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09 May 2015


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William R. Cumming

Thanks as always for this stream of posts. Few understand how deeply and skillfully the Chinese exploited the oceans and littoral areas as a source of central government power and trade. The 19th Century and early 20th Century history of China is misleading on this topic.

And Babelfish, although I have considered Taiwan as part of the Chinese Condominium since the Carter Administration [perhaps even the Nixon Administration] perhaps in time you could discuss the Navy assets and capabilities of Taiwan and that islands shipbuilding capability?

South and North Korean Navies and capabilities and shipbuilding skills?

And other countries with claims in the South China sea?

William R. Cumming

Would there be wisdom in having re-established a US 6th Fleet for the MED? Why? Why not?


WRC, what do you think the mission of that fleet would be? Certainly there are major SLOCs in the Med. The 6th Fleet was there primarily to counter any Soviet aims towards domination/power projection. In my thinking, we do not have a significant strategic reason for having a full blown fleet in the Med. We have enough vessels to influence and even act, when we wish. But maintaining a full up fleet would require somewhere else to be under served.

A big why not is money. It would be a rob Peter to pay Paul situation. We have fallen below 300 ships in our Navy and there are not enough hulls to pull that off. And, things are going to get tighter budget wise.


" Few understand how deeply and skillfully the Chinese exploited the oceans and littoral areas as a source of central government power and trade."

True! Giant ships, sailed all the way to Africa and around the Indian Ocean.They were the dominant sea power in Asia for centuries.

The information you ask about is available from sources like Janes. I will work on a summary but the information is out there. The real interesting part for me is the intentions these countries have, the tactical and strategic uses they intend to put these assets to.

The Japanese have been forthright in stating one of their goals is to establish a military capability to 'retake lost territory' if someone invades an island they consider their own. This was in concurrence with the development amphibious warfare capabilities. To me, that is a pretty frank admittance that they expect such a land grab to be a high probability and they are getting ready for it.


Just to let you know I enjoy these discussions you put up, fwiw.


Thank you for the kind words, Tyler.

Charles Dekle

I worked on Martin Marieta's SLAT (Supersonic Low Altitude Target) failure in the 80s. It was a good idea but IMO was underfunded from the start and never really had a chance. I assume that we now have advanced systems to counter anti ship missiles. At least I hope so given the information you provided about China's capabilities in this area.


It could also be interpreted as invading Russia. Russia controls 4 Islands Japan claims and aren't uninhabited rocks unlike the islands Japan has problems over with Taiwan, China & Korea


Charles, I remember SLAT. Did not work on it but I had some fellow HR Project Management folks that supported it.

You pose a good question: what has been improved since the CIWS, RAM and 30MM cannons came along? Another post, probably.

Peter C

Excellent balance information. A true time-saver, having proficient editor!

"eight Type 039B/041 Yuan-class submarines to Pakistan" The numbers of modern diesel powered subs with advanced propulsion systems being built or purchased by possible future adversaries, that are distributed geographically, must give the U.S. Navy and allies deep concerns.

The era of U.S. carrier task forces sailing with just one truly capable (USSR) opponent since WWII is over. With all the different ports that new unfriendly subs will operate from will make keeping tabs and counter measures very difficult.


Charly, yes but I interpreted the message to be about the Spratly's and other resources rich areas. But, for sure, the Russians still occupy (word used on purpose) the islands they seized at the end of WW2.


Well said, Peter. The Navy knows that it has been fortunate to not have been involved in a naval war since WW2. The question will always concern our national leadership understanding how contested the oceans of the world are becoming.


Re: Cyclone class replacement - it is pretty intersting that the French just faced a similar problem with vessels for a similar role. Finding that their P400 class vessels had technical problems and were too light/small for some of the missions - they chose pragmatically to use up their old A69 Avisos to fill in.

"Most of these craft are pre-positioned in overseas territories where they carry out sea monitoring missions and secure the EEZ. They also execute missions in the context of French agreements with other nations, typically supporting foreign armies or carrying out humanitarian missions. Since late 2008, ships of the D'Estienne d'Orves class, with their heavy armament removed, are planned to replace the P400 in the high sea patrol role, a task for which the P400 have proved to be underweight."


"The A69 type Avisos are small warships mainly designed for coastal anti-submarine defence, but are also available for high sea escort missions (notably in support missions with the FOST). Built on a simple and robust design, they have an economical and reliable propulsion system which allows them to be used for overseas presence missions. ... The nine ships remaining in French service will have their heavy weapons removed and be reclassified as oceanic patrol ships. They will replace the P400-class patrol vessels in this role "


1,100 t tonnes (1,250 tonnes full load), length 80 m (260 ft), beam 10.3 m (34 ft), draught 5.3 m (17 ft). 2 diesel with 12,000 shp (8.9 MW); speed 24 knots (44 km/h; 28 mph), range: at 15 knots (28 km/h): 4500 nautical miles (8000 km), at 18 knots (33 km/h) : 3000 nautical miles (5500 km)

The A69 can self deploy, and is reportedly quite robust and seaworthy. The oldest ones still in French service were built in 1977 and still serve, giving testimony to the robustness and soundness of the original design.

They are about the size needed if the USN wanted to go for a more ocean capable replacement of the Cyclone without going all the way to something like an LCS. Such vessels also wouldn't need tenders. Keep it simple:

Imagine the A69, perhaps with waterjets for better maneuverability. Throw in the LCS' 57mm gun, two 25mm guns and a RAM launcher, retain the manual weapon stations behind the bridge just in case, and they'll likely do fine in a low threat environment, and that with a decent chance to fight themselves out of contested waters. That small helo deck is for VERTREP/MEDEVAC primarily, but likely suitable for drones like the S-100.


A vessel that size is probably cheap enough that the US can afford to buy a few dozen and sacrifice three or four LCS.

The similarity of the missions to be undertaken by the P400 and the disarmed A69 and what RAND sees as a role for a patrol craft/ Cyclone successor is striking. RAND also point out that quantity is a quality by itself. The RAND study linked in the DI post alo suggests that something along these lines would be suitable.

I also found the remark in the RAND study notable that the US should select staff for such vessels based on criteria similar to those of the Green Berets. That would probably be smart. Also, the potential that this sort of vessel offers for the development of leadership and command experience for young officers is probably considerable.

PS: For some perspective in terms of size, I recall reading that the German Navy found their K-130 class (slightly larger at ~1400ts) still somewhat too small for some of its tasks. But, to clarify: The K-130's purpose is not patrol, but offensive Anti Surface Warfare for which it carries heavy ASM and a heavy self defence suite with 2 RAM launchers. They also have a full sized helo deck (but no full sized hangar) so it can serve the helicopters in a SAG. The size of the K-130 also was dictated by the desire to have a vessel that could operate independently of tenders for 'NATO out of area' i.e. overseas operations.

So the 'sweet spot' for a patroler or Cyclone follow on probably is between 1100 and 1500 tons, if one is content with 21 to 27 knots speed.


Thanks, CP. It will be illuminating to see what size the Navy chooses for expanding the LCS ships into frigates. I can't see them downsizing the LCS to hit the sweet spot that you quote but that would be a logical move, to save money on new development. Or, they could actually acquire some ships from European sources. I can't see that occurring with the 'Buy American' mentality and the desire to continue to support what remains of US ship building capabilities.


"This was in concurrence with the development amphibious warfare capabilities."

I interpreted to mean the Kurils because for the others you don't need/can't use amphibious warfare


Well, off the top of my head:

RAM is going into the second generation, with a more powerful missile.

Phalanx has received incremental upgrades, starting with a longer barrel and an additional optronic tracker. I assume that Goalkeeper is also receiving some modernisation, given its age.

In comparison, RAM is more probably potent than Phalanx, having a greater range and with one launcher being able to engage several targets at greater standoff ranges.

If used in addition with RAM, Phalanx complemements it as a last ditch defence. If one had to choose between one or the other, one probbaly would choose RAM over Phalanx (but RAM requires on-board sensors - Phalanx has sensors on the weapon). If you don't have guns and good sensors, then Phalanx is probably more versatile.

SeaRAM is a compromise for such vessels - having a missile and the same sensor as the Phalanx on the launcher. It has always surprised me to see SeaRAM on combat vessels that I thought to have better sensors. I'd have always placed it on transports or supply ships precisely because of the onboard radar.

Finally, one has to keep in mind that missile defence is a multi layerd affair. In the average NATO formation you have SM2 at the outside, then NSSM/ESSM as the next tier, then RAM, then Phalanx.

My impression is that probably missiles are the future of CIWS in the near term, but guns continue to have a role.

Systems like Phalanx or even more so the 30mm Goalkeeper or the 35mm Milennium gun with 3P munition are quite potent. Phalanx and the Milennium Gun are being used as C-RAM systems to shoot down incoming artillery and mortars (what Israel used Iron Dome for) for base protection in places like Afghanistan.

The next thing then likely are probably lasers. I don't know whether the technology is mature enough for use as a CIWS yet.


PS: The Italians habe proposed 40mm guns with 3P ammo and have built 76mm guns with DART guided subcalibre ammo as a CIWS (the system is distinctive, with a radar antenna iirc to the left of the gun barrel on the front of the gun housing). The Bofors 57mm gun in its Mk.2/3 version is also said to have some anti-missile capability and can fire 3P ammo.

Terminally guided gun ammo is another way in which technology has much advanced since the conception of Phalanx.

I don't know that much about the Russian systems though, which are reputedly quite capable, and in some configurations combine gun (usually 30mm) and missile systems.


From one of the prior Ocean Tracks, the current issues with lasers is attenuation near the surface of the water, due to water vapor. I haven't seen any fix for that in the literature. For now, that would seem to leave lasers out of surface skimmer defense and put rail guns as the nearer term next step.


Ah, yes, I did forget railguns. I understand that a good number of US manufacturers have made strides in that field. I recall a General Atomic youtube ad about a weapon named Blitzer. Is the firing rate of railguns sufficient for CIWS use yet? What about recoil?

Then we can as well throw in directed energy weapons other than laser, namely directed high power microwave weapons.

Another CIWS I forgot is the Spanish MEROKA - MEhrROhrKAnone. The remarkable thing about that is the unusual gun used, a 12 barrel gun assembly optimised for area saturation.



CP, the Navy will put a rail gun on one of the joint high speed vessels next year. They are considering an installation on the third Zumwalt class.


There is no significant recoil that I have read about. I know that seems to be dismissing Isaac Newton but it does not seem to be an issue. You are accelerating an object through magnetism and the barrel stays rigid. No propellant involved.

I believe that, as you have brought up, the rate of fire will initially be low. The radius of effective fire is supposed to be 100 nautical miles and one of the primary uses of the weapon will be to take down ballistic 'carrier killer' missiles.

Again, as you have pointed out, the magic here will be in the projectiles. (what they will have in the way of maneuverability, etc.) That should not surprise anyone. We are at the 70+ year status on VT shells from WW2. They were very effective in both anti-air and artillery uses.



CP, I do not believe recoil is an issue with a rail gun. The working models have none of the recoil mechanisms that we would be familiar with. Looks like Isaac Newton will not get his royalties on this one.


The magic with a rail gun will be with the projectiles. As you have brought up in your entries. there is significant progress being made, again, in guided projectiles. I point out that we are past the 70th anniversary of the VT shell of WW2 and that was a huge leap forward in effectiveness. It made the 5 inch cannon a real airplane killer and made artillery shells much more effective.


I believe the initial use of rail guns will be 1) very long range artillery (with projectiles of multiple capabilities) and 2) to take out China's vaunted 'carrier killer' ballistic missiles. You are on point (as usual) on rate of fire. I am not sure it is high enough to be used as a CIWS weapon.

Past this, I am thinking that a portable brick wall, as used by a certain desert bird on a not too bright coyote may be the ultimate in defense.


I have to confess that I always had a soft spot for coyote because roadrunner was always just too smug and obnoxious a bird for my tastes.

Charles I

Do you have any info on how much pork is up for grabs in the LCS program that might make sensible downsizing antithetical in Congress?


Israel has just signed a corvette deal with Germany and they will buy three upsized K-130 vessels for their navy. They will be 2000 tons. The greater size is probably to allow for a permanently embarked helicopter, and/or greater endurance.


The Israelis likely will use Barak instead of RAM and add their STAR Radar. Standardisation suggests they go for 76mm. Missiles will likely be Gabriel n and Harpoon.

Beyond the stable missile platform for anti surface warfare, they'd then have a low signature vessel that can operate for at least 7 days (21 days with tender)* under hostile coasts and under missile threat, patrol, conduct naval surveillance and SIGINT, lay mines, board and seize, support SpOps.


* Figures for the Braunschweig class. The IDF has no tenders, so I assume that they want their boats to have longer legs, like 14 days?


Charles, the 2014 budget for LCS construction was roughly $1.5 billion. That does not include long lead items nor the R&D to turn the class into a frigate.

The construction is 50/50 between Mobile, Alabama and Marinette, Wisconsin. The various sub-components and systems would be widely spread in acquisition.


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