“US Naval Might is Waning”: They Say Tongue in Cheek
On January 3 Rear Admiral Viktor Bursuk, a deputy commander of the Russian navy who oversees weapons procurement, said Russia’s Navy is expected to receive 40 new warships and auxiliary vessels in 2014.
In addition to surface ships of various classes, the Navy will also commission the third Borey-class nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine, the Vladimir Monomakh, and a Varshavyanka-class diesel electric submarine.
Russia will continue the repair and overhaul of the Admiral Nakhimov nuclear-powered missile cruiser and three nuclear-powered attack submarines this year. The Admiral Nakhimov is expected to rejoin the Russian navy in 2018 with the most advanced weapons systems for its vessel type, the Sevmash shipyard said in June last year.
According to the statement, auxiliary ships to be commissioned by the end of 2014 include the Igor Belousov, an advanced search-and-rescue ship designed to boost the navy’s ability to rescue submarines and ships in distress, the Admiral said.
US naval think tanks report the Russian Navy is on the rise, its strike components are reborn. China has put its first aircraft carrier strike group to sea, its new missiles pose threat to US flat tops, and the country’s naval might is growing by leaps and bounds.
It all takes place against the background of US Navy subject to cuts undermining its capability to defend the nation at sea. For instance, Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA), Chairman of the Sea power and Projection Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, warned about it inan interview with Real Clear Defense by the end of last year.
«We are technically ‘out-sticked’ by Chinese anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCM) right now», Forbes said when asked the capabilities by RCD’s Editor-in-Chief Dustin Walker.
«The Navy’s own ASCM, the Harpoon, is an all-weather, over-the-horizon, anti-ship missile system. Sounds technical, but in fact it was designed in the 1970s and now does not have the range or survivability to operate against more sophisticated anti-surface threats we are seeing from the Chinese PLA Navy today…. My subcommittee is now playing a leading role in reviewing the range of options for a new Offensive Anti-Surface Weapon (OASuW)».
Energy Weapons and Offensive Lethality
The U.S. Navy surface fleet must become more offensively lethal. As Aviation Week reported on January 12, Vice Adm. Thomas Copeman, commander of the Naval Surface Force and U.S. Pacific Naval Surface Force, emphasized,«The surface force must greatly improve its offensive lethality»:
«We must move beyond the missile as a defensive system», he says in his «Vision for the 2026 Surface Fleet» report, which was released earlier this month in advance of the Surface Navy Association Conference and Symposium being held Jan. 14-16 in Arlington, Va. Mr. Copeman said, «Our weapons development and purchasing trajectory must rebalance in favor of energy-based weapons for defense that will affordably deliver the capability and capacity required to conduct prompt and sustained combat operations through the coming decades»…
He also stressed that, «the Navy must focus more on offense». The service is to be equipped with «Weapons that could dramatically improve the lethality of the surface force are available in the near term».
The Long Range Surface Attack Missile (LRASM) is intended to defeat surface targets well beyond the enemy’s offensive or defensive weapons’ range. The LRASM is a DARPA and U.S. Navy-funded program to provide the Navy and U.S. Air Force with an offensive anti-surface weapon or new air-and-sea launched long-range anti-surface missile. Three tests successful last year, two more two ship-based tests of the missile are expected to be conducted in 2014.
Lockheed Martin has described the capabilities of the missile as: «The long range capability of LRASM will enable target engagement from well outside the range of direct counter-fire weapons. LRASM will also employ active and passive survivability features to penetrate advanced integrated air defense systems. The combination of range, survivability, and lethality ensuresmission success».
It will have air and surface-launched capability, travel at subsonic speeds, and carry a 1,000-pound penetrator and blast-fragmentation warhead. The missile is too developed to counter the China’s growing naval might in the Pacific.
Another, more ambitious development currently at an early conceptual phase at DARPA is Arc Light, a missile system designed to engage surface ships or other targets at ranges of 3,000 miles.
The missile’s terminal stage will be accelerated by a rocket booster to the edge of the atmosphere where it will reach hypervelocity speed, gliding over thousands of kilometers to reenter the atmosphere and reach its target in less than half an hour.
A similar concept will be demonstrated early this year by the second test of the DARPA/U.S. Air Forces’ Falcon HTV-2.
A different mission also pursued under DARPA’s advanced weapons program is the Triple Target Terminator (T3) air dominance weapon. With this program the agency is developing a high speed, long-range missile that can engage enemy aircraft, cruise missile and air defense targets.
It will be designed for internal carriage on stealth aircraft like the F-35, F-22 and F-15SE, or externally on fighters, bombers and UAVs. T3 would allow strike fighter aircraft to rapidly switch between air-to-air and air-to-surface (counter-air) capabilities.
Both Raytheon and Boeing were each awarded $21.3 million contracts to develop the new missile, which is expected to enter flight testing in 2014.
The Navy is developing a module for insertion into the current Virginia class of nuclear-powered attack subs that will greatly increase their capacity to strike surface targets from ocean sanctuaries using cruise missiles — thereby making them the weapon of choice in many Pacific scenarios against China.
Rail gun laser- first time at sea time in early 2014
The Navy currently spends about $40 million annually researching laser weapons. Now it is deploying prototypes of electromagnetic rail guns, solid-state laser weapons and underwater unmanned vehicles in operational units.
The technology stands to offer additional range for land strikes as well as added capabilities in ballistic and cruise missile defense. The rail gun, which can hit ranges of 100 miles or more, uses electricity stored on the ship to generate a high-speed electromagnetic pulse sufficient to propel a kinetic energy warhead.
Obviously, the main attraction of the laser is its ability to destroy targets at long range at the speed of light, and LaWS has many advantages as both an offensive and defensive weapon. The Navy envisions it being used for precision and covert engagements, starting fires, and what it calls «graduated lethality». It also sees it as a countermeasure against UAVs, missiles and swarms of small boats.
Navy leaders announced plans in April to deploy a solid-state laser aboard the USS Ponce in 2014, two years ahead of schedule.
The Ponce is the Navy’s first afloat forward staging base, anchored in the Persian Gulf, an especially stressful environment for using defensive lasers because local atmospheric conditions degrade beam power and Iranian forces have many options for attacking warships from speedboats to rockets to unmanned aircraft.
The at-sea demonstration in FY 14 is part of a wider portfolio of near-term Navy directed energy programs. The Office of Naval Research (ONR) and Naval Sea Systems Command recently performed demonstrations of high-energy lasers aboard a moving surface combatant ship, as well as against remotely piloted aircraft.
The weapon is also seen as a breakthrough to be used against China.
As Loren Thompson wrote in the January 6 Forbes edition, «The question is what the Navy is going to do to sustain its role in the Western Pacific as China leverages its geographical advantages in pursuit of regional military dominance. Recent trends are not encouraging, and the current approach to protecting the fleet probably can’t succeed in a major conflict if the People’s Liberation Army solves its reconnaissance problem. The U.S. Navy needs a game-changer, and lasers are looking like one of the few credible options available».
Last summer the Navy’s X-47B drone completed its newest round of tests off the Virginia shore, making it the first pilotless unmanned jet in history to land aboard a moving aircraft carrier. This year, four companies are expected to compete for a contract to design the next version of the X-47B with an eye toward putting them in the air in 2020, according to the Navy.
With a range of more than 2,100 nautical miles X-47 is capable of carrying weapons and may well be the forerunner of a drone program that will provide intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance—all through state-of-the-art GPS navigation, a high-integrity network connection, and advanced flight control software to chart its territory.
The new ocean-faring underwater drones, called «Slocum Gliders», won’t need fuel to function like their aerial counterparts do. Instead, they’ll power themselves with the ocean current itself, stealthily scanning the surrounding area and feeding information back to other military vessels.
Using a process dubbed «hydraulic buoyancy», the Glider can adjust its density based on the water around it. This allows the drone to sink lower or raise itself up among the ocean currents, moving at a speed of up to one mile (1.6 km) an hour.
The Navy’s goal is to send an underwater drone, which it calls a «glider», on a roller-coaster-like path for up to five years. A fleet of them could swarm an enemy coastline, helping the Navy hunt down minefields and target enemy submarines.
Unlike their airborne cousins, Navy gliders are not powered by aviation fuel. Instead, they draw energy from the ocean’s thermocline, a pair of layers of warm water near the surface and chillier water below.
The gliders were first commissioned by the Navy in 2009, when it invested just over $56 million for up to 150 «Littoral Battleship-Sensing» gliders. These are scheduled to arrive in 2014.
The Navy has launched a drone from a submerged submarine, a feat that could prove valuable in providing intelligence and reconnaissance capabilities for military special operations for decades to come.
The small drone was fired from the Providence submarine’s torpedo tube, where it unfolded its wings, took off and flew a «several hour» mission demonstrating live video capabilities streamed back to the sub, the Navy said.
The project, which took $15 million and about six years to accomplish, was carried out by the Naval Research Laboratory. It took place at the Navy’s Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center in the Bahamas.
Andrei AKULOV | Strategic Culture Foundaiton
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Rephrasing Mark Twain reports of US Navy’s death have been greatly exaggerated.