Should the Pentagon Should look West (or East) when Shopping?

Running down UK defence capabilities and pronouncing on the death of the British Armed Forces seems to be both a national and international sport.

But hang on a cotton pickin minute!

We might be looking a bit dog eared around the corners but putting aside the natural talents, good looks and all round brilliance of the British sailor  soldier and airman, the British Defence Industry has a a basket of gems. ready for the procurement managers of the worlds number 1 military power.

This is a bit of a tongue in cheek post but some of the procurement issues and gaps being raised by many US commentators have potential answers in the UK, or East or West, depending on your perspective :)

The AIM-120 Range Problem

First F-35 Live Fire Weapon Test with a AIM-120 AMRAAM


When we war game it out, that’s the Achilles heel of the U.S. fighter fleet,” Gigliotti said referring to the AIM-120 at a F-35 panel session at a Navy conference here. Two other Navy F-35 pilots and one Marine Corps F-35 aviator, who also sat on the panel, agreed with Gigliotti.

The UK has the AIM-120 in service and will be replacing it with the MBDA Meteor

Of course the actual effective range of both weapons in various scenarios is going to be on the top secret side but by all accounts, the Meteor is turning out to be a bit of a monster and is claimed to have the largest no escape zone of any other comparable missile.

Would the Meteor be a viable replacement for US AIM-120’s?

The Littoral Combat Ship and Ticonderaga Class

Vice Admiral Thomas Copeman, commander of the Naval Surface Force and U.S. Pacific Naval Surface Force published the ‘Vision for the 2026 Surface Fleet

This obviously created a lot of interest and discussion, one of the areas much analysed was comments on the LCS, another expensive and troubled programme. I tend to think detractors of the LCS concept miss some of the wider advantages but it is hard to disagree with the cost, capability and survivability arguments.

An MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter prepares to land aboard the littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1).

Also, for those that follow defence programme acronyms, the reported US Navy Future Surface Combatant (FSC) that will replace the Ticonderaga class, should raise a smile

the later part of the ’20s when we’re going to start contracting for these… to replace our cruisers

I don’t think anyone is entirely sure what the USN FSC will look like but the forerunner to what will be the Type 26 is the Royal Navy Future Surface Combatant programme!

Why not the Type 26?

The Ground Combat Vehicle

It looks like the GCV is on life support with trickle funding and a general lack of appetite for developing a new combat vehicle. Defensenews reported that BAE and General Dynamics will run out funding by summer unless some new cash can be found.

BAE Systems Ground Combat Vehicle

Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Ray Odierno said recently;

Do we need a new infantry fighting vehicle? Yes. Can we afford a new infantry fighting vehicle now? No.

Is the GCV, a replacement for the Bradley, really that different in scope and performance than the UK’s FRES SV programme?

The UK has already funded development and again, the final vehicle is reportedly turning out to be performing well beyond expectations, especially in protection.

Imagine the economies of scale for both nations seeking to replace their old warhorses like the Bradley and Warrior/CVR(T)

FRES might not have the hybrid electric drive and some of the electronics of the proposed GCV’s but so what, these are all capable of being retrofitted when the technology matures.

Whether it is in the air, at sea or on land, the UK has three emerging weapon programmes that could potentially provide almost ready made replacements for a number of US items of equipment or fill capability gaps with little risk.

And these are just three examples, everything from the Chemring Centurion to the Expeditionary Elevated Sangar with Dual Mode Brimstone, Fire Shadow and Lightweight Multi Role Missile in between,

Some have even suggested the QE class aircraft carriers and A400M Atlas transport aircraft!

It would be ignorant to suggest the US does not buy weapons from non US sources, US Army artillery or US Navy aviators both using British equipment for example.

However, as the hangover from sequestration continues and the inevitable and relentless budget cuts continue, can the Pentagon continue as is, or is austerity coming to Washington like it has in London, Paris and Berlin?

Can the Pentagon learn lessons from Europe on how to cut costs with damaging (too badly) military capability?

Is the answer (if there is a single answer) to find a way around Mr Pork Barrel and buy from Europe?

None of this will ever happen of course, but fun to speculate


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Sir Humphrey
February 22, 2014 8:46 pm

Great article. Now convince congress that they should apply to themselves the same free trade, best kit wins policy on themselves that they seem so keen to foist on others!

Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
February 22, 2014 8:48 pm

Shouldn’t that be look East?

February 22, 2014 9:44 pm

This obviously created a lot of interest and discussion, one of the areas much analysed was comments on the LCS, another expensive and troubled programme. I tend to think detractors of the LCS concept miss some of the wider advantages but it is hard to disagree with the cost, capability and survivability arguments.

Really? I tend to think supporters of LCS concept don’t know any of the fundamentals of naval warfare and naval architecture.

February 22, 2014 10:07 pm

The Germans, Italians and French buy most of there equipment from companies with in there borders where possible.
The UK government is buying equipment from all over the place at the moment. They have a particular thing for General Dynamics how have provided them with Mastiff, Ridgback, Wolfhound, Cougar, Buffalo and foxhound (the only one of the 6 to be built in the UK). They have also won both FRES completions with ASCOD and Piranha.
We have got 24 Australian Bushmaster
115 Warthog from Singapore (ok I guess we were in a hurry)
328 Husky From good old USA (international trucks)
401 Italian Panther (ok these are built from kits in Newcastle)

BAE is almost an American company now and seams very America centric in how it is now run.
The MOD don’t seem to like BAE the have lost lots of contracts to General Dynamics and the Thales group.

General Dynamics is American and is perfectly willing to screw it British work force by moving Ocelot (Foxhound) production to Canada

You would think now that between GD and BAE you can buy most equipment you would need. The make lots to chooses from. Some competing in the same area. Never a good idea to have two parts of the same company competing for the same order.

They (the American) always seem to go with a more expensive custom bit of kit rather them one that is in production. Stryker is a good example. Its is so far from the Piranha it is based on it is pretty much a new vehicle.

That became a rant I hope some of it made sense.

February 22, 2014 11:06 pm

TD – from what I read GCV is projected to end up twice Scout-SV weight, not only down to very heavy protection but also to its need to carry nine dismounts as well as its turret-mounted 30mm+ gun. When last investigated it seemed that Scout-SV carries no dismounts, the ASCOD rear crew compartment being full of system equipment. Not a good match then.

as – I see you too have noted BAE becoming more American by the hour, and the limited success of its Land sector here in the UK. Seems to me MOD fears putting BAE in a monopoly position in Sea Air and Land sectors – a justifiable concern – so maybe their Land sector is looking at a less than rosy few years ahead. You have to wonder if BAE would be sad to see that part of the business leave, and if it did become an independent military vehicle supplier whether MOD would become eager customers again.

February 22, 2014 11:36 pm

The MOD has proven that they will not buy from British small independents.
They would not buy the Universal Engineering Ranger instead going for the Cougar family.
There orders from Supacat are all over the place it is a miracle they have kept the company running.
As far as the MOD and BAE go you have to feel sorry for the people in Newcastle and Portsmouth.

February 23, 2014 12:47 am

Would these alternative projects even get anywhere?

AMRAAM is already in production and integrated and I really don’t see them chucking a whole production line (+workers) and pre-integrated products on a totally new weapon that also needs to be integrated and tested again. Best bet would be the old AIM-120 with an extended range booster plugged on. Mod instead of new.

As for the FSC and GCV, forget them, they are dead end projects that the US can’t fund right now as they are in the poorhouse. IIRC, the GCV is running in at about 80 tons, about 25% heavier than even the M-1 or CR2. Think it’s going to be cheap? And FSC? Wow. That’s the SC21 (Surface Combatant 21st C) redux isn’t it?

x, you’re a bit too hard on the LCS, it was a good idea that fell into the hands of project managers from companies famous for lowballing estimates and cost and time overruns. In a country that is so protectionist that they had to reinvent the wheel (and failed to do that too) rather than buy existing off the shelf items. Good concept that never stood a chance.

February 23, 2014 2:33 am


Nice post! Overall i don’t think it would hurt our American cousins to look around a little before buying stuff straight off the local shelf, and you’re correct in saying that for all the doom and gloom the UK does/will field some dam impressive bits of kit.

I know the post is on the humorous side of things, but the T26 replacing the Ticonderoga class, surely not? Weight isn’t everything but those cruisers are more than a third heavier than the T26 and can carry 120+ missiles a piece. They, like the USN are in a different league to any other maritime force in the world. The T26 sits somewhere between the LCS and Arleigh Burke’s, and whilst it would have made a good frigate replacement instead of the LCS i can’t see a current need for it.

The most economical way (considering serious budgetary restrictions) of keeping the USN as large as possible whilst making sure it’s vessels pack enough firepower will surely be to look at a single compromised class gradually replacing both the Ticonderoga’s and Arleigh Burke’s from the mid 2020’s on-wards? A clear high/low mix of surface vessels with the higher end ones focusing on broad task-group protection (but specifically AAW) and land attack.

February 23, 2014 5:19 am

I think meteor is a no brainer for US forces and I think the reason the US has not yet begun development of such a weapon is telling. F35 really needs a missile like meteor to take maximum advantage of its stealth and sensor fusion and as the missile will already be integrated onto F35 I can’t see why the US would not buy it eventually.

Dual mode brimstone also seems like a no brainer.

a lot of the US missile inventory is starting to look dated and it’s the one area that Europe is looking pretty good in.

might also add pave way IV to the list as well.

T26 maybe as a supplement to replace some LCS orders. It would fit in well with the frigate concept outlined by rommnie and it would allow the LCS to replace the USN’s MCM force without having to worry about replacing the Perry’s at which point the LCS starts to look much better if their is no need for weapons and ASW.

T26 maybe too good looking for USN service. More the European sports car than the big full fat no looks Burke Class.

we should worry about joint development with the US on T 26 as our cheap frigate may end up turning into a Death Star at which point we will get one of them.

what about T45 to repalcement their cruisers. They already often do the job anyway in the gulf and are apparently better.

what about sonar 2076 on the Virgina class. all the advantages of astute without the dodgy gearbox.

what about Typhoon for the USAF. would go some way to offset the tiny fleet of F22’s and would allow F35 to do what it was suppose to do being a stealthy bomb truck and not an air interceptor. The typhoon could be sued in the air national guard role for providing sovereign air patrol.

American procurement is a train reck and it highlights the issue of giving the military too much money. The Americans could learn a lot from us just as we could probably learn from the Italians on how to survive with a much smaller budget.

February 23, 2014 6:27 am

Meteor Comments:

1. You rapidly reach a condition in BVR where, even with a RamAAM and a fully variable throated plenum, you are talking about a 3-4 minute midcourse to reach the kinds of standoff ranges that we are talking about. When the AIM-54A, a 985lb weapon was fired in it’s proving test on a 110nm range target, that target had to continue closure for another 2.9 minutes before impact at 71nm with a missile midcourse average of Mach 2.6. Ridiculous when every threat out there knows that they are facing stealth BVR and shooter:illuminator tactics which effectively mean they can be tracked from 100nm and shot from 20nm and so will be performing constant Tac and Check turns to stress seeker cubing and FPole kinematics.

2. I do not believe for a moment what that Marine General said in the 60 Minutes brief about U.S. jets detecting threat LO at 5-10 times the range that it can see us back. Simply because our defense industrial techbase for the F-35 has been pilfered and we flatly _don’t know_ what that will mean in terms of Chinese SOA in 2025 when their own jets come online. Since the F-35 is scheduled for an 8-10,000hr service life, out to 2060, this is important.
The same consideration does not apply to the Western BVR shooter, since missile launch events are very hot and get even more so when flung from supercruise (1,200`) which means that any QWIP IRST, looking up at 40-60K where low drag means the most to BVR is going to see the motor ignition event, all the way out to 80km or more. If the (F-22/Eurofighter) is above about Mach 1.3 (300`), it will also see a weak bowshock as stagnation temp difference, out to at least 50km.
Whether it sees the shooter on radar or not.
If you see a shot coming at you from ‘nothing’ you now have time to defeat the round by midcourse extension maneuver.

3. Most missiles waste a HUGE amount of energy as mass on the exactly wrong segment of the performance envelope. Which is to say midcourse at Mach 3-4 to transit the distance where the weapon is doing nothing before the threat does -something- (turns around) and leaves either the kinematic or tracking envelope. See: Iraqi MiG-23 and MiG-25, starved of spares for 10 years, making utter fools of an F-15E, a pair of Tomcats and an F-16 with multiple AIM-54, 7 and 120 all fired for naught.
By comparison, if you are _already_ at 10-15nm when you fire a motor, then the trajectory effects of turn away or MAWS detection are much less severe. As is the cost of a falls-short shot.
Which may mean the difference between Shoot-look-shoot (long TOF between failures for single shots) of single LRAAM or Shoot-shoot-look on salvo fire of less expensive, MRAAM to ‘double down’ on SSPK.

4. Moving 100KW SSL weapons from surface mounts to airborne use will double their range at altitude. This means, instead of a 5km outerzone, you get a 10km equivalent. Even at Mach 5 full blower (a speed at which it will turn like a truck), the Meteor is going to take upwards of 9 seconds to transit that inner zone which is a veritable eternity of engagement window for the defensive hardkill. Something that is particularly important if it is done /in combination/ with conventional (high performance, missile based) shooters. In that VLO means nothing if you are invisible archer but the enemy keeps shooting down your arrows.

At the same time, by no later than 2040, surface mount lasers will be in the 1MW range -with prismatic mirrors- which means that you are now able to shoot 10km up and 60km out, through the least amount of burbly, pollutant laced, air. This will essentially mean the end of tacair overflight of landward enemy battlespace. You will simply never know if you are being tracked by network acoustics and range-tracking (800mm objective) cameras until the sounding rocket fires up through your altitude band to eject and aerosonde whose relay mirror aligns a Really Bright Light on your forehead.

By way of comparison:

MALD Long Range = Hounds Before Hunters

MCALS = C-130 LRAAM Carrier

MALD-J Specs

Is a 300lb, 500nm, 7ft long missile that can be launched from bulk cargo aircraft, form up and advance in skirmish line formations, using datalink shared optical search patterns to sweep millions of cubic miles to find targets /tens of minutes/ before allied aircraft even cross the fence. As the ultimate TARCAP force.

Because they are subsonic, they can go further and because (in my version) they fire a secondary squib motor to get supersonic for terminals, they can still maneuver on bodylift and small wings after a 10-15nm acquisition with an SFPA leads to a 2-3nm terminal endgame. This being possible because an engine with a turbulent flow ‘artichoke’ diffuser like that of the F112 in the AGM-129, will essentially result in zero IR signature and thus the ability to evade detection by MAWS/MLDS systems used to looking for rocket plume chemistry.

If 5X 1.5 million dollar weapons (7 million vs. 50 million for an F-16 or 80 million for a Gen-4.5 Eurocanard) are assigned per target, after the first pass, the weapon comes around again and the enemy, now out of defensive missiles having shot every other weapon down, must begin to evade and evade. Always lower. Always slower. Always with fewer EXCM. Until the hunting weapon MALI snuggles up along side the canopy.

And detonates a hand grenade sized charge. Paint me a Thunderbird.

Meteor cannot do this. It cannot self-sweep where there is no cue source. It cannot suppress a baselane while the attack force walks up on the airbase. It cannot swing-and-a-miss-ile come around for another try.

And for all that it is longranged, /compared to a rocket based AAM/ it’s still an enormous waste of money and impulse for the time it takes to get to 80-100nm downrange distances where the threat may no longer be in-envelope and even if it is, will see the Meteor coming with IRST and MAWS and react in a manner that minimizes the high speed weapons to compensate (Meteor doesn’t like negative AOA bunts as sudden lead precess because it builds a shock wall across the inlets which propogates down-throat, into the plenum).

February 23, 2014 8:48 am


Oh brother…

First, does ANYONE believe that there will be another president using a CVSG as a moving shield for Taiwan to end Chinese ‘missile tests’ as Clinton did, back in the when?

Does anyone believe that the slow pace of naval warfare in someplace like the PG will again follow the dictates of “First we, bomb, then we raid, then we mine…” As the Armilla Patrol and Earnest Will built up to Prime Chance and Praying Mantis? Such that conventional MCM as a by-inches endeavor will work? Or that hunting of UUCV as robotic tugs for cannisters of AShM or CAPTOR will become in ‘the new ASW’?

If not, why are you in the littorals, begging to be dogpiled from all sides by manned and unmanned water craft and rained on by shore launch rockets with and without guidance? The typical Iranian FAC-M these days has FOUR C-701 missiles on it and they send them out in waves of 20 at a time.

_Do you really_ want to face off with that?

I mean, what’s your mission? Don’t tell me you are escorting reflagged tankers. Don’t even bother. You won’t save them, you won’t save you. You’re looking for an excuse to get into a fight with Iran and so why bother risking mazcats on multiple hulls when you can simply go in from a long ways out (SLCM or carrier or landbased air) and flatten them to begin with?

Getting that squared away will say an awful lot about what the LCS does vs. what any followon is expected to.

Let me add some more modifiers.

By 2025, the Chinese will have mapped enough of their ionospheric conditions to have a functional lens to service a ROTH-R/JORN capability. They will be able to see 2,000nm out to sea from a site 500nm inland. And they will use that capability to target 10 million dollar DF-21Ds with Wu-14 flyup MARVs, onto carrier battle groups. For this reason alone, there is purpose in the Brown Shoe Navy remaining the chief bulimic in the already fat Navy.


Yet it is the existence of the Air Squids that keeps the ONE THING that the Real HG&U service needs, from happening: VTOL, jet speed, long range, targeting.

I say this for a lot of reasons.

First, you always want to disassociate your targeting from your fires and right now, that happens by distances about about 10-20 meters on ships which _must_ go all-active to engage with SARH weapons like it was still the freakin’ 1960s. Guhhh.

We are looking at a transition, not just in ASBM but ASCM towards super and even hypersonic, transit of the mid to inner to terminal zones. Which means that saturation effects work by time as much as numbers.

To counter this, we have the SM6 which can theoretically reach over a horizon, out to 40nm or more in the low mode, and hit weapons like Klub while they are still in cruise missile slowmo mode. To replace SeaRAM and ESSM, we have demonstrations by Raytheon and Rheinmetall of Network Lasing whereby 20 + 30KW = major bug zapper so that electrical generation on individual hulls is not /quite/ so critical. We have APS from MASS/ROSY/Centurion smart launchers that, in combination with Iron Clad (Merrimac) style hull design could hardened a no-external-antenna upperworks to the worst of close-aboard detonation threats (which in any case are still better than in the officer’s mess).

IF we can know when to turn on the defense and go from dark ship to lighthouse. Which means network offboards.

For this reason alone, I believe that LCS got the answer ‘part right’ (1/10th) in designing a hull with a big helo deck. Because the Shaft Driven Lift Fan or SDLF _works_, when you truncate the nose from the cockpit wall forward and the tail from the burner tube aft. And giving small naval groups a big boost in ISR provides for both fleet defense options (200nm away, looking back across the approaches to the real location).

And an ability, via ELO or Extreme Low Observables (cool-skin EO plus -70dbsm) , to penetrate and target for aeroballistic HCM or Hypersonic Cruise Missiles of our own.

ARRMD, FastHawk, RATTLRS, LRASM-B. The number of coulda-been, surface navy independent, hypersonic missile systems with essentially the same performance as the ATACMS Blk.II is so long that it can only be an indication of crib murder by those wicked people on the floating carpark across the battlegroup way.

And why is this important when we have the oh so perfect, does everything (nothing well) F-35 you ask?

Well, in addition to the obvious of bringing a carrier across 500nm of battlespace with ASBM raining down upon it as a not so great idea, you have costs.

A Tactical Tomahawk runs about 800,000 dollars. And will fly 700-900nm in 3hrs. A hypersonic (Mach 8) missile which costs 5 times as much will still cost only 1/25th as much as a single F-35.

Which means that if you have another fuss up like Libya and need to burn 100 missiles to make the bad men behave, you have shot off the equivalent of 4 F-35s for 100 missiles. Which is not so great, I admit. But.

In training during the 90% rest of the decade which is at peacetime conditions here is how your Operations and Support numbers look:

12 aircraft naval squadron X 1.25 manning ratio = 15 pilots.
20 hrs per month, per mission, as currency training = 40 X 15 or 600 hours per squadron flying month.
31,000 dollars per flight hour for training on the cheapest, F-35A, variant X 600 hours per month =18.6 million dollars.
12 months per year X 18.6 million dollars per month = 232,200,000 dollars.

Let me say that again:


So, with two squadrons, you are replacing the cost of new-cruise (at 4 million each) every year anyway.

Except that the missiles are wooden-round carried in sealed VLS launchers, for pennies per mile. And you /try/ only to fight 1-2 Major Theater Wars per decade.

We don’t have the mission down for LCS. Hence we don’t have a real understanding of what it is that requires us to come into the Littorals or if (as I believe) we are best remaining Blue Water and shooting inwards with UAS airborne ISR for targeting of long range aeroballistic strikes. ISR which doesn’t launch off a 12 billion dollar floating skyscraper. Which will most assuredly be turned into a 3,500 man MazCat submarine when the DF-21D start flying.

Get rid of the Air Navy’s overweening mooch effect and we can afford the weapons system which will make smaller ships the equal of the carrier in ranged strike across a range of major class upgrades and new-starts. Because we will be sizing our formations around small SAGs not massive CVSGs.

And because we will not be paying for airpower’s humongous overhead penalty as peacetime currency training in perishable aviator skills eating up airframe hours as O&S costs.

Rheinmetall Dual Laser Turrets = Baseline For Network Beam Stacking for Rapid 100KW+ AShM Defense

Operational Implications Of Laser Weapons


DF-21D Gobi Witness Plate

Pershing II Stand-in for Wu-14, flyup decel, 3 layer guidance template, descent, boom.

Iranian Pasdaran C701 Massed Attack (Time Index 1:35 onwards)

Revolution To Evolution- The IRGC Naval Capabilities

Pack Hunter



X-51A HCM Prototype Engine Testbed (Replace B-52 with ASAS Booster from Strike VLS)

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
February 23, 2014 9:18 am

St Michael is back. I still don’t understand.

February 23, 2014 10:05 am

The USN has on odd occasion made mutterings about METEOR and Boeing did become a US distribution partner. Nevertheless the US won’t ditch AMRAAM in favour of METEOR, it is an established program with continuing improvements in performance through incremental updates. The latest 120D whilst apparently having the same motor as the C-7 model will include a significant albeit classified range increase. The motor is a dual pulse variant allowing a second firing of the motor mid flight to extend range or near the end of the flight to increase end game manoeuvrability. They also have done development work to add a ramjet if needed so the logic of adding METEOR to the inventory is rather hard to divine.

As for an LCS replacement the best solution currently would be a variant of the Legend Class National Security Cutter used by the US Coastguard. Huntington Ingalls have already put together proposals for a frigate and Corvette variants derived from the Legend class. They look pretty much bang on for I would imagine an affordable replacement for the Perry class should be like. Strangely the T26 is probably a bit too high end for the USN as some of its capabilities overlap the Arleigh Burke. Considering the numbers the USN would want to build any frigate class a Legend Class derived solution has a sensible mid level weapons fit based upon the Huntington Ingalls proposal:

76mm Gun (presumably 57mm as well)
Phalanx or SeaRAM
Quad Harpoon launchers
Triple Torpedo tubes
Crew served and remote machine gun mounts

They have offered it with a hull mount sonar and CEAFAR radar presumably to tempt the Australians. They could probably offer different radar fits.

February 23, 2014 10:34 am

No worries RT, it’s just pseudo-technojargon. Technojargon I understand but the pseudo version has too much individual inventions thrown into it to be comprehended by someone whose name is not M&S. See the part where he calls the AIM-120 the RamAAM while the rest of the planet calls it AMRAAM.

And he obviously has not been following TD, most of the links he put up have already been posted before, especially the laser one which was in the “Lasers a go go” thread just 2(?) days ago.

He’s right on one thing though, the USN still has no idea what to do with the LCS.

BTW, didn’t the Waverider prototype blow on testing? The Prompt Global Strike hypersonic glider also broke up on testing IIRC. Hope that isn’t the way of the future for the LAPCAT, high speed flight does not seem to be very forgiving.

February 23, 2014 10:42 am

Would have made several interesting posts.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
February 23, 2014 10:55 am

@ Observer,

I am sending myself off for remedial technology classes. All I have in my favour is a mathematics A level (and some useless ones like Politics, French, and German), and a year at the Joint Services College of Knowledge in which you learn to distill things to their utter essence.

February 23, 2014 11:44 am

Re the DF21

this is my favourite bit of 80’s tech reborn in China. I hope they bring back Beetamax next.

awesome that the PLA now has The ability to land a ballistic missile inside a four acre static target inside the gobi desert. I bet the USN are bricking it :-)

seriously though what do the Chinese think will happen if they suddenly launch dozens of ballistic missile in the middle of tensions or a war with the USA. The chances are that the US will already have launched its tridents by the time they realise the missile are conventional and not nuclear.

This is the very reason the US canceled the idea of using a ballistic missile for global strike. it just goes to show the calibre of Chinese statesmen and military thinkers.

Let’s just hope that if the USA glasses them they do it right.

February 23, 2014 11:49 am

RT, won’t help. I did Chemistry and Biology in Uni and basic Physics (pre-req) and Astronomy as elective and I still can’t get him.

His arguments are very idiosyncratic and ironically the same complaints that he makes about the solutions that are being done in real life can also be levelled against his own “ideal” solutions, so there is a bit of self blindness there, spiced with a lot of acronyms that he does not bother to provide a legend to and sometimes are literally his own inventions. (e.g CVSG- which is, I assume, CV Surface or Strike Group, a tautology unless you are into Japanese cartoons with submersible carriers, while the rest of the planet uses CVBG, Carrier Battle Group. Or if he’s really USN, the actual term they use is CSG, so you see what I mean when he uses acronyms that are really his own.)

February 23, 2014 11:52 am

RE Iranian speed boats.

I’m guessing those 1000 speed boats would be a decent bit of target practice for a dozen wildcats armed with LMM or sea skua or FASGW(h). Might even get the apaches to join in with hellfire or a few predators? Maybe even get the RAF out of their hotel in Dubai and get a spot of practice using the 27mm Vulcan.

I wonder if the Radar on the Tonkas could track them as its does with land targets. 16 brimstone would make a bit of a mess of a few of them.

seem to remember the boys having a good day out in 1991 with the Iraqi navy picking up the bill.

sounds like a good day out for all the services.

February 23, 2014 12:16 pm

When was the last time the US bought equipment from us?
Martin B-57 Canberra was built on licence and was the last time I can think off.
There were some land rovers for there special force that’s it.

February 23, 2014 12:21 pm

RT – ref “the Joint Services College of Knowledge in which you learn to distil things to their utter essence” – this smacks of the ability to know the cost of everything and the value of nothing – I shall explain by analogy: I could take da Vinci’s The Virgin of the Rocks (which I met once in the National Gallery) and distil it to stretched canvas, some highly noxious powders, a few pints of bull’s urine and a gallon of boiled linseed oil. All the same stuff, but strained out to their purest form. All the nuance, all the artistry, all the skill of the painters* is lost. The structure of the image is lost. The feeling beauty and passion the painting delivers is lost. And yet nothing physical has been removed, just distilled and separated.

You could do the same with fine wine, or beer, or bread – the combination of the distinct components by a skilled artisan makes something of far greater value than the cost of the raw ingredients. As does the context in which the finished product is enjoyed.

This ‘finding of the root cause’ approach has produced some of the worst decisions too – starting with ‘money is the root of all evil’ which sort of lets the sadistic or deviant off the hook altogether, through ‘Communism will destroy the world’ and its modern equivalent ‘Global Warming will destroy the world’, to perhaps the nastiest root cause purge ever, the Nazi’s ‘The Jews are the cause of everything bad’ which led to mass extermination but not to any societal improvement. The world is complicated and interwoven with interdependent factors that react in all sorts of apparently insignificant ways. Picking one thing out of the system as ‘the important bit’ misses the whole point. In my opinion.

And yet this ‘root cause’ analysis pervades nearly all Government and big organization thinking. Someone in Government decided, on the evidence of the economic growth through Victorian times when there was mass railway system expansion, that by building a new shiny railway all the Victorian-scale growth will result. Had the same individuals applied a bit of investigation, they would have seen that the expansion of the railways was led by industrialists building private lines to connect their businesses to the ever growing freight network that was the railway. Some of the industrialists used their position in Parliament to make their particular rail link a reality, but it was for the benefit of their business, not for the altruistic provision of a network to take ordinary folk on holidays. HS2 then is built on a fallacy (we all knew that anyway) – it is not railways that result in industrial growth, it is industrial growth that expedites infrastructure improvements. And industrial growth relies on thousands of interdependent factors…

Defence is perhaps one of the simpler environments – military objectives tend to be quite blunt, and the method of achieving the objective is by and large the application of robust territory acquisition and defence. Perhaps in this environment the ‘root cause’ or ‘key enabler’ type analysis works adequately. Analysis like that in the Forest of the Ardennes that defined the holding of Bastogne to be vital. Although I’m not sure the Allied commanders were aware the Panzer divisions needed the fuel dump more than the road junction.

Anyway. I live in a complex world full of surprises; one constantly in flux for all sorts of unexpected reasons. Not for me the distillation of it. I think I’ll accept it just as it is.

*Close study shows only the faces and – um – biological detail were painted by the master; they were painted once, in a uniform thin layer of paint, and trust me needed no further refinement, where the background and clothing show heavy build-up of paint where several attempts were needed to get things right – these would have been the work of the apprentices and contract artists.

February 23, 2014 12:26 pm

Obs – CVSG was I believe ‘Carrier Vessel, anti-Submarine warfare, Guided weapons’ and became CVS when Sea Dart was removed. Not quite sure why it was defined an ASW platform when the Sea Harrier was clearly anti-aircraft and anti-ship, but hey – MOD knows best

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
February 23, 2014 12:37 pm

@ Chris,

You’ve got some odd stuff going on in your head. You must be an engineer. ;)

February 23, 2014 12:45 pm

“None of this will ever happen of course, but fun to speculate” – So not to be taken too seriously then.

So, if the Cousins were to come to their senses and look around for a frigate, would they go for an off the shelf one like FREMM or a project like T26 where they could influence the design? Also, given that shipbuilding in the US is also all about job (and vote) preservation, they’d want to licence build and put their own systems and hardware on them; not much leeway to screw them blind.

On Typhoon – how about taking up the unwanted tranche 3B options, with their own AESA perhaps. Wouldn’t it be rib-tickling if they decided to fund SeaPhoon – perhaps even buy the French CVF design and build half a dozen or so. Would at least provide incontrovertible proof of Sod’s Law.

No, on big ticket items I can’t see them going abroad. Missiles like Meteor and Brimstone are interesting possibilities though – think Carl Gustaf:

February 23, 2014 1:39 pm

Chris said “Not quite sure why it was defined an ASW platform when the Sea Harrier was clearly anti-aircraft and anti-ship, but hey – MOD knows best”

Their original role was to act as flags for ASW groups screening US CBG on their way to bomb seven shades of vodka out of the Koala. Their main armament as it were Sea King Pingers working with frigate screen (and their then smaller helicopters) not Sea Harrier (That is why a lack of AEW is understandable as the USN would have been present.

Sea Harrier’s role was, at first at its most basic, more winged missile carrier to deal with shadowers etc. outside the range of Sea Dart. (And not to deal with regiments of Soviet naval bombers that was a job for the USN.) That it proved to be more useful was just a happy accident and came as a complete surprise to the naval staff…… ;)

February 23, 2014 1:58 pm

There really is a lot of tripe spouted about GCV by people I would otherwise have thought would be knowledgable on the subject.
The GCV designs, at present, are somewhere in the 60ton class (that’s US ton, or short ton, or 10% less than the same figure in tonne, or metric tonne (or imperial ton, oddly enough)) So that is 54 tonne maximum weight base combat weight (the GCV has a highly modular armour fit) while Challenger is 62 tonnes base combat weight and Abrams is 61 tonnes base combat weight. If you start counting operational armour fits on the MBTs, their weight will be up in the 70 tonne plus region (80 ton class)
So it’s an IFV with protection in a similar region to the MBTs it is deployed with.

You’ve got a real bee in your bonnet, haven’t you? The UK did not choose GD for the mine protected vehicles, they were Force Protection at the time, and heavily refitted in the UK by NP Aerospace, which is now Morgan, IIRC. GD bought Force Protection and hence got their IP. Which is how things work, even if it sucks.
The Universal Engineering Ranger. Was that available at the time it was needed in the numbers needed at the cost needed? UORs are quite specific about the ‘U’ part. Mastiffs were on order in 2008, while the Ranger was a prototype in 2010, as far as I can determine.

Right, now I’m going to go and add weak lattes to the wall of text above. It’s like being frothed at by Mike Sparks, but somewhat less intelligible

February 23, 2014 2:28 pm

mr.fred, I did some back checking after I posted. The max weight limit was quoted as 84 tons. The basic design was the one in the 60 ton range. IIRC, no MBT has hit 80 tons yet.

February 23, 2014 2:29 pm

MrFred – this time last year the word was that GCV would be big, heavy and tracked. Big because the US Army wants a large volume within (‘the the best way to protect the soldier is by having adequate space inside’), heavy because of its required protection (up to 84 short tons or 75t; a figure not disputed by the Col leading the project), and tracked because the Army wants soft terrain mobility and MMP for wheeled options is too high. See

The same report also notes real progress is slow with go-ahead checkpoints delayed until 2019.

Your information might be more current; maybe you have inside knowledge. But from the outside GCV looks like a big heavily protected tracked IFV with medium calibre gun turret, not due in service for many years yet, and still at risk of losing its budget. That’s just what it looks like.

Rocket Banana
February 23, 2014 2:40 pm

I think the USA ten to buy “concepts” from us and then implement them with much higher economies of scale.

Harrier is one that springs to mind.

There’s little chance of it happening again though simply because of a complete lack of investment in engineering in this country. Along with the increase in the red tape brought about by litigation, blame culture, insurance, liability and indemnity. Add to this the way that PLCs are all about short-term bonus gain and lies/spin to the “city” and we’re truly up the swanny.

Shame really. If we went back to the old British ideals* we wouldn’t be blindly following the USA into ruin.

* IMO, this starts with personal liability and the abolition of “heath and safety”.

February 23, 2014 2:50 pm

80tons is 72tonnes. All Challenger 2 would need to exceed that would be 10 tonnes of appliqué.
80tons is also the growth weight. Comparing that to the base weight of other platforms is not comparing like with like.

80, 84 or 75 tons is the growth weight – the weight of the platform in its maximum combat weight load out with maximum armour PLUS 20%. This is the limit at which it can still move around with adequate performance (though I wonder if it will be degraded)
Yes, it’s tracked and yes it is heavy – these are to be expected with the requirements – but you cannot compare the 84 ton figure to the baseline weight of an MBT. If you want to compare, use the basic design weight, which is 62 tonnes for GD and somewhere between 60 and 70 tons for the BAE design, both of which are lighter than a MBT (unless you go to the high end of the tolerance for BAE) which are 69 tonnes at the base weight, before you add appliqué kits.

February 23, 2014 2:55 pm

Buying a couple of guns and all is great but the US will never buy a high end weapon system where there exists a US company who produce or are capable of producing something similar and the clout to politically lobby congress as they’ll just rap the flag round it. Seen it so many times.

February 23, 2014 3:27 pm

No need to be rude. I know about Force Protection. You just have to look on wiki.

My problem is with the MOD and the way it ignores UK companies.

Universal Engineering Ranger was prototype was shown at DVD 2009. They would then be able to produce the first vehicle within six months of an initial order and then produce six a week if its factory worked flat out.

“Despite video footage suggesting otherwise the MoD said the Ranger had not been tested against bombs.”
It is this type of behaviour that can damage any chance of export.

They use something like 12 local suppliers so they are effected also.

Ok that was not urgent enough so production would not have started until 2010.
Mastiff and Ridgback were started to be bought in 2007 so long before the ranger became available.
Wolfhound was not bought until 2010. Ok fleet commonality comes in to play.

And the other option the BAE MRAP would have been built in South Africa but at least if we had bought them the government could have got them to make them here even if it was from kits. The BAE ones were cheaper and offered a larger variety of types.

The MOD ignored the need for MRAP. Vickers were offering them from 1994 onward with there purchase of OMC.

Back to the Americans they will buy equipment in an emergence as the MRAP programs proved. though this has given them the fleet from hell with vehicles from 6-9 different manufacturer with BAE South Africa and Thales Australia being the two foreign supplies and the rest American. They have 27,000 MRAP fleet now.

February 23, 2014 4:11 pm

MrFred – definitely greater knowledge than I found. But what the hell – its still a humongous great APC with a hefty weapon perched on top. And still way different from Scout-SV which was TD’s originally mooted equivalent. For that matter I am still of a mind that the right size/weight of combat vehicle is within a stone’s throw of large civilian vehicles; in that way the road infrastructure (including extant bridges) can be used without restriction. Very helpful in urban situations where the only free space is the road system. I believe there is still a bridge over the M3 at Chertsey built especially to allow MBT access across the motorway; the road bridges’ strength being considered marginal for repeated use by 60t+ vehicles. (

Complete aside – I have to smile each time I type ‘MrFred’ because it reminds me of one of the regular phrases used in the FV Shop at Alvis (where vehicles were finished and prototypes built) generally describing things not as slick as they should have been: ‘Its just like Fred Karno’s Circus here!”

Chuck Hill
February 23, 2014 8:40 pm

Really think their might be a chance for Sea Ceptor and Sea Spear on the LCS or its successor.

gloomy northern boy
gloomy northern boy
February 23, 2014 8:55 pm

@observer & red trousers – I think there is an astonishingly gripping game called “real war 2050” out there being played by a tiny number of apparently clever but unnervingly psychotic post-graduate students in something really obscure but tangentially defence related out there, and the odd player has become a distinctly odd player.

@observer got to admire call your sniper and raise it a trans-continental laser strike…

– experience suggests that analogies about the ladies work best with our light cavalry chum.

All sorry about typing – up an alp using Mrs gloomy kindle fire after a 3am start, an afternoons skiing and a grape derived spirit or three – this thing has predictive text and keeps spelling it granola !


February 23, 2014 9:24 pm

@Chuck Hill: excellent point. Small and compact, VL so easy to mount, much better coverage than SeaRAM, doesn’t require much integration :-)

February 23, 2014 9:48 pm

Apologies if I caused offence. Not my intention, just trying to clear up a few points.
You’re right, the Ranger prototype was at DVD in 2009. Mastiff had, by that time, been in Afghanistan for two and a half years and the UOR fleet was substantial at that time. Switching to the Ranger at that time would have entailed a six month wait, plus sufficient time to work up the needed fleet plus time to work out any bugs, plus whatever retraining might be required to operate the new vehicle.

Ranger turned up at an unhappy time where it wasn’t in a good place for a UOR and it is too much like a UOR for it to stand much chance at being taken on as a future core project.

My point is that it may have been a bias against the incidentals of a SME company (the lead time) or any one of a dozen other factors rather than an institutional objection against UK firms. (where does NP Aerospace sit in that one?) The MOD does not do it or British Industry any favours with some of its actions, but then it was British Industry who whole-heartedly went along with FRES and other projects that have damaged our capability.

The BAE offerings were competed against the Force Protection vehicles and for whatever reason the Mastiff was chosen. It isn’t necessarily some kind of conspiracy.

The failure to have a mine-protected patrol vehicle in service was a failing on the part of the MOD. Can’t really let them go on that front.

February 23, 2014 9:58 pm

Is the GCV a Merkava by another name , it carries less ‘passengers’, only 6, but a stretched version, say by a meter, would carry the increased capacity the Americans want .As a regularly combat tested (at least against people ONLY armed only with the latest Russian/Chinese weapons money can buy) plus armed with a MBT killing main gun (not 30 mm but a 120mm ) surely its a no brainer unless as stated previously the Americans only buy big ticket items indigenously designed and manufactured (see EADS losing out to Boeing on the KC-X tanker ,the EADS original winner was to be assembled in the US with at least 25% of the components sourced locally, the industry norm but still lost out!)
Martin – With regards to the Chinese DF-21D your bang on with what is it tipped with say 1000kg of conventional explosive or a 1 Megaton Nuke which would wipe out not just my Flagship i.e. carrier but the rest of the supporting fleet too .As a Carrier fleet commander I would send my Birds up armed to the teeth if a strike was launched ,i.e. nuclear tipped cruise missiles, with the inherent risk of a launch on the mainland(the launch point) at not just a purely military target in a 1000 miles of Ocean but civilian casualties .The Chinese are not so dumb , the weapon is a threat prompting the US to spend billions of dollars developing a countermeasure or the US could just adopt a naval version of the Davids Sling missile (again Israeli/Raytheon) which would be cheaper as it all ready works but no expensive R & D costs to lump onto the procurement costs .

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
February 23, 2014 10:20 pm

apparently clever but unnervingly psychotic

Bloody hell GNB, are you my first wife’s divorce lawyer? All I ever did was try to serve my country to 100% of my ability, which apparently meant that I had to give 150% to domestic duties, and on failing that, give all of my money for the rest of my life. I don’t care much about salary, she can have that, but I’m not putting innocent parents out of their estate.

February 23, 2014 10:28 pm

MrFred – ref “but then it was British Industry who whole-heartedly went along with FRES” – As I recall at the time MOD had declared the next significant armour project was going to result from FFLAV/TRACER/FRES studies; there was no other big project in the long term costings; the platform numbers were projected at 1500 vehicles. It would have been a brave Captain of Industry in this sector that decided not to engage. Although in hindsight it might not have been unreasonable to fear a non-UK corporation might win in the end, at the onset of the studies the UK armour industrial base included Vickers, GKN defence, Alvis, Royal Ordnance, GEC, VSEL, British Aerospace, Glover Webb and Shorland. With so many contenders the contract was odds-on to stay in Blighty…

February 23, 2014 10:35 pm

Great thoughts from the TD thinkfactory

Initial thoughts Meteor – needs internal integration ; Dual Mode Brimstone – is this competing against the SDB? Seaceptor – I think the USN would expect CEC integrated.

HMG and Bae need to go the extra mile if they want external sales, haven’t we seen that with the Typhoon. We could have a market for the three above weapons, they might not buy but maximising the sale chance is fundamental.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
February 23, 2014 10:44 pm

@RT – Let me try that again – I was referring to you and @Observers travails with the bloke who writes the really, really, REALLY LONG and often incomprehensible comments….I’m thinking he’s the barmpot in the basement not you you silly billy…I was offering a view as to where he was coming from, but trying to avoid fire.

Sorry for my lack of clarity, but it’s been a long day…

An apologetic Gloomy

February 23, 2014 10:45 pm

EADs tanker loss is a good example and proves even with a US partner it will still pick the US designed and built option.

Lockheed Martin VH-71 Kestrel (AgustaWestland AW101) contract lost the contract for Presidential transport fleet
also losing Combat Search and Rescue Replacement (CSAR-X) and Common Vertical Lift Support Program (CVLSP).

Eurocopter UH-72 Lakota is a strange one with the contract being on and then off and the back on again.

February 24, 2014 12:31 am


I really wish you would stop trying to be my interpreter. Your distortions are deliberate and inpolitic as I am here to answer for myself.

Nowhere did I use the term ‘RamAAM’ and ‘AMRAAM’ interchangeably.

There may be multiple iterations of Ramjet Air to Air Missiles (Ram-AAM) by 2025. The Chinese are working on the PL-12D and PL-21. The Russians may yet pull a rabbit out on the R-77PD. And we have our own T3.

All of them have the disadvantage of needing to be fed by an inlet system which has to be dynamically responsive to changing AOA conditions with a fixed capture area, non-variable geometry, _exceptionally short_, inlet flowpath. This means that they don’t get good compression recovery and are very dependent on symmetrical flow lest you get an assymetric burn front across the propellant grain which either greatly effects efficiency as thrust yield. Or blows up the missile. When added to the drag and sideforce issues of the ducts themselves, RamAAM they are not all that they are cracked up to be.

Most especially when-

1. They are so costly, the threat unlikely to be trackable in firing them at range and the ready alternative of TurboAAM Hunting Weapons such a superior option, because it puts the missile at danger-close proximity BEFORE the rocket boosted endgame begins.

2. Gives the weapons the flight range to sweep a large area ahead of the strike force in finding RFLO threats which may not have even taken off when they are fired.

3. Provides an alternate mission capability against predesignated ground targets which a conventional AAM may not have the energy or the guidance precision to strike. In case the threat doesn’t decide to play a loser’s game.

Modern, pure, rockets are boost-coast or boost-relight because there is little point in a sustainer grain beyond the need to recharge the weapon thermal batteries which can be done different ways. They have a much higher, tailored, initial impulse and so can really take the weapon to very high Mach numbers if the thermal and Q values can be met. This gives them much better FPole performance which is a factor of _time not range_ in the ‘Medium’ class of weapons.

They then coast down from that point and can only match ramjet weapons for absolute range by lofting and so take longer and have less reactivity to threat counter maneuver in the midcourse. That said, with the relight and significantly higher terminal energy replacing warhead mass, they can be MORE lethal in terminals because of their Cartesian vs. Polarimetric controls and specifically the ability to cut back against a proportional lead in overcoming a terminal ‘last best move’ attempt to defeat the intercept.

What will end up determining whether VLRAAM are worth the time is the advance of DEWS into airborne application which will increasingly make attacks by single threat weapons simply easier to shoot down than to avoid. A swarm of Hunting Weapons with a rocket squib boost is likely to win this fight too, for the simple reason that if you face a laser armed threat, the easiest way to get around risking a manned platform to a flashlight kill is to _remove the manned platform_. At which point, the threat will become that of Turbo-SAM.

With range greater than S-300. And the numbered ability to saturate a 10-20 shot DEWS inherent to NOT paying for the 80-100 million dollar bus platform that we call a ‘fighter’. Killing targets while their beam train cools down or their capacitors recharge may not be cricket but then again, neither is giving them a really bad sunburn from 10km+ away.

CVSG is a way to bridge the gap since CVBG is a dated term and I did not know if anyone here would understand CSG. Despite Google at your fingertips and presumably an operative intelligence, you refuse to use context or a glossary of terms.

I find this to be suspicious for motive.

Do not be a fool sir. The Iranians sent children as young as 8-10 years old, armed with little more than a Red Key (to Paradise’s Gates) into mine fields and gas (gas which we targeted with weekly U-2 flights out of Taif and Akrotiri) to beat back the Iraqi tank and mechanized units whom we had encouraged to attack in the hopes of bloodying them both.

That bloody-minded will not to be beaten, not matter the cost, and the utter hatred for all that the U.S. represents has not faded since that time.

But it has gotten smarter.

A C-14 Cat Boat with 4 C701s multiplied by the 100 or more boats known to be used in mass attacks would not be defeated by any single weapons platform nor even likely by massed fires. When driven by the kinds of people who can do what the Iranians did to their own children.

And unlike The Tanker War of 1984-88, the Iranians would only have to come within about 20km to launch. They could run an LCS force out of both Hellfire, SeaRAM and 3P ammo and then vanish back over the horizon because the _best_ we have to shoot back with, from on-deck is the Lilliputian Griffin, a 4-5km ATGW.

And any attempt to aid a struck ship or simply to keep a convoy moving under fire through a cleared mine-channel would see Iranian UAVs dumping massive numbers of shore launched ballistics from shoot and scoot MRLs to rototill the ocean with the rockets which the Iranians are also becoming quite good at building.

Because the PG just ain’t that wide.

And this _combined arms_ effect of dealing with one threat only to come under attack by another, will get worse and worse as the Iranians begin to realize that manned craft cost too much to encapsulate a human body and a separate kill effector when they could just roboticize both and mass produce a whaleboat sized USCV/UUCV.

At that point, they will be able to creep out and either deposit groups of AShM or CAPTOR in free-floating mine clusters with just enough fuel to hold position via a snorkel and docking propulsor for SATCOMMs commanded or autonomous sonar launch in the traffic lane.

Or triple down the numbers of their PCI class with an approach similar to the German Sprengboote Linse or Tornado. Now, you have to deal with both homing boats potentially moving at up to 200 knotsand missiles moving at 600.

Without any fear of death or -sightline- on the threat, at all.

Even a helicopter equipped with six shots worth of FASGW will not be able to be in enough places with enough shots to prevent the majority of AShM launches and then it will be in a race with the remaining USCVs to RTB in time to have it’s landing platform blown out from under it by robotic seeker homing approach.

I am reminded of the old Steve Martin gag: “Stay away from the cans!”

As for your assumptions about the nature of the U.S. strategic response to theater ballistic missiles, no.

Thankfully, we are a great deal more competent, responsible and restrained in our ownership of and doctrinal use conditions for nuclear weapons than you give us credit for. The missile launches would be detected by DSP, tracked through ascent to midcourse by SBIRS/BSTS and their fall points judged by trajectory segment within 30 seconds of launch.

As long as they stayed inside a 3,000nm arc extending from China’s coast, there would not even be a change in NorComm’s alert status.

Since a 1,500nm MRBM has nothing like the profile of a 6-10,000nm ICBM, your argument is thus as specious as the assumption that we would launch on Iraq on the basis of Al Hussein/Al Abbas firings out of SCUD Alley.

And our Naval Forces would be shattered without hope of response.

This is a vulnerability that goes back to the Cold War when a Blue Water atomic attack by nuclear tipped AS-4/5/6 would have cost us the entirety of several REFORGER convoys, in trade for which the Russians would have been quite happy to give us the coordinates of every surface ship in the VMF. But if we struck Russian landbased forces anywhere on the Continent, the next wardets would have been over Washington.

Since this is a game won by those who strike first, Washington would have had to knuckle under and continue fighting a bad hand in NATO Europe with forces already in theater until such time as they had ‘nothing to lose’ and we either yielded Europe or The World Ended.

Be grateful that the Soviets always thought we gave more of a damn about you than we likely should have. But don’t believe for a second that such loyalty would apply to free-wheeling USN forces ‘protecting U.S. interests’ in the Taiwan or Korean theaters. Because Hiroshima and Nagasaki themselves show that this is not true.

The reality instead being that if we attacked China with strategic weapons in retaliation for naval losses in the Blue Water we would STILL eat ICBM back. And so the notion that Chinese conventional weapons would, by necessity, result in a retaliatory nuclear ballistic strike only highlights the primitiveness of a mindset that tit-for-tats with what it has.

And the U.S. doesn’t have a conventional naval ballistic strike capability nor the means to target individual DF-21D TELS as the only counterforce target worth the cost. Because if we did, we wouldn’t be wasting money on the dated, bloated and overly value-invested CSG paradigm. Because ballistics are cheaper, more survivable, reach farther and require less enabling missions.

Hence it must be acknowledged that manned military airpower has gone from being a defense of ground and naval forces to a primary striking arm in it’s own right to final, corrupted, Union Wage system of rent seeking for it’s own sake.

Because it is not survivable vs. modern threats, anymore than cavalry was survivable vs. the machine gun in WWI.

The bitter irony being that this stupid ‘carriers will always get thru!’ notion has it’s roots in the same psychology which saw The Charge Of The Light Brigade which _should not_ have been able to storm the guns at Balaclava but whose pure luck success in doing so, once, led to the tragedy of the WWI battlefield where the entire condition of fluid battle was abandoned by infantry seeking to ‘firm the lines’ so that cavalry could break thru into a designated enemy rear.

Hand slaps forehead.

If we undertake a similar CHAAAARGE! idiocy in a Pacific Pivot, against a threat as increasingly technically competent as the Chinese, we will create a situation where using naval force The Same Ol’ Way will walk us right up an abattoir chute of our own making.

And thus leave it to future historians sorting through the fragments to wonder yet again, what unholy triumvirate of greed, stupidity and ‘tradition’ led us to create such a condition of needless defeat when ALL THE INDICATORS, from capability to cost to worries about force structure maintenance, pointed exactly the opposite way.

Our moderator once used a term which I feel appropriate here: Fuckwittery.

February 24, 2014 5:22 am

@ Chuck Hill – Good point about Sea Ceptor. In many ways it could be a game changer for the LCS at least against any air threat. It would certainly move the LCS well up TD’s fighty scale and all with little more than the inclusion of a container.

@ Monkey – I hope you are right about the PLA with the DF- 21. But I am not sure how much the US will have to spend to defeat the missile. The already have pretty capable ABM defences and one could guess the missile would be fairly vulnerable to jamming as well. To get past the US missile screen and stand a realistic chance of hitting a carrier they would have to simultaneously launch quite a number of DF 21’s.

Given the tensions in the South China Sea at the moment this could be a realistic scenario for a major thermo nuclear clash between the USA and China.

Personally I don’t put much faith in China to prevent this and I think we often credit them with far more intelligence than they actually have. I think they may well be stupid enough in the right circumstances to launch a large number of conventional ballistic missiles at US targets. The question would be would the US wait to find out what those missiles were before responding with Nuclear weapons.

One would have to imagine that US planers in a war scenario with China would actively seek to defeat Chinas land based ICBM’s and would have little time to launch a nuclear strike to do this so they may not have the luxury of time to wait and see what payload those ballistic missiles carried or what their target was.

So the DF 21 is a silly weapon for China to poses. I think it provides little military capability and comes with the added risk of inviting an overwhelming US nuclear response.

February 24, 2014 10:29 am

x – re LCS, I think TDs point is that the basic concept of the LCS is fine – a inexpensive low end “not-a-frigate” that can work with Burke’s and others as part of a task group as part of a Task Group or do naval forward engagement, counter piracy, etc. I think of it as not being so different in intent to the original concept of the T23 (originally conceived as just a TAS tug).

The implementation of the the Sea Frame part has been poor, as TD points out “…but it is hard to disagree with the cost, capability and survivability arguments.”. There are some definitely some seemingly poor decisions, e.g. why does it need to go 47 knots, when the SeaHawk on board can go three times that speed?


I can’t see the US going for a T26 or FRES of any flavour or any big ticket piece of kit that isn’t designed and made in the US.

The T-X programme is the one exception. It does rather depend on what the USAF priorities ultimately are, but the Hawk is a proven, low-cost (capital and operating) training platform.

It also wouldn’t be able to replace used as a National Guard AD fighter, which might endear it to USAF as way of protecting F-35 production.

Weapons are a different matter though. Brimstone/Sea Spear could be a go-er for the LCS and other smaller USN platforms, particularly if they get the range up significantly past the Griffin. While a extended range ramjet version of the AIM-120 is more likely, a derivative of Meteor could be possible.

February 24, 2014 10:38 am

Ah, but therein lies the media trick! Now that everyone and their aunt knows that China is using ballistic missiles as ship defences, the next time anyone sees a ballistic missile light off from China’s shores, they will automatically assume it is a conventional warhead! You remember the link to the pseudo-carrier that had a hole blown into it as a test of the North Wind-21? If everyone goes nuts when a ballistic missile is detected, they would have gone nuts when China did that particular test, yet all we heard is a deafening silence…. The craziness seems to be with the test results, not that a missile launch was detected.

A null issue in reality? Or an accident waiting to happen?

February 24, 2014 11:19 am

“The question would be would the US wait to find out what those missiles were before responding with Nuclear weapons.” Thats a negative!

I think the telling thing here is our existing sales to the US. As far as I know this amopunts to naf all. Bae Hawk both the new swanky version and the goshawk. Good deals but as it has been pointed out PORVEN aircraft in service all around the world. The key here is proven. None of the things mentioned are proven or indeed inservice. If we had it all working now I think the septics would think more about the possibility.

And you also make these sales from a large fleet. Ok the yanks have got more gosahwks than we have hawks but when looked at alongside the other operators such as suadi, malaysia…. and on… its smaller. Generally someone comes along and buys a smaller number than what was originally produced.

Its a lovely thought and if the yanks are in the same position when this kit is in service it is possible but highly improbable.

February 24, 2014 11:32 am

@ Observer

If the Chinese launched a missile I am pretty sure the USA would have detected it but why let on about it and hand a propaganda coup to Beijing.

Its one thing to launch a couple into the Gobbi desert in peace time and quite another to launch several dozen in the middle of a military action over Taiwan.

It would surely takes nerves of steel on the part of the USA seeing several dozen ballistic missiles launching in their general direction to not respond with buckets of instant sunshine.

As you say an accident waiting to happen. A system that shows the relative weakness and inexperience of Chinese forces as well perhaps.

I think its one of the main issues with the Chinese, they are not as experienced as the Russian’s were in the super power stand off’s of the cold war. It is also often difficult to tell who is in control in Beijing something that was not as big a problem in the USSR.

The very nature of the DF21 being a conventional weapon likely means that its in the hands of commanders on the ground instead of the strategic leadership which greatly complicates issues. The USSR faced a similar issue when it gave tactical nukes to its forces in Cuba. If the US had invaded it could have become very hot very quickly and gotten beyond the control of the politicians.

February 24, 2014 12:34 pm

martin – DF-21 are under command of the Second Artillery Corps ( which comes under direct command of the central Military Commission.

February 24, 2014 1:17 pm

All this talk of DF-21 and I start thinking of D-21B instead: – now that *is* a scary drone

Ace Rimmer
February 24, 2014 4:45 pm

On the subject of things that are fast and pointy, did anyone else notice the retirement of ALARM from the RAF’s inventory? Apparently it happened in December…hmm, what are we going to use instead? Or are we taking yet another capability break?

Mike Wheatley
Mike Wheatley
February 25, 2014 1:24 am

@ M&S

Re: DF-21D:
Yes, absolutely. if you can track them, you can tell their speed, and being ballistic, that gives you their range, and so no, the US will not go nuclear as soon as it sees them.
Or, more to the point, regardless of what the US will do, the Chinese will not believe that the US will go nuclear, so the Chinese will use them, and the carriers will get sunk.
(After which, there may or may not be a nuclear attack on China followed by the Chinese nuking Newport News & Washington, if you really believe that the US will care that much about Taiwan.) (Or if the Chinese really want to screw the US military-economics, they leave Washington intact.)

Re: ACME Ram-AAMs getting long range hits
not really convinced – probably depends on the details about throttling the airflow… technical specifics… Meteor in particular seems optimised to be good at this, but all classified of course…

Re: hunting AAMs
I was thinking more in terms of “cruise kits” (like wing kits, but with a cruise engine) for IR seeker SRAAMs, using the seekers we already have on the SRAAMs to do the hunting / sweeping.

Re: quantum well infrared (IR) photodetector (QWIP):
Yeah, the pace of development looks like it will soon defeat radar stealth at BVR distances. Worrying.

Re: missiles vs. fighters:
On one hand, I see where you are coming from: fighters look cheaper – until you factor in their training & maintenance costs, and wars happening every 10 years or so, where upon cruise missiles look like an absolute bargain.
But what about the other roles of the fighter? I.e. as local C4ISR, CAS, etc?
And then, when the manned fighters get replaced by UCAVs, the intent is to get the air frames down to the same level of (absent) training & maintenance costs that missiles enjoy.

Re: airborne lases:
rather than self defence against missiles – which I can see happening for a decade or two – aren’t we doomed to end up in an arms-race for [mirror diameter == range], with the platforms lasing at each other offensively?

February 25, 2014 9:54 am

Ace – re ALARM – yes its been mentioned a couple of times on different threads.

Officially the line is that we don’t need a dedicated SEAD weapon as we can achieve the same overall result from other weapons and better use of intelligence to ID SAMs etc more hand.

To a degree this is true, but I suspect that it is a “good enough for now” so long as we don’t face anyone serious without the Yanks.

SPEAR 3 might be a true replacement for the ALARM capability though this isn’t clear.

February 25, 2014 10:09 am


Re: DF-21D:
Yes, absolutely. if you can track them, you can tell their speed, and being ballistic, that gives you their range, and so no, the US will not go nuclear as soon as it sees them.

The old FROG and SCUD in various models, the SS-21 and 26. All came with HE, Chemical and EMP warheads as well as varying levels of nuclear option up to about 100KT.

They were always better than the ‘monkey models’ they supplied to export clients, as well they should have been, considering the number of DECADES their launch points and targets had to be surveyed. The latter two weapons are good enough that, during the Chechen revolt, they were used to target single buildings, based on cell phone traces.

We were ALWAYS subject to losing the entirety of USAFE in Germany (Bitburg, Hahn, Ramstein, Sembach, Norvenich, Lepheim, Alhorn, Illesheim, Spangdahlem, Zweibrucken), just by base attack by missile. Likely several hours before the tanks rolled.

And the only thing that would have stopped the resulting overrun of the FRG (see: Desert Storm 100hrs, twice the distances, _no roads_) would have been the few Pershing and Lance we had off hiding in the bushes. And the Spetz would have been on the prowl for those too.

In this you see the diametric opposition of viewpoints that is the big tough NATO warrior with his hand hovering over ‘The Button’, which he would never be allowed to press until he was dead 100km further back and Bonn and London and DC decided whether or not to yield Germany.

My personal belief is that nuclear excession would not have been allowed to happen by either European or U.S. leadership, on a 2:1 basis of Tough Schnitzel Fritz.

If the Blue Water nuclear exchange sees more than one REFORGER convoy sunk, it’s 50:50, basically because I think someone would have convinced POTUS that a depressed trajectory launch could hit the AVMF bases on the Kola before the bad guys knew what was up.

Tangential proof exists (Norwegian sounding rocket that sent the Russians scurrying for cover, despite several /months/ of prior notification) that it would have worked and it certainly is relevant to all the late CW ‘under ice’ capability which we sought. Not as hunters of Typhoon but as users of Trident.

The problem here is that the Soviets are not nearly as cagey as those here enthuse and would have likely taken even a fait de` accompli as some kind of excuse to tit for tat.

Which is where you make it known, in no uncertain terms, what your response to ‘certain scenarios’ would be.

Again, that is a nuclear response to a blue water nuclear first escalation scenario _not_ a conventional warhead exchange on Chinese turf with the U.S. playing interloper.

I frankly would look to a repeat of the Cuban Crisis in the latter case, with most of the U.S. population scared witless and utterly at odds with any President attempting to ‘save our interests, not our Allies’ in the Chinese. And yes, it’s racial, though most Americans are too stupid to find Taiwan on a map, let alone explain the economic importance of the Three Tigers concept, offsetting Chinese hegemony.

Since China uses Taiwan as a backdoor to Western high tech and banking (and indeed 80-90% of Taiwan’s business is in mainland contracts) there really isn’t an issue here beyond that of declared independence.

For now.

That could change in a heartbeat when Iran opens the valve on Pipelinestan and China becomes not only defector energy independent but able to swing enough economic leverage to encourage nations to no longer use the USD as a primary petrocurrency.

We will then be -looking for- a fight. Because the alternative will be economic ruin.

Re: ACME Ram-AAMs getting long range hits
not really convinced – probably depends on the details about throttling the airflow… technical specifics… Meteor in particular seems optimised to be good at this, but all classified of course…

If the missile costs 2 million vs. 1 for a standard MRM, the reality will be that X will fire their all-boost weapon from a distance where Mach 4 all the way gets first A-Pole before the RamAAM can match at Mach 3.x.

In the C7 with the new autopilot and two way datalink, this is still likely less than 15nm. With the 120D, it may be 20-25. The _absolute_ ranges of these weapons are so dependent on target signature and electronic attack effects that their utility is questionable under the best of circumstances.

I look towards the VLRAAM as more of a look-in/shoot-in insurance factor on high quality SAMs than anything at the moment.

That could change if IRST continue to improve and/or some other form of long range system makes deep channel RAM conditionally compromised.

Re: hunting AAMs
I was thinking more in terms of “cruise kits” (like wing kits, but with a cruise engine) for IR seeker SRAAMs, using the seekers we already have on the SRAAMs to do the hunting / sweeping.

Requires a separation event from the hardback to go terminal and doesn’t provide you with the other signature and secondary targeting advantages of a first-order design.

Weapons like JDAM-ER and even SDB are largely about using mass effect to defeat terminal defenses with the added standoff only a nice to have relative to especially long reach weapons or uncertain EOB threat maps.

When hunting the rare-bear as an exceptionally high end threat system, you want to go all the way with optimized rocket segments a toroid cluster around a core motor/fuel tank with something like the TJ-50 on the MALD (Mach 1.4 for short bursts) to step it up as an alternative.

Since you are still going to be talking about a very low energy endgame, I would also recommend the CUDA pifpaf frontend to assist with terminals.

Lastly, you also really need to consider that minimum signature, IR suppressed, exhaust because the enemy will high step away from you if they see threat coming. And in ten years, they will train a laser on the weapon and flash-broil the seeker if not detonate the lethality aid.

All this together adds up to a full inventory purchase of dedicated weapons not a UOR/QRC level capability for hunting helicopters, drones or CM in deep clutter (which is how I envision your suggestion).

The major differentiation being that, if you intend these things to pack-hunt you’d better have a significantly better den to fly them out of than the weapons bay on either an F-35 or F-22.

Re: missiles vs. fighters:
On one hand, I see where you are coming from: fighters look cheaper – until you factor in their training & maintenance costs, and wars happening every 10 years or so, where upon cruise missiles look like an absolute bargain.

It’s not just that Mike. I want to get away from major combatant task force centered around a 12 billion dollar hull. Because the need to shift to a combination mechanical and directed energy based defense is a give, regardless. But the way you ‘convince’ the Chinese to stop investing in 10 million dollar ship killers is to make it clear that you will fire the same density of defensive fires from FOUR TIMES as many small combatants before hitting back with an Arsenal class ship at the targets _you can see_ (Hunting TELs through the high weeds is not gonna be anymore successful in China than it was in Iraq, largely because the missile ranges are bout 3 times as far). Which is to say industrial, port and civil infrastructure stuff which sets Chinese Modernization back another 20+ years and several trillion dollars.

At which point, if they want to go by-the-belt-buckle with a horde influx of soldiers ala Falklands, that’s fine. We’ll play the reverse blockade game and simply sink anything into or out of the islands until they decide they’ve had enough.

MRBM class aeroballistics can do this. Because they have absolute ranges on the order of 1,200-1,500nm, just like the DF-21D. And unlike a carrier battlegroup, I can actually hide small surface combatants among inshore littoral traffic. At least for a little while.

If I can to do that to a major power, imagine what I can do (from the last locks on the Suez or the gates of Gibraltar) against a Syrian or Libyan threat.

Which is _important_ because not only are sudden-reaction threats becoming more dire in terms of available reaction window. But our forces are not going to hold at even a 300 ship level. They’re just not. We’re broke.

But what about the other roles of the fighter? I.e. as local C4ISR, CAS, etc?

Manned anything are lousy recce platforms. They are an international incident waiting to happen (RF-8 and U-2, over Cuba, EP-3E over Hainan). They have huge signature as cost penalties inherent to do-everything MEPs and manned-safety factor redundancies.

As CAS platforms they are even worse. The MQ-1 and MQ-9 are the number one requested CAS asset in SWA because the troops in the field know that they are going to _be there_, not as a fast ambulance, 20 minutes after the first casualty. And gone to tanker or RTB rearm twenty minutes after that.

But hour after hour. With the kinds of light weapons that are quick and reactive vs. small, fast moving, forces.

Whether you’re on LRRP style walkabout on the wrong side of a mapline or simply doing a Policeman’s Beat in the badlands of Fallujah, you want to be able to have first call on threats that are moving up your flanks. And the ability to flatten a house with a sniper in it without having to wait while a tank gets tasked.

Fighters cannot do this. An F-16 burns 6-7,000lbs of fuel /per hour/ and will tap a tanker at least twice in a long CAP station flight. It costs anywhere from 7-8,000 to 18,000 dollars per flight hour, depending on whose numbers you use. An MQ-1 has 1,000lbs of fuel onboard and will stay in the air anything up to 40hrs (_three_ crew changes). At roughly 1,500 dollars per flight hour.

And then, when the manned fighters get replaced by UCAVs, the intent is to get the air frames down to the same level of (absent) training & maintenance costs that missiles enjoy.

I don’t want to see manned air disappear. I really don’t. I want to see it evolve to the kinds of -capability sets- which allow a pilot to continue to have a relevant role in terms of shoot/no shot sanity checking (civilians in the weapon footprint) as well as a certain ‘geopolitical’ sense of his current position and options as far as range and heading for remaining minutes of supercruise go. All while remaining relatively safe as a function of standoff by timezone.

In an HSP or Hypersonic Strike Platform that kind of capability can be achieved without a carrier airwing and a dozen KC-46 adding to our overhead.

Because he launches on a small turbine (F414, with or without burner) which gets him up to 40,000ft in about 15-20 minutes, lights a couple of THAAD class rockets that take him to height. And then switches over to scram power for the rest of the trip. He is sitting inside a flying gas can shaped like a wedge and he is only spending MASS as volume to be in each segment of performance envelope for the absolute minimum time he needs to.

Where an SR-71 cooks at Mach 3.2 and 80,000ft for long stretches for _no bloody reason at all_, the Spaceship 1 and 2 pass through that zone on their way to higher and faster IN PLASTIC AIRFRAMES.

Falcon is clearly a step too far in this. Strategically as well as technically, Mach 20 from CONUS just doesn’t make sense because the Chinese will steal the data from our sieved industrial base and then it will be what goes around comes around.

This is not so for a Mach 10 platform. Half the thermal rise, half the Q pressure, half the fuel burn while, if you divide the word up into 1/4s like an orange, you suddenly only need to fly for about an hour to change politics/religions/ethnicities from that of your ‘enemy of the moment’.

And that could mean _so much_ relative to how many allies as SOFA base leases we need. As well as to how much we have to think about mass obsolescence of certain warfighter platforms (because we cannot afford to maintain them and they are not survivable at the present distances where they are able to deliver useful effects).

Obviously, I’m talking about carriers here. And specifically the ability of carriers to deliver devastating strikes from mid-Pacific (well beyond ROTHR, at least first generation arrays) and then recover their aircraft onto assets in the IO.

What happens if the Chinese copy this? Not much. They can come play in the blue water with us. But they can’t stretch across the 6,000nm blue void that is the Pacific. Because this isn’t Falcon technology.

We need to be able to THINK this way. In tiered layers of reach vs. desired target set hostaged leveraging. So that, as the Dragon awakens to it’s own power, we can spank it, as needed, while we do what we must to secure our industrial base, either in place, back at home or moved…elsewhere.

We are being held back by the fighter pilot mentality of hard power delivered by lantirn jawed heroes ‘daring all to press home the attack’.

Such is blatant rubbish considering the way JDAMs work, even now. And SDBs will work, in another 5 or so years. Ditch the carrier airwing and you ditch the fighter pilot mentality. At which point, we can start to think in terms of 0-1,000nm as a UCAV persistence zone. 1,000-1,500nm as an HCM (Hypersonic Cruise Missile) zone of infrastructure and deep strike maneuver impedance in the active theater. And HSP as the strategic platform which makes people remember what it means when The Mighty Eighth churns up an entire industrial zone of a city.

It’s doable. On a budget. If we cap tacair. Now.

The asteroid of Hunting Weaons (MALD) and Directed Energy Weaposn Systems (SSLs) has hit. The manned, subsonic, sub-500nm aviation community are the veritable dinosaurs on the far side of the planet as the blast wave spreads flaming chunks of ugly. The escape will be like that of the birds and the gators: Fly out from under, high and far. Or go deep and ride it out in torpor.

February 25, 2014 1:17 pm

@ Ace rimmer

I did not know that ALARM had gone already. I thought it was staying on until 2016. But the videos on SPEAR 3 give a pretty good indication that the missile will take point on SEAD operations atleast for smaller more mobile targets. while ALARM was a good missile in its day I think its day has passed and beam riding is an old concept.

There has been a lot of talk of a meteor derived repalcement but I think the SPEAR 3 concept is superior. eight held internally on F35b would be quite a potent SEAD capability.

February 25, 2014 3:02 pm

ALARM was not a beam rider, it had a microprocessor controlled passive homing receiver allowing it to switch targets based upon the emitters programmed into it.

The Other Chris
February 25, 2014 4:35 pm

There’s interesting schools of thought about SEAD.

The most thought provoking question on the topic for me is do you want your enemy air defences SEAD or DEAD? (A play on acronyms). A damaged emitter can be repaired. Each launcher and magazine can be cued from several emitters.

Our own CAMM system is arguably resilient to ALARM style attack for example.

There are a few arguments along the lines of given the level and capabilities of ISTAR and the variety and capability of high precision weapons available to us, does losing a weapon dedicated to only attacking emitters result in a capability gap?

Does freeing up pylon space and payload weight for other precision munitions guided by accurate ISTAR, that can strike all elements in an air defence system, increase capability?