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Where’s Mike?

September 7, 2010

Some of you have been asking “what’s happened to Mike?”, and please forgive me for leaving you all wondering. I have been very busy lately with illness in the family as some of you may know, plus I recently lost a close friend and Pastor, whose life has had a great influence on me. I don’t think I am interested in doing the blog anymore, not out of any discouragement, as you know we have been doing gangbusters in the numbers (usually when I’m not around LOL)! Plus a lot of the problems I have been discussing seem to be handling themselves because of the budget numbers, which except for war has consistently been the impetus for change in historical militaries.

I will miss all the great people I have met and wish all the best to all of you! Thanks again for tolerating the occasional rant, plus silly ideas, and sorry if I have ever demeaned anyone’s opinion, as I promise it was unintentional. Take care and God bless!

Mike Burleson

LCS News

August 26, 2010

Because we have slowed down posting on the LCS Acronym page (though feel free to keep them coming as the creative juices flows!), I decided to make use of vital space and start posting any Breaking News on the littoral combat ship (LCS) here. Also feel free to post alternative LCS ideas and let the relevant discussion on this vital issue for the USN continue. Probably have an RSS feed on the home page.

Thanks as always for your continued patronage!


Deadly Chinese Missile Threats Pt 2

August 24, 2010
Pershing II missile

Pershing II missile

The principle argument rising of late is the questioning whether China has the capability to build a missile with the accuracy to strike a large warship maneuvering on the high seas. The idea is that since there is no clear evidence of China even deploying such a missile as the ASBM, the need for concern is evidentially remote. Read the following critique from In from the Cold:

First…there is the nagging issue of demonstrated accuracy. The DF-21D is still in testing, and so far, it has not proved its ability to strike a carrier-sized target over the horizon. True, the problem could be solved by placing a nuclear warhead on the missile, but that “solution” would invite a massive U.S. response, one reason that China emphasizes the conventional capabilities of the DF-21D.

It’s also worth remembering the first rule of precision strike: devastatingly accurate weapons require intelligence of comparable precision. Beijing is working hard to improve its intel, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, but (once again) there is inconclusive evidence regarding the PRC’s ability to develop–and deliver–such information for a time-sensitive target like an aircraft carrier at sea.

Yet the question should not be does China possess this technology but is there a possibility the technology could work. In fact there is clear proof in the viability of the ASBM. The following conclusion comes to us from Geoff at Arms Control Wonk:

(My) rather simple calculations have shown that both types of guidance and control for an anti-ship ballistic missile are possible.  But both would be pushing China’s technology considerably.

But what if China didn’t rely on its own technology, and the perhaps decades of testing required to deploy such a system. Recall that the US has advanced guidance systems of missiles and bombs for decades, and they have been proved dramatically workable in combat. Here is Defense Secretary Robert Gates in a very famous recent speech at the US Navy League:

At the higher end of the access-denial spectrum, the virtual monopoly the U.S. has enjoyed with precision guided weapons is eroding – especially with long-range, accurate anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles that can potentially strike from over the horizon.  This is a particular concern with aircraft carriers and other large, multi-billion-dollar blue-water surface combatants, where, for example, a Ford-class carrier plus its full complement of the latest aircraft would represent potentially a $15 to $20 billion set of hardware at risk.

Then there is the fear that some of our technology is already deployed on the DF-21 series of missiles, with stolen Pershing II Missile guidance. Strategypage has more:

As the story goes, the Chinese have reverse engineered, reinvented or stolen the 1970s technology that went into the U.S. Pershing ballistic missile. This 7.5 ton U.S. Army missile also had an 1,800 kilometers range, and could put its nuclear warhead within 30 meters of its aim point. This was possible because the guidance system had its own radar…This kind of accuracy made the Russians very uncomfortable, as it made their command bunkers vulnerable. The Russians eventually agreed to a lot of nuclear and missile disarmament deals in order to get the Pershings decommissioned in the 1980s.

Also, it is reported that Tomahawk cruise missiles, some of our most accurate and again well-proven weapons have fallen into Chinese hands:

China also continues developing long range cruise missiles, and adapting them to operate from aircraft. The latest missile to get this treatment is the DH-10. This weapon is similar to early U.S. cruise missiles, and has a range of 1,500-3,000 kilometers and uses GPS, along with terrain mapping. The DH-10 was first shown publicly in the recent 60th anniversary of the communists taking control of China, on October 1st.) The aircraft carried version is called the CJ-10. This is believed to be based on some American cruise missile technology.

So the precision technology which has dominated American warmaking since the 1990s is now out of the box. Soon this proliferation of advanced targeting will be joined to the widespread ballistic missile stocks, if the history of warfare is any guide. The following info is via the DoD and American Forces Press Service:

(The director of the Missile Defense Agency) pointed out a proliferation of Scud missiles that originate from the old Soviet Union. According to intelligence, he said, more than 6,000 missiles are in countries other than NATO, the United States, China and Russia, as well as more than 1,000 launchers.
The United States has witnessed many failures in the development and testing of these systems. However, O’Reilly cautioned against complacency in the face of other countries’ efforts. The United States experienced failures as well in the 1960s and in missile defense in the 1990s, he noted.
“History shows that if they are persistent, they will be successful,” he said. “But history also shows that it is extremely challenging to be precise on when they will be successful.”

From yesterdays and today’s post, you can gather at least two conclusions concerning the Chinese missile threats:

  • Their launch systems would be extremely difficult to find and target.
  • Their own targeting and guidance systems, plus numbers might be a game-changer blunting our traditional tactic of power projection from the sea.

So what can be done to defeat the upcoming missile threats from China and her like-armed clients? I am a firm believer in fighting fire with fire. In other words, instead of seeking technological breakthroughs to maintain enormously expensive last century naval airpower viable, to use missiles to combat the enemy missiles. For instance, in the recent AirSea Battle by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments came the following idea:

The Navy should consider investing in conventionally-armed, relatively short-range sea-based IRBMs to further complicate PLA planning. Depending on missile technical characteristics, both submarines and surface ships (not necessarily combatants) could serve as potential firing platforms. Ballistic missile striking power should be distributed across a large number of platforms similar to the way Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles distributed Navy strike power that had previously been concentrated in a small number of aircraft carriers. An ASBM variant should also be considered.

The Navy then should proceed post-haste to strengthen its guided missile fleet, with more subs, including SSGNs and perhaps many surface arsenal ships. Another equalizer could come from land-based airpower such as USAF bombers and the new P-8 Poseidon patrol aircraft, arming the latter with stand-off cruise missiles. Long-endurance UAVs such as the J-UCAS would also be necessary, which can loiter for extended periods and watch for missile launches. This to me sees the best way to counter mobile missile launchers, other than a land-based invasion which may be extremely difficult and could lead to escalation.


Deadly Chinese Missile Threats Pt 1

August 23, 2010
Arrow anti-ballistic missile system, developed...

Image via Wikipedia

The British Royal Navy appears set on deploying its first ever post World War 2 conventional catapult ships, if all goes well. There is a problem with spending small defense funds on a rather dated notion, that in the future large deck warships will be able to sail close to shore and perform the traditional duty of power projection, given the proliferation of guided missiles around the world. Greg Grant reports on what the Western powers would have to face in any confrontation with the world’s premier missile fleet since the demise of the Soviet Union, China:

China has the “most active” land based ballistic missile and cruise missile program in the world, the DoD report says. The PLA is building a huge missile arsenal for precision conventional strike because it lacks, so far anyway, a stealthy strike aircraft. The vast majority of China’s ballistic missiles are of the short range (under 600km) SCUD type and lack “true precision strike capability.” And the vast majority of those missiles are aimed at Taiwan.
In the anti-access arena, China is building or buying medium-range ballistic missiles (1,000–3,000km): “to increase the range at which it can conduct precision strikes against land targets and naval ships, including aircraft carriers, operating far from China’s shores out to the first island chain.”

The number of such missiles are debatable, but certainly in the thousands, as noted by the Pentagon Report and Taiwanese media sources:

The U.S. Pentagon’s just-released report on military and security developments involving China said that by December 2009, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had deployed between 1,050 and 1,150 short-range ballistic missiles targeted at Taiwan.

However, local news media cited a Ministry of National Defense (MND) magazine report in July as estimating that the number of Chinese short-range missiles targeting Taiwan will reach 1,960 by the end of this year.

While the West seems to be making progress on numerous anti-missile devices, including some hope with the long-promised deployment of lasers, the Chinese buildup along with historical evidence suggest the odds are stacked in favor of the missiles. It has been 66 years since the first primitive guided missiles were used in warfare, the dreaded V-1 and V2 Vengeance weapons of Nazi Germany. From Wikipedia we get an idea of how difficult it was to contend with these weapons of the future, back when the West enjoyed complete air superiority in traditional manned planes:

Unlike the V-1, the V-2’s speed and trajectory made it invulnerable to anti-aircraft guns and fighters, as it dropped from an altitude of 100–110 km (62–68 mi) at up to four times the speed of sound (appr. 3550 km/h). A plan was proposed whereby the missile would be detected by radar, its terminal trajectory calculated, and the area along that trajectory saturated by large-caliber anti-aircraft guns. The plan was dropped after operations research indicated that the likely number of malfunctioning artillery shells falling to the ground would do more damage than the V-2 itself.

The defence against the V-2 campaign was to destroy the launch infrastructure—expensive in terms of bomber resources and casualties—or to cause the Germans to “aim” at the wrong place through disinformation. The British were able to convince the Germans to direct V-1s and V-2s aimed at London to less populated areas east of the city. This was done by sending false impact reports via the German espionage network in Britain, which was controlled by the British (the Double Cross System).

There is a record of one V-2, fortuitously observed at launch from a passing American B-24 Liberator, being shot down by .50 caliber machine-gun fire. The limitations of any countermeasures can be understood by two facts: 20 seconds after starting, a V2 was out of reach; the time from start to impact in London being merely 3 minutes.

Ultimately the most successful countermeasure was the Allied advance that forced the launchers back beyond range.

In other words, the only really effective defense was to physically occupy the ground where the missiles were launched. That was nearly 70 years ago, however, and times have changed right? Well, even the passage of time hasn’t been able to fully secure the West from rocket and missile attack, as proved during the Gulf Wars. While more accurate than Germany’s V-2 could hope to be, the Scud missiles of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, proved deadly illusive for America’s space age military in 1991. More from Wikipedia:

The USAF organized CAPs over areas where Scud launchers were suspected to operate, namely western Iraq near the Jordanian border, where the Scuds were fired at Israel, and southern Iraq, where they were aimed at Saudi Arabia. A-10 strike aircraft flew over these zones during the day, and F-15Es fitted with LANTIRN pods and synthetic aperture radars patrolled at night. However, the infrared and radar signatures of the Iraqi TELSs were almost impossible to distinguish from ordinary trucks and from the surrounding electromagnetic clutter. While patrolling strike aircraft managed to sight their targets on 42 occasions, they were only able to acquire them long enough to release their ordinance three times.[32] In addition, the Iraqi missile units dispersed their Scud TELs and hid them in culverts, wadis, or under highway bridges. They also practiced “shoot-and-scoot” tactics, withdrawing the launcher to a hidden location immediately after it had fired, while the launch sequence that usually took 90 minutes was reduced to half an hour. This enabled them to preserve their forces, despite optimistic claims by the coalition. A post-war Pentagon study concluded that relatively few launchers had been destroyed by coalition aircraft.

Here is the Rand Report that the above article was based on. Also, there is evidence only about 10% of the Scuds were shot down by the much-herald Patriot missile batteries. You get the idea from recent experience that anti-missile defenses are “feel good weapons”. In other words they aren’t very effective, but gives the impression  we are doing something to defend ourselves.

Add the relatively low tech Scuds to modern precision targeting systems,  used so dramatically also in that First Gulf War, plus the ability of their launchers to avoid detection and the portent is an ominous one. It could be that the game changer so feared might actually come about. With the West continuing to expend excessive amounts of funds on last century manned airpower, it seems we are missing the boat on the real revolution. UAVs can loiter for days in hunter-killer missions to seek out and destroy missile launchers, without the vast naval and airborne logistical chain required to support manned aircraft.

We could also be restoring our shrinking number of warships by building small ships and submarine which might actually survive the impending missile onslaught. We may also need many fast amphibious craft, carrying Marine Raiders which can destroy coastal missile batteries at the source.  Know also that these smaller vessels can also carry missile weapons themselves, allowing for a counterstrike using the same new weapons to threaten our enemies, the same arms we ourselves are threatened by today.

Today-Us finding them.
Tomorrow-Them finding us


Breaking:LCS Contract Lags

August 20, 2010
MARINETTE, Wis. (Aug. 4, 2008) The first U.S. ...

Image via Wikipedia

Expected before the end of summer was the long-anticipated award of who would build a projected 55 littoral combat ships (LCS) for the USN. The frigate which wants to be a shallow water speed boat is the Navy’s only attempt to join the ongoing fight for the coastal waters in an age lacking a peer Blue Water threat. No surprise the oft-delayed program, now pricing 3 times its original estimate is facing further hurdles. Story is from Reuters:

The U.S. Navy is expected to miss its target this summer for awarding a multibillion contract for new warships after reopening discussions with the two bidders, Austal USA, a unit of Australia’s Austal Ltd (ASB.AX) and Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N), sources following the issue say.
A contract award for the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship program is not likely now until this fall, several months later than expected, according to the sources who were not authorized to speak on the record…

…the Navy has now reopened the process and posed further questions about cost and technical matters, delaying a possible contract for some time, the sources said.

The article also gave another reason for the delayed decision-a Navy attempt to avoid a lawsuit and further delays by the losing bidder:

The Navy’s decision to ask more questions so late in the procurement process was “highly unusual” and was probably aimed at ensuring it would prevail if the losing bidder filed a contract protest, as is widely expected, said Jay Korman, an analyst with the Washington-based research group Avascent.

Perhaps a bit premature to say this is a done deal? The Burleson Plan is still on!


Sea Links

August 20, 2010

The Canadian navy Victoria-class long-range patrol submarine HMCS Corner Brook (SSK 878) arrives at Naval Submarine Base New London for a scheduled port visit.

US Navy

U.S. Navy Leverages DDG-51 Work.

Buying Better Burkes.

Future Navy Submarine to Stick With Nuclear Mission.

Slated U.S. Carrier Visit to Yellow Sea Irks China.

Opinion:Worries over US aircraft carrier overstated.

Automation Fatigue On LCS Class Ships.

Little ship, big job: LCUs offer opportunities.


Warships of the World

Tensions rising over China’s aircraft carrier quest.

Pentagon: China Bolsters Projection, Anti-Access Systems.

China to Test-Fire New Anti-Ship Missile.

Is a DF-21 Anti-Ship Missile Possible?

Destroyer to sail to South Atlantic to protect Falklands.

Royal Navy’s Sea Viper missile system hits its target.

HMS Astute: Relic or Revolution for the Royal Navy.

New catapults could save Britain’s carrier force.

Taiwan Comes Up Short On Frigates.


New Wars at Sea

Canadian USVs to imitate fast attack craft.

US judge drops piracy charges against captured Somalis. More. More.

Pirates rob American ship in U.S.-guarded Iraqi waters.

Thai Navy plans Somali mission.

Epic Fail In The Straits Of Hormuz.


From the Navy Vaults

Venice and the Papacy. (Cog and Galley)

Battle of Cyzicus. (Cog and Galley)

German Naval Airship Division. (War and Game)

Operation ‘Rutter’ and the Second Front. (American Military and Naval History)

Tales from the Cold War. (The Day)

VTOL on a boat. (The Unwanted Blog)

Passing for Lieutenant. (Pauline’s Pirate’s & Privateers)

Books: Morgan, Avery, Teach And The Lafitte Brothers. (Pauline’s Pirate’s & Privateers)

What’s the point of the RAF? (Daly History Blog)

Italian David vs. British Goliath: Decima MAS and the Alexandria Raid. (The Year in Defense)

Efforts in Philadelphia to Save Showpiece Ships. (New York Times)

LST 325 gets ready to set sail. (Evansville Courier & Press)

Old Ironsides: U.S.S. Constitution vs. H.M.S. Guerriere. (Naval History Blog)


Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Gary Roughead walks with Chief of the Royal Norwegian Navy Rear Adm. Haakon Bruun-Hanssen after getting underway aboard HNoMS Skudd.

Strykers Depart Iraq

August 19, 2010

Seven years after Operation Iraq Freedom began in 2003, the US Army for all sense and purposes have left off combat operations there. While problems remain, there is no arguing Iraq is a different place, as Broadside Blog contends:

Today, seven years after the invasion of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, the last American combat troops are departing. But the country they are leaving behind is different. Its people are no longer at the mercy of a despicably cruel dictator who took pleasure in torturing, raping and murdering its citizens. They have voted. They have glimpsed the promise of a brighter future.

It is no longer Saddam Hussein’s country.

Well done troops, God Bless, and good luck on your next assignment.