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The USN AHsM future is subsonic. OR: how I learned to stop worrying and just love the Tomahawk


Josh

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So I've been doing a deep dive on some USN programs in budget docs and such, and I've concluded that they are firmly wedded to subsonic weapons as their primary way of getting shit done for the rest of the decade. My opinion is that they intend to mass fire onto targets so hard that the slow speed over that last 20nm/35km does not matter. I don't have time to get into every detail now but I'll start with the Tomahawk Block Va MST.


First it should be noted that there are three flavors of blk V, basic bitch (ok lets go with "baseline", or BL), MST, and BMEWs. Block V is BL, and involves a coms/nav upgrade, and probably some other stuff. Va is MST and involves "sensors" that "allow it to track a moving target". BMEWs is just a new BROACH-eque warhead for especially hard targets. It should be also noted in this opener that these are not distinct missiles - these are upgrade kits applied to existing Blk IV missiles, and multiples of these upgrade kits might be applied to any one specific missile. So for instance, every Blk V probably gets new nav and com gear, including M code, but there after might diverge and have separate warhead or guidance kits applied to it. Just in case that was straight forward enough, there appears to have been an upgrade order on 245 blk IVs to give them a "moving target" (ship) capability that precedes the Blk V upgrade kits. Much like the AGM-158 program, the USN seems to almost deliberately confusing the issue of what missiles would be capable of engaging what targets. And I think this is indeed somewhat intentional in order to ensure that anything Blk IV and up has to be interpreted as a threat, regardless of its flight profile or perceived target set. The fact that any tomahawk is basically indistinguishable from any other tomahawk has inherent advantages.

More later, just wanted to get the ball rolling. This will take awhile. Yes I've been drinking, but its when I do my best creative work if I stay clear of the FFZ.

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Ok, not done with the rose yet, so next point to make: 

Right click in the center of the Taiwan straight on google maps. Select the "measure distance" option and drag it out to 1000 miles. Drag it around. Notice how much ocean that encompasses, and notice that it is almost half the Philippine islands, all of Kyushu, the south western third of Worst Korea, and the entrance to the Sea of Japan. Also note this is the max hypothetical range of DF-21, DF-17, and outside the combat radius of J-11s without airborne refueling (assuming they don't fly directly over whatever hostile first island chain location they want to...Taiwan, Miyako, Okinawa, etc).

This is the range circle for a Tomahawk missile. Any USN platform wearing even a Blk IV can range that point from that circle, and even if the ship/submarine that fired it sinks, the missile can accept way points or target updates assuming intact US satellite infrastructure. It can fly for a thousand miles which works out to be around two hours. That means it can fly a couple hundred miles (sever hundred km), loiter for a full hour, then be re-directed to a target a couple hundred miles (several hundred km) away.

Now assume that some of those missiles also can hunt RF emissions like a LRASM, as Raytheon tested in 2014:

https://www.naval-technology.com/news/newsraytheon-completes-passive-seeker-test-for-tomahawk-cruise-missile-4255074/

Also assume that any of these missiles can talk to home via satellite to give information back to its controllers, on top of receiving orders. So if the missile detects you, the shore base also knows where you are.

I think you can see where this is going, but I have a couple more points to make tomorrow.

Edited by Josh
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The bigger step is the retirement of Block III versions, as Block IV added a meaningful RCS reduction to the system and Block V is based on those. So the whole arsenal will soon consist of the RCS reduced version. 

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12 hours ago, seahawk said:

The bigger step is the retirement of Block III versions, as Block IV added a meaningful RCS reduction to the system and Block V is based on those. So the whole arsenal will soon consist of the RCS reduced version. 

Indeed, the blk IV chines the nose, sweeps the wings, and changes the tail to a Y configuration reminiscent of a Reaper UAV. Previous RCS was 0.5 m^2 by most accounts (post cold war they would release almost anything) though it isn't clear how much this was reduced. Head on it should be a small target, and that plays into discussing MALD.

Edited by Josh
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Now: LRASM. Production continues to lag immensely behind its sister AGM-158B (JASSM ER, on which it is based). But two new variants have come to light: AGM-158C-2 and AGM-158C-3 (let us call the baseline version C-1 now).

AGM-158C2 on first look seems a step backward: it removes the passive RF guidance that is rather the cornerstone of the system. So at that point, it probably is more akin to the future version of the AGM-158B*. At first I thought this was a modification to cut costs and/or speed production, but now it seems more likely this is intended to increase range. AGM-158C1 is said to have >200nm range, which still falls far behind the baseline JASSM ER it was based on (>500nm). I think the reason for this is because the USN is attempting to adapt both the air wing and the escorts/SAGs to striking from the above 1000 mile/1600km range ring. The range loss of LRASM over JASSM ER meant that the airwing would likely be the limiting factor in cross domain (air launched and surface/subsurface launched) munitions. Dropping the RF and relying on some other platform to provide target updates is quick and dirty way of getting that range back, since it seems likely that this was the most invasive feature to the JASSM-ER airframe. The other notable changes between B and C, sea skimming capable radar altimeter and weapon datalink, aren't volume or mass intensive. So removal of the RF sensors likely buys back most of the range of the AGM-158B.
 

https://aviationweek.com/defense-space/missile-defense-weapons/us-navy-comes-full-circle-jassm-program

 

The other thing on the horizon is the AGM-158C3, or LRASM ER. This version I think intends to keep the RF guidance mode of the baseline LRASM but gain back at least some of the ~500nm range of the C2 / JASSM ER platform. Same reasoning as the C2 range extension, just with an attempt to keep the capability that allows the missiles to find their own targets rather than be given an explicit target track. 

https://media.defense.gov/2023/Mar/29/2003188749/-1/-1/0/HIGHLIGHTS_BOOK.PDF



Note that like the Tomahawk Blk IV / V missiles, all of the LRASM versions have a datalink for target updates, retargeting, waypoints, or otherwise changing their settings mid flight. The USN is building to an ecosystem of subsonic weapons that use their long range and long aloft time as a force multiplier such that strikes from multiple distant sources of different missile types can be stacked together to achieve high density on a distant target from different directions. EG: a Burke steaming off the Philippines, a Tico off the coast of Japan, and a CSG cruising half way between Guam and Taiwan can all combine their fires over a target area just off the Taiwanese coast. They would all be largely outside DF-21/17 range or any tactical aircraft that didn't depend on tankers. Outbound strikes or ISR efforts would be unescorted or else require defensive fighters that require complicated, resource intensive tanking operations that also likely give away their presence with radio traffic and movement of support aircraft. Tanking over Taiwan, the RyuKus, or even the Batanes also is not without risk, and the latter might be the only sufficiently low threat entrance to the second island chain that is viable in a conflict that involves Japan.



The final piece is upping the volume of fire available given the limitations of surface ship magazines and tactical aircraft carriage of AShMs (and the limited number of aircraft a CSG can reserve for the strike role).



*The nomenclature of the JASSM-ER has been fucked up enough that I can't vouch absolutely for what is what anymore, but I *think* the below list is accurate. If nothing else, I’m quite confident in the upgrade path even if the designations are off:

AGM-158B-1: baseline ER version
AGM-158B-2: modified wing version with more range previously reported as “AGM-158D”
AGM-158B-3: B-2 with added two way datalink similar LRASM (and M code nav update)

AGM-158D: all of the above improvements plus a new external coating for reduced IR and RCS

Edited by Josh
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The final program I want to talk about with regards to USN anti surface strikes is MALD-N.

MALD-N is based on the experiment MALD-X, which added a modular swappable mission package (mission specific jamming hardware) and a datalink to the standard USAF MALD-J. MALD-N additionally adds a radar altimeter to allow a sea skimming mode. Thus MALD-N is capable of carrying different mission equipment for different roles, and one of those roles is almost certainly to act as a cruise missile decoy to provide volume of fire to USN strikes. The platform wouldn't necessarily need any special electronic payload for this role; all that would be required is the datalink of the MALD-X platform and the radar altimeter/autopilot system capable of flying a sea skimming flight profile. Indeed this does appear to be a central role the USN envisions for the MALD-N:

"MALD-X, an advanced electronic warfare effector demonstration for the Strategic Capabilities Office under the U.S. Secretary of Defense, demonstrated an improved electronic warfare payload, a modular payload section, low-altitude flight, a datalink and an intelligent design engine. MALD-N will build on the successes of the MALD-X demonstration. As a network enabled platform, MALD-X (and MALD-N) will be able to operate in 'swarms' of many decoys."

 

MALD-N therefore can be used as a substitute for AShMs in strikes against well defended surface targets with a goal of saturating defenses or depleting the defenders. The fact that it has no seeker or warhead wouldn't particularly matter in situations where dozens or hundreds of AShMs and decoys are being deployed; they would still look like legitimate threats and draw the same area defensive fire from defenders (lacking any seeker they probably would not enable the saturation of point defenses, however).  Some of the platforms might instead operate as sweep or noise jammers in front of the strike to complicate targeting further, or else produce additional false targets electronically. No doubt the USN is putting a lot of thought into what the optimal penetration aide package would look like, but at a minimum MALD-N would represent a false AShM target even without any ECM at all. And the key thing to remember is that a MALD-N likely costs little more than a MALD-J, which is less than 1/10 of what a LRASM or upgraded Blk Va Tomahawk costs.

 

This would be significant for two big reasons: First, because the MALD series is both far cheaper and far faster to produce than LRASMs or even Blk V tomahawks. MALD-J was/is manufactured in the low hundreds per year. The USN can build out its inventory of effectors much more quickly and cost effectively using a "fake" AShM rather than a full up weapon. But perhaps even more relevant is the fact that the F-18 could carry a lot more MALD-N than it could LRASM, given the < 300lb launch weight vs 2,250lbs for AGM-158s.

Realistically an F-18 can only carry 2-4 AShMs of any mark on its inner wing pylons, depending on whether it uses drop tanks or not. But MALD's light weight would offer a number of additional options. First, the outer pylons should easily be able to support a MALD. Second, a BRU-55 tandem ejector should easily be able to accommodate a pair of them on any of the inner pylons vice a single LRASM. Third, it seems likely that the fuselage pylons, rated for 300lb AIM-120, could easily accommodate the lighter ADM-160 as well. An F-18 with drop tanks could likely still carry eight MALD-Ns, or if carrying LRASM, at least carry and extra four penetration aides on top of the missiles. Accepting the range reduction of only carrying a centerline drop tank could potentially allow loads of 8xADM-160 and 2x-AGM-158C, or even a dozen MALD-Ns as a purely penetration aide load for munitions from other strikes. This would allow even a medium sized strike force of a dozen F-18s to potentially mount strikes with effectors in triple digit range with ~500nm range (assuming the AGM158-C2/3 variants can extend their range to roughly match the ADM-160). This would give the F-18 force a capability that borders on a medium sized bomber, particularly if heavily supported by in flight refueling. But even the unrefueled combat radius of the F-18 would allow them to participate in strikes out to the thousand mile range ring of the Tomahawk missiles. LRASM wouldn't even necessarily need to be used; the F-18s might provide the volume of fire with surface combatants providing the actual kinetic munitions, possibly from a completely different task force.


This does rather beg the question, what is the status of this program and why isn't it going full speed ahead? Well, it might be. We know from contract awards that it exists, and that it even entered LRIP:

https://militaryleak.com/2020/01/01/us-navy-awards-raytheon-112-million-miniature-air-launched-decoy-mald-n-contract/

https://govtribe.com/opportunity/federal-contract-opportunity/miniature-air-launch-decoy-navy-mald-n-low-rate-initial-production-lrip-n0001919rfpreqpma2010005

 

We also know that sailors have trained to load them into carrier magazines:

"In March, Naval Packaging, Handling, Storage and Transportation (PHS&T) Center representatives assisted the Shipboard Weapons and Integration Team (SWIT) during a shipboard suitability test (SST) for the Miniature Air Launched Decoy-Navy (MALD-N) container on the USS George H. W. Bush (CVN 77) in March.  The SST equipped the Sailors the USS George H.W. Bush with the knowledge to correctly pack, unpack and maneuver the MALD-N from the container."

https://www.navsea.navy.mil/Portals/103/Documents/NSWC_Indian_Head/Documents/Year in Review 2022.pdf?ver=c8t5IBPq_WPo8BVISULbgg%3D%3D
 


After that, the program seems to go silent. However there is an indications that a production contract might already have been signed:

https://www.19fortyfive.com/2023/05/the-u-s-navys-billion-dollar-mystery-kamikaze-drones/

"The U.S. Navy’s Naval Sea Systems Command, known as NAVSEA, is about to place the biggest order on record for loitering munitions, also known as kamikaze drones. The order will total well over $1 billion dollars. What this money will buy has not been revealed, as the Navy declines to discuss the project. However, budget documents reveal a surprising level of detail."

The article mentions the Tomahawk, however that seems unlikely because there are already known contracts for that platform. It also mentions the Coyote, which makes sense with the description of "loitering kamikaze drone". However it also mentions MALD, which IMO is a better fit for this situation: it is a sole source contract with Raytheon, meaning only they could provide the capability needed. Reread the contract links above and you will see these are funded exactly the same way, because only Raytheon has the capability to build the MALD platform. I consider it likely that since the MALD-N has been built in some numbers and has been tested for suitability for loading onto a carrier that the billion dollar contract is actually for a huge MALD-N buy, and that while the electronics packages to be placed in them are not ready, the purchase can go forward to build out a fleet of effectors anyway for the simple reason that in the role of decoy AShM, they don't actually have to radiate at all.


In any case, it seems like MALD-N will go to full production at some point in the future, even if the above contract is for some other munition. And it will allow the USN to fill out its AShM strikes with an inexpensive effector that can be launched in quantity. Along with the LRASM and the Tomahawk, it will allow the USN to mass very large strikes packages of munitions and penetration aides at extreme ranges fired from numerous dispersed forces on, under, and above the sea.

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Ok, there's the basics as we more or less know them. MST, LRASM/Naval JASSM/ LRASM ER, and MALD-N, all with ranges approaching a thousand miles (including parent aircraft rough unrefueled range) and with datalinks that allow commands and target updates to be transmitted, and any relevant sensor information to go back to the strike coordinator. The ability to stack a large mass of effectors from multiple platforms at great range, even if the travel speed is exclusively subsonic. I think it is worth taking a moment to ask what the F-35 brings to this, because if you notice it isn't part of the strike package. It lacks the capacity to hang as many things off of it as the F-18s and it loses one of its greatest strengths when it does carry external ordnance. So what are they doing during all this besides baby sitting the bird farm? Likely absolutely everything else associated with the strike.

First, the F-35 would excel at scouting and counter scouting for a strike. They have an excellent sensor suite for finding surface targets either passively or actively and passing target track grade updates off either to intermediaries or the datalink enabled weapons themselves. They also can serve as raid escorts for the strikers (who might not be carrying any BVR AAMs at all) and also escorting the missiles/penaides themselves, given that the effectors cover half of the total strike distance and are defenseless during the cruise period of their flight. The F-35 could engage forward based ISR assets that might detect the incoming strike - high altitude UAVs, high endurance maritime patrol aircraft, forward based CAP fighters, etc. Such an intercept might alert the target task force that it was under impending attack but it would at least deny details about the exact nature, timing, and scope of the attack.

 

Additionally F-35s could provide a mountain of intel by remaining near the target during the strike and observing the results as they unfold  (either passively or actively if conditions allowed). This would be a much more than just a post strike bomb damage assessment. It might perhaps include the scale of opponent SAM launches, recordings of any ECM broadcast, changes in target course during the attack, number and density of the deployment of countermeasures, etc. The combination of passive IR and passive RF combined with their survivability far forward of any place something like an RC-135 or EP-3 could possibly operate would create a vast amount of useful data during and immediately after a strike. This would greatly enhance the planning for additional strikes later in the conflict, if not follow up strikes on the same task force.

Finally, they also would have the ability, were opponent defense sufficiently weak, to engage a CAP over a task force either actively or passively to help dilute their effectiveness. They could broadcast EW or radar emissions from a different threat axis of the strike to attempt to seduce a CAP out of position, or if the CAP were at sufficient disadvantage, actively engage them with AAMs to attrit the force and break up their formations. AEW aircraft could either be engaged or perhaps forced to shut down by the near proximity of opponent fighters, greatly reducing the opponent task force's ability to launch long range SAMs or otherwise organize a defense.

While the F-35 would lack the same range as the all of the air and surface launched effectors we've talked about, a relatively low commitment of in flight refueling resources could extend the range of a small force of ~4 aircraft that would be an incredibly potent force multiplier for a distributed strike of datalinked weapons. 

Edited by Josh
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Top level concept of operations:

 

A ship the size of the Dedalo can carry 512 Mk41 with Multi-Mission Tomahawk for chips, relatively speaking, because if one of these arsenals is attached to every CSG it falls under their umbrella of protection. That means it can be kept relatively simple and get away with Nav radars and something like Sea Giraffe 1X to cue a couple of 21 cell RAM launchers and that's about all it needs. This means the missiles might cost more than the ship, which is fine for our purposes.  Now a notional 12 of these for a notional 12 CSG and you have over 6,000 missiles (obviously not all in the AO simultaneously) that can be used for both land attack and anti-ship applications.... many more than currently exist in our inventory.

 

That's 9.2 billion USD in missiles and lets guess around 9.6 billion in ships for a total of 18.8 billion USD, or 2.3 billion USD / year over an 8 year two term presidential administration to fully pay for, minus cost of infrastructure to ramp up Tomahawk production. Our oligarchs spend more than that on blow.  It's spare change. 

 

Too many eggs in one basket? Consider we have no arsenals now, and relative to that it doesn't harm our existing paradigm wrt number of tomahawks otherwise distributed across the fleet.  If these are seen as a complimentary supplement to what we've been doing anyway then it's all bonus. Further, we have to assume 2, possibly 3 CSG surged during initial phases of a Chinese conflict which means 2-3 Arsenals minimum in the AO. This still distributes lethality at far less developmental risk than LUSV, and finally these can be surged independently such that 2 may be attached to each CSG if the situation called for it. 

 

The capability this provides, for the money, is just staggering... and that isn't counting other means of delivery like the USAF, SSGN, etc.

Edited by Burncycle360
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I would suggest instead a missile carrier based on the John-Lewis class oilers. A cheap hull in US production that has good speed, provision for basic self defense, and plenty of volume and displacement for Mk41 or CSP cells. It would have the added benefit of blending in with the station ships or medium sized tanker traffic. But there’s no need for 500 cells - maybe a hundred tops focused exclusively on long ranged offensive weapons, allowing escorts to focus more (but not completely) on defensive weapons. I think pairing such ships with CSGs is counterproductive as - the whole point of distributed strikes is that you don’t need all of your strike power located in one TF.

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South Korea is tinkering with the idea of an arsenal ship

 https://www.imdexasia.com/newsbyte/south-korea-begins-designing-arsenal-ships-bristling-with-missiles#:~:text=South Korea begins designing arsenal ships bristling with missiles,-INDUSTRY WATCH | 17&text=The Republic of Korea Navy,to produce a concept design. 

 

I don't believe the concept worth while, as it's like putting all your eggs in one basket. But if a WW3 ever happened, and the US need to do a sea ward invasion like D-Day in 1941 for example I believe it's viable.

Edited by TrustMe
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33 minutes ago, TrustMe said:

South Korea is tinkering with the idea of an arsenal ship

 https://www.imdexasia.com/newsbyte/south-korea-begins-designing-arsenal-ships-bristling-with-missiles#:~:text=South Korea begins designing arsenal ships bristling with missiles,-INDUSTRY WATCH | 17&text=The Republic of Korea Navy,to produce a concept design. 

 

I don't believe the concept worth while, as it's like putting all your eggs in one basket. But if a WW3 ever happened, and the US need to do a sea ward invasion like D-Day in 1941 for example I believe it's viable.

I think the idea of an arsenal ship with hundreds of weapons is a bad idea, particularly as a carrier of defensive or short ranged weaponed weapons. but I think a smaller, less expensive ship and lighter weapon load that focused exclusively on long ranged offensive weapons could be purchased in enough numbers to add cells without concentrating too many weapons in one location. The Korea design actually looks far more modest than anything that was proposed in the US, with > 5000t displacement and 80+ missiles. 

Edited by Josh
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Gotta store strategic stockpiles of tomahawks someplace, might as well be sealed in VLS cells on a dozen or so ships that can also launch them. Keep in mind this is in addition to the other Tomahawks already in the fleet, not as an alternative to them.  Even if one were sunk (unlikely, let's be honest, short of nuclear weapon use), it is only one of 12... and if the alternative was not having arsenals at all and just rolling with what we've got today, you're still up over 5,500 tomahawks. That's why this isn't too many eggs in one basket.

 

As far as it being chained to a CSG, of course it is.   If it was an independent combatant the price would delve into the silly range, plus you'd have to devote a significant number of the cells to self defense... at that point you just have a super-cruiser.  It's supposed to be a cheap way to bring capabilities that are unfair to the enemy, just the way we like it.  The carrier is the best protected asset in the fleet, so operating under that umbrella of protection doesn't cost anything, all it needs is horizon search and point defense, and depending on the version, Tomahawks can reach most of China from outside the first island chain where carriers are likely to be operating.  Nothing has to be changed in the warplans to integrate the increase in capability. Putting it on a slow oiler doesn't make sense because then it couldn't keep up.

 

I get the desire not to concentrate lethality in one location, but lets keep some perspective: we can surge a significant number of our 11 CVN during a potential conflict with China, each one potentially being the core of its own CSG.  There's your distribution of lethality and attrition redundancy: having 11 of the things. 

Edited by Burncycle360
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I would do a 5-6 kt medium tanker based hull with 80-100 long range Tomahawks and as many CIWS/RIM-116s as possible all linked up in some kind severely downsized VSHOR AEGIS like automated AD system.  Make the whole thing a full drone if possible.

Leave unprotected against subs because cost (sub defense would be better off  anyway employing dedicated ships)

Of course 50-80 attacking missiles/drones (being generous here) per ship still will be at least 10-50 times cheaper but if we are playing MIC Grand Feast, why not.

Edited by Strannik
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4 minutes ago, sunday said:

SSGNs are arsenal ships.

They are expensive and US can't build them quickly in quantities needed (for the Grand Slam)

These mini arsenal drones can even be outsourced to SK (except radar, cells and point defense obviously).  Will be quite inexpensive my guess.

Burkes can basically become almost entirely AD ships.

Edited by Strannik
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1 minute ago, Strannik said:

They are expensive and US can't build them quickly in quantities needed (for the Grand Slam)

These mini arsenal drones can even be outsourced to SK. 

Burkes can basically become almost entirely AD ships.

You have a point here. Arsenal ships, however, need to be able to defend themselves, and not only from air attack or from subs. Otherwise, additional escorts need to be built.

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6 minutes ago, sunday said:

You have a point here. Arsenal ships, however, need to be able to defend themselves, and not only from air attack or from subs. Otherwise, additional escorts need to be built.

Theu would have multiple (more than Burke) point defenses.  As far as sub threat - as I said better to have a dedicated drone fleet just for that. Otherwise your arsenal drone would cost too much.

I suspect Chinese woul go sub drone way (deployable via mothership or even air) instead of building up their own dozens of SSGNs.  More cost effective and less training time ;)

Edited by Strannik
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I do not think a drone arsenal ship is feasible for long deployments, perhaps they could work for coast defense. Main consideration is that crew is needed to do maintenance.

Then, there is the question of cost-effectiveness of SSGNs. The USN had some redundant SSBNs that still had a lot of life remaining. Converting them into SSGNs seems like a no-brainer.

But, new construction SSGNs? I am not so sure.

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3 minutes ago, sunday said:

I do not think a drone arsenal ship is feasible for long deployments, perhaps they could work for coast defense. Main consideration is that crew is needed to do maintenance.

Arsenal ship is an attack ship.

And while maintenance is an issue, that's (also other than cost) why use a tanker as a base with plenty of room to make it as easily maintainable as possible at sea by dedicated team housed on Burkes, it's no failure time is sufficient to be rather short (weeks, not months).

Not gonna happen with current build cycles/policy changes, but we are just having fun here...

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All of these other proposals result in fewer missiles at greater cost or development risk.  KISS, no need to overthink it.

SSGNs have their place, as do USAF delivered cruise missiles and surface arsenals, it isn't one or the other. Each brings a unique capability to the table.

 

Edited by Burncycle360
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2 hours ago, Burncycle360 said:

Gotta store strategic stockpiles of tomahawks someplace, might as well be sealed in VLS cells on a dozen or so ships that can also launch them. Keep in mind this is in addition to the other Tomahawks already in the fleet, not as an alternative to them.  Even if one were sunk (unlikely, let's be honest, short of nuclear weapon use), it is only one of 12... and if the alternative was not having arsenals at all and just rolling with what we've got today, you're still up over 5,500 tomahawks. That's why this isn't too many eggs in one basket.

The other "arsenal" option short of having dedicated ships with launch tubes is to use containerized launchers like the US Army is for its Mid Range Capability. If you produced enough of those TEU type launchers, you could stack them on existing USNS ships on an ad hoc basis. There would need to be some mechanism for sending mission information and launch orders to those units, but that doesn't seem to be an insurmountable problem given the kinds of things the USAF is doing with its Rapid Dragon modules on cargo planes. If necessary a TEU sized C3 node could be the control unit for any launch tubes on a given ship. This leverages existing auxiliaries for little investment, though it would limit the number of tubes to how many TEUs can be stored deck side and also limit the carrying capacity of any ship so utilized to carrying things below deck. Still would be a relatively quick and cheap option, and the TEUs could be swapped from deployed ship to deployed ship as needed.

 

2 hours ago, Burncycle360 said:

 

As far as it being chained to a CSG, of course it is.   If it was an independent combatant the price would delve into the silly range, plus you'd have to devote a significant number of the cells to self defense... at that point you just have a super-cruiser.

I don't see why. If you're a thousand miles off the Chinese coast, you're basically in IRBM range and nothing else. If you need an escort, assign a single destroyer. There's no no need to colocate the ship with the CSG or load it with defensive equipment. You might want to steam with the CSG escorts if they were staying suitably far away from the threat, but if the TF was making its way closer to a high threat area I would leave it behind. Once you're inside the thousand mile range ring, there's no need for this platform to get closer.

Edited by Josh
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1 hour ago, sunday said:

You have a point here. Arsenal ships, however, need to be able to defend themselves, and not only from air attack or from subs. Otherwise, additional escorts need to be built.

 

Regarding the sub threat - a PLAN SSK is going to take about a week to get a thousand miles off the Chinese coast. Even if you assumed an average advance speed of 10 knts (which is I think more than even Collins class can handle as an average rate of advance) and measure distance as the bird flies, that is four days sail in a perfectly straight line. Actual transit times to get into that engagement zone would be greater than a week, coming and going, even with snorting. If you have a hard limit of 5knts on AIP, more like two weeks. If a tomahawk platform is willing to limit its target set to PLAN ships and coastal bases (and anything in and around Taiwan) and stay a thousand miles off the coast, the sub threat gets really thin. Ditto the tactical aircraft threat or anything that needs tactical aircraft for an escort - not happening without in flight refueling, and probably refueling operations would have to take place over or outside of the first island chain - with all the risks associated.

To the second point of having more escorts, defending a tomahawk platform might be a good job for FFGX.

Edited by Josh
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29 minutes ago, Josh said:

  

 

Regarding the sub threat - a PLAN SSK is going to take about a week to get a thousand miles off the Chinese coast. Even if you assumed an average advance speed of 10 knts (which is I think more than even Collins class can handle as an average rate of advance) and measure distance as the bird flies, that is four days sail in a perfectly straight line. Actual transit times to get into that engagement zone would be greater than a week, coming and going, even with snorting. If you have a hard limit of 5knts on AIP, more like two weeks. If a tomahawk platform is willing to limit its target set to PLAN ships and coastal bases (and anything in and around Taiwan) and stay a thousand miles off the coast, the sub threat gets really thin. Ditto the tactical aircraft threat or anything that needs tactical aircraft for an escort - not happening without in flight refueling, and probably refueling operations would have to take place over or outside of the first island chain - with all the risks associated.

To the second point of having more escorts, defending a tomahawk platform might be a good job for FFGX.

During WW2 German subs got to the US eastern seaboard, getting to 1000Km isn't that far in comparson. Given the size of the pacific ocean any small sub wil be hard to find.

EDIT Although likewise finding a sea target for the sub will also be difficult.

Edited by TrustMe
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13 minutes ago, TrustMe said:

During WW2 German subs got to the US eastern seaboard, getting to 1000Km isn't that far in comparson. Given the size of the pacific ocean any small sub wil be hard to find.

EDIT Although likewise finding a sea target for the sub will also be difficult.

German U-boats got to the eastern seaboard. Those vessels were essentially torpedo boats optimized for surface runs that could also submerge and had far longer ranges than your typical SSK. And their cruise speed was still only 10 knts on the surface - they spent weeks getting into that position, and I believe it was all of five boats on one occasion.

 

Modern SSKs are not oceanic ranged boats, they are coastal vessels (glaring exception - Collins class, maybe JMSDF boats to a lesser degree). They can definitely make it out to 1000mi / 1600 km if they want to, but they can't do it quickly. And they likely won't want to do it cutting through the outlying Japanese islands either, which means they would be looping south of Taiwan through the Batanes.

Finding the sub in that area would be hard. The sub finding and engaging targets at that range is almost as hard. Plus, if the boat is out to sea more than two weeks (and it will need that much time just to come and go from station) then it will have to snort. It either snorts in transit or snorts during its patrol cycle, but it has to do one or the other (or some mixture of both) even if it is an AIP boat.

Edited by Josh
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I'm not saying it would be easy but it would be do able.

In a possible China / US pacific war I do believe given the amount of satelite's in orbit, any surface ship task force would quickly become a target for a number of different anti-ship platforms. The Russians tried to do this during the 1980's but failed but both China and the US (amongest others) now have this Ocean Mapping capability. If a satelite can get the position and bearings of a CSG pretty much soon it would come under sub / surface ship / aircraft / semi-ballistic missile AShM attack. I wouldn't like to be a seaman in those conditions.

Edited by TrustMe
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