Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Finally! Crazy Ideas Aren't So Crazy After All, It Seems

About 18 million years ago - no, it was more recent than that - around December 2008, I believe, I put a post on the USNI blog about a cheaper way to spread lethality in the fleet, Psst.Psst. Wanna Distribute Your Lethality on the Cheap?. All along I expressed these thoughts:
  1. Take $250 million dollars and put it aside;
  2. Of that $250 million, use $100 million to buy or lease 50 to 100 offshore crew
    boats as currently used in the offshore oil industry (many of them are reaching the end of their expected useful life in the industry - you might be able to pick up some bargains).
  3. Invest $50 million in refurbishing the boats and in getting weapons for their decks. Turn them into "navalized" vessels. Make 22 knots the minimum acceptable speed.
  4. Do not try to make these low cost littoral combat ships into battleships for all conditions. Talk to the LCDRs who will be squadron commanders and the LTs who will be the commanding officers about what they would need to provide a presence, fight in a low threat environment against modestly armed pirates and the like, support occasional missions ashore and interdict drug smuggler semi-submersibles. Give them what they need in terms of state of the art comms using COTS (heck, load put a communication van on board if so that no time is wasted trying to rewire the little ships more than needed). Put in some comfortable berthing suited for the sea states in which these things (I call them Special Purpose Vessels or SPVs) will operate.
  5. Under no cirmcumstance should the total U.S. Navy investment in any single SPV exceed $2 million, excluding the cost of adding weapons systems (adding a M-1 Abrams, for example) and the personnel costs.
  6. Make the project a 12 month "emergency" - and kill the bureacracy that would ordinarily take on this job - find a hard charging Captain, make him or her report directly to SecNav and tell them what the mission and the budget will be. Then get out of the way except for monthly status reports.
  7. Find a group of O-3s who are ready for command and who can think for themselves and train the heck out of them by letting them go to sea in the type of ships that you are acquiring, let them learn from the masters of current offshore supply and crew vessels. Find some O-4s who can take hold of the idea of being a squadron commander of a 5 ship squadron and train them in mission like that being conducted by the Africa station.
  8. Borrow some Army Rangers or fleet Marines and train them in the ship boardings, small boat ops, shipboard firefighting and ship defense. Treat them like the Marines of old. Stress people skills appropriate for counterterrorism work.
  9. Lease some ships to be used as "tenders" for the SPVs - small container ships on which the containers can be shops, supply warehouses, refrigerator units, etc. Bladders for fuel. Use the Arapaho concept to set up a flight deck for helo ops.
  10. Be generous with UAV assets - use the small "not recoverable" types.
  11. Don't limit the small boat assets to RHIBs. Experiment with M-ships, small go-fasts captured from drug dealers, whatever. The idea is to have boats that can operate in one sea state worse than the pirates, drug smugglers, etc.
  12. Use the MIUW van concept for adding some sonar capability. TIS/VIS is a necessity.
Start with a couple of squadrons, tell your O-6 that you want them ready in 6 months for operational testing. Unleash the budget dollars. For op testing, send one squadron off to the coast of Somalia for anti-pirate work. Send the other off Iraq. Put those expensive great big cruisers and destroyers currently in the area to work doing blue water stuff.

Paint Coast Guard like stripe on the hull of the SPVs - but make it Navy blue. If the Coasties want to join in, give them a boat and paint the stripe orange. Make the SPVs highly visible. Nothing deters crime like a visible cop on the beat. (edited the quote because, Army Rangers? What was I thinking? That's Marine work, that is.)

Well, times goes by, technologies improve, but basic concepts endure - and now we have David Larter writing about "5 things you should know about the US Navy’s plans for autonomous missile boats" , which mentioned prototyping for those "autonomous missile boats" in this way:
1. What exactly is the Navy buying in 2020? The Navy, spearheaded by Capt. Pete Small of the Program Executive Office Unmanned and Small Combatants, plans to buy two commercial fast-supply vessels, or FSV, which are used by the oil and gas industry to support offshore infrastructure. Those boats will be added to two similar boats procured by the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Strategic Capabilities Office for its Ghost Fleet Overlord program.

Ghost Fleet Overlord converted two FSVs into unmanned surface vessels and demonstrated “autonomy system integration; demonstration of navigational autonomy; and hull, mechanical and electrical system reliability upgrades,” according to an October news release from Small’s office.
Wait, what? Here's a look at what the PEO Unmanned and Small Combatants is converting:
DoD photo

Looks sorta like that vessel at the top of this post, which was from 2008.

But here's my favorite quote from the Larter piece:
Essentially the Navy is looking for a cheaper way to increase the number of vertical launch tubes in the fleet without, as Chief of Naval Operations Michael Gilday put it last year, wrapping a $2 billion destroyer hull around 96 missile tubes.
To which I say, "Finally!" and "Faster, please!"

I had other thoughts at CIMSEC about operations with "drone mother ships" at CHEAPER CORVETTES: COOP AND STUFT LIKE THAT:
If the answer to the Navy’s future is robotics, then Admiral Greenert’s July 2012 U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings piece, “Payloads Over Platforms, Charting a New Course” opens up a whole new world of possibilities for using existing small ship platforms as “trucks” to deliver large numbers of modern weapons platforms to areas of interest.

As former Under Secretary of the Navy Bob Work emphasized during his recent appearance on MIDRATS, the Littoral Combat Ship is such a truck–a vehicle for delivering unmanned weapons system.

This post is meant to take that concept and cheapen it.

It occurs to me that we need to take the thinking that developed the WWII escort aircraft carrier (CVE) and model it down to a ship that is a “drone” carrier (and by “drone” I mean unmanned vessels of any type- surface, subsurface and aerial) – like the LCS only in the smaller economy version.

After all, if the real weapons systems toted by the LCS are its drones, then virtually any vessel capable of lowering said drones into the water or into the air and hosting their command and control system can be a “drone carrier,” too. Such a ship becomes a “mother ship” for the drones.

Are drone carriers are really “war ships?” Remember, “payload over platform.”

Suppose we take a hull like an offshore oil platform supply “boats” outfitted with a “surface warfare module” (yes, like that designed for the LCS) and four davits designed to lower four USVs into the water.

If the USVs are outfitted with torpedoes or missiles like those discussed here, and if you deploy them in the face of a threat, you now have a ship with capable weapons systems out there.
Unmanned is good, unmanned means humans are less at risk, and operations are less complex without crew sustainment issues on USVs.

Oh, that Aerostat vessel? If you are going to operate without GIS/Satellites, might be tool to use to coordinate your USV missile boats, just saying.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous3:20 PM

    Yes the DoD boat looks like your boat.