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Pirates Have Little to Fear From Stiletto

June 8, 2009

The buccaneers off the coast of Somalia needn’t worry about facing the shallow water M80 Stiletto anytime soon, though the Pirates of the Caribbean might, according to Navy Times:

The Stiletto, now berthed at Naval Station Mayport, Fla., will spend the summer patrolling for smugglers under the command of Joint Inter-Agency Task Force-South, the Key West, Fla.-based command charged with stopping the flow of illicit drugs into the U.S.

It will be Stiletto’s second counter-drug deployment since the Defense Department acquired the boat in 2006; it’s well suited to intercepting high-speed drug-carriers. The Stiletto interdicted its first smugglers in the Straits of Florida last August.

Back in the 1980’s, I always wondered why the USN didn’t use its then- latest high speed vessels, the Pegasus class hydrofoils, to escort ships in the Gulf in Operation Earnest Will. The fast and well-armed craft seemed the prefect counter to the Iranian fast attack craft of the period. Perhaps the Navy is afraid that the small ships might prove more  effective and more affordable, than say, a 10,000 ton battleship in the same role?

USS Pegasus PHM-1

USS Pegasus PHM-1

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  27. Hooter permalink
    February 26, 2010 10:47 pm

    You folks don’t have a frigging clue, the reason why the PHM’s never deployed to Operation Earnest Will was MINES!!!!!!! Foilborne at 40-50 knots the only way to detect a mine is when you hit the damn thing…. It was bad enough on a FFG when you stuck some screaming seamen in a chair welded up at the point of the bow with a pair of sound powered phones! YAH THATS MINE DETECTION ON A FRIGATE!… An attempt was done with the British to mount a plessy sonar dome on Frigates to address the issue of sonar detection, it was a flop…

    I know been there done that on both PHM1 and earlier FFG during Earnest Will….

  28. Scott B. permalink
    June 13, 2009 3:40 pm

    B. Smitty said : “Because US shipbuilding is a train wreck right now.”

    Fatalism is the best way to maintain the status quo.

    Injecting exquisite Überspeedboats (LCS) or paper designs (Venator) into the equation isn’t going to solve the problem. It’s going to have the exact opposite effect, as amply demonstrated by the LCS fiasco.

    What’s needed is a proven design that can deliver on the promise of an affordable, capable, and reconfigurable warship. This design has a name : it’s called ABSALON.

    BRING ON THE STATION WAGON !

  29. B.Smitty permalink
    June 12, 2009 7:48 pm

    How much of that extra NZ$20 million and the NZ$177 million is attributable to first-in-class deficiencies? Sounds like a lot of the NZ$20 million.

  30. B.Smitty permalink
    June 12, 2009 7:33 pm

    Because US shipbuilding is a train wreck right now.

  31. Scott B. permalink
    June 12, 2009 6:49 pm

    B. Smitty said : “I bet all of our prices will be vastly inflated once they hit the US procurement system.”

    Because labor, materials, propulsion, electrical, electronics, auxiliaries, armament are cheaper in Denmark ?

  32. Scott B. permalink
    June 12, 2009 6:36 pm

    B. Smitty said : “If you took it out, you could afford 5 ASCs and 3 MPVs for a total of 8 deployable assets.”

    5 ASCs @ $150 million = $750 million
    3 MPVs @ $125 million = $375 million
    Total = $1,125 million

    4 Absalons @ $230 million = $920 million

    Difference = $205 million

    Can I have one more Absalon ?

  33. B.Smitty permalink
    June 12, 2009 6:34 pm

    I bet all of our prices will be vastly inflated once they hit the US procurement system. And my ASC number is a pure WAG.

  34. Scott B. permalink
    June 12, 2009 6:30 pm

    B. Smitty said : “2 x Canterbury class MRVs ($83 million each)”

    More like $125+ million for HMNZS Canterbury apparently.

    See for instance this article :

    “The NZ$177 million HMNZS Canterbury is also beset with problems – an independent report estimated it needs another NZ$20 million spent on it, the NZ Herald says.”

    NZ$197 million ~ USD 126 million.

  35. B.Smitty permalink
    June 12, 2009 6:29 pm

    Scott,

    My intent was not to do a full analysis of the two options. It was just to point out some benefits of my approach. You specifically asked, “How is this a better investment than 4 Absalons.”

    Certainly the Absalons can carry additional troops and/or containerized hospitals at the expense of cargo area. The MPVs can carry troops and hospitals organically, while maintaining their cargo spaces.

    There are open ocean low-end / constabulatory tasks, and the ASCs are meant to operate in this environment at full capacity up to sea state 4/5 (with the larger 110m vessel being, perhaps, modestly better). They are optimized for the littorals though.

  36. Scott B. permalink
    June 12, 2009 5:55 pm

    B. Smitty said : “vs 4 Absalons,”

    280 additional crew/troops (more with containerized berthing) : up to 800 additional crew/troops with containerized berthing

    3660m^2 of cargo/flex area total : + 140 m^2 cargo hole (below the Flex deck) per ship = 4,220 m^2

    no organic hospital facilities (though hospital containers can be carried) : a containerised modular hospital can be installed on the flex deck, with a throughput capacity to treat 40 emergency patients a day or up to ten major surgical operations.

    I don’t know where you got your *launch/recovery for up to 12 more* from.

    Why did you arbitrarily limit the comparison to the points you listed ?

  37. Scott B. permalink
    June 12, 2009 5:30 pm

    B. Smitty said : “My understanding of the Influence Squadron mission was low-end engagement and constabulatory tasks”

    B. Smitty said : “Does an “Influence Squadron” need to be fully operational in an open ocean environment?”

    So there are no low-end / constabulatory tasks to be accomplished in open ocean environment ?

  38. B.Smitty permalink
    June 12, 2009 4:46 pm

    Scott B said,

    1) Venator is not designed to conduct missions in an open ocean environment.

    2) Venator is limited to the embarkation of one Lynx-sized helicopter and this helicopter cannot be embarked for long periods.

    1) Does an “Influence Squadron” need to be fully operational in an open ocean environment? The larger 110m Venator I mentioned should have improved seakeeping. To what extent, I don’t know.

    2) The 93m design lacked a hangar. My thought was the larger 110m design could include one sized to carry a single H-60. Obviously this is my back-of-napkin naval engineering again.

  39. B.Smitty permalink
    June 12, 2009 4:04 pm

    Some other points of comparison:

    A squadron of 5 ASCs and 3 MPVs has the following organic capabilities,

    – embark up to 750 troops (plus additional non-core crew capacities on the MPVs and ASCs)
    – 4330 m^2 of cargo area (not counting the ASC flex decks)
    – 15 hospital ward beds, three operating theaters, medical labs and morgues
    – up to 6 LCM-sized landing craft
    – 8 Helicopters (assuming 1 per ASC), plus storage/launch/recovery for up to 12 more

    vs 4 Absalons,

    – 280 additional crew/troops (more with containerized berthing)
    – 3660m^2 of cargo/flex area total
    – no organic hospital facilities (though hospital containers can be carried)
    – up to 8 small landing craft (at the expense of mission module craft)
    – 8 large helicopters (perhaps a greater number of smaller ones)

    The MPVs alone add a lot of “soft power” capability by themselves.

  40. Scott B. permalink
    June 12, 2009 2:51 pm

    B. Smitty said : “Certainly the Absalons have the advantage of greater organic firepower and defensive systems, so there are definitely trade-offs.”

    There are many more things, e.g. :

    1) Venator is not designed to conduct missions in an open ocean environment.

    2) Venator is limited to the embarkation of one Lynx-sized helicopter and this helicopter cannot be embarked for long periods.

    Etc…

  41. B.Smitty permalink
    June 12, 2009 1:25 pm

    The salvo model is useful for force-on-force comparisons, but it is not meant to encompass such issues as deployability, sustainability, peacetime tasking, and non-force-on-force missions such as MIW.

  42. B.Smitty permalink
    June 12, 2009 1:15 pm

    Scott B said, “How is this a better investment than 4 Absalons (@ $230M each = $920M) ?

    More deployable assets (7 if you count the AOR vs 4). A variety of shallower draft and larger vessels. Self supporting with an AOR.

    A small squadron of 6 vessels (4 ASCs and 2 MPVs) may not need its own AOR. I included it primarily to emphasize the long duration nature of the missions.

    If you took it out, you could afford 5 ASCs and 3 MPVs for a total of 8 deployable assets. Using the mantra “you need three to deploy one”, you could then (just about) keep two ASCs and 1 MPV permanently on station somewhere, vs one (and change) Absalon.

    Certainly the Absalons have the advantage of greater organic firepower and defensive systems, so there are definitely trade-offs.

  43. Scott B. permalink
    June 12, 2009 12:21 pm

    B. Smitty said : “My notional “Billion Dollar Influence Squadron” would look something like this,

    4 x 110m BMT Venators (WAG of $150 million each if built like an OPV)
    2 x Canterbury class MRVs ($83 million each)
    1 x Berlin-sized AOR ($200 million)”

    How is this a better investment than 4 Absalons (@ $230M each = $920M) ?

  44. Scott B. permalink
    June 12, 2009 12:19 pm

    B. Smitty said : “On the StreetSeaFighter discussion, my gut tells me having at least a portion of the small combatant fleet fully self deployable with aviation capability is a big plus.”

    Not in the missile salvo model championed by Hughes, which is were the Streetfighter originated from.

  45. B.Smitty permalink
    June 12, 2009 11:20 am

    On the StreetSeaFighter discussion, my gut tells me having at least a portion of the small combatant fleet fully self deployable with aviation capability is a big plus.

    For the non-self-deployable part, why not come up with a larger USV that could be carried in greater numbers by a mothership than manned Skjolds, but had much greater range/payload/endurance than the 11m RHIB varieties we see today?

  46. B.Smitty permalink
    June 12, 2009 11:09 am

    Scott,

    What parts of the low-end spectrum won’t OPVs let you cover? Certainly they don’t have the space or payload capacity to house a medical facility for outreach programs or disaster relief, so they would have to be supplemented with a larger platform for that.

    But having an armed helo per vessel opens up a lot of possibilities not available to a squadron of Skjolds and their mothership.

    I would love to see a realistic cost estimate for a 110m version of the BMT Venator with a helo hangar. It feels like a big OPV with more “Transformational” (get connected; get modular; get off-board; get unmanned) possibilities. If it had an “OPV-like” price, then something like it would be my choice for the Influence Squadron minor combatant.

    There’s still a need for a larger support vessel in the Squadron, but I think the 9000 ton NZ Canterbury class is a better fit than Absalon. It is bigger and roomier, and also a lot cheaper.

    My notional “Billion Dollar Influence Squadron” would look something like this,

    4 x 110m BMT Venators (WAG of $150 million each if built like an OPV)
    2 x Canterbury class MRVs ($83 million each)
    1 x Berlin-sized AOR ($200 million)

    That leaves $34 million to buy small boats to be carried by the larger vessels.

  47. Scott B. permalink
    June 11, 2009 12:22 pm

    B. Smitty said : “My understanding of the Influence Squadron mission was low-end engagement and constabulatory tasks (e.g. GFS, counter-piracy, COIN).”

    1) The Skjold + Endurance + YE combo was meant to be the continuation of the StreetSeaFighter discussion, and wasn’t supposed to be geared towards what you call low-end.

    2) My feeling is that the *Influence Squadron* is becoming the new buzzword en vogue these days, which is why I choosed it. It wasn’t meant to be a specific reference to what CDR Hendrix proposed recently.

    3) If you take a look at what Mr Raymond Pritchett is including in his proposed Influence Squadron, aka Littoral Strike Group, you’ll find out that it’s heavily loaded with assets that won’t self-deploy, and cost much much more then the notional Skjold squadron. That doesn’t seem to stop Mr Raymond Pritchett, who’s putting his influence squadron at the very heart of his 30-year shipbuilding plan.

    4) OPVs are fine for constabulary work, but :

    a) they won’t allow you to cover much of the low-end spectrum

    b) they won’t allow you to turn the Transformation Mantra (get connected; get modular; get off-board; get unmanned) into a tangible reality.

    5) No matter how much I like the Skjold and the Endurance, my preferred option for the low-end remains centered on something like this, with the following rallying cry :

    BRING ON THE STATION WAGON !

  48. B.Smitty permalink
    June 11, 2009 9:09 am

    Scott B,

    My understanding of the Influence Squadron mission was low-end engagement and constabulatory tasks (e.g. GFS, counter-piracy, COIN) .

    The Endurance LST certainly makes sense, but the Skjolds aren’t really cost-effective, IMHO. Might as well buy $44 million Sentinel FRCs and save a lot of money. Based on square dimensions alone, a Yacht Express could carry 12 Sentinels vs 6 Skjolds.

    I’m also not crazy about spending a billion dollars and only getting two “deployable” assets – the Flo/Flo and the Endurance. The Skjolds could be regionally based, but if no such base existed, they will be tied to the Flo/Flo.

    We could buy $70-150 million OPVs instead, which could actually spend 3-4 weeks on their own many thousands of miles away from their base.

    Just MHO.

  49. leesea permalink
    June 10, 2009 12:37 pm

    IRT Yacht Express, pls remember the only reason we looked at that design was its relatively high transit speed of 18 kts. And I think the numbers were to Dock Express 10 class which is much larger? There are many other flo/flos available for mothership duties. Depending on number of supported warships, the mothership could provide accomodations, ammo, POL, stores and even a small (UAV) flight deck. See also Dockwise Enterprise.

    I like the addtion of a Endeavor class LST(LPD) to the mix. That would relieve flo/flo of several naval functions. Some flo/flos have significant POL tankage and one add the needed logistics support for this hybrid squadron.

    Also you are assuming that flo/flo is purchased, that is not a given since it could be long termed time chartered and used as motherhip. Or it could be voyage chartered just to lift the warships to a forward location.

  50. Bill permalink
    June 10, 2009 9:36 am

    “Also note the absence of the hypothetical 1,000-ton corvette…”

    Absence of same duly noted. ;-)

  51. Scott B. permalink
    June 10, 2009 9:34 am

    Bill said : “From my notes, I had estimated that the protptype cost somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 million USD to build alone..no combat suite.”

    You can expect something like another $75 million for the combat suite (medium caliber gun, sensors, CMS, EW, decoy). Missiles are not included in that figure.

  52. Scott B. permalink
    June 10, 2009 8:45 am

    Bill said : “Seriously..that’s an interesting ‘go anywhere and stay for a long while doing anything’ mix you’ve got there.”

    My maths is weak today, but I can still play the *build-your-own-influence-squadron-or-whatever-it’s-called-these-days* without having to try and fit such over-expensive gadgets as LPD-17, LCS or Stiletto as Mr Raymond Pritchett does all the time.

    Also note the absence of the hypothetical 1,000-ton corvette…

  53. Bill permalink
    June 10, 2009 8:10 am

    err..Scott..you’re already 20 million over yr budget. Chump change, I know, but that’s how these things get out of control. ;-p

    Seriously..that’s an interesting ‘go anywhere and stay for a long while doing anything’ mix you’ve got there.

  54. Scott B. permalink
    June 10, 2009 7:54 am

    Bill said : “I would really like to see that question/hypothetical discussed/addressed by those that know something about that kind of thing.”

    Back in the good ol’ days of PHM ;), USS Wood County (LST-1178) was supposed to be the support ship for the squadron.

    Nowadays, something like Singapore’s Endurance-class LST would fit the bill nicely.

    In the January 2009 delivery of Warship Technology, Singapore Technologies Marine was reported to have secured a contract amounting to about $200M for one Endurance-class LST (plus two 23m LCMs and two 13m LCVPs).

    In the squadron configuration with 6 Skjolds, the Endurance-class LST would also provide the flight deck and well deck for a variety UxVs.

    Total cost for the Squadron would be less than $1 billion :
    * 6 x Skjolds @ $120M each = $720M
    * 1 x Yacht Express @ $100M = $100M
    * 1 x Endurance-class LST @ $200M = $200M

  55. Bill permalink
    June 10, 2009 7:08 am

    “Big question is how you would support your Skjold squadron once it is deployed.”

    I would really like to see that question/hypothetical discussed/addressed by those that know something about that kind of thing. I don’t know squat about that area..but I know that others on here do.

  56. Scott B. permalink
    June 10, 2009 6:59 am

    B. Smitty said : “Requiring small combatants to be carried on a mothership reduces the deployment flexibility of the combatants and vastly increases the size (and cost) of the mothership.”

    Dockwise bought Yacht Express for $53.6 (see page 4 of Yantai’s annual report for 2007).

    I remember leesea stating that Yacht Express was big enough to carry up to 12 LCACs, meaning she’d probably be big enough for up to 6 Skjolds.

    Yacht Express probably has enough room for the combined crew of 90 for the Skjolds (crew = 15 per Skjold), though you’d probably have to convert some recreational spaces into more something more functional :
    http://www.yacht-transport.com/photogallery?folder=2955

    Big question is how you would support your Skjold squadron once it is deployed.

    But, hey, it’s not like you don’t have a similar problem with LCS , is it ?

    What’s the solution again for LCS ?

  57. Bill permalink
    June 10, 2009 6:41 am

    Whether you ‘cheat’ by not including any sunk costs in unit cost..like we cheat too..that total is a tiny sum by our standards when you consider what RNoN got from it:
    1. Worlds fastest (and stealthiest) FAC..6 of them
    2. Brand spankin new anti-ship missile system to go on/in it.

    For FAR more than the same total amount (if we’re going to include sunk costs) we get one unarmed LCS.

  58. Bill permalink
    June 10, 2009 6:35 am

    Norwegian BFO

    http://www.bfo.no

  59. Bill permalink
    June 10, 2009 6:27 am

    Scott;

    Sounds like the same numbers I have (and they were probably rounded up, because the stated total was ‘5 milliard krone’) ..but the report stated the current ‘per unit’ cost all up as 180 million krone each. That’s a figure that clearly includes no sunk-cost spreading or the like..just the amount to be plunked down for each build as time goes on.

    From my notes, I had estimated that the protptype cost somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 million USD to build alone..no combat suite.

    The total program cost included huge chunks for folks other than the Kvaerner/Umoe yard and related vessel engineering details. Combat systems development sucked up far more of it than we ever did in developing the platform and building the prototype.

  60. Scott B. permalink
    June 10, 2009 6:02 am

    Bill said : “This from internal Norwegian equivalent of the ‘GAO’

    Current all-up vessel unit cost – 30 million USD

    Total final cost of program since inception (including weapons development)with 6 ships delivered – 850 million USD”

    Just checked some of the notes I took many moons ago, and the figure I have for the cost of the entire program is NOK 4,675 million, i.e. about $732 million based on yesterday’s exchange rate (NOK 1 = USD 0.1566).

    It means a PAUC of $122 million.

    The all-up vessel unit cost of 30 million USD you mention sounds a bit more surprising : does it include the CMS, guns, sensors… or does it just cover HM&E ?

    Since you seem to suggest this comes from the Riksrevisjonen (GAO equivalent in Norway), I was wondering whether you would have references to specific documents that might be publicly available.

  61. Scott B. permalink
    June 10, 2009 5:48 am

    B. Smitty said : “I originally mentioned CEAFAR/CEAMOUNT because the active array CEAMOUNT illuminator claims to offer multiple simultaneous fire control channels from a single illuminator. They claim it will fit on a corvette-sized warship, but who knows what that means in terms of space, weight, cooling, power, and so on.”

    The smallest corvette design shown so far with CEAFAR/CEAMOUNT is the German MEKO CSL by TKMS, with a displacement of 2,750 tons fully loaded.

    On the Australian ANZAC, they had to carry out a fairly extensive study of the structural integrity of the ships, before they could proceed with the ASMD upgrade.

    The result of this study was an increase in the Limiting Displacement by 300 tonnes to a total of 3,900 tonnes, so as to be able to cope with upgrades that will be added during the ASMD program. The most demanding upgrade being of course the addition of CEAFAR/CEAMOUNT.

    I have had a long discussion with the people from CEA Technologies about a year ago, and I can guarantee you that a plug-in/plug-out CEAFAR/CEAMOUNT is not in the pipeline.

    The smallest warship design I have seen with a fixed phased array is a Thales proposal to upgrade the Greek Roussens with their new I-Mast 100. But then again, AFAIK, it’s not something that you’ll be able to plug-in/plug-out as needed.

  62. Bill permalink
    June 10, 2009 3:14 am

    Mike;

    Yup. No argument coming from this quarter. Personally, if I was told to pick the vessel of my choice from all that are available to go in close and mix it up with the locals, the list:
    – is fairly short, but still with quite a few good options
    – has both Skjold and Hauk classes on it
    – has no USN assets on it at all.

  63. Mike Burleson permalink
    June 10, 2009 2:55 am

    Bill, when I think of littoral warfare, I like to compare it with the type of warfare we are doing on land against the insurgents. You will need something to go into where the naval insurgents go, like the pirates. Something large like LCS, reminds me of the troops pre-Surge, still in the Green Zone, always threatening to attack but really themselves underseige in their protected fortresses. So you would need something like Skjold to get in among the the naval traffic in these shallow seas, the nautical version of “the cop on the beat”.

    Another way of looking at LCS is it is more of the containment strategy from the Cold War, meant to “scare” or threaten our enemies with its “presence”, but not so much to fight them. Containment as a strategy is failing in this new century, just as Cold War style armored warfare did little to manage the Iraq insurgency.

    Yesterday I asked one of the sailors on USS Freedom when they were they going to fight pirates, like in the news which were calling the ship a “pirate buster”. He just laughed at me like it was the furthest thing from his mind.

  64. Bill permalink
    June 10, 2009 12:34 am

    BTW, since cost is always a consideration, do you realize how ‘cheap’ the Skjolds are?? This from internal Norwegian equivalent of the ‘GAO’

    Current all-up vessel unit cost – 30 million USD

    Total final cost of program since inception (including weapons development)with 6 ships delivered

    – 850 million USD

    What??

  65. Bill permalink
    June 10, 2009 12:20 am

    The current Skold (RNoN’s)is not a littoral combat ship; its a littoral denial ship. Our concept and current incarnation of littoral combat ships would meet a very swift demise against anything like it and there are simlarly capable small craft like Skjold ‘out there’. I guess we are sure we won’t have to ever meet up with any of them that are not friendly.

    I routinely compare the Skjold (or rather, a longer range variant of same) with the Cyclones, not with either LCS. As they currently operate, so certainly could a variant of Skjold. Very capable of transiting long range on her own bottom, refueled, of course. Also quite crew-comfy and capable of sustained operations and persistent presence..but again, with fueling and provisioning support.

  66. leesea permalink
    June 9, 2009 8:50 pm

    MSC ships have specialized at astern refueling “small boys” for years now. I have seen photos of Swift, Cyclones, mineships all taking a drink astern.

  67. Mike Burleson permalink
    June 9, 2009 8:50 pm

    I’m completely flexible on the type of vessel we buy, as long as its way below the billion-dollar mark! These cutter type vessels are probably the most desirable to combat the likes of pirates.

  68. leesea permalink
    June 9, 2009 8:49 pm

    A major decision error in the case of both LCS and JHSV, was to make them transoceanic in order to get to theater quickly. The bosses seem to ignore the possibility of forward deployment closer to possible action areas?

    I would be remiss if I did not point out that prepositioning could be used to support LCS and JHSV operations. Particularly semi-submersible could be used as forward floating bases, such as my much ignored dockships proposal. 22 pieces of Army watercraft “lived” on the MV American Cormorant for almost TEN years until the Army decided to try forward deployment too.

  69. B.Smitty permalink
    June 9, 2009 8:43 pm

    Scott,

    Semi-active missiles still add to a vessel’s defensive power in the salvo model. When in close proximity (massed for defense), ESSMs will add to the overall defensive power of the group as well – something point defense systems can’t do.

    I originally mentioned CEAFAR/CEAMOUNT because the active array CEAMOUNT illuminator claims to offer multiple simultaneous fire control channels from a single illuminator. They claim it will fit on a corvette-sized warship, but who knows what that means in terms of space, weight, cooling, power, and so on.

    Maybe there aren’t any containerized AAW systems out there because the push for modularity in warship design is still in its infancy. Or then again, maybe you’re right and it just isn’t worth the time, money and effort.

    Mike,

    Certainly forward deployment is an option, if you have the basing rights. Unfortunately, that’s a big ‘if’ these days.

    For a low-end pirate hunter/Cyclone replacement we can probably count on local basing, but do we really need a Skjold for that? We could just buy Aussie Armidales or USCG Sentinels and save ourselves money.

  70. Mike Burleson permalink
    June 9, 2009 7:08 pm

    Smitty, Forward deployed then? This isn’t the first time we have used small combatants overseas, PT boats in the Pacific Campaign, Swift Boats in the Mekong, and the British in the 19th Century had it down to an art.

  71. Scott B. permalink
    June 9, 2009 6:53 pm

    B. Smitty said : “My problem with Skjold is how do you deploy them transoceanic distances in quantity, and support them once there. Sea Fighter can at least get there under its own power and operate independently for useful periods without support.”

    Sea Fighter, even on steroids, doesn’t even compare with a purpose-built littoral combatant like Skjold : it doesn’t even come close in terms of survivability, maneuverability, accessibility, etc…

    Again, a warship is not a LEGO : because you’re going to drop some missiles and guns on a 50-knot *big box* doesn’t mean that you’ll produce a remotely decent littoral combatant.

  72. Scott B. permalink
    June 9, 2009 6:44 pm

    B. Smitty said : “How is ESSM not “Streetfighterish”?”

    Streetfighter = fleet-on-fleet missile salvo model

    Semi-active missiles don’t fit too well in a missile salvo model, especially when you don’t have what it takes to keep more than a couple in the air at any one time.

  73. Scott B. permalink
    June 9, 2009 6:27 pm

    B. Smitty said : “My big question was can a useful radar and fire control be modularized?”

    I was going to get into some technical considerations, when I realized that the only result it would produce would be another *can, could, might* iteration. Which is fine in itself, but far more time-consuming that I’m willing to afford right now.

    Instead of that, I thought a good old reality-check might do the job, and add substance in the discussion.

    1) Right after the Falklands, a Bristish triumvirat started to promote a containerized air-defense system called SCADS. It was supposed to occupy 7 standard containers :

    * one for the tracking radar (Marconi 805SW or Signaal VM40)
    * two for the surveillance radar (AWS-6)
    * two for the lighweight Sea Wolf launchers (VL or trainable twin-barrel)
    * one for the command & control
    * one for the power

    How many of these containerized AAW systems actually made it into actual ships ? Exactly ZERO.

    2) Fast forward to 2003 : the ground-based Giraffe AMB can fit into a single 20ft ISO container.

    Is Saab Microwave Systems even trying to promote such a containerized configuration for shipboard applications ? Short answer is NO.

    The mistake you’re making, probably influenced by all the powerpoint vaporware generated by the LCS program, is that a (war)ship can be made like a LEGO. The LCS folks are painfully starting to realize it’s not that easy in the real-life.

    Even more so for AAW, given how much of a *black art* topside design remains to date.

    I realize that, intellectually, this may not be a satisfactory answer.

    Perhaps the best thing for you to do is to quickly check what the major systems / radar houses have to offer in terms of containerized shipboard AAW systems : there are not so many major players and their current/projected offer is inexistant AFAIK.

  74. B.Smitty permalink
    June 9, 2009 4:56 pm

    Bill,

    Not a chance. Scott is tireless. :) He may be right too. I don’t know if my AAW module is feasible. It just seems like a useful addition to the suite of modules. You could permanently install the radar, fire control and illuminators, but that would drive up the price of the sea frame. This was just my back-of-napkin attempt at a design.

    I would like to see a Skjold variant compete to replace the Cyclones. I just think they are too small and short-legged (even with a range-enhanced variant) to encroach in on the LCS’s mission space. Just MHO though.

    Mike,

    Requiring small combatants to be carried on a mothership reduces the deployment flexibility of the combatants and vastly increases the size (and cost) of the mothership.

    There are pros and cons to each method (via mothership or self-deployable).

  75. Mike Burleson permalink
    June 9, 2009 4:17 pm

    “My problem with Skjold is how do you deploy them transoceanic distances in quantity, and support them once there.”

    Motherships.

  76. Bill permalink
    June 9, 2009 4:16 pm

    leesea: Got yr email. Thanks.
    Scott B.: Good answer.
    B. Smitty: Hang in there..I’m sure yr wearing ‘im down. ;-)

    All: Remember something I keep harping on about the Skjold’s endurance (or specifically, lack thereof). It is not a design flaw, it was a design choice. Coastal denial mission with thousands of gas stations scattered about its entire length. A Skjold variant can have decent legs and still not compromise the overall design. By decent though, I mean perhaps 1500nm. RAS capability still a required add-on for any US fleet variant.

  77. B.Smitty permalink
    June 9, 2009 3:56 pm

    Scott B,

    1) How is ESSM not “Streetfighterish”? It does not have to have a major ship impact. It’s installed on vessels as small as the StanFlex 300. A loaded, twelve-cell Mk48 MOD3 system weighs only 12,000kg. My big question was can a useful radar and fire control be modularized?

    2) I agree, LCS and Streetfighter are very different. Sea Fighter, Visby and Skjold are closer to the original concept.

    3) My problem with Skjold is how do you deploy them transoceanic distances in quantity, and support them once there. Sea Fighter can at least get there under its own power and operate independently for useful periods without support. And, with some enhancements, it could UNREP just like any other warship.

    It can also carry five times the mission payload of Skjold. (IIRC)

  78. B.Smitty permalink
    June 9, 2009 3:20 pm

    Scott B,

    Absalon is more than just a big box with a flat top. It has significant space devoted to berthing, organic weapons and sensors, and is much larger than FSF-1.

    I certainly like Absalon, for many of the same reasons you do.

    On your reasons why you can’t install a modular radar:

    1) Below deck equipment could be installed in modules, depending on what it was.

    2) The top of the FSF-1 deck is already pretty high. A small mast might be all that is needed.

    3) Fire control systems can be installed in modules below deck.

    It’s not much more than a mobile, ground-based SAM system that’s been repackaged in modules, VLS cells, and deck-attached radar and illuminator.

    It doesn’t need to replicate or replace a Burke. It just needs to extend a local air defense umbrella around other Sea Fighters in the squadron.

    Oh well. Just thinking out loud.

  79. Scott B. permalink
    June 9, 2009 2:25 pm

    B. Smitty said : “I think a modular SeaFighter with an optional AAW suite is a different animal to Absalon. It is closer to Cebrowski’s StreetFighter.”

    Some quick comments here :

    1) ESSM is not exactly “streetfighterish”, because of the cost and ship impact involved. CIWS and Fire & Forget PDMS fits much better the Streetfighter paradigm.

    2) On the contrary to what most corvette proponents seem to believe, LCS and Streetfighter are very different animals.

    Streetfighter was mainly designed to fit the paradigm of the fleet-on-fleet missile salvo model championed by Hughes.

    As for LCS, here is what Hughes said in an interview with Inside the Navy’s Rebekah Gordon back in September 2008 :

    “I think we’ve got to get on with building an inshore Navy, a green-water Navy component, and LCS isn’t it,” said Hughes, the former dean of the school’s Graduate School of Operational & Information Sciences. “At $500 million plus module costs, it’s not going to hack it.”

    3) If there really was any need for a 50-knot littoral combatant, then something along the lines of the Norwegian Skjold would be a much better fit than Sea Fighter will ever be.

    4) I’m not too sure how much Skjold ended up costing, but I suspect it’s more than $100 million per copy.

  80. leesea permalink
    June 9, 2009 1:42 pm

    comparing HSV and small surface combatants to Absalon is like comparing apples and oranges.

    Smitty and bill, I will send you the Warboaters proposal to weaponize the SeaFighter (IF I can find in in my way back when folder?)

  81. Scott B. permalink
    June 9, 2009 1:29 pm

    B. Smitty said : “Why can’t you? Maybe CEAFAR isn’t the right system, but why couldn’t you install a modular ESSM-capable radar/fire control?”

    There are many reasons why you can’t. E.g. :

    1) A radar is not just an antenna. Even with the solid-state variety that’s coming on the market, you need below-deck equipments.

    2) A radar, especially when used for target acquisition, needs to sit as high as possible to increase your horizon. Which means you need a mast, which is not something you’ll plug and unplug as needed.

    3) A radar, for target acquisition or engagement, is just one piece of the puzzle. You need many more pieces to make it work, for instance a Fire-Control System. Which, once again, is not going to be plug-and-play.

    There are many more reasons why what you’re suggesting isn’t going to happen any time soon, especially with fixed arrays that present specific challenges.

  82. Scott B. permalink
    June 9, 2009 1:13 pm

    B. Smitty said : “My attraction to SeaFighter is because it’s essentially a big box with a flat top.”

    ABSALON is a big big with a flat top !!!

  83. Scott B. permalink
    June 9, 2009 1:09 pm

    Bill said : “Besides Absalon…what other ship and craft types are you fond of?”

    Believe it or not, I have a soft spot for the Skjolds ;)

    I like the Perrys too, but the design is now getting long in the tooth…

    There are many more designs that I like, but when I look around and try to figure out which one(s) could :

    1) be the Navy’s workhorse to cope with a variety of low-end contingencies.

    2) turn the Transformation Mantra (get connected; get modular; get off-board; get unmanned) into a tangible reality

    3) remain affordable enough to be procured in number without draining too much resources away from the Navy budget.

    4) be available off-the-shelf so that the Navy doesn’t have to spend a fortune in R&D just to produce powerpoint vaporware (or best case, reinvent the wheel)

    Then the best fit I see is called…

    ABSALON

  84. Bill permalink
    June 9, 2009 11:13 am

    Scott B.,

    Besides Absalon…what other ship and craft types are you fond of?
    ;-)

    Some things are getting a bit too predictable around here:

    Scott B.: {insert any naval platform here} are junk..buy Absalons
    Byron: Sink LCS, SLEP the Figs
    Bill (me): Stilleto is a joke, buy some Skjolds

    ;-)

  85. Mike Burleson permalink
    June 9, 2009 10:55 am

    “My attraction to SeaFighter is because it’s essentially a big box with a flat top”

    This is what we need more of, not battleships but floating boxes, like little aircraft carriers or motherships. Something to ferry around the new robot vehicles and missiles. What we have now are exquisite platforms that take away from your ability to spread your fleet around as well as it capability. We should have more tiny platforms, not less bigger ones. Smaller footprints everywhere but still very lethal.

  86. B.Smitty permalink
    June 9, 2009 10:38 am

    Scott B,

    Why can’t you? Maybe CEAFAR isn’t the right system, but why couldn’t you install a modular ESSM-capable radar/fire control? Ships as small as the StanFlex 300 carry them, so they can’t be that big.

    I’m not a naval engineer, so I’m really just trying to understand the issues. I could see power and cooling as potential problems, and topside weight.

    I think a modular SeaFighter with an optional AAW suite is a different animal to Absalon. It is closer to Cebrowski’s StreetFighter.

    It’s 50+kts could actually be valuable if it’s used to quickly shuttle munitions and deployables from a Sea Base to the combat zone.

  87. Scott B. permalink
    June 9, 2009 10:13 am

    B. Smitty said : “Could you install a radar/illuminator like the Aussie CEAFAR/CEAMOUNT the aft helopad in a detachable manner?”

    No you can’t.

    What you’re trying to do already exists : it’s called ABSALON.

  88. B.Smitty permalink
    June 9, 2009 9:01 am

    My attraction to SeaFighter is because it’s essentially a big box with a flat top.

    I wonder. Could you add removable deck plates over the 12 mission module stations, allowing them to house twelve, removable Mk48 MOD3-like VLS launchers? Or would such a thing mess with its CoG too much? Exhaust venting into the mission bay may be another issue.

    You’d be hard pressed to find a situation where you needed 144 ESSMs on one ship, but if you built a bombardment missile like POLAR to fit in the same launcher (and especially if you could make those launchers reloadable at sea) you would go a long ways to solving the USMC’s NSFS problem.

    I also started thinking, well if you could have up to 144 ESSMs, how could you guide them? Could you install a radar/illuminator like the Aussie CEAFAR/CEAMOUNT the aft helopad in a detachable manner? Maybe take up some of the 12 module stations below with control systems and stations? Or would all of this make the whole thing too top-heavy? I don’t know how heavy CEAFAR is. I think a single CEAMOUNT illuminator is in the 2-3,000kg range.

    Of course, putting 72-144 missiles way above the waterline in a thin-skinned, aluminum vessel might be like teeing up high for a Big Bertha shot (where “Big Bertha” is any manner of enemy cannon, HMG, ATGM, AShM).

    Having an AAW module like this would be nice, though, as it could make groups of SeaFighters “self-escorting”, and allow them to use their 50kt top end (and not have to wait for a slow-poke Burke).

  89. Bill permalink
    June 9, 2009 5:50 am

    Errata: It just occurred to me that I misspoke above and that there was a larger ‘variant’ of the Sea Fighter design on the boards; the L3 ‘JHSV’ capture candidate. I didn’t have any visibility in to that design though and cannot speak to its maturity.

  90. Mike Burleson permalink
    June 9, 2009 5:25 am

    “I fervently hope that it never gets advertised as an alternative to LCS”

    I say lets build all these unique vessesl, Sea Fighter, Stiletto, even LCS and send them to the frontlines in the Middle East, Western Pacific, where they might see action. As it is I think the Navy doesn’t want them to steal the Big Ships’ thunder, so they send them to the backwaters of the Caribbean to chase smugglers. Exciting yes, put isn’t that what the Coast Guard is for?

  91. Bill permalink
    June 9, 2009 5:09 am

    I wish I hadn’t lost my crystal ball..haven’t seen it since shore leave in Pusan back in ’93. But looking in to the bottom of my empty beer glass I can zee cleerly:

    1. LCS is in trouble on many fronts and the vessels, particularly Lockmart’s, are bloated behemoths compared to the ‘idea’ from whence they sprung.

    2. At less than 1/5th the cost of an LCS, the Sea Fighter is in the water and the USN owns the design.

    What I cannot see is what happens next. What does it mean to ‘re-compete’ LCS as Taylor threatens. Re-compete for…WHAT exactly? More pseudo-frigates? ‘Something’ around 2000 ton like they were ‘sposed to be?

    There is ‘interest’ within USN to build some more FSF frames. However, I fervently hope that it never gets advertised as an alternative to LCS or gets scaled up to be LCS or even LCS-light. Streetfighter maybe..if that makes any sense.

  92. leesea permalink
    June 9, 2009 4:47 am

    bill and of course the Navy is keeping quiet on what they are doing to the SeaFigther now because ssshhh that might take away from the $600 mil per hull LCSs? Ooops I forgot CNO said the LCS is the POR and there shall be no naysayers!

    CNO and the new SECDEFs first appearance before congress had a grand total of three attendees. Methinks they are NOT listening to navy brass?

  93. Bill permalink
    June 9, 2009 4:13 am

    First..there have been numerous initiatives to makes changes to the Sea Fighter and derivative designs for various proposed missions..and most of those were not initiated by Ed and the boys at BMT/NG..they were, many of them, what I would call responsive efforts; some were responsive to ‘interest’ at CNO level even. At this very moment, FSF-1 is being ‘modified’…all I can say.

    As to your question about LCS-like as it relates to size; the only thing I am fairly certain of is that the current boat in the water is the largest of the ‘MODCAT’ family of designs and some of that is because the Sea Fighter herself started out a good bit smaller whilst still on the drawing board…only 54m LOA if I recall correctly. Thus, over the course of developing what finally became Sea Fighter, a range of similar cat designs evolved.

  94. B.Smitty permalink
    June 8, 2009 11:37 pm

    Bill, do you recall what was different about the SeaFighter variant to make it LCS-like? Was it larger?

  95. Scott B. permalink
    June 8, 2009 5:08 pm

    Bill said : “That story has not ended yet..chapters still being written.”

    I have much esteem for the good folks of Nigel Gee. But I am not going to hold my breath on this one.

  96. Scott B. permalink
    June 8, 2009 5:06 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “I think had the full production run of the Pegasus class been realized, up to 100 boats, we might have seen considerable savings in the upfront cost.”

    Expected production run never exceeded 60 units (half of which for the US Navy), except perhaps during the glorious days of EXG/2.

  97. Bill permalink
    June 8, 2009 5:01 pm

    “Why the Navy cannot take a prototype testbed ship and see their way to modify it for operational use is beyond me?! Oh wait a minute they have done that it was called the PBR Mk1~ I am sure bill can provide more examples?”

    No..frankly Bill can’t provide more examples. I’m sitting in Norway as I type this, having just left the yard from where we got the Nastys and the adjacent yard where 5 Skjold class boats are sitting together in one basin. The Nasty boats were not prototypes nor testbeds by any means when we got ours; just a readily avaialable craft to fill an immediate need or void. Skjold came over for a USN ‘eval’ that turned in to little more than a nice vacation for the crew.

    USN spends a smqll amount of time and money, every so often, kicking the tires of those ships and craft designed by others (by others..a clue) but I can come up with no examples off the top of my head where they ever took it farther than that.

  98. Bill permalink
    June 8, 2009 4:44 pm

    “BMT Nigel Gee offered an LCS-type of Sea Fighter. Didn’t go anywhere…

    That story has not ended yet..chapters still being written. ;-)

  99. leesea permalink
    June 8, 2009 4:42 pm

    Why the Navy cannot take a prototype testbed ship and see their way to modify it for operational use is beyond me?! Oh wait a minute they have done that it was called the PBR Mk1~ I am sure bill can provide more examples?

    But no we have the USN insisting it has to build 10 LCS at over $600 million per hull before they admit the design needs many (more) changes.

  100. leesea permalink
    June 8, 2009 4:38 pm

    USN test a lot, buy a few!

  101. Mike Burleson permalink
    June 8, 2009 4:29 pm

    I think had the full production run of the Pegasus class been realized, up to 100 boats, we might have seen considerable savings in the upfront cost. But we only got six.

  102. Scott B. permalink
    June 8, 2009 4:24 pm

    leesea said : “I wonder how a weaponized SeaFighter might do as a FAC”

    BMT Nigel Gee offered an LCS-type of Sea Fighter. Didn’t go anywhere…

  103. Bill permalink
    June 8, 2009 4:22 pm

    “This reminds me of another program called LCS…”

    In so many ways. Yet the superb performance of the PHMs was undeniable, tech problems notwithstanding. Will anyone ever be able to say that for either LCS variant?

    That was a pretty weak list btw..but then I know a little about what was really in there and what it would really have taken to rectify all..but the decision was made and the justification to scrap was ..er..’amplified’.

  104. leesea permalink
    June 8, 2009 3:41 pm

    WE are missing the point here. Neither PHMs nor Stiletto nor most HSVs are intended for ship escort missions as the FF(G)-7 Perry class was. There are numerous ship designs which can peform those and other MSO missions and NOT cost over $250 mil per hull. Those of course are NOT in the USN inventory. Don’t suggest Cyclone PCs, they are not escortd, nor fast attackd, nor have enough endurance.

    Other than structs cracking, that list for PHMs is not significant. I heard the WSES were M&R hogs, but how well did they operate? I wonder how a weaponized SeaFighter might do as a FAC or better mothership than the LCS?

  105. Scott B. permalink
    June 8, 2009 3:16 pm

    Bill said : “those costs never benefiting from amortization of non-recurring engineering or high-rate standardized production..and say, ‘oh..wow..look how much those PHMs cost’.”

    All fine and dandy, but in 1974, before the cutback from 25 to 6 ships, cost escalation on the order of +100% had already raised the price from $20 million per unit to $40+ million per unit in FY 1974 dollars, i.e. from about $90 millions per unit to about $180 million in FY 2009 dollars.

    Then ensued the cost spiral that you mention, i.e. under-absorption of non-recurring costs leading to further cost increases.

    BTW, the PHMs ended up costing about $100 million per unit (FY 1978 dollars), i.e. $325 million per unit (FY 2009 dollars).

    This is due to the deficiencies uncovered during the PHM OPEVAL, which would have to be corrected in production :
    * lack of capability to navigate the ship accurately in pilot waters when foilborne,
    * 76mm Mark-75 gun cut-out cams,
    * wye duct cracking,
    * unreliable static frequency converters, and
    * struts/foils cracking

    This reminds me of another program called LCS…

  106. Mike Burleson permalink
    June 8, 2009 2:57 pm

    Ha ha! Good Bill! Somali pirate cruises. If you want more danger in your life…

  107. Bill permalink
    June 8, 2009 2:34 pm

    The pirates better be fearing this, though: ;-)

    http://www.somalicruises.com

  108. Mike Burleson permalink
    June 8, 2009 2:09 pm

    Good point West!

  109. Bill permalink
    June 8, 2009 2:08 pm

    Scott;

    Very true..PHMs were costly craft then and would be equally costly to build now. It was, in the beginning, thought that the unmatched weather capabilities and speed were worth the cost. We were not alone in that thinking..the PHM program originally comprised many allied navies. But..as cost spiralled, they dropped out one by one.

    That said, it is certainly worth noting in the context of current fiascos – particularly LCS – the very large savings that were supposed to be forthcoming due to economies of scale. The USN alone was originally committed to 74 PHMs (IRRC) and when all the allies vessels were included, Boeing would have really had a major production line going.

    Instead..we built just those few and now its considered sage to point to the costs of those alone…those costs never benefiting from amortization of non-recurring engineering or high-rate standardized production..and say, ‘oh..wow..look how much those PHMs cost’.

  110. Scott B. permalink
    June 8, 2009 1:30 pm

    At about $60 million per unit in FY 1975 dollars, i.e. $240+ million per unit in FY 2009 dolars, the Pegasus were not exactly what I would call *affordable*.

  111. west_rhino permalink
    June 8, 2009 1:17 pm

    PHM (and Stiletto) has no helo desk or room to ship a F/A-35 that survives the sinking CVN… no wonder it is not high on the food chain.

  112. Mike Burleson permalink
    June 8, 2009 12:57 pm

    Thanks Bill. The Cold War Navy’s sights were firmly fixed on the Big Ship rivalry with the Soviets back then. Can’t imagine what their excuse is now, though they seem determined for it to be China.

  113. Bill permalink
    June 8, 2009 12:41 pm

    The PHMs, while arguably the most able high speed small warships ever built in terms of speed, agility and seakindliness underway, were complicated rascals to keep flying. USN never had its heart in the boats and they did not go to any great lengths to support them and used what support they did provide (dishonestly IMHO) to justify the scrapping of them. They had very short legs too..that didn’t help.

    The WSES and PHM folks had quite the rivalry going in Key West when both were stationed there for drug interdiction. The coasties determined that PHM was short for: “Permanently Here Moored”; the foilers, insisting that ‘WSES’ stood for ‘We’re Seldom Ever Seen”.

    Both types were excellent craft..but both succumbed to what can best be described as an expensive learning curve that nobody wanted to pay for.

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