Lethal load out

U.S. Navy Amphibious Warship To Deploy With Anti-Ship Missiles Next Year
Containerized missile launchers would give amphibious warfare ships a new way to protect against hostile warships, as well as engage other threats.
BY JOSEPH TREVITHICK JANUARY 11, 2021

Article in The Drive’s WarZone.

So the Naval Strike Missile, a middle weight anti ship missile will be mounted on an Amphib to provide integral defense and a little bit of offense capacity. The main purpose of this deployment is for experimentation with the fleet, to see if it changes the nature of the game when at sea. The Amphib is a big ship but is in essence a sea going ferry for the marines, a fast freighter. But these ships are big and impressive and sometimes used to show the flag. They have defensive weapons but nothing to ‘shoot the archer’ usually that is left to an escort. Having some rounds on board would change the dynamics and utility perhaps in a positive way.

While the preliminary deployment will have the missile amidships like a warship might. But the missile could be mounted on a truck that is being transported, just drive it out onto the flight deck, lock it down and shoot. With all sorts of truck mounted ordinance such as Hellfire, 155mm Cannons, HIMARS GPS Guided Rockets, there are a lot of options that this could provide for protection or force projection.

With the continued growing cost of specialized warships this sort of flexible tactical utilization looks like a good use of modern precision weapons. One can and should argue that it does not provide any kind of one for one replacement for a warship. But is a warship; a frigate, destroyer, cruiser… really what we need? Maybe its a combination of gnat weight autonomous missile slingers supporting heavy flex fighters like this Amphib.

Point to point sub orbital

Preparing for “Earth to Earth” space travel and a competition with supersonic airliners From NASASpaceFlight.Com an important and fun source on space activity all around the world not just NASA/US

So this seems crazy but in all honesty it has actually been a thing for a long time. It is mentioned in a lot of sixties/seventies SF not focused on space flight. It was seriously studied several times as a sort of replacement for parachute insertion of military force. And like most of those sorts of efforts there was a commercial concept to support the technology since the folks in the defense industry understood that military programs cannot support a robust industry on its own.

Just look at nuclear power, there was a reason that nuclear power stations evolved as the Navy came to realize they wanted nuclear ships. And there is a reason that small aircraft carriers and non nuclear submarines are anathema to certain parts of the Naval establishment. They know that if non nuclear CVs and SSs became common the industry required to support the nuclear fleet would become unaffordable.

https://thehighfrontier.blog/2016/03/20/straight-back-down-to-earth-a-history-of-the-vertical-takeoffvertical-landing-rocket-part-1/

People have already talked about the DoD buying Starships and using them as bombers / hypersonic weapons platforms. This is just turning the model above around.

Back in medieval times freighters and warships were the same thing, they just tacked on some fighting platforms and went at it with bows, crossbows, catapults, swords, etc. Even the Vikings probably started out as traders though always ready to ‘raise the black flag and slit a few throats’ if that looked like the right business strategy.

Anyway…sorry for the side commentary, it’s evening and I had a good dinner so I’m wandering a bit.

So, again anyway…if you look at it, a craft like the Starship, which has the performance as a single stage vehicle to haul 100 tons 10,000 miles in less than an hour has some attraction on its face….but in reality?

  • To my mind the most value dense time sensitive cargo is people but that’s years out at the least.
  • In the meantime are there cargos that are so time sensitive that something like a starship might make sense?
    • Couriered documents. Maybe
    • Mail. Does not seem like it.
    • Medical supplies only if the ship could land almost anywhere and take off again.
    • High value tech like chips? Maybe but 100 tons is overkill.
    • In fact most of the above are not 100 ton class cargos and frequency and flexibility of landing seem critical.

So dead on arrival? No there are customers who might pay for a a limited 100 ton capability. I think it would need to be anywhere in the world which is more than 10,000 miles but is probably within the capability of a modified Starship with more fuel and less cargo…or maybe an extended tank Starship could do 100 tons out to 18,000 miles (my wag of anywhere in the world from anywhere in the world.)

A somewhat smaller starship could do 10 tons 18,000 miles and probably land at just about any port or airfield as long as you can supply LOx and LNG, which is not that uncommon.

Go back to the start. If you burn a couple of hundred tons of LOx/LNG what is the cost? Does it make economic sense? Is it safe, is it going to be acceptable?

  • Economics:
    • LOx/LNG are in the same $/ton range as Jet fuel, you are burning a couple of times the fuel since you have to haul up the oxidizer with you and pay for that as well so say 4x the fuel bill.
    • The hull is in line with a modern airline.
    • If you can do a trip a day or so with support costs in the same range as a jet, it would appear to me that for the right cargo you could make it work.
  • Is it safe?
    • Well not right now but once the tech is wrung out ?? I think so.
    • the big difference is much higher energies than a jet.
    • But…your exposure time is a fraction of that of a jet over the same range. Accidents in mid flight are rare but generally lead to complete loss. Exposure time is probably the most important difference…advantage Point to Point
    • Ok so the major threat time is when you are near the ground around take off and landing, Those are shorter for the Point to Pointer.
    • And to me the difference in energy involved is immaterial…dead is dead and most of the time accidents of any magnitude in those phases are not survivable.
    • Accidents on the runway often have survivors but that is eliminated in the Point to Point case…up and down…no in between…
  • Acceptable?
    • Only time will tell, my guess is YES.
    • It will be a bit like the glamor days of the early airliners I would expect point to point for certain segments to be a real elite punch card
    • Especially as near earth space becomes an exotic but achievable location.

Exciting times indeed.

Lasers and rail guns oh my

So linked at the bottom is a file by the congressional research service regarding the progress the Navy is making on laser weapons, rail guns and hyper velocity smart munitions. Not the best topic for Christmas Season but oh well.

A series of articles in the Drive and elsewhere have discussed the progress in laser weapons over the last few years. To recap, a technology that was discovered as a fairly early practical application of quantum theory evolved into an important digital communications tool where the demand for longer distance between repeaters drove the power up to a point where cutting material like paper was practical that evolved into cutting steel which provided the basis for weapons grade systems although the military R&D complex had been exploring alternative paths for decades.

Now real systems (in the sense of shooting down light weight drones or setting outboard motors on fire, as well as dazzling or spotting) are being deployed and fairly aggressive plans are being made. There still remain problems with the technology though many of them are resolvable. And like earlier many pieces are being worked on for civilian reason, not the least in the field of astronomy where light transmission through the atmosphere is important and the brain power is deep and unfettered by military R&D issues.

In the end it is not clear that at sea is the best place to locate a laser weapon but ships are (relatively) big and have (relatively) large power systems so they are a good early trial. If lasers can be of value there they are going to make it other places as the technology improves.

Rail guns…what can you say (I could say a fair amount but won’t) they are the technology of the future and have been my whole adult life. I spent a couple of years involved with them and that is enough to tell me that there are a lot of fundamental problems that appear surmountable in early hand waving but are practically insurmountable as you get closer and closer to reality.

The ‘rail’ part of the gun has most of the problems of a powder gun barrel of erosion, fatigue, stress, compounded by huge electromagnetic forces in the metal itself. Vastly more complex than a simple bang tube. The energy required is huge but not only that it has to be released in a controlled manner at several times the rate of an explosion since the energy and the power are both higher than the propellant ‘burn’ of a powder weapon. Modern power electronics can handled this but they are not light and the resultant waste heat instead of exiting the barrel in a plume of plasma is retained in the energy storage device and switching system, none of which can be dowsed with water like you can do with a gun barrel.

Every 5 years or so since the seventies the rail gun has popped up as a candidate to replace the powder cannon of the day. Each time more of the hurdles identified in the last round are knocked down. But then new hurdles appear, often more complex than those dealt with and hidden by the earlier barriers.

And at the end of the day is the result worth the price? In WWI and WWII guns of prodigious range were developed but made no difference in the end. Mostly filling in for fighter bombers when the weather was crappy or the target too diffuse to be worth risking a pilot/aircraft.

In the early days (the 1970’s) of the rail gun its potential range and rate of fire appeared very attractive especially for Naval support gunfire. 100 miles and 10 rounds a minute of lethal kinetic punch were very much of interest to the amphibious forces. Since they were powered by electricity and fuel is relatively cheap + plentiful and the rounds compact, the ‘depth of magazine’ was fantastic. And all of this is still deeply interesting. But. In the end is this really what you need? In WWII through Desert Storm this capability set would have been game changing. Today? Maybe not.

The round designed (successfully) for the rail gun, can fit in any of our current 155mm class cannons. These guns with their 52 caliber barrels can punch the round out to 40 miles or more. The round is guided and has shown the ability to shoot down a cruise missile ! So it is as accurate as you like. It’s ‘shortfall’ in modern ops game theory is that it is a bit slow for shooting down ballistic missiles or reaching the outer theater to shoot down other high performance targets. But there are missiles that can do that and the attrition cost of a missile on that sort of target is worth it.

40 miles is not 100 miles, some targets are out of reach, you cannot stand off as far or reach in as far to destroy targets. But in reality is that an issue? If you think that you are going into amphibious war against hostile beaches maybe. But you have to assume that you can destroy the enemies area denial defenses (Because otherwise why worry about 100mile standoff?) so you can get the amphibious forces in close enough to get on and over the beach at acceptable cost. None of that appears realistic today. While some kind of Eurasian Fascist Empire and air tight anti strategic defenses might create an existential threat that triggered WWIII and the concomitant bloodbath this scenario is simply not on the table now or foreseeable in the next twenty years.

For now we have Taiwan and the South China Sea as the most likely battleground for near peer conflict. ——— OK no one ever really KNOWS what is coming next, the Med, the Baltic, maybe somewhere in Oceana might go south with zingers but none of those have the deep resources required to cause an existential threat or survive an attrition campaign long enough to make the rail gun a potential player——

To continue, while T and SCS are both in their way an argument for that extended range neither is going to be resolved in any way by one weapon. Neither are any other scenarios one might game other that EFE+ATSD above and that ain’t goin to happen (yet.)

So? Lasers…full speed ahead, look to the sky, 150kW on a fighter is a game changer. Rail guns…spend some money, let the Chinese trial their barge, see if they have solved the problems, they haven’t but what do I know? Hyper (or High) velocity smart munitions,…go, go, go power rangers !

Congressional Research Service Report on Lasers, Rail Guns and Hyper Velocity Rounds, via the US Naval Institute Proceedings website.

Modes of War

War in the western civilian mind has been debased and fetishized. And these ways of ‘seeing’ war limit our perspective on the reality.

Huh? You may say, what the heck does that mean? So let me expand:

War has been debased in the common vernacular by declaring war on the depression, then poverty, drugs now on inequality, racism, etc (mainly by progressives riffing on their First World War success .) Here the mental model of war is the turning of the states blunt tools of expropriation and exploitation to the ‘good’ of raising some group or suppressing some evil. The thing they overlook is that the tools are authoritarian and often counter productive, destroying on one end while delivering ‘something’ at the other. In the original meaning of war, (at least the good war of self protection, not war of aggression) the destruction on your end is acceptable since your expectation is that the ‘other’ will cause far greater damage if they win. But when used in this self targeted context you are essentially damaging/destroying something you do not value (for whatever reason) to provide some ‘good’ to another (for some other reason.)

And war has been fetishized in the minds of most by the recent American experience of essentially total battlefield domination and near bloodless success (those who bleed are mostly ‘the bad guys.’) This has been metastasized by military video games that while they make clear the messiness of the battlefield also make it glamorous and episodic. Exotic weapons and robotic precision make things look all very neat. But also there is our memory of WWI and WWII and Desert Storm and even the first months in Afghanistan and Iraq. Domination and victory, spoiled by purported lies and then stupidity of trying to change cultures we do not understand.

So war is debased to massive government intervention on one hand and on the other the fetishized ability to break the other’s toys and make them do what we want. But these views of war, government directed war, war with parades and victories and tragedies and stories we can tell each other’s, providing historians and anthropologists grist for their mills may be relics of the past in our globalized age.

What if war is no long any of that? Properly envisioned it was/is never something you turn on yourself. Seen clearly it is never something that you can predictably win. No war in the modern era been what governments tell their populace it is, nor are they what the memories of the participants remember them being.

Clausewitz is famous for ‘War is diplomacy carried on by other means,’ Sun Tzu pointed out that misdirection is the heart of war. What if real war today outside of the fratricidal, is non kinetic and never ending?

What are the modes of war today. Strategic, Cyber, Economic, Kinetic, Propaganda, Tactical, Commercial, Geographic, Genocide, Civil, Bio, Nuclear, Chemical, Political…

Huh? Some of these things are not like the other you say? And maybe you are right but I say that war has broken the bounds of the geographic/naval/aerial field of battle and has bled out into the world in general.

I will close with a thought…. What if an enemy realized that they could make use something as unexciting as a novel disease and modern media’s defining need for ‘bad news’ to terrify populations into ‘a crouch’ that would make political control easier. And by use of basic propaganda and twisted truths could make the politicians of their unsuspecting opponent break their own economy and even break down the social trust that is required in a modern open cultural polity.

The above does not require any particularly lethal bug, or any large scale distribution of battle plans. All the enemy needs is a leadership willing to make use of the ‘main chance’ and a cadre of workers willing to take direction. Nothing needs to be said, ever.

You do not win a war this way but you win a battle this way. Maybe you win several battles. Damage an enemies economy, damage their self confidence, maybe bring down their most effective leadership with some directed propaganda and a few tools.

Now maybe a more compliant government comes into power. You have been pushing on some geographic restrictions but have been held back by your adversaries strong leadership. With that leadership gone now you can push more heavily and gain some more ground.

Maybe your aggression causes more reaction and eventually the ridiculously erratic opponent once more selects a more trenchant government and puts the brakes on. But one more nibble has been taken, an enemy has been weakened a little bit. All that is required is time and constant purpose to win, and a nation with a multi thousand year history can take the long view.

The Virtues of Stubbornness: Mules at War

The Virtues of Stubbornness: Mules at War

20130323-183837.jpg
Lance Cpl. Tyler Langford, anti-tank missileman, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, leads his pack mule during a hike at Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center Bridgeport, Calif., Oct. 13, 2012. Langford used skills he learned in the Animal Packers Course, taught four times a year at MCMWTC. The 16-day course teaches Marines how to use animals in the region they find themselves in as a logistical tool to transport weapons, ammunition, food, supplies or wounded Marines through terrain that tactical vehicles cannot reach. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ali Azimi

Defense Media Network

Why DARPA has been working BigDog and other legged support robots, problem is that robots don’t eat grass, and can’t be grown on a farm.

Ike

Eisenhower National Historic Site

Ike and the Generals
By Evan Thomas Published December 16, 2012FoxNews.com

I like Ike more every time I read about him, I seems to me that he may well be the most under rated president of the modern era.  Many will say that he’s remembered for his glory in WWII and that this has covered up the fact that he was past it when it came time to be president and just yucked and golfed his way through eight years with no real threats.  And yet its was this period in the 50’s that was probably the most risky insofar as the chances of nuclear war went, because of Soviet Military Weakness and US Military Arrogance.  Evan Thomas’ argument is that Ike bluffed both sides into quiescence by essentially posing an all or nothing threat over everyone’s head.

Warning, my interpretation of what I’ve read in the above article and elsewhere:  Why would he have had to hold something over the head of his own generals?  Because they had developed their own power base (military industrial complex, remember) and were if not out of control, then out to control the narrative regarding the Red menace and the solution to said menace.  Ike realized that he did not have enough direct control over his generals to stop an accidental or ‘accidental’ escalation from taking place.  So he put forth a strategy of massive retaliation and pulled US forces back to positions where they were not in direct confrontation.  He then supported the technology that would give the president the best and most immediate information about the enemies capabilities and to some extent intentions (spy planes, spy satellites, the NSA etc) so he and future presidents would have the tools to keep the generals flights of fancy (missile gap, bomber gap, etc) in check.   He also started the process of professionalization of the nuclear triad that essentially created a grand strategy / strategic viewpoint that made it harder for high-octane hot heads like Le May etc to become threats to peace and human survival.

Ship to Shore Connector… Landing Craft Air Cushion, only the Gov’t could make something this cool boooring

 These are the final stage of the powerful conveyor that is the Navy’s Gator Fleet, the numerous, rather ugly, remarkably capable ships that carry the Marines to the far ends of the world and deliver them on the beach when needed.  While this fleet has been mainly a humanitarian instrument for many years now it is one of the principal reasons for the US Navy to be as big and capable as it is.  The US Navy has many tasks the most obvious ones are to keep the sea lanes open for merchant traffic.  While air freight is important these days it is the vast cargo ships carrying oil, ore, containers, and vehicles that really undergird the world merchant economy.  The US Navy also provides our most secure strategic weapon the strategic missile submarine.  The US Navy and the Marines hold at risk every trouble maker with a maritime coast, providing the implicit or explicit threat that major combat boots (and tracks) can be on their ground if they provide the right (or is that wrong) stimulus.

The North American XF-108 Rapier | Defense Media Network

NorthAmerican XF108 Rapier

It was going to be the biggest, fastest and most heavily armed fighter in the air. The North American F-108 Rapier, designed in response to a U.S. Air Force preliminary study of Oct.

via The North American XF-108 Rapier | Defense Media Network.

This aircraft like many others died as the threat the Soviet Union represented became better understood.  But the technology for this fighter went on, the missile and radar were the basis of the F14 Tomcat’s Phoenix fleet defense system, stil an amazing system even though the system, utterly compromised by the Iranian’s who had bought the system during the Shah’s reign, was rapidly retired as soon as the AMRAAM and newer airborn phased aray radars became available. 

Tomcat on patrol

Tomcat on patrol

The Tomcat is in my opinion one of the iconic fighters of the twentieth century along with the F4 Phantom, the F86 Sabre, P51 and Spitfire…and no I’ve never found the fighters of WWI or pre WWII particularly attractive…though the Beechcraft Staggerwing is probably the most beautiful aircraft ever built.

Beechcraft Staggerwing in Flight taken in 2005

Beechcraft Staggerwing in Flight taken in 2005

Things to Think About Before Israel Attacks Iran | Defense Media Network

An excelent piece by Larry Bond wargame Designer and author :

For several years, Israel has publicly and explicitly stated that if Iran attempts to develop a nuclear weapon, Israel will attack to prevent the program from succeeding or to destroy Iran’s nuclear capability. This is the most important security threat of the new century.

via Things to Think About Before Israel Attacks Iran | Defense Media Network.

Iran-3 tidbits and some commentary…

Iran, a troubling country, as Persia it dominated troublemaking for the Hellenes and the Romans, though Alexander the Great among other Hellenes ground it down a couple of times. That piece of the world has a long history and has a right to be proud and annoyed when abused which it has been but at the end of the day it is a small backwater that could and should be able to grow to regain much of its glory in the new world but as with most other islamic dominated countries it seems to be unable to slip the bonds of a mindset that is more focused on the past and in some ways on revenge, than on the future and finding ways to let the past lay.

An update on the loss of the Beast of Kandahar (RQ-170 Stealth Drone)

December 21, 2011: On December 8th Iran displayed what appeared to be an American RQ-170 jet powered UAV, which they claimed had landed intact in Iran two weeks earlier. Iran claimed they had hijacked the control signals for the RQ-170 and landed it themselves. This seemed highly unlikely but not impossible. Experts on Iranian military immediately suspected something else. First, the Iranians are constantly lying about their military exploits, especially when it comes to developing new weapons and technology. This is apparently done mainly for propaganda as satellite photos never show more than a few prototypes of these wonder-weapons. Then many Americans familiar with the RQ-170 carefully studied the pictures of the “captured” RQ-170 and immediately suspected something was off. For one thing, the RQ-170 shown was the right size and shape but the wrong color. Not just a different color from that seen on many photos of the RQ-170s in Afghanistan but also a color unknown in American military service. A closer examination of the Iranian RQ-170 photos indicated that the Iranians had reassembled an RQ-170 that had crashed and broken into three or more pieces. Then the Iranians apparently gave the UAV a new paint job (which was obvious to anyone seeing those photos.)

This is another piece about Iran, and its road to hell

Iran is turning into more of a military than a religious dictatorship. That was made clear when a government official revealed that half of government employees now belong to the Basij (the reservist organization of the Revolutionary Guard, the separate armed forces of the clerics running the government) . This was deliberate. Since the late 1990s the Basij has been establishing units in schools for children of all ages. Using games, toys, and popular children’s activities the kids are indoctrinated into Basij ideology (radical Islam, including the joys of being a suicide bomber). The Basij recruiters have found that their best prospects are from poor or broken families (including orphans). This was the Nazi and Soviet experience. The Romanian communist government did best at this with their secret police (the Securitati) forming much feared units of these orphans. Recruits were selected young and raised to be remorseless and savage operatives. Called “young wolves”, these operatives could be depended on to do anything for the cause. Iran is always looking for plain clothes agents who can terrorize reform minded students and civilians in general. In the last few years, more and more of these Basij operatives, now adults, have been leading the fight against reform minded Iranians, or overseas as agents of Quds. Since Basij is largely a part-time operation many members have a full time government job.

Obama Moves Toward War With Iran

In a recent interview with CBS news anchor Scott Pelley, Panetta said “the United States does not want Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. That’s a red line for us”. He continued: “We will take whatever steps are necessary to stop them”. A nuclear Iran is “unacceptable”.  When US secretaries talk about “whatever steps are necessary” they are not usually talking about holding one more meeting of the sanctions committee.  They are thinking shock and awe rather than cookies and tea.

Panetta said the Iranians could have a bomb in a year or less; we’ve heard this before. The point is, Washington doesn’t believe the mullahs have stopped building. Unless that changes, the Obama administration is headed toward war with Iran, quite possibly before November of 2012.

OK, I don’t know if I agree with Dr. Meade, I’ve argued more from impression than anything else that there is no appetite in the world for an Iranian war.   But in fact the Saudi’s and the other Gulf Arabs want the suckers taken down before they get nukes.  There is also a lot to be said for the fact that until Iran is put back on a reasonable path Iraq is unlikely to remain stable.  Also the Iranians are the backers of the main troublemakers in Syria and around Israel.  An argument could be made that Iran was always a worse problem that Iraq but that taking out Iraq was easier and it was hoped would make Iran behave itself.  Taking Iraq also took down a potential flanking enemy.  Now with major forces in Afghanistan on one side of Iran and our naval forces on the other there is at least some military realism to taking Iran down.

  • Israel has nukes
  • Pakistan has nukes and is perhaps as likely to proliferate as Iran
  • NK has nukes and is a worse proliferator than anyone else
  • Syria tried to get nukes
  • Libia tried to get nukes
  • Any marginally competent state with an industrial sector can ‘do nukes’ if they get the materials.
  • Would going in and blowing up the Iranian Nuclear program solve anything? ( And I do mean going in, I do not see any way of avoiding putting troops, probably a lot, on the ground to make sure those facilities are blown to dust.) Does this stop proliferation in its tracks or is it a slippery slope? 
  • Pakistan, NK, Iran, Isreal, Syria, Lybia….Each case utterly different and circumstances do matter, hard lines in the sand are rarely possible to draw and live with. 
  • But will others see the take down of Iran (if it happened) as a sign not to go nuclear or as a sign that they should press forward as quickly and quietly as possible.
  • We would have to establish the Obama Doctrine, “we will take down anyone who is going for nuclear weapons”   Could we make it stick?

Then of course there all the mysterious ‘accidents’ occurring in Iran, is there a covert war going on already?  I am not convinced but I have to say that it seems highly possible.  If so the Iranians aren’t doing well.  The thing that stops me being convinced is that the Iranians aren’t squealing about it and or going all out for retaliatory strikes (see the article above on militarization of Iranian gov’t.) Now its possible that with the tracking tools we have now and in some ways a fairly fine mesh filter for folks coming out of that part of the world we have been able to stop anything, and maybe I hope that’s true.  

To be honest I would almost rather its just the Iranian’s paying the price for turning away from technical competency for some (invisible to me) religious gain, our spooks being that efficient puts one in mind of all sorts of conspiracy theories.