July 14, 2020

Naval Gazing Virtual Meetup

It's time once again for a virtual meetup. Let's try a new time, at 10 AM Central (GMT-5) on Saturday, September 12th. Meeting link is here.

September 20, 2020

The Arleigh Burke Class

Today, the Arleigh Burke class destroyers are the backbone of the US fleet, with 67 ships in service. The lead ship of the class, named for an Admiral who helped pull the US Navy up from some of its darkest days, was commissioned on July 4th, 1991, and three evolved variants were ordered in FY20,1 with more still to come. This longevity and flexibility is particularly impressive for a design that ultimately dates back to the 1980s and was intended to face a threat which no longer exists.

Arleigh Burke underway

Shortly after entering office, the Reagan Administration came up with a new strategy for fighting the Cold War at sea. Instead of passively trying to protect convoys crossing the North Atlantic, they would dispatch a carrier striking force into the Norwegian Sea, threatening Soviet bases in the Arctic and drawing out their bombers to be destroyed. One of the cornerstones of this strategy was Aegis, which gave reasonable confidence that the escorts could shoot down any incoming missiles, freeing the F-14s to go after the bombers in the so-called Outer Air Battle. Read more...

September 18, 2020

Open Thread 61

It's time once again for our regular Open Thread, and as the count of OTs has reached Naval Gazing's favorite number, the subject of discussion for the thread is "Why the USS Iowa is the best battleship ever."

As usual, you're allowed to talk about anything you want, so long as it's not culture war.

2018 overhauls are the reviews of Salem and Groton, So You Want to Build a Modern Navy - Strategy Part 3, Falklands Part 6, the Nimrod program and Auxiliaries Part 3*. For 2019, overhauls are my pictures of the Tinker airshow, Falklands Part 18, Fire Control Transmission, Naval Ranks - Officers, Riverine Warfare - South America and Fouling*.

September 16, 2020

The Falklands War Part 23

In early April 1982, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, a few desolate rocks in the South Atlantic. The British mobilized their fleet in response. After a fierce battle in the air and at sea, the British gained the upper hand, and began landing troops on May 21st at San Carlos Water on the west coast of East Falkland. The Argentinians attempted to defeat the invasion with air attacks, but the British eventually gained the upper hand. On the 28th, the British began the ground campaign, defeating the Argentinian garrison at Goose Green and opening the way to lay siege to the main enemy positions near Stanley. The first days of June saw the islands shrouded in clouds, but that didn't prevent the British from leapfrogging forward to Fitzroy and Bluff Cove, just to the south of Stanley. There, tragedy struck on June 8th, when an air attack caught several ships unloading. This didn't stop the British from launching their assault on the hills surrounding Stanley on the night of the 11th, securing three major hills. The final assault was scheduled for the 13th.2

Yarmouth and Andromeda seen from Cardiff

The 12th was fairly quiet, with the usual shuffle of ships between San Carlos and the transport area. Exeter, after nearly two weeks guarding San Carlos, was swapped with Cardiff, from the Battle Group screen. Argentine air activity was minimal, with only a transport flight after dark, which the British failed to interdict with their artillery. The most notable event took place thousands of miles away, when transport Norland reached Montevideo and landed over a thousand Argentinian prisoners, who were repatriated across the River Plate by the Red Cross. Even as this was going on, dispatch ship Hecla set off from the Falklands for Montevideo with wounded. Only two frigates, Active and Arrow carried out the nightly bombardment, with Arrow firing the last 103 rounds of 902 she had fired since entering the war zone. She and Yarmouth were the only undamaged survivors of the original escort group, a testament to the brutal attacks the British had endured. Read more...

September 13, 2020

Missile Defense Through the Decades - A Worked Example

One subject that comes up a lot in discussions of modern naval warfare is missile defense, and I decided to try to get some reasonably hard data on the subject by using the amazing Command: Modern Operations game/simulation tool. This is a piece of software sold as a game, but also used by professional analysts. It's a fantastic resource for answering these kind of questions, and I used it to look at the period 1975-present.

The basics of the test were simple. I set up two bunkers, each armed with eight P-15 Styx (SS-N-2) anti-ship missiles in the Palos Verdes peninsula, near San Pedro, and stationed the target near Catalina Island, about 22 nm away. The bunkers would detect and engage the target immediately, firing off all of their missiles, while the target ship would shoot down as many as it could.

The first target was a 1972-spec Charles F Adams class destroyer, which I fired 16 missiles at. The Adams had a twin Mk 11 launcher for RIM-66A SM-1MR missiles, with 2 illuminators. Began engagement at around 10 nm, Ph 0.35.

RunSAMs FiredMissiles downedShip Sunk?


September 11, 2020

Rule the Waves 2 Game 1 - March 1931


We are victorious in our war with Germany! They have decided to end the war on reasonably favorable terms due to their inability to challenge the Allied blockade. Unfortunately, we didn't have the leverage to extract major concessions, but the war indemnity will be nice. Fortunately, the budget cuts will be compensated for nicely by ships commissioning over the coming months, so we won't even have to halt our building programs. We should even be able to lay down some new construction late in the year.

The question, as usual, is what form that construction should take. We have two CVLs and a CV finishing this year, and another CV might work quite well to boost the fleet's striking power, potentially allowing us to replace Duquesne with something more compatible with our other carriers. Another option would be CAs or BBs to counter the German BC fleet. Read more...

September 09, 2020

Information, Communication and Naval Warfare Part 5

NTDS, the Naval Tactical Data System, revolutionized fleet air defense when it arrived on the scene in the early 60s. Now, ships could automatically share their tactical pictures, updated by computers, which allowed the fleet to keep up with the speed of jet aircraft. However, NTDS was limited to the larger ships, carriers and cruisers, by its cost and size, and cheaper systems would be needed for smaller ships or cash-strapped navies. Several nations developed their own systems, but the US Navy was never able to modernize the existing fleet, as systems foundered due to the cost of the war in Vietnam and the postwar budget crash.

Iowa's Flag Plot, which would hook into NTDS

By the early 70s, NTDS itself was in trouble. Its software was modular, which made it easy to add new capabilities as they became necessary, even at the behest of the ship's own crew. However, the result was a system ever more overloaded, particularly as the NTDS architecture focused on one task at a time, giving the illusion of multi-tasking by flipping through modules. As more software was written, the interval between repeats rose, and the system soon became unusable. The system could only accept operator inputs in certain timeslots, which meant that the time to move the cursor across the screen rose from 3 seconds to 16 seconds, and in a few cases response lag to button pushes rose to over a minute. This meant that NTDS had serious problems tracking targets, with 15 to 25% of tracks during testing being 5 or more miles from their actual location, and a lag of 3.2 minutes from a new one showing up on radar to being entered into the system. Read more...

September 06, 2020

Operation K

Until the late 1930s, flying boats were the vehicle of choice for long-range aviation. Using runways provided by God instead of man, they could economically operate from remote locations and had proved instrumental in the formation of most of the early international airline networks, most notably Juan Trippe's bridging of both the Atlantic and Pacific with Pan Am.

A Pan Am Boeing 314 Clipper

Nor were navies blind to the possibilities of flying boats, capable of operating from forward areas with only the aid of a tender and with greater performance than anything that could be flown off of a carrier. Besides the obvious role of long-range reconnaissance, there was also the possibility of using them as bombers against both enemy ships and land bases. This was particularly attractive to the US Navy, who couldn't be sure of control of land-based bombers, and as a result, their patrol designation was replaced in the mid-30s with that of patrol bomber, the first result of which was the famous PBY Catalina. Unfortunately, improvements in aerodynamics and landplane performance were increasingly hard to reconcile with the demands of taking off from and landing on water, and by the outbreak of WWII, the PBY and flying boats in general were no longer on the cutting edge. Read more...

September 04, 2020

Open Thread 60

It's time once again for our regular open thread. Talk about anything you want that isn't culture war.

This weekend would have been LA Fleet Week, and thanks to coronavirus, it's gone virtual this year, so we can all participate. After a significant amount of digging, I was able to find their actual plans, which "include active Navy ship tours, Navy band concerts, and speakers showing their support for this incredible event." This sounds at least potentially interesting, although I don't know what a virtual ship tour looks like. Also, this is all being restricted to their social media. But I'll keep an eye on it and let you know if anything cool pops up.

Also, Data Secrets Lox (a forum spinoff of the blog that spawned Naval Gazing) is holding an effortpost contest to find the best long-form writing there. Some of the entries are excellent. And some were written by me in a fit of ADD. I am definitely not asking you to vote for that one.

2018 overhauls are my reviews of Constitution and Battleship Cove, The Battleship of the Future?, Underwater Protection Part 2, Understanding Hull Symbols and Lushunkou and Weihaiwei. 2019 overhauls are my pictures of Iowa's medical spaces, A Brief Overview of the United States Fleet, the David Taylor Model Basin, the last part of the Spanish-American War series and riverine warfare in North America and Africa.

September 02, 2020

September 2nd, 1945

On board all naval vessels at sea and in port, and at our many island bases in the Pacific, there is rejoicing and thanksgiving. The long and bitter struggle, which Japan started so treacherously on the seventh of December, 1941, is at an end.

I take great pride in the American forces which have helped to win this victory. America can be proud of them. The officers and men of the United States Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine who fought in the Pacific have written heroic new chapters in this nation’s military history. I have infinite respect for their courage, resourcefulness and devotion to duty. We also acknowledge the great contribution to this victory made by our valiant Allies. United we fought and united we prevail. Read more...

September 02, 2020

Merchant Ships - Offshore Support

The only truly novel variety of merchant ship to arrive in the years after WWII was the offshore service vessel, designed to cater to the increasing needs of the offshore oil and gas industry. Until WWII, offshore drilling was done with the rig on a permanant platform, often a pier extending from shore, or a barge that was simply submerged, with the limiting depth that of the barge's freeboard. But after the war, improved technology allowed drillers to work much further out at sea, and making it harder to supply them with everything they needed, from drill pipes and tools to food, fuel and fresh water. Initially, converted landing craft were used for this purpose, but they were unsatisfactory, and something better was needed.

Ramla Bay, the earliest supply vessel I could find a picture of

Alden 'Doc' LaBorde, president of a Louisiana company specializing in offshore drilling, came up with the solution, starting from a blank sheet of paper. The resulting vessel, Ebb Tide, was extremely odd-looking, with a bridge salvaged from a tugboat far forward and a low-freeboard open deck aft that took up 90 of the vessel's 119-foot length. In operation, it would come alongside the rig, where a crane would lift off the cargo on the deck, and hoses could be rigged for the water and fuel stored in tanks within the ship. The whole thing was deliberately kept very simple, allowing the ship to operate from whatever bayou happened to be closest to the drill site, and proved a tremendous success in operations in the Gulf of Mexico. Sisters of Ebb Tide, dating back to the 50s, remained in service for forty years. Read more...