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Has the U.S. Navy Created Its Ultimate Weapon?
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a425couple
2019-11-18 03:51:41 UTC
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https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/has-us-navy-created-its-ultimate-weapon-96586

November 17, 2019 Topic: Security Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags:
NavyMilitaryTechnologyWorldAircraft CarrierSwarm

Has the U.S. Navy Created Its Ultimate Weapon?
The future of amphibious assaults lies with drones and unmanned vehicles
guided by the "Mother Ship."

by Kris Osborn

Key Point: The Navy's new technology based strategy will save many
servicemen's lives.

The future of amphibious attack may consist of thousands of
disaggregated manned and unmanned surveillance boats, armor-carrying
connectors, minesweepers and small attack vessels operating in tandem as
the Navy and Marine Corps refine a new strategic approach and continue
their pivot toward a new, great-power threat environment.

The concept is to configure a dispersed, yet “networked” fleet of
next-generation connectors and other smaller boats launched from
big-deck amphib “mother ships.” The larger host ships are intended to
operate in a command and control capacity while bringing sensors,
long-range fires and 5th-generation air support to the fight.

“We envision fleets of smaller, multi-mission vessels, operating with
surface warfare leadership. People talk about a 355-ship Navy, how about
a 35,000-ship Navy?,” Maj. Gen. David Coffman, Director of Naval
Expeditionary Warfare, told an audience at the Surface Naval Association
Symposium.

Coffman explained it as a “family of combatant craft, manned and
unmanned, integrated in a distributed maritime operation.”

Since potential adversaries now have longer-range weapons, better
sensors, targeting technologies and computers with faster processing
speeds, amphibious forces approaching the shore may need to disperse in
order to make it harder for enemy forces to target them. Therefore, the
notion of a disaggregated, yet interwoven attack force, less vulnerable
to enemy fire, will be launched to hit “multiple landing points” to
exploit enemy defenses.

“This does not mean we give up the bigs, it means we use them more
effectively. They are a big part of our ability to project combat
power,” Coffman explained.

New ships, such as future Landing Craft Air Cushions (LCAC), Unmanned
Surface Vessels (USV), Amphibious Combat Vehicles, ship-launched
undersea drones and even newly up-gunned PC boats, are expected to
empower the emerging strategy to introduce a new, more effective and
lethal “over-the-horizon ship-to-shore” attack ability.

Future LCAC replacements, such as the now-under-construction
Textron-built Ship-to-Shore Connectors, are expected to figure
prominently in these anticipated missions. They introduce an
unprecedented ability to transport 70-ton Abrams tanks to war and bring
an integrated suite of new technologies to amphibious attack missions.

Execution of this new strategy is, depending upon the threat, also
reliant upon 5th-generation aircraft, Coffman said; the Corp F-35B, now
operational as part of Marine Corps Air Ground Task Forces aboard the
USS Wasp and USS Essex, is intended to provide close-air support to
advancing attacks, use its sensors to perform forward reconnaissance and
launch strikes itself. The success of an amphibious attack needs, or
even requires, air supremacy. Extending this logic, an F-35 would be
positioned to address enemy air-to-air and airborne air-to-surface
threats such as drones, fighter jets or even incoming anti-ship missiles
and ballistic missiles. The idea would be to use the F-35 in tandem with
surveillance drones and other nodes to find and destroy land-based enemy
defenses, clearing the way for a land assault.

The entire strategic and conceptual shift is also informed by an
increased “sea-basing” focus. Smaller multi-mission vessels, according
to this emerging strategy, will be fortified by larger amphibs operating
as sovereign entities at safer distances. Coffman said these ships would
operate as “seaports, hospitals, logistics warehouses and sea-bases for
maneuver forces.”

A 2014 paper from the Marine Corps Association, the professional journal
of the US Marine Corps, points to sea-basing as a foundation upon which
the Navy will shift away from traditional amphibious warfare.

“Seabased operations enable Marines to conduct highly mobile,
specialized, small unit, amphibious landings by stealth from over the
horizon at multiple undefended locations of our own choosing,” the paper
writes.

In effect, future “ship-to-shore” amphibious attacks will look nothing
like the more linear, aggregated Iwo Jima assault. A Naval War College
essay on this topic both predicts and reinforces Coffman’s thinking.

“The basic requirements of amphibious assault, long held to be vital to
success, may no longer be attainable. Unlike the Pacific landings of
World War II amphibious objective areas could prove impossible to
isolate,” the paper, called “Blitzkrieg From the Sea: Maneuver Warfare
and Amphibious Operations,” states. (Richard Moore, 1983)

The essay, written in the 80s during the height of the Cold War, seems
to anticipate future threats from major-power adversaries.
Interestingly, drawing from some elements of a Cold War mentality, the
essay foreshadows current “great-power” competition strategy for the
Navy as it transitions from more than a decade of counterinsurgency to a
new threat environment. In fact, when discussing its now-underway
“distributed lethality” strategy, Navy leaders often refer to this need
to return its focus upon heavily fortified littoral defenses and open,
blue-water warfare against a near-peer adversary - as having some roots
in the Cold War era.

The Naval War College essay also seems to anticipate modern thinking in
that it cites LCACs as fundamental to amphibious warfare, writing that
LCACs can “land at several points along an enemy coastline, seeking out
enemy weaknesses and shifting forces.”

LCACs can access over 70-percent of the shoreline across the world,
something the new SSCs will be able to do as well. Designed with
over-the-horizon high-speed and maneuverability, LCACs are able to
travel long distances and land on rocky terrain and drive up onto the
shore. Referring to a more dispersed or disaggregated amphibious attack
emphasis, the Naval War College essay describes modern attack through
the lens of finding “surface gaps” to exploit as a way to bypass or
avoid “centers of resistance.”

Dispersed approaches, using air-ground coordination and forward
positioned surveillance nodes, can increasingly use synchronized assault
tactics, pinpointing advantageous areas of attack. Not only can this, as
the essay indicates, exploit enemy weakness, but it also brings the
advantage of avoiding more condensed or closely-configured approaches
far more vulnerable to long-range enemy sensors and weapons. Having an
SSC, which can bring a heavier load of land-attack firepower, weapons
and Marines, helps enable this identified need to bring assault forces
across a wide-range of attack locations. None of this, while intended to
destroy technologically sophisticated enemies, removes major risks;
Russian and Chinese weapons, including emerging 5th-generation fighters,
DF-26 anti-ship missiles claimed to reach 900-miles and rapidly-emerging
weapons such as drones, lasers and railguns are a variety of systems of
concern.

New Amphibious Attack Platforms

The effort to integrate large numbers of multi-mission smaller craft,
naturally hinges upon the continued development of vessels enabled by
newer advanced technologies. Textron's upgraded Ship-to-Shore Craft
includes lighter-weight composite materials, increased payload capacity,
modernized engines and computer-automated controls. Also, SSC’s new
Rolls Royce engines have more horsepower and specialized aluminum to
help prevent corrosion. Textron engineers also say the SSC is built with
digital flight controls and computer automation to replace the
traditional yoke and pedals used by current connectors. As a result,
on-board computers will quickly calculate relevant details such as wind
speed and navigational information, according to Textron information.

The Navy’s 72 existing LCACs, in service since the 80s, can only
transport up to 60-tons, reach speeds of 36-knots and travel ranges up
to 200 nautical miles from amphibious vehicles. The first several SSCs,
which have been built and launched on the water, bring a new level of
computer networking, combat-power transport technology and emerging
elements of advanced maritime propulsion systems. The new SSC's have
also moved to a lower frequency for ship electronics, moving from 400
Hertz down to 60 Hertz in order to better synchronize ship systems with
Navy common standards. Along with these properties, the new craft uses
hardware footprint reducing advances to lower the number of gear boxes
from eight to two.

As part of this overall attack apparatus, the Corps is preparing to
deploy new BAE-built Amphibious Combat Vehicles by 2021. By integrating
a new, more powerful engine, large weapons and digitized C4ISR systems,
the ACV is expected to bring new mechanized firepower to amphibious
assaults - when compared to the existing AAV - Amphibious Assault
Vehicle. BAE is now beginning Low-Rate Initial Production as part of a
Marine Corps plan to build hundreds of the new vehicles. Unlike existing
tracked AAVs, ACVs are eight-wheeled vehicles engineered for greater
speed, maneuverability and survivability. By removing the need for
torsion bars, a wheeled-vehicle such as the ACV can build a v-shaped
hull for additional protection, BAE Systems developers say. "The Marine
Corps went from tracked to wheeled because of advances in automotive
technology," said John Swift, Director of Amphibious Warfare.

These vehicles, if upgraded with advanced AI-enabled networking and
computer technologies, could help identify threats, protect SSCs and of
course bring needed firepower to amphibious landings. BAE and the Corps
are now preparing to fire weapons at the new vehicle until the live-fire
attacks achieve "total destruction," as a way to prepare the vehicle for
combat, Swift said.

Mine Threat:

Coffman also explained that he envisions unmanned, yet networked LCACs
as something which, among other things, can limit risk to Marines from a
range of enemy attacks such as deep-water mines.

“We have significant gaps in our capability to defeat 100,000 Russian
and Chinese mines which will not be laid in shallow water,” Coffman
said. When accompanied by a fleet of small attack and reconnaissance
vessels, SSCs will operate with more protection from mines and other
enemy threats.

While this emerging Navy strategy is, of course, intended to implement a
far more effective attack strategy, it is also, by design, intended to
save more lives when launching dangerous assaults into heavily-defended
enemy areas.


“Amphibious landings are marked by extremely high costs and heavy
casualties, and are considered among the riskiest and least desirable
operations to conduct,” the Marine Corps Association essay maintains.

Kris Osborn is a Senior Fellow at The Lexington Institute. This piece
was first featured in January 2019 and is being republished due to
reader's interest.

Media: Reuters
Colonel Edmund J. Burke
2019-11-18 18:24:48 UTC
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Well, I don't speak for squids; however, in Nam I was the Army's ultimate weapon.
Me and my twin .50s, bitch. Yeah, we fucked up Charlie like a bad dream...
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