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Several Arsenal ship concepts

Grey Havoc

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An old, but still interesting article by Norman Friedman (from December 2001), which mentions the Arsenal ship, and the Striker concept in particular: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb3031/is_6_25/ai_n28887307/?tag=mantle_skin;content

And here's an older report on a (apparently short-lived) plan for using the DDG-51 hull as a basis for the Arsenal ship: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_6712/is_n15_v198/ai_n28664605/?tag=content;col1
 

Grey Havoc

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Triton said:
I thought that this report from the Rand Corporation was interesting.

The Arsenal Ship Acquisition Process Experience by Robert S Leonard et al., RAND NATIONAL DEFENSE RESEARCH INST SANTA MONICA CA (Jan 1999)

The Arsenal Ship acquisition program was unique in two respects: it represented a new operational concept for Navy ships, and its management structure and process were different from traditional military ship-building programs. The Arsenal Ship program was, in effect, an experiment in both product and process. Three specific goals of the program were outlined at its inception: demonstrate the capability affordably; leverage commercial practices and technologies; and, demonstrate the reformed acquisition process. This research focuses on the program's acquisition strategy.
Handle / proxy Url: http://handle.dtic.mil/100.2/ADA365150
Here's the updated link: http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a365150.pdf
 

sferrin

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Grey Havoc said:
sferrin said:
Grey Havoc said:
Not necessarily. SSGNs are not by definition readily expendable, and they have a much smaller loadout (with less options) than an arsenal ship design would.
You think an Arsenal Ship loaded up with more cells than an SSGN would be "readily expendable"? Good one. ;D
Yes, I do, especially with regards as to the crew.
You seem to be forgetting the cost of the munitions. You might want to do that math before declaring them "readily expendable". BTW I'm sure the crew would appreciate your thinking them "readily expendable" as well.
 

Grey Havoc

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sferrin said:
BTW I'm sure the crew would appreciate your thinking them "readily expendable" as well.
Not only was there a small crew, the idea was that they would be evacuated from the ship in high threat areas or when the ship was about to enter combat, leaving it under a combination of local computer and remote control. The basic concept behind the arsenal ship was that it would be a large, remote controlled floating mobile magazine with a wide range of weaponry, that would receive targeting information and the like from offboard sources, and which could be expended without a second thought.

The fact that it wouldn't require all the expensive equipment, such as a full radar suite, that a real warship would need, not to mention that there would be no need to build the hull to full naval standards, would have saved quite a lot of money.
 

TomS

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The problem with regarding an ArShip as expendable is that each one would be carrying a significant portion of all the expendable land-attack weapons in the USN inventory (they'd have pretty much had to strip the surface fleet of cruise missiles to load them). Kill one and you kill maybe a third of the USN's land-attack missile potential in any given theater. If built, they would have been extremely high-value units.
 

sferrin

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Grey Havoc said:
sferrin said:
BTW I'm sure the crew would appreciate your thinking them "readily expendable" as well.
Not only was there a small crew, the idea was that they would be evacuated from the ship in high threat areas or when the ship was about to enter combat, leaving it under a combination of local computer and remote control. The basic concept behind the arsenal ship was that it would be a large, remote controlled floating mobile magazine with a wide range of weaponry, that would receive targeting information and the like from offboard sources, and which could be expended without a second thought.

The fact that it wouldn't require all the expensive equipment, such as a full radar suite, that a real warship would need, not to mention that there would be no need to build the hull to full naval standards, would have saved quite a lot of money.
The problem is while saving money by getting rid of certain things the savings are offset by the cost of the much larger munition loadout on what is essentially a sitting duck.
 

blackstar

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Grey Havoc said:
blackstar, by any chance was the author of this one of those who took part in the industry day you were at, do you remember?
In all honesty, I really don't remember that much about the meeting, except that it was sometime relatively early in the discussion of the Arsenal Ship. This was Admiral Boorda's pet project and he committed suicide in May 1996, so I'm guessing that it was in fall 1995 or so.

I do remember the meeting being big--hundreds of people in a big hotel conference room--and it had very little information about the ship requirements. Mostly it was a typical Washington paperwork exercise whereby the Navy was defining who was allowed to compete for the initial contracts, what their schedules were, etc. I assume that the way this works is that they tell the contractors how to be eligible to actually receive the requirements, which are probably classified or at least restricted in some way. You have no idea how boring something like that can be, which is probably why I remember little. I do remember concluding that the plan would not survive Boorda's term as CNO, and that was absolutely true.
 

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TomS said:
The problem with regarding an ArShip as expendable is that each one would be carrying a significant portion of all the expendable land-attack weapons in the USN inventory (they'd have pretty much had to strip the surface fleet of cruise missiles to load them). Kill one and you kill maybe a third of the USN's land-attack missile potential in any given theater. If built, they would have been extremely high-value units.
Maybe somebody can provide the numbers, but I believe that although the total number of Tomahawks in service in 1995 was classified, the number was reported to be approximately 2000 (give or take a few hundred). A single Arsenal Ship was supposed to carry something like up to 1700 of these. There was some give and take to that number, because they were talking about equipping it with MLRS rockets for some of the vertical tubes and not simply Tomahawks. I always scratched my head at that, because why would you build a big ship with long-range weapons and then also equip it with shorter-range weapons that would require you to bring it closer in to shore?

Anyway, no matter how "cheap" the ship, you still had to substantially increase weapons production to arm it. Either that or you took most of the Tomahawks off of the other ships in the fleet. Nobody liked that idea. And all of this happened when the Navy was already scrapping a lot of ships (1960s-era cruisers and destroyers) and on the way to decommissioning a bunch more (the Spruances).

But the Arsenal Ship was the pet project of the Chief of Naval Operations at the time. He was a surface ship Navy guy and he wanted a 21st century battleship. Like all hierarchies, when the guy in charge comes up with an idea, lots of people run around trying to make it work, even if they think it is totally stupid. Then, when he leaves, the idea is quickly forgotten. Boorda pushed this, then he tragically committed suicide, and the Arsenal Ship idea was quickly forgotten.
 

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sferrin said:
Grey Havoc said:
sferrin said:
BTW I'm sure the crew would appreciate your thinking them "readily expendable" as well.
Not only was there a small crew, the idea was that they would be evacuated from the ship in high threat areas or when the ship was about to enter combat, leaving it under a combination of local computer and remote control. The basic concept behind the arsenal ship was that it would be a large, remote controlled floating mobile magazine with a wide range of weaponry, that would receive targeting information and the like from offboard sources, and which could be expended without a second thought.

The fact that it wouldn't require all the expensive equipment, such as a full radar suite, that a real warship would need, not to mention that there would be no need to build the hull to full naval standards, would have saved quite a lot of money.
The problem is while saving money by getting rid of certain things the savings are offset by the cost of the much larger munition loadout on what is essentially a sitting duck.
I like the arsenal ship for SOLIC scenarios. If you had a single ship a couple hundred miles offshore (or less) how many unfriendly nations in the world could threaten that ship, very few.

You could have Delta's or SEAL's and a single ship able to dominate most of the world's littorals. Add to that a single Amphibious Carrier with a few F-35B's, CV-22 and maybe a LO air insertion platforms or LO helicpoters like in the Bin Laden raid and you would have air superiority as well over most nations of the world.

Most importantly at a cost of two ships, a thousand sailors and a couple dozen SPECWAR troopers with laser designators you could target most "small war" threats at a pretty low cost to the overall force strucutre IMHO.
 

TomS

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blackstar said:
Maybe somebody can provide the numbers, but I believe that although the total number of Tomahawks in service in 1995 was classified, the number was reported to be approximately 2000 (give or take a few hundred). A single Arsenal Ship was supposed to carry something like up to 1700 of these. There was some give and take to that number, because they were talking about equipping it with MLRS rockets for some of the vertical tubes and not simply Tomahawks. I always scratched my head at that, because why would you build a big ship with long-range weapons and then also equip it with shorter-range weapons that would require you to bring it closer in to shore?
The official inventory has always been classified, but the Navy has posted Congressional Research Service reports citing press reports for an inventory of around 3,000 TLAMs (all blocks) in 1999. Some unspecified fraction of those would be submarine-launch versions.

http://www.history.navy.mil/library/online/cruise%20missile%20inventory.htm

ArShips were projected to have around 500 VLS cells each. Now, some of those would presumably have held Standards or other surface-to-air missiles (for use by AEGIS ships via Cooperative Engagement Capability) and some might have had new missiles like Land-Attack Standard Missile, Advanced Land Attack Missile and/or NTACMS, assuming any of those were ever bought. But yeah, we'd be looking at at least 250 TLAMs per ship, times six ships forward-deployed, which is about 1,500 TLAMS or half of the total inventory.
 

blackstar

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bobbymike said:
I like the arsenal ship for SOLIC scenarios. If you had a single ship a couple hundred miles offshore (or less) how many unfriendly nations in the world could threaten that ship, very few.
A sub does the same thing, with the additional benefit that nobody even knows if it is out there. It could be anywhere.
 

blackstar

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TomS said:
The official inventory has always been classified, but the Navy has posted Congressional Research Service reports citing press reports for an inventory of around 3,000 TLAMs (all blocks) in 1999. Some unspecified fraction of those would be submarine-launch versions.

http://www.history.navy.mil/library/online/cruise%20missile%20inventory.htm

ArShips were projected to have around 500 VLS cells each. Now, some of those would presumably have held Standards or other surface-to-air missiles (for use by AEGIS ships via Cooperative Engagement Capability) and some might have had new missiles like Land-Attack Standard Missile, Advanced Land Attack Missile and/or NTACMS, assuming any of those were ever bought. But yeah, we'd be looking at at least 250 TLAMs per ship, times six ships forward-deployed, which is about 1,500 TLAMS or half of the total inventory.
Thanks for the numbers. I believe that in the early 1990s the rumored number was something like 2500, with a few hundred expended during the Gulf War in 1991. The question was how quickly had they been replaced. Getting close to 3000 by 1999 is reasonable if you assume a build rate of 100+ per year.

But I was way off about how many the Arsenal Ship would carry. I thought it was well over 1000, not ~500.
 

F-14D

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blackstar said:
bobbymike said:
I like the arsenal ship for SOLIC scenarios. If you had a single ship a couple hundred miles offshore (or less) how many unfriendly nations in the world could threaten that ship, very few.
A sub does the same thing, with the additional benefit that nobody even knows if it is out there. It could be anywhere.
Which was exactly the rationale for the conversion of the first 4 Ohios to SSGNs. Unfortunately, the Administration does not to be even considering planning for what will replace them in the next decade.
 

F-14D

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bobbymike said:
sferrin said:
Grey Havoc said:
sferrin said:
BTW I'm sure the crew would appreciate your thinking them "readily expendable" as well.
Not only was there a small crew, the idea was that they would be evacuated from the ship in high threat areas or when the ship was about to enter combat, leaving it under a combination of local computer and remote control. The basic concept behind the arsenal ship was that it would be a large, remote controlled floating mobile magazine with a wide range of weaponry, that would receive targeting information and the like from offboard sources, and which could be expended without a second thought.

The fact that it wouldn't require all the expensive equipment, such as a full radar suite, that a real warship would need, not to mention that there would be no need to build the hull to full naval standards, would have saved quite a lot of money.
The problem is while saving money by getting rid of certain things the savings are offset by the cost of the much larger munition loadout on what is essentially a sitting duck.
I like the arsenal ship for SOLIC scenarios. If you had a single ship a couple hundred miles offshore (or less) how many unfriendly nations in the world could threaten that ship, very few.

You could have Delta's or SEAL's and a single ship able to dominate most of the world's littorals. Add to that a single Amphibious Carrier with a few F-35B's, CV-22 and maybe a LO air insertion platforms or LO helicpoters like in the Bin Laden raid and you would have air superiority as well over most nations of the world.

Most importantly at a cost of two ships, a thousand sailors and a couple dozen SPECWAR troopers with laser designators you could target most "small war" threats at a pretty low cost to the overall force strucutre IMHO.
The problem relates to what TomS and sferrin are referrring to. You would have essentially a motorized barge that would be an extremely high value target. Unlike a battlehsip, it was not designed to actually face combat and was extremely vulnerable. You'd still have to have sensors from somewhere, and additionally would have to assign expensive assets to protect it.

As far as the question of how many unfriendly nations could threaten that ship a couple hundred miles offshore or less goes, unless you're willing to assign those expensive assets to protect it, the answer is any nation with some aircraft that have a radius of a couple hundred miles or less or any kind of operational submarine.

Hmmm, wonder whether we'd be willing to pay ransom to Somali pirates to get one back. ..
 

Grey Havoc

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F-14D said:
blackstar said:
A sub does the same thing, with the additional benefit that nobody even knows if it is out there. It could be anywhere.
Which was exactly the rationale for the conversion of the first 4 Ohios to SSGNs. Unfortunately, the Administration does not to be even considering planning for what will replace them in the next decade.
Given the cost of SSGNs, and the fact that USN carrier groups (not to mention the Carrier Mafia!) don't nearly have the teeth they used to, I'd say we'll be seeing the rebirth of the Arsenal ship, or something like it, sooner rather than later.


F-14D said:
The problem relates to what TomS and sferrin are referring to. You would have essentially a motorized barge that would be an extremely high value target. Unlike a battleship, it was not designed to actually face combat and was extremely vulnerable. You'd still have to have sensors from somewhere, and additionally would have to assign expensive assets to protect it.

As far as the question of how many unfriendly nations could threaten that ship a couple hundred miles offshore or less goes, unless you're willing to assign those expensive assets to protect it, the answer is any nation with some aircraft that have a radius of a couple hundred miles or less or any kind of operational submarine.

Hmmm, wonder whether we'd be willing to pay ransom to Somali pirates to get one back. ..
I'd disagree with you there. An arsenal ship only really needs to survive long enough to get off her weapons. For that, a reduced signature and a certain amount of passive protection (including armor and limited damage containment measures), some automated damage control systems such as a few well placed pumps, and a basic enough ECM suite would probably more than suffice. It wouldn't need dedicated escorts (even on those rare occasions where it would be operating independently of a task force or battle group).

And even when operating independently, the sensor information problem may not be as bad as you think, what with the wide range of sensor platforms currently available (although, arguably not as wide as two, or even one decade ago), even leaving out the organic sensors of the control ship.

As for intrusion countermeasures, well, apart from the obvious security sensors and barriers, bobby traps such as sensor/remote triggered claymores and steam jets, maybe together with a few RWSs in strategic locations, would take care of most intruders, I would think.


To turn around something F-14D said, unlike a battleship, an arsenal ship was not necessarily designed to actually survive combat.
 

blackstar

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F-14D said:
Which was exactly the rationale for the conversion of the first 4 Ohios to SSGNs. Unfortunately, the Administration does not to be even considering planning for what will replace them in the next decade.
I always thought it was a dumb argument anyways. I don't think there was ever a shortage of platforms that could launch cruise missiles, and never a requirement to launch so many of them that it required a special platform rather than, say, 2-4 destroyers, cruisers and subs (total), which can always be moved anywhere they're needed when tensions increase.

The SSGN's were also justified in terms of their ability to launch special operations forces (SEALs). That always seemed dubious to me, because it requires bringing a very large submarine into littoral waters that it was never designed to operate in. But some of the sub guys I talked to said it was valid, so what do I know? I always thought that the SSGN mission was more about the Navy being unwilling to scrap some expensive boats with useful life in them just because some treaty told them to.
 

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Whoops, I just realised I left out part of my last post.

blackstar said:
In all honesty, I really don't remember that much about the meeting, except that it was sometime relatively early in the discussion of the Arsenal Ship. This was Admiral Boorda's pet project and he committed suicide in May 1996, so I'm guessing that it was in fall 1995 or so.

I do remember the meeting being big--hundreds of people in a big hotel conference room--and it had very little information about the ship requirements. Mostly it was a typical Washington paperwork exercise whereby the Navy was defining who was allowed to compete for the initial contracts, what their schedules were, etc. I assume that the way this works is that they tell the contractors how to be eligible to actually receive the requirements, which are probably classified or at least restricted in some way. You have no idea how boring something like that can be, which is probably why I remember little. I do remember concluding that the plan would not survive Boorda's term as CNO, and that was absolutely true.
Thanks blackstar.

With regards as to the project's original motivation, I think part of the impetus behind the arsenal ship project may well have been the fact that it wasn't really practical (then or now) to reload a ship's VLS cells at sea, meaning that when a ship had expended it's missiles, it always had to head to the nearest friendly port or base to rearm, unlike older non-VLS equipped ships, drastically reducing overall flexibility and effectiveness, especially in a protracted conflict. With an arsenal ship or two, a CBG or task force could remain at sea much longer.
 

Sea Skimmer

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blackstar said:
The SSGN's were also justified in terms of their ability to launch special operations forces (SEALs). That always seemed dubious to me, because it requires bringing a very large submarine into littoral waters that it was never designed to operate in. But some of the sub guys I talked to said it was valid, so what do I know? I always thought that the SSGN mission was more about the Navy being unwilling to scrap some expensive boats with useful life in them just because some treaty told them to.
One of the points of the Ohio SSGN is not just that it carries SEALs but that it can carry them on board for a long period of time and with all the gear they could want. It has facilities like a firing range in the missile compartment, and space for exercise, that simply cannot exist with a team shoehorned into a fast attack boat that barely has enough space for its own food supplies let alone hot bunking extra men in the torpedo room. The SSGNs retain two of the missile tubes for holding equipment, and they are better able to carry mini submarines like the SEAL delivery vehicle and various classified gadgets that remove the need to approach close to shore. The USN used to operate several boats in the 1980s with special modifications for support SEAL operations, the details and names of which I cannot recall at the moment, the SSGNs are basically much more capable follow-on to those boats, its not something the navy totally pulled out of the blue.

I'd be amazed if the SSGNs see any direct replacement, the USN wants to really shake up the design of fast attack boats to make them more flexible in payload and capabilities and that should take up the slack. This is already starting to happen slowly, the newest Virginia class boats will have two large payload tubes in the bow which can take inserts for Tomahawks, based on those built for the SSGNs, or other inserts for other purposes for example, instead of a fixed block of 21in VLS tubes. This also has the advantage of making the 'fixed' cost of the Virginia look cheaper to congress, as the Tomahawk tubes are funded separately and can be cross decked from hull to hull.
 

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Sea Skimmer said:
blackstar said:
The SSGN's were also justified in terms of their ability to launch special operations forces (SEALs). That always seemed dubious to me, because it requires bringing a very large submarine into littoral waters that it was never designed to operate in. But some of the sub guys I talked to said it was valid, so what do I know? I always thought that the SSGN mission was more about the Navy being unwilling to scrap some expensive boats with useful life in them just because some treaty told them to.
One of the points of the Ohio SSGN is not just that it carries SEALs but that it can carry them on board for a long period of time and with all the gear they could want. It has facilities like a firing range in the missile compartment, and space for exercise, that simply cannot exist with a team shoehorned into a fast attack boat that barely has enough space for its own food supplies let alone hot bunking extra men in the torpedo room. The SSGNs retain two of the missile tubes for holding equipment, and they are better able to carry mini submarines like the SEAL delivery vehicle and various classified gadgets that remove the need to approach close to shore. The USN used to operate several boats in the 1980s with special modifications for support SEAL operations, the details and names of which I cannot recall at the moment, the SSGNs are basically much more capable follow-on to those boats, its not something the navy totally pulled out of the blue.

I'd be amazed if the SSGNs see any direct replacement, the USN wants to really shake up the design of fast attack boats to make them more flexible in payload and capabilities and that should take up the slack. This is already starting to happen slowly, the newest Virginia class boats will have two large payload tubes in the bow which can take inserts for Tomahawks, based on those built for the SSGNs, or other inserts for other purposes for example, instead of a fixed block of 21in VLS tubes. This also has the advantage of making the 'fixed' cost of the Virginia look cheaper to congress, as the Tomahawk tubes are funded separately and can be cross decked from hull to hull.
What the SSGN brings to the table is the ability to carry a massive amount of cruise missiles (an potentially other weapons). And while flexibility in a design is always important, another thing you gain from the SSGN is that you don't end up tying a SSN, of which we don't have enough now and with the Administration's plans it will get even worse, down for extended periods on a "wait and watch" role. The things a SSGN is needed for happen to be very similar to the kind of mission a SSBN does, except closer in, which is what makes the SSBN conversion so effective.

The SSGN, thanks to its size and characteristics, including being a very stable platform, also make it an ideal SEAL platform. While all SSNs can also support SEALs, they are much more crowded and can't carry as much gear as a converted SSBN, a better platform for the task. You mention that some boats had special modifications to support SEAL operations. This happened in the 1990s and they were SSN 642 and 645-- converted SSBNs.
 

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blackstar said:
F-14D said:
Which was exactly the rationale for the conversion of the first 4 Ohios to SSGNs. Unfortunately, the Administration does not to be even considering planning for what will replace them in the next decade.
I always thought it was a dumb argument anyways. I don't think there was ever a shortage of platforms that could launch cruise missiles, and never a requirement to launch so many of them that it required a special platform rather than, say, 2-4 destroyers, cruisers and subs (total), which can always be moved anywhere they're needed when tensions increase.

The SSGN's were also justified in terms of their ability to launch special operations forces (SEALs). That always seemed dubious to me, because it requires bringing a very large submarine into littoral waters that it was never designed to operate in. But some of the sub guys I talked to said it was valid, so what do I know? I always thought that the SSGN mission was more about the Navy being unwilling to scrap some expensive boats with useful life in them just because some treaty told them to.
Excuse the delay in responding, but I'm having computer "issues".

Must disagree with you on your assessment of the SSGNs. For one thing, consider the cost of sending, "...2-4 destroyers". Much larger crew, much more coordination required and more expensive marginal cost to do the mission. And then, of course there's the logistical train to support them on station. If nothing else, they need to go somewhere to refuel (Hello USS Cole) or you have to go through a tremendous effort to refuel them on station. And, of course it's not too long before someone knows they're there. Still, they'd be more effective than the Arsenal Barge, IMO, which still requires the destroyers to protect and do the targeting. With an SGN, it can just hide there for a long time, and you don't know where it is or even if it's there. This also has the advantage that you can put it on station well in anticipation of need, unlike the destroyers, and then just wait. if you do need to launch, it's almost instantly available. The SSGNs can operate in the littorals pretty well, remember as SSBNs they were required to maintain their depth and position very accurately. Of course, with the range of present and future systems (if actually we develop any) you don't often have to come too far into the littorals for a missile strike, but they can do it for the SEALs.

As for when we would need to launch a lot of missiles, just think of the times over the last 20 years when we launched a lot of missiles. More than that, though, these boats pay off when you're launching just a couple. I just hope that when we build the next generation of SSBNs, if we actually do, we build a few (don't need many) of them as SSGNs. It's a unusually good idea (that actually didn't initially come up from the normal channels) that has paid off handsomely.
 

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personally i keep expecting a variation on this concept to raise it's head now that anti-ballistic missile defense is SM-3's off navy ships.
an arsenal ship with VLS cells for SM-3's would make deployment and positioning of an ABM system easier, while not tying up important frigates and destroyers.
 

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F-14D said:
Must disagree with you on your assessment of the SSGNs. For one thing, consider the cost of sending, "...2-4 destroyers". Much larger crew, much more coordination required and more expensive marginal cost to do the mission.
But when the SSGNs were converted there was no shortage of existing platforms carrying cruise missiles. And a destroyer has a lot more utility than an SSGN. They were sitting around and they could do a lot more.
 

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blackstar said:
F-14D said:
Must disagree with you on your assessment of the SSGNs. For one thing, consider the cost of sending, "...2-4 destroyers". Much larger crew, much more coordination required and more expensive marginal cost to do the mission.
But when the SSGNs were converted there was no shortage of existing platforms carrying cruise missiles. And a destroyer has a lot more utility than an SSGN. They were sitting around and they could do a lot more.
Hmmm, lessee...large scale cruise missile launch; SEALs, special ops; multiple types of reconnaissance; anti-shipping & ASW when necessary. Sounds pretty versatile to me. But, the big issue is the cruise missile/Special Ops role. Not wishing to denigrate the destroyers, but these boats do it a lot better, and if you're off the coat of some hostile nation, the destroyers would also be sitting around as well. Besides, one of the other advantages is that once they submerge going out on patrol (they don't just stay tied up to the dock), neither you or I know where they are or what they're doing, giving them an enormous multiplier effect. When destroyers are doing their other things, they aren't available for this, BTW, their endurance is limited. If you're referring to the subs aren't always sitting off someone's coast, well, most of the time the B-2 is just sitting around at its base. Should we dump them (because of that)?
 

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But we're talking about overlapping capabilities. My point is that I just didn't buy the argument that an extra platform (the SSGNs) was required and worth the cost spent on them. It always struck me that the justification for the SSGNs had more to do with a desire to not scrap a useful SSBN than it did with a real requirement for those capabilities, many of which--the cruise missiles--already existed.
 

sferrin

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blackstar said:
But we're talking about overlapping capabilities. My point is that I just didn't buy the argument that an extra platform (the SSGNs) was required and worth the cost spent on them. It always struck me that the justification for the SSGNs had more to do with a desire to not scrap a useful SSBN than it did with a real requirement for those capabilities, many of which--the cruise missiles--already existed.
If you want a big magazine of Tomahawks in a location nobody knows about the SSGN can do that. The destroyer cannot. And if you are reducing your number of deployed SLBMs why not convert them? Win-win.
 

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And I'm talking SSGN within the context of the overall discussion of the arsenal barge concept. Remember, the original idea was that the accompanying ships would provide the targeting and protection for the arsenal barge; it was just a way to create a launch platform that would take a bunch of missiles off the destroyers cruisers and fire them more economically. From a pure accountant's view, that made sense, but not, I would argue, in the real world.

IMO, for a way to do large missile launch, by every measure you're better off with the far greater capability and flexibility of a converted SSBN than with an arsenal barge or a bunch of destroyer/cruisers. The surface ships have great value, and if you have a sudden requirement to poop off a few missiles where the destroyers happen to be at the moment, they show that. But for large scale launch, the ability to go out and wait until you need to use them or to keep our adversaries off guard (the SSGN may be somewhere off YOUR coast or it may not--you don't know so have to plan accordingly), you can't beat 'em.

That's why when the next generation of boomers gets built (if they do), I hope that we plan to build a small number, suing minimum change as SSGNS.
 

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Grey Havoc said:
Whoops, I just realised I left out part of my last post.

<snip>

Thanks blackstar.

With regards as to the project's original motivation, I think part of the impetus behind the arsenal ship project may well have been the fact that it wasn't really practical (then or now) to reload a ship's VLS cells at sea, meaning that when a ship had expended it's missiles, it always had to head to the nearest friendly port or base to rearm, unlike older non-VLS equipped ships, drastically reducing overall flexibility and effectiveness, especially in a protracted conflict. With an arsenal ship or two, a CBG or task force could remain at sea much longer.
I realize this is a bit late, but rereading this topic, I want to stick up for VLS.

Sorry, Havoc, but I think you'll find that one of the impetuses (impetii?) for going to VLS was that it vastly increased overall flexibility and effectiveness. You had a much greater variety of potential weapons that could be loaded on any given deployment or operation. The weapons' designers had more flexibility since they could design for a common container with common connections and not worry about moving the thing around inside the ship. You didn't have to build the weapon up below decks, reducing required manpower and maintenance. VLS made the Navy's concept of the "wooden round" feasible. You also had a potentially much higher rate of fire. It also imposed less of a constraint on ship design, since you were basically looking at a standardized module across many classes. It was this increased flexibility and effectiveness that made the Navy continue full sped ahead when the UNREP problem (which would have been obvious had the designers and program managers not been so close to the situation) surfaced.

Originally, there were a retractable strikedown crane that would take the place of three missile cells , and could service the missile set module it was in as well as adjacent modules in the 64 cell VLS (61 missiles crane) fitted to early VLS ships. It turned out there were certain design issues that caused problems, including the way it "dangled" the canisters. This caused problems, especially in anything but calm seas.

A later design eliminated most of these problems, but it was abandoned for a number of reasons. The biggest was a question that was first asked by a Reservist (not sure of that) , in the Naval Institute Proceedings. He asked, "Uh...where do you do with the canisters during UNREP"? What he realized was that DDGs, CGs and the like don't have a lot of spare deckspace. So, where do you put the canisters from the expended shots during UNREP? Where do you put the new canisters coming from the about-to-be-torpedoed-supply ship while you're striking down? Not being that close to the design, he realized the process was going to be excruciatingly sloooow. For comparison in the 1960s the Navy had developed a system called FAST (Fast Automatic Shuttle Transfer). It could transfer even in storms or with icy decks. It demonstrated a rate of 24 missiles an hour in sea state six even at night. By contrast using the Mk41 VLS strikedown crane, you could do four an hour, if seas were calm. The canister problem was a big reason they stopped work on trying to reload at sea faster.

But also there was another reason that came to light...they didn't need to! For one thing, with VLS, in addition to all the advantages I enumerated earlier, you were now carrying a lot more missiles. You were going from a 40 shot DG to a 96 shot DDG (you gain back those crane cells, BTW). Having your reloads already on board is much faster than any conceivable UNREP technique. Yes, once you've emptied the magazine, you have to go back to port, but how often will that occur? True, some of our recent operations have expended a lot of missiles, but there haven't been that many and once the launches were over, there was no immediate all for more. Frankly in a sustained naval battle, no one is going to be UNREPing missiles anyway. it's been a while since we've been in involved in big naval battles, but back in those days, after the fleets had wailed away at each other, both sides retired to safe anchorages to reload. No doubt a faster method of reloading an VLS could be developed, but at what cost?

Besides, if we aren't buying enough missiles to replace the ones we shot, and that's a problem that dates back to the '90s, it won't matter how we do it. This would apply to the arsenal barge as well.

The gist of this too long post is that surface ship, arsenal barge (and without VLS such a concept wouldn't even be feasible) or even SSGN. the loss of UNREP capability with VLS, while indeed a step back, but VLS does so much more so much better and so much cheaper, that the not fully anticipated sacrifice is well worth it.
 

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Avimimus

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F-14D said:
The gist of this too long post is that surface ship, arsenal barge (and without VLS such a concept wouldn't even be feasible) or even SSGN. the loss of UNREP capability with VLS, while indeed a step back, but VLS does so much more so much better and so much cheaper, that the not fully anticipated sacrifice is well worth it.
Wouldn't most combat situations favour a resupply vessel which was capable of simply firing off the rounds itself? Like a smaller arsenal ship - relying on other ships for targeting and control? With networked stand-off guided munitions the importance of the launch platform is less and less important than the round itself. It doesn't matter where it comes from.

Such a solution would disperse weapons on more hulls and allow some launch platforms to be expended early (and already be falling back for resupply) or even be sacrificed (especially if they were unmanned). These are certainly very real benefits in a high threat environment.

Does anyone know how much space is actually lost by having the weapons on the supply ship launch ready rather than in stow? How many munitions does an average supply ship currently carry?

P.S.
In a low threat environment, which requires sustained bombardment - use of the shorter ranged vertical cannon might make more sense - and it might be easier to build a version of the 155mm that could be reloaded faster at sea than it would be to replace entire cansiters. Although, I suppose that the sealed VLS cells couldn't be easily adapted for this? Perhaps a dedicated "monitor destroyer" would make sense as an addition to the fleet?
 

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mithril said:
personally i keep expecting a variation on this concept to raise it's head now that anti-ballistic missile defense is SM-3's off navy ships.
an arsenal ship with VLS cells for SM-3's would make deployment and positioning of an ABM system easier, while not tying up important frigates and destroyers.
For the ABM role you need a pretty good radar, so now your arsenal ship has VLS + an Aegis-type combat system. And then it's no longer an arsenal ship, it's a destroyer.
 

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For the moment you need a good radar, that's not necessarily the case in the future and the US is working on several space based and airborne optical systems for fire control purposes. If your sensor can be a pod on top of a UAV that flies for three days at a time then you could fire SM-3 off anything you please in support of it. For the moment with only a few hundred SM-3 warshots in the long term budget, at least 48 of which are heading for land sites in Europe, the US has no pressing need to find more space on warships to fire them.
 

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Time for some emergency conversions perhaps?

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/feb/20/budget-cuts-would-force-navy-shut-down-four-active/
 

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A bit of a debate is going on over in the JHSV thread over whether or not it could form the basis for a poor man's Arsenal Ship.
 

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Wasn't one of the goals of the arsenal ship concept to allow the United States Navy to finally strike the Iowa-class battleships from the Naval Vessel Register and appease the proponents of battleships in Congress, and elsewhere, for the Naval Gun Fire Support (NGFS)/Naval Surface Fire Support (NSFS), aka shore bombardment, role? In essence, end the battleship debate once and for all? Wasn't that also the point of the Vertical Gun for Advanced Ships (VGAS)?

Can the three Zumwalt-class destroyers, the four Ohio-class SSGNs conversions, and the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers provide sufficient NGFS for amphibious operations? Or does the Navy still need the arsenal ship?

Is it coincidence that the Lockheed Martin Marine Systems arsenal ship concept looks like battleship and is numbered 72 in the artist's impression? BBG-72?



 

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In a way, yes, that was the intent, though the capabilities were far from parallel. I think it's more useful to think of ArShip as a response to a number of issues the surface Navy was dealing with at once, and the battleships were only one of those issues. The other was the desire to increase deep strike capability and the need to address manning of surface ships in general.

Deep strike was a huge growth field after the first Gulf War, and the surface guys saw a chance to steal some mission space from the carrier bubbas (especially as long-range carrier aviation fell on its face with the A-12). But they didn't want to fill up all their CG/DDG weapon slots with strike weapons, because air defense still had a dominant role in their thinking and that still could demand lots of weapons. So the alternative was to find a new platform to carry the strike weapons, while leaving the major combatants in charge of actually firing those weapons. That's why there was so much interest in off-board control via CEC or other datalinks -- the commander of an Arsenal Ship would be a caretaker, while the combatant COs made the real tactical decisions.

Right now, it looks like the existing ships can provide enough support, because there's not a lot of capability for large-scale landings to be supported.
 

blackstar

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Triton said:
Wasn't one of the goals of the arsenal ship concept to allow the United States Navy to finally strike the Iowa-class battleships from the Naval Vessel Register and appease the proponents of battleships in Congress, and elsewhere, for the Naval Gun Fire Support (NGFS)/Naval Surface Fire Support (NSFS), aka shore bombardment, role? In essence, end the battleship debate once and for all? Wasn't that also the point of the Vertical Gun for Advanced Ships (VGAS)?
There's a difference between "stated reasons" and real ones. I think the real reason was that there was a surface ship admiral in charge of the Navy and he wanted a big surface ship. I'm not sure that there were any studies or analysis done prior to Boorda coming in that said "This is necessary because of X" and then proved it.
 

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New York Times article from 1995:

"Aircraft Carrier May Give Way To Missile Ship"
By ERIC SCHMITT
Published: September 03, 1995

Source:
http://www.nytimes.com/1995/09/03/us/aircraft-carrier-may-give-way-to-missile-ship.html


After 50 years as the global symbol of America's military might, the aircraft carrier may soon be shoved off center stage by a new warship that would be able to rain 500 missiles within a matter of minutes on targets hundreds of miles away, without risking pilots' lives.

Prospects for that ship, which is still on the drawing board but could be in the fleet within five years, raise questions about how many new carriers the Navy will need. A carrier costs $4.5 billion to build and $440 million a year to operate. The new ship, essentially a floating missile barge, might cost only $500 million and just tens of millions a year to run.

The new ship would fire Tomahawk cruise missiles, long-range artillery shells or rocket barrages against ammunition dumps, command posts and artillery, for instance, the same targets that warplanes flying off the carrier Roosevelt were bombing in Bosnia this week.

The nation's existing armada of warships, submarines and carrier-based fighter-bombers was built to fight the Soviet Union. The Navy of the future, however, will have to deal with a broader range of potential threats, from Iranian cruise missiles blocking access to Persian Gulf oilfields to a surprise attack on Seoul by North Korea to another showdown with Saddam Hussein.

Given declining military budgets, Americans' aversion to casualties among their pilots and other combat forces, fast-improving anti-aircraft missiles and a new Navy doctrine that foresees fighting more wars near shore than out at sea, the Navy's top admiral, Jeremy M. Boorda, wants an inexpensive, versatile vessel bristling with firepower.

"I want it cheap and with lots of missiles," Admiral Boorda, the Chief of Naval Operations, said in an interview. "This is certainly a modern equivalent to the battleship."

Unlike the big-gun behemoths that slugged it out with Japanese warships in World War II or belched Volkswagen-sized shells during the Korean War, the Navy's newest dreadnought would lurk safely off a hostile shore, partly submerged to avoid detection, and rain 500 or more precision-guided missiles on enemy tanks, advancing troops or other targets. It could prove particularly valuable in the early stages of a crisis, before ground troops were in place.

It would travel with other ships and submarines for protection, and target information would be provided by other vessels, reconnaissance aircraft, pilotless drones or ground spotters.

The 825-foot arsenal ship, as its Navy designers call it, might require fewer than 20 people to operate, compared with the 5,000 aboard a 1,040-foot carrier. It would be equipped with the latest automated damage-control and firefighting systems, Admiral Boorda said. Borrowing from commercial supertanker designs, it would have two sets of double hulls, allowing it to take a hit from a missile or a torpedo and keep on sailing.

Andrew Krepinevich, director of the Defense Budget Project, a research organization in Washington, said: "The arsenal ship is the same challenge to aircraft carriers as the first carrier was in the 1920's to battleships. It's not going to make the carrier extinct overnight, but it will make it a less important part of the battle fleet."

Army and Marine commanders applaud the idea of an arsenal ship, because it would support ground troops. But the idea has plenty of skeptics inside and outside the military.

"It looks like the Navy is searching for a mission," said one Air Force colonel, a planning specialist. "They've put all their eggs in one basket and created one really lucrative target for an enemy."

Norman Polmar, a naval expert and author in Alexandria, Va., said: "It's an interesting idea, but when will you ever want to fire 500 Tomahawk missiles? There's no analysis to support that number of missiles."

Admiral Boorda's plan has touched off a struggle within the Navy itself. Some naval aviators feel threatened because the arsenal ship could grab some of their missions and glory. "If they aren't a little nervous, they are fools," said one officer involved in the planning.

Further, the new ship would be assuming a mission that submarine commanders believe Trident missile subs would otherwise be able to perform. They have pitched a submarine-featured counterproposal to Admiral Boorda, but are not optimistic. "This is going to be Boorda's legacy to the Navy, at least in his mind," one submarine officer said.

Admiral Boorda, the first enlisted sailor ever to rise to the Navy's top uniformed post, dismisses such talk and says an arsenal ship would be only one in a whole family of new ships. And he denies that it will replace the carrier or piloted missions any time soon. "I don't think so," he said. "Certainly not given the technology I envision in the next 20 to 30 years."

hile Admiral Boorda says he has made no final decision to build the arsenal ship, other senior Navy officials say that serious planning could start later this year and that the fleet, which has 12 carriers, could receive the first of as many as half a dozen of the new vessels within five years.

Navy officials are hoping to build the new ship using commercial business practices, cutting through military red tape and holding down costs. By keeping the concept and the design decidedly simple, Admiral Boorda aims to keep the arsenal ship affordable.

"This ship is not a command-and-control center, and it's not making big decisions," Admiral Boorda said. "It's simply the artillery battery. It matches our strategy pretty darn well."

That strategy is to fight closer to shore, against mines, coastal targets or armies farther inland. "The ability of sea-based forces to influence the outcome of land campaigns will become increasingly important," said Michael Vickers, a fellow at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Admiral Boorda envisions positioning arsenal ships at trouble spots around the world and rotating the small crews every six months. ("It would be part of your forward presence," he said.) That would reduce the costs that carriers now incur in training and in sailing to their assignments.

Navy planners must still work out a few important matters before they rush their blueprints to the shipyard. Admiral Boorda said that the automated systems needed more work and that the Navy must design a one-size-fits-all launching tube for the more than 15 types of missiles and rockets the ship could fire.

"This is not just taking a bunch of things off the shelf," he said, "but it's not as difficult as a lot of other technology projects."

The biggest challenge may be paying for the ship. The arsenal ship would be cheap by Navy standards, but military budgets are tight even with a more generous Republican Congress, and Admiral Boorda does not want to sacrifice other programs to pay for this one.

The Navy is seeking financing from the Pentagon's Advanced Research Projects Agency, which develops new technology. "We're looking at a year or two of thinking and discussion," said Larry Lynn, the agency's director, who declined to say how much the agency might invest in the project.

One way or another, though, Admiral Boorda will most likely get his ship. "This is a good idea," he said, "and it's worth pursuing."
Did the arsenal ship really threaten procurement of future nuclear-powered supercarriers and the deep-strike mission performed by naval aviators? The Joint Advanced Strike Technology (JAST) program in the mid-1990s? I've also read that the Navy's enthusiasm for this project ebbed with the suicide of Admiral Boorda in May 1996.
 

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Thanks for posting that. It is consistent with other things that I read at the time, which indicated that it was mostly Boorda's idea and largely came out of nowhere. This quote supports that:

"Norman Polmar, a naval expert and author in Alexandria, Va., said: "It's an interesting idea, but when will you ever want to fire 500 Tomahawk missiles? There's no analysis to support that number of missiles."

When Boorda died, the Arsenal Ship idea died with him. But it's doubtful that if he had lived it would have continued. Eventually somebody would have had to fund it, and that's when they start asking the tough questions. Boorda said that he wanted a "cheap" ship, but clearly it would have grown in complexity and cost. First of all, supporting that many missiles would have required a lot of sophisticated integration, and that would have cost money. Then people would have asked the inevitable question: "If we're creating such a high value asset, shouldn't we also add in extra damage control and redundancy and self defense so that one hit doesn't sink the whole ship?" And then they would have added more stuff and the cost would have gone up.

I also suspect that the rest of the surface ship navy would have raised objections as well, because the Arsenal Ship would have threatened to steal Tomahawks away from all the other surface ships. So while it came from an advocate of the surface navy, it would have posed a threat to the surface navy as well.
 
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