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Playing China’s Game

July 7, 2009

Over at the Information Dissemination blog, the discussion is all about a letter from Chief of Naval Operations Gary Roughead to Senator Edward Kennedy who is on the Senate Seapower committee. You can read about that here. Then there was a second post at ID whose title immediately caught my eye as you might understand-“Return of the Arsenal Ship“. A very long post, but interesting nonetheless; if you have the time, check it out.

I was a little disappointed that the “Arsenal Ship” in question was the DDG-1000 Zumwalt dinosaur which we had hoped we’d heard the last of, after Sec. Gates’ 2010 Defense Budget released early this year called for a stop production at 3 vessels. It would have been much better for Navy procurement and our rapidly shrinking fleet that the number built was Zero, considering we are currently suffering through a “presence deficit” as these budget sucking battleships range from $3 billion, more likely $5 billion each, and perhaps even as high as $7 billion.

The jist of Admiral Rougheads letter and Galrahn’s post is interesting, calling for replacing the Zumwalt’s advanced guns system (AGS) with more vertical launchers for missiles. From here I will let the blogger explain:

The DDG-1000 being evaluated is basically a modified version without the Advanced Gun System (AGS), but including the other 9 new technologies of the ship class. According to the letter, both guns would be replaced with VLS and would possess a capability “not less than” the most advanced DDG-51 on the books. The AGS is huge. If one was to put the AGS on a DDG-51, it would consume the space not only of the 5″ gun but also the 29 VLS cells on the bow of the ship. As I understand it, one AGS can be replaced by at least 1 x 61 Mk41 VLS cell system.

That means the Navy has given us a $2.55B estimate for a stealth arsenal ship with 80 Mk 57 PVLS cells, 2 MK110 57mm guns, and anywhere from 80 more MK57 PVLS cells or 122 MK41 VLS cells, and is comparing this behemoth of missile power to a DDG-51 Flight IIA.

Did you get that? $2.5 billion for a ship with 160 rather than 80 missiles cells, still far from the arsenal ship we once advocated, with its 500-1000 missiles and likely the same price. If you read deeper into the article you will see the DDG-1000 transform from a shallow water destroyer to a Blue Water battleship. Besides land attack, the Navy also wants it to posses ASW abilities while also shooting down those pesky Chinese anti-ship ballistic missiles we have been hearing about lately, all for $2.5 billion each! Sure.

Speaking of China, she should be ecstatic that naval strategists continue to worry and ponder how the best way to make their giant 20th Century warship designs more survivable in the 21st century. Rather than building a Navy meant to fight, it is instead meant to survive, shooting down the occasional missile fired by tin-pot dictators, or bombing a rogue terrorist in his mud cave. So instead of spending precious shipbuilding funds making the navy bigger, warships, smaller, and naturally more survivable, we play into China’s strategy by making a few very large hulls, which we might as well paint giant bulls-eye on their very spacious top-decks.

 Not one for conspiracy theories, I can’t help but wonder if Beijing is at constant work pulling the strings of their North Korean puppet Kim Jong-il, and his constant threats to launch ballistic missiles against the West, specifically the USA. By doing so, he pushes the Navy and our political leaders further toward a defensive minded fleet with already expensive Aegis cruisers and destroyers, with even more costly anti-ballistic missile technology, that has nothing to do with sea control and maintaining the freedom of the seas. This latter should be the Navy’s primary purpose, but by focusing on keeping our ships alive, we stray greatly from the true purpose of even having a Navy.

As we saw in the first Gulf War, with Saddam Hussein lobbing his Scud missiles against Israel to coerce that nation into war and likely disrupt the Arab Coalition against him, these weapons are more of a political tool than a military threat. From the Second World War to the Second Gulf War, it was found the only way to destroy such mobile weapons is to physically occupy the ground they were on rather than very costly and not so effective Ballistic Missile Defense. It is also interesting recently how President Obama diverted a North Korean arms ship off its course by building a coalition of nations who refused to receive it! The lesson is, we need to create unconventional measures to fight an unconventional foe.

Now China is supposed to be fielding what is dubbed a “carrier killing ballistic missile“, which supposedly has the accuracy to destroy our biggest ships, making a mockery of the Maritime Strategy geared toward littoral warfare. It would be logical then that we should build very many smaller ships, making more targets to swarm any such strategy by the Reds null and void. Instead, we continue to obsess over giant ships, and how to make them more survivable and ever fewer in number.

China’s is not an unlikely strategy, since Stalin and his successors used a similar one against the USA in the last century. While we were planning to fight nuclear war with giant bomber fleets, supercarriers, and Polaris submarines, the communists coaxed us into fighting wars of attrition in Korea and Vietnam, which nearly broke the back of our economy and almost sapped our will to fight aggression. Having grown up in the 1970s, I distinctly recall the gas lines, plant closings and high unemployment, and especially the hollow military. We thought we were losing the Cold War as Stalin’s long-distance plan began bearing fruit.

Only with a supreme effort did the World War Two generation, led by Ronald Reagan rise up and drag the Baby Boomer’s kicking and screaming to stand for freedom around the world. It was a ripe opportunity for someone to support the disgruntled groups and freedom movements rising in the Warsaw Pact. It was mostly bluff on our part because we had no idea how, or if our new weapons would work, but Reagan’s strategy certainly did work, with the communists giving in instead of us. It could have went the other way though.

This is how we play China’s Game, and they must be ecstatic to know they are bluffing us with their missiles, just as we once bluffed the Soviets with our antiballstic missile defense, Star Wars, now almost 30 years under development and still a long way from perfect. A supreme irony that the ABM defense that helped bankrupt Stalin’s Russia is dragging us down with its price, distracting us from what is important.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. August 17, 2013 9:38 pm

    Great blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere?
    A theme like yours with a few simple tweeks would really make my blog stand out.
    Please let me know where you got your theme.
    Many thanks

  2. Defiant permalink
    July 9, 2009 2:18 am

    Even with solar cells, you’d only have few kw of power, maybei enough f for propeller propulsion at slow speeds, not enough for radar, so you won’t save much and add weight for the cells and infrastructure. Applying stealth materials is also not easy, as adding maybe 5kg per squaremeter of weight would be a lots of tonnes with these dimensions.

    I can’t really argue about the propulsion and rcs stuff as i do not have enough knowledge about these areas and i assume nobody without engineering experience in this area really has. The AEGIS Airship would probably be possible, but i don’t think anybody would dare building/developing it (at least not till the oil crisis in a few decades)

  3. July 8, 2009 8:03 am

    @ defiant: you must cease to think “blimp”; and move on to a new form of rigid shelled, amphibious, fast airship.

    Such an airship measuring 500′ long x 300′ wide x 100′ deep will have enough volume to lift 230 tons. Ships’ deadweight of 80 tons gives it enough payload to carry whatever power requirements are needed for BAMS, and crew.

    Covering the ship with solar cells eliminates the fuel needs.

    At 500′ long, and hovering or flying a few feet off of the ocean, or landed in the water, this airship is no more “spottable” than any other vessel.

    New materials strengths allow airships to use jet engines for high speeds…Again, you must leave the idea of slow blimps behind, it’s no longer applicable. Fuel for the jet engines can be diesel; there is enough lift to carry large amounts of fuel; using solar power to supplement this reduces “refueling” needs significantly. Directed thrust from jets coupled with computers allows the airship to be controled in varying winds; again, the old blimp idea is not applicable.

    While the airship is, indeed, large… RCS stealth really is a matter of materials and shaping more than size. Doesn’t mean that the airship is invisable; although, since it has more ability to carry extra weight than an airplane, it CAN be made more stealthy than a plane. Only question is the cost to do so.

    “cargolifter”???? Please, no foul language on this blog! :)

  4. Defiant permalink
    July 8, 2009 5:46 am

    airships are easily spottable using visual surveillance from miles away.
    airships are slow.
    airships have a hard time going against the wind.
    i dont know about radar cross section but i think there are limits to hide something this big.
    adding bmd will add LOTS of weight (radars used for bmd need lots of range, therefore Megawatts of power, only ship engines can provide this and these weigh a lot plus fuel and the rockets and launch system), therefore endurance will go down or you need another airship for refueling, moreover size adds to maintenance cost. Basically you need to add all of a ships systems to the airship, including ciws, essm, sm2+3, radars, power generation, a crew to operate and maintain these systems plus their accomodation, an emergency escape plane(s) … It would be buildable, but the size would be in the dimensions of the cargolifter, the safety of the crew is not really high, there’d be a lot of risk in this project.

    Airships can be used for surveillance missions which do not require speed, such as pirate spotting or patroling over third world countries , probably as UAVs.
    I don’t think airships are usable against countries with even a tiny air force

  5. July 7, 2009 7:50 am

    As counter to Chinese ASBM’s, airships would be ideal. Can they target something that can move several times faster than a surface ship? Is the airship flying at 20,000′? Or sitting on the ocean? Perhaps it has moved inland and has landed onto a field? Since it no longer is constrained by water,…perhaps it is not approaching from the ocean to our East, but instead, flying in over mountains to our South?

    Add in the ability to build/mimic the stealth inherent in proper shaping and carbon construction; with a virtually unlimited range and linger ability, and the capability to carry huge payloads….the airship becomes an excellent tool.

    Because airships move through air instead of water, they are constructed in a less expensive manner. A more cost effective addition to the fleet; and, can be fielded in greater numbers.


  1. China’s Carrier Ruse « New Wars

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