Return of the Battleship

13.08.07

Categorie: Ballistic Missiles, Naval |

ddg1000.jpgHot on the heels of the $3-billion, 14,000-ton DDG-1000 destroyer, the Navy is considering building a 25,000-ton nuclear cruiser, a.k.a. battleship. Navy Times has the details:

Under pressure from the Navy to develop a new cruiser based on the DDG 1000 Zumwalt-class hull form, and from Congress to incorporate nuclear power [in order to reduce dependence on foreign oil], a group of analysts working on the next big surface combatant may recommend two different ships to form the CG(X) program. … The other new cruiser would be a much larger, 25,000-ton nuclear-powered ship with a more conventional flared bow, optimized for the ballistic missile defense (BMD) mission.

That last point is key, as I explained back in March. The Missile Defense Agency is developing the so-called Kinetic Energy Interceptor to kill ballistic missiles just seconds after they launch. But to do that, the KEI shooter has to be very close to the launch site — i.e., bobbing off the coast — and the KEI itself has to be enormous (four feet wide, 40 feet tall) in order to fit a powerful motor:

At a hush-hush missile defense conference in Washington, D.C., this morning, Lockheed Martin officials, who had bid on KEI but lost to Northrop Grumman, expressed doubt that KEI would ever work due to its size, the absence of an obvious launch platform and the heat problem. But Northrop Grumman has a plan. It’s planning to install special KEI cells at an angle inside the CG(X) cruiser based on the DDG-1000 destroyer. The angle reduces the height requirements for a launching ship. And to resolve the heat situation, the firm is proposing to “cold launch” KEI, just like the Navy does for its huge nuclear Trident missiles fired from submarines. That entails a separate system to pneumatically eject the missile before its booster rocket ignites. Of course, cold-launching adds to the complexity and cost of a missile system. And the “slanty” KEI cells will take up a lot of space in the CG(X), reducing carriage of other weapons. And CG(X) itself is a mostly theoretical warship based on a $3-billion destroyer that is taking a lot of criticism.  

ship_ddg-1000_scale_model_ux_testing_lg.jpgNow it appears the Navy considers even CG(X) too small for the KEI role and wants the nuclear battleship instead. Aside from the cost and the likelihood that KEI will never actually work in the real world, why is this fixation on big ships like the DDG-1000 (seen being tested at right), CG(X) and CGN(X) a problem? Martin Libicki explains in a paper published by the Institute for National Strategic Studies:  

For military operations, efficient area-wide coverage becomes important. A hundred pairs of eyes can always find something in the field most easily if they are spread around rather than bunched up. Dispersion is also good for localizing an object. A hundred low-power noses can detect, and more important, track a scent better than a single high-power nose stuck in one place. …

Of greater military relevance is that one large item is easier to find than are each of a hundred smaller ones. Small size and large numbers work with each other in this case. First, the one large item usually has a greater signature than each of the smaller ones. Second, far more effort is needed to track, hit, and ascertain the destruction of a hundred small ones.

Related:
LCS sinking
Ships are too expensive 
Big-ass missile-killing missile needs big-ass boat

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10 Responses to “Return of the Battleship”

  1. [...] It’s telling the Navy is also seeking further justification for its DDG platform. The future of war, at least for the next few decades, is not in these large, multi-billion dollar vessels, but in smaller littoral craft (even smaller than the LCS). I can see the need for an ABM system in green and brown water missions (the INS Ani Hanit incident shared the DoN), but tacking another mission onto a bloated and unnecessary ship hull? More wasted money thrown down the drain for the wrong enemy. Planning for the enemy you want to fight, rather than the one you actually do, is not how a successful organization behaves. [...]

  2. [...] It’s telling the Navy is also seeking further justification for its DDG platform. The future of war, at least for the next few decades, is not in these large, multi-billion dollar vessels, but in smaller littoral craft (even smaller than the LCS). I can see the need for an ABM system in green and brown water missions (the INS Ani Hanit incident shared the DoN), but tacking another mission onto a bloated and unnecessary ship hull? More wasted money thrown down the drain for the wrong enemy. Planning for the enemy you want to fight, rather than the one you actually do, is not how a successful organization behaves. [...]

  3. [...] Large warships: Canada has no firm plans to replace its 12 frigates and three destroyers; nor should it. The 5,000-ton destroyers are pretty ancient and will pay off soon, but the 4,000-ton frigates are only 15 years old on average and can soldier on for at least another 20 years alongside a growing number of smaller patrol vessels that are very useful for double duty in law enforcement. Contrast this to the U.S. Navy’s continuing obsession with building tiny numbers of super-expensive, ultra-high-tech battleships that are good for just one thing: getting sunk by swarms of armed small boats.  [...]

  4. [...] What have we learned? Canada has the world’s biggest icebreaker fleet, as befits a country with such a huge and icy coastline, but her ships are on average smaller than the U.S. ships. (The U.S. naval services LOVE big ships!) Russia’s fleet is impressive on paper, but many of those vessels are likely moored awaiting maintenance. Note: I count only ships apparently capable of breaking ice, rather than all ships with ice-resistant hulls. [...]

  5. [...] Related: Air Force got it all wrong Navy got it wrong, too  How to build a bazillion armored trucks Iraq: short on logistics No Comments so far Leave a comment RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI Leave a comment Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong> [...]

  6. [...] * Re-introduce battleships, only this time they’re armed with missiles and they’re called DDG-1000 “destroyers” and CG(X) “cruisers.” [...]

  7. kurt says:

    yah sure looks impressive but ait gonna work.so robots and unmaned vehicles huh?so when theyre all wiped out bush and bin laden will still hate each other.

  8. Josh says:

    Yet more spending of the taxpayers money. Oh hum.

  9. Max says:

    I disagree Martin Libicki on ‘signature.’ If signature in this case is the radar cross section of one large item i.e. CGN(X), size has nothing to do with the its RCS. Shaping is what matters. A one foot high box with the same shape as one mile high box with the same angles and proportional dimensions, then both will have the same RCS. A boat, a ship, a plane, whatever, if they all have the exact same shape then they will all have the same RCS regardless of size and mass.

  10. Max says:

    Also, the ‘reintroduce battleships except they’re called cruisers and destroyers’ phrase is completely false when one takes a look at battleship classes during WWII. The lightest of those vessels were 35,000tons, far more than the 25,000 ton weight of the CGN(X). The German battleship Bismarck tipped the scales at around 42,000 tons, the Iowa class around 50,000 tons, twice as much as the CGN(X). The Japanese Yamato weighed nearly 70,000 tons. So by no means, should the 25,000ton CGN(X) even be considered a ‘battleship.’

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