March 02, 2014


 While everyone has been focused on Russia''s invasion. (or whatever it is they are doing) in Ukraine...
   China has driven Filipino fishermen out of the waters around Scarborough Shoals with watercannon, declared two new national holidays dedicated to hate'n on Japan, is well along in the construction of two more aircraft carriers, and has a total of four in the pipeline. Additionally, they have put out video purporting to show that their new DF-41 road mobile  ICBM is operational. All of this comes on the heels of this...

  "[We] concluded that the PLA has been given the new task to be able to conduct a short sharp war to destroy Japanese forces in the East China Sea following with what can only be expected a seizure of the Senkakus or even a southern Ryukyu [islands] — as some of their academics say.”

Seriously...what could go wrong here?

Territorial claims, South China Sea

This is not to say that the issues with Russia should be ignored, but perspective is important and our media needs to get better at multitasking.

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February 06, 2014

Thinking Small With Regard to Surface ships

CDR Phillip Pournelle has an interesting guest post over at Galrhan's place in which he discusses the potential that small combatants have to augment the USN's force structure. He specifically references the Coast Guard's new Sentinel Class patrol boats.

I’ll add here another comparison:  For the cost of one Littoral Combat ship with two helicopters we could deploy 14 Sentinel class patrol craft with increased firepower within the displacement capabilities of the hull design.

The Sentinel's are fine vessels, with great seakeeping for their size and enough range to cross the Pacific (via Hawaii). They are actually a Dutch design purchased because of its very good performance in several Navies & Coast Guards. However, it's unclear what increased firepower can realistically be added to the Sentinel design. Remember, it's not just displacement that is important, space is a big factor in guided missile systems and in the sensors, fire control and C4i systems needed to make any armament useful.

Still,  being conservative, lets assume that  any up-gunning consisted of replacing the Bushmaster Cannon with the 'bolt on' SEA RAM missile system (which has its own fire control on the mount) and squeezing in two Penguin antiship missiles between the cutters copious ventilators. I choose these two systems because they are both designed to have low impact and be mounted on austere or even civilian vessels, both are in US service and they are fairly cheap. The LCS has 21 point defense anti-air missiles (RAM) and no antiship missiles except for some antitank missiles that have a shorter range than the ships single Bofors gun. Bu contrast the postulated 14 Coast guard cutters, for the same price would have have 154 of the same type of point defense missiles and 28 over the horizon ship killing missiles. That's 133 more SAMs and 28 more SSMs and they'd be (at least) 14 times as hard to sink (perhaps harder, as the Coast Guard cutters are made of steel as opposed to aluminum).

All this really tells us is that comparing anything against the Navy's littoral combat ship is setting the bar rather low.

However 14 vessels would take at least 14 hits to put out of action and so might deny any enemy unfettered use of an area of water longer. Also 14 hulls can be in 14 places at once, which can be important in peace as well as war.  Showing the flag, for instance, requires the flag actually be present.

On the debit side, while it's true that 14 cutters could cover a similar area to the LCS's helicopters, they'd be somewhat less flexible and, of course they'd not have anything like the huge cargo bay. It might be advisable to apply the concept to a somewhat larger, but still austere vessel. The Italian Commandante class Corvettes, are austere offshore patrol vessels that come in at 58 million (US) apiece which compares favorably to the Sentinel's 47 million dollar price tag.

The closeness in price between a 400 ton and a 1500 ton vessel may cause some alarm, but it is a good reminder that steel,  as opposed to a weapon system or sensor array, is cheap. A bigger hull costs only a little more.

The Coast Guard needed a vessel that could go really close inshore, have a crew of under 30,  have a low enough freeboard to pull people out of the water from the main deck, sip fuel, be based at existing small boat stations and have a draft of less than 10 feet. As such the 400 ton cutters are good fit for their needs...the operating costs are much lower (fuel, crew ect) are far smaller than the larger ship....(acquisition costs are only part of a budget).

However, 1100 more tons of steel buys a lot better seakeepng, a helicopter and vastly more internal space with all the associated advantages... at the cost of some increased operating costs due to a much larger crew and greater fuel consumption.  12 can be bought for the cost of a single 700 million LCS, though how much 12 would cost to run in comparison to an LCS is unclear though the LCS is notoriously expensive in fuel and repair costs. 12 of these ships bring 12 helicopters to the table as opposed to the LCS's 2 and the Comandante class has a hard point for 4 or 8 antiship missiles. There is also a provision in the design for a slightly stretched version with 8VLS cells and 32 ESSM missiles...

...but at that point you're getting into a AAA fire control systems, with the attendant risk of escalating prices to the point of missing the raison' detre' of the exercise.

Still, if the cost could be kept to the point that 6-10 could be bought and operated for the cost of an LCS then this vessel could be a vast quantitative and qualitative improvement over LCS.

Additionally, we've mentioned before that the French have a very interesting smaller (800 ton) vessel with similar features, but no costs were available.

Such vessels are no replacement for the big Destroyers, with their sensors and ability to shoot down aircraft missiles and satellites as well as strike targets a thousand miles away,  but they could be an interesting force multiplier for a reasonable price. This is going to become a very important consideration in the coming years. when our older hulls start wearing out...just as the depth of our financial crisis becomes fully felt

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February 04, 2014

Regards Years Ending in ...14

The Gregorian calender does not have any predictive qualities beyond such matters as when a leap day will be inserted. The parallels between today and 1914 while real, are far from exact and have been developing for years.They do not gain special effectiveness by this grim centennial.

However, Suburban Banshee takes a moment to remind us that ours is not the only calendar...and that her name is apt.

…it’s not comforting to ponder that Chinese who believe in traditional five elements fortunetelling are of the opinion that Yang years of the Wood Horse are associated with war — and "fast victories.” It is a year to stick to one’s principles — which in this version means not negotiating and running over other people.

In fact China doesn't see any parallels to the first world war...they see things in terms of the second.

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January 26, 2014

100 Years Ago This Year...

...the world was more interconnected by trade and communication than it had ever been before. For instance the British and German empires were each other best customers.

Then a few miscalculations sent things rather out of control...

This picture of the town of Reims, France gives some idea of the wretchedness that engulfed the world.

Source Unknown

That the long exposure of the photo reduces the towns survivors to images akin to ghosts is, perhaps, fitting.

This color photo of Verdun in mid 1916 also serves to remind us of the mistakes made so long ago.

Pic via this fascinating photo-gallery from Der Spiegel. The associated book can be bought here. does this photo of a little Belgian  girl...

Via the Daily Mail.

...and this...


Pitiful...but enough dwelling on the ancient past. Such images are from a less enlightened world, nearly a century removed from us. We have our problems today but we live in an age of unimaginable interconnectedness. There are certainly jihadist movements, ethnocentric conflicts, and civil strife but a war between great powers is unthinkable due to interconnectedness and interdependency.

In other news, via Instapundit...this happened yesterday at Davos.

Do read the whole thing,

The Chinese professional acknowledged that if China asserted control over the disputed islands by attacking Japan, America would have to stand with Japan. And he acknowledged that China did not want to provoke America.

But then he said that many in China believe that China can accomplish its goals — smacking down Japan, demonstrating its military superiority in the region, and establishing full control over the symbolic islands — with a surgical invasion.

In other words, by sending troops onto the islands and planting the flag.

Note this addendum....

Interesting times...

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January 12, 2014

What?...What is This?

Why it's the 21st century!

We Have a Delivery for a Doctor...Quest?

Via NBF. It looks like a company called Advanced Tactics has developed a flying, off road capable van. It looks utterly impractical, but note that unlike earlier attempts at this sort of thing, the AT Transformer is actually van/truck sized with the rotors retracted and takes off vertically. Thus, it is at least in theory much more practical than the roadable airplanes that crop up from time to time.


I don't know if it would be robust enough for battlefield use, particularly in a world full of IEDs,  It looks like it ought to be inherently fragile since it has to be light enough to fly. Still, mobility and versatility do trump protection in some situations, and while this is unlikely to do flying or driving very well, the ability to do both may well have some niche utility,  I could see this thing possibly being useful in a civilian capacity Alaska or Canada.

Ignoring the road feature, this vehicles landing footprint and stowed size are tiny compared to most naval helicopters, (the SH 60 Seahawk is 40'x10feet...folded) so this may have some maritime potential giving very small ships the ability to operate a utility helicopter with a useful load.

More importantly....14 years into the 21st century...we finally have a flying car.

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November 06, 2013

Meanwhile, in the South China Sea

Cdr Salamander provides this helpful map of the maritime borders of the various nations in that part of the world.


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November 02, 2013

Well...You Have a Nice Weekend too China

Yesterday, China interupted America's hand-wringing over the Obamacare debacle with a bit of a nonsequiter.

It seems that they just, out of the blue, felt the need to remind us that their small fleet of ballistic missile submarines can wreak all sorts of nuclear devastation on US cities.

This is not why bring it up?

China state media also included this fallout map which doesn't seem to make a lot of sense.

Also: Why are they wasting a nuke on Rutland Vermont?

The Blaze suggests that this might be welcome news, indicating a loosening on secrecy and censorship, but this flies in the face of recent trends which have been even farther in the other direction.

We mentioned back in August that FAS had gotten wind of China doing  a lot of nuclear attack simulations and had been putting together their own.

Hot on the heels of this helpful reminder...Today we had China announce that they intend to "silence" the Dali Lama. This is part of a larger internal crackdown fully in keeping with the disturbingly Maoist tendencies of Xi Jinpang.

Nuking the people who owe you money and buy your stuff is a poor business model (as wise people have pointed out) but if it looks like said people (the US) is never going to pay you back and are going completely broke it becomes less so...especially if the perceived deadbeat is the only thing standing in the way of regional hegemony.

Furthermore, if one thinks Mao was a swell guy and his attitude towards human life is laudable, then the huge population of China and the individual low yields of most of the warheads in the US arsenal might make it appear that China could "take the hit" of a US retaliatory strike.

In the long run...which is how China looks at things... they might even be right.

This still seems unlikely. No one "wins" a nuclear exchange.

However, stupider decisions have been made. The decisions that led to World War One all seemed like good ideas at the time. It's also important to remember that other societies and values systems can produce decisionary calculus with regard to acceptable trade offs is likely far different from ours.

On an equally upbeat and somewhat related note: There is an interesting report here on dealing with a low yield nuclear blast (about 1/2 a Fat Man) in a nuclear terrorist attack.

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October 30, 2013

She Floats!

USS Zumwalt, the first of a new class of experimental destroyers has been launched.

This didn't get a lot of coverage here but the Chinese are sure interested.
As per giggle translate of the Mandarin:

  October 28, 2013, the U.S. Navy official website Rui Zhu Mu Woer publicly latest super launching missile destroyer USS DDG1000 whole process photos. Compare Unfortunately, the ship into the water did not organize any ceremony because of the impact of fiscal tightening subject.

In other words, this milestone slipped under the radar due to the vessels inherent stealthiness and  the fact that there was no launch ceremony for a first in class warship....but mostly the latter.

Dude...they had launch ceremonies for sub chasers in WW2. This was just a gesture of contempt.

As to the ship itself there are a lot of criticisms floating around about the design, ranging from its tumblehome hull form (which doesn't have as much reserve buoyancy as the flared hulls of the navies current destroyers). There is also concern about the superstructure, which despite being an advanced carbon and epoxy reinforced assembly is still...balsa wood.  

Although classified as a destroyer the vessel is as big as a Baltimore class heavy cruiser, and seems optimized for shore bombardment. This makes it more of a monitor than anything, meaning it's really a replacement for the battleships. While the vessel doesn't have an armor belt per se its shell plating is 20mm thick and it is reportedly quite strongly built. The propulsion system is an advanced gas turbo-electric system that produces much more available electrical power for the electronics system. This will also make the ship quite quiet. The strange, 19th century looking hullform is designed for maximum stealth.

The ship carries 80 missile tubes as opposed to the 96 of the current destroyers, but these are the Mk 57 launchers which are much larger and can handle bigger future missiles. The ship also has two 155mm (6.1 inch) guns which fire shells weighing 200-225 pounds depending on type. This is as heavy as most 8 inch shells. It can lob guided rounds 100 nautical miles and the 200 pound unguided shells 24 nautical miles. DDG 100 has extensive helicopter facilities aft and a large flex-deck with aft launching for small boats.

The criticisms notwithstanding, this ship and her two sisters are experimental vessels testing out a great many new ideas and weapons systems...the stealthy hull form and composite superstructure need to be tested in real world conditions and if they work out will represent major advances. Additionally this particular program represents one of the vanishingly few DOD programs that is on time and under budget. Given that everything about this ship is experimental except the anchor chains, blankets and urinals, that is no small accomplishment.

May the wind be at her back.

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September 04, 2013

RFS Moskva

Apropos of nothing...nothing at all, I feel the sudden urge to leave this here.

RFS Moskva is the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet. This class was intended as a mass produced compliment to the much larger and more expensive Kirov class ships. In the end the production run was cut short due to the fall of the U.S.S.R.
Moskva is one of only three ships of her type in Russian service. Next to  RFS Peter the Great, these 3 ships are the most powerful surface combatants in the Russian navy, sporting 16 supersonic antiship cruise missiles with thousand pound warheads. This means that this very visible, expensive and powerful unit is a politically significant asset. Sending her to command the Eastern Mediterranean squadron in Tartus is not done lightly and is a signal of considerable national resolve.

Russia has two interests in Syria. The naval base in Tartus is one of their last overseas bases and is exceedingly important to them strategically. Furthermore the Al-Qaeda affiliated rebels are closely allied with the extremists who have been killing Russian civilians throughout the Caucuses in great numbers. If Syria's nerve gas and other weapons fall into rebel hands those materials can be expected to be killing Russian citizens in short order.

So the Russians have some quite compelling reasons to be there.

So...a bunch of US and Russian Navy ships in close proxmity and at cross puropses, with the Americas firing missiles over the Russians; Former Senator Fred Thompson has thoughts on that scenario....

Pete Zatciev points out in the comments that Russia has abandoned the Tartus Base. In my defense the Wikipedia page says the Russians are denying this....(and they may well be) but it does look like the base was largely abandoned back in June and the Russian Federation navy is just patrolling outside it.

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August 28, 2013

The Flattopped Weasels

Wonderduck has mentioned these curiosities before, but via the Blogfather, there is a neat, photo-rich thread on the Great Lakes paddlewheeled training aircraft carriers of World War 2 here.

Caption needed.

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August 20, 2013

Simulating Nightmares

In keeping with the chipper and upbeat nature of the last post, one of the Brickmuppet's crack team of Science Babes informs us that the Federation of American Scientists has recently started running simulations of various scenarios involving nuclear exchanges between the USA and China.

Their published report on the subject is here.

This is a sobering document. The scenarios examined would seem to be beyond possibility...until one remembers the events of 1914 and 1939.

A couple of things leap out. Fallout shelters, despite the protests of the ignorant are a very good thing to have in this sort of situation.

Neutrality does not apply to Tijuana, Quebec, our friends the Bahamians or the Maritimes. 

I question the FAS's targeting assumptions, although it cheers me greatly not to see a big smouldering scab in place of Hampton Roads, I can't fathom that an area with this many military assets would escape while they'd waste a missile on Detroit. This dubious supposition may reflect the fact that China's nuclear deterrent is counter-value, not counter-force, that is, the Chinese ICBMs target cities rather than US Missile batteries. Chinese missiles have big 3 or 5 megaton city buster warheads (assumed to be 4MT in the FAS study).


The FAS study assumes that China has around 20 ICBMs which is the official line, but the Russians credit them with a somewhat larger ICBM force and around 1800 warheads albeit mostly medium range for use against Russia and India and only half on alert. Other estimates go as higher.

The US by contrast can't currently make new nukes and isn't developing any. The FOGBANK fiasco from a few years ago shows what can happen when a technological capability atrophies.

This has implications.

Deterrence rests on the assumption that an attack on the US is national suicide. If the US is attacked by nukes right now it will go full Jacksonian as is our habit when we are REALLY pissed off. The rape of Atlanta or the bombardment of Japan will pale in comparison to what would befall the entity stupid enough to do such a thing. US bombs have much lower yields than other nations but they are all over 300 kilotons and there are about 2000 of them. A society that incited the use of such weapons upon itself would pass into history as completely as the Minoans, the Toltecs or the Carthaginians. This is true for most of the  other nuclear nations as well. That's why there haven't been any nuclear attacks since Nagasaki. Note though that as our deterrent decays and/ or is whittled away in arms control treaties the notion that a nation, especially one led by admirers of Mao Tse-Tung  might come to the conclusion after ruthless cost benefit studies of omelets versus eggs that any retaliation would be endurable.

The FAS study is science fiction now, it's an exceedingly unlikely set of scenarios. However that may not be the case in a decade or so.

There's also the unpleasant possibility of a nuclear nation in the grip of someone who is utterly bat-scat bonkers and to whom deterrence is of limited value...which brings up a question I've had for a couple of months about the seemingly 'gimp' performance of the North Korean nuclear tests. None have even been as powerful as Little Boy. The biggest was 10 kilotons and a few were only a few hectotons, but it occurs to me that these are all  in the ballpark of the weapons built around the now decomissioned W-54 warhead the US developed in the 1960's. Weighing only about 50 pounds its yield could be varied from 200 tons of TNT to one kiloton. It was used in backpack bombs, air to air and air to ground missiles and a perfectly functional but somewhat dubiously conceived atomic bazooka. Impressively, the W-54 warhead was able to give a yield of 6 kilotons as demonstrated in the SOCORRO shot of the Hardtack 2 test series, though tactical applications of the weapons that used it  required lower yields.

Because the bazooka only had a range of 2.5 miles so 6 kilotons would be demoralizing to the bazookateers.

I mention this because it is possible that North Korea might not be botching their tests. They might be trying to build something akin to the 50 year old W-54. 50 pounds....suddenly those IRBMs which can (occasionally) put a 200 pound satellite into orbit have a rather different potential. The ability to put 7 or so 1-6 kiloton devices in the general vicinity of a city (I'm certainly not talking about MIRV's ) might be available in a few years. If small weapons are what their developing however, a much more likely threat (assuming that they ARE crazy)  might be as backpack nukes delivered to terrorists. Note that Iran and North Korea are cooperating regards rocketry and nukes. 


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July 29, 2013

So, FFH Anyone?

The previous post got me to thinking about the importance (or lack thereof) of nomenclature in the assessment of warships and also how much aviation capability one might add to a surface combatant before one enters the zone of diminishing returns begins detracting from that ships mission.

This post over at CDR Salamanders got me to thinking about what the hell we might build to replace the FFG7s that's not the aluminum coffin that is the LCS.

As I have not slept much, these two thought resulted in this post...

The Oliver Hazard Perry class Frigates were much maligned in their day and are muh longed for in ours. They had a mediocre armament of a single standard missile launcher, a 3" gun forced on the navy by congress and 6 lightweight torpedo tubes. However they also had two helicopters and those, in combination with the ships hull mounted and towed sonars, made the vessel a formidable ASW craft, especially if operating in concert with one or more of her sisters. They also made the ship very useful for the peacetime roles the USN found itself required to play after the war everyone feared did not come to pass.

The were reliable, seaworthy andwere a bit faster than designed so they could be used with even  the nuclear carriers in a pinch.   USS Stark and USS Roberts proved the design could survive remarkable damage, though especially in the case of USS Stark the folly of using aluminum in the superstructure of a warship was relearned at great price.

These ships had little growth potential and were designed as cheap ships to pad out the numbers and complement the more expensive destroyers and cruisers.

Well they are at the end of their service lives now and the USN is replacing them with the Littoral Combat Ship.

Originally conceived as a corvette or fast attack craft with swappable mission modules and  helicopter capability that could be built in great numbers  due to its low cost, the LCS grew in cost to ludicrous proportions. It does have some some impressive characteristics though . 
Firepower of Coast Guard Cutter,
Speed of cigarette boat,
Cost of European destroyer
Engines that keep on  not working right, 5 YEARS after commissioning.
" Look Ma! NO SONAR! "
Fiendishly difficult to clean

"We're here to show the flag not the boat." "LOOK AT THE FLAG!"

Of course, those characteristics tend to impress in the wrong way.

Additionally, there are two distinct classes because the navy couldn't decide which one sucked more and in fairness, both designs have their own unique shortcomings, (such as improperly fitted zincs) that they each bring to the table.

They do have two good points, particularly the trimaran design. They have very good aviation capability and a large working deck. However, no amount of tweaking is ever going to make them effective and especially not cost effective in ASW.

The navy needs numbers of ships, because a ship can only be in one place at a time. That is important for showing the flag and maintaining a presence in peacetime, it is even more so when dealing with submarines, and anti-submarine warfare is something that  is becoming increasingly important as many navies acquire modern diesel electric submarines.  The USA is a merchant republic and sea control and convoy protection are vital.

So whatever we buy to replace the LCS needs to be cheap enough to buy in numbers....during a decade we are likely to be very broke, with money left over after we spent it all on LCSs.

An all steel version of the OH Perry class might fit the bill, but adding a steel superstructure would require a complete redesign. We also need to remember that cost has to be kept down so only additional capability that can be had at minimal cost should be considered.

First off, what does an ASW vessel NEED?
Sonar (towed and hull)
Torpedo  tubes

4 helicopters are the absolute minimum for maintaining one helicopter on station at all times so 5 seems like a good number if we can get it. But could one carry 5 helos on a frigate/destroyer sized hull?

Well, some years ago the German shipyard Bremer Vulkan put forth an idea for a helicopter capable Offshore Patrol Vessel.  Here is a screencap of their brochure

 Brochure via The Aviation Forum
Now this is WAY too slow, at 18 kts, but this vessel seems to be using merchant marine diesels for fuel efficiency. The OHPs have over four times the horsepower on 60% of the displacement. I'm not suggesting the USN build this design, but his gives some idea of what is possible. The carrier like configuration improves airflow over the deck and minimizes the burble. A sponson or having the superstructure moved fore or aft would allow helos to land dead amidships for safety in horrid sea states. 

There is a sketch of a 6000 ton vessel in the same design series but no brochure available.

A military vessel should posses a decent point defense system and an escort should have at least a cursory air defense system. Fortunately the USN has the Evolved SeaSparrow Missile, which is a point defense missle, meaning it's fast reacting and has a short minimum also has a maximum range of 27 miles which is on a par with some nations area defense systems.  It also has a fair SSM capability. Its a small missile and 4 can be packed in a single VLS tube so every 8 standard VLS cells=32 ESSMs.

AAA systems needs a fire control system, and here is where these things go off the rails cost wise. I'd keep it very austere, though the low end SPY-1K of the aegis system (designed for corvettes) might be acceptable and could leverage existing logistics and training..
No ABM capability for this ship, just point defense and the limited area defense that ESSM implies. Minimal ECM would be carried.

The above vessel is fitted with a French 100mm gun, but the brochure indicates that guns of up to 5 inches are doable, and indeed the MK 45 was designed with ships as small as 600 tons in mind. Putting one on the bow would help keep people from thinking of the ship as a carrier (which it most assuredly is not) and provide it with the useful gun the OHPs and LCS lack. For surface combat, a few Harpoon or NSM perhaps re-loadable from the ships magazines would be adequate.
(Spanish frigates carry 60 lightweight and heavyweight torpedoes so this ship should be able to carry 100 or more lightweight torpedo sized weapons)

Steel is cheap in comparison to electronics so if we can keep from going overboard on electronics and use an off the shelf propulsion plant we should get a decent ASW platform, that is very adaptable for peacetime duties that costs quite a bit less than what we are building now.

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Why Japan Has Helicopter Destroyers

In the Late 1950's and early1960s the Japanese began seriously rebuilding their navy Maritime Self Defense Force. The reason for this was that although war as an instrument of policy was forbidden to them by their postwar constitution, the reality is that Japan imports most of its calories and virtually all of its energy and resources. Defense of the sea lanes was vital as was the ability to fend off invaders from certain of  Japan's neighbors that defined "peace" as an absence of non-communist nations.

To this end, Japan began producing destroyers for antisubmarine warfare, that is convoy protection of Japans sea lanes. This is a purely defensive operation well within the purview of Japans constitutional restrictions on its military self defense forces.  The 1950s destroyers carried fearsome torpedo batteries, but these were seen in the context of coastal defense and convoy defense, particularly with long range ASW torpedoes.

By the early '60s though, the concept of heavyweight ASW torpedoes was looking less tenable. The US and Australia were developing rocket boosted torpedoes and the Canadians, French and Italians were looking at big ASW Helicopters, which could do many of the things the US Blimps had done in WW2 but had much shorter range.

The Japanese decided to go with both options, buying ASROC from the US and developing the American Sea King as an ASW platform. The Sea King was a huge chopper, and to be effective, at least  one (preferably 2) needed to be on station around a convoy, dropping sonar buoys and dipping their big sonar  at any time. However helicopters have very short legs and the Sea King is awkward to handle on a small ship*. For destroyers the Japanese joined with the Americans in producing an ultimately abortive small torpedo carrying drone but this was no substitute for the capabilities of the Sea King.

To this end the Japanese ordered an experimental small helicopter carrier as part of the same procurement program as their prototype guided missile destroyer Amatsukaze. I've found very little on this ship.  It reportedly was to have been about 10,000 tons and armed with 8 3" 50 caliber guns and 8-10 Sea Kings. As such it would seem to be a purely defensive ship with next to no capability to do anything except guard Japans sea also would have been exceedingly useful in that role and made Japanese convoy defense operations vastly more effective. Japan was looking at 4-6 escort groups each built around one of these vessels.

Some sources seem to imply it was actually laid down, but in any event when the Japanese legislature realized that the 'large ASW support ship" was going to have a full length flight deck, an island to the side and be called a 'carrier' they had puppies and cancelled the whole project. They decreed that the Japanese navy could only have destroyers,  frigates and patrol craft as surface combatants and the navy built a series of destroyers which could each carry 3 of the big Sea Kings instead.

However experience has shown that three helicopters is insufficient to keep even 1 on station at all times. There is also the need for a large seaworthy vessel to operate helicopters in high sea states and convoy defense requires a certain amount of command and control space beyond that of an escort. An escort carrier is precisely what  Japan need. It's  too bad they can't have any carriers isn't it ?

In a COMPLETELY unrelated development. Japan has begun replacing it's large helicopter capable destroyers of the Haruna and Shirane classes with the somewhat larger 'destroyers' of the Hyuga class. These carry an official complement of 4 big helicopters in a VERY spacious hanger that can accommodate 16 or more in a pinch. Of course, as the JMSDF has explained to the legislature, these ships have a phased array radar and a battery of between 40 and 64 guided missiles (depending on which missile types are carried in their 16 missile tubes) so they are totally destroyers.

Though far larger and more capable than the proposed carrier of the 1960s these destroyers nevertheless are only a stopgap design. Since Japan cannot possess aircraft carriers the country needs to build the very best destroyers it can get as compensation. Thus the next class designated "22DDH" will be a bit larger....Actually they'll be about 19,000 tons standard and 27,000 tons fully loaded.  That's about the size of a Yorktown class aircraft carrier.

Here she is drawn to scale with JDS Hyuga...

...and here the new ship is seen in comparison to three historical Japanese ships: Akagi, Shokaku and Kaga.

These ships will have, in addition to their missile batteries, 7 ASW helicopters in a VERY spacious hangar. In fact the hangar is about the size of that on an early Essex class carrier.  The ship will also carry several 'search and rescue aircraft'. This SAR wing will consist of V-22 Ospreys. However, according to some sources, it will also include F-35 Bs which no doubt will bring a smile to many a stranded mariner as they drop life rafts from their bomb bays rescue equipment compartments.  (I'm a bit skeptical of the F-35 reports, if only because the whole F-35 program is in disarray).  The ships will also be able to carry a very large number of Ground Self Defense troops for disaster relief. This is a useful capability as Japan is prone to disasters such as volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunami's, typhoons and Chinese nationals on the Senkakus

27,000 tons might seem large for a destroyer but that's the kind of inefficiency one gets when one decides to put a bunch of helicopters on a destroyer.

It's just a terrible terrible shame that the Japanese can't have any carriers.

*don't tell the Canadians that though.

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 12:49 PM | Comments (7) | Add Comment
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July 02, 2013

I Have A Question for any Continental Oceanic Antepodians We Might Have Amongst Our Readership

Does Sydney NEED rebuilding?

More here:

At least 150 pre-fabricated skyscrapers from Central Station to Strathfield, conveyor belts shuttling building materials above Ultimo, train lines ripped up for new ones underground, and much of the steel and concrete shipped from China, with an army of international workers assembling it all for a pittance.

The novel project could have been Sydney's had the O'Farrell government been just a bit more expansive in its thinking.

Perhaps instead of 'more expansive' 'less prudent' would be a more appropriate descriptor in that last sentence.

I've noted this tactic from China before, most notably in places like Columbo and their 'string of pearls' , but also in The Canal zone, Bahamas and San Diego.

I'm sure that none of those places will find they have listening devices, basic facilities for naval bases or changes in contract terms at any point in the future. No sirreee.

Full disclosure: That last paragraph is a combination of sarcasm, paranoia and vigilance in uncertain proportions.

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 10:00 PM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
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April 09, 2013

So Would This be a BBG?

Huntington Ingalls is offering a development of their  San Antonio Class LPD this time for Ballistic Missile Defense.

The LPD (Landing Platform Dock) 17 class are very large and complex ships. Early units were plagued by troubles, however, most of those revolved around the complex mechanisms associated with its flood-able drydock. There were other issues too but most of the rest were due to either workmanship issues (Post Katrina) or larger problems with Navy oversight.

However, the hull itself is built to full military specifications and, after over a decade of tweaking has had all the bugs worked out.

So: there is this large, perfectly serviceable, already designed hull with VAST amounts of volume available (if one removes the well dock, marines and tanks) and it is designed for survivability.

We need ships to replace the Ticonderoga class cruisers which are at the end of their lives. Any such replacement is going to need a much bigger radar system than the Aegis to retain full Anti Ballistic Missile capability into the future.

Ingalls has responded by taking the off the shelf LPD-17 hull and removing the extensive cargo and troop handling facilities as well as the damage control nightmare that is the drydock. Thus the ship is made structurally simpler and probably much tougher.  They then slapped a big AMDR radar, 288 mk 57missile tubes, a hangar and flight deck for V-22s some 57mm cannons and a notational railgun mount.

I'd think moving the hangar spaces above deck  athwart the funnels would be better than to rely on a single elevator. But I'm paranoid that way.

The railgun mount is interesting. It doesn't look like a railgun and the gunhouse looks rather bigger than the 8" MK 71 or the 155mm AGS.  In other words they have kept some interesting artillery options open to them.

The navy seems unimpressed:

The Navy, however, has started focusing on developing ships that could carry out multiple missions rather than singular mission vessels, a notion it promotes with the Littoral Combat Ships, which are designed to carry swappable missions packages for surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare and mine countermeasures.

"We have to get away from building single missions ships,” Vice Adm. Tom Copeman, the commander of Naval Surface Forces and Pacific Fleet, told an audience at SNA.

This criticism seems blinkered. And not just in it's use of the term LCS as something other than a punch line or an epithet.

The hangar, the 57s  and the big arse gun show this to be a multipurpose vessel. Railguns and helicopters do not contribute to BDM. Additionally, the large "empty" space amidships that in LPD 17 is used for vehicle ramps would seem to lend itself to something of the sort of C-4I facilities that the Navy only has on  the two remaining (quite elderly) command ships. This last is entirely speculative, but some sort of expanded flagship facilities are sorely needed in the USN. (**but see update)

The big question mark is speed. No speed is given for the above ship though most other offerings in the family move at 20-24 kts.  The USN considers about 30 to be frontline*. Note that speed/power curves go up fast around 24 knots. While it's possible that enough power can be crammed in to boost the ship 6 to 8 knots, it seems unlikely without regiggering the hull. 

Nevertheless, even assuming a speed around 23kts, a large vessel optimized for extended economical cruising is just what is needed for ABM patrols. The fact that this vessel can do other missions, is perfectly capable of keeping up with the Amphibious ships, is off the shelf, steel hulled and relatively roomy would seem to be a very very useful bit of kit that could be obtained for minimal risk and expense compared to it's capability.

*The Brits determined during WW2 that a sustained speed of 23 knts was the minimum adequate for escorting fast carriers, but that was before nuclear carriers and in any event the USN generally requires 28-30 kts for front line vessels to keep up with the CBGs.

It seems that they have a flagship version already designed to replace the Blue Ridge class along with several other auxiliaries. . This doesn't mean that extra C&C space is unwelcome of course.

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 05:36 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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