Skip to content

The Iowa Class Submarines

June 22, 2010
tags:

Lance Bacon at Military Time’s Scoop Deck blog writes:

For the first time ever, all four guided missile subs are deployed to an AOR. We’re not talking about being underway at the same time, and sea trials don’t count. We’re talking about being on the tip of the spear. For you strategists out there, that equals a combined 616 Tomahawk cruise missiles on station, and the ability to deploy up to 264 special ops forces.

The historic mark was hit June 10, according to this Navy release. In the article, Rear Adm. Frank Caldwell, commander of Submarine Group 9 said “… back in the mid 90’s this was just a power point presentation.”

Having the firepower of a battleship, the reach of an aircraft carrier, plus the unmatched stealth expected of submarines, the Ohio SSGNs are a significant, perhaps even a game changing addition to the fleet. It could be they are the answer to the Navy’s fears over Chinese anti-access weapons which currently threatens the US surface warships unless some technological breakthrough saves them from destruction. Here in a ready-made, already deployed package is the revolution without many billions of dollars spent on laser destroyers armed with sci fi weapons. The revolution is already here.

On several occasions New Wars has made compared the SSGNs to the Iowa battleship conversions of the 1980s, including this story titled “The Fleet’s New Capital Ship“:

Much like the Iowa battleships of the Reagan Era, these Navy missile subs conversions are a bargain with a bang…Unlike the entire surface fleet, these premier underwater battleships are impervious to the primary threat in modern sea conflict: the cruise missile.

The Iowa’s were supreme symbols of both the old Navy and the new. With its big guns, the class of 4×45,ooo ton capital ships were the apogee of the line of battle tactics that dominated warfare for centuries. With long-range cruise missiles bolted on their deck in their Space Age makeover, and even unmanned aerial vehicles, the old dreadnoughts became the arbiters of a new Navy in which precision trumped firepower and armor.

Unlike our fleet of very large and expensive aircraft carriers, which since World War 2 have only operated in permissive environments against benign adversaries, the SSGNs are well prepared for future conflicts with stand-off missiles and supreme stealth. For this cause it may be safe to reduce our depedence on very expesnive and vulnerable naval airpower, saving only enough for the occasional land battle which carriers are specifically geared to support. The SSGNs are geared for sea control, and as such are survivable, affordable, and available.

*****

All signs continue to point to the need for a return to conventional submarine production (SSK) in the United States, specifically to restore and maintain the number of boats in our over-worked, stretched thin fleet, also for other reasons. Within the same article above, Lance Bacon notices that the need for the deployment of all for SSGNs at the same time is not necessarily good:

These subs, along with 16 to 18 attack subs and a few boomers, are needed every day to meet 100 percent of critical requirements. But these represent only one of four categories of combatant commander requests. In total, subs meet 50 to 60 percent of critical, high priority, priority and routine requests. Why?  Subs are few and missions are many…

If this keeps up, sub crews could expect a lot more “deployment records” in the near future. And some Virginia class crews may see deployment rotations that are more consistent with the SSGNs. Those submarines deploy for 12 to 15 months, with crews swapping every three months.

The problem is, the money is tight though as we see the need for submarines remain. Grace V. Jean at National Defense Magazine doesn’t see things getting better, as detailed “In the Navy’s Forecast, a Shrinking Attack Submarine Fleet“:

The Navy two years ago planned to procure 54 attack submarines through 2040 in order to maintain its desired fleet size of 48 ships. In its latest 30-year shipbuilding plan, however, just 44 boats are included.

Given that the average life of an attack submarine is 30 years, cutting 10 ships equates to a 20 percent reduction in the attack submarine force, said Rear Adm. Richard Breckenridge, deputy director of the Navy’s submarine warfare division.

As a result, the Navy faces a 23-year period when the number of attack submarines in the fleet falls below the desired 48 ships.

I personally see even this number as over-optimistic, with numbers in the lower 30s, perhaps even in the 20s if costs are not reined in. All hopes rest on the very large and powerful Virginia class, but as these boats reach the $3 billion each mark with planned updates, it is difficult imagining 2 boats a year as the budget shrinks.

In contrast an SSK could be built in quantity, perhaps as low as $300 million each, or one-tenth the price of an SSN. I would insist the Navy keep the tonnage at around 1000 tons, in order to stave off costly add-ons that adds little to the mission against mostly low tech powers, but does raise the price, enforce delays and reduce numbers. Keeping tonnage low, as we often argue with surface vessels, would enforce discipline on a tech-happy naval community, that thinks capability will duplicate availability.

*****

38 Comments leave one →
  1. Steve Jones permalink
    November 17, 2010 3:22 pm

    The diesel submarine is and should be a long dead issue for the US Navy. Power projection requires endurance. An SS with AIP improves the SS endurance but it still does not have the endurance of a nuclear sub. Some of that can be replaced by forward basing, but that is a huge and mostly untenable cost.

    The other cost is training and the amortization of costs. It is far more efficient to have nuclear submarine support facilities in 3 places per coast being used to actually support SSN’s. Being able to do critical maitenance tasks requires some repitition and practice. Less SSN’s does not limit the infrastructure costs but does limit how much proficiency repair people will have. Less SSNs also means the cost per head trained at nuclear school and prototypes is higher. Less trained personnel means differing shoretime availability to man the shore and remaining sea billets. If the shore billets remain about the same, it requires a much more creative set of detailing to get nukes and non-nukes detailed and keep billets filled while keeping ships at sea.

    Ship driving and tactics are skills I learned quite well even as a “dumb nuke”. My ability and the ability of our nuclear officers to lead tactical engagements and engage the enemy does not need to be diminsihed by breeding classes of nuclear and non-nuclear officers who are nt experts in their entire submarine’s operation. It just requires that we be the best, and we are.

    Lastly, what does it cost to build a 2010 SS? Well over a billion dollars with all of our technology. Less nuke building means the cost of remaining builds goes up and the overall fleet costs increase, not decrease. SS’s are a dead issue. Ask the Brits who finally got rid of theirs. It was driven by money. An all nuclear fleet allows for less overall costs than a mixed submarine fleet.

  2. Hokie_1997 permalink
    June 24, 2010 7:49 am

    “Better to have an overall capable fleet able to be where we need them to be, the essential presence, than to have a few boats with wondrous abilities, just not available in a crisis.”

    *****

    Mike,

    With all due respect, I get the impression you are trying to define the problem to fit the solution.

    As I and others have attempted to illustrate in earlier posts, an SSK is probably not the right type of boat for a global navy (USN) to maintain naval presence. Nor does an SSK have the range or speed to ensure it could respond to the areas we’d need them to go in a crisis.

    The hot-spots that the USN will likely be called upon to operate (Western Pacific and Indian Oceans) encompass vast amounts of area. And the same dreaded ballistic missile which you have said spells doom for the carriers also ensures that, in a crisis, we’d be unable to maintain bases close to the fight. These two facts alone stress the need for a submarine with range, speed, and self-sufficiency – attributes which an SSN can provide and an SSK can’t.

    If the USN was concerned about coastal defense or conduding operations in say the Caribbean or Central and South America, I’d say buy lots of SSKs. They’d also be a perfect tool for fighting another US Navy off our own coast. But that’s simply not the geo-political reality.

  3. Mike Burleson permalink*
    June 24, 2010 7:12 am

    I haven’t been ignoring this post, just battling computer problems, still ongoing.

    Concerning SSK’s to train our own crews, great idea and I support that, but as noted in the articles, the primary reason is to maintain numbers in the fleet. As pointed out by combatant commanders, we are shrinking and sinking in the midst of some excellent capability. Better to have an overall capable fleet able to be where we need them to be, the essential presence, than to have a few boats with wondrous abilities, just not available in a crisis.

  4. B.Smitty permalink
    June 23, 2010 1:48 pm

    Hokie_1997 said, “More training against dissimilar adversaries (i.e USN leasing of the GOTLAND). This is the only reason I can see the USN needs to build/buy a diesel submarine. We need to train against the bad guys we are likely to fight.

    Having our own diesel subs would also allow prospective SSN commanders to “cut their teeth” in SSKs first. They would then have first hand knowledge on the strengths and weaknesses of each platform, both from a commanding and opposing perspective.

  5. Hokie_1997 permalink
    June 23, 2010 1:20 pm

    B. Smitty,

    Some ideas — maybe not entirely practical:

    – More training against dissimilar adversaries (i.e USN leasing of the GOTLAND). This is the only reason I can see the USN needs to build/buy a diesel submarine. We need to train against the bad guys we are likely to fight.

    – A seperate career branch for nuclear engineers vice operational officers. Let the nukes concentrate on running the plant. Let the guys who are going to be sub COs concentrate on becoming proficient at maneuvering the boat and tactics.

    – Something similar to the demanding PERISHER course that RN has for its prospective sub COs. Nearly 6 months long, 25% attrition rate

    – Make an exchange tour with an allied submarine service (Germans, Dutch, RN) conditional for promotion to CO.

    Nuclear submarines are amazing machines of war. I’m just concerned that the folks we are putting in them may not use them effectively when the balloon goes up. And with one major crash a year for the last decade, I’m not even sure they are using them safely!

  6. B.Smitty permalink
    June 23, 2010 1:03 pm

    Hokie,

    Interesting observations.

    So how do we encourage the killer instinct in our sub commanders? More aggressive and frequent live training events? Greater use of simulators? Do we need a Red Flag/Top Gun program for sub drivers?

    It’s hard for an outsider to judge what needs to change. I really have no idea what is in place already.

  7. Joe permalink
    June 23, 2010 11:42 am

    I can’t help but continually point out we are justifying the worlds most expensive warships against these barely industrialized countries.

    You fight an enemy from where they choose to present themselves.

    And, perhaps in this modern age, broken-down “barely industrialized” countries are the last, best refuge of despots and organizations like them that would, at their core, love nothing more than to tear down the so-called civilized world.

  8. Hokie_1997 permalink
    June 23, 2010 11:25 am

    B. Smitty –

    I competely forgot about the dhow incident. I intentionally overlooked the GW fire in 2008 because, although serious, from what I understand didn’t really demonstrate poor ship-handling or operational neglect. (And in retrospect, the comparison to subs via carrier at-sea record was a bit off-mark. The sub data alone should be alarming!!)

    The point I was trying to make is that with all the pontificating on this website about using the the submarine community to do everything – ASW, ASuW, STW, ISR, we better make sure we have the right kind of people commanding them if/when the balloon goes up.

    It’s the guys driving the sub (particularly the CO) that counts just as much as the boat they are driving. It’s not what you’ve got — it’s how you use it.

    I’ve worked with both US and non-US submarine officers (UK, Dutch, German, and Chilean). The USN types struck me as very smart engineers. Nuke trained, details oriented – they knew the technical aspects of their boats back and forward. I got the impression that USN types viewed their boats as nuclear reactors which just happened to be housed in underwater buildings.

    In contrast, the non-US types I’ve encountered(particularly the Germans and Chieans) viewed their boats as what they are intended to be: ship-killers, assassins of the sea. From what I’ve heard these guys are by and large were MUCH BETTER sub-handlers than the USN types, MORE AGGRESSIVE, and possessing of a FAR HIGHER degree of operational skill.

    The USN had the same problem with the sub force early in WW2, and solved it through attrition. The peacetime COs who couldn’t hack it got left at the docks, so that the real ship-handlers with real killer instincts (e.g. Mush Morton) could take over.

    My concern is that:

    1) In a rapid, full-on, peer-to-peer war, do we have the time to make these sort of command changes?

    2) And could the US submarine community even produce a modern Mush Morton? Or are we just producing great engineers and mediocre ship-handlers?

  9. Scott B. permalink
    June 23, 2010 10:48 am

    While we eagerly await to find out what sort of mythical 1,000-ton diesel submarine the Burlesonian Skunk Works are going to come up with, looking at some recent (paper) designs might provide some indications :

    Andrasta (DCNS, France) :
    * range : 3,000 NM @ 4 knots (snort + batteries)
    * mission endurance : 15 days

    Amur 950 (CKB Rubin, Russia) :
    * range : 3,000 NM @ 7 knots (snort)
    * mission endurance : 30 days

    S1000 (Fincantieri / CKB Rubin, Italy / Russia) :
    * range : 3,000 NM @ 4 knots (snort + batteries)
    * mission endurance : 30 days (?)

    Type 210mod (TKMS, Germany) :
    * range : 4,500 NM @ 4 knots (snort + batteries presumably)
    * mission endurance : 30 days

    As discussed in another thread last week, Guam to Taiwan is about 1,700 NM.

    As can be seen with the (paper) designs above :
    1) there barely have enough range to make a round trip @ 4 knots,
    2) @ 4 knots, the one-way trip would take them about 15 days, which means that, given their typical mission endurance of 30 days, they wouldn’t be able to spend much time in patrol, unless they are being sent on a one-way mission.

    Perhaps this is just me and my platform-centric bias, but I do not think any of these coastal submarines to be particulalrly suitable for a global Navy with worldwide commitments.

  10. B.Smitty permalink
    June 23, 2010 10:46 am

    Hokie,

    There was a fairly significant fire on the USS George Washington in 2008.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26614808/

    The USS John F. Kennedy hit a dhow in the Persian Gulf in 2004.

    http://www.tonyrogers.com/news/carrier_captain_relieved.htm

    There have been other incidents post-1966, such as the Kennedy colliding with the USS Belknap in 1975.

  11. Hokie_1997 permalink
    June 23, 2010 10:33 am

    Mike B wrote “But our submarines are also in continuous deployment, as they were in the Cold War, just without the headlines.”

    *****

    How about these headlines?

    2001 – USS Greenville collides with school ship off Hawaii.

    2002- USS Oklahoma City colldies with tanker off Gibraltar.

    2003 – USS Hartford grounds off Sardinia.

    2005 – USS San Franciso collides at high speed with undersea mount in mid-Pacific.

    2005 – USS Philadelphia collides with cargo ship in Arabian Gulf.

    2006 – 4 sailors washed overboard from USS Minneappolis-St.Paul due to CO negligence.

    2007 – USS Newport News collides with tanker in Arabian Gulf.

    2009 – USS Hartford collides with an LPD in the Straits of Hormuz.

    Not attempting to cast disperison on the sub community — but with all these collisions and incidents, has anyone seriously questioned the operational competence of our sub commanders? I’d hate to think what would happen in an actual shooting war!

    And as a side note, as far as I’m aware we haven’t had a collission or major accident on a carrier since the Oriskany fire (1966). And carriers are commanded by naval aviators.

  12. B.Smitty permalink
    June 23, 2010 10:13 am

    Mike said, “To me our reluctance to use them against a peer adversary is revealing, fearing it will show up the carrier’s Achilles heal. But our submarines are also in continuous deployment, as they were in the Cold War, just without the headlines.

    What do you mean “use them against a peer adversary”? We aren’t at war with any peer adversaries (thank goodness).

    And we certainly have been willing to use carriers in show-of-force operations against peer adversaries.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_Taiwan_Strait_Crisis
    http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN29439533

    Mike said, ““1000 ton submarine” more or less, as I often point out concerning the corvettes. 1500 tons would be the limit, but don’t discount the usefulness of a short range boat, as the Norks proved.

    Why is 1500 tons the limit? What requirements analysis led you to this conclusion? Why not 1800 tons? 2000 tons? 3000 tons? As previously noted, the very successful WWII Gato class was 2400 tons submerged. The modern Japanese Soryu class is 4,200 tons. Why did they get it so “wrong”?

  13. Mike Burleson permalink*
    June 23, 2010 9:57 am

    tangosix wrote “Over the last 50 years the C.V.N.s have spent 9 full years conducting constant combat operations on Yankee Station off Vietnam and another 20 full years conducting constant combat operations in operations Desert Storm,Southern Watch,Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.”

    I can’t help but continually point out we are justifying the worlds most expensive warships against these barely industrialized countries. To me our reluctance to use them against a peer adversary is revealing, fearing it will show up the carrier’s Achilles heal. But our submarines are also in continuous deployment, as they were in the Cold War, just without the headlines.

    “1000 ton submarine” more or less, as I often point out concerning the corvettes. 1500 tons would be the limit, but don’t discount the usefulness of a short range boat, as the Norks proved.

  14. B.Smitty permalink
    June 23, 2010 9:55 am

    MatR,

    If I read you correctly, you aren’t anti-CVN, per se. You are against the standing U.S. foreign policy of intervention and engaging in small- to mid-sized wars. You would raise the threshold for such interventions to make them much less frequent.

    That is one option, I suppose. I don’t know if I agree with it on a philosophical level, and I don’t know if politics in the U.S. would even make this practical or feasible. I think there are going to be cases where we have to intervene because either no one else will, or it is in our best interest, no matter how long or hard.

    I also think giving up on this type of power will embolden nations to do things they might not do otherwise. There is a deterrent effect in knowing that the U.S. can park 3+ carrier battle groups off any coastline in the world in fairly short order. OIF and OEF are two prime examples of this capability.

  15. MatR permalink
    June 23, 2010 3:28 am

    @ Tangosix –

    Well, yes. I think you fail to read the black and white in my post. My entire argument is that the carriers have been able to drop lots of ordnance, but that they have had little strategic benefit for the USA. You could get by with far ferwer. I repeatedly make the distinction between a weapon system being able to do something, and that ‘something’ being worthwhile for a given cost. Hence, I said it’s a question of philosophy. I state, continually, that my view is contingent upon this perception. I don’t ever doubt the ability of a carrier to deliver explosions to poorly defended third and second world nations. They’re great at it, if expensive.

    What did we get from the Vietnam war? I don’t ask that as a dewy-eyed hippy, but as a deficit-hawk who also values the lives of US servicemen more than the people of Vietnam. (Sorry, Vietnam.)

    Southern Watch, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom – as I stated, they were elective conflicts. Because – as the CIA and State Department both state – Saddam Hussein had no WMDs and had no relationship to the crime of 9/11. Indeed, as an irreligious Sunni Baathist, Hussein hated fundamentalist Shiite Al Quida.

    And to be Machiavelian – where are our benefits from using expensive CVs in these elective wars? Or from the operations per se? Southern Watch was a very low-intensity operation, and worked well with USAF aircraft operated from bases in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, for example. And Desert Storm – air assets didn’t have to belong to the USN. They could be land-based just as easily.

    I say that we don’t need nearly as many CVs because we shouldn’t be engaged in anything like conflicts of this scope, duration or unrealistic aims. Subs are for when the doo-doo hits the fan. CVs are an expensive way for the USN to play with fast jets and reward career officers.

    Lose half the CVs and the USN is still immensely well-equipped in the ‘bombing peasants’ game. And these days, we can achieve much with cheap, stealthy, expendable, ‘riskable’ cruise missiles.

    I’m no hippy. I want people who threaten me and mine – who kill for communism, religion, or crime – to get punitive strikes, sanctions, or all-out dismantling of their economies through wave after wave of missiles and B2 overflights. But you don’t need 12 CVs for that. And we’ve never had occasion to use CVs in long-term conflicts, for the past fifty years, where those long-term conflicts weren’t expensive, futile messes.

  16. Distiller permalink
    June 23, 2010 12:11 am

    This here is also in the super-light class:
    http://www.dcnsgroup.com/products/submarines/products/ssks/products/andrasta.html

    1.500ts is more realistic. For the even closer-to-shore work unmanned would be an option, e.g. torpedo sized and shaped.

  17. D. E. Reddick permalink
    June 22, 2010 11:39 pm

    Al,

    That’s a good one!

    Surface the SSK and hang some fake painted canvas panels from masts, poles, yardarms, and lines to simulate a hull, superstructure, and funnel.

    But then, that just might work to suck in some Somali pirates. Only, we most certainly cannot call such a submarine decoy anything like a Q-ship (since, of course – it would be a submarine faking out and sucking in the prey)!

  18. Ben Turley permalink
    June 22, 2010 11:19 pm

    scrap what i just said theres also the

    S1000
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S1000_submarine_class

    and the

    Amur class
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amur_class_submarine

    both in the ball park of 1000 tons but still under development

  19. Ben Turley permalink
    June 22, 2010 11:15 pm

    Scott B asked, “It would certainly be VERY interesting to find out what the mythical 1,000-ton diesel submarine would look like. Can we have some preliminary specs ?”

    Only sub in use today that i could find which comes close is the Whisky class used by North Korea.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whiskey_class_submarine

  20. Al L. permalink
    June 22, 2010 10:57 pm

    Hokie_1997 said:

    Perhaps the Dutch Navy is trying to justify their naval force structure? Or am I missing something?

    I think what you are missing is that in an age where Navies have become the 3rd (or 4th) line force in public perception, the Somali piracy ops offer an oportunity not only to execute national policy but also to test tactics, cooperation, naval diplomacy and a whole host of other benefits including good P.R. Only a fool misses the opportunity to do good, improve capability and improve perceptions at the same time.
    … or it could be an experiment to see if the Dutch can get the pirates to mistake a sub for a freighter.

  21. Chuck Hill permalink
    June 22, 2010 8:32 pm

    Scott B asked, “It would certainly be VERY interesting to find out what the mythical 1,000-ton diesel submarine would look like. Can we have some preliminary specs ?”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_Type_IX_submarine

    Even American fleet boats of WWII were bigger:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gato_class_submarine

  22. Chuck Hill permalink
    June 22, 2010 8:26 pm

    Just saw on facebook http://www.facebook.com/#!/album.php?aid=170819&id=76845133343, in 1963 the Navy launched four nuclear subs in a single day.

    What happened?

  23. June 22, 2010 7:23 pm

    Hello,

    MatR said:

    “It’s a question of philosophy. What do you really want your military to do? And why have a weapon system like CVN that’s not been terribly useful over the past 50 years?”

    Over the last 50 years the C.V.N.s have spent 9 full years conducting constant combat operations on Yankee Station off Vietnam and another 20 full years conducting constant combat operations in operations Desert Storm,Southern Watch,Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

    In between those they did some minor things like bombing Libya and Serbia and fighting a cold war.

    With 29 out of the last 50 years spent on combat operations,the big carriers have been probably the most useful assets in the American arsenal.
    By contrast,the American submarine fleet has barely fired a shot in anger over the same period.
    Would you say that the submarine fleet has “not been terribly useful over the past 50 years?”?.

    tangosix.

  24. Scott B. permalink
    June 22, 2010 3:13 pm

    B. Smitty said : “What is it with this fixation with vessels “around 1000 tons”?”

    It would certainly be VERY interesting to find out what the mythical 1,000-ton diesel submarine would look like.

    Can we have some preliminary specs ?

  25. D. E. Reddick permalink
    June 22, 2010 2:34 pm

    Hokie,

    Here’s a quote from another news report regarding the sub’s mission:

    “”It’s specific capacities (to see without being seen) represent great added security in the vast operations zone,” it said.”

    http://www.expatica.com/nl/news/dutch-news/dutch-submarine-boosts-anti-piracy-mission-off-somalia-coast_78574.html

    But then, one might suspect that the SSK could deploy with a spar boom tipped with an old fashioned harpoon tip, akin to the ram depicted on Capt. Nemo’s submarine Nautilus in the 1954 Disney film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Imagine the surprise among the crew of a cruising pirate skiff if suddenly they were lifted up off the sea surface while their boat is impaled on on an especially stout harpoon… ;-)

  26. Forrest permalink
    June 22, 2010 2:06 pm

    A question: on routine deployments, do these boats carry a full complement of special operations forces? Hard to imagine all those SEALs hanging out in the confined quarters of a submarine for long periods without a specific mission planned.

  27. June 22, 2010 1:47 pm

    If I were the US Navy I would convert more SSBNs. Cancel a few ship orders and use the money to mass produce more TLAMs.

    Super system.

  28. Hokie_1997 permalink
    June 22, 2010 1:45 pm

    “Per a request from NATO, the Dutch Navy is sending an SSK to the coast of Somalia this September for anti-piracy operations. Can anyone recall where a submarine was used to track or hunt pirates, previously?”

    ****

    I’m really scratching my head on this one. I just have a real hard time seeing the utility of a diesel sub in counter-piracy role, other than providing covert ISR (IMINT and SIGINT.)

    It strikes me that the core tasks in counter-piracy are: patrolling large areas of water, providing a visible deterent, and when necessary conducting VBSS.

    An SSK is not exactly the ideal naval platform for any of those tasks. I don’t think too many Somali pirates are concerned about getting their bows broken by a MK-48.

    Perhaps the Dutch Navy is trying to justify their naval force structure? Or am I missing something?

  29. Joe K. permalink
    June 22, 2010 1:08 pm

    @MatR

    Need I point out the strategic value in having those aircraft carriers patrolling around the world not only to take part in combat operations or emergency firefights, but they also serve as an en masse first-responder to crisis situations.

    Example: if you’ll notice in the events immediately following the destruction areas in South Eastern Asia due to the 2004 tsunami you never saw reports of a massive outbreak or epidemic of diseases that would’ve spread quite easily in the region affecting thousands of people and killing hundreds more on top of the tsunami. Why didn’t that happen? That’s because a carrier stationed in that region was able to respond within the first days after the tsunami bringing with it, among a lot of other things, were medicines that were quickly distributed and administered to people even as they were only starting to assess the damage.

    Now certainly it’s not something the aircraft carriers were built for. But for a non-combat mission they helped the lives of thousands of people in the wake of a horrific disaster which would’ve been made worse if diseases had spread. That could’ve led to even more problems on top of reconstruction which already put the strain on the weaker governments there.

    Finally I point out that in any situation which may require an American or military presence in short notice, the President always asks first, “Where are the carriers?” Not the cruisers, frigates or subs, the carriers. If the carriers had little going for them why are they important to begin with?

  30. D. E. Reddick permalink
    June 22, 2010 12:25 pm

    Per a request from NATO, the Dutch Navy is sending an SSK to the coast of Somalia this September for anti-piracy operations. Can anyone recall where a submarine was used to track or hunt pirates, previously?

    Dutch submarine to tackle piracy
    Published on 22 June 2010 – 10:20am

    The Netherlands has agreed to a NATO request for a submarine to help fight piracy in the Indian Ocean, outgoing Defence Minister Eimert van Middelkoop announced, while visiting a Dutch Navy patrol in the Gulf of Aden. The Netherlands is participating in Atalanta, a European Union operation to prevent merchant ships being hijacked by Somali pirates.

    The Dutch submarine will join a NATO flotilla in late September, and contribute to the organisation’s Ocean Shield anti-piracy mission until December. The submarine carries sensitive monitoring equipment which will be helpful in gathering information about the pirates. The cost of using the submarine, estimated at 2.3 million euros, will be carried by the Dutch foreign ministry.

    © Radio Netherlands Worldwide

    http://www.rnw.nl/english/bulletin/dutch-submarine-tackle-piracy

  31. MatR permalink
    June 22, 2010 11:45 am

    It’s a question of philosophy. What do you really want your military to do? And why have a weapon system like CVN that’s not been terribly useful over the past 50 years? (‘IMHO’, before I get flamed.) I mean, when you consider the effect it’s had?

    Carriers do indeed provide re-targetable ordnance and on-call support. But consider the conflicts they’re used in: elective wars of choice that are low-intensity, high-cost conflicts in which we invade other nations and over the best part of a decade try to alter their political, cultural and social norms, and ultimately fail abysmally with hundreds of billions of dollars of debt and no strategic advantages accrued.

    If we give up trying to bomb tribesmen with million dollar jets, and forget ridiculous ideas about remaking the world in our image, we can replace carriers with other, mostly cheaper weapons, that do adequate jobs. And keep SSNs or intercontinental bombers as our preferred weapons for the real, high-intensity wars that have massive consequences if we lose: potential conflicts with North Korea, Iran, China, and so on.

    Whenever we stick to punitive cruise missile strikes, high-intensity warfare, anti-piracy, EEZ, homeland defense and maintaining our lines of access, our militaries do an acceptable job. It’s a consequence of our cultural and technological preferences in the West, and in the USA, UK and France in particular. SSNs fall into the ‘punitive strikes’, ‘high-intensity warfare’ and ‘lines of access camps’, and perform well.

    I would never deny that CVs provide enormous capability. I don’t see their purpose in this day and age, though. I don’t see the productive ends of that capability. (A bit like a massive, powerful factory that doesn’t produce anything useful or effective.) They provide lots of ordnance for little real-world gain (in a strategic sense) and they’re terribly vulnerable to anti-access threats (IMHO). We need to re-align our military spending with what works, not with legacy concepts about preferred platforms.

    The USN can always keep a few carriers for bombing the third world if it wants to, but it shouldn’t think of them as cost-effective ways of – as Clauswitz said – gaining a desired effect. (It’s not just CVs. I’d say that goes for new armored vehicles sought by Western nations, when it’s highly unlikely we’ll face an armored invasion through the Fulda Gap any time soon.)

    My last point in this warble – it is perfectly possible to create cruise missiles that return to base and land in hook systems or nets, or release parachutes and land on airbags. Drones have done it for years, including large, fast turbojet-powered reconnaisance drones that are cruise missiles in all but their lack of explosive payload. I think that the USA hasn’t procured such cruise missiles because it would invalidate the CV, and enrage the powerful CV and USAF fighter mafias – not because it wouldn’t be a useful and cheap weapon.

  32. Heretic permalink
    June 22, 2010 9:34 am

    Mike, submerged tonnage for an SSK really doesn’t want to go too far below 2000 tons. Surfaced tonnage doesn’t want to go all that far below 1500 tons. Those are Gotland/U212A/U214 ballpark numbers.

    Wikipedia exists for a reason. Don’t shun it just because you like the number 1000.

  33. juandos permalink
    June 22, 2010 9:01 am

    In the Navy’s Forecast, a Shrinking Attack Submarine Fleet“…

    Well can’t afford the needed submarines if the KENYAN KOMMIE KLOWN wants to finance his socialist agenda

  34. B.Smitty permalink
    June 22, 2010 8:48 am

    Hokie,

    The Latest TacToms have an inflight retargeting capability, however I fundamentally agree with you, SSGNs don’t contribute to TLAM target acquisition. Also, TLAMs are not recoverable, so you can’t launch them to provide a CAS orbit that may or may not be called upon to deliver ordinance. Once you fire them, they’re gone. This is primarily how airpower is being used today (something I think Mike prefers to ignore in his posts).

    Mike said, “The SSGNs are geared for sea control…”

    *Sigh* Sea denial, strike, SPECOPS, and ISR. Not sea control.

    Mike said, “I would insist the Navy keep the tonnage at around 1000 tons, in order to stave off costly add-ons that adds little to the mission against mostly low tech powers, but does raise the price, enforce delays and reduce numbers.

    a) Why do we need any submarines (let alone a lot of tiny SSKs) to counter low-tech powers? Who do you consider to be a “low-tech power”?

    b) What is it with this fixation with vessels “around 1000 tons”? Is there any actual technical or operational analysis behind this? Or it just seems like a nice, round number? (Note: Even the Gotland class is over 50% larger than this, and it had to be carried via FLO/FLO to the U.S.)

  35. Distiller permalink
    June 22, 2010 8:46 am

    Not a fan of the SSGN. Don’t really have a feeling for its real-world usefulness. It’s akin to the missile vs tube artillery question. Only saying that so far none of their ops couldn’t have been done by a modded container ship.

    Re the other points: Heaven forbid that the number of SSN really go so low. 60 minimum is required, even if that means cutting into the carrier groups, like down to 6+1. That would be a trade-off I’d be willing to accept, if absolutely need be.

    The SSK question is independent from the SSNs. A number of them (~12) permananently forward based in the WestPac would be nice. Don’t fuck around with an own design, buy U212A off the shelf.

  36. Hokie_1997 permalink
    June 22, 2010 7:37 am

    Mike wrote – “Having the firepower of a battleship, the reach of an aircraft carrier, plus the unmatched stealth expected of submarines, the Ohio SSGNs are a significant, perhaps even a game changing addition to the fleet.”

    ******

    As I’ve said before, firepower is probably not the key metric in the kill-chain when comparing SSGN vs. CVN/CVW. We’ve pretty well figured how to blow a target up if/when we can find it. The tricky part is targeting.

    And the nice thing about carrier aircraft is that when the aircraft take off, they aren’t locked into delivering their ordnance on a set point. The USN launched carrier aircraft during OIF-I with no clear idea of what/where the target was. The strike aircraft got their tasking once in the kill-boxes. In many cases, the planned and actual target differed significantly in both time and location.

    I’m not exactly sure how an SSGN w/TLAM can replicate the CVN/CVW capability to dynamically re-target. It seems to me if you launch a TLAM, you’re pretty much committed to delivering ordnance at a set place and time.

    I might be missing something here — but this strikes me as the achilles heel in the whole SSGN concept.

Trackbacks

  1. Military And Intelligence News Briefs — June 23, 2010 « Read NEWS
  2. Military And Intelligence News Briefs — June 23, 2010 « Read NEWS

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: