Giving Sea Fighter Teeth
The following is courtesy of Warboats.org. Thanks to authors Lee Wahler and Robert Stoner for allowing New Wars to post this!
Sea Fighter (FSF-1) – A proposal for full operation
Purpose: To evaluate the X-craft in anti-piracy as well as long-range surveillance and interdiction roles.
Introduction Sea Fighter (FSF-1) is a fast, maneuverable platform that was designed as a technology demonstrator. It is a platform for the development of new roles and missions for this technology’s employment.
Sea Fighter was designed to be fast and nimble through the use of lightweight materials. It also has some stealthy design features incorporated into its construction. The proposed additions would take these features into account while expanding and developing the platform for various practical applications.
Employment: To do this, we need to look at the four “F”s as they apply to the anti-piracy, surveillance and interdiction role.
1. Find ‘em.
2. Fix ‘em.
3. Fight ‘em.
4. Finish ‘em.
FIND ‘EM The key to dealing with and interdicting pirates is finding them. To do so we need to look beyond the typical shipboard search radar and expand Sea Fighter’s over the horizon capabilities.
The first way is to use both military reconnaissance satellites and the civilian weather satellite systems as space-borne “eyes in the sky” that can cover tens of thousands of square miles of ocean quickly and allow relatively unimpeded observation of trouble spots.
The second way is to extend the vessel’s eyes beyond the line-of-sight search radars. For carrier battle groups, we use the E-2C Hawkeye airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft. For Sea Fighter, we can do this through the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) now in-use and under evaluation. It is proposed we use several types of UAV. For long-range reconnaissance and surveillance, the Northrop-Grumman RQ-8A/B Fire Scout is entering service and a good aircraft. For short and intermediate range reconnaissance and surveillance, the Boeing-Insitu ScanEagle UAV as currently used in Iraq can operate off the Sea Fighter’s large flight deck.
FIX ‘EM After the above aircraft find the quarry, we have to fix them so they cannot escape. Currently, Fire Scout has an eight hour endurance and longer range, while ScanEagle has lesser range, but a 22 hour endurance time. This should allow shadowing of suspect craft by relief on station as required for as long as required.
FIGHT ‘EM The primary aerial strike weapon of Sea Fighter should be the MQ-8B Fire Scout. The MQ-8B is an armed attack variant of the reconnaissance RQ-8A/B. The MQ-8B does have some of the RQ-8A/B electro-optical sensors, but they are primarily configured for the strike role as opposed to reconnaissance and surveillance.
A “hunter-killer” team composed of either the MQ-8B and RQ-8A/B Fire Scout or ScanEagle, and MQ-8B Fire Scout would be a very difficult team for pirates to avoid and fight back against. A UAV composite detachment to be supported onboard Sea Fighter would be composed off:
1. For the long-range missions, 2 ea. MQ-8B and 2 ea. RQ-8A/B Fire Scout
2. for the short to intermediate range missions, 4 ea. ScanEagle.
Threat Assessment: Sea Fighter would likely face two types of direct threats:
1. Low threats as represented by small, fast, lightly armed boats (AKM 7.62×39 rifles, PKM 7.62x54R machine guns, and RPG-7V rocket launchers).
2. Intermediate threats since it would be a “mothership” would be from fast attack boats having crew served weapons such as 12.7mm or 23mm heavy machine guns and recoilless rifles or anti-armor missiles. Likewise, an Intermediate threat would be posed by heavier weapons possessed by many failed nation states that are no longer under their control; that is, coastal anti-ship missiles and aircraft or boats either modified or dedicated to the attack role.
FINISH ‘EM Sea Fighter employs a unique mix of armed UAV, organic light and medium guns and missiles that can defeat and kill any likely kind of threat mounted by pirates or state sponsored terrorists.
Sea Fighter is designed for swap-in and swap-out of various mission modules. Some of these modules will be ready for use before the LCS are operational. Recent photos suggest that a small elevator has been added to Sea Fighter to move equipment from the mission deck to the helicopter deck. Some minor modifications to that elevator might be necessary to accommodate Fire Scout when it is configured for stowing and moving it from the helo deck to the hangar or “module” deck. ScanEagle is much smaller and lighter; the elevator would be used to move the portable launch and retrieval gear. Command and control for ScanEagle and Fire Scout could be accomplished from a module similar to the Army’s C3OTM (command, control, communication on-the-move) that is designed to fit the back of a lengthened Humvee.
The primary weapons and counter measure systems proposed for an operational Sea Fighter are:
1. One SeaRAM Close-In Weapon System (CIWS)
2. One GDM-008 35mm Millennium Gun (CIWS)
3. Two Mk 95 twin .50 Browning machineguns
4. Two Mk 38 Mod 2 25mm machine guns
5. One Mk 36 Mod 1 Super RBOC for defense against radar and infrared targeting (or equivalent).
6. One SLQ-650 Electronic Warfare system for small combatants (or equivalent).
7. Two deck-mounted pedestals for the Mk 19 Mod 3 40mm automatic grenade launcher
8. Four M240G 7.62mm General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG) with on-board cradles and ammo box trays.
In addition, the Sea Fighter should carry:
Two 11-meter NSW RHIBs equipped with mounts for M2 .50 machinegun, Mk 19 Mod 3 40mm AGL, and 7.62mm GPMG.
Ordnance modifications are readily accomplished. Both the SeaRAM and the GDM-008 35mm Millennium Gun are designed for bolt-on installation with minimal hook-up required. The same is true for the Mk 38 Mod 2 25mm machinegun installation. The Mk 95 twin .50 machinegun installations requires no special preparation, other than an area of deck where it can be bolted-down or welded to the deck. The Mk 36 Super RBOC requires minimal installation. Pedestals for the Mk 19 Mod 3 40mm AGL or M240 GPMG can be bolted or welded to the deck to give optimal arcs of fire. Location of one twin .50 machine gun and one Mk 38 Mod 2 machine gun should be installed at the corners of the bow flare for optimal arcs of fire. Consideration should be given to locating them behind quick-acting doors in order to preserve the design characteristics of the bow area yet allow engagement over a wide area.
Electronics and systems integration (some may already be present):
Secure voice communications gear, data links to UAVs (secure) and supporting ships.
An EW system similar to the SLQ-650.
Satellite communications (for download of recon satellite imagery)
A good intermediate, high resolution search radar (UAVs and satellites will do most of long range scouting).
Integrated combat system for fire control systems of CIWS and Super RBOC for defensive purposes. CIWS (SeaRAM and GDM-008 35mm gun) fire control can be fully automatic, semi-automatic (with operator decision making, and local (operator has full control of SeaRAM or GDM-008).
The reason why Sea Fighter is equipped with two kinds of CIWS (missile and gun) is that it makes them harder to defeat. The Mk 36 Mod 1 Super RBOC launchers and SLQ-650 EW system are to defeat enemy targeting systems. If Sea Fighter would come under this kind of attack, the MQ-8B could also be used as an airborne combat air patrol (CAP) when the ship is operating close to a hostile shoreline.
Emphasis should be placed on existing technology that can be adapted to do the ship easily. It does not need to be naval type, but it does need to be marinized to survive the nautical operations.
We are in one of those in-between moments of history. When the old ways are no longer the best way of doing things and we are blazing new trails with concepts and ideas that are strange to many.
The Navy has already completed test and trials of the Sea Fighter with a joint service crew. Further experimentation to develop operational knowledge of UAVs is advisable. The mix and interoperability of manned aircraft and UAV needs to be determined.
Using the Sea Fighter for anti-piracy patrols would be the ideal way to iron-out operational doctrine and experiment with flying UAVs on real world missions. This is the ideal way of learning their strengths and weaknesses. It is also the ideal way of learning and refining scouting and engagement practices for Sea Fighter. And most importantly, the Sea Fighter can deal with the growing threat to coastal shipping using a lower cost platform then current surface combatants.
Sea Fighter can be a very capable, armed, fast scout. As modified, it would have the aviation assets to perform the reconnaissance and attack missions necessary to neutralize low to mid level threats. It would have a suitable mix of ordnance to deal with low to mid level surface and air threats. It could be operated ahead of the surface force. More importantly, it can do anti-piracy patrols without having to tie-up precious surface warfare assets like frigates or DDGs or CGs.