- Aug 14, 2009
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"Change missile-fighting concepts, add lasers and railguns on ships, expert urges"
Nov. 17, 2014 - 03:45AM |
By CHRISTOPHER P. CAVAS
Nov. 17, 2014 - 03:45AM |
By CHRISTOPHER P. CAVAS
WASHINGTON — Commanders of Aegis-equipped cruisers and destroyers long have been confident in their ability to detect, engage and destroy incoming enemy missiles, often employing a layered strategy to hit threats at long, medium and short ranges. That’s key to one of their prime missions, protecting an aircraft carrier from enemy attack.
But there’s a catch. Under a doctrine that shoots two missiles at each incoming weapon, and with missile magazines that carry about a 100 missiles or so, the flow of defensive weapons is likely to run dry in a short time.
“A cruiser or destroyer will exhaust its missiles relatively quickly against incoming missiles — about 50 incoming missiles will use up the inventory of air-defense weapons,” said Bryan Clark, a naval analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) in Washington.
Even worse, Clark pointed out, a warship’s most effective defensive weapons — expensive long-range SM-6 Standard missiles — will probably be used up first, since they’ll be engaging missiles further away. An opponent could saturate a carrier strike group with cheap missiles, using up the defenses, then strike with effective weapons that would wipe out the carrier and its escorts.
One potential enemy weapon, the BrahMos cruise missile developed by India and Russia and available for export, has a unit price of about $2.5 million, Clark pointed out, while each SM-6 missile runs around $4 million apiece. “Shooting two SM-6s at each BrahMos is a poor exchange,” he observed.
To counter these threats, “we need a new defensive anti-air warfare (AAW) concept,” Clark told reporters Monday in a preview of a new study in which he urges the US Navy to “reinvigorate” surface warfare.
“We need to shift to a single, dense defensive, close-in AAW layer rather than a layered approach,” he urged, suggesting an engagement range of about thirty nautical miles.
“Current air defense schemes are based on fallacies and wishful thinking,” Clark, a former top adviser to chief of naval operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert, said. “Using my most expensive, biggest weapons first leaves only cheap, close-in weapons.” A shift to 30 nautical miles, he added, takes advantage of cheaper interceptors that can be carried in larger numbers, relying on the ability of the Aegis system’s fire control abilities to hit their targets.
Holding back Standard SM-2 and SM-6 weapons, he said, makes them available as offensive weapons, able to reach out and destroy enemy aircraft.
Underlying Clark’s study is an urge to increase the fleet’s lethality and think more offensively.
“The surface fleet of today really can’t do offensive sea control,” he explained. “I want to make this an executable plan as opposed to an aspirational plan. It’s very payload-focused, based on modifications rather than on a brand-new surface combatant.”
Among the moves Clark espouses are quicker development and fielding of laser weapons and electromagnetic rail guns.
“The Navy now has no plan to integrate a laser into a large surface combatant. There is discussion, but nothing definitive,” he said, noting the need for about 1500 kilowatts for power and cooling needs. But the Flight III version of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, designed with more electrical power and scheduled to begin construction in 2019, could handle an effective weapon.
“Put a 300 kilowatt to 500 kilowatt laser on the Flight III,” he suggested.
Even before that, the Navy could start building rail guns into ships now, Clark said, pointing to the Navy’s plan to install a prototype 32-megajoule weapon in a temporary setup on a joint high speed vessel (JHSV). Testing is to start in fiscal 2016.
“I’m recommending to do that on several more JHSVs,” Clark said, noting the ships could be forward-deployed with rotating crews and operate with carrier groups as they enter into and operate in an area.
Clark is urging four to five JHSVs be permanently modified with rail guns, altering the design as needed to make installation easier. The armed JHSVs would support carrier strike groups in theater, he said, providing added defense for the carrier.
An even larger, 64-megajoule weapon might be installed on a large Zumwalt-class destroyer, he added.
Clark also is pressing for a shift in weapons acquisition, reducing the size of individual warheads and trading the weight and space for longer range and smaller weapons that can be carried in greater quantities.
“We need to get the most out of the VLS [vertical launch system] batteries” in cruisers and destroyers, he said.
Clark would also create more Aegis Ashore systems, particularly in Japan, to free up cruisers and destroyers for more offensive missions. He pointed to the system now being set up in Romania, using the Aegis combat system and VLS of a cruiser, as a land installation to counter enemy ballistic missiles.
“For the cost of one destroyer, you could buy two to three Aegis Ashore sites,” he noted.
Clark didn’t leave out the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) and the new Small Surface Combatant (SSC) in his drive to increase surface ship lethality.
The Pentagon is expected soon to announce its design choice for an SSC concept, beefing up the modular LCS with more permanently-installed weapons.
“We also need to grow offensive capacity with modifications to LCS based on the SSC,” Clark said. “Right now, LCS not an offensive ship.”
He presented notional offensive surface action groups based on a mix of LCSs and SSCs fitted with different capabilities, particularly in the anti-submarine warfare (ASW) area.
“Put the entire LCS ASW mission package on the SSC,” he urged, along with a 24-cell VLS — noting that designers have said a 16-cell installation is more likely.
Once the SSC is in production, Clark also suggests back fitting earlier LCSs with SSC improvements, particularly VLS.
Clark noted the surface community does not currently have a warfare development group sufficient to develop these new concepts. But, citing the submarine force’s model of such a squadron, he suggested such an initiative would be appropriate from the commander of surface warfare in San Diego.
Overall, Clark sees 2025 as a target date for implementing his suggestions.
“I envision it would take 10 years, including the cultural aspects,” he said.
Clark will publicly present and discuss his report Tuesday morning at the US Capitol Visitor Center.