Archive for the 'NSFS' Tag
In a sad insult to the rump class of Pocket Battleship sized Destroyers we are building, the three ship ZUMWALT Class, this week fate delivered what many expected for a while.
Just a couple weeks after the Navy commissioned its most advanced warship, the USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000), the service says it won’t be buying any more of the guided precision munitions the ship’s Advanced Gun Systems uses, called the Long Range Land-Attack Projectile (LRLAP).
What are we to learn of this? There are a few things.
First of all; we have to acknowledge that of the ships of the Transformationalist Era; LCS, DDG-1000, LPD-17, and FORD – have something in common; they proved history and critics of Transformationalism right.
You cannot pack too much technology risk in to new platforms, slather them with hope and PPT and assume that all will turn out well in future people’s PCS cycle long after you are gone.
Somehow we have lost a larger sense of that handmaiden of ownership, stewardship. We need to move away from the desire to have others fawn over ourselves for our supposed “visionary embrace of the future,” but instead have a calm dedication to stewardship of the continuous improvement of our navy. That is what gave us AEGIS, TLAM, and the Virginia Class SSN.
The programmatic Hipsterdom that is Transformationalism begat the shambolic parade of our last few classes of warships.
Next; bespoke, expensive, and exquisite systems that will not have wide use in the fleet are low hanging fruit when people come looking for money. If there is something good and less expensive that can replace the awesome, you will get the good. If the good can’t be had at enough savings, you just might get a void and a blank-plate.
As smart people are moving away from “salami slice” ideas of cost savings towards whole wedges, this is what will happen.
“The Navy continuously monitors the gun and ammunition industry capability and capacities,” Capt. Thurraya Kent, spokesperson for the service’s acquisition directorate, said Nov. 4 in an e-mail. “To address evolving threats and mission requirements, the Navy is evaluating industry projectile solutions (including conventional and hyper-velocity projectiles) that can also meet the DDG 1000 deployment schedule and could potentially be used as an alternative to LRLAP for DDG 1000.”
“We are looking at multiple different rounds for that gun,” the Navy official said, adding that “three or four different rounds” have been looked at, including the Army’s Excalibur munition from Raytheon, and the Hyper Velocity Projectile (HVP), a project under development by the Office of Naval Research and BAE Systems.
“There are multiple companies that have looked at alternatives to get the cost down and use that delivery system,” the Navy official said.
But the likelihood is that there will be no LRLAP replacement before the Zumwalt enters operational service.
Current plans call for the guns to be fired during CSSQT and, the Navy official said, “the intention is to shoot the guns.” The 2015 budget provided $113 million to buy 150 LRLAP rounds and associated items, and those rounds will be used for the tests.
No funds for LRLAP acquisition were included in the 2016 or 2017 budgets. The latter included $51 million in 2018 for the program, but it’s not clear whether or not that money will be requested.
Last, we need to be willing to return to a practice of evolutionary development with room to allow that you will now and again fail small and keep going, as opposed to assuming you will always win big or have nothing.
We have a new gun system? Great. Mature it ashore and install on an established platform and see how it works at sea. New engineering plant? Same. Manning concept … etc.
Decades – really centuries – of naval best practices shows us how it is done. We should go back to that template.
For now we find ourselves in 2016 without meeting the need that started us down the road – effective and accurate NSFS from the sea. Recent combat experience Al-Faw’s “5-in Friday,” to Israeli corvettes off Gaza, to the French Navy’s 76mm and 100mm guns off Libya, the modern requirement is clear – but it can be done better.
Where to next? In the near term, “good enough” 155mm solutions will need to be found and hopefully will work.
So much wasted time for so little gain for the nation. I hate to say it, but this is also true – none of this should be a surprise to anyone. How as an institution did we go this far down this path? That is the most important lesson – one I don’t think we have really dealt with yet.
While software changes will certainly be needed to incorporate other munitions into the AGS, adapting the handling system for a different round could be complex. The automated magazines, designed to hold 300 LRLAPs, are sized for that particular weapon and it’s unlikely another munition would have exactly the same dimensions.
Other rounds under development for the 127mm guns arming all other US destroyers and cruisers could be adapted to the AGS, but would likely need a sabot arrangement to adapt the smaller shell to the 155mm weapon.
Read that again as you ponder the institutional mindset mentioned earlier on in this article. This nugget about DDG-1000 needs to be repeated. This was a warship the size of a Pocket Battleship that would carry the largest guns of any warship in our navy – gun with a large rate of fire and range – that was intentionally designed not to be able to use these guns to engage an seagoing enemy.
Let that soak in.
But as the Zumwalt moved from shipyard to sea and to the fleet, the Navy has notably downplayed that attribute, and while the technical achievement of the cutting-edge DDG 1000 has been widely trumpeted this year, its ability to directly support Marines ashore has not.
There was no requirement for the AGS to strike seagoing targets, and the system does not have the programming to do so. But the big guns could be adapted to target ships if necessary, the Navy official said.
“We would have to do the software modifications to make that work.”
If you dig around a bit, you can find more and more about the Tactical Lessons Identified (learned is a totally different concept) from the Libyan operations. Like all real world operations, when looked at with a clear eye you can learn what theories were good in practice, what old lessons you needed to remember, and who was being too optimistic or too academic when it came to the realities of combat.
Robbin Laird has a great article out based in a large part on his interviews with the French military. What is so interesting is to hear from other nations what we are used to hearing from our own – expeditionary and littoral combat. This is good and healthy for all – and exceptionally valuable to the military professional who is willing to listen.
Make sure and read it all – but here are the things that stuck with me the most;
A main point underscored by the French military was the impact of the political process on military planning. The French President clearly saw the need for the operation and had worked closely with the British Prime Minister to put in place a political process which would facilitate a Libyan support operation for the rebels. But until NATO received the UN Mandate was obtained, no military action could be authorized. This meant that there was little or no planning for military operations with the result that, in the words of one French military officer, “we were forced to craft operations on the fly with little or no pre-planning or pre-coordination. We did some on our own but until the authorization for action was in place, we could not mobilize assets.”
That is why it is so critical that you have a Commander identified early in a process with a Staff in place. Many an Operational Planner has received the, “We are not supposed to do any planning for this. So, I want the core planning team to just … what shall we call it … talk about this. Don’t plan … just, ahem, talk. Have the Chair see to me in four hours about your, ahem, discussions …. ” speech with a nod-nod-wink-wink from the N/J/CJ-5.
There is no reason to go without a plan on the shelf … unless … you don’t have one. If you don’t have one in work – then someone needs to have a serious talk with their planning staff. Even with a pick-up team – you should already have a plan in work once a crisis rears its head. Sounds like they had something to work with – but given the sloppy start to the Libyan operations; no shock we had to improv a bit at the start.
…. and now – one of my favorite topics, NSFS.
An aspect of the operation of the helos off of the Mistral is noteworthy as well. The frigate with which it was deployed used its guns to support the helo deployment. The guns provided fire suppression to enhance the security of the insertion of the helos off of the Mistral.
The ship’s C2 is first rate and was part of the link to the air fleet for receiving and processing information to shape an intelligence picture in support of strike operations. This demonstrated that integrating maritime with land-based air can provide a powerful littoral operations capability, one which may prove very relevant to the United States as it rethinks the relationship between the USAF and the USN-USMC team in shaping 21st century operations.
Hasn’t this been true since, well, we had aircraft flying early last century? The critical importance and flexibility of the naval gun known for centuries? Modern combat from The Falklands, to the Haiphong gunline, to Five Inch Friday, to Libya reminds us – have your gun ready. None of this is new or shocking – but the fact we have to relearn fundamentals is a reminder how much we need to focus on them – “we” of course being the USA and its allies.
For the veterans of the Balkan operations in the ’90s to AFG the last decade – some habits never go away.
First, rules of engagement were being proposed by the partners of France in NATO that were “ridiculous,” to quote one French officer. “We received from NATO sources the directive that there were to be NO civilian casualties from our air strikes. My view was, why not just not do airstrikes. We pushed back and insisted on something sane: ‘No excessive civilian casualties from NATO air strikes.'”
Here is one final thing that I think we need to ponder on in depth; UAV/S. Too many people are enamored by the PPT and the promise. Not content with having an improved tool – they want to think they have a new tool that can do it all. It is hard even in peace for them to accept the very real bandwidth, loss rates, and other issues – what is harder to explain to the UAV/S true believers are the tactical limitations.
FROM UCAV-N to BAMS – the transformationalists really think that the F-35 will be the last manned fighter. Kind of the same mentality that I read in a book after the Falkland Island War about the Harrier stating that it was likely that the Harrier will ever see combat again. Silly, but there it was. The Future does not like to be taunted. She is touchy like that.
In that light – everyone needs to keep this reality check in mind. In this case, our French friends are exactly right.
… the notion that unmanned systems are going to replace the pilot is ludicrous in a dynamic targeting situation. If we are reluctant to give a guy with SA in the pilot’s seat authority, why are we going to give some guy in Nevada or Paris looking through a soda straw the authority to do dynamic targeting.”