Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Right All Along

The Navy has finally and officially acknowledged that ComNavOps was right all along.  Of course, ComNavOps is right about everything, so what, specifically, is the Navy acknowledging that ComNavOps was right about?  - The need for in-house naval engineering to design and oversee ship acquisition programs.

ComNavOps has long preached that the Navy abdicated its responsibilities by abolishing BuShips and turning over design and construction responsibility to the manufacturers.  This began with the Spruance class, which actually turned out quite well, and has culminated the LCS, LPD-17, Ford, and Zumwalt fiascos.

Now, the Navy has recognized that the lack of in-house engineering expertise is at the root of these acquisition disasters (1).  How bad had the engineering loss gotten?

“Vice Adm. Tom Moore, commander of Naval Sea Systems Command, said NAVSEA’s engineering directorate (SEA 05) had dropped to a fifth of its size from 1990 to 2005.”

“…in SEA 05, where there had been 1,292 engineers in 1990 and only 251 in 2005 …”

The Navy is now looking to hire engineers with a goal of 750 by 2025.  Of course, that’s still only around half of what they had in 1990 and none of those new hires will have naval warship design and construction experience so there won’t be any quick turnaround in design and construction expertise.  Still, it’s a step in the right direction.

Unfortunately, the Navy is only looking to go half way to solving the problem.  The full solution requires reconstituting BuShips and the General Board.  The Navy, however, is only going to add engineers without the BuShips organization that made the warship design process so effective and without the General Board that made warship conceptual designs so linked to operational needs.

Why did the Navy go down the ill fated path that they did?

““In one of our many eras of acquisition reform – and at that time, the vogue in acquisition reform back in the mid-90s was, hey, industry knows best, just throw it over the fence to them and let them build the ships and we’ll be fine …”

I know, it sounds idiotic, doesn’t it?  Unfortunately, the concept went even further off the rails when the Navy not only threw the responsibility over the fence to the manufacturer but they threw it to companies that had never built a warship before.  Neither Lockheed Martin nor Austal had built a warship before they started building the LCS.  What did the Navy think was going to happen?

I’ve never built a nuclear reactor before.  What do you think will happen if you hire me to build one?

You know, there’s some failings that are obvious in hindsight but may not have been obvious at the time and then there’s ideas that are so blindingly stupid that hindsight is not required:  non-warship companies building warships, minimal manning, deferred maintenance, and so on.  It was obvious from the start that abdicating design responsibility would not turn out well. 

While it’s good that the Navy is finally recognizing the error of their ways, that error has cost the Navy an entire generation of flawed ships.  The LCS will never be useful.  The LPD-17 was a quality control disaster whose effects are still being felt (and we’re using it as the basis for future ship classes!!!!).  The Ford is an unaffordable budget disaster that is sounding the death knell of carriers.  The Zumwalt is the poster child for “I don’t really know what I want” and cost the Navy an entire generation of cruisers.

Make no mistake.  This decades long disaster lies squarely with Navy flag leadership.  The extent of their incompetence is/was staggering and will continue to be felt for decades to come.


(1)USNI website, “Navy to Impose More Rigorous Oversight in New Ship Classes; Will Hire More Engineers”, Megan Eckstein, February 20, 2017,

Monday, February 20, 2017

Russian Spy Ship

The media is abuzz with reports of a Russian spy ship off the northeast coast of the US.  Congressmen are demanding action and expressing outrage.  You’d think we were being invaded.  Good grief, this is exactly what we do to countries around the world.  The Russians have every right to be there and I have no problem with that.

Having said that, if I were the Navy/Military I’d give some thought to scheduling our pilots for some low level flying training in that area.  If some pilot happened to make a closer than “safe” pass, well, that happens during training, doesn’t it?

I’d also consider having some Navy ships conduct close quarter maneuvering drills in the area.  If they happened to inadvertently cross paths with the Russian ship and violate some rules of the road, well, again, those things happen during training. 

Finally, I’d send some ships and electronic warfare aircraft to conduct training in the area.  If that training happened to interfere with the Russian ship’s communications and whatnot, well, that happens during training, right?

Seriously, this is a golden opportunity for the US to send a message to Russia in response to all the Russian actions that are aimed at sending messages to us.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Modern Battleship - v.2

Let’s have a little fun today and consider what a modern battleship would be.  In particular, let’s look at how a modern battleship would be different from the iconic Iowa class.

Note: This is a significantly different slant on a modern battleship from a previous version that I offered for consideration (see, "Modern Battleship").  You might want to check that one out as a comparison.

Since WWII, missiles have replaced guns as the main naval weapon.  Long range, almost world wide surveillance has obviated the need for speed to a large degree, weapon ranges have increased from 20 miles to hundreds or a thousand miles, armor has been all but abandoned.  How do these trends impact a modern battleship design, if at all?  Let’s look at the modern battleship’s main characteristics, point by point, and see where they take us.

Main Armament.  Battleship discussions rightly start and end with the main armament.  The BB’s 16” guns set the standard for gun based destructive power – both anti-surface and land attack.  To build a modern BB without powerful guns is to build a ship that is not a BB – it might be an arsenal ship or missile barge but it won’t be a BB.  Thus, the modern BB will be armed with three triple 16” gun mounts – any less and what’s the point?

Secondary Armament.  The battleship’s secondary armament had a few functions: anti-aircraft, shore bombardment, and anti-destroyer.  Guns can no longer perform anti-aircraft, 5” guns for shore bombardment are still useful but the likelihood of a major assault requiring massive bombardment is very small, and no destroyer is likely to reach 5” gun range against a battleship.  Thus, the secondary gun requirement is much reduced.  The secondary armament would be the Navy’s standard 5”/62 gun.  I would suggest that two per side, for a total of four, would be adequate.

Strike.  A battleship’s purpose is to hit hard with overwhelming firepower.  Part of that firepower will consist of Tomahawk cruise missiles.  A pair of 32 cell VLS units, for a total of 64 missiles, would provide a significant long range strike capability.  This would be in addition to the AAW VLS requirements discussed below.

AAW.  The battleship of WWII was the Aegis cruiser of today – a mammothly powerful AAW platform bristling with 20 mm, 40 mm, and 5” guns.  Today, however, AAW is conducted with missiles, primarily.  We already have dedicated Aegis AAW ships so duplicating this capability on a battleship would be a waste.  The battleship would always operate with Aegis escorts.  Thus, the BB would be armed only with medium range ESSM and RAM missiles.  Specifically, I’d give the BB two 8-cell Mk41 VLS which could hold 64 quad-packed ESSM.  Additionally, I’d give it 6 SeaRAM launchers, each of which holds 11 RAM missiles for a total of 66 close in AAW missiles.  Finally, I’d give it 4 Phalanx CIWS mounts, two per side, for that last ditch defense.

Armor.  If armament is the first item of battleship discussion, armor is the second.  A modern battleship would have the modern day equivalent of the Iowa plus whatever modern armor improvements could be adapted such as Kevlar, composite armor, reactive armor, spaced armor, and so on.  There’s simply no point to having a powerful, expensive ship that can be easily sunk.

Speed.  The WWII Iowa was operated with the fast carriers and so it had to be fast, itself.  That would not be true with a modern BB.  A modern BB is not a carrier escort – it is a land and sea strike platform.  It would operate as the anchor of a Surface Action Group (SAG).  In that role, speed is nice but not a necessity and very high end speed serves no purpose.  No ship, no matter how fast is going to outrun a missile or aircraft.  A reasonable degree of speed is useful for rapid repositioning but 25 kts is just as effective as 30+ kts. 

Speed in WWII was also used to outpace the enemy’s surveillance cycle.  The only long range surveillance in WWII was the aircraft and they were only effective during daylight hours.  Thus, speed was used to dash in from a couple hundred miles away, during the night, to achieve an attack position before the enemy’s next surveillance cycle could begin.  Today, with radar, satellites, etc,, there is no surveillance cycle.  Surveillance is 24 hours a day and the ability to “dash in” probably no longer exists.

Therefore, the modern BB will have a speed of 25 kts and, thus, a correspondingly smaller engineering plant, smaller uptakes, and smaller exhausts, thereby consuming less internal ship’s volume.  If you want to see the effect that very high end speed has on ship’s volume, look at the LCS and note the size of the intakes and exhausts and imagine the internal volume dedicated to those ducts!

Sensors.  Not being an Aegis/Standard Missile vessel, and operating with Aegis vessels, the modern battleship has no need for Aegis/AMDR or any other high end radar suite.  Something like the TRS-4D radar in flat panel array configuration should be adequate along with EO/IR sensors.

ASW.  This is not a destroyer.  We are not going to have our BB playing tag with submarines.  That is what escorts are for.  The modern BB will have no ASW capability, at all.  The most we’ll concede is a mine-detecting sonar.

Helos.  The modern battleship will always be escorted by Aegis destroyers with helos, hangars, and flight decks.  The battleship needs only a flight deck for resupply and personnel transport purposes.  No hangar and no dedicated helos.

Stealth.  The battleship is going to be big and will be detected.  It is not worth driving up costs in an attempt to provide an unachievable degree of stealth.  The ship should have whatever degree of stealth can be achieved via simple shaping (slanting) of the superstructure.  Exotic coatings should be avoided.

There you have our modern version of a battleship – a powerful, well protected vessel that provides dominant offensive firepower on the modern battlefield.  Its mission would be to anchor surface attack groups (I say “attack” to, again, emphasize the offensive nature of the modern battleship) tasked with shore bombardment support for ground forces, anti-surface sweeps, and strikes against enemy bases, ports, airfields, etc.  A group would consist of a battleship and 5 Burke class destroyers. 

What do you think?  What does your concept of a modern battleship look like and what would its mission be?

Side note:  The one item that I’d be willing to trade off is the third 16” turret.  If an analysis of size, weight, cost, and weapons placement suggested that deletion of the third turret would result in a more affordable, better packaged ship, I’d be willing to consider that.  Specifically, I’m considering the placement of the required VLS cells.  It might be that the third gun would have to be replaced by a VLS cluster.  Hopefully, though, that would not be the case.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

F-18 IRST Status

Infrared Search and Track (IRST) is one of the hot topics in aviation.  Supporters claim it greatly enhances the stealth of a fighter since it allows search and tracking via passive modes as opposed to active radar use.  It also allows detection of enemy aircraft that are radar stealth’ed and, thus, negates an enemy’s stealth advantage. 

The Navy has an IRST development program underway to equip the F-18E/F Hornet fleet with IRST as an effort to keep the non-stealthy F-18s relevant and combat effective in an age of stealth.

Following is a discussion of the F-18 IRST program as reported in the DOT&E 2016 Annual Report.

The F-18 IRST sensor will be mounted on the nose of a centerline fuel tank under the fuselage of the Hornet.  The current IRST21 unit is being developed by Boeing and Lockheed Martin and is descended from the F-14 IRST.  The Navy plans to procure 170 IRST units.  The current Block I will be fielded as test units and eventually upgraded to the future production Block II. 

Block I was originally scheduled to enter full rate production but the Navy decided to forego production in favor of the Block II version after a program review of the Block I test results.  This suggests that the Block I was deemed insufficiently successful to warrant production and, in typical Navy thinking, the unsuccessful Block I is bypassed in the hope that the non-existent Block II will somehow attain the success that the Block I did not.  There is nothing inherent wrong with this approach as long as we don’t commit to the Block II production before its capabilities are proven.  Too often, the Navy, faced with a failure, opts to incorporate undemonstrated “improvements” that exist only on paper and then immediately commit to production without waiting for demonstrated success.

The key development in the program thus far, Operational Assessment 2 (OA 2), took place in November 2015 when the IRST was tested under realistic combat conditions.  Unfortunately, the results were less than successful.

“The system … could not reliably detect and track targets well enough to support weapons employment in an environment that reflects realistic fighter employment and tactics.”

Immediately subsequent to this assessment, a program review was held.

“Assistant Secretary of the Navy (ASN) for Research, Development, and Acquisition (RDA) held an IRST program review on January 27, 2016, and in a September 8, 2016, Acquisition Decision Memorandum (ADM), ASN (RDA) approved a restructured program that foregoes full-rate production of Block I sensors and proceeds directly to development of the Block II system. The Block I system will not be fielded and IOT&E did not begin in 2016 as planned.

The Navy plans to hold the Block II Preliminary Design Review in May 2017 and begin IOT&E in 2020.”

As discussed, it is clear that the results of the assessment test and subsequent review indicated that the Block I IRST was not successful.  Unfortunately, instead of pausing until development could overcome whatever problems were seen, the Navy has opted to leap into Block II and has already scheduled production.

It is noteworthy that the Hornet-IRST-fuel tank combination has been approved for the full flight envelope as long as the fuel tank is empty.  Some restrictions have been placed on both launch and flight conditions with varying loads of fuel in the tank.

With the tank empty, the IRST becomes, in essence, a giant sensor the size, weight, and drag of a fuel tank!  If the tank can’t be used for fuel or only in partial load conditions, one has to wonder at the wisdom of placing the unit in a centerline fuel tank to begin with as opposed to a wing or nose mounted location.  On the other hand, DOT&E points out that the flight restrictions may not be significant.

“Given the rate at which fuel is consumed from the centerline fuel tank, these restrictions are effective for only a short period at the beginning of the mission profile and should not have an operational impact.”

The under-the-fuselage location also restricts the field of view of the sensor.  Obviously, it can’t see anything above the aircraft.  Thus, it’s only 50% effective to begin with, even if it worked perfectly for the lower field of view.

Reliability is also an issue.

“Demonstrated reliability is below what was expected at this point in the flight test program. As of the time of DOT&E’s OA 2 report, the cumulative Mean Time Between Operational Mission Failure (MTBOMF) was 4.1 hours; the reliability after incorporating known fixes was 19.5 hours. The MTBOMF requirement is 40 hours and the system was expected to have a projected reliability of 38 hours when entering IOT&E.”

DOT&E’s report concludes with this criticism of the Navy and admonishment to learn a lesson.

“Many of the Block I system’s difficulties with detection and tracking seen in OA 1 and OA 2 did not require flight testing to uncover them, but could have been discovered earlier via analysis and modeling and simulation. The Navy expects that the Block II configuration (which includes sensor and aircraft hardware and software), will provide improved capability. This assumption should be tested as early as possible, prior to major decisions …,”

Unfortunately, the Navy seems determined to ignore this lesson, having already scheduled Block II production.

Please don’t read this post as being against fielding an IRST.  ComNavOps believes that a fully functional IRST would be a relatively cheap and highly effective combat aid and is well worth pursuing.  Successful and functional IRST units apparently exist around the world and there is no reason to believe that the Navy and its manufacturing partners cannot produce a functional unit.  However, we need to go about this intelligently.

I would recommend that the Navy reconsider the under-the-fuselage location.  Perhaps there is a good reason why the unit can’t be wing or nose mounted but it would be worth some extraordinary effort to do so.  The actual sensor is small and should be able to be mounted in a more advantageous position.

I also recommend that the Navy stop making production plans for an unproven and, thus far, unsuccessful unit.  By all means, continue development but set production plans aside and remove that artificial deadline from consideration.  Take the time needed to field a fully functioning unit.

Sunday, February 12, 2017


Help us.  Help us!  The sky is falling.  Naval ship and aircraft maintenance is failing.  We must have more money …   …   …  oh, and more ships and more planes.  This is the story that has been blasting forth from the Navy for the last few days.  The Navy would have us believe that they’ve done everything they can to keep the Navy in top condition but the evil, external forces of sequestration and national need have conspired to savage Navy maintenance and readiness despite the Navy’s heroic efforts. 

Of course, this ignores the fact that a month ago the Navy was voicing no such outcry.  A year ago, the Navy didn’t really care about maintenance and readiness as they knowingly deferred desperately needed maintenance.  A decade or two ago, as the Navy was making conscious decisions about deferring maintenance in favor of new construction, they didn’t care at all about maintenance or readiness.

This blog has thoroughly and repetitively documented the Navy’s unceasing and fanatical devotion to new construction at the expense of maintenance and readiness and yet, now, the Navy has suddenly seen the light.  Does that sound right?  Does that sound remotely believable?  Or, does it sound like the Navy has suddenly realized that the new Administration might be amenable to providing larger budgets and is making a play to grab their share of the potential largesse?

Here’s a statement by Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Bill Moran, to a Senate panel, just the other day:

“It starts by strengthening the foundation of the Navy by ensuring the aircraft, ships and submarines we do have are maintained and modernized to ensure they meet the full measure of their combat power,” he said. (1)

How Adm. Moran can utter this statement with a straight face is beyond me.  Is this the same Navy that recently and repeatedly tried to get Congress to let them early retire the Aegis cruiser class rather than perform maintenance and upgrades?  Where was Adm. Moran when the Navy was trying to eliminate the Ticonderogas?  Where was Moran when the Navy routinely and repeatedly decided to defer maintenance on aircraft carriers?  His statement is the height of hypocrisy. 

Moving on, though, let’s look at other aspects of this recent outcry.

The Navy has just documented the state of the aviation fleet.

“Currently, 53 percent of Navy and Marine Corps aircraft are unfit to fly. That rises to 62 percent of strike fighters and, as we reported yesterday, 74 percent of Marine F-18 Hornets.” (2)

Adm. Moran offers further dire warnings should budgets not be increased.

“Adm. Bill Moran, vice chief of naval operations, said the impact for the Navy would be immediate: Two carrier air wings would cease operations entirely, and two would operate at that “tactical hard deck” of 11 flight hours per pilot per month, the minimum allowable for safety.” (3)

Oh my gosh, that’s terrible!  Why is the situation so bad?  According to the Navy, the problem is lack of new aircraft.

“Overused, under-maintained, and not replaced, the aircraft are simply wearing out.  …consumption is outpacing procurement: Since 2000, we have struck 748 strike fighters and procured 573 for a delta (net loss) of 175 aircraft.”

The Navy’s solution?  Buy more aircraft!

“We need to continue producing JSFs … and reopen the Super Hornet line with Boeing to take pressure off the current force now.”

So, the Navy’s solution isn’t better maintenance of existing aircraft, bigger budgets for depots and spare parts, or better stewardship of the taxpayer’s dollars.  No, the Navy’s solution is to buy new aircraft. 

Hey, Mom and Dad, I didn’t change the oil in the car you gave me, I never cleaned it, I didn’t perform any tune ups, and I didn’t do any preventive maintenance and, as a result, the car isn’t running anymore.  Can I have a new car?  Most of us would see the absurdity in that and yet the Navy is having exactly that conversation with Congress!

This is nothing more than out and out extortion of Congress by the Navy.  The Navy is attempting to blame Congress for decades of conscious Navy neglect and threaten Congress with dire consequences if Congress does not meekly acquiesce and provide significant budget increases.  All the while, the Navy glosses over and ignores the fact that it was 100% the Navy that made the endless series of irresponsible decisions that led to the current hollow force.


Side Note:  We’ve seen the Navy sink the entire Spruance class rather than allow the possibility of the Spruance/NTU combination to threaten Aegis funding.  We’ve seen the Navy neuter, retire, and sell off the entire Perry class rather than allow it to threaten LCS funding.  Does anyone else think that allowing hundreds of aircraft to sink into disrepair sounds a lot like more of the same?  Be honest, given their history, could you see the Navy allowing older aircraft to prematurely fall into disrepair and languish in depots in order to avoid threatening new aircraft funding?  Just saying – there’s a lot of parallels.


(1)USNI News website, “VCNO Moran: Navy is Less Ready Because ‘We’re Too Small’”, Sam LaGrone, February 8, 2017,

(2)Breaking Defense website, “Navy, Marine F-18s In ‘Death Spiral’ As Readiness Plummets”, Sydney J. Freedberg, February 08, 2017,

(3)DoD Buzz website, “Budget Woes May Force Navy to Shutter Two Carrier Air Wings”, Hope Hodge Seck, 9-Feb-2017,

Saturday, February 11, 2017


What has ComNavOps harped on repeatedly?  - that the concept of operations (CONOPS) must come before production or even conceptual design.  Without a CONOPS, how can you possible know what you want the proposed asset to do?  And if you don’t know what you want it to do, how can you design and build it?

Check this out from the DOT&E 2016 Annual Report on the DDG-1000 Zumwalt program.

“The roles and missions of DDG 1000 are under review. The Navy expects to complete a study to determine the concept of operations for DDG 1000 by 2QFY17.”

The Zumwalt is already built and now the Navy hopes to have a CONOPS sometime later this year????  Stupid, stupid, stupid.


The Navy is incapable of learning lessons.


What is the CONOPS study going to show?  It’s going to show that there is no mission for the Zumwalt.  The entire concept of a “long range”, guided, ship launched, relatively small rocket is flawed.  The Navy has already found that they can’t afford the only munition the Zumwalt can shoot, the LRLAP! 

They’re about to find that a short range, small, replacement munition is of even less use. 

They’re about to find that the very idea of risking a $4B ship in close to shore (and with the much shorter range replacement munition, the ship will have to beach itself to get any useful range!) is insane. 

They’re about to find that giving a $4B ship a sonar, towed array, and V-ASROC so that it can play tag with diesel submarines is an insane risk. 

They’re about to find that giving a $4B ship a minimal AAW capability and then asking it stand close in to an enemy’s shore is an insane risk.

Had the Navy studied the CONOPS before designing the ship, they would have seen all this and could have saved $24B of construction and R&D.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Ship Warranties

Apparently, Congress is just as sick of brand new ships breaking down and having no warranty to show for a billion-plus dollar investment as the rest of us are.  Congress has now inserted language in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act requiring ship warranties.  Here’s the language.

Chapter 633 of title 10, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new section:
Sec. 7318. 
Warranty requirements for shipbuilding contracts
(a) Requirement
A contracting officer for a contract for new construction for which funds are expended from the Shipbuilding and Conversion, Navy account shall require, as a condition of the contract, that the work performed under the contract is covered by a warranty for a period of at least one year.



Reader Eric's comment below has prompted me to add the following.

No amount of warranty can compensate for the failure of responsibility by the Navy in accepting incomplete ships.  In fact, if the Navy (NAVSEA) were doing their job correctly and actually insisting that the ships be delivered in a complete and tested condition, a warranty wouldn't even be all that necessary!