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Searching for the Arleigh Burke Replacement Pt 2

July 21, 2009

As my friend Raymond “Galrahn” Pritchett will often insist, you can’t maintain sea control with battleships alone. Just read what he has to say recently in the post “Missing Nelson’s 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!”

DDG-51 crest

DDG-51 crest

Battleships (using this term descriptively, meaning any large capital vessel such as Aegis ships, nuclear submarines, aircraft carriers, ect.), like our DDG-51 Arleigh Burke class destroyers can perform single strikes against enemy fast attack craft or even less capable pirate craft given the political will, but they cannot linger indefinitely to ensure the sea dominance they have just won. A handful of larger warships near to shore become vulnerable to more numerous asymmetrical threats such as land based missiles and aircraft, stealthy and deadly quiet conventional submarines,  air-land-sea launched cruise missiles which often are undetectable until the moment of impact, old fashioned naval mines, and suicide boats.

This is an interesting contrast in that just as the small corvette hasn’t the ability to linger in the heavy seas of the Blue Water environment, so does the large battleship have little place in the littoral waters. The smaller ship doesn’t have the endurance or sea-keeping for ocean operations, just as the battleship possesses little maneuver room in Brown Waters and can be swarmed by many threats. It is true then the adage that states “the best weapon to counter enemy small surface combatants is a force of small surface combatants.” Such a vessel can go where the small fast attack craft (FAC) can go  and utilize the same tactics as the smaller vessel.

As with the new littoral combat ship USS Freedom and her kin, it is a mistake to try to marry both Blue and Brown water abilities in the same package. Such a craft would be too underarmed to sail with a ocean-going battlefleet, and too large for shallow water sailing. Also the effort has proven too costly with the new LCS Independence at $3/4 of a billion, with small price and large numbers being a major attribute of the corvette.

To keep costs low and simplify construction, capabilities should be spread among many ships or discarded altogether, instead of emplacing many abilities on a single vulnerable platform. There should be corvettes geared toward anti-air warfare, and for anti-surface warfare, anti-submarine, for carrying helicopters or UAVs, mine warfare, and so on.

Submarine Tender USS Emory Island  (AS 39)

Submarine Tender USS Emory Island (AS 39)

To make up for any lack of endurance, mothership tenders should always accompany the corvette squadron. Such fairly large vessels converted from older amphibious ships or merchantmen have cared for small boats navies in all our wars, notably in World War 2, allowing our submarines to take the war to the enemy after Pearl Harbor. Motherships also serviced the light destroyers and destroyers escorts mentioned by Raymond Pritchett above, as well as the famed PT Boats. Also in Vietnam 20+ years later and more relevant to our own era, motherships serviced and extended the capabilities of the PBR squadrons of the Mekong Delta  and the Brown Water Navy’s famed Swift Boats which harassed and hindered the Viet Cong unmercifully.

We see then the use of small vessels with mothership support against targets near-to shore is not a new concept anyway foreign to the US Navy. Yet today’s admirals will insist their warships must be very large,  like the massive and costly Arleigh Burkes, able to “do all and be all”. But this in itself is a new concept derived from decades of peacetime sailing, not from rational wartime experience and thought. We have plenty of battleships then for the Blue Water warfare they are mainly good for. Time now to build a new fleet, and a new destroyer for the long-neglected shallow water mission.

27 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike Burleson permalink*
    July 24, 2009 10:37 am

    I think they had some UAVs, though.

  2. B.Smitty permalink
    July 23, 2009 10:55 pm

    They also had local basing. And they weren’t doing COIN half way around the world.

    I bet there were many situations where they would’ve been glad to have F-18s overhead.

  3. Mike Burleson permalink*
    July 23, 2009 3:33 pm

    Thanks John! We see the successful Sri Lankan Navy campaign against the Sea Tigers as a text book example how to do COIN at sea. And they did it without aircraft carriers!

  4. July 23, 2009 2:33 pm

    “It is true then the adage that states “the best weapon to counter enemy small surface combatants is a force of small surface combatants.” Such a vessel can go where the small fast attack craft (FAC) can go and utilize the same tactics as the smaller vessel.”

    The Sri Lankans finally made headway in their 20+ year struggle with the LTTE (Tamil Tigers) when they cut off the Tigers’ resupply by sea. They did this in large part by fielding numbers of small vessels with which they swarmed the Tigers’ attack craft. Once the SLN effectively controlled the sea, the Army was able to overpower the LTTE forces isolated on land.

  5. B.Smitty permalink
    July 22, 2009 5:45 pm

    Scott B,

    Yep, I’ve heard that too. I wonder if it could be designed to loiter/patrol efficiently off-cushion?

  6. Scott B. permalink
    July 22, 2009 4:41 pm

    B. Smitty said : “It should have fuel efficient loiter with good seakeeping (either on or off-cushion)”

    SES tend to exhibit a substantial drag hump between 12 and 20 knots (for SES-700), which is one of the factors that played against them in recent competition : vs Visby for the Swedish YS or vs semi-planing monohull and trimaran for LCS.

    For instance, in the LCS program, the Raytheon design was able to achieve a range of more than 3,500 NM @ 40+ knots, but could not meet the transit range requirements (objective = 4,300 NM @ 20 NM; threshold = 3,500 NM @ 18 knots).

    [I believe the Raytheon design had to *cheat* and make at least 22 knots to achieve a range of 3,500 NM.]

  7. B.Smitty permalink
    July 22, 2009 10:01 am

    Heretic,

    I’d be interested to see that too, though I don’t see much use for the current Skjold FAC armament. We don’t need small cruise missile shooters. We need littoral ASW, MIW, SOF insertion, and small-boat ASuW vessels. For this, deployable UxVs, unmanned sensor grids, helos (either with hangar or lillypad), Netfires and organic sensors are more important.

    It needs sufficient berthing for mission crews and boarding parties.

    It should have fuel efficient loiter with good seakeeping (either on or off-cushion) for launch and recovery of RHIBs and UxVs.

    Limited basing in the Indian Ocean/Persian Gulf and the South Pacific may put an even greater emphasis on range. Guam to Taiwan is a 1600 nm trip. A range of 3000+nm is not out of the question. It will need to be RAS-capable, but if it’s optimal cruise speed is higher than its support ships, the support ships may have to sail early and let the SES’s catch up.

    How much will Lee’s Afloat Forward Logistics Ship cost? Does it have to be more survivable than a standard AOR to permit operations closer to its daughter craft?

  8. Heretic permalink
    July 22, 2009 9:35 am

    A Skjold should be able to self-deploy over trans-oceanic distances during the majority of the season.

    Hence my continuing personal interest in seeing a range optimized variant/evolution of the Skjold in the 500-600 ton displacement category that mounts pretty much the same armament as its smaller, shorter sea legged, older sibling.

  9. Mike Burleson permalink*
    July 22, 2009 6:01 am

    “I dislike using the type term Tender. That implies a rear area, stationary, repair ship.”

    Good point. Consider it finished on my part.

  10. Distiller permalink
    July 22, 2009 12:29 am

    A Skjold should be able to self-deploy over trans-oceanic distances during the majority of the season.
    Re scaling it up: Look at the Russian “Bora” class. 1000 tons.
    I really think that the hovercat is the current answer to the sub-1000tons (monohull equivalent) question.

  11. leesea permalink
    July 21, 2009 10:18 pm

    There are a couple of veins in this thread that are crossed up. First off I dislike using the type term Tender. That implies a rear area, stationary, repair ship. What is needed in a mothership (for LCS or Skjold or FACs or OPVs) is a mobile, logistics support ship which can go most of the way “forward” with its small boys. It needs speed, it MUST have POL & Ammo storage and handling capabilities, it should also serve a helo, boat & UAV repair/maintenance ship. In other words a force enabler, or my current best description: Afloat Forward Logistics Ship. Best candidate design is German Berlin Class, but there are some ohters

    There are damn few loadouts with small combatants that will come anywhere near to overloading a large Flo/Flo! Some of those ships lift more than 40,000 tons! Bsmitty points to the real limiting parameter, i.e. deck area. To me putting the larger small ships like PCs, FAC, LCACs, HSVs on a Flo/Flo makes sense not only for transport but also for forward support (load change or BDR). Boats such as CB90/RCBs all the way up to LCM8/LCTs can easily be lifted by many sealift ships or put on RRF Seabees or LASH ships.

  12. Scott B. permalink
    July 21, 2009 9:48 pm

    I forgot to say that I’m eager to find out whether they’ll try to test what sort of performances LCS-1 can achieve in North Atlantic conditions… ;)

  13. Scott B. permalink
    July 21, 2009 9:45 pm

    B. Smitty said : “Skjold is not a catamaran, it’s an SES, and its seakeeping is impressive for a vessel its size.”

    I just grabbed a couple of old studies to illustrate what Smitty just said.

    A bit of history first : back in the mid-1980s, the French started to consider building an SES corvette for ASW that they called EOLES.

    This SES corvette had a full load displacement of about 1,500 tons (for a mission payload of about 150 tons), and a CODLAG propulsion for a maximum speed of 52+ knots on cushion or 18 knots hullborne.

    In a NATO study, the expected performances of this SES corvette were compared with those of the FFG-7. Conditions chosen for the comparison were those prevailing in the North Atlantic. Below are a couple of findings they came up with :

    Maximum Sustained Speed in North Atlantic conditions (Annual Average) :
    * FFG-7 : 22.5 knots
    * EOLES : 38.5 knots (cushion borne)

    Ship Operability in Area 1 of North Atlantic during Winter (max. in %) :
    * FFG-7 : 45%
    * EOLES : 90% (cushion borne)

    Helicopter Operability in Area 1 of North Atlantic during Winter (max. in %) :
    * FFG-7 : 40%
    * EOLES : 65% (cushion borne)

    It’s universally acknowledge that the French have a tendency to overestimate their capabilities, but, in this specific case :

    1) the expected performances of their EOLES design were matched against a similar concept developed by the British, and found to be close enough to be credible.

    2) the expected performances claimed for EOLES were initially based on a small tech-demonstrator built in 1981 (called MOLENES, 6 tons, 13 meters) and later confirmed by a larger tech-demonstrator called AGNES (200 tons, 49m length, 13m beam) tested from 1990 to 1993.

    3) the test results obtained with AGNES were compared some years later with the trial results achieved with KNM Skjold and were apparently found to be very consistent. I’m sure Bill knows a lot more than I do on this.

    The end of the story (as far as EOLES is concerned) is that the project didn’t survive the end of the Cold War and the demise of the *mighty* Soviet submarine threat.

  14. B.Smitty permalink
    July 21, 2009 6:51 pm

    Defiant,

    Skjold is not a catamaran, it’s an SES, and its seakeeping is impressive for a vessel its size.

  15. Defiant permalink
    July 21, 2009 5:35 pm

    I don’t think the skjold concept can ever get good blue sea capabilties. Upscaling is not possible with every design and a catamaran is not good with higher sea states.
    And the corvette being unsuitable for blue seas … :
    Nowadays corvetes are the same weight as yesterdays destroyers and they could be used just fine in the blue sea. Sure they are unsuitable for AAW as you need high power/weight/size/ sensor and effectors, but the ground radar range of a 9000ton destroyer is not so much bigger than from a corvette (horizon formula: c x sqrt[h]; c = constant,h = height above the sea; meaning that to cover the same area as 2 small ships you’d need to double the height of the ground radar of a big ship). MOreover with more small vessels you can more easily form a line as our big ship with double the radar height only covers 1,4 times the more in a line (one bigger circle), while two radars basically double the covered line(2 smaller circles like the olympic rings). For MIW more vessels are also better, same for ASW as shooting a torpedo gives the ship a rough estimate of the location, while being being less of a target ( a submarine captain wouldd certainly be more eager to take risks to sink a aegis cruiser than a corvette), more sonars put higher pressure on a submarine, installing asrocs is not a problem. And why does it always need to be a 1000t corvette, 1xxxt is more appropriate. The only point for destroyers is the better sea stability, making it possible to operate the helis in higher sea state. For the Price of a destroyer you can get 3+ corvettes plus a tender( which could patrol as well).
    More small vessels are better for ASuW, MIW, ASW, but they can’t be too small either in order to get them across oceans and have endrurance and some somfort. The LCS in in it’s concept was not so bad, but some wrong requirements made it unsuitable especially with the price being 3 times the requirement.
    The Meko CSL concept from TKMS could turn out to be the better LCS with more effectors, and the same modularity. If they can get this out under 400Million it could be a good k131 for the german navy. (ok 2700 or so tons are hardly a corvette anymore ^^)

  16. Byron permalink
    July 21, 2009 3:18 pm

    Guess I can throw that book out :) And it’s not about the damn depth. I wouldn’t want to see a ship within the 8 fathom line of the beach, because by then for sure he’s too damn close! Ships+plus indirect/direct shore fire= new reef…a very expensive one. I’d rather send a UAV from the tin can from 60 miles away, and then call the CVN and pound the snot out of it. SMART warfare is being a bully; you never bring a knife to a knife fight, you bring a SAW.

    You want a minesweep? Build a minesweep that does minesweeping and doesn’t have a freakin’ STEEL hull, fagawds sake!

  17. Scott B. permalink
    July 21, 2009 2:33 pm

    Byron said : “Anyone remember when Reagan parked a BB offshore of Lebanon? Quieted things down for a while, especially when Hamas started seeing VWs flying through the air.”

    Byron :

    1) There was no Hamas in Lebanon in 1983-84.

    2) I can guarantee you that the presence of USS New Jersey did not quiet anything : it actually produced the exact opposite effect.

    Everything else you said was great.

  18. Scott B. permalink
    July 21, 2009 2:29 pm

    Byron said : “The problem I keep seeing in these discussions is that everyone sees the littoral is all that is inshore of the 100 fathom line, right up to the beach.”

    The problem is that the mythical 1,000-ton corvette, epitomized by the Israeli Sa’ar 5, is :

    1) too big for brown water operations.

    2) too small for blue water operations.

    3) too big AND/OR too small for green water operations.

    The 1,000-ton corvette is yet another solution looking for a problem.

  19. B.Smitty permalink
    July 21, 2009 2:17 pm

    Bill,

    My problem with FLO/FLOing Skjolds is, even if you take a huge ship like MV Mighty Servant 2, with a 150m x 50m deck, you can still only fit (at most) nine Skjolds. IMHO, that’s not a lot of vessels considering you’re using a 40,000 tons dwt ship to carry them.

    If you built a mini-Skjold, say 34m x 11m, you might be able to carry 16. But it still takes a BIG vessel to get them there.

  20. Byron permalink
    July 21, 2009 11:38 am

    If a robber comes into your house, which do you reach for: the .22 semi-auto rifle, or the 12 ga. shotgun?.

    The problem I keep seeing in these discussions is that everyone sees the littoral is all that is inshore of the 100 fathom line, right up to the beach. These people picture this as an empty environment bounded only by the part you can float in (hence the draft discussions). What I see is the most dangerous location for a surface craft to place itself, full of mines, shore artillery, ASMs, RPGs, diesel subs, and enemy aircraft. The smaller the vessel, the more vulnerable it is. Anyone remember when Reagan parked a BB offshore of Lebanon? Quieted things down for a while, especially when Hamas started seeing VWs flying through the air.

    I personally thing the dumbest thing you can do as a navy is send small underarmed and undermanned ships that close to the beach with little or no support.

    Last, the word is NOT “mothership”. It’s “Tender”. Any small combatant tied to a shoreline doing patrol duties needs something to refuel and replenish from, not to mention do repairs (which tenders did back in the day, as they had machine shops and huge store rooms).

    So maybe we don’t need 9000 ton cruiser/destroyers doing littoral work. At the same time, we also don’t need anything smaller than 3,000 tons doing it either. And it better have more offensive weapons than a 57mm pop gun, either.

  21. west_rhino permalink
    July 21, 2009 11:29 am

    “Submarine Tender USS Emory Island (AS 39)”?????

    I thought that was AS-39 Emory Land, same class as Cable and McKee!

    Mike!

    Agree with the mothership prospect… how about a milchkuh, based on a SSBN hull?

  22. July 21, 2009 11:17 am

    You’re crossing terms. You MIGHT have a point if you’re talking about controlling the littoral area with small ships. If you’re talking about projecting power ashore then you need an Aircraft Carrier or an Amphib or a Burke (with tomahawks or its gun). Yes a smaller ship can help but it will not have the strategic reach or shock action of its larger brothers. CB90’s are basically Marine Raiding craft, originally designed to transport Infantry at high speed to certain sea side locations. The Watercat was armed to provide support to troops ashore, not act as a patrol vessel. Seems like your ideal ship is starting to devolve into a big rigid boat!

  23. Heretic permalink
    July 21, 2009 11:14 am

    Defiant, that’s why I continue to wonder about an “endurance” (or if you prefer, expeditionary) Skjold evolution, scaled up to 500-600 tons (from 260) which is specifically oriented for long duration sailing while keeping the same weapons loadout as the smaller, defensive, short(er) ranged Skjold that’s already in service. Call the expeditionary type whatever the Viking word is for battleaxe and call it a day. ^_-

  24. Bill permalink
    July 21, 2009 11:08 am

    “Skjold is probably the most suitable but i dont think it was made to cross oceans and is rather unsuitable for flo-flo transport,”

    School me on the background behind that statement. What are some of the key parameters (weight, LOA, BOA..etc) defining a flo-flo capable vessel design?

  25. Mike Burleson permalink*
    July 21, 2009 10:36 am

    Defiant, that last sentence was well put. But the Navy might argue only giant stealth warships and supercarriers can project power ashore. No wonder they are stretched thin and sailing without a rudder.

  26. Defiant permalink
    July 21, 2009 10:22 am

    the problem with the small boat is to get them into theater and as they lack endurance they need a mothership. The cb90 and jurmo derivates especially, they are good vessels, but you need some flo/flo or well deck ship to get them where they are needed. Skjold is probably the most suitable but i dont think it was made to cross oceans and is rather unsuitable for flo-flo transport, nevertheless probably the best ship to project power on a coastline.

  27. Scott B. permalink
    July 21, 2009 7:17 am

    Mike Burleson said : “Such a vessel can go where the small fast attack craft (FAC) can go and utilize the same tactics as the smaller vessel.”

    A 1,000-ton corvette like the Sa’ar 5 and her navigational draft of 15 feet (4.7 meters) will never be able to operate in shallow waters like any the ships listed below :

    Skjold-class Patrol Boats, which has received much attention recently on your blog.

    Ghannatha-class 24m Transport Boat , a derivative of which will be fitted with Marte Mk2 AShM (or Patria’s 120mm NEMO mortar) for the UAE.

    Watercat M12 Fast Landing Craft, on which Patria’s 120mm NEMO mortar was recently fitted for testing purposes.

    And there’s probably no need to mention the rest of the small fries…

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