April 26, 2024

Open Thread 155

It's time once again for our regular Open Thread. Talk about whatever you want, so long as it isn't culture war.

The big news is that next weekend is the New England meetup. I'm not accepting more people for full-time, but if you're in the area and want to drop by for a bit, let me know.

Overhauls are British Battleships in WWII, Shells Part 2, Continuous At Sea Deterrent and for 2023, my review of the Titan silo in Tucson and A Visit to Texas.


  1. April 27, 2024James said...

    I read this article that might be of interest to readers of this blog about the small fleet of ships who repair underwater cables. I found the technical descriptions of how they actually do the repairs especially interesting https://www.theverge.com/c/24070570/internet-cables-undersea-deep-repair-ships

  2. April 27, 2024muddywaters said...

    Weird: the Sovremennys have basically the full set of 1940s destroyer weapons. On a ship built in roughly the 1980s and still nominally in service, though I'm not aware of any seeing combat.

    • Heavy (by modern standards) guns: 4 x 130mm. Probably the heaviest gun fit of anything put into service (not abandoned experiments) since the Sverdlovs and Tigers (~1960) or active since the Iowas. Said to be for amphibious fire support.

    • Light guns: 24 barrels x 30mm. (Which is a fair way to count them as the rate of fire per barrel is ~2x higher than a 1940s 20mm.)

    • Torpedoes: 4 tubes x 533mm.

    • Depth charges: 12 launchers.

    (They do also have missiles and a helicopter.)

    For comparison, a 1940s destroyer might have 5x127mm / 10x40mm + 7x20mm / 10 / 8, a 1940s AA cruiser (as modern-destroyer-sized ships were then known) 16x127mm / 8x40mm + 8x20mm / 8 / 8, and a more normal modern destroyer 1x127mm / 12x20mm + 2x25mm / only light torpedoes (6x324mm).

  3. April 28, 2024bean said...


    Yeah, I saw that too, and it's great.


    Hmm. An interesting idea, and one that I can't really disagree with, although I'll point out that the torpedo tubes are for firing ASW missiles, not anti-ship torpedoes. But other than that, yeah, pretty much.

  4. April 29, 2024Alex said...

    A disappointing update on the FFG(X) program: Constellation Frigate Delivery Delayed 3 Years, Says Navy.


    Constellation (FFG-62), under construction at Fincantieri Marinette Marine in Wisconsin, may not deliver to the fleet until 2029, three years later than the original 2026 delivery goal, according to a service shipbuilding review.

    While the design was based on a long-serving warship, design agent Gibbs & Cox heavily modified the FREMM design to meet NAVSEA requirements, like tougher survivability standards than those of European navies, Navy officials have told USNI News.

    At one point the Constellation design shared about 85 percent commonality with the original FREMM design, but the alterations have brought that commonality down to under 15 percent, a person familiar with the changes told USNI News.

    15% commonality with the FREMM design is surprising, given the original focus of the FFG(X) program was to modify an existing design. It's not uncommon for seemingly minor requirements to have cascading effects through an entire design, which is likely what happened here.

    The team at Huntington Ingalls is probably fairly frustrated, since they seem likely to shut down the National Security Cutter line after the completion of USCGC Friedman. At the same time, my guess is that some NAVSEA requirement would have required substantial redesigns to the NSC platform as well.

    "Off-the-shelf" designs only work if you can live with what's available "off-the-shelf".

  5. April 29, 2024Ski206 said...

    @Alex that’s a great point. It seems like every time we go for an “off the shelf” design it ends up being essentially all new by the time we get done making changes. Might as well go clean sheet of paper.

  6. April 29, 2024Algirdas said...

    Is there are guide to visiting USS Iowa on NG? If not, any suggestions for how best to experience the visit?

  7. April 29, 2024bean said...


    I have an alternate theory on the "clean sheet" argument. One of the great failures of the US defense system is our ability to build anything that isn't the best, which tends to drive up costs. About the only way we've found to control this is to build a new thing while pretending that we aren't, and I tend to view programs like FFG(X) and Super Hornet as essentially routing around one of the biggest problems in the US defense industry. In other words, if this was a clean sheet with zero commonality, it would be delayed to like 2032 instead of 2029.


    That would be my review of Iowa. The short version is that it's a good museum, and you can either take the 2-3 hour general public tour, or pay extra to see the Captain's/FDR's cabin, or on the weekends pay a lot extra for the engine or armament tours. I can't really recommend one in particular, as the best option there depends on who you are. I had a friend tell me that she'd been on the general tour a couple times, and it was lovely, but enough, and that's probably true for most people who have a casual interest in warships. If you are really interested, the extra money is worth it, and I can only say that I'm glad they didn't have it when I first visited, because I might have just paid instead of volunteering.

  8. April 30, 2024Alex said...


    I generally agree. The main advantage of programs that adapt an existing design is that they constrain the design space in a way that enables the designers to say "no" to requirements that otherwise would have cascading effects throughout the design.

    An example is the 40 knot speed requirement for the LCS program. The need for very high speed (higher than a carrier battle group) necessarily drove choices and trade-offs in other aspects of the design (hull, propulsion, etc.) However, it wouldn't have been reasonable for a designer to say "this can't be done" - it clearly could, it just required trade-offs.

    By contrast, if you commit to a design based on the FREMM or NSC, and then ask to update it for a 40-knot top speed, the designers can reasonably say "this can't be done without a full redesign".

    If you asked for a clean sheet design with zero commonality, it's possible that Navy requirements would be set in a way that you never get an actual combat-ready vessel. This is not a theoretical concern - between the Zumwalt-class DDGs and Freedom-class LCSs, the Navy has purchased at least 19 surface combatants with minimal practical value.

    So the FFG(X) approach might be a distant second-best vs. the optimum state of "make reasonable and well-informed trade-offs on requirements", but still seems better than the status quo.

  9. May 04, 2024doctorpat said...

    Though, when someone says "15% commonality with the FREMM" how is that measured? By dollars? Because my understanding is that the actual ship itself is a fraction of the total cost, and the real money is is the fit out of all the weapons, radar, control centers, computers etc etc. So you might get the exact same ship, fit it out with a different set of sensor and weapons systems, update the specs on the electronics, do USN standard interior, and get something like "15% commonality with the FREMM" Or have I got those orders of magnitudes wrong?

  10. May 05, 2024muddywaters said...

    We previously noted that warships cost ~10-100x more than merchant ships the same size, but weren't able to say how much of that is the obvious weapons and sensors, and how much is survivability, speed, and building it somewhere you trust to not leak your secrets instead of the cheapest place.

  11. May 06, 2024Bernd said...

    Seen on twitter:

    telling a guy from 1900 we have nuclear powered capital ships that weigh 100,000 tonnes and he gets excited and asks me how big their main guns are and i choke up and look away

  12. May 07, 2024Ski206 said...


    I think a significant degree of the “gold plating” if you will gets driven by how stupidly rare it is to get anything new.

    Look at the Ford’s. This is the Navy’s one shot for the next 30+ years at a new carrier. If you try and go for incremental improvements (Imagine Ford with her new hull and reactors but old school weapons elevators, cats, arresting gear, Radar, etc odds are your going to get stuck with those compromises for a long time. If not the entire production run. That’s the sad reality of military budgets these days.

    The other problem is Congress etc getting involved. The Constellations have VLS but they are escort Frigates not strike platforms so no Tomahawk capability. Then Congress gets involved because those idiots think if a missed fits in a tube that’s all you need. But it’s not so your adding cost, weight, and schedule delays as you try to add in a weapon the class doesn’t need and shouldn’t carry. Or like with F-22 they keep cutting the buy numbers driving the unit costs up until the aircraft becomes unaffordable.

    The above also drive stupid compromises in the current force structure. The AF especially gets so focused on funding the next step forward that they are happy to gut the current force living the dream that they will get all 700 or whatever next gen aircraft but they never do. You’re seeing this with the dithering around on how many F-15EX we are going to buy and ordering the first tranche without CFTs as if the Pacific doesn’t exist. Meanwhile they are planning to shrink the already massively valuable and overworked F-15E fleet instead of doing what they should be and ordering more EXs to replace those older airframes.

    In my view the current status of the Constellation class program is proof that off the shelf doesn’t work at least for things like combatant ships. I’d be willing to bet that we’d be better off if they had started with a clean sheet and a ship that was designed to meet USN standards from the keel up.

  13. May 07, 2024bean said...

    Interesting that you bring up the Fords, in that the original plan was to spread the changes out across CVN-77 to CVN-79. This got thrown out by Rumsfeld, who concentrated them all in CVN-78 for reasons that I'm sure made sense to someone, but definitely don't to me. But in a broader sense, yes, the fact that we buy so few platforms tends to push us to put as much as we can on each of them.

    The other problem is Congress etc getting involved. The Constellations have VLS but they are escort Frigates not strike platforms so no Tomahawk capability.

    I actually think Congress may have been right on this one. Yes, escort frigates aren't strike platforms, but neither were submarines or destroyers, and Tomahawk is fairly cheap to install in the grand scheme of things.

    Or like with F-22 they keep cutting the buy numbers driving the unit costs up until the aircraft becomes unaffordable.

    I might be misunderstanding you, but that's not quite how unit costs work. The problem is that the F-22 was expensive, and they thought the F-35 would be cheaper. Which it is, but it's also less capable.

    I’d be willing to bet that we’d be better off if they had started with a clean sheet and a ship that was designed to meet USN standards from the keel up.

    I would take the other side of that bet. Not because I think that a good design team with appropriate discipline couldn't do better, but because I don't think we have one of those around, and if you think the design creep on this was bad, it would be so much worse if we didn't have to pretend we were doing this "off the shelf".

  14. May 07, 2024Bernd said...

    How much do incremental improvements compromise the design overall? Would all the newer Fords end up with useless voids where the steam pipes for the catapults were on the first ship?

  15. May 08, 2024bean said...

    Probably not very much. First, I forget the exact sequence they were planning, but I think the new catapults came in at the same time as the new hull, so that wouldn't be an issue. Second, there's always some redesign between carriers, so I'm sure that they would find some use for that space, even if it's slightly less optimal than it would be if they hadn't had to run steam to the cats in an earlier version.

  16. May 09, 2024muddywaters said...

    Possible site bug: 3-4 hours ago, all the comments disappeared from apparently all posts (but probably not the Recent Comments sidebar; I didn't try making a new comment). They have now reappeared, but I don't know whether this is likely to recur.

  17. May 10, 2024redRover said...

    Second, there’s always some redesign between carriers, so I’m sure that they would find some use for that space, even if it’s slightly less optimal than it would be if they hadn’t had to run steam to the cats in an earlier version

    Given how bespoke the carriers are, both in construction and maintenance, you almost wonder if the Navy should be more open to changes from ship to ship (compared to more numerous vessels like DDGs, were standardization probably pays more dividends). They would have to be smart about how they did it (what impacts interoperability vs what can be done as a one off experiment).

  18. May 11, 2024bean said...

    They pretty much are. The Nimitz class has been described as 10 single-ship classes, because they do a lot of redesign work between them.

  19. May 16, 2024Jade Nekotenshi said...

    Re: the Sovremenyy class. Those 533mm torpedo tubes are mainly intended for ASW torps, but they can fire anti-surface torpedoes too, unlike the lightweight torpedo launchers favored in the West. Whether those are routinely carried on anything or not, I don't know - but the capability existed at the inception, and AFAIK, still does.

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