one of the more formidable sea based anti-aircraft missiles around.

The Chinese were pleased enough with 052C to proceed to series production, with six hulls being laid down. The need for area air defense, especially as escorts for the new Chinese aircraft carrier, meant building a credible blue water escort was important.

But there was still considerable scope for improvement. And so, even while 052C hulls are fitting out, the next iteration has been built and is being commissioned.

The Type 052D is roughly the same size at the 052C. And it too has an actively scanned array. But improvements in the cooling system have changed the appearance of the array. And rather than a VLS that can only launch the HHQ-9 SAM, the 052D has a new VLS that can, much like the US Mk41, accommodate a variety of different missile types. The 100mm gun of earlier classes has been replaced by a new 130mm design.

The 052D is the “objective” design, and is in series production, with one in commission, three others fitting out, and an additional 8 units planned, for a total of 12.

The obvious analog in the US fleet is the Flight IIA Burke class destroyer.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bf/Burke_class_destroyer_profile%3Bwpe47485.gif

 

The Burkes are a good deal larger than the 052D, by about 2000 tons. Part of that is likely to the US tendency to build their ships for greater endurance and seakeeping. While China may seek to improve their blue water capabilities, they also are unlikely to routinely undertake the kind of world wide deployments US warships have made for the last 70 years.

While we can count gun mounts and missile cells, and look at antenna arrays, much of the capability of a modern warship is actually resident in the combat data systems, the computers that manage the weapons and sensors. And it is very difficult to draw an accurate conclusion as to their capability from the open source press.  We should avoid imbuing them with a lethality beyond what reason dictates, but we should also beware of discounting the ability of others to field technologically advanced and effective weapons.

The Chinese fleet of my youth, a collection of rustbuckets and antiques, is rapidly becoming a modern blue water, power projection fleet. They may not be our peer yet, but they’re certainly a force to contend with.

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Youthly Puresome

Growing up in a NavAir family, one of the pleasures every quarter was the arrival of The Hook, the magazine of the Tailhook Association. A collection of sea stories, historical monographs, and updates on people, places and goings on in the world of carrier aviation, it had fantastic pictures and interesting news.

And for about 20 years, it also featured the Further Adventures of Youthly Puresome, the humorous tales of derring do of Jack Woodall, as a young carrier pilot. Sadly, in a reshuffle of the Tailhook site, the archives were lost. But Jack finally has a website, and the archives of his fantastic sea stories is available for all.

They’re in .pdf format, but don’t let that stop you from some great writing.

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Carriers, Mobility, Stealth and Initiative

Think Defence today has a post on the difficulty a potential foe faces in finding a carrier at sea. It is (like virtually all content there) well worth reading the whole thing.

Aircraft carriers are difficult to detect.

Perhaps more importantly, they are difficult to identify. Regarding the difficulty of detection, the seas are very big and, in comparison, even the biggest of aircraft carriers are very small. Modern maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) have radars that have ranges of hundreds of nautical miles (nm) but oceans extend for thousands of nautical miles.

Moreover, radar impulses can be detected by electronic support measures (ESM) systems at significantly greater range than the radar can detect the platform (air or surface or even submarine) carrying the ESM. In wartime, an MPA using its radar gives itself away, opening the way to it either being intercepted and shot down before it can locate the carrier, or to the carrier simply altering course and avoiding the MPA.

Of course, MPAs also have ESM, but this works only if the carrier and its task group (Carrier Battle Group: CBG) are emitting electromagnetically.

But if the CBG has adopted strict electromagnetic silence (and it can do so & this is exercised), then there is nothing to detect. So the MPA is reduced to the Mark 1 eyeball as its only useful sensor.

When I think of most post-World War II significant carrier operations, I generally consider their use in Korea, Vietnam, and of course, operations in the Persian Gulf, where they essentially stayed in fixed positions, and acted like additional airfields. The lack of significant enemy ability to interdict our forces at sea allowed us to sacrifice one of the carrier task forces’ greatest assets, mobility, at little risk.

Prior to World War II, it was widely assumed that operating carrier forces within range of enemy land based airpower was a recipe for disaster, and that shore based airpower would quickly sink or damage any carrier force. The first clue that this wasn’t quite so true came December 7, 1941.

Successful, if not highly fruitful, US attacks against Japanese outposts in early 1942 showed that by choosing the time and place to attack, carriers could operate to impede or suppress shore based airpower, and retire out of range before an effective Japanese counterstroke could be brought to bear.

The Fast Carrier Task Force (TF38/TF58) would often operate in wide ranging support of amphibious landings in the Pacific War. While FCTC would of course raid the target of a landing, it would also strike enemy installations far afield, to deny the enemy the ability to reinforce the defense of our objective, and to a degree, to conceal our objective. The ability of the FCTF to move hundreds of miles each day, to attack in unexpected places, meant the Japanese often struggled to counterattack. It was only at times when the fast carriers were tied to an objective that the Japanese were able to mount large scale raids to attack our fleet. The most obvious example of this is the horrible attrition imposed on the fleet while supporting operations at Okinawa.

After the Vietnam War, the Navy looked at what it might be required to do in a World War III scenario versus the Soviet Union. The primary task was to secure the sea lanes to Europe. The primary Soviet threats to the sea lanes were submarines, and long range land based bombers armed with cruise missiles.  We’ll leave the discussion of the submarine threat to another time, but the Navy realized it would be called upon to stop the long range bomber threat, both as a threat to merchant shipping, and to the carrier forces themselves.  Soviet long range aviation had a much longer strike range than the organic airwing of carriers. To charge in and raid the Soviet bomber bases, the carriers would have to be able to avoid detection. And so they spent a fair portion of the coldest days of the Cold War learning to do just that.

The force transits to its objective area in complete electronic silence. Deceptive formations are used dispersed over a broad area to ensure any detection system does not see the classic “bullseye” formation made famous in countless Public Affairs shots and never used in operations. Broad surveillance systems are known so any detection method is countered either by denying sensor information, misleading, or providing expected results consistent with something else. For example, ESM systems rely on active emissions from radars or communication systems. So nothing is radiated. Overhead systems are in known orbits, are predictable, and their sensing capabilities known. So the track is varied, weather is sought out to hide in when vulnerable, blending into sea lanes (while staying out of visual detection range of ships) and such techniques. Deceptive lighting is used at night so that the obvious “blacked out warship” is instead thought to be a merchant or cruise liner. Surface search radar identical to commercial ones are used. Turn count masking is used by the ships. Aircraft maintenance on the CV and other helo equipped ships is limited to prevent transmissions.

In NORPAC 82 using these and other tactics the CV force operated close enough to support each other, but far enough and randomly dispersed to avoid identification by anyone. One night in bad weather a man went overboard when the ship was within 200nm of a Soviet airfield in the Kuril Island chain. Despite launch of helicopters and active search methods by several ships in the successful SAR, including clear voice UHF transmissions, the force is not detected because no Soviet asset was above the radar horizon. No overhead system was cued. The force continued on.

The Chinese have spent the last 20 years developing anti-access/area-denial tactics, techniques, and procedures. And to be sure, any operations against China would be significantly different than operations in the northern reaches of the Atlantic or Pacific.

But to blithely dismiss the ability of a carrier strike group to avoid detection (or at a minimum, to avoid being recognized as a carrier group) is to overlook the long history of carrier groups successfully approaching enemy shores.

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M/V Cragside

I really hate it when I actually learn something from a David Axe post.

The Navy’s Military Sealift Command has taken a lease on a container ship. The Motor Vessel Cragside was built in Denmark as a combi container ship with a Roll-On/Roll-Off capability (or Combi-RO/RO).

The U.S. Navy is quietly converting a 633-foot-long cargo ship into a secretive helicopter carrier with facilities for supporting a large contingent of Special Operations Forces and all their gear, including jet skis.

Yes, jet skis.

And here’s the really weird thing: almost nobody is talking about the new “mothership” vessel, even though it could significantly expand America’s at-sea commando footprint.

In November, Military Sealift Command—America’s quasi-civilian fleet of more than 100 specialized but lightly armed vessels—awarded an initial $73-million contract to shipping giant Maersk to convert one of its cargo ships to a so-called “Maritime Support Vessel” standard.

Maersk tapped the 30,000-ton displacement M/V Cragside, built in 2011. After enduring a legal protest by rival Crowley, in January Maersk sent Cragside to the Gulf of Mexico for military modifications, most likely at the BAE shipyard upriver in Alabama.

The contract, extendable for up to four years, could be worth up to $143 million. The militarized Cragside could deploy as early as November this year.

http://cdn2.shipspotting.com/photos/middle/0/5/9/1346950.jpg

As container ships go, 633’ isn’t very big. But the basic layout makes it very suitable for conversion to an afloat base. Indeed, the Brits operate several very similar ships, though primarily in the logistics role.

What caught my eye in David’s post was the bit about OSVs being used. I knew MSC operated several OSVs for submarine escort. When subs leave port, say from Bangor sub base in Puget Sound, WA, they transit surfaced through some extremely busy shipping lanes. And subs are hard to spot either visually or on radar. So an escort vessel accompanies the sub until it is clear of the shipping lanes and ready to dive for its patrol.

What I didn’t know was that MSC operates three OSV’s “MV Dolores Chouest, MV C-Commando and MV C-Champion supported Naval Special Warfare Command requirements.” That’s a pretty vague description. And from the pics I’ve seen, they remain vanilla OSVs. If I had to guess, I’d say they probably support swimmer delivery vehicle operations.  All of these ships are operated by civilian crews under contract with the MSC.

http://www.msc.navy.mil/inventory/images/photos/C-Champion.jpg

But the utility of OSVs bolsters my long standing argument that surplus OSVs (or converted merchants like MV Cragside) could profitably be used as tenders for forward deployed elements of the fleet. After all, that’s what  the vast majority of the fleet auxiliaries in World War II were- converted merchantmen.

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NextGen China Carrier?

@SteelJawScribe found a little gem in a Chinese newspaper:

I can’t read any Chinese, so I can’t find the correct link, but the article is about (I guess) the future Type 055 Guided Missile Destroyer. That would be the ship in the foreground. And if you say to yourself, “Whoa, that looks a lot like a USN DDG-51!” you’re not alone.

I’d like a better look at the hull and the deck layout of the notional carrier but a couple things popped 0ut to SteelJaw. First, the carrier is a nuke. No stacks, ergo, nuke. Second, a closer look at the birds on the roof show what looks like the J-20 stealth fighter, and clearly shows the rotodomes of an Airborne Early Warning aircraft.

Mind you, it’s tough to really know what the Chinese are planning just by looking at pics found on the internet. There’s a ton of stuff floating out there, but until there are hulls in the water, it is often just speculation. The Chinese are a bit more tight lipped about their procurement process than we are.

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Surface Anti-Submarine Warfare Weapons- Stand-Off Weapons- 2 of 2

The need for standoff weapons for surface ASW is largely tied to improvements in sensors and detection ranges against enemy subs.

Most of our very brief mention of sonar has  been focused on the classic-hull mounted active “pinging” sonar. Familiar to everyone who’s ever seen a submarine, the sonar sends a pulse of sound into the water, and  patiently waits for a return echo.

We’ll save the details of sonar development for a later series of posts, but for now, suffice to say that deep diving submarines can dip under a rapid change in the temperature of seas, known as a thermocline. That rapid temperature shift changes the density of water, and tends to reflect active sonar waves, effectively shielding a submarine from active sonar at medium and long ranges.

The first response to this was Variable Depth Sonar, in which a second active sonar transducer was lowered from the fantail of an escort to a depth below the thermocline. Quite often, this thermocline had the effect of channeling the “ping” of the active sonar to effective ranges beyond what any surface sonar could provide. To effectively target contacts at that range would require even more range than the 5 or so miles the original RUR-5 ASROC could provide.

About that time, gas turbine engine technology was beginning to catch on in helicopters. And remote control of drones was being seen as a mature technology. Coincidentally, the huge numbers of Sumner/Gearing class World War II destroyers were slated to be modernized to extend their service lives, and to upgrade their ASW capabilities from their obsolete WWII fit to cope with their new mission of protecting carrier battle groups from fast, deep diving Soviet subs. And so DASH was born- Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter.

The QH-50C was a coaxial rotor unmanned helicopter that would fly under radar control to the range and bearing of a sonar contact, and drop one or two Mk 44 torpedoes.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/fb/QH-50C_DD-692_1969.jpg/800px-QH-50C_DD-692_1969.jpg

QH-50C DASH. The winch and reel for the associated Variable Depth Sonar can be seen on the ship’s fantail.

It was less than a rousing success. The aircraft was unmanned, and so lacked much of the redundancy that any manned aircraft would have. But for a ship’s Captain to lose an fairly expensive asset like a DASH looked bad, so many were reluctant to operate them very much. Nor, at the extended ranges of sonar contacts, was the location of the target precise enough to ensure the torpedo had a reasonable expectation of acquiring its target.

While DASH wasn’t a rousing success as an anti-submarine weapon, it did show that operating helicopters from smaller ships was quite possible. As an aside, modified QH-50s equipped with television cameras did admirable work as naval gunfire spotters on the gun line off the coast of North Vietnam. All the accuracy of a spotter, with no worries of a POW if it was shot down.

The second major sonar technology that came to prominence was the passive towed array. Rather than blasting sound energy into the water and waiting for a return, a passive array is a series of hydrophones in the water that simply listen for the distinctive sounds of a submarine.  By towing them at a distance from the escort, most of the ship’s self-noise could be avoided. Advances in signal processing in the 1960s and 1970s made the passive towed array a viable method of detecting enemy submarines at quite long ranges.  Detection at ranges of 50 or even 100 miles were possible.

The problem was, detection was all that was possible. Only the  most general range and bearing information could be derived at extended ranges by a towed array sonar. The challenge was to localize, identify, track, attack and destroy said contact.

The Navy, having learned that small ships could operate helicopters, and with a large number of escorts modified to carry DASH, decided that the best way to prosecute a distant contact would be a manned helicopter. The Sumner/Gearing destroyers of World War II were too small for manned helicopters, but the Brooke/Garcia/Knox classes of escorts could be modified to carry a single mid-sized helicopter. The Navy modified its standard shipboard utitlity helicopter, the Kaman UH-2A SeaSprite. Adding a radar, sonobouy dispenser, a tactical navigation system, and a datalink resulted in the SH-2F.

The Seasprite wasn’t simply a helicopter that happened to be based on an escort. Instead, because of the datalink, it was an extension of the combat system of its parent ship. The sonobouys of the Seasprite would transmit their signals to the helicopter, which in turn retransmitted them to the ship, when an acoustical processor analyzed the signals. Installing a powerful enough computer on board the helicopter simply wasn’t practical. And the deeper diving, faster, quieter submarines meant that unprocessed sonobouy data was unlikely to be sufficient to prosecute the contact.  The processed signals were then transmitted back to the helicopter, where its AN/ASN-123 TACNAV system helped the helicopter localize the submerged contact.  Once the locale of the contact had been roughly determined, repeated passes with a towed Magnetic Anomaly Detector would precisely locate the sub, and a torpedo attack made.

The SH-2F was also equipped with an LN-66 surface search radar (which was not datalinked to the parent ship). This allowed the Seasprite to also provide Over The Horizon Targeting (OTH-T) and supported Anti-Ship Missile Defense (ASMD). The radar wasn’t really intended to pick up incoming cruise missiles. But early Soviet cruise missile subs had to surface to launch their missiles, making them vulnerable to radar detection.

Because it supported multiple missions, the SH-2F and its associated equipment shipboard was known as the Light Airborne Multi-Purpose System, or LAMPS.

Almost immediately after its introduction, the success of the program prompted calls for a more capable platform and associated combat systems.  The Seasprite was a relatively small helicopter, and at a range of 50nm from its ship, only had about an hour to prosecute a contact. The Seasprite soon came to be known as LAMPS I.

The existing ships of the fleet were mostly too small to accommodate any larger helicopters, but the new Spruance class destroyers, and the Oliver Hazzard Perry class frigates could be modified to carry a significantly larger helicopter. Even better, they could be built with hangar space for two helicopters. Larger helicopters would allow more equipment (and torpedoes) to be carried, and allow more time on station to prosecute contacts. Having two on board meant a handoff could be made to the second helo, so any contact could be pursued non-stop for considerable lengths of time.

The Navy first looked at trying to fit the carrier based SH-3 Sea King helo onto escorts, but that LAMPS II program was soon shelved.

The Navy had kept a close eye on the US Army’s  UTTAS competition to field a replacement for the UH-1 Huey, which eventually resulted in the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter. Early on, the Navy asked for a proposed naval variant, with folding rotors, a folding tailboom, and extensive corrosion proofing (salty sea air is tough on airframes).

The resulting SH-60B Seahawk featured a more capable datalink, TACNAV system, and associated ASW equipment. Further, the datalink allowed the radar video to be transmitted back to the ship, allowing the Combat Information Center aboard to have a more complete picture of the tactical situation. Additional systems included an integrated Electronic Support Measures (ESM) suite. ESM detects, collects and analyses enemy radio and radar transmissions to passively sniff out enemy units.

In a first, the prime contractor for this LAMPS III program wasn’t the manufacturer of the SH-60B, Sikorsky. The need to integrate complex systems onboard the helicopter, and the host ship meant that IBM was the prime contractor, and the airframe was simply a product built by a subcontractor.

The SH-60B was a far more capable helicopter than the Seasprite. Bigger, with a longer range, and able to carry much more fuel and more torpedoes, the SH-60B was the primary ASW weapon of the destroyers and frigates it served aboard.  It is capable of prosecuting contacts up to 100nm miles from its ship for up to two hours.

About a decade ago, a modernization effort began to update the SH-60, resulting in the MH-60R that adds a dipping sonar, forward looking infra-red (FLIR)/laser rangefinder/designator and the option of carrying Hellfire missiles to improve its surface attack capability. The MH-60R is in production, and replacing the SH-60B.

In recent years, the emphasis has shifted from hunting Soviet nuclear subs in the open ocean at long ranges, and instead hunting quiet diesel electric subs in the shallow waters of the littorals, The MH-60R is better equipped to deal with this threat.

As sensors improve, the weapons of the surface ship will continue to evolve to provide the punch against subs. As the Navy deploys unmanned surface vehicles and unmanned underwater vehicles, it is likely that at some point, they will be weaponized to serve as the surface ship’s battery against the submarine threat.

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Surface Anti-Submarine Warfare Weapons- Stand-Off Weapons- 1 of 2

World War II sonars had a maximum effective range of roughly 2000 yards. Given that wartime submarine torpedoes were rarely effective past about  that range, and indeed usually used much closer, that wasn’t a terrible problem. But submarine sonars, and passive hydrophones, being submerged deeper, almost always provided better detection than surface escorts.

The trend in post-war escorts was to use more powerful, larger, lower frequency sonars, which gave better detection ranges. The first in wide use with the US Navy was the SQS-4 series, with a range of 4500-5500 yards. Later the SQS-23 series, a massive sonar housed in a dome at the forefoot of a ship’s bow, could, under ideal circumstances, achieve detection out to as much as 40,000 yards. More typically, the  -23 could reliably detect submerged targets from 10,000 to 20,000 yards.

While the lightweight homing torpedoes discussed in the previous post were quite capable, they had one glaring shortcoming. By the time an escort was in range to use them, they were already well within range of heavier submarine launched homing torpedoes. A means of extending the range of surface ASW weapons, both to protect the escort, and to take advantage of increased detection range, was a high priority.

The first, most obvious idea was to use large diameter torpedo tubes to fire heavy homing torpedoes.  But the challenges of accurate fire control at extreme ranges meant heavy torpedoes were less than optimal. Worse, any heavy torpedo would simply reach a parity with any submarine torpedo. Something better was needed.

The US Navy had the bright idea to use a rocket to lob the Mk44 Lightweight Torpedo onto a sonar contact. Originally the Rocket Assisted Torpedo (RAT) was hoped to be a lightweight, rather simple system. A parallel program also was started to lob a nuclear depth charge. The minimum safe range of about 5 miles (~10,000 yards) mandated a far more substantial rocket. The programs were merged, with resulting ASROC (Anti-Submarine Rocket) becoming the primary US Navy surface ASW weapon from 1961 well into the 1990s.

An 8-cell “pepperbox” launcher would elevate and train for a simple ballistic, unguided rocket to drop either a Mk 46 torpedo or a nuclear depth bomb onto the enemy submarine. The ASROC maximum range of about 19,000 yards, combined with the range of (then) modern sonars gave escorts a good standoff weapon.

ASROC was also used by a great many allied nations, and continues in widespread use with other navies. Ships equipped with certain guided missile launchers could fire ASROC from them, obviating the need for the 8-round launcher. Alternatively, the 8-round launcher could be modified to fire Harpoon Anti-Ship missiles, and even the Standard Missile.

If the above videos are a bit long, here’s a quick video of loading and firing ASROC from a Greek destroyer.

…..

The nuclear depth bomb variant of ASROC was only live fire tested once.

—–

With the introduction of the Mk41 Vertical Launch System on Aegis cruisers and destroyers, a new version of ASROC, after a surprisingly difficult development, entered service.

But ASROC wasn’t the only way of launching a lightweight torpedo to a distant contact.

The Australians developed their own approach, with a rocket boosted radio controlled glider used to deploy a homing torpedo. Dubbed Ikara, this weapon had the advantage that the water entry point of the torpedo could be updated during the flight of the rocket. Slaved to the sonar fire control system,  this meant maneuvers by the target during the time of flight could be countered.

Ikara served with the Australians, the New Zealanders, and with the Royal Navy.

The French Malafon system operated on a similar principle.

On the Soviet side, the SS-N-14 operated on a similar principle, but had a much greater range. The terminal guidance could be made by an helicopter operating from the parent ship.

We will address shipboard helicopters in our final post in this series.

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Surface Anti-Submarine Warfare Weapons- The Torpedo

The torpedo was the traditional main battery of the destroyer. But the straight running steam powered torpedo was an anti-surface ship weapon, with no ability to engage submerged targets.

To tell the story of the surface launched anti-submarine torpedo, we have to take a brief detour to an air launched ASW weapon.

Submarines in World War II were really more “surface ships that could dive for a little while to avoid radar or visual detection.”  As carrier based and long range land based patrol aircraft became available, they became the primary threat to U-boats. Ranging far ahead of a convoy, their mere presence could force U-boats to dive. With an effective speed of only 3-4 knots submerged, even a slow convoy with a speed of 7 or 8 knots could easily evade. But the allies wanted to kill as many U-boats as possible, obviously. So these airborne scouts would also attack, generally with the 325lb depth charge. As noted, the depth charge tended to have a low probability of success.

The Navy, in cooperation with Harvard, Western Electric, and General Electric devised a passive acoustic sensor developed a battery, electric motor (from a washing machine!) and steering system. Melded into one unit, it was the Mk24 Mine, code named “Fido.” The term “mine” was a deliberate ruse to conceal the fact that it was an air dropped passive homing anti-submarine torpedo.

http://i5.photobucket.com/albums/y153/Gromit801/WTUS_WWII_Fido_pic.jpg

The Mk24 had a 24% success rate (a phenomenal rate in ASW).

With a speed of about 12 knots, and a running time of about 10-15 minutes, when a patrol plane sp0tted a surfaced U-Boat, it would attack. If the U-Boat didn’t dive upon approach, an attack with guns or conventional bombs/depth charges would be made. When the U-Boat did submerge, the attacking plane would fly up the wake, and drop were the wake ended. That put Fido in the sweet spot to pick up the scent, as it were. To conceal that the subs were being attacked by a torpedo, pilots were forbidden to drop Fido until after the U-Boat submerged.

Mk24 was modified in a slightly larger version as M27 Cutie, for use by our submarines in an anti-shipping role. But oddly, neither variant was deployed by surface ships.

In 1950, an active acoustic sensor was introduced on what was essentially an improved Mk 24 body, introduced into service as the Mk 32. The Mk 32 had a greater range than the Mk 24. Rather than being launched from a tube, the Mk2 launcher simply flipped the Mk 32 over a ship’s side.

http://www.dd793.org/Weapons/tp-2.jpg

Eventually, the increased submerged speeds of submarines meant a new, much faster, deep diving torpedo would be needed.

As the Mk 32 entered service, development started on a “universal” lightweight homing torpedo, one that could be launched from surface ships, helicopters, and fixed wing ASW aircraft. The first was the Mk 43 Light Weight Torpedo. Rather confusingly, it was launched from the Mk 32 Surface Vessel Torpedo Tube (SVTT).

The Mk 32 SVTT is usually seen as a trainable triple tube mount (and is typically installed port and starboard on a ship), but fixed twin tube mounts have been used. Compressed air is used to eject the torpedo.

The size of the Mk 32 SVTT essentially fixed the size of future lightweight torpedoes. The Mk 43 torpedo was quickly replaced by the Mk 44, in turn replaced by the Mk 46, which is still in service, and the later Mk 50 and Mk 54 torpedoes.

We’ve focused here US weapons, but as a practical matter, the US was the supplier to virtually all Western nations through the 1960s. Soviet lightweight torpedo was generally similar.

Next up, low frequency long range sonars demand standoff weapons.

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