This series of articles will attempt to provide a set of basic requirements for a vessel to improve certain deficiencies in the US Navy’s current vessel procurement program. Those deficiencies are in the areas of convoy escort and littoral combat capabilities. (Barber, 2014) This paper will include a threat assessment, an analysis of what systems are available for use, will develop a general set of requirements, and include a design that meets those requirements and analysis thereof using commercially available systems, and possibly off-the-record discussions with US Navy personnel and naval architects. So far, there are four planned portions: a threat assessment, analysis of existing systems, a conclusion/set of requirements, and wargaming (specifically using Command: Modern Air-Naval Operations) to validate the conclusions made.
Before the threat assessment, it would likely be in the best interests of the layman to explain what a guided missile frigate is and why the US Navy needs one. This type of warship (under the current vessel designation scheme) is smaller and cheaper than a destroyer, but still large enough to operate independently. They are often designed primarily for escorting things, either convoys of merchant ships or groups of larger naval vessels. Frigates in the US Navy tend to be focused on antisubmarine warfare, although the guided-missile frigate also includes a local air defense capability, and they all have some anti-surface warfare capability.
The frigate has had a long and storied history in the US Navy. The first six major surface combatants acquired by the Navy were frigates, one of which is still in existence. Later classes of frigate were the backbone of the Navy during the 20th century, proving capable in a wide variety of roles. American frigates have found victory against German U-boats, Japanese battleships, Russian submarines, Iranian missile boats, Somali pirates, and Iraqi commandos. (Friedman, 2006) A guided-missile frigate, therefore, is a vessel smaller than a destroyer but capable of conducting independent operations, optimized for antisubmarine warfare, but with secondary capabilities in antisurface and antiair warfare. They must be easy and cheap to build and cheap to operate, but able to survive and thrive in the North Atlantic winter.
PART ONE: THREAT ASSESSMENT
There are three primary categories of threats in modern naval warfare. They are air, surface threats, and subsurface threats. The first group, air threats, consists of aircraft and weapons such as Anti-Ship Cruise Missiles (ASCMs), Anti-Ship Ballistic Missiles (ASBMs), and guided bombs. Surface threats consist of surface combatants and land installations, which will likely launch ASCMs, and the third consists of submarines, which will use heavyweight torpedoes, ASCMs, and mines, mines, and frogmen.
Anti-Ship Cruise and Ballistic Missiles (ASCMs and ASBMs) present the greatest danger to a vessel, both in littoral or open- ocean environments. The reason for their danger is their extremely advantageous cost-exchange ratio (Crumplar & Morrison, 2014). (1) The most effective means of defeating an advanced air-defense system like the US Navy’s AEGIS is a saturation attack, developed by the Imperial Japanese Navy and perfected the Soviet NA-MMF (Naval Aviation-Military Maritime Fleet of the USSR). Directly derived from the Kamikaze suicide-aircraft attacks used by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the US Navy’s Fast Carrier Task Forces during the later stages of the naval war in the Pacific, the NA-MMF improved upon Japanese tactics by replacing the original weapon (A fanatical teenager in a poorly maintained obsolete aircraft) with a large cruise missile, and by tightening up the launch window. (Tokarev, 2014)
This tactic entails saturating a formation with more threats than their air defense system can defeat in a given time. This number is generally calculated as a multiple of the number anti-aircraft missiles the defenders have, and was extremely easy with older American naval surface-to-air missiles like RIM-2 Terrier, RIM-8 Talos, RIM-24 Tartar, and RIM-66 SM-1MR. (Menaul, et al., 1982) Those systems had relatively short ranges, and were severely limited by a lack of inertial midcourse guidance, and a reliance on the launching vessel for terminal guidance. Current systems, namely the Lockheed Martin AEGIS combat system and the BAe Mark 41 Vertical Launch System, as well as improvements in computing power and radar technology, had reduced the danger of saturation attacks by greatly increasing a vessel’s rate of fire. Unfortunately, the proliferation of cheap Russian and Chinese anti-ship missiles (Table 1), is once again making it increasingly possible for a potential adversary to heavily damage or sink a major surface combatant with a saturation attack. (Crumplar and Morrison, 34)
Table 1: Principal Characteristics of Adversary Anti-Ship Missiles
(Federation of American Scientists, 2015) (ROSOBORONEXPORT, 2014) (Federation of American Scientists, 2015)
|Name||DOD/NATO designation||Country of Origin||Range (Warhead)||Guidance Method||Price (2015 USD)|
|Kh-31A||AS-17 KRYPTON||Russian Federation||55 nm
|P-800 Yakhont||SS-N-26 STROBILE||Russian Federation||186.4 nm
|C-802||CSS-N-8 SACCADE||People’s Republic of China||65-270 nm
|Active Radar with IR backup||$0.9M|
|P-700 Granit||SS-N-19 SHIPWRECK||Russian Federation||388 nm
|3M-54 Klub||SS-N-27A/B SIZZLER
|Russian Federation||180 nm
|Russian Federation||180 nm
|P-270E Moskit||SS-N-22 SUNBURN||Russian Federation||150 nm
|Kh-22||AS-4 KITCHEN||Soviet Union||320 nm
2,205 lb or 350-1,000kt
The only effective defense a surface warship has against a saturation missile attack is to either acquire more interceptor missiles, which may or may not be possible depending on the missile or ship, or more ships. This would increase the number of SAM launchers and the detection ability of various shipboard systems, especially in today’s highly networked battlefield. (Crumplar & Morrison, 2014) With the current price of an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer approaching $2 billion and the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser out of production, it is not fiscally feasible to simply buy more ships, nor is it possible from an engineering standpoint to increase the number of VLS tubes without spending tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars per ship. What is needed, therefore, is a smaller, less expensive, less capable vessel than a destroyer, but with similar (proportionally less) capabilities. What is needed is a modern equivalent to the Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided missile frigates, capable of local air defense, antisubmarine warfare, and antisurface warfare.
Surface threats present less of an obstacle to this vessel, as the current 5-inch Mark 45 gun and the OTO-Melara 76mm gun family found on the FFG-7 class frigates are rather effective at sinking vessels up to destroyer size. (Friedman, 2006) The current surface threat is of two forms; first, the threat of large surface combatants firing anti-ship cruise missiles, which is more of an air defense threat and can be countered by the Anti-Air Warfare (AAW) system, or of small fast-attack craft, which may close to within the range of their gun systems. Swarms of these vessels, as Iranian doctrine calls for, could be extremely threatening to an Arleigh Burke or Ticonderoga-class ship due to their lack of Anti-Surface weapons. (Pournelle, 2015)
While the 5-inch Mark 45 gun is a highly effective gun, it can sustain a rate of fire of only 16-20 rounds per minute for the first 20 rounds, and then two to four rounds per minute due to the requirement to manually reload the automatic loader’s magazine. (Friedman, 2006) The Aegis-equipped vessels also sport a pair of 25mm Mk.38 chain guns, which are highly effective against small boats but lack a range long enough to destroy incoming small-boat threats outside probable weapons range. (2) The lack of this capability is problematic when operating a vessel in the littoral environment.
Under-surface threats are multiplying at an alarming rate. In the littoral environment, diesel-electric submarines, despite being slower, smaller, and generally less capable submarines than their nuclear-powered cousins, pose a massive threat to any vessel. (Pournelle, 2015) The Russian-designed Pr.877/Pr.636 Kilo/Improved Kilo, operated by Russia, China, India, Iran, Poland, Romania, Algeria, and Vietnam, is particularly potent. It can be equipped with the latest in Russian torpedoes and Anti-Ship Missiles, such as the 53-65 wake-homing torpedo, which passively homes in on the wake of a surface ship and is capable of incapacitating a 100,000 ton supercarrier with one hit, or the 3M-54 Klub two-stage cruise missile. This missile flies above the wave tops to be practically invisible on radar until the final moments of its flight, at which point the second stage detaches and accelerates to over 1,900 knots, leaving an engagement window of mere seconds. (ROSOBORONEXPORT, 2014)
In open-ocean scenarios such as convoy escort, the air and subsurface opposition is even tougher, with advanced Russian nuclear submarines like the Pr.949A OSCAR-II (7x), Pr.671 RTMK Victor III (4x), Pr.971/971M Akula (10x), and Pr.885 Yasen (1 in service, 4 building, 12 planned) classes. (Friedman, 2006) They are designed for two missions: Finding, tracking and destroying Carrier Battlegroups or doing the same to Ohio-class fleet ballistic missile submarines.These are submarines so expensive that their production bankrupted the Soviet Union. They are crewed by the cream of the crop of Russian submariners, and their tactics have been constantly evolving for the past fifty years. (Menaul, et al., 1982)
The Chinese Type 091 and 093 classes of nuclear attack submarine are comparable to the Hotel-Echo-November classes of Soviet Submarine, which were first generation nuclear submarines, and therefore are not as dangerous. (Holmes, 2014) Open-ocean anti-submarine warfare (ASW) doctrines dictate the carriage of at least one and preferably two helicopters comparable to the Sikorsky H-60 series, and stand-off anti-submarine weapons like the RUM-139 VLA of 22km range, in addition to shorter-ranged systems like the Mk.32 Surface Vessel Torpedo Tubes. (Howitt, 2014)
Part II will consist of an analysis of available systems, and developing requirements.
(1) The ratio of the cost of the missiles fired at a target versus the cost to defend against the missiles
(2) Compare the effective range of the Mk.38 (3,000m) (Friedman, 2006) to that of the C-701 radar-guided light anti-ship missile (15,000m) (Federation of American Scientists, 2015), widely used on Iranian gunboats.
Barber, A. H. (2014, May). Rethinking the Future Fleet. Proceedings, 48-52.
Crumplar, R., & Morrison, P. (2014, January). Beware the Antiship Cruise Missile: To guard against compacency after years without an equally matched adversary, the US Navy must upgrade its offensive antisurface warfare capability — now. Proceedings, 34-38.
Federation of American Scientists. (2015, November 11). FAS Military Analysis Network. Retrieved from Federation of American Scientists Website: http://fas.org/man/index.html
Friedman, N. (2006). Naval Institute Guide to World Naval Weapon Systems. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press.
Tokarev, M. Y. (2014, Winter). Kamikazes: The Soviet Legacy. US Naval War College Review, Vol.67, No.1. 61-84.
Menaul, A.-M. C., Bidwell, B., Donnelly, C. N., Dornan, J. E., Erickson, J., Gunston, B., … Vigor, P. H. (1982). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Strategy, Tactics and Weapons of Russian Military Power (1982 ed.). (R. Bonds, Ed.) New York, New York, USA: Salamander Books Ltd.
ROSOBORONEXPORT. (2014). Aerospace Systems Catalog. Moscow, Moscow Oblast, Russian Federation: ROSORBORONEXPORT.
ROSOBORONEXPORT. (2014). Naval Systems Catalog. Moscow, Moscow Oblast, Russian Federation: ROSOBORONEXPORT.
Pournelle, C. E. (2015, July). The Deadly Future of Littoral Sea Control. Proceedings, 26-31.
Holmes, J. R. (2014, April). Defend the First Island Chain: A strategic solution to the troubled waters of the western pacific is perimeter defense — but what kind? History offers options. Proceedings, 32-35.
Howitt, Z. (2014, April). It’s Time for a ‘Sea Control Frigate’. Proceedings, 62-67.