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The Navy is testing a drone to hunt the world’s quietest subs

The US Navy is currently testing a robotic ship that would be able to autonomously hunt enemy diesel submarines.


The Navy is testing a drone to hunt the world’s quietest subs
Photo: Darpa.mil

Originally conceived as a DARPA project, the Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) is designed to hunt the next generation of nearly silent enemy diesel submarines.

Diesel submarines are quickly proliferating around the world due to their low cost. Russia recently announced that it has launched the world’s “quietest submarine.”

To accomplish its submarine-hunting mission, the ACTUV project is structured around three primary goals: the ability to outmatch diesel submarines in speed at significantly less cost than existing systems, the system’s ability to safely navigate the oceans in accordance with maritime law, and the ability to accurately track diesel submarines regardless of their location.

Tests of the ACTUV have been promising. Defense One reported in March that during six weeks of testing off the coast of Mississippi the ACTUV was capable of autonomously avoiding randomly moving vessels while navigating around natural obstacles.

The next major test for the ACTUV will be having the drone attempt to trail a submarine while other vessels attempt to block it.

Although diesel submarines are not capable of carrying out open ocean operations for as long or as quickly as nuclear submarines, diesel submarines still present the US with an asymmetric challenge. Significantly cheaper and more quiet-running than their nuclear counterparts, diesel subs can enable navies around the world to harass military and civilian transport along coastal routes.

The threat of diesel submarines could increase, as Franz-Stefan Gady notes at The Diplomat, as the next generation of these vessels will feature propulsion systems and lithium-ion batteries, making them even quieter and harder to detect.

The Navy is testing a drone to hunt the world’s quietest subs
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ Russian International News Agency (RIA Novosti)

The technical challenges are steep: “Picking up the quiet hum of a battery-powered, diesel-electric submarine in busy coastal waters is like trying to identify the sound of a single car engine in the din of a major city,” Rear Admiral Frank Drennan said in March 2015.

By creating the ACTUV, the US Navy will be able to more accurately track the proliferation of enemy diesel submarines. The transition to using drones for such missions will also ultimately save the Navy considerable resources and manpower.

“Instead of chasing down these submarines and trying to keep track of them with expensive nuclear powered-submarines, which is the way we do it now, we want to try and build this at significantly reduced cost,” DARPA program manager Ellison Urban said at a National Defense Associate Event in Virginia.

“It will be able to transit by itself across thousands of kilometers of ocean and it can deploy for months at a time. It can go out, find a diesel-electric submarine and just ping on it.”

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

NOW: There’s going to a ‘Top Gun 2’ – with drones

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Listen to the tango the Red Army used to intimidate the Nazis at Stalingrad

The Battle of Stalingrad is widely considered the turning point for the Soviets on World War II’s Eastern Front, and maybe the entire war. From the rubble of Stalingrad came hundreds of small stories each more difficult to believe – yet, still true.


Related: This building in Stalingrad became the Russian version of The Alamo in World War II

Another eerie, true story to come from the fighting there was the music the Red Army played as propaganda as the two sides fought over the now-infamous city.

In “Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege 1942-1943,” Antony Beevor describes how the NKVD, the Soviet secret police and forerunner to the KGB, set up loudspeakers throughout the city. For weeks, the Soviets played a tango they believed conveyed a sinister mood: “The Tango of Death”

Interspersed with the music was the sounds of a ticking clock and messages in German about how hopeless their position in the city really was or that a German soldier died every seven seconds.

These musical programs were also driven around on vans throughout the city streets. They began with quotes like “Stalingrad, mass grave of Hitler’s army!” then go into the music, clock, and demoralizing quotes. Often times, the ends would be punctuated by the firing of Katyusha rockets at Nazi positions.

The Navy is testing a drone to hunt the world’s quietest subs
Katyusha rockets fired during the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942.

The propaganda effect may not have worked the way it was supposed to, but the constant bombardment of audio sure did. The Nazis became increasingly exhausted in “Counting Sheep, the Science and Pleasures of Sleep and Dreams,” Paul Martin quotes German soldiers at Stalingrad, who suffered from extreme exhaustion waiting for the Soviet broadcasts to end.

Doing the math, if a song is roughly four minutes, it will play 15 times in an hour, 360 times in a day, 2,520 times in a week – or 58,680 during the 163-day Battle of Stalingrad. Beevor also notes that the Red Army’s favorite song to play for the visiting Germans was “Zemlyanka” by Aleksey Surkov.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYZGvWqF7hU
Just in case the Germans found “Tango de la Muerte” more than a little upbeat, that is.
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The Philippine military has wiped out an ISIS training camp

ISIS-linked militants in the Southern Philippines have conducted a series of violent clashes with government forces, killing at least 7 soldiers but suffering the loss of over a dozen fighters.


The Navy is testing a drone to hunt the world’s quietest subs
Philippine Marines train on automatic weapons in classes from the US Marine Corps. Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jerome S. Tayborn

The militants come from at least three separate groups that have pledged allegiance to ISIS. One of the smaller groups launched an attack on a small army outpost on Mindinao, an island in the southern Philippines. The Philippine Army repelled the attack and then countered, killing 12 militants but losing six of their own soldiers.

The counterattack was aimed at an ISIS training camp. ISIS flags have been flying at camps on Mindinao for months, but it’s not clear if these are new camps or just new flags.

In fighting with other ISIS-aligned groups, including the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, the Philippine Forces lost another soldier but killed an unknown number of militants.

The group Abu Sayyaf was routed in Dec. 2015 when 300 Philippine soldiers with artillery and air support attacked the main camps and killed their leader, Najib Hussein. But, they’ve continued to attack government positions throughout the south.

“[Islamic State] influence is growing stronger and it is expanding,” Rodolfo Mendoza, a senior analyst at the Manila-based Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research told AFP.

Despite Philippine forces finding ISIS flags, bandanas, and other items on the battlefield, other experts assert that the Philippine groups’ allegiance to ISIS is just a ploy for the Islamic State’s money and weapons.

“It really has nothing to do with ideology,” Zachary Abuza, a professor at the National War College, told reporters. “This is all about resources.”

The groups involved in the worst of the fighting have existed for years longer than ISIS, and their violence has been going on for years.

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UPDATE: Navy hospital shooting ruled false alarm

The Navy is testing a drone to hunt the world’s quietest subs
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UPDATE: Navy hospital shooting ruled false alarm, according to Capt. Curt Jones, commanding officer of Naval Base San Diego.

An active shooter was reported Tuesday at the Naval Medical Center San Diego, according to the center’s Facebook page.

The message advises occupants to “run hide or fight.” Non-emergency response personnel were asked to avoid the compound at 34800 Bob Wilson Drive. The center posted that the shooter was believed to be in Building 26.

The Navy is testing a drone to hunt the world’s quietest subs
Navy Medical Center San Diego | Facebook

According to intitial reports, three shots were heard in the basement of the building, which is a combination of a gym and barrack. There are no reports of injuries.

Fox 5 San Diego reports that three nearby schools are on lockdown.

The U.S. Navy could not immediately confirm the report.

The facility has a staff of more than 6,500 military and civilian personnel, and aims to provide medical care to military service members, their families, and those who served in the past, according to its website.

“We’re not taking any chances and are executing procedures we’ve been trained for in this kind of situation,” Naval Medical Center spokesman Mike Alvarez said.

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Watch this Navy SEAL talk about the night that earned him the Medal of Honor

Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Edward Byers, Jr. was bestowed the Medal of Honor on Feb. 29, 2016, for his incredible heroics in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.


On Dec. 8, 2012, Byers was part of a SEAL Team Six unit deep in the Taliban-controlled mountains of Afghanistan on a mission to rescue Dr. Dilip Josheph when all hell broke loose. According to the MoH citation, Byers distinguished himself that night by showing extreme courage and disregard for his life when he shielded the hostage with his body while simultaneously taking out two insurgents.

In this Navy video, Byers shares the story of that evening, as well as his reaction to the news that he would be receiving the Medal of Honor.

Watch:

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Here’s why the battle for Mosul could ‘mark the beginning of the end’ for ISIS

The battle for ISIS’ stronghold in Iraq has kicked off this week.


But if it’s not handled well, the long-term consequences could be severe.

“If handled successfully, Mosul could mark the beginning of the end of the Islamic State; if handled poorly, it could be yet another pause before an inevitable resurgence of terror,” said an online intelligence briefing from The Soufan Group, a strategic security firm.

Also read: Everything ISIS has lost at Mosul . . . so far

The Iraqi Security Forces don’t have enough troops to retake and hold Mosul and the surrounding area without help. So other factions — including Kurdish forces and Shia militias (known as Popular Mobilization Units) backed by Iran. If left unchecked, these other factions could use the battle for Mosul to further their own agendas.

Shia militias have been accused of reprisal killings, torture, and kidnappings when they have assisted in liberating other areas from ISIS. And Kurdish forces have been known to displace Sunni Arabs from their homes as they take control of areas they help liberate from ISIS. Turkey is also participating in Mosul operations.

The Navy is testing a drone to hunt the world’s quietest subs
ISIS fighters in Iraq | Photo via Flickr

“The military challenges of removing an entrenched foe in an urban warfare environment, while simultaneously protecting as many as one million civilians caught in the cross fire would be daunting in the best of circumstances,” said The Soufan Group intelligence briefing. “But lacking unified combatants and commands, Iraqi military considerations must always include every level of sectarian and ethnic concerns that could turn a military victory into a strategic defeat.”

In short, even if Iraqi forces manage to win the battle against ISIS in Mosul, they’re in danger of losing the war if there isn’t a solid plan in place to govern effectively and inclusively after ISIS leaves.

“Given the sheer size of Mosul — and its experience of savage rule at the hands of the Islamic State—revenge killing will likely be an issue in the days and months ahead,” said The Soufan Group intelligence briefing.

“The level of atrocities and outrages perpetrated against minority communities such as the Yazidi and Christians, as well as to the population at large, rank among the worst war crimes in recent history. A massive effort will be required to begin to heal what is a truly fractured city and society.”

A local Mosul historian who blogs about life in the city under the pseudonym Mosul Eye explained the stakes of the ongoing battle in a statement posted to Twitter on Thursday.

“The people of Mosul cannot trust what will happen during and after the liberation, and our concerns grow bigger every day,” the historian wrote. “The upcoming dangers are no less than ISIL. There are many factions who are trying to divide and to tear down our city, and turning it into parts where each part would be given to an ethnicity group, separating it from the rest.”

He continued: “History tells [us] that Mosul has always built its civilization upon an ethnically and religiously diversified population. It is impossible to imagine Mosul without its rich and diversified heritage, culture, history, and ethnicity.”

Mosul Eye recommended that the city be placed under international trusteeship with joint supervision from the Iraqi government and the US.

“We, the civilized people of Mosul, don’t want to hand our city over, after liberation, to the tribes or to the Kurds, or the Popular Mobilization Units, or any other faction that is out of the Iraqi government,” he wrote on Twitter. “We also believe that the Iraqi government alone is not capable of managing Mosul after liberation.”

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American and Kurdish fighters advance on the ISIS capital in Syria

Photos released this week by Agence France-Presse feature American special operations troops wearing the patches of the Syrian Kurdish YPG. The YPG, or People’s Protection Units, are part of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces who are rapidly advancing toward the de facto ISIS capital at Raqqa.


That campaign was launched last week from the Kurdish stronghold at Ayn Issa, some 35 miles from Raqqa. That’s also where the special operators were photographed.

 

While friendly forces’ proximity to Raqqa should delight those fighting against ISIS, one ally is not at all pleased with the photos. The Turkish government sees the YPG as the Syrian arm of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The PKK is an internationally-recognized terrorist organization and has been fighting the Turkish government for independence since 1984.

While the United States recognizes the PKK as a terror group, it disputes Turkey’s claim that the YPG is a Syrian extension. Still, Tukish President Erdoğan was probably surprised to see photos of U.S. forces wearing the YPG insignia. The U.S. spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve wrote it off as esprit de corps:

 

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told the BBC the U.S. is “two-faced” and said the patches were “unacceptable.”

The U.S. military has 300 troops in Syria in an advisory capacity, 50 of those are special operations forces.

On June 1st, the SDF seized nine villages in an effort to cut off ISIS-held territory from Turkey, closing the last pathway for foreign fighters traveling to fight for the terror group.

 

 

In the meantime, the White House maintains that American special operations troops are not in direct combat.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Huawei’s Harmony OS may be ready for smartphones in 6 to 9 months

Chinese technology giant Huawei will decide whether it will have to move forward with bringing its Harmony OS operating system to its smartphones in the next six to nine months as it remains prohibited from working with American companies like Google, Vincent Pang, Huawei’s senior vice president, told Business Insider during a press dinner on Nov. 12, 2019.

“We cannot wait more, we missed one flagship,” Pang said, referring to Huawei’s recently launched Mate 30 smartphone. That phone runs on the open-source version of Android that doesn’t include any of Google’s services or apps, including the Google Play Store.

The United States Commerce Department placed Huawei, the second largest smartphone vendor in the world by market share, on a trade blacklist that prevents it from doing business with American companies unless those firms obtain government permission.


That means Huawei is unable to work with Google, which operates the Android software platform that powers the majority of smartphones around the world. Losing the ability to use Google’s Android puts Huawei’s phones at a major disadvantage in markets outside of China.

The Navy is testing a drone to hunt the world’s quietest subs

(Photo by Rami Al-zayat)

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross recently said that licenses would soon be granted for American companies to begin selling to Huawei again, adding that the government has received 260 license requests so far, Bloomberg reported on Nov. 3, 2019. But no official announcements have been made yet.

Huawei has been readying its own software platform called Harmony OS, which the Shenzhen-based firm unveiled in August 2019. But the firm has been positioning Harmony OS as much more than just a smartphone operating system to replace Android. Instead, the company framed it as being a platform that will run across many devices, including smartwatches, internet-of-things gadgets, televisions, and more.

“Harmony is not a replacement of Android,” Pang also said during the press dinner. “It’s a next generation of Android.”

So far, Huawei has unveiled televisions that run on Harmony OS, including the Vision, Honor Vision, and Honor Vision Pro. However, the company has not made specific announcements about how and precisely when the software will appear on smartphones. It has said that it’s hoping it will be able to work with Google in the future.

The Navy is testing a drone to hunt the world’s quietest subs

(Photo by Edho Pratama)

Huawei said in the past that it could be years before it’s able to develop a true alternative to Android, as the Financial Times reported. Pang also told CNET in August 2019 that it didn’t have plans to develop a Harmony OS-powered smartphone at the time, although he did say that could change if the ban persisted. Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei’s consumer business, also previously told CNBC in May 2019 that an operating system for smartphones and laptops could be ready for markets outside of China in the first or second quarter of 2020.

But despite ongoing trade tensions between the US and China — a dispute that Huawei has been at the center of — and the company’s inability to work with companies like Google, Huawei’s business has been thriving. The company’s fiscal third-quarter revenue increased by 24.4% year-over-year, and smartphone sales jumped 26% year-over-year in the first three quarters of 2019.

However, the US ban has made it difficult for Huawei to expand and flourish overseas, particularly in Europe, which serves as a key market for the company.

“By only staying in [our] existing footprint, we can definitely survive,” Pang previously said to Business Insider. “But no company just wants to survive.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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Watch this Marine gunner desperately try to destroy his pack

Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer 5 Christian P. Wade, the 2nd Marine Division Gunner as well as the personality behind that video of cooking bacon on a suppressor, has a new video where he tests the resilience of the Marine Corps’ new reinforced pack frame.


Despite long falls, getting dragged behind a Jeep, and about 51 Kalashnikov rounds, the new pack proves itself to be surprisingly tough. You can see what finally destroys the pack in the video below:

The requirement for a new pack grew out of complaints by Marines that the legacy pack frames couldn’t hold up to cold weather conditions or to airborne operations. Some were even breaking under regular use at the School of Infantry-West.

So, Marine Corps Systems Command got to work testing new builds with the goal of keeping the feel and form of the pack the same while making it more rugged, preferably without adding weight.

The initiative appears to have been successful, but Wade is still able to destroy it. Think you can make a pack he can’t kill SysCom?

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See what it was like to fight in a WWII Sherman tank

The Sherman tank of World War II is both legendary and infamous. It was selected for World War II by Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. himself, America’s first tank officer and a pioneer of armored strategy.


The traits for which Patton loved the Sherman, its speed and agility, ease of transport, and decent gas mileage, made it a general’s tanks. The tanks could reliably be manufactured in large numbers and easily be deployed into transport.

 

The Navy is testing a drone to hunt the world’s quietest subs
American M4 Sherman tanks advance during fighting in the European Theater of World War II. (Photo: Public Domain)

But the tradeoffs that made those traits possible came at a cost of what crews wanted in tanks. Their speed and gas mileage came from — relative to most of their German counterparts — light guns and armor. The Sherman’s engine was designed for aviation use and was light and powerful but used a more flammable fuel than other tanks of the era.

So, while the Sherman could support friendly infantry and annihilate enemy infantry, they were vulnerable to attack from enemy armor.

The war in Europe was therefore a nightmare for the tank crews who fought their way east from Normandy. They fought in cramped quarters, had to desperately vie for close shots on the flanks and rears of German tanks, and often had to reinforce their own armor with items stolen off the battlefield.

Get a look at what the crews in World War II Shermans had to live with in the video below:

MIGHTY TACTICAL

‘Missile barges’ could be America’s secret weapon in the Pacific

In recent years, the United States has begun to shift its military focus away from counter-terror operations and back toward the possibility of a large-scale conflict with near-peer opponents like China. Unfortunately, nearly two straight decades of the Global War on Terror has left the American defense apparatus on the wrong footing for such a war. In some important respects, America now finds itself playing catch up; working to close capability gaps that have presented themselves in Europe and the Pacific.

While America retains the largest military on the planet, it also has further reaching obligations than any other force on the planet as well. In every corner of the globe, America’s military serves in a variety of capacities, from providing a stabilizing presence, to training foreign militaries to defend themselves, to enforcing international norms on the high seas. As we’ve discussed in some depth before, America’s Navy may be huge for this era of relative global stability, but it would find itself significantly outnumbered in a Sino-American war in the Pacific. That issue becomes even more clear when you consider that the U.S. Navy couldn’t deploy the entirety of its fleet to any one waterway without leaving a number of other important interests un-guarded.


When you combine China’s rapidly growing Navy with its well-armed Coast Guard and its maritime militia, you get a positively massive 770-ship Chinese presence in the Pacific. For context, the massive U.S. Navy currently boasts only around 293 ships–and while President Trump has pushed for growth to reach a 355-ship Navy, no real plans to get there have yet to materialize. That means the U.S. Navy would be left to face China’s massive sea fairing presence while outnumbered at least two to one.

The Navy is testing a drone to hunt the world’s quietest subs

(U.S. Navy)

When the most powerful military in the world isn’t enough

Having a massive fleet alone isn’t enough to win a 21st century conflict on the high seas–It’s equally important that you have the right kinds of ships to leverage for specific roles.

Over the years, advancing technology has enabled the United States to move away from the massive fleets of ships and aircraft it maintained during the Second World War, and toward a lower number of assets that are capable of filling multiple roles. Ships like the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers, just like multi-role aircraft like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, are properly outfitted to serve in a number of capacities. This mindset has allowed the United States to expand its capabilities while reducing its personnel requirements and the overhead costs of maintaining far more assets with far more specialized roles.

But there are downsides to America’s love affair with “multi-role” platforms: They dramatically increase the cost of research and acquisition, and that increased cost forces purchases in fewer numbers. It also forces military assets into positions that don’t fully leverage their broad capabilities.

The Navy is testing a drone to hunt the world’s quietest subs

Three Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, the USS McCampbell (DDG 85), USS Lassen (DDG 82) and USS Shoup (DDG 86) steam in formation during a photo exercise. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Photographer’s Mate Todd P. Cichonowicz)

For some useful context into how more advanced technology has enabled the U.S. to increase capability while decreasing volume, consider that America’s military apparatus wielded a whopping 6,768 ships and an astonishing 300,000 combat airplanes at its peak during World War II. As America poured money into better military technology throughout the Cold War, it transitioned to an era of valuing technology and capability over volume, and today the U.S. Navy boasts just 293 ships, and America maintains a comparatively paltry 13,000 military aircraft.

With so many fewer platforms to utilize, these multi-role ships and airplanes are left doing a wide variety of work that has to be prioritized. Despite being capable of filling multiple roles, these platforms can often only fill one role at a time — making them more effective for strategic posturing, but less effective in a combat situation. Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers are incredibly powerful ships, equipped with a variety of guns, missiles, and torpedoes, but are often relegated to simplistic missile defense operations because of their role within the Aegis missile defense apparatus. These destroyers serve as a shining example of how a ship with a number of uses may get stuck in a single defensive role during large scale conflict.

As former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson put it, BMD (ballistic missile defense) ships are restricted to very confined operating areas that he refers to as “little boxes.”

A cargo ship packed with missiles? Really?

If the United States were to find itself on a collision course with China, one of the nation’s first priorities would be finding ways to rapidly expand both America’s military presence and strategic capabilities in the Pacific. China owns a positively massive ballistic missile stockpile (including hypersonic anti-ship missiles), which would mean missile defense would be considered a significant priority for America’s Aegis destroyers. Unfortunately, that would limit the ability for America’s destroyers to operate in a more offensive capacity, as they steamed in circles around their area of responsibility, waiting to intercept any missiles lobbed their way.

The Navy is testing a drone to hunt the world’s quietest subs

Left to right, the guided missile cruiser USS Vicksburg (CG 69), and the guided missile destroyers USS Roosevelt (DDG 80), USS Carney (DDG 64) and USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) launch a coordinated volley of missiles during a Vandel Exercise (VANDALEX). (US Navy photo)

This would be a significant waste of destroyers, which would in turn limit the capability of other battle groups that couldn’t rely on the offensive power of these warships. In a real way, America would simply need more vertical launch missile tubes (commonly referred to as VLS cells, or Vertical Launch System cells) in the Pacific to bolster both offensive and defensive operations — and it would be essential to get them as quickly and as cheaply as possible.

That’s where the idea for missile barges, or missile ships, comes into play. In a 2019 article in the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings, five experts, including a retired Navy captain and a retired Marine Corps colonel, offered their suggestion for rapidly procuring and equipping commercial cargo ships for combat operations.

“The Navy should acquire and arm merchant ships, outfitting them with modular weapons and systems to take advantage of improving technology and shipping market conditions while providing capability more rapidly and less expensively than traditional acquisition efforts.”
-Captain R. Robinson Harris, U.S. Navy (Ret.); Andrew Kerr; Kenneth Adams; Christopher Abt; Michael Venn; and Colonel T. X. Hammes, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.)
The Navy is testing a drone to hunt the world’s quietest subs

(Pixnio)

The premise behind missile barges has been around for some time; after all, at its most simplistic levels, this idea boils down to “just stick a bunch of missiles on a ship you have laying around,” but what differentiates this modern missile barge concept from past iterations is the technology of our day. America has long possessed “containerized” missile platforms that would sit comfortably on the deck of large cargo ships. Further, with data-fusing supercomputers like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, America has also already demonstrated the capability of engaging targets with surface-based weapons via targeting data relayed by nearby aircraft.

Put simply, we already have modular weapon systems that would work when operated off the decks of cargo ships, and we’ve already proven that weapons of that sort can be leveraged to engage targets identified by aircraft… That means this concept would require very little in the way of infrastructure building or development–which equates to both cost and time savings.

The Navy is testing a drone to hunt the world’s quietest subs

(PXHere)

Procuring the hulls

The first step to building a fleet of missile barges would be procuring the hulls of commercial cargo ships, which would likely be a fairly easy endeavor if a war in the Pacific were to occur. It’s estimated that as much as 1/3 of all global commerce sails across the South China Sea on an annual basis, and a conflict between the United States and China would curtail a majority of these trips–due to both the drop in trade between these two economic power houses and the perceived danger of sending commercial ships through what would effectively be the site of the greatest naval conflict in all of recorded history. As a result, purchasing these vessels would likely come at a significantly reduced cost.

Purchasing a new commercial double hulled cargo ship would normally run the United States between and million dollars, but cargo ships that are already in use can be procured on websites like NautiSNP for pennies on the dollar, with some vessels currently on the market for just over id=”listicle-2647023060″ million.

The Navy is testing a drone to hunt the world’s quietest subs

Again, a significant drop in trade through the Pacific would likely result in even greater cost savings as firms liquidate their assets in the region to recoup some of their losses.

Modifying commercial ships into missile barges

Once the U.S. Navy had procured the ships themselves, it could begin the relatively significant task of refitting them for service as missile barges. This can be accomplished in one of two ways.

The Navy could utilize containerized missile and drone assets stacked on the ship, which would make it more difficult to discern from traditional cargo vessels while dramatically reducing the actual work required to convert each ship. While the vessels would have to be marked as U.S. Navy ships and flagged as such, the similar profile to commercial ships would force the Chinese Navy to positively identify each vessel before engaging, as many weapons systems rely on inverse synthetic-aperture radar that assesses targets through little more than low-resolution profiling.

LORA Weapon System Operational Demonstration

www.youtube.com

That front-end investment could be further curbed by relying on external assets like nearby Aegis destroyers for command and control, relying on the warship’s radar, targeting, and command apparatus for what is effectively little more than an arsenal ship or “floating magazine.” In this regard, missile barges would effectively serve as a supplement to a destroyer’s existing weapons loadout.

Conversely, these vessels could be modified to carry traditional VLS tubes just like those employed by America’s guided missile destroyers today. A container ship could be modified to carry a slew of vertical launch tubes carrying Tomahawk missiles in as little as three to six months. The costs would be higher, but the trade off benefit would be utilizing the same basic systems found on other Navy ships, reducing the required training and logistical concerns associated with standing up a different weapon system.

The Navy is testing a drone to hunt the world’s quietest subs

Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Charles Coleman inspects missile cell hatches on one of two Vertical Launching Systems (VLS) aboard the guided missile cruiser USS Hue City (CG 66). The VLS is capable of launching numerous missiles including the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile and SM-2 Standard Missile. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Charles E. Hill)

As the proposal in Proceedings suggests, it would be important for the Navy to carefully consider how many missile barges they intended to build, and how many missiles they intend to keep on each.

While it’s possible to place more than a hundred VLS tubes and associated missiles on one of these vessels, that would represent both a massive expense and a massive target for the Chinese military. Instead, the proposal suggests converting 10 to 15 cargo ships into missile barges, each carrying between 30 and 50 Tomahawk missiles. That would limit the potential losses if such a vessel were lost, while giving it enough firepower to benefit the Navy’s overarching strategy.

The Navy is testing a drone to hunt the world’s quietest subs

(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Jimmy C. Pan)

The hybrid-crew model

Of course, another shortfall we have yet to discuss in a Pacific conflict could very well be trained Sailors. As the U.S. Navy rapidly procured and modified ships into missile barges, it would also have to rapidly staff these vessels — which likely wouldn’t be feasible leveraging a traditional Navy recruiting pipeline. Instead, the hybrid crew model proposed by Navy Captain Chris Rawley seems most logical.

Each missile barge would have a crew comprised of both U.S. Navy officers and civilian sailors that have experience operating these commercial vessels. By recruiting from the private sector, the U.S. Navy could rapidly field these ships with crews that are already trained and proficient at the tasks they’d be assigned, while placing Naval officers in command of the vessel and in other essential combat roles.

By using a military command element, operating missile barges in war with a crew made up in part of civilians would still be legal under international law. Indeed, this model is already in use aboard some specific Naval vessels, like the recently decommissioned USS Ponce amphibious transport dock.

These missile barges could be crewed with as few as 30 people, split between U.S. Navy and civilian personnel. Because the missile payloads would not come close to these ship’s total capacity, they could also utilize buoyant cargo sealed in the hull to help make these ships more survivable in the event of an attack.

It’s possible that these ships could be crewed by even fewer people in the near future, as the Navy has already earmarked 0 million in the 2020 budget for the development of two large unmanned surface ships. The Navy’s Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vessel dubbed “Sea Hunter” has already successfully traversed the open ocean between San Diego and Hawaii all on its own, demonstrating the capability for unmanned Navy ships to come.

The Navy is testing a drone to hunt the world’s quietest subs

Are missile barges actually realistic?

Although the U.S. Navy is in the early stages of what may come to be a transformative era, it seems unlikely that the United States would shift away from its current love affair with high-cost, multi-role platforms any time soon. The new USS Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers serve as a good example of how the U.S. military prefers new, shiny, and expensive hardware over old, rusty, and more cost efficient options. While some within the Defense Department are questioning the future of America’s supercarriers, the alternative posited is usually something akin to smaller, but still rather large and expensive Lightning Carriers built for short-take off, vertical landing F-35Bs.

However, it’s important to note that the Navy of today is a product of the past fifty years of foreign policy posturing, but that may not be the right Navy to see us through a return to large scale conflict. Today, war with China remains a distant threat, but as that threat looms closer, we may see a transition in the Navy’s mindset similar to that of the Air Force’s recent push for “attritable” aircraft to bolster our small volume of high-capability assets.

Attritable, a word seemingly designed to give copy editors stress wrinkles, is the term used by the U.S. Air Force to describe platforms that are cheap enough to be used aggressively, with some degree of losses considered acceptable. This has led the Air Force to investing in drones like the Kratos Valkyrie, which is a low-observable drone capable of carrying two small-diameter bombs for ground strikes while costing only a few million dollars a piece.

The Navy is testing a drone to hunt the world’s quietest subs

Kratos Valkyrie (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Hoskins)

While it would cost more than a few million dollars to field each missile barge, the price may still be discounted enough to be considered attritable when compared to billion behemoths like the Ford. As unmanned ships become more common, and as a result, more affordable, it may become even more cost effective to leverage existing commercial hulls as a means of offsetting China’s huge numbers advantage in the Pacific.

Does it seem likely that the U.S. Navy would start strapping missiles to old container ships any time soon? The answer is a resounding no, but if America and China continue on this collision course, America’s defense apparatus may find itself being forced to make some hard decisions about just how much capability it can squeeze out of America’s already massive defense budget. If that day comes, missile barges may represent one of the most cost effective force multipliers America could leverage.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


MIGHTY CULTURE

C-ARTS: High-velocity training at sailor’s point of need

C-ARTS ushers in a new standard in mobile, interactive training, designed to meet the instructional needs and expectations of tech savvy Sailors, accustomed to learning through hands-on classes that exploit augmented, virtual, and mixed reality learning tools.


The C-ARTS facility is located on the waterfront at NNS and also nearby Newport News Shipbuilding for Sailors assigned to PCU John F. Kennedy. Since December, the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) has been conducting multiple underway test and training evolutions, as part of an 18-month phase of operations known as Post-Delivery Test and Trials (PDT&T), scheduled to continue through mid-2021. The crew on this first-in-class aircraft carrier are certifying fuel and on-board combat systems as well as exercising the flight deck, launching and arresting aircraft as part of critical aircraft compatibility testing. In preparation for these complex tasks, many Sailors have attended unique training courses, conducted at the C-ARTS facility.

“As the first new aircraft carrier design in more than 40 years, Gerald R. Ford is integrating advanced warfighting technologies essential for air dominance in an era of great power competition,” said Downey. “Sailors can’t wait to receive training on these systems. C-ARTS provides the capability to bring high-velocity instruction to crews at the Sailor’s point of need.”

When the Carrier-Advanced Reconfigurable Training System launched its first course in 2018, C-ARTS instructors guided technicians through the complexities of fiber optic cable repair. Since then, more than 500 Sailors have completed 17 courses logging more than 5,700 total classroom hours.

Interior Communications Specialist 1st Class Jessica Diaz, assigned to CNAL and the first billeted instructor assigned to the Ford Center of Excellence, participated in the C-ARTS ceremony demonstrating her training proficiency of the high-velocity learning opportunity for Sailors assigned to Ford-class aircraft carriers.

“As the lead instructor I am responsible for building curriculum that is both hands-on and interactive while utilizing the augmented, virtual, and mixed reality learning tools,” said Diaz. “The training is currently tailored to the 29 new systems including the Advanced Weapons Elevators, Machinery Control Monitoring System, and Plasma Arc Waste Destruction System found on the Ford Class Carrier but there is unlimited potential to be used fleet wide.”

The 1,000-sq-ft reconfigurable classrooms offer “high-velocity” learning—integral to the Sailor 2025 concept of providing ready relevant learning at the sailor’s point of need. C-ARTS provides innovative tools for delivering the right training at the right time in the right way to crews in modern, spacious spaces—all in the shadow of the ships on which sailors serve.

As the Command Master Chief assigned to the future USS John F. Kennedy, Wright brings a credible amount of experience to the table. Having served on board the Enterprise, Nimitz, and Ford class aircraft carriers he is witnessing the warrior ethos today’s Sailors display.

The Navy is testing a drone to hunt the world’s quietest subs

“Technology is a vehicle that Sailors continue to benefit from,” said Wright. “I am happy to serve on a Ford-class aircraft carriers knowing that through C-ARTS we have brought the training to the Sailors on the waterfront. This form of high velocity learning will allow us to fulfill the vision of the Sailor 2025 concept in building warriors who serve at sea.”

The training site consists of two stand-alone, 53-foot trailers, which may operate either in pairs—with one unit providing an electronic classroom and the other a maintenance lab—or independently. Adjustable classroom configurations can accommodate 16 students, each training on two 24-inch touch screen monitors, with instructors teaching a single class or two classes of eight students. In the lab, eight students perform tasks from portable workbenches using 24-inch touch-screen monitors.

Delivering training at the Sailor’s point of need helps to mitigate impacts to Sailors’ work/life balance. In the case of the C-ARTS facility at Naval Station Norfolk, CVN 78 Sailors can walk 1,200 ft. from pier 11, where the CVN 78 is berthed. Two other units are also located at Newport News Shipbuilding, walking distance to Pier 3, where the John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) is under construction. A fifth 1,000-sq-ft classroom unit is planned to join the C-ARTS location at NS Norfolk in Spring 2021..

This article originally appeared on All Hands Magazine. Follow @AllHandsMag on Twitter.

Articles

4 military blunders made by the Mother of Dragons so far in Season 7

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FROM “DRAGONSTONE,””STORMBORN,” AND “THE QUEEN’S JUSTICE.”


Daenerys Targaryen (played by Emilia Clarke) has had a bad couple of weeks in this penultimate run of “Game of Thrones.” As of the first three episodes in season seven, her forces are well on their way to being defeated in detail.

For the audience, this makes for satisfying conflict and suspense. Most everyone is rooting for fall of Cersei at the hands of Khaleesi, and this will make their final showdown exceptional.

But we can’t help but note that if the Mother of Dragons had studied a little U.S. military history, she might not have suffered such losses. Instead, Daenerys has managed to blunder away large parts of her forces — and her advantage over the Lannisters — and she did it with a number elementary mistakes that cadets at West Point or Annapolis could have pointed out in an instant.

This is not exactly a resume-enhancer for the Commander-in-Chief of the Seven Kingdoms.

Check out her four biggest mistakes since returning to Westeros:

1. Dispersion of Forces

The Navy is testing a drone to hunt the world’s quietest subs
Looking at the map, it’s obvious that Daenerys Targaryen’s plan to hit multiple targets was bound to fail.

She made the decision to split her naval forces, trying to do too much at once. She sent part of her fleet to pick up the Dornish Army and to bring them back to Dragonstone, while sending the rest to deliver the Unsullied to take Casterly Rock.

Japan made similar mistakes in the weeks leading up to the Battle of Midway, costing them a light carrier sunk, two fleet carriers rendered combat ineffective due to battle damage or losses, and two other carriers with substantial combat power diverted to a secondary task.

2. Failure to Secure Control of the Sea

The Navy is testing a drone to hunt the world’s quietest subs
Map of the Battle of the North Cape…which Daenerys could have accomplished. (Wikimedia Commons)

Knowing that Yara and Theon Greyjoy were fleeing from the person who had usurped the throne of the Iron Islands, Daenerys should have sought to replicate the Battle of the North Cape, in which a pair of convoys was used to draw out the German battlecruiser Scharnhorst to where it could be destroyed by a superior force (or in this case, by the dragons). After that she could transport armies at leisure.

Instead, she didn’t deal with the enemy fleet, and look what happened.

3. Acting with Inadequate Intelligence

The Navy is testing a drone to hunt the world’s quietest subs
Joe Rochefort. (U.S. Navy photo)

Daenerys also failed to establish a means to determine enemy intentions, which, as Joe Rochefort proved, can be vital to defeating a foe. As a result, the Tyrells, not to mention their fortune and bannermen, fell to the combined Lannister/Tarly army.

4. Observing Restrictive Rules of Engagement

The Navy is testing a drone to hunt the world’s quietest subs
We don’t blame Daenerys, but this ruined city looks better than the Sept of Baelor right about now.

Daenerys did have the option of going straight at Cersei Lannister, but declined due to concerns about civilian casualties.

This has been a subject of controversy during conflicts throughout history. Every military leader is faced with measuring out the cost of “collateral damage” and so, too, must Daenerys — especially when her opponent has no sense of moral restraint. How many more losses will she suffer before she resorts to fighting at Cersei’s level?

Hopefully by now she must know not to underestimate her enemy…especially considering Cersei’s hiding a surface-to-air missile under King’s Landing…

The Navy is testing a drone to hunt the world’s quietest subs
Brace yourselves — the death of at least one dragon is coming. (Game of Thrones screenshot | HBO)

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