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03 April 2015

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confusedponderer

Thanks for the great post. There's just one quibble:

"Note: the Stark had CIWS systems. In fact, it had two when one was the norm for Navy ships of that size. This was because it was part of the ‘Ayatollah class’, having been built for Iran but never delivered. "

The "Ayatollah" class were the Kidd class, modified Spruance destroyer hulls with Mk. 26 launchers at both ends, and equipped for air defence.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kidd-class_destroyer

The USS Stark was a Perry class frigate, half the size of a Spruance.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oliver_Hazard_Perry-class_frigate
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Stark_%28FFG-31%29

walrus

Thank you so much Babelfish for your article.

BabelFish

Thanks, CP. I wish I had not confused the class of ship.

Mike

Jill

Thank you, Bablefish! Interesting and enjoyable even for one as ignorant as I.

BabelFish

Thank you for your kind words, Walrus.

BabelFish

Thank you, Jill. I hope it was 'readable'.

Mike

Paul Escobar

BabelFish,

Wow! Incredible report. Feels like I'm "caught up" on a topic I never expected to grasp or find myself interested in.

From this point on, I do wish you'd share other developments...big or small. With the foundation you've provided us laypersons, I'm sure we would follow along keenly.

Thanks,
Paul

Fred

A good write up. I think the key thing you mention though not in detail is the manpower and leadership. As to paying for all these technological marvels of seapower and power projection you should take note of the latest "improvements" to the military retirement system Ashton Carter (at Obama's direction) wants to impose on career military members. All to save a measly (in government budget terms) $12 billion. That will do more damage than any single enemy action will. Sadly or civilian leaders think career enlisted and officers ranks should be paid like middle managers at Walmart. That is exactly the performance they'll get, too.

BabelFish

Fred, amen to that. How many SecDefs have paid for some hardware or program by keeping sailors and soldiers at or below the poverty level? When I served at Quonset Point and was based at Newport, we had plenty of guys who qualified for food stamps.

And, yes, retention rates will plummet, with forward basing forever, with lack of pay and the quality of the women and men who do serve will match the pay (and the message that comes with it).

While well intended, thank you for your service does not pay bills.

BabelFish

Thank you for your kind observation, Paul. I will do so.

William R. Cumming

Thanks for this wonderful post and comments.

As to subs believe they will be decisive force in future naval combat but could be wrong as always.

I would have more surface ships [perhaps 600 not a bad goal] but downsize and stealth them.

IMO littoral combat much more likely than deep blue sea.

BabelFish

Thanks, WRC. Without a doubt, our subs will be decisive and you are not wrong. I just don't have enough experience/knowledge to do the
justice to their potentials.

I have to tell you that the Navy is trying to stealth ships as appropriate but sees electronic jamming and decoys, plus tactics, as more valuable.

Read this for an interesting commentary on electronic warfare and our 2015 Navy.

http://www.informationdissemination.net/2015/04/raid-breaker-and-restoration-of-us-navy.html

Blue water combat does seem less likely (no Red Storm rising on the horizon). I do wonder if a conflict with the Chinese Navy would combine both.

Tyler

Thanks for this. I had a Naval recruiter tell me one time I should have gone Navy Nuke (this after the Army attempted to shove me into its own nuclear reactor program). No regrets for being a paratrooper though. This was a good fun read.

And the F35 still sucks!

bth

Babelfish, I don't understand what the navy is trying to buy with the LCS. It may be fast and stealthy but operating near land it would be visible to all manner of fishing boats, speed boats, UAVs, etc. I don't know what stealth is worth if it can be visibly tracked. What am I missing?

BabelFish

Thank you, Tyler. I was destined for subs and a billet as a nuclear electronic tech, until they figured out I was color blind. Off to the hospital corps I went.

Let me tell you something interesting. If you think about the F-35 really being 3 new airplanes, rather than 1, things don't quite look so bad. Yah, it was grossly oversold, as always. Yah, the Air Force, after crapping the bed on the F-22, upped their game and did even worse on the F-35 program management. But some planes that got bad reps in their development ended up as winners.

The P-47 Thunderbolt was laughed at, until it helped kick the Luftwaffe's ass (and, as an attack plane, the Wehrmacht as well). The F-111, which was part of the Robert McNamara charlie fox TFX program, ended up being a fearsome attack plane. It was so bad ass the Sovs practically copied it verbatim in making the SU-24.

If they can get the tech for the F-35 variants to work as intended, I'm not sure I'd want to be at wrong end of it's daily combat work. But, hell yes, it will always be more expensive than it should have been.

BabelFish

bth, here is a good Wiki quote on the 'why' of building an LCS fleet:

"The concept behind the littoral combat ship, as described by former Secretary of the Navy Gordon R. England, is to "create a small, fast, maneuverable and relatively inexpensive member of the DD(X) family of ships." The ship is easy to reconfigure for different roles, including anti-submarine warfare, mine countermeasures, anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, homeland defense, maritime intercept, special operations, and logistics. Due to its modular design, the LCS will be able to replace slower, more specialized ships such as minesweepers and larger assault ships."

I think the real answer to your question is the nature of surface combat, the missions the LCS would undertake and what counters to being seen there could be. The ocean is a very big place and it is easier to hide ships than you might suspect, even close to land. Further, even when spotted, unless the 'spotter' has weapons to attack with, the information has to be passed along 'the kill chain' and the target, in this case an LCS hauling ass, can be long gone but the time a shooter gets there. In the case of the LCS, the stealth obviously helps to prevent long range detection by radar, land or air based.

And, then there are those Virginia class subs, also designed to operate in the same waters. A whole other level of stealth.

Peter C

Babelfish, excellent overview. The new subs being built by several nations are truly marvels. I'm glad several of theses nations are our friends.

BabelFish

Thanks, Peter. I think the Soryu class of subs that Japanese are building are formidable and it looks like the Aussies will buy them as well.

William R. Cumming

Many thanks again. Upgrade to AEGIS seems a useful investment IMO!

William R. Cumming

Will cheaper but in larger numbers ever rule the skies?

BabelFish

WRC, that is a good question. The Sovs used to go with the 'quantity has a quality all of its own' practice of military supply. You saw that with the early Migs in the 50s and 60s. Ditto with tanks and, of course, the AK assault rifle series. I think the question is, what do the Chinese think of that? They are the ones capable of building waves of relatively low cost but still sophisticated weapons.

BabelFish

I agree, WRC, but the money is tight, very tight.

Peter C

BabelFish, SAAB the former car maker and current maker of jet and weapons are making some very advanced units. What is breathtaking is the propulsion systems. These diesel electric systems are not the old type. The subs can stay submerged for weeks before needing fresh air. Also, the quiet propulsion systems are amazing.

Germany is building several of these advanced subs for the Izzies. The Germans have very advanced engineering for subs. I can't tell if there are vertical launch tubes in those units. I imagine there are choices of aerial munitions both cruise and anti aircraft that can be launched from horizontal tubes.

All our armed forces are tasked with a herculean role of being adaptable to current and future threats.

The F-35 is the money pit of all times. I do hope some very slick capabilities come to the fore for all the different models. Very appealing to management, how a Swiss Army Knife approach to save money appeals to Pentagon Number Crunchers. It will be several years until the F-35 proves out, low production rates to replace rapidly aging air-frames, lots of recalls to repair production issues, and constant software upgrades. Even if whole squadrons of current Marine and Naval units are replaced by the F-35, what percentage will be combat ready at any time? My semi educated guess would be south of 50% over the next ten years.

As for the F-35 replacing the A-10 in the near future is a pipe dream. First off, there is no other air-frame disguised as a armored 6X6 truck loaded with a killer Gatling gun and tons of underwing munitions available. For the F-35 to haul and do CAS role, the munitions will be stored on the outside on under wing pylons thereby erasing the Stealth aspects of the high dollar unit. What commander will risk a F-35 to come in close going very slow and vulnerable to do the job?

The one victory in the F-35 program is the Political Engineering that kept the program alive in Congress, giving Lockheed big profits for the last decade and several generation into the future.

BabelFish

Peter, can't agree more on the A-10. The AF has wanted nothing to do with CAS since the end of the Korean War. They had to accept that role to fight a Warsaw Pact army coming through the Fulda Gap but they did't like it. I don't know anyone who doesn't think that CAS should be done by the Army.

Of course, the Marines will also have F-35s in the CAS role as well. I bet they don't hesitate to have them going 'down the pipe' in that role. After all, they are Marines.

I'm betting the F-35C will have a better than 50% availability rate with carrier borne maintenance but the F-35A will be below 50%, as you are predicting.

I have also been following the SAAB/German sub developments. Amazing stuff going on with non-air breathing propulsion. The launch tube layout reminds me of the Sov Kursk class subs, with their angled tubes outside the pressure hull.

It will be interesting to see if and when Congress lets the AF retire the A-10. Not happening so far but, of course, they can't fly forever.

Peter C

BableFish, if the Air Force doesn't want CAS why keep it from the Army? I agree on the reluctant Air Force role. Talking with an active duty Army Col about the A-10, from what popular myth tales, the Army after Desert Storm offered to take the whole A-10 program off the Air Force's hand.

Also keep semi tabs on RFPs and rumored RFPs, there is begging to be a push for a new CAS airframe. There is RFIs for a North American Rockwell OV-10 Bronco type unit.

With the new reality of restrained budgets, and the need for more affordable and large numbers, quick to design, build, test, commission and deployed air-frames an updated OV-10 could be ready. The export market would be huge.

Out here in California the Dept of Forestry runs several OV-10 Broncos in the fire suppression missions as air control for retardant drops. A few years ago we were working very near where a fire stated in the Sierras. As the first forestry crews arrived to suppress the fire, the fire was about 1 to 2 acres and gaining in size. The scanner chatter was on the lead aircraft control approaching the area. At that time I looked up and watched and heard the magnificent sound and view of those twin turbines of an OV-10 as it banked and circled the fire. Truly impressive, the speed of getting on station from and airport over 60 miles away from a cold start and takeoff. The fire was beat into submission rapidly.

This type of relatively low cost per hour to operate, proven design, would be an answer to part of the CAS puzzle.

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