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29 April 2015

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mike

Good post, thanx.

But tell us more of Rutan's mudfighter. The youtube video you linked to was six years old. Is the mudfighter, or a Rutan follow-on, still under consideration by DoD??

The A-10 deserves to stay in service. Although I am not sure that it was ever considered a CAS aircraft by the AF brass. They seem to have used it predominately as more of a mid to deep ground interdiction aircraft against armor, which it did extremely well. Although I know there was at least one incidence of a true CAS role in Afghanistan the year before last.

http://www.af.mil/News/ArticleDisplay/tabid/223/Article/466762/bagram-pilots-save-60-soldiers-during-convoy-ambush.aspx

I would be interested if there have been any other occurrences of the A-10 doing CAS that are documented? BY CAS I mean "extremely close to friendly troops".

Call me old school - but what was ever wrong with the A-4 and the A-7 in a CAS role? Those planes kicked butt, and probably still could if ever modernized. A lot has been said about the A-10's survivability, but they lost at least seven during the first Gulf War. They are old - designed in the late 60s, early 70s primarily to go against Soviet tank columns. Operational in 77, manufactured from 72 to 84. That makes it 31 to 43 years old despite various SLEPs. Extend it for sure, but do we still want it flying 20 years from now?

BabelFish

Mike,

I do not think it is under consideration. Burt created this quite some time back and it kept on sparking interest. But not from the AF.

It was composite construction, came with a 30 mm cannon and was single engined. If you look at some Google images of the bird, the most interesting thing is that it has a single intake on one side and the engine is actually canted sideways through the fuselage (front to back).

The whole intent for this bird was 'danger close' support, truly hitting targets close to the boots. It would be cheaper than an Apache helicopter and, being a Scaled Composites aircraft, relatively easy to fly. It has some of that Russian 'quantity has a quality all of it's own' thinking in that you can have many more simple aircraft, with less rigorous pilot training.

On the other hand, it would probably not have air to air refueling, so overseas deployments would be problematic (back to the WW2 ferrying of aircraft over the ocean by ships). The AF took a simple day fighter and made the F-16 very capable but also much more complex than originally visioned. If the Army got these birds, what would they do?

On the A-4 and A-7, no argument. The A-4, aka The Scooter, was a tough strike fighter and very uncomplicated. I worked with a guy that flew them from the Intrepid and dropped a lot of flechette munitions with great effect. The A-7 was a lot more complicated but pretty effective as well.

The biggest issue with the A-10 in Desert Storm was that they are susceptible to MANPADS and AAA, given that they have to do their down and dirty. And, they did not have night vision. There are videos of Hog pilots using the IR seeker on the Maverick missiles as a poor man's FLIR system. The issue was that they lost the night vision when they pickled off the Maverick.

I also agree on the A-10's age. The airframes are beyond rugged but they also work in a bumpy, tough environment and their components are going to be obsolete.

William R. Cumming

Thanks for the very informative post! Would it be possible that A-10s would be useful to some allies or sold?

Also guessing the Tomahawk missile has gone through some upgrades! Can you give some open source info on capability and variable launch platforms?

Also open source info on AEGIS air defense system?

And apparently Japan has agreed to assist the USA if it is attacked! What detail is available on Japanese naval forces?

Thanks in advance!

confusedponderer

babelfish,
"This is the ‘mudfighter’ that Burt Rutan designed for CAS work, primarily to be acquired and used by the Army. It would be very cheap, compared to other fighters."

Actually it isn't. Rutan's is the ARES concept that Rutan designed for a lightwight CAS platform, an asymmetric composite aircraft basically built around a 25mm gatling gun.

http://www.scaled.com/projects/ares

The image you posted looks cool though, as if some aircraft enthusiast (much like me, but far better with image editing) had built himself what he wanted the mudfighter to look like, based on Rutan's basic idea.

By the way, my favourite mudfighter is the Polish PZL-230 D Skporpion.

http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/europe/pzl-230.htm

And actually, my fictitious aircraft looks WAY cooler than yours ;)

confusedponderer

The Japanese have perhaps the second largest, finest and generally one of the top five navies on earth, quite a significant force. A large number of high quality vessels, excellent non-nuclear subs, high level of training, numerous and quality naval aviation.

The easiest source of information is, of course, Wikipedia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japan_Maritime_Self-Defense_Force

If not for that, I'd need to go to my shelf and pick up my latest issue of Weyer's Flottentaschenbuch.

Imagine

Robotic planes will lower the barrier-to-entry for serious wars.

BabelFish

CP, OK.

BabelFish

Thanks, CP. I think that is a good summary and an important caveat is that the Japanese are just now coming out of the 'self-defense force' mentality and will need to continue to do so to counterbalance the Chinese, to the extent they can.

BabelFish

WRC, I am guessing the A-10 will not be viable for either donation or sale due to its age. Again, the airframe is beyond tough but the other components (engines, avionics, etc.) would be increasingly difficult to service or replace.

The Tomahawk Wiki entry is excellent in being complete and I would recommend it. It will include the different countries it has been sold to. One area of upgrade has been a counter-measure to anti-GPS jamming. There was discussion last summer of it becoming useless due to GPS jamming and the discussion from the Navy made it clear that it already had a counter and the counter-measures were upgraded even further.

The one thing that the Tomahawk is being considered for (and probably will be deployed relatively soon) is for long range maritime strike, ship to ship. It would have longer legs than the Harpoon, which is so old that it is known as the 'Disco Missile'. That does not mean it would be ineffective but it was introduce in the 70s.

CP has commented on the Japanese Navy. One thing to add is that they are building 'destroyers' which look like small aircraft carriers (large flat deck). Those would be great homes for the F-35C, giving them a stealth aircraft to use in any confrontation with the Chinese.

I would also comment that Wiki, again, has an excellent entry on the AEGIS system.

confusedponderer

" The one thing that the Tomahawk is being considered for (and probably will be deployed relatively soon) is for long range maritime strike, ship to ship. "

The old R/UGM-109B Tomahawk Block I TASM was just such an anti-ship missile and was withdrawn from service in the 1990s. The challenge then was finding the target due to the large area that had to be searched in light of the slow speed of the missile (880km/h)and the range (460 km). The old missile is long retired now and not what you mean.

What you refer to is proposed upgrades to the Tomahawk Block IV, featuring a passive electronic seeker. It's competitor is a navalised version of the JASSM. The name of the program is Long Range Anti-Ship Missile.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_Range_Anti-Ship_Missile
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tomahawk_%28missile%29
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AGM-158_JASSM

BabelFish

CP, Thank you. The interesting point for me is that the Navy gave up that capability. You point out a problem with the kill chain, as in if you found a target and fired a slow (air breathing) missile, the target may not be in the same area by the time the missile show up, particularly at the long end of its range. A solution is a missile that can have targeting data updated on its flight.

And, the reason the Navy is now trying to acquire the capability again is primarily the Chinese navy. The need for range in weapons is becoming a strong need.

And, I believe the Tomahawk will be acquired due to cost (add a new seeker to an existing missile).

Patrick Bahzad

Agree with BF, as Japan's Navy in particular is in a transitional phase, but I would argue that stating Japan's navy is the second is the world is vastly overstated.
Besides, they don't need the second navy in the world, they need one that is able to interdict or contest Chinese superiority in the region and possibly develop some power projection capabilities for maritime operations further away from the mainland, in the case of the Senkaku/Diaoyutai Islands.
As for naval aviation, yes, they do have a number of aircraft, but it is mostly landbased, as they have no single aircraft carrier.
Their submarine fleet is also more limited in capabilities as Japan has declined to use nuclear attack subs.

confusedponderer

You're welcome - my guilty pleasure of reading everything I can get my hands on about aircraft and ships since my teens is finally paying some dividends ;)

re: Tomahawk - it will, given its large range, probaly require some form of mid course guidance, perhaps via satellite. The Navy is big on networking.

The targeting problem will also remain an aspect with the JASSM (which is also air breathing) but since ethe Tomahawk has a much greater range it is somewhat more pronounced there.

I think that the JASSM would be considered as a 1:1 successor to the harpoon. JASSM is stealthier and may have better chances to penetrate layered air defences.

Stealth would suggest to fire it from a VLS to avoid having an on-deck lanch container, which then again would make it a competitor to VLS cells, and the Tomahawk may be more versatile.

We'll see.

BabelFish

WRC and All, This is a link to an article on the new U.S.- Japan defense guidelines.

http://news.usni.org/2015/04/29/inside-the-new-u-s-japan-defense-guidelines?utm_source=USNI+News&utm_campaign=3dd8e084e2-USNI_NEWS_DAILY&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0dd4a1450b-3dd8e084e2-230407953&mc_cid=3dd8e084e2&mc_eid=92be829f50

William R. Cumming

Thanks CP!

William R. Cumming

Thanks again!

confusedponderer

Actually, Patrick, while I would not to rank the Japanese - just look at their numbers:

Their destroyer and frigate fleet is iirc larger than the French and British navies put together: The RN has six Type 45 destroyers and 13 Type 23 frigates. The French Navy has two air defence frigates, 7 anti-submarine frigates and five light frigates, six light surveillance frigates and nine Avisos (or sloops) for patrol duty.

The Japanese Navy has 26 destroyers, 11 small destroyers (or frigates), six destroyer escorts (or corvettes) - and their new helicopter carriers.

Or take submarines: The Brits have two Astute SSN and four Trafalgar SSN and will finally have seven Astutes. The French have six Rubis/Amethyste and will finally have six Barracuda class SSN.

The Japanese have 16 SS with a AIP. Their subs are conventional, but more numerous than the British and French nuclear subs, and by rule younger (the Japs replace their generations much faster - the Trafalgar is 38-29 years old, the oldest Japanese sub is 20 years old - and they are already half way through with introducing the next generation).

Or take land based naval aviation: Japan has 73 P3 MPA, which they will replace with the modern P1 of which they have already ordered 30 - France has 22 Atlantique 2, Britain, oops, none, but they plan to buy five P8. Some day.

In terms of the numbers of the stuff that one actually uses (i.e, I exclude SSBN) the Japanese have a quite formidable navy IMO probably second only to the US.

They don't have SSBN and SSN though, and they don't have carriers. But in any other respect ...

confusedponderer

That said, the Japanese Navy is designed with a task in mind and that is sea control and SLOC control around Japan and to Japan, and given Japan's geographical location, they need a lot of vessels and aircraft for that. And they have F-15 flying air cover.

The British and French are designed for power projection, with French probably retaining a greater capability for ASW warfare due to their remaining MPA fleet. Also, they're both in NATO and have allied Navies sharing some of their burdens.

So yes, task and geography matter much.

Still, while numbers indeed are not everything, there still is strength in numbers.

Assume any of these navies loses three destroyers.

It would cripple both the French and the Japanese navies operationally.

It would not cripple the Japanese, as it would not cripple the US Navy. It wouldn't cripple the US Navy either, even if they lost three USS Coles given that the Arleigh Burke class, with all flights, is 62 ships strong.

Patrick Bahzad

CP, agreed, in particular your second MSG.
That being said, French and even more British navies are on the brink of loosing ability to conduct autonomous operations, which is indeed worrying !

BabelFish

CP, The JASSM works from a VLS but that limits it to ships who have VLS capability. As the 'if it floats, it fights' mentality takes over, the Tomahawk and the Harpoon (or its replacment) will probably be fitted to canisters as well. They can be placed on a number of deck sites. The Iowas had 'armored box launchers' for Tomahawks.

"The Navy is big on networking." Yes indeed! It is probably the most advanced of the American services in that regard. Again, if you can have a widely distributed ordnance store and can rapidly and accurately share targeting data, and pass on weapon control to someone else, then you can have an amphibious warfare vessel shoot long range weapons and pass on control of that weapon to an Arleigh Burke class ship for updates. The targeting data can come from UAVs, F-35s, subs, satellites or a fused package from all.

mike

Regarding the Littoral Combat Ships, in the past I had always been a fan despite the cost overruns and the pushback against it by many Surface Warfare Officers who did not like its lack of firepower and protection.

However I have been converted by this latest report over at the 'Navy Matters' blog that the ship has short legs and does not meet specs for range and endurance:

http://navy-matters.blogspot.com/2015/04/short-legs.html

This means, as several commenters on the link mention that the LCS (at least the Freedom class) cannot conduct a mission from Singapore to the Spratleys without refueling. And it cannot even cross the Atlantic, or go from the West Coast to Hawaii without refueling.

Hopefully whatever fixes they implement do not cause other specification failures.

confusedponderer

Well, the Brits have their white elephants - the aircraft carriers, the SSBN and the Astutes (among the finest SSN currently in service) - all of which are quite capable, and hideously expensive.

So something's got to give. Like the army, the frigate fleet, the air force or the MPA fleet.

The Brits would do well if they got themsevles six vessels like the French Floréal class. SpOps capable, one or perhaps two Lynxes, some scan eagle drones or Schiebel S-100, speedboats, large range and endurance, moderate speed, a solid gun, CIWS, and some auto cannons, good SIGINT suite.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flor%C3%A9al-class_frigate

F23 are overkill for chasing pirates around the Horn of Africa, commando ops, boarding missions or embargo enforcement. A waste of precious assets. In the meantine the F23 fleet could try not to forget how to chase submarines.

Germany should do that too, by the way. The new F125 is IMO oversized. I'd rather have 8 vessels half the tonnage along the above described lines, perhaps based on the MEKO A-200. Alas, they didn't bother asking me for my opinion ^^

BabelFish

Mike, yes. I agree that the frigate versions will need to have longer legs to be effective. Interesting potential algorithm, as in they need to be heavier, for additional weapons and armor. They will need more fuel to have longer unrefuled range, all that means more weight, which will impact the amount of fuel needed to hit a target range that will let them operate with carrier battle groups, if that is one of the missions.

At some pint, I think the Navy will build some thing along the line of the Zumwalts, for carrier escort use and as the centerpiece of a surface action group. They will have operational lessons in hand from the three that are being built.

Charles I

Today in Reuters there is an article totuting a najor reduction in purchases of the LCS's in favour of Cyclone class ships in much greater numbers. The seven foot draft Cyclone class was intended for infiltration but its 179 foot length was problematic. Described as happy accident of development, its utility was demonstrated when 3 of the craft responded to the Iranian ship interdiction on April 15 along with one destroyer.

"These 179-foot-long boats, armed with guns and missiles, are now viewed as among the Navy’s most important ships. Remarkably, they’re also some of the least expensive — setting U.S. taxpayers back just $20 million apiece when the Navy originally bought them in the early 1990s. Most Navy ships — admittedly far larger — cost hundreds of millions, even billions, of dollars.

The Cyclones, which each have two 25-millimeter cannons, machine guns, grenade launchers, batteries of short-range anti-ship missiles and shoulder-fired antiaircraft rockets, are cheap because they’re so simple. They don’t have high-tech sensors, complex weapons or experimental equipment and design features. They’re straightforward metal hulls packing lots of simple guns and missiles that rely heavily on their hardworking 28-person crews to function, rather than on fancy automated systems like on many larger vessels.

. . .The Cyclones proved so adept at patrolling the northern Gulf that the Navy soon doubled down on them. Their hulls and equipment were refurbished and extra weapons were added to them. The upgrades, which began in 2009, should extend the vessels’ useful lives into the mid-2020s, at which point they could begin to suffer serious corrosion and other wear and tear.

The Navy will need to replace these Cyclones. It should replace them with ships equally adept at sailing in shallow water. The mission calls for a small patrol boat that needs to be inexpensive. Currently, however, the Navy plans to swap out Cyclones for much larger and costlier Littoral Combat Ships, with hulls that draw twice as deeply as the patrol boats. Meaning they can’t patrol in all the areas the Cyclones can.

The new Littoral Combat Ships — the Navy is buying as many as 52 in coming years — are products of a late-1990s military craze for high-tech, multi-mission “platforms.” That is, ships, planes and ground vehicles that can switch from one task to another with the press of a button.

The problem with that concept is that the more you ask of a particular piece of hardware, the more complex — and expensive — it tends to be.

. . . Each multi-mission Littoral Combat Ship was supposed to cost a little over $200 million, but the actual price today is more than twice that. The ship is meant to be equally adept at hunting for sea mines and fighting submarines and surface ships, but it’s too lightly armed for any one of those tasks. It is also more than twice as long as a Cyclone and 10 times heavier, yet comes equipped with only slightly more weaponry.

It just so happens that Bollinger Shipyards, the same Louisiana shipyard that built the Cyclones, is building Sentinel-class boats for the Coast Guard that are roughly the same size as the Navy vessels, far more modern and reasonably priced at just $70 million a boat.

If the Navy bought 10 fewer Littoral ships and acquired 10 new patrol boats for $70 million apiece instead, it would represent a net savings of more than $3 billion in ship construction costs while also boosting national security.

Sounds like a pretty good deal.'

http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2015/04/30/the-pentagon-is-buying-the-wrong-ship-and-its-costing-taxpayers-billions/

Smaller smart weaponry is coming, as TTG noted guided 50 calibre rounds are here or coming soon. Many more cheaper, smaller yet deadly platforms that could acquire over the horizon capability with a 7 foot draft loaded with special forces sounds like a great deal.

BabelFish

Charles, I agree with your points. As I put in the first Ocean Tracks, the Pegasus class boats were ideal for pirate chasing, and power projection in shallow waters. They got droped like they had leprosy.

As much as I love my. former branch of service, they do tend to demolish assets that aren't huge and gray and really expensive. Hard to let go of that battleship mentality.

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