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Navies and the Forces of Anarchy Pt 2

October 20, 2009
F/A-18F Super Hornet Strike Fighter Squadron 102, F/A-18E Super Hornet Strike Fighter Squadron 27, Indian Navy Sea Harriers, Indian Air Force Jaguars over INS Viraat (R 22).

F/A-18F Super Hornet Strike Fighter Squadron 102, F/A-18E Super Hornet Strike Fighter Squadron 27, Indian Navy Sea Harriers, Indian Air Force Jaguars over INS Viraat (R 22).

The following article from Jane’s (via Pakistan Defense) showcases the perils and pitfalls even the most modern countries are facing trying to create what I call “USA Light” militaries, focusing here on India:

The Indian Navy’s six Scorpene submarines, under construction at Mazagon Dockyard in western India since 2006, face a cost escalation of INR20 billion over the original INR187.98 billion contract signed in October 2005, official sources said. Consequently their delivery dates of between 2012 and 2017 have been postponed as talks continue over the price hike.

The dispute over the threefold price increase – from USD974 million to nearly USD3 billion – for the retrofit of the 44,700-ton former Russian aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya (ex-Admiral Gorshkov), whose arrival has been delayed by four years to 2012-2013, also awaits resolution.

The navy also faces a grave shortage of combat aircraft to operate from its sole existing, and recently retrofitted, aircraft carrier INS Viraat, while its anti-submarine warfare helicopters are well past retirement age. Additionally, 63 per cent of its already deficient submarine fleet will be due for retirement by 2012.

And that was just the part concerning the Navy, with almost every weapons program from Arjun tanks to Multirole Combat Aircraft, and air defense guns suffering from delays brought on by bureaucratic corruption or just by over-ambitious  plans that failed to pan out. Does any of this sound familiar? We have reported on floundering weapons programs from all nations, from Canada, to Britain, and especially the USA. Today the real threats are on our porous borders and upon our undefended sea lanes as the Civilized World seems hell-bent on picking fights with one another, repeating the disastrous mistakes of Great Power rivalry that opened and almost destroyed the last century.

Instead of attempting to become “Queen of the Indian Ocean”, here is what India should be worried about. From Strategypage:

China is causing considerable consternation in India by reviving old claims to border areas. In northeast India, the state of Arunachal Pradesh has long been claimed as part of Tibet…China also has claims on Kashmir, and actually occupies about 20 percent of the region, and claims the rest.

Concerning the sea, here is a threat that all nations should be focusing their efforts, instead of building supercarriers, supercruisers, and supersubs.  Eagle1 warns us that the Somali Pirates have broken the 600 mile barrier:

The most recent ship captured by Somali pirates shows that fortune may favor the bold, as the pirates, using mother ships, are able to move operations into sea lanes that have shifted ever farther off their coast…

Move the sea lanes, the pirates simply will move with them.

Instead of creating new empires, forces for power projection, expeditionary warfare, giant naval fleets, and huge conventional force structures to impress our neighbors, look instead to your own borders. It is the 4th Generation threats which matter the most, not costly conventional forces of the last century warfare, consisting of decades long procurement cycles. Instead of attempting to intimidate others, build forces geared toward the lighter foot print. This would include large sums of troops to protect our borders, and for resisting internal disturbances incited by the forces of anarchy. In the air, think less of costly and complicated manned fighter programs, think more UAVs and missiles. Do the same on the sea, with many small warships, corvettes and patrol ships, as Charles W. Koburger details in the book Sea power in the twenty-first century:

The ongoing disappearance of the traditional destroyers as DDs-their becoming cruisers, in fact–will inevitably lead to the filling of the tactical void this creates by frigates (FFs), corvettes (PCs), and fast attack craft (FACs). The need for the fine old heavily-armed, fast, seaworthy DDs (or DD surrogates) in the naval scheme of things has not disappeared. Fortunately, recent developments in electronics, weaponry, and propulsion give smaller ships the necessary speed and punch to replace the old DDs, even if they will always lack the larger ships’ operational autonomy, range, and seaworthiness. Inshore, the last usually does not matter much.

Today the civilized world are needlessly at each other’s throats. Liberals are against Conservatives. Socialists are against Capitalists. Meanwhile, the forces of devolution, the terrorists and Third World dictators are like vultures, waiting for the carcasses of East and West after we have destroyed ourselves. Don’t let this happen again.

20 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike Burleson permalink*
    October 22, 2009 5:43 am

    I appreciate those photo links D.E.! Someone in the forum mentioned the Tarawa’s can only carry 20 Harriers. Only? The HMS Invincible won a war only loading 10. I would rather have 2-3 Tarawa’s for the price you could buy 1 of the new America class.

  2. October 21, 2009 6:18 pm

    Since this thread started with an image of a flyover above INS Viraat; and given the expressions of concern regarding the continuing availability of Indian Navy Sea Harriers; then the following may be of some interest to the readers here.

    Never Trust A Used Carrier Salesman – some commentary regarding the travails of the Indian Navy’s attempt to acquire a replacement for the INS Viraat.

    Scroll down to postings 51 & 52 and examine the three images provided. The third one shows a modified LHA-6 (USS America) with a ski-jump ramp for enhanced launching ability for F-35 JSFs. Compare that third image with the following standard image of the building LHA-6.

    Notice the widened flight deck along with the ramp added to the modified LHA-6 design. Well, how about an angle-decked version of LHA-6? Move the starboard-side elevator closer to the island superstructure and move the port-side elevator near the stern. In between those re-positioned elevators place an angled flight deck similar to those refitted to both the Essex and Midway classes post-WW-II. If possible, add one or two catapults to the design along with a standard arresting gear arrangement on that angled flight deck. And, yeah – place a ski-jump ramp on the bow. You’ll be able to launch and retrieve just about all types of carrier-based aviation assets planned to be in use by the USN and allied navies.

  3. October 21, 2009 3:03 pm


    Shopping around, Denmark has been building their large support (‘frigate’) ships of the Absalom class for something just over 200 million dollars or euros (I can’t recall which it was). Final weapons fit adds to the cost, but at full load they displace 6,600 tons and are well-armed.

    Then there are the three AAW frigates being built on the same basic hull. Again, low cost for the basic platform with some built-in modularity makes them quite attractive.

    Using something like an Absalon support ship as the on-station logistics support for a division of -four- corvettes should be advantageous to littoral patrol and combat actions. Have a regular replenishment ship transfer supplies to the support ship every two / three / four weeks (whatever schedule is necessary) and have one corvette stop by for supplies each week. Note that the support ship can defend itself and can even perform naval surface strike missions in support of the corvettes.

    So, yeah – have the yard that built the Absalom class for so little money construct us a division of corvettes -and- a support ship for less cost than a single Burke class DDG. That would free the DDG for its real role of blue water operations.

    The BAE / Bofors 57 mm mount is quite effective. I’ve watched its trials demonstration video and it was instructive as to the mount’s capabilities. However, when it comes to guns – I think that bigger (and more capable) is better. I particularly like the Oto Melara Otobreda 127/64 Lightweight (LW) naval gun mount. That dual-purpose mount carries four different ammo drums of ready rounds (14 each per drum).

    A stretched Baynunah armed with the larger 127/64 LW mount would also carry a couple of 30 mm chainguns for secondary defense against small craft. Then there would be four or eight harpoon anti-shipping missiles, along with 16 to 32 ESSM and the 21-round RAM launcher. Note that the 127/64 LW, the ESSM missiles, and the RAM missiles are all dual-purpose in being capable of engaging both aerial and surface targets (cross-capability redundancy is something that I value in weapons systems).

    Carrying either a single SH-60 or a pair of Fire Scout UAVs along with a pair of RHIBs (in a deck beneath the flight deck) would round out this littoral combatant’s capabilities. Keep its engineering installation down to support about 28 to 30 knots and have its basic endurance stretched out to four weeks. That should make a division of four corvettes workable with that on-station support ship just a bit further off-shore.

  4. Graham Strouse permalink
    October 21, 2009 2:02 am


    That’s a pretty interesting idea. As for guns, what do you think about the automated 57 mm we’ve developed for the new cutters? It looks like a pretty good piece of equipment to me & well-suited to a long-legged corvette/light frigate like you’re describing. The missile situation has me somewhat concerned. We over-build our birds to begin with & when you factor in the basic cost-of-living issues for builders, lobbyists & BS Congressional wrangling into missile builds, we end up with missiles we can’t afford to deploy in bulk.

    Maybe do a little shopping around he world for the ESSMs to push our builders into making things more cost efective? A 1500 ton heavy corvette/light frigate with decent legs built along the lines you describe could be bloody useful if we could pull it off at a decent price.

  5. October 20, 2009 10:17 pm


    U.A.E. Baynunah-class corvettes…

    I believe Galrahn noticed / mentioned them first:

    Stretch and build up the stern aspect of that hull a bit so that it can accommodate a stern ramp and deck for two RHIBs underneath a raised helo deck suitable for a single SH-60 (a higher hanger would also be required). Change a portion of the weapons installation to be compatible with USN practices. A longer hull would provide enhanced endurance along with some added capabilities such as additional ESSM (the Baynunah -appear- to only carry eight ESSM, but an enlarged hull trending towards 1,500 or so tons might ship with 16, 24, or even 32 such medium-range SAMs).

    A few of these along the littorals of a troublesome, failed state might be more efficient pirate chasers (than DDGs) while being able to deal with many other threats which just might appear from over the horizon.

  6. Mike Burleson permalink*
    October 20, 2009 8:00 pm

    Many small missile ships take best advantage of the revolution in precision warfare. There is also a place for the larger bombardment ships with many missiles, but these should be the exception, not the rule.

  7. Graham Strouse permalink
    October 20, 2009 7:54 pm

    Small, missile-armed fast-attack seem to me to be a particularly good investment for the more sophisticated 2nd-tier powers. You can build build them in bulk, build them quickly & they can be utterly lethal in swarm attacks. For a first-world power, similar craft (maybe with a light gun & a navalized Israeli light missile/gun mount) could be quite valuable as coastal defense assets & drug interdictors.

    Just a thought.

    Sidebar: Israeli-built RWS strike me as a very efficient & cost-effective “bolt-on” system for light warships…and possibly merchant ships as well. The higher-end RWS pack a 30 mm auto cannon & a couple of small missiles. Bolt a few of those in concealed positions of your oil tanker & Somali pirates might start considering new careers, possibly as derivative traders at AIG. It suits the pirate personality-type. ;)

  8. Anonymous permalink
    October 20, 2009 4:21 pm

    “What galls me is that India can still afford to fly radar equipped Sea Harriers (even if only 1st Gen) AND Jaguars – both of which have been retired from UK service due to purely budgetary concerns…….”

    Their Harriers suffer major availability problems. You also have to remember security is a slightly more pressing problem on at least 4 fronts (Pakistan, China, Burma, and internal.) Unlike us Brits they don’t have the USN and USAF to defend them…………

  9. Mike Burleson permalink*
    October 20, 2009 12:51 pm

    Matthew, the Navy’s own websight on the Burke, declares these ships “the most powerful surface combatant ever put to sea.” This to me seems proof positive of the return of the surface warship to its rightful place as “Queen of the Seas” where we once held the all-gun and armored battleship in such esteem. Not surprising that such a description would be placed on a vessel crucial to the escort flotilla, affectionately dubbed “tin cans” during the early part of the last century. If you look at history, this is a natural progression of naval warfare, since the gun battleships of the last century are descendant from the ironclad frigates of the previous century. It is not so much the hull which makes a battleship, but the weapon, and just as rifled cannon and exploding shells gave us the Dreadnoughts, so have the guided missile and phased array radar like Aegis has given birth to a new battleship.

    Concerning Kirov, I place it in the same category, as the large missile escorts like the American Burke’s, Ticonderoga’s, British Type 45, and even down to the 5000 ton Norwegian Nansen Aegis frigates. All perform basically the same function which is to screen a task force from air and missile attacks and now have an independent function as well with the advent of cruise missiles at sea. The point is, none are totally dependent on naval airpower as in the world war years. These are the new battleships, which role I also think they share with the modern attack submarine, but that is another story.

  10. Matthew S. permalink
    October 20, 2009 11:33 am

    Hello Mike. I just found your blog from the War is Boring blog. You have great material. Why do you refer to the Burke class destroyers as “Battleships”? What does that make the Kirov class?

  11. Endre permalink
    October 20, 2009 9:34 am

    Well, the Indians don’t have much choice, as they have no proper replacements yet… besides, they are reportedly suffering such low availability that there is hardly any point of keeping them around anymore anywas

  12. Jed permalink
    October 20, 2009 9:30 am

    What galls me is that India can still afford to fly radar equipped Sea Harriers (even if only 1st Gen) AND Jaguars – both of which have been retired from UK service due to purely budgetary concerns…….

  13. Endre permalink
    October 20, 2009 9:03 am

    Balance is key, not only in navies but everywhere within military planning. Current problem is a result of one of the ends of the spectrum drawing a majority of the funds for a minority of the tasks. Though that proportion most likely cannot, and by many measures cannot be reversed (if that happens we have done something very wrong to our lower-end capabilities) a more balanced approach should be encouraged.

  14. Mike Burleson permalink*
    October 20, 2009 8:54 am

    I agree, or be escorted by some missile ship in a high threat area. Different ships for different roles. Battleships alone can’t control the sealanes but neither can a corvette survive by itself. Its all about balance.

  15. Endre permalink
    October 20, 2009 8:33 am

    Thing is, that is not what they are built for – how many usual dictators are within 10 miles of the Irish coast?

    The Indians will look at something larger, of course, but not necessarily carrier-size

  16. Defiant permalink
    October 20, 2009 8:27 am

    the problem is that those ships are already unable to kill a (helicopter with asm) further than 10nm away, a weapon system easily affordable for your usual dictator.

  17. Endre permalink
    October 20, 2009 8:21 am

    The Irish should consider this:

    They have become the real work horses of the Norwegian coast line

  18. Mike Burleson permalink*
    October 20, 2009 8:12 am

    Endre, this also reminds me of the problems the Irish Navy is facing, which I posted on last week. The Navy wants high-end off-shore patrol vessels of about 1000 tons, while some are advocating for many more smaller craft which can provide their shoreline with greater coverage. Though I would love for the US to have some 1000 ton vessels, in this case I support the latter position. But of course, the sailors love their battleships. It is all about what is more appropriate for a particular Navy. Most plan for a worse case scenario, but then end up with these low end threats where high tech Aegis ships are so much over-kill, wasted chasing pirates and smugglers in speedboats.

    In Britain’s case, I can certainly understand why she would want to build giant supercarriers, because she can and perhaps a last grasp for super power status. Where, except in some future Falklands type conflict, a once in a generation scenario, would such ships be needed? But small cruisers like the Type 23 frigates, able to patrol the sealanes and protect the law of the oceans are required at all times, and useful for a variety of situations, in hot or cold wars.

  19. Endre permalink
    October 20, 2009 7:45 am

    Same problem applies to even smaller navies – it was confirmed today that Norway will not be able to mount more than three crews for its five new large (largest surface combatants its has ever had) AEGIS frigates, not all of which have even entered service yet. One has already been laid up in port being stripped for parts for the first of class, the “Fridtjof Nansen” which is outside Somalia hunting pirates, helpfully, without a helicopter. The most useful and operational part of the Norwegian Navy today is its Coast Guard, operating vessels up to around 3,000 (need the weight and power to act as a sea tug) with the exception of the 6,000 ton ice-capable “Svalbard.” Instead of focusing on these capabilities however, it is emptying its coffers for high-end AEGIS vessels with a ridiculously light weapons load.


  1. Breaking: Britain May Sell New Carrier to India « New Wars

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