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The Aegis Mothership

September 9, 2009

Today we honor the recent passing of Rear Adm. Wayne E. Meyer by looking ahead at his lasting legacy, the Aegis Combat System. The Navy’s future Aegis plans are centered around updating current Ticonderoga and Arleigh Burke class ships, the 3 Zumwalt destroyers, and a future CG(X) cruiser design. Concerning the latter, initial details has it as a 22,000 ton warship, powered by nuclear reactors, with an estimated cost of $5 billion each. Considering the Navy practice of drastically under-estimating the cost of new construction, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to suggest $10 billion or more for CG(X).

When Aegis was first envisioned in the 1960s and 1970s, initial proposals included the placement of the high tech radar system on board various hull designs, described here by Wikipedia:

During this time frame, the Navy envisioned installing the Aegis combat system on both a nuclear powered “Strike Cruiser” (or CSGN) and a conventionally powered destroyer (originally designated DDG 47). The CSGN was to be a new, 17,200 ton cruiser design based on the earlier California- and Virginia-class cruisers. The Aegis destroyer design would be based on the gas turbine powered Spruance class.

In the 1970s we see a much larger and better funded Navy rejecting very costly platforms that would reduce the number of Aegis vessels in service, while increasing building time, choosing instead to use a rather spartan Spruance destroyer hull. Though not an ideal solution, the vessels being somewhat cramped for this purpose, it had the benefit of getting a very important weapons system to the fleet very quickly when it mattered most, in the final showdown of the arms race between the Soviet Union and the USA.

In contrast, today a less well-funded, and greatly reduced in numbers fleet is seeking a solution for its cruiser plans that the Cold War Navy rationally rejected. We can only see the CG(X) design as currently configured entering service by further taking away from our vanishing general purpose forces, and even then only a handful bought as with the DDG-1000 debacle. There are other solutions though which will not add to the detriment of our fleet numbers, or bring an unbearable strain on static shipbuilding budgets-The Aegis Mothership.

For the most part, the Aegis Mothership would be unarmed, save for a handful of point defense guns and missiles. It would be totally dependent on armed warships for protection, much like an aircraft carrier or a USAF AWACS plane is to fighters. As with these existing weapons, it would greatly enhance the fighting power of its charges.

By taking the expensive radar system out of existing vessels, the Navy could build warships drastically cheaper and in greater numbers. Taking away much of the top superstructure of a warship would also make them naturally stealthy. During times of peace, or in low threat areas against pirates or smuggler, such ships would be adequate in their “floating barge” role where today we use our costly and technically wondrous Aegis ships, wasting their superior abilities in a very sundry function. In times of war or crisis, the Aegis Mothership would deploy, super-charging the squadron defenses by the proven abilities of the most sophisticated radar, command, control, and communications system ever devised. A true “plug and play” warship!

The radar picket ship Vigil (YAGR-12). Placing the essential DEW Line Radar on converted Liberty Ships allowed the Navy to introduce such a capability quickly.

The radar picket ship Vigil (YAGR-12). Placing the essential DEW Line Radar on converted Liberty Ships allowed the Navy to introduce such a capability quickly.

There should be little concern that such a ship would be the first target by enemy countermeasures in a conflict, since the carriers and AWACS operators face this already. Enough would be on hand to ensure one or more would be available for any contingency, from 18 to 25 at least. The possible platforms are endless but should be on a spartan hull built to mercantile specifications, much like the old radar picket ships from the 1950s were converted from Liberty Ship hulls. Here was a very important and unique capability which entered service very quickly by an imaginative conversion. Our current T-AKE vessels would not be an unlikely candidate, but something about half the size and cost would be preferable.

Considering the widespread proliferation of anti-ship cruise missiles, and now the deployment of ballistic missiles with precision targeted warheads, it is obvious we need Aegis at sea. However, this doesn’t mean every ship must be fitted with Aegis anymore than an airport needs more than one tower, or a warship needs many captains. The advanced radar can already control hundreds of missiles and aircraft in a wartime environment, and if placed on a large enough ship, even this proven attribute would be greatly enhanced with little to impede growth or updates.

Summing up-placing the Aegis Combat System in auxiliary type warships, also known as motherships in blogging terminology, would reap the following advantages:

  • Warships would decline in cost, size, while their stealthiness and numbers would improve.
  • The abilities of spartan warships such as corvettes would be enhanced, without any additional cost.
  • The attributes of Aegis technology would be the focus, instead of an exquisite, revolutionary, hard to build new hull form.
  • The more room on deck for the Aegis, the greater the area for updates and expansion.

Just imagine the Aegis Mothership as an orchestra conductor, with its violins, cymbals, flutes, and cornets as arsenal ships, corvettes, aviation ships, and SSGNs. As the conductor of music makes no sound himself, so is it unnecessary for the mothership to be armed, but controlling the actions of other instruments. It would perform air defense, launch deep strike, engage enemy missiles, bombard shore establishments, guide anti-submarine helicopters, and destroy enemy ballistic missiles. All this will be performed without the parent vessel firing a shot, but allowing warships to do what they were built for, only to fight.

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  5. Alex permalink
    October 9, 2009 8:51 pm

    Modern large Ro-Ro ships is MUCH better candidates for conversion or redesign into makeshift warships than any tanker can ever hope to be.
    Ro-Ro are generally faster (23-26kts is not uncommon + they have a humongus range) MUCH more stable by nature (They have to be, they are often extremely topheavy by default)far more sturdy and compartmentalized than any tanker ever has been or will be + their *decks* is strengthen to an even higher degree than most dedicated warships has ever been.(Curtesy of their container cargo).
    The largest Ro-Ro ships are also larger than any tanker sailing today.

  6. Michael permalink
    September 19, 2009 7:25 pm

    How much of the cost of an AEGIS system is the actual radar transmitter and receiver (plus cooling and support structures) and how much is the computers needed to turn those signals into data the humans can use? Depending on the answer to that question, a lot of the disadvantages of this idea could be solved simply by putting radars on the combat vessels, but the computers on the mothership. The combat vessels would be more expensive and less stealthy, but the mothership would be cheaper, stealthier and unconcerned by the radar horizon.

    Another idea: put the AEGIS system on a CVN or LHA. As aircraft carriers, they already need radar; as the focus of their battle groups efforts, they already need escorts and protection. Build those escorts without the AEGIS and without anything else they don’t need to protect their charges, let them be coordinated by the fleet commander on board the carrier with the AEGIS at his/her disposal.

  7. Mike Burleson permalink*
    September 14, 2009 10:12 pm

    The tanker/warship concept has always intrigued me. My theory is that in a future war with missiles flying, ships will either have to get small or get bigger. With tankers they would be very hard to sink, because they already hold tremendous amounts of liquid. Theoretically you could you could use water like armor to absorb attacks from missiles to torpedoes, and still remain afloat. Thats in theory.

  8. leesea permalink
    September 14, 2009 5:19 pm

    Converting tankers could be a possible solution but there are many limitations inherent in that type ship. They are not especially powerfull so slow transit speeds and much auxiliary power is needed to support the many systems which any aviation capable ship has. There would have to be extensive conversion both internally and to the main deck as it lacks the strength for a flight deck. Double hull tankers as opposed to single are in demand to meet new IMO rules.

    So the bottom line is well maybe but?

  9. Graham Strouse permalink
    September 12, 2009 4:58 pm

    Mike, if we need a decent sized deck carriers, why not convert some big oil-tankers? They’re built tough. They have double hulls, built tough & they’re basically damn long and flat. Just take the latest Somali prize, bring it to the dockers at Philly (yeah, I’m a Philly guy) & get it done.

  10. leesea permalink
    September 11, 2009 3:05 pm

    Mike its not so much that NVR are gold plated constructin standards, its more that they require higher thresholds in key design parameters like damaged stability and surviability. More important is that NVR warships have many expensive systems and components built into them. All of the factore added up drive totat acquisiton costs up.

    Scott is right about many naval vssels some warships and some naval auxiliries being constructeed to rules developed by classification societies (member of the Intl Assoc of Classification Societies – google term).

    Those rules can be every bit as tough to meet as can individual navies warship rules. It is not so much that they are intended as cheap alternatives. Think of ships built to IACS rules a using a different standard not lesser.

    The USN has built many auxiliaries and transports such as the JHSV to IACs standards. The later for instance is built to ABS High Speed Naval Craft Code.

    BTW I am sure we can build a small warship for less than $120 mil first ship costs and under 1200 tons very easily IF congress would not interfere and NAVSEA would buy an eixisting proven design.

  11. Mike Burleson permalink*
    September 10, 2009 8:21 pm

    My mentioning the Zumwalt in the Aegis category stems from Navy plans to increase the anti-missile, BMD abilities of these vessels, whether retrofitting them in updates or new build ships. Nothing is very certain as of yet, but they were embarrassed about the revelation these 14,000 ton, $5 billion ships couldn’t properly defend themselves close to shore.

  12. Mike Burleson permalink*
    September 10, 2009 8:04 pm

    Scott B Said “an exquisite 1,000-ton corvette @ $200 million will be immune to the kind of gold-plating you mention?”

    I can’t argue with you there. It is as William said “Thats why the ship should just be built to its original spec.”

  13. elgatoso permalink
    September 10, 2009 7:13 pm

    Scott B said:”The Zumwalt-class destroyers don’t use AEGIS, and, as it currently stands, it’s very unlikely that the CG(X) (if it ever gets built) will use anything that might look like AEGIS”.But futuresurfacecombatant.org said:”The ideal future surface combatant for the Navy is a DDG-1000 destroyer modified with a higher-power radar and ballistic missile defense (BMD) capabilities, according to a University of Tennessee study released last week. (The study, titled “The U.S. Navy’s Destroyer Acquisition Plan: Examining Options for Acquiring DDG-1000 and DDG-51 Destroyers to Meet Maritime Capability Requirements,” was conducted by the National Defense Business Institute, housed at the College of Business Administration at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.)The article outlines the study’s findings saying …”
    I don’t know if both are talking over the same kind of ship.Please Scott can you clarified that?

  14. Scott B. permalink
    September 10, 2009 4:38 pm

    Defiant said : “From what i can decipher it’s not given that I’m wrong, my Information comes from the german military magazine “strategie und technik” 9/2008,”

    I well aware of the article from Strategie & Technik you mention (page 58), which is not just inacurrate but totally disingenuous.

    As stated in this Danish MoD brochure, the total program cost for three Ivar Huitfeldt-class frigates is DKK 4.7 billion, i.e. about $305 million per ship based on current exchange rates.

    Besides, I’ve already explained at length what was included in these DKK 4.7 billion back in July 2009.

  15. Defiant permalink
    September 10, 2009 4:04 pm

    Scott,
    From what i can decipher it’s not given that I’m wrong, my Information comes from the german military magazine “strategie und technik” 9/2008, which clearly states that 212M€ go to the shipyard , excluding integration and weapon systems and so on. This makes somehow sense as i doubt any yard can just handle installation of command systems for military ships.

  16. Scott B. permalink
    September 10, 2009 3:24 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “Also imagine the USN building this vessel to their heightened specifications. Can you say “gold plate” boys and girls?”

    Are you trying to suggest that an exquisite 1,000-ton corvette @ $200 million will be immune to the kind of gold-plating you mention, while a $235 million Absalon won’t ?

  17. William permalink
    September 10, 2009 3:23 pm

    “The average cost per ship is about £150 million, i.e. about $250 million based on current exchange rates.”

    Thats just for the hull though, it doesn’t inlcude additional goverment furnished equipment (sonar ?). It would be interesting to know what the TOTAL cost is though.

  18. William permalink
    September 10, 2009 3:06 pm

    “Also imagine the USN building this vessel to their heightened specifications. Can you say “gold plate” boys and girls?”

    By the time you’ve blinked once the cost would have soared to a $billion.

    Thats why the ship should just be built to its original spec. in foreign shipyards for your LOW END fleet. It could never happen though – too much political opposition and loss of Pork.

  19. Mike Burleson permalink*
    September 10, 2009 2:56 pm

    Defiant said “The Absalon is not as cheap as you think”

    Also imagine the USN building this vessel to their heightened specifications. Can you say “gold plate” boys and girls?

  20. Scott B. permalink
    September 10, 2009 2:54 pm

    Below is a document that gives the cost (excluding GFE) of the British Type 23 in 2007 GBP :
    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200708/cmhansrd/cm080313/text/80313w0031.htm#08031380001201

    The average cost per ship is about £150 million, i.e. about $250 million based on current exchange rates.

    Why some people like Mr. Raymond Pritchett have a nervous breakdown every time they are told that one Absalon costs about $235 million remains a mystery…

  21. Anonymous permalink
    September 10, 2009 2:34 pm

    I have been onboard an Abslon, so new the paint still smelled strong. It looked quite roomy in the hanger/hull space. From harbourside it looked “fat” but not big….

  22. Scott B. permalink
    September 10, 2009 2:21 pm

    William said : “BTW the perception of quite a few people who know a lot more about defense issues than me, is that they regard the ABSALON as not being a true warship because of its construction standards.”

    There’s no denying that the Absalons and their near-sisters are build to the same survivability levels as the German frigates (F123 and F124) for instance.

    Likewise, the Absalons are nowhere near as quiet as the British Type 23 or the French / Italian FREMMs, they only have a very basic ASW suite (a corvette-sized hul sonar for instance).

    They use relatively cheap diesels rather than gas turbines, which means lower lifecycle costs but don’t give them the same operational flexibility as a ship with GT.

    The SMART-S Mk2 3D radar and CEROS-200 directors are perfect for a corvette-sized warship but a bit limited for a frigate.

    Etc, etc, etc…

    That doesn’t mean that they are not *true warships* (whatever that means), but it certainly means that they cannot compare with the latest frigates available out there, for instance the French / Italians FREMMs.

    That’s one of the reasons why everybody isn’t building Absalon class ships.

    Another reason is that the shipyard (OSS) is mainly oriented towards the civilian market and doesn’t have the marketing force required to penetrate naval markets.

    There are many more reasons, but hey, you get the idea.

  23. William permalink
    September 10, 2009 1:46 pm

    Scott,

    At $235 million a ship, why isn’t everybody building Absalon class ships then?

    BTW the perception of quite a few people who know a lot more about defense issues than me, is that they regard the ABSALON as not being a true warship because of its construction standards. That it is constructed “on the cheap” (which is why I like it) and is therefore unsuitable.

  24. Scott B. permalink
    September 10, 2009 1:28 pm

    Defiant said : “The Absalon is not as cheap as you think, the 230M found on the internet is for the Hull+Propulsion+Cables/Piping.”

    At the risk of repeating what I’ve already explained back in July 2009 :

    1) Cost for 2 Absalons is DKK 2.5 billion, i.e $235 million per ship based on current exchange rates.

    See page 2 of this Danish MoD document where it says :

    “Den samlede pris for de to skibe med udrustning er ca. 2.5 mia. kr. og skibene planlægges at være fuldt operative med udgangen af 2007.”

    2) The cost of all the guns fitted to the ABSALONS (i.e. 1 x 127mm Mk45 and 2 x 35mm Millennium) is included in the unit cost of $235 million mentioned earlier for the ABSALONS.

    3) The fire control systems, combat management systems are included in the cost of DKK 2.5 billion given for the Absalons.

    4) On the Absalons, no gun was uplifted from the existing pool, which neither had 127mm main guns, nor 35mm CIWS. Therefore, these had to be procured with the ships, and their costs are included in the DKK 2;5 billion, i.e. $235 million per ship.

    5) What is not included in the $235 million per ship are the missiles (ESSM and Harpoons) and their canisters. Everything else is included in the $235 million per ship.

    OK ?

  25. Scott B. permalink
    September 10, 2009 1:18 pm

    William said : “However I’ve been told that the RN would NEVER opt for the ABSALON class as they do NOT want to set a PRECEDENT of building surface combattants to commercial standards.”

    At the risk of repeating what I’ve desperately tried to explain to Mr. Raymond Pritchett so many times :

    1) It’s not unusual for warships to be built to classification society naval rules. For instance, the ANZAC-class frigates were built to GL (Germanischer Lloyd) rules, and the ABSALON were built to DNV (Det Norske Veritas) rules.

    2) Because a warship built to built classification society naval rules doesn’t mean that it is built to merchant standards. For instance, the GL rules have an entire section specifically dedicated to Naval Vessels (Section III), Part 1 of the section being for Surface Combatants, Part 2 of the section being for Submarines. Likewise, DNV rules include a section that is specifically dedicated to Naval Vessels (Part 5, Chapter 14 of the DNV rules).

    3) As noted by Joris Janssen Lok in his August 2004 article in Jane’s IDR, the Absalons have full NATO-standard shock protection (STANAG 4142, 4137 and 4549), nuclear, biological and chemical protection (STANAG 4447) and vital area armor protection (STANAG 4569).

    4) As mentioned on the Naval Technology website in the entry dedicated to the Absalons :

    “The ship design, with 16 watertight sections or compartments and two airtight bulkheads, incorporates survivability and damage limitation features including dual redundancy, automated damage control zones, damage detectors and smoke zones. The ship’s on-board battle damage and control system continuously monitors the status of the ship and incorporates a closed circuit television observation system with more than 50 cameras, fire fighting installations, sensors and alarms, a load and stability computer.”

    From there, we could get into more *subtle* considerations, e.g. :

    a) That the Absalons (and her near-sisters currently under construction) are equipped with MTU 8000 Series diesel engines and that MTU is currently completing certification to American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) and Naval Vessel Rules for its Series 8000 engine.

    OR

    b) That the Absalons have steel superstructures, as opposed to the aluminium superstructures you could find on such deathtraps as the Israeli Sa’ar 5 corvettes or both LCS designs (with LCS-2 also having an aluminium hull). There’s no need to explain once again why aluminium sucks for surface combatants.

    There are many more subtleties to be discussed, but hey, that’ll do the trick for now.

  26. Defiant permalink
    September 10, 2009 1:05 pm

    Fitting radar/cooling/Power supply(3MW) on a vessel not designed to do so won’t come cheap either and as already mentioned often enough on this page the hull isn’t the cost driver, The Big Cost drivers are 3D Radar System,ECM, Missiles and integration.
    I”d personllally go for a 2000t OPV with a 76mm and 2 MGs, 2-D Radar System, Satcom, able to carry several TEU +crane, several boats, landing deck and Heli refill ability, camcopter as a uav.
    You can use this to hunt pirates/smugglers/maneuvers with foreign coast guard/humanitarian stuff in small harbours/Disaster Relief. And It’s available for less than 100M. Fitting TAS in wartime won’t be a problem and warship building standard wouldn’t help against a torpedo.

    Voila, Low Navy .

    P.S: The Absalon is not as cheap as you think, the 230M found on the internet is for the Hull+Propulsion+Cables/Piping. You have to add at least 200M for weapon systems, integration, qualification, training.
    The f100 costs 1Billion as well.

  27. William permalink
    September 10, 2009 11:05 am

    I confess to having a softspot for the ABSALON class as well. Its been suggested that it would be a good fit for the RN FSC C2 role/ship class.

    However I’ve been told that the RN would NEVER opt for the ABSALON class as they do NOT want to set a PRECEDENT of building surface combattants to commercial standards.

    The RN will design and build a new ship, rather than purchasing an off the shelf design.

    An advantage of building SOME of your ships to commercial standards is that as well as being cheaper, they are also a lot faster to build, so you can get more ships into service quicker.

    The down side is that they are less able to take battle damage. But that may be a compromise that one may be willing to take if the approach is to have a TWO tier HI/LO fleet.

  28. Hudson permalink
    September 10, 2009 10:28 am

    I too like the Absalon C&S ship. It’s a complete warship, with ASW, and can actually project seapower. According to figures quoted above, it would be cheaper than most frigates and could therefore replace the Perry Class and be a superior ship to boot. It makes more sense to me than some low rent Aegis trawler. The Aegis system is for destroyers and cruisers that can track and respond to multiple threats, though maybe not 200 at a time. Every ship out there has radar, satellite intel and fleet communications.

    We don’t really need a larger fleet just a smarter fleet, with more on the lo end and better use of the large hull hybrid dock types, especially for amphibious ops. The Absalon has a 5″ deck gun and can provide useful ship-to-shore firepower, especially in the absence of the retired battlewagons. History shows that the Navy could never provide such overwhelming firepower that it could save the lives of all the Marines and infantrymen hitting the beach. Think of Omaha Beach, Iwo, Tarawa, etc.

    Also, we have allies like the Danes, an ancient seafaring people, to contribute to the “1000 ship navy”–another reason not to build in haste scads of low capability ships for what few threats we face.

  29. Mike Burleson permalink*
    September 10, 2009 9:11 am

    ScottB “That’s a suicidal approach.”

    Will it be a slow death from business as usual or take a chance on a new approach? I’ll take the chance!

    And compared to our traditional strategy of naval airpower on large deck carriers, Aegis is a youthful concept, updated consistently for new threats.

  30. Scott B. permalink
    September 10, 2009 7:20 am

    Mike Burleson said : “Aegis is another amazing new capability”

    AEGIS has been around for 30 years, so it’s not a new capability.

    While on the subject of *new*, there’s nothing new about picture-centric warfare (i.e. *Netcentric Warfare* in Naval Newspeak) : the British for instance have been doing it for more than a century now !!!

  31. Scott B. permalink
    September 10, 2009 7:15 am

    Mike Burleson said : “Why have a network when all of your systems are performing the same function?”

    The strength of a network is directly correlated with the strength of its weakest links. With your *mothership* proposal, you’re not only making the individual AEGIS link dramatically weak (in effect creating an unstable design), but you’re also suggesting a drastic cut in the number of AEGIS links (from 80+ down to 18-25).

    The cumulative result is an UNSTABLE NETWORK. That’s a suicidal approach.

  32. Mike Burleson permalink*
    September 10, 2009 6:30 am

    Distiller, I don’t see taking Aegis out of combat vessels as starving a unit, and I don’t believe lower costs means less capability. Why have a network when all of your systems are performing the same function? The current way we build warships is for them to be as large, long-ranged, and powerful as possible. This is OK if you are only performing independent cruiser operations (fine for submarines), but when you operate as a squadron or fleet, you work as a team. So if you share the workload among many systems, to avoid redundancy and reduce costs.

    Aegis is another amazing new capability we deploy to sea that can perform many functions, a force multiplier, like precision weapons on planes, where we can do more missions with less. Technology is showing us the way out of building ships too big and too expensive. We have the means to increase the fleet, we just aren’t using this technology wisely.

  33. Scott B. permalink
    September 10, 2009 6:28 am

    Mike Burleson said : “Also with the Japanese DDh and the Absalon, you have a traditional warship design which again ups the price tag, and in the case of the Danish vessel, it would be too cramped for updates.”

    There is an order of magnitude more room and weight margin in an ABSALON hull than what you’ll ever get in the mythical 1,000-ton corvette !!!

    And at $300 million for the AAW variant, it’s not particularly more expensive than the latest crop of 1,000-ton corvettes @ $200 million each or so.

  34. Mike Burleson permalink*
    September 10, 2009 6:16 am

    Leesea said-“AEGIS in a ship form which can be mothership to many aircraft types – STOVL, UAV, Helo BTW”

    I would hope to get away from the multi-purpose vessel for the sake of ship costs. Also with the Japanese DDh and the Absalon, you have a traditional warship design which again ups the price tag, and in the case of the Danish vessel, it would be too cramped for updates.

    Scott, a merchant vessel of necessity is supposed to be big for obvious reasons. A warship isn’t a merchant ship, but in the case of an auxiliary warship like this, it would be big. But not too big to wreck your potential numbers.

  35. Distiller permalink
    September 10, 2009 5:58 am

    The netcentric idea doesn’t mean that you can starve some units and offload their capability. And like any other mothership idea, *as a system on the fleet level* it tends to more expensiv, less survivable, and less flexible.

    What netcentric warfare enables, is smaller sensors, distributed sensors, and distributed effectors. And it buys scalability, flexibility, survivability, but it does not result in lower costs.

    Lower costs can only result from reduced ambitions, which is a political question, resp an economic dictate.

  36. Scott B. permalink
    September 10, 2009 4:02 am

    Mike Burleson said : “The Navy’s future Aegis plans are centered around updating current Ticonderoga and Arleigh Burke class ships, the 3 Zumwalt destroyers, and a future CG(X) cruiser design.”

    The Zumwalt-class destroyers don’t use AEGIS, and, as it currently stands, it’s very unlikely that the CG(X) (if it ever gets built) will use anything that might look like AEGIS.

    From there, it’s not clear what you’re trying to propose with this AEGIS *mothership* (whatever the Newspeak term *mothership* might mean), of which you’d apparently buy 18-25 units.

    If your plan is to replace the so-to-be 84+ AEGIS-equipped cruisers and destroyers (CG-47 and DDG-51) with 18-25 of your *mothership* and a variety of radar-blind corvettes, then it’s purely and simply SUICIDAL.

  37. Scott B. permalink
    September 10, 2009 3:53 am

    leesea said : “Why not put an AEGIS system on the Absalon class Flexible Support Ship?”

    That’s pretty much what the Danes are doing right now with their Ivar Huitfeldt Class, a derivative of the ABSALON Station Wagon Frigate. The Danes use the APAR / SMART-L combo rather than AEGIS.

    How much ? DKK 4,700 million for 3 Ivar Huitfeldt Class frigates, i.e. about $305 million per ship based on current exchange rates.

    Looking for something versatile and affordable : THINK BIG, not small !!!

  38. leesea permalink
    September 9, 2009 9:53 pm

    Why not put an AEGIS system on the Absalon class Flexible Support Ship? There you have a less expensive ship type which is definitely in the mothership model.
    OR
    Go look at the Japanese DDH Hyuga & Ise. AEGIS in a ship form which can be mothership to many aircraft types – STOVL, UAV, Helo
    BTW
    T-AKE are neither mercantile or sealift ships. They are unarmed naval auxiliaries built to naval specific construction standard which happen to use almost completely commercial ship systems and standards.

  39. Mike Burleson permalink*
    September 9, 2009 9:22 pm

    I think we obsess a little too much over hulls forms to the point that we want the perfect so much, we are unwilling to accept the good enough. This is why we can’t get ships in adequate numbers, and why they are over-budget when they eventually do join the fleet. So, i am not as overly concerned over finding the perfect hull form as getting a capability to sea before it becomes obsolete and in numbers we can afford.

    Even so, an adequate hull is necessary, and I did mention the T-AKE design which you could hardly say was a “mercantile hull” but a fully capable Navy sealift vessel. You could still use the same basic design, but reduce it down to half.

    Defiant-you won’t need Aegis for all missions, and some missions are too rough for an OPV to handle. What about the missile corvettes we often discuss? If some were armed with ESSM then the mothership would be very helpful in a high threat situation.

  40. Anonymous permalink
    September 9, 2009 5:23 pm

    I am an advocate of using merchantile hulls myself where appropriate. Most of what I object to is listed above. A design becomes unstable when elements of its design are at extremes (expensive radar (weapon)/cheap hull; few weapons/expensive hull etc. etc.)

    Co-operative engagement (which is what you are advocating) is an add-on to Aegis not its primary mode. The majority of the time the system (radar, operators, missiles) need to be in the one hull. And to have redundancy you need more than one hull with this capability in the CBG.

    I think you are also forgetting that the ops room is constantly under training while doing their job (even in piece time.) Where will all the operators come from when needed? Are you going to use reservists? How are they going to be kept sharp? I think the USN navy has discovered that simulators (though useful) aren’t a substitute for the real thing. (What are your thoughts about ASW?) I think you are forgetting that sailors do more than their “job” onboard; the ship’s company is the captain’s most flexible tool.

    Now if you were advocating using a commercial hull (small container ship say) that is carrying Aegis and missiles you thoughts might have some sea room.
    {Though some would say ships of that size (and shape) aren’t manoeuvrable enough (keeping within your counter measures blooms etc.) But that’s another discussion.}

    The CBG is the point of the spear. You need that to be at its sharpest; to be the best equipped; to be the best trained. So allowing follow on vessels to be of a simpler less specialised design or even civilian/mercantile.

    The USN has the budget and size to loose Aegis ships and substitute them with cutters/patrol craft. But smaller navies can’t afford to loose their big ships for smaller ships; as I have said before here they would become the fleet standard and it would therefore have no war-fighting capability.

    Lastly I think the F100 has proved that Aegis is no longer expensive.

    {I think your approach could work with if it were for NGS. You could fit a mercantile hull out with a X number of mounts. But this could only be deployed once sea control had been achieved in theatre. Then again you wouldn’t be launching an amphib assault unless that had been achieved……}

  41. Defiant permalink
    September 9, 2009 4:43 pm

    For counter Narcotic and anti-pirate warfare an opv is enough why add aegis into the mix ?area air defense is only possible in a small area (fleet in LOS). Neither druglords nor pirates have AShM or Air support so Aegis is completeley irrelevantfor the missions you stated. If there is the threat of those weapons, you’ll need 3-D Radar on the vessel either way and at least a ciws systems/point defense plus a battle system.

  42. Mike Burleson permalink*
    September 9, 2009 3:52 pm

    Anonymous-How so?

  43. Anonymous permalink
    September 9, 2009 3:37 pm

    The design is unstable.

  44. Mike Burleson permalink*
    September 9, 2009 3:04 pm

    Defiant asked-“what’s the point of the auxiliary ships?”

    Assuming you mean the Aegis ship, specifically to reduce the cost of surface combatants and increase ship numbers. Currently you would hear the argument from the Navy that low cost spartan warships aren’t relevant in modern war because of the need to place anti-missile systems, and their high tech radar. For this you need a giant expensive warship.

    Without the expensive radar, warships would be smaller and more affordable. Cost is the principle hindrance to increasing ship numbers, so naturally you reduce the price of the ship. Aegis is another silver bullet item, not needed for all types of warfare, such as anti-piracy or counter-narcotics. Take it out of the combatants, put it in auxiliary ships, use only when you need it.

  45. Defiant permalink
    September 9, 2009 2:54 pm

    1. what’s the distance the aegisless ship operates from the mothership
    2. how do you solve the radar horizon problem
    3. what’s the point of the auxillary ships? ASuW? ASW? which effectors should be carried?
    4. The point of awacs in warfare is to provide targetting data for the auxillary fighters which can now operate without their radar on, making them less detectable. WIth this method your sensors stay out of the enemy’s missile range. AshM however outrange any mobile radar system several times.

  46. September 9, 2009 10:32 am

    I disagree. They would be no more vulnerable than an AWACs or E-2s in their particular environments. Would they be unescorted? Of course not!

  47. Solomon permalink
    September 9, 2009 10:21 am

    Yep your mothership when identified would be the target of every enemy combatant. Once the “lead ship” is neutralized then the orchestra falls apart. Same problem different players. Instead of an exquisitely built ship at least able to fight off its attackers you have several smaller ships that will get destroyed piecemeal.

  48. Defiant permalink
    September 9, 2009 8:57 am

    What about Radar horizon? Your Mothership wouldn’t even be able to detect her small sensorless “drones” at more than 20 miles.

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