May 17, 2020

FFG(X)

The USN recently announced the winner of the FFG(X) program, the first major new shipbuilding program for the US in over a decade. It was designed to fill the major gap in the USN's order of battle, a ship smaller and cheaper than the Arleigh Burke class destroyers. The previous effort to buy a ship for this role, the Littoral Combat Ship, produced a vessel that failed on several levels, being too expensive, too unreliable, and not capable enough. The hope was that by abandoning the high-speed multi-mission design of the LCS and focusing on a conventional frigate, they could produce a useful ship on a reasonable budget.


The FFG(X) as announced by the Navy

Five entries were submitted, a mix of American and foreign designs, all of which were based on ships already in service. Both LCS models were entered, the LCS-1/Freedom by Lockheed Martin and the LCS-2/Independence by Austal. The last American design was from Huntington Ingalls, who came up with a ship based on the Coast Guard's National Security Cutter. Italian shipbuilder Fincanteiri submitted a version of the Franco-Italian FREMM frigate, to be built at Marinette Marine in Wisconsin, while Bath Iron Works partnered with Spanish firm Navantia for a version of the F-100 class frigate. Emphasis was placed on commonality with existing designs, which should help to deliver the ships efficiently and cheaply.

Ultimately, the victory went to Fincantieri, with a $795 million contract for the first ship that also contains options for up to 9 follow-on ships. If all of them are exercised, the total value would reach $5.58 billion, plus the chance of a follow-on contract to fill out the 20 ships the USN plans to acquire. On the whole, this was probably the right decision for the USN. The F-100 derivative was almost certainly killed off by the Helge Ingstad collision and the lack of watertight integrity displayed afterwards. Rumor even has it that the Royal Norwegian Navy dealt the deathblow to this proposal by sending reports to the FFG(X) team, and that as a result, they are not on speaking terms with Navantia right now. Both LCS derivatives were badly handicapped by the fact that they were originally designed to make 45 kts, forcing margins to be cut to the bone. Lockheed withdrew the LCS-1 design last year, realizing that it was doomed, although it's quite likely that Austal's LCS-2 was the runner-up, and we may even see more ships based on it in the future. The reason for this is the design's massive flight deck, enabled by the trimaran configuration. It's about twice the size of the deck fitted to any conventional surface warship, and the boost in aviation capability it gives is impressive.1 That just leaves the National Security Cutter, which probably lost simply on growth margin,2 as it displaces around 4,500 tons as opposed to 6,700 tons for FREMM. Remember, steel is cheap and air is free.3 Fincantieri has also included generous margins for power use, an important consideration with next-gen weapons.


USS Tulsa of the LCS-2 type

The core of the new ship's armament will be a 32-cell Mk 41 VLS, allowing it to launch most weapons found in the Navy's inventory, such as Standard, ESSM and VL-ASROC. However, there are multiple different lengths of VLS cell, and so far, available information is unclear on if FFG(X) will have the strike-length cells required for Tomahawk. It's not listed in any USN documents on the project, but Fincantieri has said they're planning to install them. This will all be driven by the SPY-6 Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar. The EASR is related to the SPY-6 AMDR being fitted to the Flight III Burkes, but it uses only 9 radar modules to the AMDR's 37, and the 3-array system is also planned for CVN-79 and later carriers. Running all of this will be a version of Aegis known as COMBATSS-21. This is the same basic system used on the LCS, although additional code will no doubt be brought over from the main Aegis baseline to run the improved AAW capability. To provide point defense, the VLS is backed up by a 21-round RIM-116 RAM launcher.

For ASW, the FFG(X) will be equipped with a variant of the SQQ-89 combat system used by the Burke and Ticonderoga classes, and a new SQS-62 Variable-Depth Sonar.4 There's no requirement for ship-mounted torpedoes, so presumably the killing of the submarines will fall to some combination of VL-ASROC and the ship's helicopters, which are currently planned to be an MH-60R Seahawk and an unmanned MQ-8C Fire Scout. For attacking surface ships, space and weight have been reserved for up to 16 anti-ship missiles, most likely a variant of the Norwegian Naval Strike Missile. There's also a Mk 110 57mm gun fitted, the same one that equips the LCS. In practice, it's not a particularly effective weapon, but it's likely to be there primarily as a placeholder until lasers can be deployed.


Italian FREMM Nave Bergamini

So how much will it take to get all of this onto the existing FREMM design? The answer is surprisingly little, actually. It was designed from the start to be flexible, as the Italian and French navies each had different requirements and they also wanted to sell to the export market. Most of the interfaces are standardized by NATO, so the physical replacement of radars and weapons is simple. As a result, design changes will be kept to a minimum. I originally suspected that the USN was attempting to pull off the same trick it did with the Super Hornet, where it builds something that looks a lot like an existing system and calls it a variant, but it appears not to be the case here. The basic FREMM design is reportedly very solid, with plenty of space and excellent habitability, so there is little reason to depart from it. The combat system is going to take more work, but that would be true of any design, and it's already on contract.

Overall, it looks like the USN made a good choice with the FREMM. While the adoption of a foreign design is nearly uprecedented in US service,5 the available domestic designs were all lacking in one way or another, and the FREMM itself has given good service across four navies and several variants.6 In service, the new frigates will likely find themselves escorting amphibious and replenishment groups, showing the flag and protecting trade from the sort of low-intensity threats that are so common in the Middle East today. These are vital roles, and I expect the FFG(X), whatever it ends up being called,7 to give good service in them for decades.


1 It's worth pointing out that while the first 32 LCSs were split evenly between LCS-1 and LCS-2 designs, the Navy recently ordered four additional LCS-2s without corresponding LCS-1s.

2 Although I'm sure the extremely troubled history of that program didn't help.

3 A similar decision was made by the British for the Type 31 frigate, which was significantly larger than expected.

4 This is not quite the same thing as a towed array. A VDS is a single transceiver inside an actively-controlled "fish", capable of operating at different depths and in both active and passive modes. There doesn't appear to be a hull-mounted sonar planned for FFG(X).

5 The only example I can think off offhand that isn't a small boat is the Tacoma class frigates of WWII, based on the British River class.

6 There's an amusing story in the FREMM export history, although I can't provide documentation. Originally, the plan had been for a 60/40 split of profits from any export orders, with the 60 going to whichever country (France or Italy) booked the order. The French sold a ship to Morocco, but did so by selling a ship they'd ordered, and then buying another one. When the Italians asked for their cut, the French told them to go away. So after throwing away the profit-sharing deal over a single ship, the French now find themselves left out of the much bigger sale to the USN.

7 Former Acting SecNav Modly wanted to name them the Agility class, but I have a feeling that any of his proposals are going to be ignored, given his rather ignominious fall.

Comments

  1. May 17, 2020Alexander said...

    Any idea why there were only two foreign entries? It seems like potentially a big contract to win, and there are other European designs (and probably some Asian ones) that don't appear to have been considered. Do you think there might have been an expectation that the competition would be won by an American design? Would you have liked to have seen any other entries?

    How much cheaper to run are they expected to be than a new Burke?

  2. May 17, 2020quanticle said...

    Most Asian navies use modified European, American or Russian frigates. The only ones that seem to have the wherewithal to design and produce 100% indigenous frigates seem to be China and South Korea. Even India uses (heavily modified) Kashin and Sovremennyy-class designs that it licensed from the Soviet Union.

    The Chinese Type 053 frigate obviously cannot be considered for the US Navy. The South Koreans make the Gwanggaeto the Great-class destroyer/frigate, but it displaces only about 3900 tons, considerably less than the roughly 6000 tons that the FREMM displaces.

  3. May 17, 2020bean said...

    Honestly, there were not as many suitable designs as you might think. I looked through this year's World Naval Review, and saw only a couple of possible candidates that weren't included. The Type 26 is just a bit too early in its lifecycle to be competitive under the rules laid out by Congress, good ships though they're likely to be. (There are even rumors that the second batch of 10 ships may end up being bid between FREMM and Type 26). MEKO is probably too old and I've heard that it's not quite up to USN standards. That basically takes care of Europe. The two major allied navies in the Pacific are Japan and South Korea. Japan basically doesn't do military exports, although the Ashai class is about the right size and quite modern. South Korea has a vigorous export sector, but their Inchon and Daegu class FFGs are too small.

    The other issue is lack of shipyards. There was no way FFG(X) was going to be built overseas, and the four yards that entered (LCS-1 and FREMM both planned to build in Marinette) have been them built every active surface combatant in the US inventory. And since this kind of proposal is going to take a lot of work on the part of the shipyard, there wasn't much reason for yards to pick multiple partners unless they had to. (Marinette currently builds LCS-1, but is owned by Fincantieri.) Also, working with the US is a headache, and unless you know what you're doing, probably best avoided.

    I've seen suggestions that the lifecycle cost goal is 2 FFG(X) for one Burke.

  4. May 18, 2020Alexander said...

    To be honest I'd probably exclude German designs from the competition (unless we're after submarines, perhaps) out of prejudice against their designs, but I'd have thought the Danes might have something to offer. The need for a US partner with a shipyard likely explains that though. Any idea why Type 26 managed to find export success in Australia and Canada despite only a single one having been laid down, and none launched, at the time they made their decisions? Some sort of commonwealth solidarity?

    If they're half the cost that sounds like a bit of a bargain, though I think the lack of any kind of land attack option might be frustrating if you want to use it for traditional cruiser/frigate type independent patrols. Could the Naval Strike Missile help here in future? I'd still like a 5" gun though.

  5. May 18, 2020AlexT said...

    AIUI, NSM can hit land targets, but then again this is meant as an ASW/AAW escort, isn't it? It could even skip NSMs and rely on Standards to attack ships in a pinch, and on the gun and chopper to deal with swarms of boats and what not.

  6. May 18, 2020bean said...

    The F125 probably killed any chance of the Germans getting in. Type 26 was acceptable to the various export partners primarily because the rules of their competition were different. Because of the utter mess that USN new shipbuilding has been for the last decade or so, FFG(X) was limited to in-service designs. If you have more trust in your Navy, Type 26 is very attractive.

    I actually forgot to revise the post to include more information about the Tomahawk potential (current status: ambiguous). The NSM does seem to have anti-surface capabilities under development. As for the 5" gun, we have a lot of Burkes running around, and can probably find one of them for land-attack missions. This is a low-cost ship specializing in ASW and AAW.

  7. May 18, 2020Alexander said...

    I think there is part of me that still expects frigates to be able to bombard the local despot's palace until he releases your citizens or something, but yeah, if they are part of a carrier/amphibious/auxiliary group, that's generally irrelevant. Most countries couldn't afford to send a Burke around to show the flag and so on, and therefore would want their cheaper ships to be more rounded, but I suppose the US is somewhat unique.

  8. May 18, 2020Jade Nekotenshi said...

    Yeah, with 50+ Burkes and 26 Ticos, there's bound to be something that can chuck a few shells. Though I am somewhat surprised they went with the 57mm over the 76mm, which seems like it has at least a fair bit more capability.

    That said, if the replacement for the Ticos doesn't have a 127mm/155mm (that actually works and has ammo), I'll be somewhat surprised.

  9. May 18, 2020bean said...

    My understanding is that the 57mm (which does not have a good reputation) is basically just a placeholder for a future laser. The 76mm would be significantly bigger and heavier, and I think it's ruled out by the presence of the 32-cell VLS. The Italian ships have a 16-cell unit forward, and the change in buoyancy forward isn't trivial.

  10. May 18, 2020ryan8518 said...

    @bean, after launching something from the VLS (particularly when all the cells are forward or aft as you mention for the Italian design), does the change in fwd/aft bouyancy usually require major trimming? Presumably they don't flood empty VLS cells to balance them out...

    Or is the buoyancy hit mostly from the fact that the cell itself is a big heavy metal box, and the weight of the missile isn't that big of a deal?

  11. May 18, 2020echo said...

    I had no idea they'd ordered so many LCSes. Presumably they bring something to the table, at least?
    I'm trying to imagine what you'd use them for in a South China Sea conflict, but don't have enough background knowledge.

    Starting to understand this ff(x) design a little. Relatively cheap, doesn't need to be packed full of missiles for most duties, but could act as a carrier screen if needed.

  12. May 18, 2020bean said...

    @ryan

    I don't think that's a problem. An empty 8-pack of VLS cells weighs between 26,800 lbs and 32,000 lbs depending on the length of the cells. 32 quad-packed ESSMs weigh something like 40,000 lbs. Approximately half of that is the missiles themselves. So the weight difference between a loaded cell and a fired cell is something like a third. An SM-2ER is about 3,000 lb, so same ballpark, and IIRC Tomahawk is about that much, too. I wouldn’t be surprised if they ballasted empty cells to make sure that the weight distribution didn’t get too far out of wack, but I’ve never heard of ballasting for fired cells. I wouldn't rule out them taking on a bit of ballast later on as part of routine stability maintenance, but it's not something you have to do immediately like you do on a submarine.

    I’m trying to imagine what you’d use them for in a South China Sea conflict, but don’t have enough background knowledge.

    The USN has spent the last few years trying to figure that out, too.

  13. May 19, 2020Blackshoe said...

    @Alexander:

    RE: the FFG and her guns. I think one thing that's useful to remember is that there are different kind of "attacking things ashore" missions, being divisible into Strike and NSFS (Naval Surface Fire Support). NSFS is operating in direct support of forces ashore (be they Marines, or SOF types, or whoever). It is a tactical function more than anything. NSFS can gunfire or missiles to achieve its objectives.

    Strike on the other hand, is mostly an operational level of war component, controlled at higher levels. Strike is over-simplified as the projection of national power ashore from the sea. Strike missions could be in support of an amphibious landing, but can be lots of other things. They are probably the most visible mission the USN has conducted in the new millenium, with everything from launching TLAMs at various ne'er-do-well dictators to air strikes in Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq being able to be grouped as "Strike" in one way or another. While it's technically possible for a strike mission to use naval gunfire, I don't think it's ever happened (or at least not since the days when we easily could just blow up the local misbehaving dictator's palace from a ship). Blowing up the local despot's palace would definitely be a strike (vice NSFS) missions.

    One of the big drawbacks of gunfire as a tool of power projection is that it assumes a fairly compliant environment (since the range of even the 5" with extended range shells is fairly low, so you'll have to get really close. Related to the debate coming out of Syria-namely how do you do amphibious assault in a world where every scummy ragtag group can get their hands on ATGMs-is in a world where non-state actors like Houthi rebels and Hizbullah can get their hands on ASCMs, how close do you really want to get to the shore). Additionally, even lots of 5" shells can't do that much damage, especially compared to what even a few TLAMs or air strikes can do. So you're probably going to have to use missiles/aircraft to hit the thing anyway, so why bother worrying about getting guns on target? Juice just isn't worth the squeeze.

    The 57mm will be fine for dealing with small craft/certain air threats, and if a strike/NSFS mission is needed, other assets will be used to deal with it. I don't think either Strike or NSFS will be a major mission area for the FFG(X).

    A few other notes:

    -I would bet strongly that the new FFGs will have strike-length VLS cells, for other reasons.
    -I would also bet that the ships will end up with city/town names, continuing from the LCS class -Kinda related, but as far as discussions about the Ticos go, given the expectation is massive budget cuts coming down the road, I do not think most of the Ticos are long for this world.

    @echo "I’m trying to imagine what you’d use them for in a South China Sea conflict" Expendable trip-wires is the most popular solution (albeit not with LCS crews, for some reason/sarc)

  14. May 19, 2020AlexT said...

    I’m trying to imagine what you’d use them for in a South China Sea conflict

    Commerce raiders? LCS can catch anything that floats and, unlike a sub or a Tomahawk, can actually inspect it before shooting. They have RAMs and speed for defense. Even a cargo hold, if that freighter happened to carry some nice widescreen TVs or something. Sea denial at its finest. Jolly Roger not included but available on demand.

  15. May 19, 2020bean said...

    @Blackshoe

    Some of the battleship gunfire missions carried out during Korea probably count as strike instead of NSFS. You could make an argument for Desert Storm, but it's kind of a stretch.

    @AlexT

    No way. 45 kts is fast for a ship, but it's nothing to an aircraft, and LCS doesn't have nearly enough air defense to be able to stand up to one of those. And with modern radio, there's really no way to stop the target calling for help.

  16. May 19, 2020Lambert said...

    Commerce raiding is an underdog's game, is it not?

    Would the LCS' speed be of any use in a blockading role?

  17. May 19, 2020DampOctopus said...

    Can the 57mm really be replaced by a laser? A laser is a poor option for surface fire support, and it doesn't make the same satisfying whoosh when you fire it across the bow of a merchant ship. In principle it could take over the role of defence against small boats, but I suspect that its effectiveness will be limited by countermeasures: it's easier to pack on thermal ballast to defend against a laser than armor to defend against a gun.

    I'd expect lasers, as they improve, to eclipse the role of the RAM launcher (close-in air defense) before they make the gun obsolete.

  18. May 19, 2020cassander said...

    on commerce raiding, the LCSs don't actually have the endurance to do that well, and you don't need to be fast to do it, given how slow most modern cargo ships are.

  19. May 19, 2020bean said...

    @Lambert

    Probably not. If you're doing blockade the smart way, you have a pretty good idea of which ships are which and who you should go bother ahead of time. Running around at 45 kts is unnecessary, and also takes a ton of fuel.

    @DampOctopus

    At naval ranges, lasers are terrifying weapons. Thermal ballast won't help protect against them because they do damage too fast.

  20. May 19, 2020Alexander said...

    Why was there a requirement for a 45+kn speed in the first place? Was the idea to chase down FACs? Run away from them? Something else? I'm not saying it's not handy, but a much smaller and cheaper vessel could probably fight FACs, and running isn't a great choice if you're protecting a slower ship.

    I had a feeling that Lasers lost a fair bit of energy to atmospheric moisture at sea level. Not necessarily a problem if you are aiming up at an aerial target, but I'd have thought you'd experience issues against a target on the horizon. What happens if it's foggy? Or do the sort of weapons we're talking about burn through mist with no trouble (quite plausible if they can boil steel)?

  21. May 19, 2020ec429 said...

    I'm still disappointed that they didn't have the courage to name it the Frigurative Combat Ship.

  22. May 19, 2020bean said...

    The 45 kt requirement is basically because at one point the idea of the LCS was as a big FAC with the capabilities of a frigate, and nobody stepped in and said "this is stupid" when it was being designed. I read one comment where someone had been asking for a reason, and the best answer he'd gotten was from a female officer who said the 45 kt breeze would be great for drying her hair.

    There are ways to deal with the water vapor and spray. Some comes down to things like careful choice of frequency, while more is done with things like precursor beams that burn some water out of the way and let the beam compensate for more of it.

  23. May 19, 2020echo said...

    https://youtu.be/m1PXcT0qOO8

    Lockheed Martin's promotional video for the LCS has some interesting justifications. It's a High Speed Low Drag insertion platform for operators operating operationally, as well as a way of pushing sensor platforms into islands and reefs. No word on what it does if it runs into something shooty on those islands.

    I think the double hanger on the Italian FREMM version must have been a big selling point. You could probably lash another firescout to the helipad for 3 multi-purpose actually expendable helis flying off a low priority target.
    With all the modular payloads they're giving the firescout, the ship could probe littoral blind zones, do asw or mine-sweeping, support spec-ops teams, or protect trade in an 800km radius. And can be specialized or upgraded just by swapping out aircraft.

    Bet you're right that the biggest risk is using the growth tonnage for expensive upgrades that make it less cost-effective for its real missions.

  24. May 19, 2020Suvorov said...

    To provide point defense, the VLS is backed up by a 21-round RIM-116 RAM launcher.

    Am I the only person who thinks Western designs could use more point-defense? Contemporary Russian frigates and corvettes seem to have between two and three point-defense turrets.

    I know a lot of our fleet defense is provided by Aegis, but a pair of B-1s could easily chew through all the Standard missiles the FFG(X) could throw at them and still have a dozen missiles to spare. Seems like they could find space for a laser or something...

    There’s also a Mk 110 57mm gun fitted, the same one that equips the LCS. In practice, it’s not a particularly effective weapon, but it’s likely to be there primarily as a placeholder until lasers can be deployed.

    Aha! Since we don't have the laser yet, though – is the 57mm a capable weapon against anti-ship missiles? I realize they have an air engagement mode, I just never expect it to count for much against sea-skimmers.

  25. May 19, 2020Lambert said...

    So LaWS can cope with some natural fog or spray, but what about the target deliberately putting a thick cloud of smoke/steam/brine/carbonates/soot/dust between your laser and the important bits of their boat?

    Maybe put a double-layered wall around the engine and magazines. When you're at risk of being shot by a laser, pump in seawater at high pressure. If the outer layer gets destroyed, there's now a powerful jet of steam and molten salt particles absorbing and diffusing the laser energy.

  26. May 19, 2020Jade Nekotenshi said...

    The 57mm does have some capability against sea-skimming missiles, and there's the RAM launcher, so that's more than nothing. But I agree that I'd want a bit more. Not sure how much more, though - replacing the 57mm with a laser might help. Phalanx doesn't buy you much against supersonics, but might help some against swarming boats and cheap dumb rockets, if you could fit the mount without sacrificing something else.

    The Russian ships generally have more mounts, but I'm unclear on relative effectiveness or how many CIWS engagements they can handle at once. RAM at least has the advantage of being fire-and-forget.

  27. May 19, 2020Suvorov said...

    what about the target deliberately putting a thick cloud of smoke/steam/brine/carbonates/soot/dust between your laser and the important bits of their boat?

    I'm pretty sure SRBOC-launched aluminum chaff could do it, but then you're in the unenviable position of having spent, say, $500 to defeat a $0.50 laser. And you've got a couple dozen SRBOCs, but the guy with the laser can push that button all day.

    The 57mm does have some capability against sea-skimming missiles

    Interesting!

    Phalanx doesn’t buy you much against supersonics, but might help some against swarming boats and cheap dumb rockets, if you could fit the mount without sacrificing something else.

    I'm pretty sure you can put the CRAM launcher in if you can put in a CIWS, and it's got better range. I'm pretty partial to guns myself (haha CWIS go brrr!), but pushing the engagement envelope further with a CRAM seems important against supersonics.

    The Russian ships generally have more mounts, but I’m unclear on relative effectiveness or how many CIWS engagements they can handle at once. RAM at least has the advantage of being fire-and-forget.

    Worth noting too that they often put one 30mm on each side of a boat, which is good I guess (since you don't have to maneuver to dodge) but unless you're getting shot at from both sides, you'll have to turn away from the enemy to get them both into action at once.

    I do like the newer Russian systems, which have 8 missiles + the 30mm. If I was god-emperor, we'd glue a CWIS and a CRAM together and put at least a pair of those on a frigate. But that's just me (and they do take up a fair amount of deck space.)

  28. May 19, 2020Jade Nekotenshi said...

    I had this half-baked idea of a weapon based on SeaRAM with a GAU-25 strapped on, or from the other side an OTOBreda Twin Fast Forty with twelve RAM tubes glued on, but I can think of good reasons to not do that, too.

  29. May 20, 2020AlexT said...

    To defend a boat against HEL, would it be effective to use a fire hose, spraying water at full capacity towards the laser? 150 kW will warm up about 500g of water per second by 75 degrees, then it has to vaporize it and scatter the vapor and still carry enough energy to damage steel. Against a bigger laser, use a bigger fire hose.

    Also, what's the effective range, is it basically CIWS without ammo?

  30. May 20, 2020Johan Larson said...

    The worries about FACs and swarm boats sounds like the second coming of torpedo boats. The counter for that the first time around was the (torpedo boat) destroyer: a mid-sized ship heavy on the light quick-firing guns. Has something changed to make the problem more severe recently?

  31. May 20, 2020bean said...

    I'll have to do more looking on the current state of laser weapons. There's a post or three there. From memory of the last time I looked, obscurants don't work as well as you'd expect.

  32. May 20, 2020quanticle said...

    Has something changed to make the problem more severe recently?

    In theory, the reason FACs are much more of a threat than torpedo boats is that they carry relatively long-range, hard-hitting anti-ship missiles. A torpedo, even one of World War 2 vintage, has a range of around 10km. In order to get close enough to launch, the attacking torpedo boat has to get close enough to be detected and identified as a threat by the ship it is attacking, giving the defending vessel an opportunity to shoot back or dodge the attack.

    A Block II Exocet, by comparison, has a range of 72km. This allows a Fast Attack Craft, to attack "over the horizon". It can lay in wait, volley off a bunch of missiles, and scoot away before the inevitable retaliatory strike. Its size makes it difficult to distinguish from civilian vessels, and it's cheap enough (like the MTB) that even relatively unsophisticated navies can afford a couple dozen of them. If they all launch three or four missiles at a single target, the thinking is that inevitably one or two will get through, and that's enough for a mission kill, even if it doesn't get you a hard kill.

    In practice, carrier battle groups have a number of ways of dealing with incoming missiles, and I think your comparison of fast attack craft to motor torpedo boats is an apt one.

  33. May 20, 2020Alexander said...

    @Jade

    It's not quite what you're talking about, but the Royal Navy tested adding Martlet missiles to a 30mm. Neither is really effective for air defence (certainly not for protection against anti-ship missiles) though.

    If lasers are in any way an effective weapon then naval CIWS seems like the perfect role for them - they should be able to hit even hypersonic missiles (targets which are otherwise very vulnerable) and warships should be able to supply plenty of power (and cooling). Replacing a medium calibre gun, or larger missiles like the Standard seems less likely to me, but if they ever do, I can't imagine ASMs remaining viable.

    At the moment I would say the counter to FACs would be the helicopter - a SH-60 with Hellfires or APKWS is a deadly threat to boats too small to mount a reasonable air defence system. A ship designed to deal with FACs would either need to be able to defend against a missile swarm, i.e. an AAW Destroyer, or expendable, and therefore probably small enough that it would have trouble deploying far from home.

  34. May 20, 2020bean said...

    One of the big problems with FACs is targeting. You can't use that 72 km range if you don't have someone to spot the target, and that means an investment in C4ISR that most third-rate navies don't make, or what little they do is disrupted by a better fleet's EW and cyber plans. So the FAC dies to a helicopter without doing anything. Even if we take all helicopters and OTH options off the table, I'm skeptical of FACs. I'd expect the real warship to kill the FAC while the FAC's crew are still trying to burn through the jamming, or just going "huh?"

  35. May 20, 2020cassander said...

    @bean I'd love to read that series on direct energy.

    @quanticle

    In theory, the reason FACs are much more of a threat than torpedo boats is that they carry relatively long-range, hard-hitting anti-ship missiles. A torpedo, even one of World War 2 vintage, has a range of around 10km.

    Right, but the torpedo boat was attacking a ship whose anti-torpedo boat weapons had a range of only 15km or so. I think the torpedo boat comparison is a good one.

  36. May 20, 2020Suvorov said...

    You can’t use that 72 km range if you don’t have someone to spot the target

    Isn't this what fishermen are for?

    that means an investment in C4ISR that most third-rate navies don’t make

    It seems like most navies could get 90% of the capabilities of FACs by just using (what I assume are) cheaper land-based mobile launchers.

    I’d expect the real warship to kill the FAC while the FAC’s crew are still trying to burn through the jamming, or just going “huh?”

    If the Iraqis could hit the Stark with a single fighter, couldn't an FAC do the same thing?

    (All this actually makes me wonder, though – Scandinavian countries don't usually have enough FACs to overwhelm a concentrated enemy fleet with massed missile fire. In theory, being able to pop out of a fjord and light off a few missiles at a ship means you can't have lightly-armed transport or supply ships floating around without an escort – so you could view FACs as complicating enemy logistics. Maritime patrol aircraft are of course better at this but I think they'd be more vulnerable to the Scandinavian's anticipated threats.)

  37. May 20, 2020bean said...

    Isn’t this what fishermen are for?

    A fisherman with the right equipment and training to be able to pass the target onto the FAC with sufficient precision that he doesn't accidentally become a target himself? Possible, but unlikely.

    It seems like most navies could get 90% of the capabilities of FACs by just using (what I assume are) cheaper land-based mobile launchers.

    Depends on what you want to do. In a lot of cases, there's institutional reasons they can't. The Navy will pitch a fit if the Army gets a big chunk of their mission. And more importantly, their budget.

    If the Iraqis could hit the Stark with a single fighter, couldn’t an FAC do the same thing?

    Stark didn't know they were about to be attacked, and the fighter was showing friendly on their displays. Not really something an FAC can count on.

    Re the Scandinavians, I think a lot of their decision-making is driven by internal politics rather than external security threats. This isn't exclusive to them, of course. The Australian submarine programs have suffered from similar problems.

  38. May 20, 2020Suvorov said...

    A fisherman with the right equipment and training to be able to pass the target onto the FAC with sufficient precision that he doesn’t accidentally become a target himself? Possible, but unlikely.

    Aren't modern AShMs supposed to be good [well, better than "I intentionally targeted a fishing boat"] at target discrimination?

    Stark didn’t know they were about to be attacked

    Sure, but isn't it often the case in warfare that combatants don't know they are about to be attacked (even when they really ought to know...)

  39. May 20, 2020bean said...

    It depends on the missile. Some weapons are capable of quite incredible target discrimination, but others aren't, and the sort of countries which are likely to rely on fishermen for their targeting mostly buy the ones that can't.

    As for Stark, there's still dispute over whether or not the attack was intentional, so it's not really a good comparison. On the broader point, if we're looking at the relative utility of frigates and FACs, then it's worth pointing out that a frigate will generally have much better situational awareness. There are more and better sensors (and much less interference between them) and a lot more eyes and hands to run them.

  40. May 20, 2020quanticle said...

    It seems like most navies could get 90% of the capabilities of FACs by just using (what I assume are) cheaper land-based mobile launchers.

    That's kind of what the Marine Corps is pitching right now with its Force Design 2030 proposal. The pitch is that the US Marine Corps can rapidly establish small bases on allied islands, bring in the HiMARS, and get a sort of pop-up firebase to counter China's Anti-Access/Area Denial capabilities. To that end, the Marine Corps is proposing a reduction in traditional tube artillery from 21 batteries to 5, and increasing its missile/rocket batteries from 7 to 21.

  41. May 20, 2020AlexT said...

    Isn’t this what fishermen are for?

    The moment fishermen become viable targeting sensors, is the moment fishermen become targets. In a serious conflict, nobody will have qualms saying "This is a combat zone. Sail into it at your peril."

    Also, I still don't see why you need high speed on a missile launch platform. It's not like it needs to dash into range. If it's just to pop out and back into a fjord, why have it floating at all instead of a far more resilient land-based missile launcher?

  42. May 20, 2020quanticle said...

    In a serious conflict, nobody will have qualms saying “This is a combat zone. Sail into it at your peril.”

    I don't know about that. The British declared a Maritime Exclusion Zone around the Falkland Islands, allowing the submarines that were there (in theory) to shoot at anything that moved in a 200nm circle around the islands. However, Argentines ran a few merchant ships through anyway, betting (successfully) that the British wouldn't want to be seen taking the first shot at unarmed merchantmen.

  43. May 20, 2020Suvorov said...

    Also, I still don’t see why you need high speed on a missile launch platform.

    I agree with you that surface launchers seem better. The ranges on modern missiles seem more than adequate and FACs would probably have to rely on ground-based sensors to find the target anyway – and as bean would point out, if you want a ship that can go into the deep water to hunt their prey, you probably want something much bigger than an FAC.

    Now, I guess in theory you could make the missile platform faster than ship-based helicopters, which means you could dash up to a ship at stupidly fast speeds, release a volley of missiles, and if rotary aircraft showed up to interdict you you could just run away. But sadly, since the collapse of the USSR, nobody seems to have tinkered with that idea.

    However, Argentines ran a few merchant ships through anyway, betting (successfully) that the British wouldn’t want to be seen taking the first shot at unarmed merchantmen.

    I absolutely think that would be the case in a modern situation. In, say, the South China Sea, nobody wants to be the guy who sinks 243 fishing boats because they might have been calling in missile strikes. Plus, if you were using anti-tank missiles from helicopters, it would burn through some pretty expensive munitions pretty fast.

  44. May 20, 2020Blackshoe said...

    @Suvorov:

    "It seems like most navies could get 90% of the capabilities of FACs by just using (what I assume are) cheaper land-based mobile launchers."

    This is true if the only thing we care about is launching missiles. And then, it's probably true-land-based mobile launchers are cheaper. But FACs can also do other things (patrol/sea control, SAR), etc. Also, you still require some developed system of ISR to be able to find targets for your coastal missile batteries. FACs themselves aren't terribly expensive.

    "Isn’t this what fishermen are for?" Not really. As bean notes, organizing, training, and equipping your fishermen to serve as spotters requires a lot of training and work (and equipment!), and then you have set-up a system for them to report through (it's not going to be they call up the ship and provide targeting data themselves). You need good quality data to make sure you get your target right and can calculate for their motion as they sail along, or else your missile will end up looking in the wrong area once the seeker activates (assuming you are using an active-radar seeker).

    Re: the Scandinavians. They have a pretty capable compliment of FAC, actually. It's just they don't expect to have to fight a "fleet", only the Russian Baltic Fleet (largest ship being a Sov that is currently undergoing a yard period last I heard, and I would not be surprised if it did not come out. They do have some capable ships in the Proj 2038X class, but they've got what, 4?). So there's not a need for them to have a large number of FAC, since they aren't trying to take on a massive force anyway.

    (Also I can argue torpedoes are more purely powerful than missiles anyway, but there is some range trade-off. There are some FAC-Ts out there, albeit not many and some of them are pretty weird hybrids).

  45. May 20, 2020Blackshoe said...

    @AlexT:

    "Also, I still don’t see why you need high speed on a missile launch platform. It’s not like it needs to dash into range"

    Idealized operations look like this:

    -Slow speed/drifting ops loitering while target moves into range while waiting for either organic or non-organic/offboard sensors to pick up target (preferably the latter) -Short dash into missile's effective range -Fire missiles -Long dash away back to protective cover of friendly SAMs/aircraft to get away from any air pursuit

  46. May 20, 2020Blackshoe said...

    @Suvorov:

    Now, I guess in theory you could make the missile platform faster >than ship-based helicopters, which means you could dash up to a >ship at stupidly fast speeds, release a volley of missiles, and if >rotary aircraft showed up to interdict you you could just run away. >But sadly, since the collapse of the USSR, nobody seems to have >tinkered with that idea."

    So, to get something that fast, you're talking about boats in the bottom half of this list. Those kinds of boats are too light to have missiles on them (or very much of anything on them). Also, they have severe sea state limitations.

    Now, there are WIG (Wing-In-Ground) effect (sometimes (WIGE) planes (like the Soviet Ekranoplan). There are still some out there the people tinker with (Iran, for example). They also have pretty significant sea state limitations. And at some point of working with the design, you quickly realize you would be better just building aircraft anyway.

    Also, heck yeah, learning to use Markdown!

  47. May 20, 2020Suvorov said...

    But FACs can also do other things (patrol/sea control, SAR), etc.

    I mean – it seems that a lot of FACs are pretty optimized towards missiles. But I guess it does make sense that if you want a cheap platform with a bite, you'd get a FAC, since they're capable enough of performing peacetime duties and then you can threaten bigger ships with the missiles.

    As bean notes, organizing, training, and equipping your fishermen to serve as spotters requires a lot of training and work (and equipment!), and then you have set-up a system for them to report through (it’s not going to be they call up the ship and provide targeting data themselves).

    I mean...yes, but also no. I'd be surprised if countries like Vietnam and China didn't have at least a rudimentary system for fishing boats (which are engaged in, uh, politically-sensitive fishing) to call in the Coast Guard. All you really need is to give them satellite phones and have them call a number and report a bearing and approximate range. You'd get a pretty good guesstimate because you could pinpoint the phone call location. Even if they're off on the range by a mile or two, that's within the sort of drift you would expect just from launching a missile at a maneuvering target. Any sort of over-the-horizon missile launch is going to be at a guesstimated position anyway, unless you have a datalink to a sensor pointed at the enemy.

    Of course, I agree this is less than ideal targeting, but at the very least it helps you know where to point your sensors (or drones, etc.)

    (assuming you are using an active-radar seeker).

    Use a passive-radar/IR seeker instead, target their self-defense radars.

    So there’s not a need for them to have a large number of FAC, since they aren’t trying to take on a massive force anyway.

    Didn't they have similarly small fleet sizes during the Cold War, when the Baltic Fleet was a little more impressive? Or am I mistaken about that?

  48. May 20, 2020Suvorov said...

    @Blackshoe

    Now, there are WIG (Wing-In-Ground) effect (sometimes (WIGE) planes (like the Soviet Ekranoplan).

    Oh, this is 100% what I was referencing.

    They also have pretty significant sea state limitations.

    Moreso than FACs, though?

    And at some point of working with the design, you quickly realize you would be better just building aircraft anyway.

    I don't think that's necessarily the case, at least for all purposes – the payloads on WIGEs are very impressive. But you don't necessarily have to choose, you can build a WIGE vehicle that can fly if you want. Or so I am told :P

  49. May 20, 2020bean said...

    Sure, you can hand a fisherman a satphone and tell them to call the coastguard if they see anything suspicious. That's been going on for ages. During WWII, the US gave trawlers radios and told them to call in suspected submarine sightings. (OK, not a satphone, but you know what I mean.) The question is what you do with the information. If the response to a call from a fishing boat is "sure, we'll send an MPA to check it out", then that's all well and good. The crew of the MPA can discriminate between a merchant vessel, a friendly warship, and an enemy. But if you're going to start chucking missiles around, you'll need to significantly increase your confidence in the data you're getting. More training on the part of the fishermen. Better communications links. (How are you so sure of their location if the US has turned off public GPS in your region?) For that matter, if I was faced with someone using this system and launching on reports from it, I'd equip a submarine to spoof the phones and start calling in phantom targets to make them waste missiles. There are ways around that (a one-time pad onboard for authentication springs to mind, but countering that just takes a few SEALs) although pretty soon you're well past the point where this is a simple solution.

    Use a passive-radar/IR seeker instead, target their self-defense radars.

    Passive radar has been used for OTH ASM target discrimination (spoilers for Sunday, I guess) but it's not as effective these days. Most radars are software-defined, and if you don't have the ELINT capabilities of a major power, I'd be hesitant to be sure they weren't going to throw a war emergency mode at me that I had no clue about. 30-40 years ago, most radars were defined in hardware, so this wasn't nearly as much of a gamble.

  50. May 20, 2020Suvorov said...

    The crew of the MPA can discriminate between a merchant vessel, a friendly warship, and an enemy. But if you’re going to start chucking missiles around, you’ll need to significantly increase your confidence in the data you’re getting.

    Have them send a grainy cell-phone picture. :P

    For that matter, if I was faced with someone using this system and launching on reports from it, I’d equip a submarine to spoof the phones and start calling in phantom targets to make them waste missiles.

    I'd consider this plan an absolute success if the enemy had to task a submarine to spoof cell-phone calls and deploy SEALs against a few fishermen, though.

    How are you so sure of their location if the US has turned off public GPS in your region?

    If that happens, have them use the radio they're probably legally required to carry and triangulate their location. Or their transponder. Even if the enemy jams those, it's just one more step they have to do to defeat your sensor network that literally consists of handing people a cell-phone and a piece of paper with a phone number on it.

    There are ways around that (a one-time pad onboard for authentication springs to mind, but countering that just takes a few SEALs) although pretty soon you’re well past the point where this is a simple solution.

    In theory off-the-shelf encryption is mathematically secure, you don't need a OTP. The problem is whether or not your encryption software (or your computer) is compromised or not. But if it's just authentication you need, you can just ask the fishermen the name of their first dog or w/e.

    Most radars are software-defined, and if you don’t have the ELINT capabilities of a major power, I’d be hesitant to be sure they weren’t going to throw a war emergency mode at me that I had no clue about. 30-40 years ago, most radars were defined in hardware, so this wasn’t nearly as much of a gamble.

    That makes sense, although a lot of CIWS are 30-40 years old. I'm doubtful they're powerful enough for OTH target discrimination, but if you're just trying not to hit a fishing boat, that should be fine – same with an IR sensor.

    I don't think that turning fishermen into a sensor network is an ideal sensor system, of course. But it could be pretty cost-effective, I think.

  51. May 20, 2020John Schilling said...

    "I had this half-baked idea of a weapon based on SeaRAM with a GAU-25 strapped on"

    Note that SeaRAM already has the ability to engage surface targets, so it's part of the defense against small-boat attacks. It's not the most cost-effective solution for a pirate skiff with an RPG-7, but if the 57mm gun is being overwhelmed, press the button and you've got twenty-one less threats to deal with. Well, 21*Pk, whatever that turns out to be.

    And while we're on the subject of weapons system flexibility, let me repeat my request that the "anti-ship missiles" be more SLAM than Harpoon, with the ability to engage land as well as sea targets. The Navy will probably want thermal imaging rather than radar for terminal guidance anyway, so that's mostly a software problem, and I'm guessing that the actual land attack mission is going to be mostly precision targets rather than area bombardment. So, no scattering of 3-5" shells around the target, but a couple hundred pounds of HE right where you need it. And from a nice safe standoff distance.

  52. May 20, 2020redRover said...

    Re fishing boats, I think it's worth pointing out that you have legit fishing boats with a sat phone, which are perhaps incidentally helpful, but not really an organized part of the defense establishment, and "fishing" boats that are basically manned by whoever the local NSA/DoD equivalent is.

    (Also, I would bet against GPS being turned off, though it may be locally jammed, for anything short of WWIII. There are too many airliners and cruise ships and things that need it, even in moderately hot war zones.)

    For my money though, it seems like most of the value of FACs/fishing boats is trying to pull off a Pearl Harbor at the beginning of a conflict against a semi-prepared American (or French/UK?) fleet. (Or defensively attacking them if they should hazard into confined waters, like the Persian Gulf/Red Sea.) Any sort of blue-ish water use during an active conflict is probably going to end them on the bottom of the sea for not a lot of gain or distraction.

  53. May 20, 2020echo said...

    Just realized this frigate is going to weigh in only a few hundred tons less than a Spruance.
    It's still [citation needed] on wiki, but supposedly it's going to be 700 tons over the Italian version, and a whopping 1400 over the French.

    I'm actually surprised doubling the VLS cells from 16 to 32 only added that much weight.

  54. May 21, 2020AlexT said...

    nobody wants to be the guy who sinks 243 fishing boats

    Not at first, but I think that changes after the first Exocet hits. PR is cheaper than carriers.

    if you were using anti-tank missiles from helicopters, it would burn through some pretty expensive munitions pretty fast

    If the Seahawks' minigun isn't enough to sink a trawler, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Precision_Kill_Weapon_System is $22k a pop. Or send a corvette LCS.

    Idealized operations look like this [...] Short dash into missile’s effective range

    Isn't it rather unlikely that the target would be detected while beyond missile range?

    I'm a bit surprised by the assumption that civilian traffic, sea and air, would carry on through a war zone. Wouldn't all the legit fishermen/airliners/cargo ships avoid the area, as happened after MH17?

  55. May 21, 2020bean said...

    I’d consider this plan an absolute success if the enemy had to task a submarine to spoof cell-phone calls and deploy SEALs against a few fishermen, though.

    It's not using the submarine against a few fishermen, it's using the submarine against the enemy's anti-ship missiles. And any commander who has the opportunity to make the enemy waste missiles for the price of a small SEAL team and a couple of submarine-days of work is going to see that as a good deal.

    But if it’s just authentication you need, you can just ask the fishermen the name of their first dog or w/e.

    That's a lot of extra paperwork, particularly because you need a wide enough spectrum of questions that the SEALs can't just sweat them out of the fishermen.

    And while we’re on the subject of weapons system flexibility, let me repeat my request that the “anti-ship missiles” be more SLAM than Harpoon, with the ability to engage land as well as sea targets.

    Future versions of NSM are advertised as having this capability (which might be part of why Tomahawk isn't being talked up, actually). I think that the latest Harpoons also have GPS guidance which can be used for that. Not so sure about LRASM.

  56. May 21, 2020Blackshoe said...

    It’s not using the submarine against a few fishermen, it’s using >the submarine against the enemy’s anti-ship missiles. And any >commander who has the opportunity to make the enemy waste missiles >for the price of a small SEAL team and a couple of submarine-days >of work is going to see that as a good deal.

    Also, if you have a fairly modern intelligence community with decent hacking skills, they can spoof the calls en masse from bases shore-side. You don't even need a submarine to do that.

  57. May 21, 2020Suvorov said...

    Re fishing boats, I think it’s worth pointing out that you have legit fishing boats with a sat phone, which are perhaps incidentally helpful, but not really an organized part of the defense establishment, and “fishing” boats that are basically manned by whoever the local NSA/DoD equivalent is.

    Yeah, I've had the Soviet naval trawlers and the Chinese usage of fishing boats in my mind a lot while spinning up these crazy ideas.

    For my money though, it seems like most of the value of FACs/fishing boats is trying to pull off a Pearl Harbor at the beginning of a conflict against a semi-prepared American (or French/UK?) fleet. (Or defensively attacking them if they should hazard into confined waters, like the Persian Gulf/Red Sea.)

    So why does China have so many FACs, do you think?

    That’s a lot of extra paperwork, particularly because you need a wide enough spectrum of questions that the SEALs can’t just sweat them out of the fishermen.

    I dunno, some countries already have access to a lot of that information, they could just ask random questions.

    It’s not using the submarine against a few fishermen, it’s using the submarine against the enemy’s anti-ship missiles. And any commander who has the opportunity to make the enemy waste missiles for the price of a small SEAL team and a couple of submarine-days of work is going to see that as a good deal.

    That's true enough, but you'd need to get inside their kill chain to pull something like this off. I don't think it'd be hard to do, but if it takes five days (three days to assess the enemy is cuing strikes from boats, a couple more days to put the plan in operation, maybe more time if you have to fake photos of your own ships with embedded metadata) the enemies have five days in the beginning of a conflict to use their ad-hoc sensor network before it is degraded. That's longer than a lot of very expensive facilities will last.

    Of course, one might assess that the enemy will cue strikes from boats before the beginning of the conflict – even if they're not launching missiles blindly, they'd at least use them to cue MPAs, etc. I'm not sure what you'd do in that case – I guess you could jam everything. (If you're too selective about jamming, you risk giving away your position by omission...)

    Also, if you have a fairly modern intelligence community with decent hacking skills, they can spoof the calls en masse from bases shore-side. You don’t even need a submarine to do that.

    You could also just disable or hack the sat-phones, and jam the civilian radio waves. Or sink every single fishing boat. On the other hand, if you're one of the countries bean refers to that's using FACs, you might not be worried about going to war with a power that has that sort of capabilities. On the gripping hand, if you're that sort of power, you might not really have thought out an operationalized plan.

    Wouldn’t all the legit fishermen/airliners/cargo ships avoid the area, as happened after MH17?

    As I recall, the very fact that MH17 got shot down indicates that civilian craft are pretty cavalier about warzones. But fishermen in many parts of the world aren't going to have some other alternative means of income, so they'll fish.

  58. May 21, 2020Jade Nekotenshi said...

    I'm more surprised that the French version is so much lighter than the Italian one - the French version does have 32 VLS cells (but a 76mm gun, while the Italian version has a 127mm).

    OTOH, the US version seems to be fitted for 16x NSM instead of 8x Teseo/Exocet.

    Also, I realized I should have said GAU-12, not GAU-25. Derp. (I'm thinking of the 25mm gatling on the F-35 and AV-8, in a navalized version).

  59. May 21, 2020Blackshoe said...

    @AlexT

    Isn’t it rather unlikely that the target would be detected while beyond missile range?

    Depends on the missile (some FACs carry really-short range) and the FAC's systems (and especially the presence of supporting effective-that is to say, non fisherman-based-ISR), yes, it's very likely that the target would be detected outside of FAC's engagement range (also note that max effective range is different than max range; swag-tastic number is MER is 75% of max range).

  60. May 21, 2020bean said...

    China has FACs essentially as sea-mobile ASM batteries, instead of basing them on land. Some of this is because in some areas (which now that I think about it actually includes a lot of Scandinavia) water transport is a lot easier than road transport. In China, I think the Navy also controls the shore-based missile batteries, so politics isn't so much of an issue, but I could be wrong. Also, I'm pretty sure their FAC program has been cut way back.

    I dunno, some countries already have access to a lot of that information, they could just ask random questions.

    That's dubious at best. My work uses a procedure to verify people who need to log in without their badge, but a lot of the time, it fails because the person forgets what they put down on the form. Yes, there are factual questions you can ask, but even then, you'd want to check the database and make sure you actually had enough questions and that the answers are correct.

    I’m more surprised that the French version is so much lighter than the Italian one - the French version does have 32 VLS cells (but a 76mm gun, while the Italian version has a 127mm).

    The French version is a lower-end ship than the Italian one, and it's built somewhat lighter, AIUI. Visually, they're very distinct.

  61. May 21, 2020redRover said...

    @Suvorov

    So why does China have so many FACs, do you think?

    Great for trooping the flag/maritime presence operations, plus China has a lot of littoral/in shore requirements on its coastline or in their near abroad. (Korea/Vietnam/SCS) But, for blue water operations they seem both unsuited and likely expendable for a one shot surprise attack.

  62. May 22, 2020AlexT said...

    @Suvorov

    the very fact that MH17 got shot down indicates that civilian craft are pretty cavalier about warzones.

    Sure, they were brave until then. Have they stayed as brave since?

    But fishermen in many parts of the world aren’t going to have some other alternative means of income, so they’ll fish.

    My (limited) experience of informal economies would argue otherwise. People make do if they must. Is there historical precedent for this?

    @Blackshoe

    some FACs carry really-short range [...] it’s very likely that the target would be detected outside of FAC’s engagement range

    Styx had 80km operational range, 50 years ago. What are the new FACs carrying?

  63. May 27, 2020Blackshoe said...

    @Alex T:

    Styx had 80km operational range, 50 years ago. What are the new FACs carrying?

    Things like this, among others.

    Also (not applicable to the the good old Termit, of course), but many of the operational ranges given assume fairly generous launch conditions (eg launching from an airplane) or flight profiles that will extend the range but sacrifice lethality (eg not flying in sea-skimming mode). For FACs (also surface ships and submarines), launching at sea-level tends to cost a lot of range. Additionally, if your system has options like waypoints, max range assumes you don't use those, which why wouldn't you?

  64. May 27, 2020bean said...

    There's also the aspect that there's no particular reason to design range into the weapon that you aren't going to be to able use. (Well, except for potentially coating the target in burning fuel.) Early Exocets were rocket-powered because they didn't expect to get targeting data from very far over the horizon. So if you don't expect to have good targeting data, you're not going to buy weapons capable of handling serious OTH targets. Of course, if you do that, you can't use OTH targeting data, but short-range weapons are cheaper and smaller. Styx is an awfully big missile, and in weight/space terms, it's a choice between that or a quad-pack of Harpoons.

  65. May 27, 2020AlexT said...

    Ok, so FACs have to be fast because they use short-range missiles (which they do for reasons of space aboard and of cost), so they expect to have to dash into range of distant targets. This makes sense now, thanks.

Comments from SlateStarCodex:

Leave a comment

All comments are reviewed before being displayed.


Name (required):


E-mail (required, will not be published):

Website:

You can use Markdown in comments!


Enter value: Captcha