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Surface Ships as Sub Fodder

June 12, 2009

sinkexAt the Defence and Freedom blog, Sven Ortmann lists some astounding figures on the decades old contest between submarine and surface warships. It appears that not only have the sub hunters fallen behind, they aren’t even in competition anymore! Here are the blogger’s figures on surface launched anti-sub missiles:

RPK-9 Medvedka (Russia): 12 miles
RUM-139B VL-ASROC (USA): 14 miles

New Wars has posted on the discrepancy between the short-range ASW weapons above, and the sub launched cruise missiles before, but here are some astounding figures on the range of anti-ship torpedoes:

YU-6 (Chinese): 28 miles
Mk.48 ADCAP (USA): 31 miles
Torpedo 2000 / Tp62 (Sweden): 31 miles
Black Shark (France/Italy): 31 miles
Seehecht M2A4/Seahake Mod.4 (German): 31 miles
Spearfish (British): 34 miles

An amazing difference! And for the record here are Sven’s data on the anti-ship cruise missiles:

SM39 Exocet (France): 31 miles
UGM-84D Harpoon (USA): 87 miles
P-800 Oniks (Russia): 93 miles
3M-54 Klub versions (Russia): up to 186 miles

So we see the gulf between capabilities expanding wider, with all the advantage on the side of the new U-boats. Here is what the blogger says about the anti-sub escorts’ only long range weapon, the ASW helicopter, with which yours truly concurs:

The standard ASW method of attack would be the use of helicopters to deliver lightweight torpedoes against the submarine (after confirming its position with the helicopter’s sonar systems).
That approach is in my opinion unreliable. I expect lightweight anti-air missiles on submarines in wartime.

The sub hunters also boast an assortment of advanced passive and reactive sensors which supposedly can detect and track their quarry at very long ranges. As we see here, even if the submarine is detected, their is little for the surface ship to do until the range has fallen well within the sub’s favor.

fig26Currently, American warships are equipped with very long range anti-missile defenses and as we have seen, short range anti-sub defenses. Logically this tactic should be reversed, considering the effect of pop-up cruise missiles only allowing bare minutes or even seconds to react, short range anti-missile defenses would be more useful, and lots of them. Considering the killing power of even shorter range torpedoes on SSKs and SSNs, certainly the goal would be to take out the vessel as far from a fleet or convoy as possible, otherwise you are dead.

38 Comments leave one →
  1. Scott B. permalink
    June 15, 2009 2:39 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “I am POSITIVE that a handful of very large hulls will not manage the outbreak of a next Battle of the Atlantic, when submarines are so much more capable and escorts are so few.”

    And the *next Battle of the Atlantic* will be fought against whom, if I may ask ?

  2. Scott B. permalink
    June 15, 2009 2:36 pm

    Sven Ortmann said : “Instead, I wrote “torpedo advantage”.”

    And this *torpedo advantage* is ?

  3. June 15, 2009 1:47 pm

    “Sven Ortman said : “One of the many reasons for HW torpedoes on the screening boats was that this denies a torpedo advantage to the sub.”

    You’re running full circles with this überfixation on the max. range of heavy torps, which, as kolossal as it may seem, won’t be anywhere as decivise, or even useful, as you seem to believe.”

    Thank you for proving my point that you cannot understand what I write.
    YOU seem to be fixated on range, as I did NOT write “torpedo range advantage”.
    Instead, I wrote “torpedo advantage”.

  4. Mike Burleson permalink
    June 15, 2009 1:11 pm

    Scott said “I’ll further add, for good measure, that the ASW bit of your *concept-for-future-naval-battle-fleet* doesn’t hold water anyway.”

    I will give Sven credit for his novel approach. His screening craft are the modern equivalent of the many hundreds of small destroyers, frigates, and corvettes that fought and won the Battle of the Atlantic at great cost and sacrifice. I am not certain that his idea will work, but I am POSITIVE that a handful of very large hulls will not manage the outbreak of a next Battle of the Atlantic, when submarines are so much more capable and escorts are so few.

  5. Scott B. permalink
    June 15, 2009 11:17 am

    Anyway, here is something fresh from last week :

    ———————————————————————–
    German Navy takes IDAS into production

    The German Navy has earmarked funding to take the IDAS (Interactive Defence and Attack System for Submarines) submerged-launched precision weapon into production for retrofit to its Type 212A submarines, according to industry and navy officials speaking at the UDT Europe 2009 conference and exhibition. Talks are meanwhile continuing with Norway regarding its participation in the IDAS full-scale development programme.

    (Jane’s Navy International, 11 June 2009)

  6. Scott B. permalink
    June 15, 2009 10:43 am

    Sven Ortman said : “One of the many reasons for HW torpedoes on the screening boats was that this denies a torpedo advantage to the sub.”

    You’re running full circles with this überfixation on the max. range of heavy torps, which, as kolossal as it may seem, won’t be anywhere as decivise, or even useful, as you seem to believe.

    I’ll further add, for good measure, that the ASW bit of your *concept-for-future-naval-battle-fleet* doesn’t hold water anyway.

  7. Big D permalink
    June 14, 2009 5:58 pm

    Sven: I will point out, in Campbell’s favor, that current ASCMs and torpedoes may have some problems in the terminal phase when dealing with an airship.

    On a more general note, I would like to remind everyone on all sides that laser cannons are on the horizon, and stand to really shake things up once they reach deployable status. I can’t be sure of all of their effects, but I suspect that they would tend to give the greatest advantage to a well-designed SSN, which could, via mast or sled, attack aircraft and ships within LOS with it.

  8. June 14, 2009 9:52 am

    Sven, is right when he says a screening force armed enough to be dangerous, but not so large to be a first choice target would be of great use in the war against the submarines; this is an idea which has routes in time honoured naval traditions – hence both mine and Mikes propensities for banging on about corvettes

    Cambell, you are also right when you say an airship would be of interest, I for one would point out that they could also do double service as an Awacs if fitted out properly, and that they could be used as long range patrol aircraft along convoy routes and things like the UKIG Gap; to free up their more expensive brethen Orions, P8s, Nimrods, ect, to do more work in pounding the oceans in the vicinities of the battle fleets, and the covoys themselves.

    Scott, you are raising some very valid points of your own, and finding out information, for example on that russian weapons system, which I found very interesting.

  9. June 14, 2009 8:15 am

    Scott:
    “You’re apparently *irritated* by the limited range of ASROC and the like, then proclaim that putting heavy torps on screening boats is your solution to *avoid this problem*.”

    What I wrote:
    “My concept for a future naval battle fleet was in part designed to avoid this problem with a screen of small units that are usually unworthy targets for a sub (not worth to risk compromising the sub’s own location with a first strike). These screening boats were meant to have heavyweight torpedoes (the same as used by subs).”

    Your emphasis is wrong.
    My emphasis was on the tactic of screening, not on the munition “torpedo” as you read it. Scouting and screening have been important cornerstones of naval tactics for hundreds of years.

    One of the many reasons for HW torpedoes on the screening boats was that this denies a torpedo advantage to the sub.

    Scott, you express a low opinion about my analysis.
    I would like to express the same about your understanding of my texts in general. This leaves me quite unimpressed by your rejection, of course.

    @campbell:
    Hovering around doesn’t add much, that’s it. It would end up being a giant, more expensive and even more weather-sensitive helicopter equivalent.

  10. June 13, 2009 10:06 pm

    @ Sven:

    Please explain why…..an airship, which can fly at 175 knots, with unlimited range, and able to carry several torpedoes, and able to hover/dip/identify submarines as hostile, and able to fly 24/7 as aerial excort to surface ships ….would not “add anything”?

    If a helicopter is os some use against submarines, and an airship is more capable than a helicopter in terms of linger ability and range and payload…..then would an airship not be an effective counter to submarines?

    Sven Ortman: “I expect lightweight anti-air missiles on submarines in wartime.”

    Airships (not blimps, again) are far, far less threatened by anti-air missiles, with extremely low observable features for both radar and infra-red, and far more “survivable” than any helicopter.

    Mike Burleson: “The UAV may not be much better, except with persistence it could outwait an SSK, much longer than a manned helo.”

    Airships have linger capabilities that no UAV can match; plus, a MANNED airship is far more capable than a robot UNMANNED Aerial vehicle.

  11. Scott B. permalink
    June 13, 2009 4:42 pm

    Sven Ortmann said : “The production run of VL-ASROC (apparently only 450) wasn’t big anyway.”

    LockMart has delivered over 900 VLAs since 1993.

  12. Scott B. permalink
    June 13, 2009 4:37 pm

    Sven Ortmann said : “The torps on the boats have different reasons, that’s another story.”

    You’re apparently *irritated* by the limited range of ASROC and the like, then proclaim that putting heavy torps on screening boats is your solution to *avoid this problem*.

    Did I miss anything ?

  13. Scott B. permalink
    June 13, 2009 4:28 pm

    Sven Ortmann said : “I did not assert that they are of equal size.”

    What was your point then ?

  14. Scott B. permalink
    June 13, 2009 4:26 pm

    Sven Ortmann said : “I didn’t write about “time” because I wrote about later results that were influenced by it. Like speed; expressed as distance per time, you know?”

    Speed is merely mentioned in the context of surface ships trying to evade torps or missiles.

    This is grossly insufficient.

  15. June 13, 2009 4:26 pm

    Check your logic and don’t use strawman arguments, please.
    I did not assert that they are of equal size.

    The torps on the boats have different reasons, that’s another story.

  16. Scott B. permalink
    June 13, 2009 4:17 pm

    Sven Ortmann said :“Besides; MILAS does just like the very large Russian ASW Klub missile”

    A quick look at the MILAS entry on MBDA website would have told you that MILAS is nowhere near as big as KLUB.

    In fact, @ 800 kg, MILAS is much lighter than the heavy torps you want to put on your screening boats.

  17. June 13, 2009 4:02 pm

    @Scott: I didn’t write about “time” because I wrote about later results that were influenced by it. Like speed; expressed as distance per time, you know?

    A range discussion isn’t about reaction times and lags, but about ranges and effective ranges (the latter heavily influenced by speed). You cannot compress a full study into a short blog post. Feel free to attempt it.

    I should probably have mentioned MILAS because it’s supposedly in service in the Italian navy.
    Yet, this missile seems to use the bulky Otomat launcher that’s very rare and I’ve yet to see a confirmation of MILAS on any Italian ship (first two FREMM frigates are still under construction).
    Keep in mind that most likely many ASW munitions will be expended on false contacts; that pretty much nullifies the relevance of a munition of which only up to eight shots are on a ship (at the cost of AShM).

    Besides; MILAS does just like the very large Russian ASW Klub missile and the proposed ASROC glide set strengthen the case for greater range and supports my point.

  18. Scott B. permalink
    June 13, 2009 3:21 pm

    Sven Ortmann said : “RPK-9 Medvedka (Russia): 20 km
    RUM-139B VL-ASROC (USA): 22 km”

    MILAS isn’t even worth a passing mention ?

  19. Scott B. permalink
    June 13, 2009 2:51 pm

    Sven Ortmann : “Scott, did you read the *analysis* on that other blog at all???”

    Time (although a major dimension in the ASW problem) isn’t being given any kind of consideration in your *analysis*.

    And this is just one of the most obvious deficiencies…

  20. June 13, 2009 1:51 pm

    The primary challenges in ASW are simple.

    Detect hostile subs, identify them as hostile subs and engage them with effective munitions (if possible before they can harm friendly units).

    The ASW missile topic touches on the “engage them” and “before” problems.

    An airship would not add anything to the whole equation.

  21. June 13, 2009 1:23 pm

    My turn. Airships.

    Using airships to hunt subs would be an ideal mission. (please note, I do NOT suggest “blimps”); but modern, amphibious, rigid shelled, solar powered, all weather, fast, airships.

    These would be able to keep up with surface craft to protect them, able to range quickly out to hundreds of miles, linger in theater without range or time limits, carry large weapons payloads. The list of advantages is almost unending….

    (to much tech to explain here)

    But, they would make paradigm shift in ASW; and fielding a fleet of such airships would cost fractions of the amount that surface vessels would.

  22. Mike Burleson permalink
    June 13, 2009 9:04 am

    Alex, that may be a sad truth. Historically certain weapon’s technology have dominated for a time, but not for ever. The aircraft carrier advocates are jealous of their big ships, so they resist any alternatives such as cruise missile firing warships, UAVs, and smaller carriers. I think we need to use multiple platform types for multiples mission. There is no do-it-all-warship.

    But then a threat comes along that defies logic, such as the submarine, which can do very few things that a surface ship does but does one thing very good that is sink other ships. I’m not saying there won’t be other alternatives, I just think the subs are winning/have won the technology race and the surface sailors better get busy in dealing with the problem, rather than ignore it, live in denial, claim they have the problem solved.

    The capabilities of the submarine have surprised us in two world wars, and we can’t let this happen a third time, especially in America when our shipbuilding capacity is so marginalized and out-dated.

  23. June 13, 2009 7:57 am

    but Mike then you bump up against the submariners…who go on no – you don’t go there, that is our job, we take the offensive against submarines…its like the Tanks prior to WWII, no one is allowed into our area, the only one who can take on us is a better version of us, so you are not allowed to build anything else

    yours sincerly

    Alex

  24. Mike Burleson permalink
    June 13, 2009 6:26 am

    “a Tomahawk system as the base for a MK46”

    That is something I have considered as well. It should be at least trans-sonic or supersonic.

    AS it is, the surface navy seems to be in a suicide pact, making their warships fewer and as much bigger targets. The anti-missile defenses are good, though at some point we will have to go on the offense against submarines, so you will need a better weapon.

  25. June 13, 2009 5:39 am

    please note the reason they kept depth charging whales, was that everyone said the Argentine submarine was coming out to play….and the only time one did it got sunk, by naval gunfire if I remember correctly during the british recapture of south georgia.

    I do agree a better asroc is needed; I remember something about the use of a Tomahawk system as the base for a MK46? I think it was…does anyone know what came of it?

    Sven, as for your brilliant analysis of the light surface to air missiles, I agree they would make a difference, but tell me which navy is even spending money on deploying them on submarines…let alone deploying them successfully? The Soviets mounted some in the sails of their boats, but they stopped because they required so much maintenance to keep them working, and they never managed to get the seal right, so almost every other time they came back from sea water was in the tube, and the whole system needed to be replaced.

    the submarine missiles are supersonic Mike, but so are those designed to intercept them, and the CIWS weapons if those fail are pretty good as well.

    I personally think the area of more concern is why nations are still carrying such small torpedoes; the RN deploys the Merlin and Sea King types which are both Medium Helicopters, capable of carrying up to 40 marines in cramped conditions, why can’t they, why don’t they carry 4 decent 533mm? or is their some law or legal agreement which says these aircraft have to go about their work underarmed?

    yours sincerly

    Alex

  26. June 12, 2009 7:50 pm

    @Scott:
    Helicopter-delivered 324mm torpedoes are the primary munition against submarines on NATO surface warships.
    Torpedo tubes for these torpedoes (to be loaded from the same supply as the helicopter) are mounted in most if not all ASW ships, but their range is minimal and their relevance marginal.
    ASW missiles like ASROC aren’t even standard equipment; most European ASW frigates don’t have any (officially; there’s often at least the possibility to carry them in VLS).
    Depth charges are only of relevance in some shallow water situations.

    The only really relevant anti-sub weapons besides heliborne torpedoes and ASROC missiles are those used by submarines themselves (533mm torpedoes mostly).

    The ASW concept of surface warships on ASW escort missions rests heavily on helicopters and their 1-2 lightweight torpedoes each.

    That’s not a diversification of capabilities as known for example from anti-tank armaments.

  27. Scott B. permalink
    June 12, 2009 6:53 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “Still, no one said they were useless, just as Sven pointed out, you shouldn’t base your whole ASW defense on them alone.”

    The whole ASW defense ISN’T based on helos alone.

  28. Mike Burleson permalink
    June 12, 2009 6:22 pm

    Alex, helicopters are pretty slow, compared to the submarines missiles some of which are supersonic. They have not been used in a major ASW campaign and numerous Helos in the Falklands spent most of their time depth charging whales thinking they were Argentine subs.

    Still, no one said they were useless, just as Sven pointed out, you shouldn’t base your whole ASW defense on them alone. And again ASROC is of shorter range than even a torpedo. So we need something better fast.

    The UAV may not be much better, except with persistence it could outwait an SSK, much longer than a manned helo.

  29. June 12, 2009 5:58 pm

    It helps to click on links. ;-)

    “The standard ASW method of attack would be the use of helicopters to deliver lightweight torpedoes against the submarine (after confirming its position with the helicopter’s sonar systems).
    That approach is in my opinion unreliable. I expect lightweight anti-air missiles on submarines in wartime. That’s a top candidate for a secret capability; a strong requirement and a huge benefit of keeping it secret.
    There were several disclosed projects for such weapons , including the ongoing IDAS missile project.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IDAS_%28missile%29

  30. June 12, 2009 5:43 pm

    has anyone heard of helicopters? I hear they can carry torpedoes and depth charges, 100s of Miles away from its ship, and track in on the submarines….but as yet no one has shown me a good method for subs to deal with these….especially as drones begin to take on this role; they are of course cheaper than helicopters, and take up less space thus allowing more to be carried. added to this they could be commanded from a helicopter or a ship; thus adding a new dimmension to the plight of the submarine. afterall mike are you not always telling us how the advent of unmaned vehicle warfare is going to change the world?

    Yours Sincerly

    Alex

  31. June 12, 2009 4:31 pm

    Scott, did you read the *analysis* on that other blog at all???

    It’s not “almost solely based on the maximum range of the effectors”.

    Besides, that *other blog* had enough sensor-oriented naval posts in the past few weeks to easily justify a look at a detail as a reasonable mosaic part of a whole.

    Blog aren’t books; nobody reads a 100 page study disguised as blog post.

  32. Heretic permalink
    June 12, 2009 3:52 pm

    Not if I can help it Scott … ^_-

  33. Scott B. permalink
    June 12, 2009 3:42 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “Funny thats what Sven said about my carrier articles!”

    There’s MUCH MORE sense in your carrier articles.

  34. Mike Burleson permalink
    June 12, 2009 3:26 pm

    Scott said “An *analysis* like they did on the other blog …doesn’t make much sense”

    Funny thats what Sven said about my carrier articles! But I agree with him in this case. I think we ignore the sub threat for the third time in a century at our peril.

  35. Moose permalink
    June 12, 2009 1:39 pm

    SM-2 is, Scott, and SM-6 will be.

  36. Scott B. permalink
    June 12, 2009 12:46 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “Currently, American warships are equipped with very long range anti-missile defenses and as we have seen, short range anti-sub defenses. Logically this tactic should be reversed,”

    RAM and ESSM are not long-range missiles.

    The good people of Lockheed Martin are currently working on an ER version of VLA that is supposed to reuse 90% of the existing VLA and provide 4-5 times the range by adding a wing glide kit. You can take a look at the brochure here.

    An *analysis* like they did on the other blog that’s almost solely based on the maximum range of the effectors doesn’t make much sense (if any at all).

Trackbacks

  1. A Navy Shaped for New Threats « New Wars
  2. Sub Hunters Take a Dive Pt 2 « New Wars

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