sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Chewing over US Navy Programs

I have a personal interest in the US Navy because I was once a serving officer and could be considered a Naval hobbiest today. That's not an insulting term to me. It's accurate, though many former active duty types feel that the term is somehow demeaning. The "I've pissed more salt than you've sailed over" philosophy holds - sometimes.

USS Independence, LCS 2
Because I care, I hate to see the service mismanaged the way it was during the years of ObamaNation. It can be put back on a better and firmer foundation but sometimes that vision needs to be a bit 'wider'.

LCS

The US developed the generally useless (but said to be very 'progressive') Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). It can't defend itself; it's very accoustically 'loud' and is dangerous to use for special warfare/SEAL operations for that reason; it has a very short operational range; there are manning issues because the crew it carries are not adequate for sustained high intensity operations; many of the modular suites of sensors and weapons haven't become available ten years later and may never be because of massive cost overruns, etc. Construction of a large number of follow on units for both variants needs to be canceled and the US needs to find a useful alternative that can fill the "fast frigate" mission. The French/Italian designed FREMM would seem to be the most capable and least expensive (already designed with R&D complete) platform on which to base future purchases.

What would we do with the LCS? I honestly don't know. Paint them white and sell them to the US Coast Guard? We can't forward deploy them to hotspots without supporting them extensively to protect them - which brings me back to the point of "what use are they"? They could patrol the US Coast and fill a Coast Guard Cutter role, but the USCG won't want them, even with white paint. I wonder if North Korea is in the market for brand new second hand US Navy ships?

F-35B

I am not a fan of the F-35 primarily because like it's sister, the F-22, it has a 50% (at best) readiness rate, and it's MASSIVE COST. The F-18 readiness rate has been plagued by a lack of spare parts, so the problems with that aircraft is not so much a fault of the platform as it was a fault of the budgeting capacity. The AV-8B had a 90% mission readiness during Operation Desert Shield/Storm and it costs $100 million LESS per aircraft (at $20 million) than the F-35 does. 

F-35B Joint Strike Fighter
Though it may be said to be 'taking a step backward' in technology, I feel that the US Marine Corps would be well served buying A-10 Thunderbolt 2 (Warthog) ground attack aircraft to fill its ground-attack missions. The Warthog is not designed to be flown from aircraft carriers or in a VSTOL mode, but it's mission flexibility in ground support missions makes up for its limitations in traditional "Naval Service" scenarios.  The F-35B has issues operating from 'battlefield airstrips' in its VSTOL mode. you can read more about that and other related problems here

The Navy and Marine Corps envision F-35B/C aircraft in a ground attack role and while magical thinking works in the Pentagon, it rarely translates to operational realities. The F-35 burns twice the fuel of the A-10 or the AV-8B; is less reliable and is massively more expensive. I agree that there are high threat environments where the F-35 shines in comparison to its less sophisticated brethren, but the Navy is pushing for an all-F-35B force for the Marines and that's --- stupid and expensive.

Development of the F-35 or it's replacement needs to move forward IMHO, but the service needs to provide more realistically operational aircraft to the Marine Corps in the VSTOL and ground attack missions. 

Or do y'all think that I'm completely full of it? I mean, more than usual.

20 comments:

  1. As a dedicated dry land inhabitant I defer to Navy types on Naval matters. That said, the Independence type LCS is butt ugly.Really butt ugly.

    F-35s, I've read, lose their stealth capability without meticulous maintenance. Any dings, gaps in joints, scraped paint, etc. degrade their stealth capability. When have Marines ever operated in ideal conditions?

    Maybe some sanity can be restored by letting Big Army have their own fixed wing aircraft to do Army tasks. Might be interesting to see side by side costs of A-10s and AH-64. Both are tasked with similar jobs.

    Let the Air Force focus on air superiority and long range strike capabilities and take away a mission they really don't want.

    Navy/Marine missions? Again, I defer to those who understand these things.

    ReplyDelete
  2. No expert here for sure on this.I also just update my original comment.

    I've been told the Warthog has one other great advantage. (Being by Nellis,one does get to know pilots once in a while) One guy told me that the plane can be shot up as badly as many of our bombers were in WW2 and still get them home.

    In Atlantic City, the reserve squadron had many pilots that flew that plane and to a man they all loved it.

    Reliable as hell and hellish with it's enormous firepower.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but weren't both the F22 and the F35 subject to many questions and criticism and in turn forced onto the Services anyway? I seem to remember something to that effect.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've had very little experience with the F-22, but if the USAF wants two of them to fly for a critical event, they send five. I find that distressing.

      Delete
  3. The F35 may be a last gasp to keep a pilot in the seat- the next wave is going to be unmanned aircraft and the jet jockeys can't like that very much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Everyone talks like that, and it may be true for intrusion missions in to heavily defended areas, but close air support and air missions in the Third World will still require somebody to push buttons for quite some time to come.

      Delete
    2. Yeah, but don't the jet jocks hate the air support mission, AKA A-10's low and slow? Once the human is out of the seat, all the pilot problems go away. No g suit, no oxygen, no ejection seat, no instrument read outs, etc. And when the Mark 1 eyeball is supplanted by a sensor suite like the F35's, does it matter at all if the pilot is pushing buttons at Nellis or in the ejection seat? What is really going to change the game is when the aircraft is autonomous- no need to radio back to mom for instructions..

      Delete
    3. I have a feeling that the whole drone wars thing may only be as good as having a radio frequency to use to fly them. One day, sure, there will be quantum computers onboard, but then Sky Net will take over and we know what the historical chronicles say about Terminators.

      Delete
  4. I think that you are pretty much correct in your thinking on these subjects.

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

    ReplyDelete
  5. There are some pretty good snake-oil salesmen roaming the halls of the DoD and Congress selling (under the table) these worthless POS'. Also, we need to replace all the military leaders with actual military officers, not military politicians.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. President Trump has done a good job replacing drones with warriors. That trend must be encouraged. I'm with you 100%.

      Delete
  6. Agree on both. NONE of the 'modules' for the LCS are actually functional, nor are they quick change... Once a ship deploys, it's got that module until it comes home! One other 'issue' with the F-35 is that the SDB will NOT fit in the bombbay!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The LCS production needs to stop NOW. As to the F-35, I think we're too far along for that and it's easier to re-engineer the weapons...but I'm not happy about the aircraft. It's not REALLY built for combat.

      Delete
  7. Nope. Agree with your observations and have voiced similar to them when hubby and I talk about planes in development or see them on TV.
    The A-10 should be able to live as long as the B-52 has..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The A-10 is as venerable at the B-52...and the B-52 isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

      Delete
  8. I'm no expert, but I'll wager my fighting monkey against any three of your F 35s. Will they get in the air? The cash in the monkey.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Eventually they'll pump enough money and R&D into the F-35 that it will fly but the systems that make it unique and effective in very high threat environments are very expensive. You're still going to need two for every one that you'll need in the air. And DESPITE what the USAF and the Marines are now saying, it is NOT suitable for close support of infantry. You need something else for that.

      Delete
  9. What would we do with the LCS?

    Two words: artificial reef. Sometimes you've got to cut your losses.

    Don't want to create fish habitat? Are they good enough to interdict drug smugglers? The current CG cutters combined with speed boats seems to work to the extent anything seems to work. Couple an LCS with a speed boat?

    Not that I know much about what's inside those ships.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sig, LCS would be a good fit for the USCG LE dets chasing druggies. Problem is, LCS can't launch/recover the high speed boats... sigh

      Delete
  10. Yep, you're full of it, but you're also right!

    ReplyDelete
  11. studying the f35 and its many failings, the only reason I can see its still in the air so-to-speak is the super secret multiple hypersonic targeting gear. its the only thing that has any chance of detecting and intercepting putin"s new toys. that is if it happens to be flying/flyable at the exact moment needed. the pentagon trotted out some pilots the other day to express how nimble and powerful etc it was. I figure if you have to do that, you're trying to bullshit me. next war we're getting clobbered and a lot of great young men and women will die b/c of actions like the f35,litoral, and even sig320. we have to relearn the same lessons over and over again. what a shame.

    ReplyDelete

It's virtual - it's a mirage - it's life