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Author Topic: Navy Seeks Rail Guns, Lasers, Cruise Missiles To Improve Pacific Firepower  (Read 67365 times)

Offline Triton

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"Navy Seeks Rail Guns, Lasers, Cruise Missiles To Improve Pacific Firepower"
By Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.   on January 20, 2014 at 9:22 PM

Source:
http://breakingdefense.com/2014/01/navy-seeks-rail-guns-lasers-cruise-missiles-to-improve-pacific-firepower/

Quote
CRYSTAL CITY: “I’ve never wanted to enter any tactical scenario where all I had is a defensive capability. It’s a losing proposition,” said the chief of Pacific Command, Adm. Samuel Locklear. “You will defend yourself until you’re dead.”

That was the PACOM commander’s blunt and public response when I asked him about the chronic imbalance between the offensive and defensive capabilities of the Navy’s surface warships: its cruisers, destroyers, frigates, and controversial new Littoral Combat Ships. Other admirals had angsted over the issue at last week’s annual conference of the Surface Navy Association here, but it’s no coincidence the man who’d have to command any war with China was the bluntest.

The Navy’s has a three-step plan to boost firepower:

    In the short term, revive the long-range skip-killing capability it lost when it phased out the 600 -mile-range Tomahawk Anti-Ship Missile (TASM) years ago.
    In the mid term, free up missile launchers for offensive use by replacing defensive missiles — each of which can be used against incoming enemy aircraft or missiles just once — with lasers that can keep firing as long as the ship’s generators turn.
    In the long term, equip ships with electromagnetic rail guns that can launch solid metal slugs at targets over the horizon at seven times the speed of sound.

“With respect to lasers, we’re talking more about defense,” said Rear Adm. Thomas Rowden, director of surface warfare for the Chief of Naval Operations (staff section N96), when I pulled him aside at the conference. “On the offensive side of the house, we have the electromagnetic rail gun.” Both will be able to fire far more times than any set of missile launchers; the laser will, in theory, hit incoming missiles at literally the speed of light; and the rail gun can fire projectiles at the enemy at velocities no missile can match.

“If you’re getting Mach 7,” Rowden told me, “speed is a difficult thing to defend against.”

That said, rail guns will complement long-range missiles, not replace them: While the rail gun shot would be harder to dodge, the missile can go much farther.

“We’ll have to see what kind of range we’re going to get out of the railgun,” Rowden said. So, I asked, would it ever be comparable to a Tomahawk cruise missile? The admiral laughed out loud. “No! I think it’d be Mach 40 or something like that to get the kind of range.” Rail gun tests to date have suggested they could hit targets up to 125 miles away.

All these weapons, of course, are in the near future. The triple-threat solution is still very much a work in progress, with all three prongs of the Navy’s new trident still in development:

    The Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM), though a derivative of a proven Air Force weapon, is still in testing, with contractor Lockheed Martin putting up $30 million of its own money to bridge a funding gap. “Our lack of urgency on development of the next generation of surface-launched, over-the-horizon cruise missiles is troubling,” Locklear told the conference.
    The first prototype defense laser will deploy this summer to the Persian Gulf for tests in real conditions. But this baby-steps ray gun is only strong enough to shoot down relatively slow-moving drones, not supersonic anti-ship missiles. Even future high-powered lasers will remain relatively short-ranged defensive weapons, unable to fire at targets over the horizon and out of line of sight.
    Finally, the Navy’s rail gun has managed some dramatic tests on land, but the weapon’s raw power wears out components — especially the barrel — at an impractical rate. Even when (or if) the Navy gets a rail gun it can fit on ships, only three vessels currently in service or on contract can generate enough electricity to fire one, specifically the three DDG-1000 Zumwalt-class destroyers.

Meanwhile potential adversaries have invested in ever more weapons designed to sink our ships, the most recent example being China’s test of a prototype “hypersonic” missile. (Hypersonic means at least five times the speed of sound).

“That particular test doesn’t bother me,” Locklear told the conference. “[But] this isn’t just about China…..A lot of nations are pursuing hypersonics,” he said, and whoever develops it, “it’s going to get sold.”

Even with current technology, US Navy warships are “out-sticked” by their Chinese counterparts: Their anti-ship missiles have longer range (diagram attached), so they can hit us at distances where we can’t hit back.

Modern warfare is about much more than ships (or tanks, or planes) trading shots with their equal and opposite counterparts on the other side, of course. Today’s weapons range from torpedoes to computer viruses, and they can be launched by platforms ranging from airplanes to the NSA headquarters at Fort Meade, Maryland. Even if you specifically want to sink an enemy ship with an anti-ship missile, you don’t need your own ship to do it: You can use submarines, aircraft, or launchers ashore. Most Iranian and Chinese anti-ship missile launchers live on dry land.

That said, surface ships can sail far from their homeland to threaten targets a shore-based weapon cannot reach, and they can carry far more missiles than an aircraft or even a submarine. So sinking enemy ships is something the US Navy still needs to be able to do. The problem is that its main tool to do so, in the absence of a long-range cruise missile, is the disco-vintage Harpoon, a missile that entered service in 1977 and whose maximum range is roughly 75 miles.

“People pooh-pooh that Harpoon weapon system,” Rear Adm. Rowden told me. “I think that is a gross underestimation of that weapon.” That said, he went on, the Navy’s working hard “to ensure that we have those long range missiles [to fight for] sea control.”

The Harpoon can be fired from either the Navy’s mainstay F-18 fighter-bombers or from shipboard launchers, but the Navy has removed Harpoon systems from its frigates and never even installed them on its newer destroyers. In fact, the mainstay of the surface navy, the DDG-51 Arleigh Burke, was designed from the beginning not to attack the enemy but to defend the rest of the fleet, especially the aircraft carriers, with a radar and missile system called “Aegis,” after the goddess Athena’s shield. In recent years, Aegis has taken on a new defensive role in ballistic missile defense of cities and bases ashore.

That’s all useful, even essential, but we can no longer assume that no other navy will challenge us with its ships. “We need to think about what is surface warfare’s role in other than defensive operations,” Locklear said, “[and] pay more particular attention to the ability to show up on the scene and be lethal and be dominant.”

“This has been an issue for my entire career,” said Vice Adm. Thomas Copeman, commander of naval surface forces, speaking at the same conference. “We need to improve the offensive lethality of the entire surface force,” he said, “[and] free up more space in the missile launchers for offensive weapons.”

Offline Moose

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Re: Navy Seeks Rail Guns, Lasers, Cruise Missiles To Improve Pacific Firepower
« Reply #1 on: December 31, 2014, 04:41:42 pm »
Oh the luddites are going to be sore when the sea testing starts. But its going to be fun to watch.

Offline TomS

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Have they solved the rail erosion issue yet?  I imagine a series of graduated armatures, each slightly larger than the last, as in the Paris Guns.  But that would be impractical to say the least.

Offline fredymac

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Have they solved the rail erosion issue yet?  I imagine a series of graduated armatures, each slightly larger than the last, as in the Paris Guns.  But that would be impractical to say the least.

They are in fact addressing this specific issue.  At 1:00 mark the spokesman talks about barrel erosion.




Offline Moose

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Have they solved the rail erosion issue yet? 
No one has found a magic bullet, pardon the pun, for the issue but word out of the program has been that the rail life is increasing at an acceptable rate as they iterate. Their goal is a rail life around 3000 rounds for the first generation operational weapon.

Offline DSE

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Offline TomS

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Have they solved the rail erosion issue yet? 
No one has found a magic bullet, pardon the pun, for the issue but word out of the program has been that the rail life is increasing at an acceptable rate as they iterate. Their goal is a rail life around 3000 rounds for the first generation operational weapon.

I supposed 3,000 rounds would be reasonable -- about the same as the effective full-charge life of the old 5-inch Mark 42 gun (and about half that of the Mk 45).  I wonder if a rail change on a gun like this would be similar in scope to a liner change on a conventional gun.

Offline pathology_doc

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The issue with the lasers is going to be engagement time and range. It doesn't matter that your laser can keep firing indefinitely if it can't destroy its targets fast enough to scythe them all down before the last one hits; you're better off having a gun-based CIWS with a significantly enlarged magazine. Where the laser will gain time is in not having to allow for lead or drift, and in the effectively zero dead time between pulling the trigger and the energy starting to arrive on target. The big question is whether it will LOSE more time dumping sufficient wattage into the target to destroy it. Start putting ablative armour geared against lasers on the larger, faster missiles (especially if you know what the wavelength and energy delivery pattern are) and you risk a situation where the laser can't pump enough energy into enough missiles quickly enough to destroy them all, yet a 30mm DU round or small calibre railgun shot might punch straight through that ablative armour and wreck something critical, or produce sufficient airframe contour distortion that the missile's own speed does the rest.


In short, I think there's going to be an opening for ballistic defences for some significant time into the future.


The US Navy's air-defence ships have hitherto been able to concentrate on a defensive load-out because the air groups of the carriers were the offensive arm. This meant that the surface-to-surface capability of the Western navies was allowed to atrophy. The Soviets (and consequently their clients, and others as they became more sophisticated) did not until recently have - or decided they could never afford - significant carrier forces of their own (India is probably the only exception over the years, having operated the Vikrant since forever and more recently the Viraat), while the Soviets knew they could probably not always rely on their naval aviation component, and that was probably the spur to develop bigger, better and faster SSMs.

Offline bobbymike

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Offline Triton

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Re: Navy Seeks Rail Guns, Lasers, Cruise Missiles To Improve Pacific Firepower
« Reply #9 on: February 05, 2015, 01:55:36 pm »
My best guess for a topic to post this article, but your mileage may vary. I will defer to a Moderator if you consider it to be in the wrong place.  :)

"Navy Considering Railgun for Third Zumwalt Destroyer"
By: Sam LaGrone
February 5, 2015 4:13 PM

Quote
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Engineering studies to include an electromagnetic railgun on a Zumwalt-class destroyer (DDG-1000) have started at Naval Sea Systems Command, NAVSEA’s head said Thursday.

The work will do the math to determine if the Zumwalt-class will have the space, power and cooling to field a railgun – likely replacing one of the two 155mm BAE Advanced Gun Systems (AGS) ahead of the ship’s deck house, Vice Adm. William Hilarides told USNI News following remarks at the Office of Naval Research Naval Future Force Science and Technology Expo.

“We have begun real studies – as opposed to just a bunch of guys sitting around – real engineering studies are being done to make sure it’s possible,” Vice Adm. William Hilarides said following remarks at

The likely candidate for the weapon would be the third planned Zumwalt, Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG-1002) currently under construction at General Dynamics Bath Iron Works (BIW) with an expected delivery date of 2018.

He said the first two ships – Zumwalt (DDG-1000) and Michael Monsoor (DDG-1001) – would be less likely to field the capability initially due to the schedule of testing with the new class.

“The team is working diligently now but it would not happen until after delivery of the ships – probably the third ship is where we’d have it,” Hilarides said.
“That would certainly be my recommendation.”

The Navy is in early stages of testing and fielding a railgun – which forgoes the gunpowder in the shells of conventional naval guns and instead uses high powered electromagnetic pulses along a set of rails to shoot a projectile at super sonic speeds.

The Navy plans to test a BAE Systems prototype railgun onboard the Joint High Speed Vessel USNS Millinocket (JHSV- 3) next year.

Last year, then Navy director of surface warfare now commander of U.S. Surface Forces Command, Vice Adm. Thomas Rowden told USNI News the Zumwalts would be likely used as test beds for emerging technologies like railguns and directed energy weapons the Navy wants for its next large surface combatant due to the ship’s size an ability to generate power.

The integrated power system (IPS) on the 16,000-ton ships– powered by two massive Rolls Royce MT-30 gas turbines and two smaller Rolls-Royce RR450– allow the ships to route and generate 80 mega-watt power – much more electrical power than the current crop of U.S. destroyers and cruisers.

On Wednesday, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert said a Zumwalt would likely be the first ship to get the capability.

The inclusion of the railgun does mean a capabilities trade for the ship.

"We’ll go do the studies and I suspect they’ll say ‘yes,’ but it’s going to come at a cost of some of the capabilities on this ship – of course,” Hilarides said.

“It’s physics. Without taking something off, you’re not putting on a many ton system, so a gun would be a logical thing to take off and put the railgun in its place.”

The three ship Zumwalt-class were – in part – originally designed to address a gap in naval surface fire support with the AGS firing the Long-Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP) at a range of up to 75 nautical miles.

Each ship is designed to field two AGS.

Zumwalt is expected to deliver to the service next year.

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Offline bobbymike

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Re: Navy Seeks Rail Guns, Lasers, Cruise Missiles To Improve Pacific Firepower
« Reply #13 on: February 09, 2015, 02:17:30 pm »
http://video.lauraingraham.com/US-Navy-railgun-makes-public-debut-28510059

Video of weapon not new although I haven't seen the footage of the projectile going through several steel plates before, some new commentary, however.
« Last Edit: May 04, 2015, 06:04:58 pm by bobbymike »
Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.

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Offline bobbymike

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Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.

Charles W. Eliot