A Question for the Weekend – Disruptive Thinking

Look at the forward equipment plans for the British armed forces and what do you see?

Fast jets, frigates and armoured vehicles.

All pretty conventional stuff

A handful of questions spring to mind

Is that just stodgy inertia?

OK, so there are bits of innovation are but they are incremental?

Is the MoD actually a learning organisation or is it condemned to relearn expensive lessons time and time again?

Are we capable of imaginative and disruptive thinking any more?

What mechanisms in the services, AND, across them, exist for innovative thinking, discussion and debate?

Or, is it simply that after hundreds of years of conflict the needs of the armed forces are pretty well understood and settled so fast jets, frigates and armoured vehicles are exactly what is needed?

Move along here, nothing to see!

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90 thoughts on “A Question for the Weekend – Disruptive Thinking

  1. Beno

    Oh I don’t know.
    Fleet AREA air defence. Virtually guaranteeing anti air protection in 1000 mile square area.

    World largest VTOL stealth aircraft carrier, configured for fast jet + land and sea ( surface \ sub surface ) helo attack + land ground force assault all at once. Plus of course any combination in-between. And a robotic stores system that I suspect will push sortie rates through the roof.

    Some radical autonomous intercontinental tryannis drone strike. Whatever that means.

    And a rather interesting request for a 500 tonne RN sea drone capable of launching missiles and torps. Likely to be produced in high numbers.

    What does this all add up to? I have no idea. But it stinks of a coherent and radical plan(s) that NOT QUITE been seen before.

    I think we can still mix it up a bit?

  2. a

    Fast jets, frigates and armoured vehicles.
    All pretty conventional stuff

    Well, yes, but what’s the alternative that we’re missing? Armoured vehicles provide better protection for soldiers, more firepower, and greater mobility. Those are all fundamentally good things to have. Until we can make unmanned ground combat systems a reality – or power armour for dismounted troops – then armoured vehicles of some sort will be valuable. Tracks or wheels is an open question and we use either: the only alternatives I can think of are rotors, air cushions and legs. Rotors limit your range and payload (and are vulnerable), air cushion vehicles can’t go up hills, and legs aren’t quite ready for prime time yet.

    Fast jets: could we replace them with some combination of SAMs for the counter-air role, rocket and gun artillery for the ground-attack role, and UAVs?

  3. Fedaykin

    Well disruptive thinking and new ideas in procurement are all very well but it has also caused some huge spinning bow tie disasters.

    The services and MOD have loved to form program offices for requirements stuffed with middle to low ranking officers and people from QinetiQ (sometimes BAE Systems R&D as well). They then proceed to run a program with an acronym starting with “Future” and spend years thinking about blue sky out of the box solutions. Even if they are told to select an off the shelf solution they merrily proceed to apply all their “Future” research thinking and the program budget spirals out of control and the program is massively delayed, changed or cancelled…..I refer to FRES milord.

    What I want is “Modern”, “On-time” and “Affordable”! The MOD and services need to be banned from naming any procurement program with an acronym starting with “Future”! “Modern” is fine and “Replacement” is fine. By all means run R&D programs called “Future” but they must be entirely separate from procurement and only feed their findings into procurement programs not be the driver! (Isn’t that what QinetiQ are meant to be there for anyway?)

    I have some hope, the T26 program seems to be avoiding any blue sky thinking warship of the future malarky!

  4. S O

    My guesses:

    Land forces
    Much more emphasis on combat-worthy armoured recce forces required. To see is more important than in earlier generations, to clash is less important than in earlier generations.
    Set up cost-efficient reserve forces in good quantity (training for reserves strength, not for active duty strength in peacetime).
    Much more intense tactics development (competing for superiority and solutions in free play exercises).

    Naval forces
    Move from nuclear subs to AIP conventional ones for better cost efficiency.
    Develop surface warships into carriers (motherships for parasitic boats) which serve also as batteries (VLS) and have self-defence equipment. Insufficient use of parasitic boats so far (ASW, MCM, decoy). Naval helos are overpriced and don’t deserve an enlarged role.

    Air forces
    Invest more in SAM batteries again (BVR has become more important in air combat, and BVR is area AD business, so SAMs are more important now as well).
    Don’t rely so much on the few vulnerable AEW etc. (more emphasis on datalinks between combat aircraft and mutually supporting formations instead).
    Exploit ground-launched PGMs of up to 500 km range (~Iskander, ATACMS, LORA etc.) against stationary targets.
    Air/ground combat aircraft more as eyes with long range missile (MLRS) artillery on call instead of many air-dropped munitions.
    Reduce the dependence on fully-built air bases. Highways with diesel-powered cable catapults and mobile ski ramps and arrestor cables make STOVL unnecessary. Air base equipment should first and foremost be fully mobile (workshops and spares on trucks), similar to rotary aviation units.

  5. Michael Wheatley

    “Are we capable of imaginative and disruptive thinking any more?”

    Given that the UK is investing very heavily in cyber warfare, the answer looks like “yes” to me.

    But if you ask yourself: “I wonder which countries are we currently targeting for future Cyber exploitation?”, then you very quickly realise: “I’d better not say that out loud, in case they do something to stop us”. So not much opportunity for public blogs on that subject. But some of the more imaginative Cyber Reservists are probably cackling maniacally to themselves.

    ***

    The other thing is, whilst the US has “Black” projects, we tend to have “Glass” projects, by which I mean: it is hard to see that the project even exists.

    At a guess, I’d expect there to be some projects in the following areas:
    - UCAV. (Hints from Taranis.)
    - Cyber. (Hints from recent budgets.)
    - Lasers, Railguns, High Energy Microwave. (Hints from how, some years back, discussions about electric warships acquired “glass” / refractive answers to some questions, they had previously been happy to talk about.)

  6. Chris Werb

    I must admit that SO pretty much wrote my post for me (with the exception of moving from nuclear to AIP which I think is a non starter) – the only thing I’d add is that long range ground launched PGMs need not be restricted to static or relocatable targets. There is often no need to hang a 500km range missile on a £70M aircraft if you can launch half a dozen of the same missile off the back of a £0.5M MAN truck or as many as you want from a £100M corvette or OPV.

    In the longer term I’m really concerned about the viability of all surface warships. Taking one example, SPEAR Capability 3 will see a Typhoon capable of carrying 16 missiles with a >100 km range that can find a ship at sea and selectively hit vulnerable parts thereof. If you can hang 16 on a Typhoon with long range tanks and full air-to-air capability retained, you could hang a lot more of them on an MPA or surface launch them from trucks or ISO containers on covert surface platforms. The latest USN long range SAM, the over the horizon capable SM6, costs $4.7M a pop, you’re really looking at a pretty poor value exchange ratio attempting to shoot these things down at a distance, assuming your sensors are up to it. The odds of even one Typhoon loadout overwhelming the middle and inner layer missile defences of even a US CVBG and some getting through appear quite high. In the future even a loadout of 16 missiles per platform might be moderate.

    It’s going to take some pretty exotic technology to keep surface platforms viable. You can argue that the enemy MPA would have had to have come from a base that would have been taken out by a US SSGN at D+30 minutes, but the more effective your own first strike capability becomes, the more incentive there is for an enemy to shoot first, and perhaps in surprising, daring and innovative ways. For example, if the Chinese really wanted to remove the US and Australian fleets in the Pacific at their bases, the missiles in freight containers approach would appear to have a lot of merit – a lot more than a noisy, easy to track SSGN. Even an SF team with a mortar and GPS guided rounds could cause complete mayhem given the exposed antennae etc. on modern warships and the slow repair/replacement times likely following successful strikes.

  7. Not a Boffin

    “I have some hope, the T26 program seems to be avoiding any blue sky thinking warship of the future malarky!”

    It is however, utterly bereft of any practical “this warship needs to float, move and not roll over” – type malarky……..

    Don’t mistake some trick graphics and an attractive combat system equipment list for a viable design.

  8. Chris

    NaB – you wouldn’t be advocating such old fashioned ideas as buying basic very capable platforms onto which gucci kit can be added? Like County class, Leanders & T22?

  9. x

    @ NaB

    If you were designing T26 what would it look like (with a bit of extra margin on the budget)?

    If it were me it would be 1,100 ton above the current published spec’s……

  10. Not a Boffin

    “In the longer term I’m really concerned about the viability of all surface warships. Taking one example, SPEAR Capability 3 will see a Typhoon capable of carrying 16 missiles with a >100 km range that can find a ship at sea and selectively hit vulnerable parts thereof. ”

    Will it really? What in the name of beelzebub’s balls are these things going to be made of? Unobtanium? Or some other material that weighs nowt? I would love to see how the full A2A capability includes the manoeuvring envelope with all that underslung! Yet another reason to have organic air as a CAP. You intercept them far enough out (and 100km is really nothing) and the first thing they do is jettison if they want to stay alive. That’s ignoring where the inbounds get their targetting info from and how you might deny that as well.

    The Boxheads have had Kormoran for decades and they weigh half a tonne each and only go just over the horizon. Once upon a time our good friends in Soviet naval aviation used to plan on posting salvos of dozens of AS4 and AS6 from 300 plus km and that didn’t spell the end of surface ships either.

    Spear Cap 3 might get some of the way towards its aspiration, but there are still plenty of ways to defend against it.

  11. Not a Boffin

    Chris. What I’m advocating has nothing to do with the capability of the platform or counties and leanders and everything to do with basic competent naval architecture.

    There is very little wrong with how T26 “looks”.

  12. a

    In the longer term I’m really concerned about the viability of all surface warships. Taking one example, SPEAR Capability 3 will see a Typhoon capable of carrying 16 missiles with a >100 km range that can find a ship at sea and selectively hit vulnerable parts thereof

    But then what’s the alternative to surface ships for things like sea control? As long as we rely on big ships to move our stuff (military and civilian) – and there’s really no practical alternative method of moving large heavy stuff – we need to worry about how to protect them. Could you escort a convoy solely with land-based aircraft and subs?

    I notice that SPEAR will have a relatively small warhead – the total missile weight is less than 100kg, so the warhead can’t be much more than 25kg. That’s less than half the weight of a six-inch shell, moving at about half the impact speed. Maybe, if the shooter’s too far away to hit, and the arrow’s moving too fast to hit, the answer is going to be simply to bet on surviving the blow – a return to armoured warships. (Could you armour a phased-array radar antenna with a thick slab of some radar-transparent material?)

  13. Engineer Tom

    I think the near future is going to be just refining current capabilities, with a growing lean towards cyber warfare, regards any huge leap into new technology, it will all depend if there is a major war, or arms race, or whether there is a leap in civilian technology which can be re-purposed. At the moment there just isn’t the willpower to drive R&D forward at a huge pace.

  14. Zaitsev

    @a what about hiding it at the last possible moment then popping it back out, ether by holding the radar up on a retractible pole when in use, or having two half cylncdicle tubes that spin inside eachover by 90% and both have an opeing for the radar. you could do the same for the bridge. For the rest of the ship the shear size of it must make it fairely survivable.

  15. Jeremy M H

    @Chris Werb

    “In the longer term I’m really concerned about the viability of all surface warships. Taking one example, SPEAR Capability 3 will see a Typhoon capable of carrying 16 missiles with a >100 km range that can find a ship at sea and selectively hit vulnerable parts thereof. If you can hang 16 on a Typhoon with long range tanks and full air-to-air capability retained, you could hang a lot more of them on an MPA or surface launch them from trucks or ISO containers on covert surface platforms. The latest USN long range SAM, the over the horizon capable SM6, costs $4.7M a pop, you’re really looking at a pretty poor value exchange ratio attempting to shoot these things down at a distance, assuming your sensors are up to it. The odds of even one Typhoon loadout overwhelming the middle and inner layer missile defences of even a US CVBG and some getting through appear quite high. In the future even a loadout of 16 missiles per platform might be moderate.”

    This whole thing is kind of silly. You would not use an SM-6 to engage missiles with a 100 KM range. You would use it to engage the platform that is shooting them. You would handle inbound missiles with SM-2, ESSM, RIM-116 and Phalanx. You would of course also have a CAP keeping aircraft pretty well away from the carrier as well.

    I don’t think a non-stealthy Typhoon or SU-27 variant is going to waltz to within 100 kilometers of a US CVBG that is in a wartime state of alert. Its problems are further complicated when you realize that you can hardly launch something like Spear 3 at its maximum range you first need to accurately target what you are trying to hit.

    That does not mean aircraft are not a threat. The Soviets presented a real threat in the Cold War. Close enough to shore massed groups of fighters carrying proper ASM’s would be a threat. Further at sea something like the B-1 armed with LRASM is a huge threat to any surface force. But Spear 3 is hardly going to change the game at sea. It is far to small and short ranged to do so.

  16. Jeremy M H

    I think that the biggest change militarily moving forward will be the near crippling vulnerability of mechanized ground forces if their air force loses control of the skies above them. In the past weapons allowed for certain levels of attrition but not destruction. Things like Brimstone, CBU-97 and what not will make it almost impossible for anyone to concentrate an armored force if they are not able to keep control of the air space around that force.

  17. Observer

    As part of really disruptive thinking, my opinion is that this current UAV craze is a bit out of hand and coming to the end of its’ capabilities creep and that research on it should be cancelled and funding redirected to more pragmatic programs. I know that people are in love with the Taranis, but practically, what can it do that a manned craft cannot other than commit combat suicide without someone getting weepy? (Ok maybe some techs might cry.) I might be wrong, but let the US take the lead in this highly speculative venture. If they can do it, follow. If they can’t, well, you saved millions.

  18. dave haine

    This country has always been successful at innovation, witness the amount of Formula 1 teams that are based here, or the amount of aerospace companies that have R&D bases here, so we have the thinking talent.

    We have appropriate levels of eccentricity to get ‘outside the box’ thinking. Examples include Dyson and his blue sky thinking on vacuum cleaners, washing machines etc, Bayless and his clockwork radio’s, lap-tops, torches etc
    Bond and his SABRE and Scimitar engines, Skylon spacecraft and LAPCAT A2 airliner. These are just the latest ones, I could go on for hours listing the visionaries/ innovators this country has produced; Whittle, Wallis, Brunel, Boulton, Bazelgette, Watt, Stephenson, Lovelace

    Until recently, we’ve had forward thinking official bodies, that have understood their brief and the engineering, well enough to see when an idea ‘had legs’. For example, the Spitfire, Hurricane, Mosquito and Lancaster were all private designs, not to any formal specification, but when various officials from the Air Ministry, realised the possibilities of the designs, specifications were written to accommodate them. But that was in the day when the air ministry, was manned by ex-RAF chaps, or by civil servants that had been working in the ministry all their career, so understood aviation, or could call on expertise from government research establishments.

    I think the rot set in when politicians started to believe that, rather than run the country, THEY should be the engine of change, which requires them to involve themselves in things beyond their knowledge and skills. A lack of ability to delegate properly, if you will; rather a degree of arrogance, to my mind.

    As a consequence of that, experience became less important than academic learning, and indeed viewed as an obstacle to innovatIon (funny really, because if you look at my list of visionaries/ innovators, you’ll see that all of them were highly experienced people in their own fields- they really knew their stuff).

    Within the civil service, Add administratism, where administration is more important than what is being administered, and budgets and careers therefore depend not on what or how much the department achieves, but on how well it is administered. This leads to fear of failure, because now careers depend on being a ‘safe hand’ rather than on achievement, far less risky just to say ‘No’. Another consequence of administratism is the departments overall function or role becomes less important to each member, because you’re only fighting your corner, for your share of the budget.

    Within the civil service, It could be argued that all of this is a failure of leadership, which it is. But, as the leaders are drawn from a pool of people that have working in this environment, you can’t expect any different.

    Within the MOD itself, there is a fundamental disconnect between the ministry and the forces. I seem to remember that many capable, young, thrusting officers would have an early posting to the MOD, where they would see the budgetary side of life and the civvies would connect with the forces, to the benefit of both. From what I understand now, many posts are filled with permanent civvies (even to the extent-that some are required to take reserve rank). So many lessons that could be learnt, are being lost. Or only come out on ARRSE or E-GOAT, where they’re immediately dismissed as moaning ‘squaddies’ or ‘binding’ erks.

    So yes, I think as a nation we’re capable of critical and disruptive thinking but the MOD as an organisation aren’t capable of practising it, because it’s lost the informal links and therefore communications, that enable experience and lessons to be disseminated in a non-adversarial way.

  19. The Other Chris

    The pre-cooler behind the Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine design.

    Truly exceptional work with far more applications than rocketry…

    EDIT:

    Also worth remembering the contribution to the F-35 via Replica, Nightjar, LiftFan, 3BSN, principle behind linking for the Multifunction Advanced Data Link, etc. It’s easy to forget it’s a Joint aircraft sometimes when we sit back and let the US wave the flag.

    EDIT 2:

    I also believe the UK is the principle funding behind the Common Missile Compartment as well.

    EDIT 3:

    Anyone mentioned Graphene yet?

  20. Observer

    ToC, in the words of a rather annoying ex-Prime Minister of ours, “So?”

    There have been and I believe will be many innovative and useful british inventions, both in the past and in years to come, but… “So?”

    How do these help put a functional army into the field to take ground, with an air force to watch over them and a navy to guard their flanks? That is the million dollar question I believe. “So?”

    (Full context of the comment was to a secretary of his. “So? I wanted a one line answer, not a 30 page report.”)

  21. The Other Chris

    So: The F-35 is not an airframe, it’s a doctrinal-changing weapons development program.

  22. Zaitsev

    Historically where can we look for examples of peace time disruptive thinking? Pre ww1 most land based technology was an example of evolution from the previous wars technology or an adoption of civilian designed technology to warfare. The machine gun was the result of the natural evolution of gun design, as was the heavy artillery piece. The plane the radio and the train where all conversions of civilian tech. The tank was disruptive but was designed when the realities of modern warfare made its need apparent and the antitank gun quickly improvised to combat it. Between wars it was possible to improve the tank and refine the combined warfare tactics of ww1 but all sides where simply pushing tank design in all possible directions to see what would work in combat. Fast tanks, heavy tanks, multi turreted tanks, anti infantry tanks and so on. During the war the antitank evolved to the anti tank missile and tanks largely adopted a all round compromise on armour mobility and firepower to the basis of what we see in our armed forces today. The only innovation since ww2 seems to be the infantry fighting vehicle and night vision equipment.
    In terms of air power there seem to be better examples of disruptive thinking, mid war the introduction of radar completely changed how air warfare would be conducted, and post war the introduction of air to air and ground to air missiles and precision a2g weapons were examples of a rapid change during peacetime in how air warfare would be conducted.
    In Naval warfare we have similar examples of innovation, the torpedo, submarines, sonar, carriers, radar again, not sure if you count battleships, but I think AA destroyers count.
    Maybe I have missed some glaring examples of ground warfare innovations that did not rely on hard won knowledge from combat? To me it seems there is not a huge difference between the armies of ww2 and the armies of today.
    Is it possible to be massively disruptive in the realms of ground warfare or is it just too chaotic and physiological to risk high tech gambits? Would love to see the afv version of the modern jet fighter whatever it might be. Historically the only examples I can think of this are the small professional army. I thought mayby the mongol horse archer, and roman roads but i dont know the procces by which these came about.

  23. Fedaykin

    @Not a Boffin

    I’m not a naval architect so I am fully happy to be educated in the matter but I don’t see anything particularly wrong with the core T26 concept designs. It is a bit bigger then a T23 but smaller then a T45, the systems fit as you acknowledge seems sensible enough. Is it top heavy? Or is there something nefarious I am missing because it appears to be pretty much in keeping with other similar vessels.

    I would be a bit staggered that the design office would put forward something that would just roll over and sink, they have access to computer models and the QinetiQ ship tank at Haslar to work out those issues. You appear to be inferring that there is some fundamental problem with T26, don’t suppose you can share?

  24. S O

    @Zaitsev:
    The Mongol horse archer was an evolutionary development of horse archers which made up the biggest share of forces from Persia and the Steppes north of the Black Sea and east.
    The ingredients were (semi-)nomadic horsemen who were good riders and recurve bows which were powerful enough yet not too long (only the Japanese got around the “too long” part without recurve bows by using asymmetric bows).
    A Roman army under command of Crassus was frustrated and defeated by horse archers at Carrhae at 53 BC already.

  25. M&S

    @ Chris Werner,
    “I must admit that SO pretty much wrote my post for me (with the exception of moving from nuclear to AIP which I think is a non starter)”
    You’re thinking out of scale. While a PEM equipped boat does indeed have limited fuel cell and speed range options before it’s back to diesels, the subs which a simple freighter could release to form networks of inshore threat capability in particular are not.
    You don’t need 2-3 months on station and food for the lot of them if you have no men aboard at all. 20 knots is easier from something the size of a pilot whale than a WWII Cruiser. And where The Five Laws suggest it anyway, if you want to go playing make-a-noise you probably _don’t_ want to concentrate your weapons aboard it because that not only adds weight, it amounts to a permanent mission kill if you lose the asset. Mines which function as buoy launchers for SAM and AShM are a vastly more intelligent approach to killing floatie and flyish things from underwater, _provided_ you do the smart thing which is to make your hunting weapon robotic. Because while it has to take some risks to make the mission happen in terms of getting weapon quality target tracks, so long as nobody cares about the loss, _the missiles_ can be perfectly safe, using their maximum flyout range of 60-100nm for subsonic AShM and say 10-20 for SAMs.
    Here it is also key to recognize that if you can talk underwater as we now can, you don’t have to bring the boat to a bubble to get good instant-optical/RF trackfiles rather than ‘play the game’ of sprint to drift acoustic nonsense through the layers as CZs.
    You put your masted optics in a buoy not much larger than a countermeasures cannister with a timer or a signal receiver that lets them rise to surface and either erect an aerostat or squirt a Sea Ferret type UAV to start taking pictures. Your parent ship (still unmanned) then motors off, finds a good spot, ejects it’s own RF node (because I don’t know how far the sonar based systems will transmit) and sends the go code which starts things rolling.
    If the enemy responds to this by sending a helo for a prosecution on a strange (radar track)periscope wake, maybe you give them a surprise with another cannister which pops an AGM-136 Tacit Rainbow type turbo-SAM to hunt the hunter.
    Either way, it’s too late because the aerostat has taken it’s pictures, lased it’s ranges and is feeding the imagery across to the parent sub. Which collates the data and sends it along via acoustic or time delay (like the U-Boats used to use to send their contact reports) so that ‘eventually’ the message hits a third class of buoy: as satellite uplink.
    Someone somewhere takes the pictures, and tasks overhead or a HALE if need be and they then send the RF down to the missile cannisters which fire the AShM which make the other side’s ship or battlegroup feel real pain, at minimal exposure.
    Of course you see the obvious reason why this is NOT happening: it basically devalidates trillions in vested platforms as manned billets. Which has three effects:

    1. Strategic.
    It’s cheap, sourceable to commercial tech base and largely uncompromisable to EA as Nodal attack because the nodes are passive. If ‘anyone’ can do this, the first people who will will be the Chinese and Iranians.
    2. Service Politics.
    Armed Forces exist because it takes a general to tell a soldier that, to be a man, he has to march forwards into gunfire. It won’t happen if a politician does it and this separation of warrior culture has created a subset culture within our societies that is both parasitic and highly conscious of it’s place as permanency based on how many _manned_ systems it has to provide warriors to run. Remove the man and you remove the middle men as conmmand architectures because the robot doesn’t know what dying is. Obviously, for self-sustaining warrior cults, removing the man is a bad career move.
    3. MIB Politics.
    While the Defense Industry will gladly sell battle axes to quadriplegics, they prefer to keep things in scale on a viable profit ratio basis and platforms which are incredibly over-complex for the actual effects they deliver are also sources of endless ongoing maintenance, SLEP and replacement efforts.

    “– the only thing I’d add is that long range ground launched PGMs need not be restricted to static or relocatable targets.”

    Depends on how you look at it. If you are hunting mobile TELs firing ASBM or GTBM, with 2 minute displacement windows, you need a bus munition that clusters out LOCAAS type hunting weapons with sophisticated LIDAR that can measure the average ridge height in a tire track to tell which vehicle made it and how long ago. So that it can fly up the backtrail of the fleeing TELs and hopefully swarm all over them and their transloaders at the threat forward resupply base.
    It also helps if you have a megaman booster to get the shots to target at maximum Mach. But absolute range (at least in places like Iran and Taiwan where naval responses are required) is not as critical because a VPM equipped SSN can salvo shots from fairly close inshore.
    A sub-1,000km reach means a smaller round, more rounds per boat, fewer boats and generally an easier design process, up until you have to bus the minis.
    OTOH, for _stopping wars_, nothing beats the ability to shut down factories and these, in China, all happen to be deep inland if not actually nearer to the Western Border with the CIS. Such dictates a 3,000km capable IRBM (which is to say an early Poseidon type SLBM) and that means size as throwweight is through the roof because you don’t want to be salvoing multiple launches if you can avoid it. Hand over your wallet and prepare to say ‘Ow!’.
    The difference between the two approaches is the the midrange + minime missile system is about ‘enablement’ of other assets and specifically the same-cost-per-pound-as-hamburger JDAM bombers off of carriers. Whereas the big missile is about talking to the leadership as opposed to fighting the general and so removes the CSG (with it’s monumental vested risk, easily equal to all the casualties of 9/11, put together) out of the fight altogether.
    This is why, while I honestly don’t believe in naval airpower as it now stands for MRC/MTW high intensity warfare (and the costly EA-18/F-35/FA-18T/E-2D force mix that it costs to throw a near-peer party), I also acknowledge the political reality of saying that manned tacair is a worthless waste of time. Because manned tacair can and will cause weapons like effective DEWS to be abandoned if they feel an ill-wind blowing.
    The final counter to which is that SLAB-SSL is based on commercial telecomms technology and so ‘what the Western military industrial complex cares to do about it’ may not matter.

    “There is often no need to hang a 500km range missile on a £70M aircraft if you can launch half a dozen of the same missile off the back of a £0.5M MAN truck or as many as you want from a £100M corvette or OPV.”

    Again, these are separate missions with separate value investments. If you invent a microturbine similar to what may be had off any commercial RC aircraft and put it under a Hellfire sized (100lbs, 6ft long) weapon, you suddenly go from a 12km to a 50km capability, if not more (LOCAAS was actually a 200km option and LAM was 100km). But that Hellfire is not going to be taking out any factory complex in a “Sure you want to play this game?” conditioned fight. And it’s going to cost 100K for a capability that ground commander is going to want to use to kill a man in a sniper nest overwatch position, not even an MBT or similar, high value, tactical target.
    The one thing we are teaching our enemies which is more dangerous than any other and that which is certainly driving the ‘Hybrid Warfare’ revolution, is that investment in main force weaponry is useless in a world where sitting in one place gets you a PGM in the eye and nobody but the major powers can afford the multitude of systems/platforms/complexes overlaps which offer decent force protection.
    Where the military has made a HUGE mistake in intentionally developing exactly this kind of system-of-systems approach lies in the fact that high tech kill effectors can be brought to the focal point of battle on a throwaway pickup truck. And what that focal point is depends entirely upon your strategy of war. To use the INS Hanit example in particular, the Israelis adopted an isolation and reduction plan which brought their navy in close during the attempt to cut off Lebanon from all outside contact as they searched for their missing soldiers. This meant that targets multiplied and Hezbollah, who were always in the game solely to ‘prove’ that the IDF could be embarrassed by advance into a prepped battlefield as killing ground, got their wish.
    In this, it’s key to understand that so long as the threat has nowhere to go, they can afford the long term vision of attrition in place because…that’s all they have. Where high tech force has no wish as ability (politically or militarily, respectively) to permanently take the dirt and deprive the enemy of it’s use, _every time_ they enter the battlefield they become predictable based on the punitive or tactical requirements of their being there.
    As the Spartans said: ‘It ain’t wise to fight the same enemy for too many summers.’ Lest you teach all your tricks.

    “In the longer term I’m really concerned about the viability of all surface warships. Taking one example, SPEAR Capability 3 will see a Typhoon capable of carrying 16 missiles with a >100 km range that can find a ship at sea and selectively hit vulnerable parts thereof. If you can hang 16 on a Typhoon with long range tanks and full air-to-air capability retained, you could hang a lot more of them on an MPA or surface launch them from trucks or ISO containers on covert surface platforms.”

    Not a problem at all.
    First, because the likely threat states which can will not make the mistakes Britain did in the 1982 war: failing to identify and eliminate the key enablers as the Phoenix Escadron and Chancha KC-130 tankers. No reach + No targeting = limited threat vs. the little bitty ‘frigate’ which mounts an ASTER level air defense capability and so can fire rounds from a missile trap conditioned (passive = no route around or picket kill) position using long range radar or IR driven surveillance from drones or helos that ‘blink’.
    If you can’t bear the thought of commandos or sub launched Tomahawk as a function of escalation out of declared COEAs you can still thoroughly mess up tacair pretending to be a Tu-95 on the simple basis of straight line radial requirements.
    Next, you have to consider what you are shooting at. If SPEAR-3 isn’t highly supersonic, it had better be very damn LO.
    And if a jet can afford to be carrying 16 of them with launch from 100km, I would suggest that the weapon is not likely to be either.
    And the warhead of such a weapon poses it’s own issues because while a swarm attack can certainly render a warship incapacitated without violating hull integrity (an interesting effects solution in today’s touchy-feely world) it comes with a warhead penalty.
    Namely, a 500lb warhead that is detonated 100ft close aboard is going to generation significant thermal, shock and splinter damage to the hull. A 50lb (AMRAAM) class warhead generates the same effect but only over a focussed area of the hull and only from perhaps 30ft away. And a 25lb (Hellfire) class warhead is going to do so within only about 15ft, at most.
    Small weapons thus incentivize an aggressive ponit defense with ‘flak rocket’ weapons like the SLID and Quick Kill that have roughly the same effects as a 3P or AHEAD round but can be installed in 200-500lb launcher installations rather than multiton mounts like the U.S. Mk.46.
    Where tanks have been slow to adopt such APS or Active Protection Systems because of the cost and the increasing potential to render entire classes of ATGW impotent (remember, Drozhd was originally a Soviet solution for Afghanistan) ships will increasingly be seen as high value repositories of massive Arsenal Class VLS.
    And here is why-

    JHPSSL CW Laser In 100KW Range
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9JZSjsgWm0

    Using ‘Slabs’ of laser color medium the JHPSSL program seeks to create not just pulsed or peak powers (Raytheon and Rheinmetall have already done 20KW types) but sustained power which can be phase aligned to burn through atmospheric anaprop and bring multiple laser sources into cooperative alignment.
    In fact, the video is dated, Gamm-3 Firestrike has already achieved 108KW outputs.
    What this means is that multiple hulls can engage shared targets with enough total calories to shred any AShM using close overlap (staggered echelon) formations which allow for multiple beam sharing. So that three ships using a LADS plus approach can stack a third of a megawatt on the target within six inches of a common aimpoint.
    Such will make the mid/inner zone virtually unbeatable as weapons have reaction times similar to CIWS gun mounts but the range of ESSM. And so the target stacking of threat AShM will have to be very high indeed.
    Landbased systems will have fewer apertures but likely better power sourcing and no adverse environment (corrosion and stabilization) to worry about.

    “The latest USN long range SAM, the over the horizon capable SM6, costs $4.7M a pop, you’re really looking at a pretty poor value exchange ratio attempting to shoot these things down at a distance, assuming your sensors are up to it.”

    No, you’re ‘looking at’ a mini Teal Ruby-
    http://space.skyrocket.de/doc_sdat/teal-ruby.htm

    As a persistent platform which detects the threat launch from upwards of 100Kft. Whether this is from a Pegasus NIRTS type insertion of multiple scaled SBIRS/BSTS type systems or somethign like an ASAS quickloft of an aerostat or something more akin to a conventional UAV (albeit with refueling) or an LTA, the key to killing threats with a 400-600km capable aeroballistic SAM is hitting them in the midcourse where they are readily visible.
    At which point, the 4.7 million dollar kill effector must be contrasted against the 90 million dollar launch platform.
    Myself, I believe that the OAB is as significant as ever in an A2AD environment where you simply cannot generate FORCAPs from a 40 fighter airwing and conventional landbased assets may not be able to reach or react in time.
    The reason is that air forces looking to generate multi-kill on targets as sophisticated as USN CSGs are starting to see throug the lies of the ‘tacair supremacy’ condition and so it can only be a matter of time before FOAS solutions like this-

    http://www.airforce-technology.com/projects/foas/images/foas4.jpg

    Become standardized as both a means to saturate laser defense systems with multiple shots and extend the denial zone while shortening the Kill Chain cycle in a platform that flies ‘the whole way’ (1,500nm radius or more) at very low level.

    “The odds of even one Typhoon loadout overwhelming the middle and inner layer missile defences of even a US CVBG and some getting through appear quite high. In the future even a loadout of 16 missiles per platform might be moderate.”

    Ainh.

    “It’s going to take some pretty exotic technology to keep surface platforms viable.”

    Opposite view: Tac Air is too expensive, slow responding and non-persistent for what it does in low tech COIN wars and utterly outclassed, both in and of itself and the horrific risk it puts it’s land and naval basing modes under, at sea.

    “You can argue that the enemy MPA would have had to have come from a base that would have been taken out by a US SSGN at D+30 minutes, but the more effective your own first strike capability becomes, the more incentive there is for an enemy to shoot first, and perhaps in surprising, daring and innovative ways.”

    Indeed, which is why a 1,500nm, Mach 8, capability is more appealing because the farther they have to come a-sneaking the less likely they are to find what they are looking for before we find them. In this, the ultimate driver is the kill effector cycles vs. platform value loss and systems like DF-21D and DH-10 both make the idea of close approach to shore untenable because it is so much easier to hide the TEL from the deck launch tacair than it is to hide the 1,000ft carrier on a flat sea from a 4,000mph ballistic weapon.

    The moment things go ballistic to ballistic to reduce flyout inervals and restrike, becomes the moment you can start to game the system with things like subs that bring the response shot a lot closer to shore. And mini missiles which extend the terminals into a hunting weapon endgame.

    “For example, if the Chinese really wanted to remove the US and Australian fleets in the Pacific at their bases, the missiles in freight containers approach would appear to have a lot of merit – a lot more than a noisy, easy to track SSGN. Even an SF team with a mortar and GPS guided rounds could cause complete mayhem given the exposed antennae etc. on modern warships and the slow repair/replacement times likely following successful strikes.”

    Unless you’re doing a dumb-pride march up and down the Black Ditch (as vulnerable to inshore traffic) the options available to freighter to get within a sufficiently depressed (low and fast as opposed to LO) shot condition for Klub are actually relatively limited. The entire world’s surface commerce is now tracked from space using sailing orders and GPS beacons so vessel ufficiently large as to be able to accomodate such a weapons system (and thus registry certificated to a known enduser/owner) would have little reason to be even passing near a COEA in the preamble to war.

    DF-21D exists because the Chinese have seen the foolishness of trying to guarantee penetration of the delivery platform over an extended (by time = opportunities for VBSS and other nonsense that spoils everything) ingress.

    They believe they can target their weapons over a 1,500nm reach which means that if they put the TELs 700nm inland and hit a US CSG operating at they very limits of stretch, 700nm out from Taiwan or 300nm away from the Senkakus, they don’t have to invest in penaids for the launcher because the launcer is too far for the USN to target, let alone engage.

    It is now up to the USN to see this and ‘devalidate the value investment’ of the 10 million dollar ASBM by essentally either shifting to missiles off smaller hulls and subs with a lot of remote targeting by stealth sats and sacrificial UAVs. Or by investing, seriously, in deck launch Hypersonics as a means to retain the value of the bus vehicle rather than throwing it away as you would a missile while extending the radius to range legs and standing off the carrier some 2-3,000nm offshore.

    Such a system is likely not going to be terribly useful against high mobility targets but it would have the benefit of dropping the entire panoply of the supporting airwing structure and allowing for much simpler UCAVs to be the predominant (persistent) force in COIN wars.

    Again, there is no point in charging like a brain damaged bighorn sheep to bounce your forehead off your enemy’s before locking horns to see whose neck breaks first on twist-to-the-ground basis.

    Instead, if you want to prevent escalation by instantly rendering the war too costly to to continue _under circumstances where the enemy is winning the tactical campaign_ (late reaction after crippling basing infrastructure attacks or CSGs too far away to matter in the first 10-20hrs of ground fighting), you must be willing to knight-jump the general and talk directly to his boss. Who owns the factories you are busily Rod From Godding into the dirt.

    Such would be the basis for my redistribution plan on investment in local vs. ranged defeat of potential enemies who presently have overmatched Tacair.

  26. JC

    Picking up on the REL mention earlier (@The Other Chris)…
    The cousins are said to be developing SR72, son of Blackbird, wonder if they have spoken to REL about licensing the Scimitar engine…admittedly they are after +1mach over and above Scimitar but even so…seems like a good place to start.

    Also quantum technology…Autumn Statement allegedly promises additional investment in this area…quantum computing is the obvious candidate…e.g. vastly more capable radar/guidance systems/threat prediction & detection.

  27. Simon

    Military procurement is a joke.

    It moves too slowly.

    I don’t see many other problems other than that.

    An agile and forward-thinking enough enemy could totally undermine the effectiveness of most of what we currently have (or will have in the near future).

    Fortunately the type of enemy that is this technically agile is also very, very small and fairly squashable.

    What are the current threats?
    What do we currently have to defend against them?
    What are the likely future threats?
    What are we planning to do about them?

    Etc, etc, etc.

  28. John Hartley

    I think the Yanks are going back to the future. This new proposal for a Mach 6 spyplane looks a lot like Bob Widmers 1959 proposal for the Kingfish. It lost out to the less radical Blackbird. Perhaps, 50 years on, there have been enough progress on materials, computing & electronics to make the Kingfish possible.

  29. John Hartley

    Black tech ramble. Lasers on ships (USN playing with one now), electrothermal gun, hafnium warheads. Victor Schauberger had some idea that it was nine times more efficient to suck air/water through an engine rather than crudely blast it out. Could revolutionise jet engines/submarine propulsion. Anti gravity through spinning, not to make an aircraft weightless, but to reduce its weight by 5% or so, to boost range/payload. A better nuclear reactor than a PWR for ships/submarines. Gel propellant so Britain can go safely back to hydrogen peroxide rockets. Titanium is quite common in the Earths crust, but difficult & expensive to exploit. A cheaper process would result in many more things being made of Titanium. A big A380 sized bomber with an unrefuelled combat radius of 5000 miles & able to drop 100,000 lb of bombs in one go. A C-5 Galaxy style transport, but sized up to A380 size. Skylon. 3D metal printers for forward bases, to print out the missing spares/weapons. Did anyone else see the 3D printed stainless steel .45 M1911 handgun that has fired over 1000 rounds? Likely to make a Mumbai style attack easier?

  30. Peter Elliott

    Yes come on @Not a Boffin.

    I really like your posts. You clearly know your stuff.

    And you’ve been making dark hints about the T26 deign and some unmentionable but fundemental flaw for weeks now.

    Write us a propper article with chapter and verse. We promise not to tell anyone…

  31. All Politicians are the Same

    @M&S
    “The entire world’s surface commerce is now tracked from space using sailing orders and GPS beacons so vessel ufficiently large as to be able to accomodate such a weapons system (and thus registry certificated to a known enduser/owner) would have little reason to be even passing near a COEA in the preamble to war.”

    Oghh how we wish that were anywhere near true. AIS does help but satellite AIS is in its infancy and AIS itself is very easy to spoof and falsify. the reality is that other than in major shipping lanes we have little coverage and even then only vis ID can be certain.

    I love reading your posts but sometimes get the impression that you live about 25 years in the future or an laternate reality where money is no object and things like jamming etc cannot possible affect your robot armies, whilst ROE and ethics would allow the use of KEW and systems that have very limited man in the loop control.

  32. dave haine

    @ JC

    In one of their Press releases REL said that they had $300m of backing without going into the source. I wonder if that indicates that they have indeed been approached by the cousins.

    The other hint, was the way our present government stumped up £60m without a murmur, or indeed trumpeting.

    Makes yer fink dunnit….

  33. Mark

    I think for Europeans the shape and type of future warfare is or will change more than now. While that doesn’t preclude the use of jet, frigates or armoured vehicles the role in which they are traditionally associated is changing.

    As was seen with the computer virus that infected the Iranian nuclear program a group of people with a few laptops can do more damage to a industry or air defence network that a regiment of aircraft armed with standoff missiles. But we also see that lining up the occasional cruiser with tlam or bomber fleet can have effects on a nations course of action as was seen with Syria. Or more irregular roles like what’s going on in various places in Africa.

    So I would say we will still have trucks, ships and planes but they maybe different looking to what we have now and preform slightly different roles. The bay class ship and fort victoria role these last three years East of suez are classic examples in the navy and perhaps a ship that is cross between those vessels as multi purpose pure naval vessel, the role of c17 supporting disaster reflief, or the French in Mali and now CAR or the air bridge to afghan same with astor and even shadow perhaps future versions of a400m could do both roles and the army foxhound a new way to deliver vehicles perhaps a tracked vehicle which could share the pods with a wheeled vehicle.

  34. dave haine

    @ John Hartley

    Victor schaubergers ideas, in aviation at least, translated into high bypass ratio fanjets, where the main forward thrust is obtained from the chuffing big fan on at the front of the engine, pulling the aeroplane along,, rather than the stream of hot gases chucked out of the back, pushing it… from memory the RB211-535e was 6-1 ratio, that is 6/7ths of the thrust comes from the fan. So, In essence modern airliner engines are gas-turbine ducted-fan engines.

    Higher ratios have been tested, notably by RR, using variable pitch blades, which I suppose will be the next thing, once they get the engineering sorted. You can’t just increase the size of the fan, because the longer the blade the greater the blade resonance, which then means, extra supports along the blades or, thicker blades, or an inefficient ‘seal’ between the blade end and the ablative strip, a problem also affecting the shape of a variable pitch blade.

    And that reminds me of another british innovation, by RR, the mono-crystalline fan blade.

  35. x

    The weakest point in it IT system isn’t the hardware or software but the wetware.

    Brute force takes considerable computer power; that’s is where governments come in

    Keeping networks discrete, using UNIX/BSD/Linux, and remembering that COTs, cheapness, value, and innovation aren’t synonyms for each other.

    Hurt my foot once kicking a mainframe’s printer, but I have never known a computer to actually kill anybody. Unless you include using a mobile telephone while driving.

    I suppose you could beat somebody to death with a Panasonic Toughbook.

    IT security is about being sensible. You can’t just walk into say GCHQ or any other high security facility because there are guards and locked doors etc. and there is no real reason why networks and servers shouldn’t be so protected in a virtual sense. Nothing is invulnerable, but things have moved on since the 90s when cowboys with MS certification designing systems hung all manner of crap of the net without a thought for security.

    If all it took to fetch down the US’s or anybody else’s power grid was a laptop connected to the net somebody would have done by now. Crackers are incorrigible and a bit egocentric and will try anything just to see it happen. There is a big difference between cracking an ATM using XP and a DOD facility run SEL.

    Another thought the reason why the China is always attacking the US is that the US is in IT terms a huge target. The US in retaliation has a lot less to go at and what is there is locked down because they learned from our mistakes…

    All good fun.

  36. S O

    “Anti gravity through spinning, not to make an aircraft weightless, but to reduce its weight by 5% or so, to boost range/payload. ”

    It’s bullocks.
    I know there’s some crazy old man making presentations about how spinning counters gravity, but he’s really just an idiot or a liar.
    The reason why he can lift the gyro-something while it’s spinning and (supposedly) not when it’s not is a simple one:

    Spinning stabilizes, so less muscle activity is required for lifting. Same effect as in the gym; free weights are much more difficult to handle than the same “weight” in a machine with only up/down movement allowed by the machine.

  37. Observer

    Regarding the SR-72, there is a problem. The same problem that caused the XB-70 to fold. Improvements in SAM technology means that speed is no longer good protection against SAMs, so the immunity of high altitude, high speed aircraft no longer exists. Unless you are talking about other third world countries, then that is a different story as they probably lag in the tech race, but against Russia or China, it’s best not to expect too much from it.

  38. wf

    @x: even now, my ancient MCSE is causing embarrassment :-)

    However, @M&S does have a point regarding the electricity network. Either a natural Carrington event or EMP’s associated E2 and E3 spikes could wreck the transformers in the network, which would take years to replace.

  39. All Politicians are the Same

    @WF

    What amuses me amongst other things ref M&S posts is that he acknowledges the risk of something like an EMP puls vs electricity network then describes systems that require non jammable undetectable comms in 3 different environments.

  40. wf

    @APATS: yes, there’s a certain amount of unobtainium in his plans. But he does come up with interesting stuff, so what the hell :-)

  41. x

    @ wf

    CTRL-ALT-DELETE dude, CTRL-ALT-DELETE………..

    You know what really used to make us laugh. When some WIndows jockey would laugh at us using the commanding line and a supposedly obscure command,. And then laugh at us again when we used the mouse in Windows saying there was some short cut to do whatever we had just done that involved holding down 8 or more unrelated keys. The irony was always lost on Windows techs. The never quite got we could do with a few commands tasks that took 20 or 30 minutes of pointing and clicking. It is odd to think that I am using UNIX commands now (in Linux) that I was using a decade or so back when NT was the greatest thing, and that I was using the same commands a decade or more before NT was even put on the market…..

  42. All Politicians are the Same

    @WF

    I read some interesting scifi as well but pretty sure the site is not called think “star wars” and then tell everyone else they are wrong.

  43. wf

    @x: last time I worked on a Windows server was 2001. My work revolves around FreeBSD (in the form of Junos), Linux (nx-os) whatever shit Cisco used for IOS :-)

  44. Simon

    With respect to IT vulnerability…

    Buffer overflows are being pinned down (some languages have done bounds checking for years, but in the pursuit of performance C/C++ doesn’t).

    Windows and Unix on Intel all run using the two ring model which means the kernel is in ring 0 (secure) and all other apps are in ring 3 which means one app can see another apps data. Intel made the i386 (and onwards) chips with four rings for a reason but you, and I, and the MoD, and GCHQ are still happy that any other task that switches in can read adjacent memory without causing a protection fault.

    Modern viruses are found in the memory within printers and other commodity devices. My favorite one is the chip-and-pin units we are all told are so safe. They run an Arm or Unix-like kernel which can be swapped with ease for a different build which key-logs.

    Bluetooth can be intercepted so don’t use your iPad near a geek ;-)

    Viruses are now spreading using the speakers and microphones of nearby PCs/laptops – I kid you not!

    The “crims” are always one step ahead of the lethargic, slow-moving corporations and governments :-(

  45. wf

    @Simon: while engineering out vulnerabilities is all great stuff, the fact is that security is more a matter of defending your vital ground. Deciding where this is is the key :-)

    @x: you wimp :-P

  46. Jeremy M H

    @Observer

    I think the vulnerability of the XB-70 was more than a bit overstated. If you were able to combine stealth and high speed that would be a formidable combination to try to deal with.

    SAM engagement envelopes typically narrow down quite a bit towards the top of their operational altitude. If we are operating at around 80,000 feet altitude the range of the baseline S-300 missile drops by a bit more than 50% vs where it can get at 40,000 feet. That extra climb takes a lot of energy away from the missile.

    The biggest S-300 missile would be rolling in at about 5,400 MPH and a burn time of 18-24 seconds. It could handle a Mach 6 target sure enough b those are the ones really for ABM work and there are not likely as many of those. They also are likely not really optimized to deal with something that turns. The more typical missiles have a burn time of 17-23 seconds and a max speed of 3,800 MPH. For the missile really intended for anti-aircraft work it would take 15 seconds just to get to altitude straight above the firing platform. Kick the leg of that triangle out say 50 miles and see if you can make that intercept geometry work even with something that “just” went Mach 3. Something in the Mach 5 or 6 range would be a very difficult target. Particularly if it had enough stealth that you could not see it terribly early, ECM to buy it just a scant few seconds and appropriate weapons to fling back at anyone shooting at it.

    At anything but the best coming straight at you angle you are going to need a really big SAM to get the job done against something like that.

  47. wf

    @The Other Chris: IOS-KR uses VxWorks as a base OS. But that is only used in a few high end Cisco devices like the CRS. The Nexus range uses Linux as a base, and there’s a hell of a lot more of them :-)

  48. Mark

    In the 25 years the sr71 was in service 4000 missiles were launched against it not a single one got anywhere close, height and speed ensures safety to this day the prob is it’s an expensive place to fly.

    This is quite a gd watch into the life and times of a sled driver

  49. Mike Wheatley

    @ DH
    Last I heard, REL were explicitly excluding collaboration with any and all US organisations, to avoid their foreign sales regulations.

  50. Observer

    Jeremy, at Mach 5+, you are not going to be pulling any tight turns either unless you want to fold your airframe in half. I agree high speed and high altitude helps a lot against SAMs, the energy advantage is in your favour, my point is to not assume that it is invincible and that it can be countered, if not by the really big SAMs, then by CAP patrol.

    @Mark

    That is one of the changes in tech. Missiles used to “stern chase” so they always ended up behind where the plane was, but now, with better computing, they are now programed to go to where the plane/missile will be.

    Just a comparison, the SM-3 hit a low orbit satellite going at Mach 16. While it may be in a predictable flight path, it still showed that the missile had the legs and the programing to hit a high speed object. If you want to use a high-speed, high altitude plane in war, go ahead, sometimes risks have to be run but be a bit more circumspect in using it and not assume it is invincible.

  51. Simon

    wf,

    I wasn’t so much pointing out vulnerabilities, more a case of that people think they fix/close vulnerabilities but in actual fact they have no idea how the “systems” work and can be exploited.

    Best case is the virus residing in printer memory – who’d have thought NOT to share a printer even with an SPI firewall? Now take mobile phones, the apps that run on them, the laptops even the Army use in the field. They are all very vulneable to (with all due respect) ignorance of use.

    Best security is “off grid” and Araldite in all the unused ports. Even then you need key-logger protection :-)

  52. S O

    “Jeremy, at Mach 5+, you are not going to be pulling any tight turns either unless you want to fold your airframe in half.”

    9 g turn acceleration would be 9 g turn acceleration both at Mach 1 and Mach 6, and with the same overpressure below the airframe, though. The material may be a bit weaker due to higher temperatures at M 6, but that’s not substantial by necessity.

    The reason why fast aircraft such as MiG-25 are not built for high g manoeuvres is most to save weight for performance. It’s also difficult to manoeuvre much high up because the air is not dense and high speed aircraft usually have a high ‘wing loading’ (the last plane which was agile up there based on low wing loading was the Canberra).

  53. Observer

    Sven, it’s not totally about the G forces, it’s also about the specific impulse over unit time. If you are going very fast, you do not have much time to make the turn as you would going slowly, which means you have to put a lot more power into the turn at a shorter period of time to overcome momentum, which also means that your G-loading shoots up.

    A close analogy would be you driving to turn at a junction. If you took it slow at about 10km/h or less, it won’t be a problem right? But if you had to make the turn at 70km/h+ how much extra stress are you putting on the car?

    At Mach 5+, my suspicions are that your manned plane is limited to fairly gentle turns in a wide radii, both due to the travelling speed, frame, power output, momentum and human tolerance.

  54. S O

    You’re thinking of tight turns. But those don’t matter.

    The target is moving at a certain speed into a certain direction. The missile is on intercept course. Both negates each other as if the target was immobile and the missile moving directly towards it.

    Now what matters for the missile’s ability to keep track is the acceleration of the target (doesn’t matter Mach 6 or stationary). It’s a question about whether the missile can (kinematically and sensor-wise) follow both the maximum acceleration and the rate of its change.

    The turn radius is physically irrelevant.

  55. jedibeeftrix

    i can’t help thinking that Taranis is going to play a very important part of our interventionist future.

    and [more] so than ever as we focus more on intelligence driven wars against [non] peer competitors.

    low observable with enormous range doesn’t mean we have ambitions to defeat advanced layered area air defence networks on our way to bomb the p00p out of Moscow.

    what it does permit is a great deal of flexibility in striking non peer foes without:
    1. a prior build up in an adjacent terrain.
    2. tipping them off via flying in view of unfriendly nations.

    RAF getting back into the global strike business…

  56. Mark

    Perhaps a bit like this Jedi

    A large, classified unmanned aircraft developed by Northrop Grumman is now flying—and it demonstrates a major advance in combining stealth and aerodynamic efficiency. Defense and intelligence officials say the secret unmanned aerial system (UAS), designed for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions, is scheduled to enter production for the U.S. Air Force and could be operational by 2015.

    Funded through the Air Force’s classified budget, the program to build this new UAS, dubbed the RQ-180, was awarded to Northrop Grumman after a competition that included Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The aircraft will conduct the penetrating ISR mission that has been left unaddressed, and under wide debate, since retirement of the Lockheed SR-71 in 1998.

    A key feature of the RQ-180’s design is an improvement in all-aspect, broadband radar cross-section reduction over Lockheed Martin’s F-117, F-22 and F-35. This is optimized to provide protection from low- and high-frequency threat emitters from all directions. The design also merges stealth with superior aerodynamic efficiency for increased altitude, range and time on station.

    http://www.aviationweek.com/Article.aspx?id=/article-xml/awx_12_06_2013_p0-643783.xml&p=1

  57. Chris

    SO, Obs – I have often wondered how well really fast pointy-nosed jets would fare against slow cold manoeuvrable targets. Whils SO’s point that G-force is speed independent, the faster the body the bigger the radius gets for a given G-force turn. So if (wacky example) you put a Spitfire MkV against Typhoon, would the Spit turn and be going the other way within say 200m where the Typhoon takes a 1500m radius turn at minimum? If the slower aircraft has little signature for GW (no hot jetpipe, small RCS etc) that makes standoff missile use ineffective, then presumably the slower more manoeuvrable machine would be difficult to counter.

    Of course the other factors are the slow aircraft takes a long time to get to its tactical destination; it would find returning fire to FJ difficult (modern high tech missiles being really big and throwing out lots of hot eflux over a slow launch platform so its guns as arms of choice I suppose) and so on. But there is historical precedent – the successful raid on Taranto by Fleet Air Arm Swordfish aircraft was at least in part due to the petrifyingly slow airspeed of the biplane – none of the modern high speed monoplanes could fly slow enough to get a decent aim on the pedestrian Swordfish, and the anti-aircraft gunners consistently aimed-off too far in front.

    But it does raise interesting options – as weapon systems are designed to deliver effect against opposition exhibiting expected dynamic parameters, fielding an unexpectedly slow cold small combatant might offer advantage.

  58. Simon

    Not sure this is relevant but reading Jeremy’s comment it certainly makes a massive difference how fast the target is moving.

    Aster 30′s booster for example might burn out at about 20-30km but at 1400-1500 m/s it still has the energy to touch something at over 120km altitude. Trouble is it has no velocity for the actual intercept. To be travelling at mach 2 at intercept it would probably run out of “puff” at about 60km alt.

    This is assuming the pif-paf is powered from the sustainer.

    Just for point of reference the G force for a turn is proportional to the velocity squared over the radius of curvature. The faster you go, the wider the turn.

    The problem with missiles is that they can’t “trottle back” to make a tight turn at bearable g force, so although 50g sounds like a lot, it represents a radius of curvature at 1500 m/s of 4.5km. A jet at 300 m/s can make a 9g turn with a radius of curvature of about 1km. So the jet will win on a tail chase if it times the turn correctly.

  59. Mark

    ” If the slower aircraft has little signature for GW (no hot jetpipe, small RCS etc) that makes standoff missile use ineffective, then presumably the slower more manoeuvrable machine would be difficult to counter.”

    Or why real low observable platforms tend to be subsonic high bypass carbon fibre flying wings with high aspect ratio and large wing area.

  60. John Hartley

    I think I read somewhere, that just before the Blackbird was retired, it did one last mission towards Kamchatka. The Russians thought it was going too fast to turn, was about to enter Russian airspace, so all the hidden radar/SAM sites came live. The Blackbird got the data & just managed to turn enough to miss Russian airspace.
    During the Korean war, the North Koreans had a biplane to nuisance bomb allied airfields in the South. It was too slow for jets to intercept. Then one jet nightfighter crew got so frustrated they slammed on all the airbrakes & unleashed a barrage of air to air rockets. They got the biplane, but now they were to low & slow to recover & had to eject.

  61. S O

    Chris, that was the problem of Mach 2 fighters vs. MiG-17s and Skyhawks over Vietnam.
    The faster jets (faster ~ better acceleration) proved to be ultimately superior because they had more options. The aerobatics are mostly useful for defensive manoeuvres. The real killer in air combat was and is still surprise – and the faster aircraft are much better at that, despite being usually bigger and thus easier to see.
    So basically while a Hawk can easily outturn a Tornado ADV with a slow and tight approx. 7 g turn, it’s still a much inferior fighter because the Tornado could simply run away towards the sun, return later at low supersonic speed and surprise the Hawk.

    At earlier times, Bf 109s had difficulties to shoot down PZL P.11 fighters because the latter were much slower and turning better at ‘their’ speed. An expert fighter pilot was unable to score a gun camera ‘kill’ on a Fl 282 helicopter flying evasive manoeuvres during tests. Such anecdotes exist, but the faster aircraft’s pilot rarely gets shot down without making a mistake (see the lopsided kill ratio between F4U Corsairs and A6M Rei-sens).
    Nowadays the gunnery challenge doesn’t matter any more because a Hawk’s Sidewinder is moving about as quickly as a Raptor’s sidewinder.

    Btw, there was no fighter defence over Taranto because the Taranto attack happened at night.

  62. Observer

    SO, regarding fighter turns, that was partially my point to Jeremy’s contention that a turning aircraft would be able to throw off SAMs at high speeds and altitudes. My point was that at that speed, any turn would be very gradual and not difficult to correct for unless the force applied is extremely drastic.

    Chris, the modern day analogy would be fighters vs helicopters. Unfortunately, there is this little unfair advantage called BVR missiles which tend to be blowing up helicopters even before coming into range. Helicopters tend not to be armed for A2A.

    SO, small nit pick, but the sidewinder comparison may not be strictly true, the launching platform transfers its’ launch speed to the weapon, so if the F-22 is going very fast, the missile will get a speed boost. But as I said, small nit-pick.

  63. Mark

    It also doesn’t take a great deal to get out of engagement ranges at these speeds and altitudes using dog leg courses ect that’s why there not as easy to prosecute as a satellite as there on pretty defined orbits.. The effect that speed and height has is it reduces the engagement zones of missiles especially if you have passive defensive systems on board to advise of radar or missile interrogation. Like everything proper planning prevents poor performance if your stupid enough to fly directly over an sm3 site you will have a bad day. These aren’t strike missions there recon ones so profiles can be different.

  64. Observer

    Good point Mark, that was the point I was trying to make. It’ll probably be a good recon plane, but thinking it is invincible and flying it like it was, is bound to bring bad news, especially if you simply overfly a high altitude SAM site.

    Conversely, a dense enough IAD grid can probably generate enough threat and worry to force such planes to act more circumspectly, enough to prevent them from simply penetrating into the interior.

  65. S O

    http://www.x-plane.org/home/urf/aviation/text/missiles/samspeed.gif

    Kinetic energy at about Mach 1 (there won’t be many supersonic Sidewinder launches because that’s BVR / AMRAAM business) is only 1/6.5 of the kinetic energy at Mach 2.56. So only about 15% of KE can be added compared to a launch at zero speed. The drag at higher KE (higher speed) would be higher, so the two alternative velocity curves would quickly close with each other. The difference would usually be negligible by the time the missile reaches the target, and is certainly so compared to the question of the relative target movement.

    Btw, why did you feel the need to nitpick despite I already wrote “is moving about as quickly” myself anyway? Didn’t it occur to you that I wrote it because I already knew the kinematic stuff?

  66. Chris Werb

    Another great post M&S, although I admit my head is spinning a bit.

    I’d better point out that I used the Typhoon/SPEAR 3 example because it’s something that might actually exist in the near future – I seriously doubt that anyone is going to be going after a US CVBG in a Typhoon anytime soon. However, swarming missiles are going to happen.

    We also need to think about the circumstances in which attacks on friendly shipping have happened. They tend to be in relatively crowded environments with a lot of friendlies and neutrals about and fairly restrictive RoE considerations. Likewise those ships targeted by SSMs under those circumstances have almost uniformly failed to defend themselves against them, perhaps due to similar considerations, or perhaps even complacency.

    I take your point about the LO Klub shot, but would that matter? It’s not like US ships sitting in port have their defensive systems switched on or are ringed by layers of SAMs and particle beam weapons. Ditto, it may well be possible for a LOCAAS type weapon to measure average tyre track depth, but you can always play the shell game with SSM launchers inside structures well inside enemy sovereign territory. If they decided (and I admit it’s a stretch) on air launch, the Iranians could cover the Persian gulf from well inside their own territory. Are you going to start shooting down enemy planes, or attacking large numbers of (mostly empty) structures 50 miles inside Iran on the basis that they might have been preparing a swarming PGM strike?

    PS, wasn’t the plane that tried to shoot down a Po-2 over Korea an F-94 Starfire? If so I read it was an early one armed with guns rather than rockets and that it stalled and crashed and killed its crew. That actually makes more sense than with unguided rockets which should be effectively recoilless.

  67. All Politicians are the Same

    @ Chris Werb

    “We also need to think about the circumstances in which attacks on friendly shipping have happened. They tend to be in relatively crowded environments with a lot of friendlies and neutrals about and fairly restrictive RoE considerations. Likewise those ships targeted by SSMs under those circumstances have almost uniformly failed to defend themselves against them, perhaps due to similar considerations, or perhaps even complacency.”

    Would you care to illustrate with examples?

  68. Repulse

    @TD, Going back to your original point, I think that military equipment planning is as much about politics than real need. The high value ticket items “frigates, fast jets etc” are of course useful and important, but the focus is about the politicians / public perspective on what makes a strong military. I see these items as being essential for the hard core, but must be balanced with “Strong Senses” and “Global Heart and Minds Engagement”.

    “Strong Senses” is all about intelligence gathering in a non provocative manner. Satellites, cyber technology, unmanned surveillance, stealth etc.

    “Global Hearts and Minds” is about pro-active engagement Humanitarian Assistance capabilities, Stability capabilities (that work alongside and with local populations) and Training.

    I’d say the planned equipment mix will not deliver these is the correct proportion. The core will be too weak and we will be using kit not optimised (in both numbers and capability) for the other two.

  69. Repulse

    “Hard Core” should in my view be focused around:

    - A 100% available RFTG based on a QE, F35B, Crownest, a single class of fully functional destroyers (T45s and subsequent variants – not a new T26 class), SSNs, MCMs, Tankers, SSSs, LSTs and LSDs.
    - MPAs
    - Fully pimped Typhoons (no F35B for the RAF)
    - Purple battlegroups which have integrated tanks, artillery etc which can be deployed glibally.
    - Heavy airlift capability
    - Deep strike UAVs

  70. Simon

    Assuming we get what is currently planned I think we’ll have a very well balanced force.

    If I knew more about the Army I might hazard a guess that it was a little too shallow but that’s a about it.

    My main concerns are that we’ll still need to make more “savings” (read “cuts”) and that will take the RN’s amphibs and any future development on things like Taranis.

    If I were a politician I’d target the NHS next and probably put something like a nominal consultation fee in and/or replace the useless GPs with district nurses and more mobile emergency professionals.

  71. Chris Werb

    @ APOS. In no particular order.

    USS Stark. ESM and radar failed to detect incoming missile. No attempt made to shoot it down (chaff deployment system and CIWS switched off?))

    HMS Sheffield. Missiles picked up on Type 965 but ship awaited visual confirmation (smoke) from incoming missiles. No defensive measures apparently initiated in remaining five seconds.

    HMS Glamorgan. Threat detected and tracked and evasive action (and chaff deployment?) taken. Ship operating within threat envelope of then unknown land-based AShM capability (but one that could IMHO reasonably have been anticipated).

    INS Hanit. Main radar operating in range degraded mode. Barak SAM, Phalanx CIWS and IMI decoy and control system deactivated.

    On the plus side, in 1971 a Pakistani gunner on a manually operated 20mm apparently managed to shoot down an incoming Styx missile (dying in the process of accomplishing the only CIWS kill so far recorded?). In 1973 Israeli countermeasures worked perfectly against Styx (albeit when targeted at FAC sized targets) flawlessly. Also in 1991 HMS Gloucester shot down an HY-2 Silkworm (one of two – the other malfunctioned) intended for the USS Missouri – the missile hit the water 700 yards from the latter ship. During one engagement (this one?) an accompanying frigate hit the Missouri with fire from its Phalanx injuring a crewman.

    Whatever the reasons on an individual basis (and even allowing for the pace of subsequent technological development) the recent history of surface ships vs SSMs is not one that really inspires terrific confidence. None of these examples (except perhaps the Pakistani one) happened in an all out war against anything approaching a peer opponent and none of them (possible exception 1973) involved saturation attacks. Recurring themes are littoral operations in crowded waters and the appearance of as yet unknown enemy capabilities that could reasonably have been anticipated.

  72. Chris

    Through the strife of last century there were regular claims that one side or the other didn’t need massive armed forces because they had perfect intelligence systems/anti-missile systems/interdiction capability/sonar surveillance systems – whatever. For example the US Star Wars ICBM shield. In reality the wonder-defences were never anywhere near perfect – Chris W’s list of failed defensive action illustrates the point. In truth the best defence is to dissuade feisty neighbours from initiating hostile action by having evidently strong enough armed forces to ruin their day if they try. Prevention as they say is better than cure.

  73. S O

    “In 1973 Israeli countermeasures worked perfectly against Styx (albeit when targeted at FAC sized targets) flawlessly.”

    Some of those countermeasures weren’t naval, though.
    A land-based helicopter hovered at very low altitude, was shot at with Styx missiles, climbed in time and some Styx missiles automatically disengaged because proper targets (ships) don’t climb.

  74. All Politicians are the Same

    @ Chris werb

    You said

    They tend to be in relatively crowded environments with a lot of friendlies and neutrals about and fairly restrictive RoE considerations.”

    Yet in your examples you cite only one ship that was in an area that was busy. i was not far from hanit when it was hit, it was anything but busy. You cite no examples of ROE being a factor at all. Stark was had permission to engage and did not.

    What you actually highlight is that people get things wrong. Every example you cite comes down to poor responses and very occasional sub standard equipment performance.

  75. Simon

    Every example you cite comes down to poor responses and very occasional sub standard equipment performance.

    Is this not standard for the human race? Out downfall is usually either ignorance or complacency. It’s only when we get into total war do we learn our own weaknesses and endeavor to improve them.

    If Sea Viper doesn’t work the first time, that’s one T45 gone.

    I doubt after that incident the next engagement (in the same conflict / time span) would yield any other outcome.

    This is one of my other gripes against missiles. They are not intelligent. They operate in the same envelope and once their weakness is exposed entire swathes of capability are rendered obsolete overnight. The same could be said about many things, but with a human at the helm (or joystick) there’s much more imagination that can be brought to bear.

    Having said this it is true for both the ASM and the SAM.

    I am very happy the UK has a selection of missiles to choose from: Aster15, Aster30 and CAMM – even the old Sea Wolf could prove effective if a more “dumb” missile were needed.

  76. All Politicians are the Same

    @ Simon

    Equipment and trials have moved on somewhat since the examples cited. My point was that failing were not to do with ROE and traffic as cited by Chris Werb.

  77. Jackstaff

    @Repulse,

    It’s like you read my Christmas list :) Also agree with the way you’ve grouped the categories of what’s needed. I think that’s a more sensible grouping than the MoD presently follow/encourage. Especially since, rather than simply waving a wand that somehow turns large amounts of personnel and kit (Army’s the most guilty, but the other services too) into devices for these very different tasks simply in order to keep them (and the budget lines/promotion tracks for officers they entail, each of which represents actual power within the institutional MoD), the newer tasks require both very different organizing principles and (“require” applies here too) much smaller, more dispersed *size* than the traditional “Hard Core” tasks and resources. In other words, the “Strong Senses” and “Global H&M” are very important but the numeric/structural bulk of what the Forces should operate is, well, rather (in composition, not always operational art) traditional because those are tasks that *only* the Forces can perform. The tasks frequently handed to folk in uniform, because politicians lack the wit or imagination to come up with alternative methods, but which are not inherently suited to the Forces, need another look.

    That brings me back around to the thread topic. If I were to go in for “disruptive thinking” the really important bits wouldn’t be about kit and employment, though I think the organizational principles for both could do with a bit of refining. “Disruption,” on the other hand, needs to be aimed at these three, as Dave Haine and a couple of others suggested so ably upthread:

    - Principles and goals of employing the Forces. What can an organised military belonging to a nation-state (these are both qualifiers that the 21st century has put back in the frame for us, rather than taking them as given) actually get done, definitively? Where and when are they the ultima ratio (not “last” but “final” as in decisive), and where are there limits? There’s an excellent, excellent paper linked to the rise of the “repetitive raiding” concept (note I did *not* say “strategic raiding,” because “repetitive raiding” is a more plausible and thought-through concept) about Iraq, that notes three-quarters of the complex layers of objectives delineated before the invasion were accomplished in about six months. The other quarter, many of them pie in the sky or hopelessly undermined by the handling of the *immediate* (and most chaotic) aftermath of the regime’s fall, were not effectively accomplished over the whole rest of the occupation, and indeed parts of the original 75% were degraded by staying long and ham-handedly enough to become the enemy. How do you focus the Forces around “we have no other choice” scenarios (there’s always a choice, but some are so unpalatable as to negate any advantages therein) ? How do you manage both planning and expectation in the cases where there is a choice? Perhaps most importantly, how do you restructure both institutional and cultural constraints on the political classes so that they quit deciding that jock-sniffing their way to a military solution over 1) trivialities or 2) situations where choosing the military option prejudices future strategic options against you?

    - Reforming “administratism.” Nail on the head, Dave.

    - Root and branch reform of the military-industrial complex. It’s one of the canaries in the coal mine of complex societies’ lapse (Western, ex-”Eastern,” and other) into cronyism and risk-aversion. It has nearly always been a spoils system in one degree or other, rather than efficient, but it is now almost unusably bad.

  78. Jackstaff

    Just to clarify on that last point: it’s the great beasts of land and sea in defence industries who are the great sinners, but also now the vast majority of the sector, having devoured smaller concerns that actually designed and made things (looking at you, Big And Expensive, as one of the leading bad actors.) There are still some gunsmiths, technical-bobbin specialists, and small vehicle makers who take care, invest in R&D, have a size and composition that helps them steward design and production processes, etc. But the very folk who make the fast pointy jets, inter-service systems architectures, big ships, and major vehicle fleets, are the worst offenders. “Trust busting” and the ending of cartels built to seek rent rather than provide for national or regional needs (“region” defined here as a small collection of genuinely like-minded states) is desperately in order.

  79. dave haine

    Jackstaff’s kind comments have encouraged me to put forward some more of my thinking on the curse of administratism, in the hope they will re-inforce my point.

    After the RAF, I joined a large charter airline… it’s still going, albeit in another guise. This airline had a policy that everyone who joined went through an induction process, took about a week, before they went on to their departments for job specific training.

    As i’ve inferred, this induction was done centrally, for all new starters. Now this course, as well as the general company stuff and history, included a familiarisation flight (on the flight deck outbound, and with the cabin crew on the way back), and tour around head office, engineering and ops, each department would brief the course and then sit them in as shotgun for the day.

    Anyway, the result of this was that everyone had friends in other departments, which meant we all communicated, and understood one another’s issues, and most importantly everyone knew they were working for an airline. The airline consistently won awards and accolades, and had a phenomenal reputation within the industry. It set high standards for itself, and EVERYONE worked to them. Our company motto was ‘Pride in Service’.

    The dividend of this was, when we had the unthinkable happen, and one of our aeroplanes ‘spanked’ in, the whole airline stood together, with senior managers from Personnel making tea and running errands for Ops, the duty systems bloke was in the ops room, when we got the call, realised what had happened, and enacted his call-out procedure and helped us do ours. meant that it only took us twenty minutes to have our incident management centre fully up and running. We even had a receptionist take up station in the ops crew room armed with tea and tissues, ready if needed…her own idea, and very gratefully received.

    I was told by mates from a couple of other airlines, that what impressed them most was the fact that they saw no disruption at all, that we carried on…

    Fast forward a few years, after someone decided that induction courses should be done by the individuals department, and ‘personnel’ became ‘Human Resources’. We had an IT department rather than the airline’s IT department. The Company no longer wins awards, indeed it is now one of the two most complained about airlines in the UK.

    As an aside… Everyone was entitled to a familiarisation flight once a year. Us ops blokes generally took ours just before xmas, and always to Northern Germany, mainly Gutersloh…but Bruggen as well… Lets just say the signal header was Delta-Fox, and the VASF [Visiting Aircraft Servicing Flight] had an established and well rehearsed procedure in place…

  80. a

    In the 25 years the sr71 was in service 4000 missiles were launched against it not a single one got anywhere close

    And it never overflew the USSR. Which might have something to do with it.

  81. wf

    @a: supposedly it did, but not the sort of deep penetration that the U2 managed. One particular occasion was apparently the Polish-Soviet border in late 1981 when Reagan wanted to confirm whether the Soviets were poised to do a Hungary

  82. a

    It used sidescan radar to look into USSR airspace, but I didn’t think it had ever actually flown across the Soviet border. I think overflights stopped after the Powers shootdown and weren’t resumed since they could get the same quality of image from satellites. Could be wrong though.

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