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Depends on Your Definition of ‘Cruiser’

July 17, 2009

When Raymond “Galrahn” Pritchett at the Information Dissemination blog talks about cruisers, he isn’t necessarily discussing the 10,000 ton Ticonderoga class anti-missile cruisers, or even their near-clones of the Arleigh Burke class which are often seen tied to the aircraft carriers. He is speaking of a small, versatile warcraft able to perform the gunboat mission while the bigger battleships are fighting the big wars. Here’s Raymond  who explains why he is “Missing Nelsons Cruisers“:

The roles we built little inexpensive 1300 ton destroyer escorts to perform in WWII will be filled by $2 billion platforms in the 21st century under the current US Navy vision, and all the Navy says is “We need more Burkes!” The risk averse nature of the US Navy, the presumption that protection comes from mass alone, and the lack of oversight it takes to completely fail to build an effective screen for the battle line is adding significant tactical, but more importantly existential strategic risk to the ability of the US Navy to meet its obligations. There should be outrage among Flag officers regarding this obvious strategic imbalance in force structure, and yet… silence. When all a Navy has is $2 billion dollar battleships of the line to fight pirates with, and openly acknowledges they have too few ships to effectively fight pirates and control a few important sea lanes in the Indian Ocean from AK-47 waving small skiff boats, that should be a strategic red flag for Congress.

If I didn’t know better, I’d say the blogger was paying more attention to yours truly than he cared to admit! Seriously, a well thought out and important article. I get educated everytime I drop in there!

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike Burleson permalink
    July 20, 2009 11:24 am

    Its a very thin line, with the cruiser of today merely just descended (in the USN) from the large missile frigates (DLGNs and DLGs) of the 1950s, 1960s. There is very little difference save in capabilities of the various US and foreign missile cruisers, destroyers, and frigates. There are no real cruisers left.

  2. Heretic permalink
    July 20, 2009 10:26 am

    Defining a surface cruiser of these days? What about

    Cruiser: Surface combatant optimized for surface to surface and surface to air dominance. Capable of surface to submarine warfare, but not optimized for it.

    Destroyer: Surface combatant optimized for surface to submarine and mine/anti-mine warfare. Capable of surface to surface and surface to air warfare, but not optimized for it.

    Basically design the cruisers to fight everything above the waterline … and the destroyers to fight everything below the waterline … with some secondary combat capability in the “other realm” on each.

  3. Mike Burleson permalink
    July 20, 2009 9:09 am

    Distiller, I think our submarines answer most of these requirements save the anti-air mission. Could be this is not necessary in a Blue Water environment unless you want convoy defense.

    The WW 2 cruisers weren’t adequate in the ASW department, so nothing’s perfect. I see that a problem in the modern USN which wants ships to “be all and do all”.

    I was a little amazed that the Burke designers didn’t go with a single end vessel, especially after the Cold War to reduce costs and fit the ASW helo. The use of ESSM where you can fit 4 missiles in the old Standard VLS cell, makes such a design redundant.

  4. Distiller permalink
    July 20, 2009 12:40 am

    Defining a surface cruiser of these days? What about
    — is able to operate alone, without a surface/subsurface CS/CSS assets for duration X
    — has a full offensive mission suite for all four core missions (ASW, AA/OW, ASuW, land-atttack)
    — can act as intergrator node and task group leader (processing capability, staff capability)
    — has the defensive system to go into high threat areas alone
    — can go fast and long in all SS and climates (means probably nuclear powered, and also some level of ice hardening)
    — not a BB, thus protected but not armored

    Sounds expensive. The difference to a destroyer could be, that a destroyer has only one full specific offensive mission capability, and the difference to a frigate could be that a frigate is a cruiser “light”.

    Regarding Burke’s strange standing: Now the first double-ended dual-role-wannabe escort, but too small in that role I think. Though the first flight was more a traditional AAW destroyer, they didn’t have the heart to make flight two a dedicated ASW platform with three LAMPS in the back. It’s not true in Burke’s case that a dual-role ship is a better solution for the six or so escort stations per carrier. That would only be the case if all the Burkes were of a standard with full AAW, plus two LAMPS plus the full sonar tail – which is not the case. I actually don’t think that in the current form a Burke can be a true dual-role escort. And to bet it all on cooperative engagement to make up the performance shortfalls is risky. In short the dual-role escort platform results in a very large, very expensive ship, that in reality – e.g. due to different positioning and movement patterns within the task group – still can do only one job fully at any one time. But I may be wrong and it might all be Friede, Freude, Eierkuchen.

  5. Scott B. permalink
    July 18, 2009 8:32 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “So it seems a ship expected to operate in fairly calm shallow seas might be small and still offer adequate crew comfort.”

    Forgive me for reusing a good line, it depends on what your definition of *fairly calm* is. ;)

    Below are the typical sea state probabilities that can be assumed to prevail in the *average* littorals :

    inferior or equal to SS3 : 0.40
    inferior or equal to SS4 : 0.86
    inferior or equal to SS5 : 0.93
    inferior or equal to SS6 : 0.97

    Just to get the ball rolling, what I suggest is this :

    1) You pick the sea state you consider to best meet your definition of what *fairly calm* is.

    2) You define at which speed (all headings) you want your *small ship* to be able to operate in this sea state.

    3) You show me one real-life example of a *small ship* capable of meeting the sea state / speed combination you’ve just required.

    Does it sound fair enough ?

  6. Scott B. permalink
    July 18, 2009 8:08 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “We can do better, but only if we build more, less costly warships.”

    There is a fairly large consensus on the need for more, less costly warships, but this is not the case you’re trying to make.

    The case you’re trying to make is that the 1,000-ton corvette is the only way to achieve the objective of building more, less costly warships.

    Because the LCS program miserably failed to produce affordable warships (with actual costs over 3 times the threshold of $220 million per unit), you assume that the only way to come close to the $220 million threshold is to produce a design that’s 1/3 the size of the current LCS (hence the 1,000-ton displacement for your corvette).

    What I’ve been trying to explain to you for some time now is that :

    1) with this reasoning, you’re simply re-booting the system (setting the displacement at the arbitrary 1,000-ton figure) and hoping that the same software that lead to the LCS fiasco will produce different results after the reboot.

    2) with this reasoning, you keep forgetting that LCS started as the less-than-1,000-ton Streetfighter, just to end up as a more-than-3,000-ton Überspeedboat that cost $600+ million, is grossly overweight (LCS-1 at least), etc…

  7. Mike Burleson permalink
    July 18, 2009 4:38 pm

    Scott, forgive me for reusing a good line, it depends on what your definition of ” good Seakeeping and crew comfort” is. Do 10,000 ton warships provide the best crew comfort or can a ship of small dimensions also be built with her sailors welfare in mind? So what size ship is the best for crew comfort? It would depend on the number of crew and also the type of seas you expect such a vessel to sail in. So it seems a ship expected to operate in fairly calm shallow seas might be small and still offer adequate crew comfort.

    Here is another factor to consider concerning the welfare of sailors. When you have a very small fleet expected to do the mission of a much larger navy, which is maintain naval security on a global scale, heightened operating tempos can wear on the crew. I don’t care how luxurious and “like home” your warships are, and I expect American’s are the best at offering recreation and rest for her personnel, there will be suffering. Bottom line, we have too small a fleet of which too much is expected. Ships wear out, men wear out. We can do better, but only if we build more, less costly warships.

  8. Scott B. permalink
    July 18, 2009 2:32 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “Are ships built to fight or for leisurely peacetime requirements?”

    Seakeeping and crew comfort are not just *leisurely peacetime requirements* as you suggest.

    For instance, below are a couple of short paragraphs from STANAG 4154, Common Procedures for Seakeeping in the Ship Design Process :

    “The general desirability of good seakeeping performance is universally accepted and has been for almost as long as ships have been designed and built. In general terms, good seakeeping qualities permit a warship to operate in adverse weather conditions with minimum degradation of mission effectiveness.

    AND

    “despite the clear link between poor seakeeping and reduced mission performance, seakeeping is not given sufficiently high priority when the naval requirements are defined.”

    IOW : a warship with poor seakeeping qualities is not built to fight.

  9. Mike Burleson permalink
    July 18, 2009 9:00 am

    Solomon, all valid arguments, except I would place priorities above your view. Are ships built to fight or for leisurely peacetime requirements? And grant you the Burkes are very tough ships, and I think the best of their type anywhere in the world, but do we need 60 of them? they are built mainly for the Big Wars, but most often are seen chasing pirates in speed boats or showing the flag in soft power exercises with our allies.

    Such an attitude that only battleships can perform modern seapower operations which in times past required a fleet of balanced capabilities is historically wrong, and strategically dangerous. In this age in which small lethal missiles are more deadlier than ever, some sea-going David is just waiting in the wings to show our own Goliath warships the error that our Big Ships are unsinkable.

  10. July 17, 2009 10:28 pm

    I don’t understand your stance regarding the Burke class of ships. They are multi-role, extremely versatile and with the weapons fit somewhat economical. The only difference that I can see between your vision and the vision espoused by Navy leadership is
    a. Sea keeping
    b. Crew comfort
    In a modern military where your sailors are volunteers, the comfort factor does play a role. Additionally if we’re to send these ships to “sail the seven seas” then sea keeping is a very important part of the design which lends itself to bigger vessels. I remember back in the 70’s, Senators were all complaining that the Soviet ships all appeared to be more heavily armed than our ships. It was explained to them that the two factors regarding weapons fit was the magazine concept on US Navy ships and the need for crew comfort. Hopefully your Jihad will not cause the Navy to devolve into a service that cares nothing for its sailors and starts cramming them into tiny rooms with poor ventilation and lacking facilities that add to crew comfort.

  11. Mike Burleson permalink
    July 17, 2009 8:28 pm

    Not from me, Mrs D! I split my up for the week.

    Oh, and welcome back! We missed you over here!

  12. Mrs. Davis permalink
    July 17, 2009 7:51 pm

    I get educated everytime I drop in there!

    Does this mean we’re going to start getting 4,000 word posts?

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