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Outstanding Quote

January 18, 2010

I know I just posted something from Admiral Gary Roughead, but I couldn’t let this pass. Most regular visitors know I am against the traditional Navy shipbuilding strategy that “1 ship replaces 4” or you build only exquisite multimission ships which can do-everything-nothing-well. Then you get mediocrity at a gold plated price as the LCS (can also place the F-35 fighter in this category) has become. Listen to this apparent about-face from CNO Roughead via Reuters:

“If you can give me 20 ships that can do 80 percent of what four ships can do, I’ll go for the 20,” said Roughead, who became the Navy’s top uniformed officer in September 2007.

That is an eye-opening statement, if he really means it. Sadly, I am thinking he believes the new littoral combat ship will make this change. When I think of the quote from CDR Salamander saying “Never before has so much money brought so little capability from so few ships” I have my doubts the LCS will get us there, but it may be one small step in that direction.

Plus, it will have to be today’s captains, commanders, and lieutenants which will lead this agonizing change, since the Admiral and his generation of Cold Warriors still think in terms of going in hard, blowing everything up, and getting out fast. Let him ask the army how that strategy has paid off in our Middle East Wars.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. January 19, 2010 5:58 am

    Hello D. E. Reddick,

    Sea Dart is about twice the size of Evolved Sea Sparrow with a warhead half the size.
    That suggests it has a great deal more in the way of engine than the Sparrow.
    It engaged targets at 40 miles range during the Falklands war.
    The Royal Navy claims a range of 50 miles while some sources claim as much as 80 miles for the latest variants:

    In the current lexicon Sea Sparrow would be considered a local area air defence missile and Sea Dart a wide area air defence missile.
    Both missiles are limited by the radar horizon when engaging low level targets due to their semi active guidance systems.
    For example,an Arleigh Burke class destroyer would have a radar horizon of about 15 miles agiainst a sea skimming missile at 5m altitude.
    Smaller ships with lower radar masts would of course have even shorter effective range against such threats.


  2. D. E. Reddick permalink
    January 18, 2010 8:22 pm

    Perform a reverse Harpoonski… Copy and improve upon the Russian / Indian BrahMos. It’s a supersonic AShM / SSM cruise missile. It travels at speeds of Mach 2.5 to 2.8 and is the world’s fastest cruise missile. It’s about three & 1/2 times faster than the subsonic Harpoon. A hypersonic version of the missile (BrahMos II) is also presently under development (Lab Tested with 5.26 Mach Speed).


  3. Mike Burleson permalink*
    January 18, 2010 8:05 pm

    Arkday-thanks for your comments but I think you misinterpret history when you say of the pickets off Okinawa “They were attacked and overwhelmed. ”

    They were hardly overwhelmed but fought back courageously and persevered or else this would be written in Japanese. Thankfully, since they were cheap and easy to build, the destroyers soon filled their depleted ranks with squadrons from the Atlantic and elsewhere, teaching us the benefits of a large navy and plentiful small warships as the backbone of the fleet.

    Because the destroyer pickets took the brunt of the attacks, this spared the Bigger ships, the carriers, cruisers, battleships, and heavy troop transports from excessive damage. In fact, none of the big ships were lost in the Kamikaze raids. Can we say the same in the future when we have depleted our escorts forces?

    The British proved they learned the same lessons in 1982 off the Falklands (though I doubt this would have been true had the CVA-01 been built). Then she needed only about half her total Navy to take back her island possessions, leaving adequate forces to watch the Russians as we were then deep in the Cold War. She might have done better with some AEW aircraft, as many often insist, but she would have been lost without the vital escorts that spared her big ships from sinking, with one major exception.

    Concerning carriers getting close to shore, this is all well and good if your only enemies are non-naval powers (or very minor ones) like Saddam’s Iraq or the Taliban, but even the Navy is now questioning whether their big ships can operate close to shore against anti-ship cruise missiles, and possible anti-ship ballistic missiles. Today, their short range aircraft puts them well within reach of even land based weapons, but even Third World navies like N Korea, Iran, and Venezuela are buying submarines with the ability to launch ASCMs.

    First, before the Big Ships can get close to shore they will need defending from small missile armed craft, as aircraft are no substitute for hulls in the water. Here the much maligned “small boys” will gain renewed importance, and this is nothing new, but the lessons of decades of seapower in the modern age. Admiral Jellicoe knew this, as did Yammamoto, Spruance, Cunningham, and Halsey all knew you don’t send your battleships and carriers into torpedo and mine infested waters without first clearing the path with destroyers, frigates, or corvettes. Now after 70 years without a major war at sea and we have to worry about the unmanned Kamikaze the guided missile too, apparently we have learned better than these battle-hardened leaders, and can do without essential escorts? Perhaps to our peril.

    In answer to your last question–it would likely be supersonic.

  4. ArkadyRenko permalink
    January 18, 2010 7:43 pm

    Ahhh, Mike, but, you miss another lesson about the Kamikaze threat. It was the isolated picket destroyers, with an “adequate” AA system, that suffered the most. They were attacked and overwhelmed.

    While the battlegroups suffered too, there was a value in an interlocking defense network, with interceptors operating away from the ships, then a mass of point defense AA.

    What you seem to suggest is that we return to a fleet of picket destroyers against this new Kamikaze. Small and disposable (good luck getting that past the sailors who will have to man these ships) vessels scattered across the ocean. Who’s size will limited their defensive capability and who’s deployment will make them much more vulnerable to being overwhelmed piecemeal.

    The small ships will only be survivable in the sense that they may come further down the target list. But, because of their size, they will not survive any sort of dedicated attack. Even worse, their inherently limited abilities will make the necessary attack even easier for someone to carry out.

    Think of this battle. Which will win out: A carrier group operating off shore trying to project power into the littoral waters, or a fleet of missile boats. You consistently argue the missile boats will win, even though the carrier group will launch strikes from 400nm away from the missile boats. The missile boats will need a fairly extensive long range targeting network to hit the carrier group, or even find it. A targeting network that will be on the carrier group’s top targeting priority.

    Once the missile boats have been blinded, the carrier group will launch air raids, often from long outside the missile boats range, against those boats. What do you think is going to win, a single isolated craft, or a flight of four strike plans, with PGMs, operating from 30,000 ft? Heck, even 10,000 is starting to stress the capability of missile boats. They’ll have to be frigates to have that powerful enough of a SAM system. And, by making them frigates, you’re already moving up the gold plated scale.

    So, what would this fleet of isolated warships be good for? Hunting down other fleets of isolated warships or attacking those things within their missile range.

    As a final question: Mike, do you support the development of a modern anti-ship missile for the US Navy? And, what would this missile look like?

  5. January 18, 2010 6:02 pm

    OK! I now see I went down a blind ally. Thanks. Sometimes I think too hard.

  6. Mike Burleson permalink*
    January 18, 2010 5:28 pm

    X-I’m not sure I follow your response, but let me expound on my last statement, that smaller, more numerous vessels would actually be more survivable. Using history to back this up, we need only look to WW 2, with the assumption then being larger armored ships was the best counter to the new aerial threat. By 1940 the battleships began surpassing the Treaty mandated 35,000 tons limit, and you had ships being built 50,000-70,000 with massive armor and armament. Yet it was the simplest of threats, the aircraft carrier, many which were based on converted battlecruisers that were once considered woefully unarmored, and suffered accordingly at Jutland and later. The difference was in new technology, the aircraft which could deliver the naval equivalent of the shell, aerial bombs, as well as the first precision weapon in sea warfare, the torpedo, at much greater range than even the largest naval cannon, and no vessel proved immune to its lethal charge.

    Light warships gained renewed importance. Small destroyers, and even smaller d/e’s, frigates, and corvettes were everywhere, escorting carriers, battleships, defeating the U-boats, participating in amphibious operations. the Big Ships feared to tread in or near shallow seas where the dreaded U-boat, torpedo boat, or mine might lurk. It was the small threats that mattered more than the giant ships, which could not effectively operate without escort, an inconvenient truth which the Navy seems to have forgotten.

    The threats are greater today. Along with the same mines, torpedoes, and bombing planes, you have the new decider in sea warfare, which is the ship launched cruise missile. Not only do they fly as fast as aircraft, they are also stealthier and some also equal or surpass the aircraft in range. they are the new Kamikaze and an entire class of warship, the Aegis destroyer has been specifically designed to counter it.

    But we fear there is no magic bullet to destroy the missile threat. Navies will have to adapt, as in World War 2. they will have to disperse, instead of forming into battlelines or positioning themselves around highly visible carrier groups. Ships which are deemed small and unsuitable today will gain renewed importance because they will be able to survive the new environment best. Large warships may still be important, but they will only operate at the sufferance of the small craft, who will have to first clear the seas of the missile menaces, just as they did for the last new threat at sea, the torpedo submarines ebfore the amphbious ships could invade the Pacific Islands and Europe at Normandy.

    When you have very many such ships, each craft’s survivability increases. When you have only a few large targets, your chances of getting hit increases much more. As we learned in the last Great War at Sea, the “bigger they are” is no guarantee your ship won’t be sunk, recalling Pearl Harbor, the Prince of Wales, HMS Hood, and Taranto Harbor. I am amazed that we seem to be repeating the same mistakes in warship design, with only the type of ship being different.

  7. D. E. Reddick permalink
    January 18, 2010 5:27 pm


    I believe that the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) SAM counts as an area defense AAW SAM.

    Operational Range: 27+ nautical miles (50+ kilometers)
    Velocity / Speed: Mach 4+ (3,045+ mph or 4,900+ kph)

    Sea Dart or Guided Weapon System (GWS) 30 has the following performance characteristics.

    Operational Range: 30 nautical miles (56 km)
    Velocity / Speed: Mach 2.5+

    If the latter SAM is an area AAW system, then certainly the former fits into the same category of weapons systems.

  8. January 18, 2010 5:07 pm

    It looks like somebody a bit brighter has commented while I was typing!!! (Heck a lot brighter!!) I am still not happy……..

    You are talking about point defence, I am talking about area air defence (which is actually offence.)

    And this is why the statement collapses. What if I Admiral X said I would rather have 10 ships that were 95% of what those 4 ships could do. Or 93.5% of what those 4 ships could do.

    I am well aware of the arguments for distributing systems around a number of hulls. For example during the 70s the British opted to place one Sea Dart system in one hull and have more hulls than place two Sea Darts into fewer hulls. But Sea Dart was a high end system; it is 100% of the admirals 80%.

    I am going to stop. I can’t articulate what I want to say.

  9. January 18, 2010 4:49 pm

    “I wouldn’t be so sure. With more ships you have more targets, and potential attackers the enemy has to deal with. Strength in numbers because there are no invincible warships.”

    I see what you are getting at. You wouldn’t have put it up for comment unless you thought it merited some comment. But I do think it is a non-statement.

    Let us see if somebody a bit brighter than me comments and we can go on from there,

  10. D. E. Reddick permalink
    January 18, 2010 4:47 pm


    You said: “By dint of logic it has to be the top end (ie AAW) which actually renders those 20 hulls sitting ducks.”

    But what if they mounted a mix of the following AAW weaponry:

    1) Carry one or two Oerlikon 35mm Millenium revolver cannon CIWS.
    2) Carry one or two RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) launchers.
    3) Carry some number of Mk 41, Mk 48, or Mk 56 VLS cells with RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) SAMs installed.

    The United Arab Emirates Navy has produced their under 1,000-ton Baynunah class of corvettes with RAM, ESSM, and two smaller Mauser / Rheinmetall MLG 27 mm revolver cannons. They also carry a helo, Exocet AShMs / SSMs, and a 76 mm cannon. If the UAENS can create such a corvette, then why can’t the USN create something similar or even better for littoral combat?

  11. Mike Burleson permalink*
    January 18, 2010 3:46 pm

    I wouldn’t be so sure. With more ships you have more targets, and potential attackers the enemy has to deal with. Strength in numbers because there are no invincible warships.

  12. January 18, 2010 2:57 pm

    It is a bit of nonsense statement to me. Is the “missing 20%” bottom end, top end, or middle level tasks? By dint of logic it has to be the top end (ie AAW) which actually renders those 20 hulls sitting ducks.

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