Monthly Archives: November 2016

The Crossbox Podcast: Episode 13 – Qualified Approval

We’re back to our normal format for a very late November episode. Join us for some griping about one thing which really isn’t tacticool, some games which we don’t understand, and the case of the missing quals.

Further reading
PC Gamer writes up some terrible adventure game puzzles


Resurrected Weapons: CVAST turret

In my article on the many Bradley Variants, I mentioned that there have been a number of efforts to upgrade the gun on the Bradley, including utilizing the 35 x 228 mm caliber. One such design was the CVAST1 demonstrator. I found a good bit of detail on it in a 1986-1987 copy of Jane’s Armour and Artillery.

As a brief side note, I can’t recommend old copies of the Jane’s Information Group yearbooks enough. They’re packed with information, much of which you can’t get anywhere else, and while prices on the latest copies are eye-watering, older ones can be had for a song. This one came to my door for under $10, shipping included.

Anyway, the turret. The CVAST Bradley (there was also a CVAST turret on an M113) was designed around an ARES Talon 35 mm gun. This was a dual feed cannon, and it was compatible with all existing Oerlikon stocks of ammo, plus an (at the time) brand new APFSDS round. The CVAST turret was a “cleft turret” design, which put the turret in two separate manned sections with the gun in between. The gun mechanism itself was in a compartment behind the two crewed sections. This allowed the gun to have an elevation range of -10 degrees to + 60 degrees, and not have to worry about the turret roof getting in the way (or making the Bradley taller still) The commander sat on the left, and the gunner sat on the right. Elevation and traverse were all-electric. The 35 mm gun was fully stabilized.

The CVAST turret had an interesting wedge-shaped front and sides, and provided better protection than the then-current M2A1 turret (especially on the side where the TOW launcher took up some space for armor on the basic model). The CVAST turret could still mount the two-tube TOW launcher on the right side, but the launcher no longer folded down. It could pivot 45 degrees for loading, but remained in the horizontal “fire” position of the folding launcher during transit.

The CVAST turret matched the then-current Bradley for electrics and fire control components, having a thermal viewer, integrated laser rangefinder as well as cant, crosswind, air temperature, and propellant temperature sensors. A fully computerized fire control system was also provided. No independent commander’s thermal viewer was fitted yet (the M2 would not get this capability until the -A3 model was introduced in 2000).

Here’s where it gets very interesting. Listed ammunition capacity for the CVAST turret was 500 rounds. Five Hundred Rounds of the big 35 x 228 mm. Outstanding. That’s the same capacity of a BMP-2, but in a much bigger caliber. I’m not quite sure how this was done, since I don’t have internal turret diagrams. But there you have it. 500 rounds. Damn.

And that pretty much spoils what I think of the turret, doesn’t it? More rounds and bigger rounds? Sign me up. Even if we have to redo the optronics to bring them out of the 80s and augment the armor protection. I don’t care.

Verdict: Approved for Production by the Borgundy Armored Systems Board

1.) Combat Vehicle Armament System Technology

Random Carrier Battles: what’s in the prototype, then?

Yesterday, we spoke briefly of what’s getting left out of Random Carrier Battles’ first playable prototype. Today, we’ll cover the happier side of that story: what’s in!

UI stuff
I have some informational interface tasks to take care of, to allow players to view task force members and elements of air groups. I figure to stick this on the left side of the main UI.

Some aircraft design improvements
I believe I’ll need to make some tweaks to aircraft and escort design, to specify quality of armament: the early use of the TBF Avenger was hampered by the poor quality of the Mark 13 air-launched torpedo, and I can’t capture that in the system as is. Similarly, British battlecruisers, German pocket battleships, and Yamato aren’t well-captured by the system as is. (Battlecruisers, in this framing, would be heavy cruisers with good guns; Scharnhorst would be battleships with poor guns, and Yamato would be a battleship with good guns.) Although surface combat is out of scope for the initial prototype, I want to have enough data to do a passable job at it when I come to it.

I may also have to make radios a feature of airplane design, so that types with historically good radios can communicate better than types with historically poor radios.

Aircraft handling: repair, fueling, arming, launching, recovery
Aircraft handling is a big focus of Random Carrier Battles: more than previous games in the carriers-at-war genre, I want to get down into the weeds. I want to track aircraft status to a fine-grained level of detail, down to how far along arming and fueling have progressed, or how warmed-up the engine is. On deck, I don’t think I plan to track exactly where planes are spotted, but I may do some tracking of takeoff run available—this would penalize light aircraft carriers with large air wings by preventing them from launching everything in one go, which is, in my view, a feature.

In terms of discrete development tasks, I’ll have to figure out how to turn a designed air group into an air group instance in the game world, build systems to hold air operations status and control transitions between air operations states, and build UI to control it all.

This feature will also lay the groundwork for land-based airfields, as well as seaplane tenders and seaplane-carrying cruisers.

Air combat!
Making this one heading is perhaps a bit ambitious on my part, but there you are. Air combat has a bevy of subordinate features, including representing armaments (to give damage) and ship and aircraft systems (to take damage), a planner for missions, and unit combat behavior AI.

Systems and armaments are the easiest of the bunch; they merely involve defining a set of systems for each class of asset, along with a set of armaments generated from the asset’s statistics and arming status.

The mission planner is a complicated feature, and one which I hope will be industry-leading: a central clearinghouse where admirals can view all missions currently planned or in progress, create new missions, cancel unlaunched missions, and eventually, handle every air operation in the task force. For now, it may fall to players to prepare the aircraft assigned to missions on their own initiative, depending on how the aircraft handling features shake out.

Finally, combat behavior AI: this is by far the biggest feature under this heading, and the hardest to handle. It includes automatic marshaling of air groups (players won’t have direct control over aircraft in flight), CAP behavior, scout plane behavior, strike planes’ flights to their targets, and attack behavior for dive bombers and torpedo bombers. Ships will also have to maneuver under direct attack (that is, to avoid incoming torpedoes, and to throw off dive bombers’ aim).

Initial spotting and scouting
Spotting and scouting in their fullness will require a lot of work, so I’m going to build a simpler system to start with. Simply put, you can see everything on your side, and anything within horizon range of your ships and planes.

Submarines will come later.

That’s that! I hope you find these plans as exciting as I do. I hope to get the demo to a state where I can take some usable screenshots and videos and submit to Steam Greenlight, at which point I’ll be hitting you up for upvotes.

Random Carrier Battles: the road to a playable prototype

Good afternoon, and happy Thanksgiving! While sitting here watching the turkey and the giblet broth, I had some time to work out a little roadmap for taking Random Carrier Battles from its current state, barely above proof of concept that the Godot engine is suitable for this purpose, to a playable prototype (if one that doesn’t capture my full vision).

So, to get the ugly out of the way first, let’s talk about what I’m leaving (for now) on the cutting room floor.

Wind and weather
Though they are crucial parts of aviation, they’re incredibly complicated, and I want to do them right the first time, rather than hacking something together now. With modern processors and multi-threading, I can push weather simulation into the background and only update every few in-game minutes, which leaves me lots of time to try interesting simulation techniques. ‘Interesting’, as I said, is a synonym for ‘hard’, and so I won’t be exploring these yet.

Land-based air
It may turn out that the mechanics of land-based air—launching and recovery—is a freebie based on doing carrier-based air. If it isn’t, though, I’ll tackle it later, along with design for land-based types like multi-engine bombers and flying boats.

Full visibility and spotting system
My plan for Random Carrier Battles is to attempt to capture just how blind carrier admirals were a lot of the time. Enemy positions will only be known by spotting reports, and allied air positions will only be known with full precision when they can be seen from friendly task forces. All of that will require a detailed system for spotting and visibility, and a system for displaying and archiving spotting reports. It’s less straightforward than it sounds, since the AI (when that arrives) will need access to that information for its fleet. Speaking of…

Artificial intelligence
I may provide some sort of rudimentary AI, but I may also leave it more or less entirely to scripting, or give the computer perfect knowledge. Don’t expect anything amazing, at any rate.

So, what does that leave to do? Nothing less than the core of the game. Come back tomorrow or Saturday for details!

Infantry Protective Kit

Editor’s note: Back to the land stuff in time for Thanksgiving (at least here in America). Enjoy the long post to make up for all of the naval stuff

Let’s talk protective stuff for the infantryman. There are a mulitude of threats on the modern battlefield, including bullets and shell fragments, and protection from these threats has been a pretty consistent goal for armor designers. Of course, designing for those two threats is very difficult. Fragments are small and do not deform, and can be stopped by kevlar or similar materials. These materials are relatively soft and flexible, but they are heavier than normal fabrics used for uniforms. Bullets, or more specifically, rifle bullets, are a thornier problem. To stop those, you need ceramic plates and a padded backing. These ceramic plates are rigid (of course) and weigh several pounds apiece, so a stormtrooper-looking ensemble is not very practical. Any body armor also has to work with a soldier’s load bearing rig, which carries his ammunition and other stuff. So let’s start at the top and work our way down, shall we?

First, the helmet. We’ve come a long way since the Adrian helmet of 1915. Our helmet of choice is the American Enhanced Combat Helmet1 We’re going to break this one down by components. Let’s start with the shell. Our helmet shell is made of ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene (UHMWPE), and comes in a MICH-type2 cut. To understand what I mean by the MICH cut, we’ll have to step back a bit.

The Adrian helmet was the first modern combat helmet, and was based on the shape of firemen’s helmets used in Paris. When the Germans finally came around to the concept, they looked through medieval helmets to come up with the Stahlhelm design. This was the best shape of all helmet designs in World War I, but nobody wanted to look like the “evil Hun”, so they stuck with their own shapes. It was revisited for PASGT,3 when the US Army was making a new kevlar helmet. The Stahlhelm shape really does protect more. It’s just better than the M1 shape it was replacing. So the PASGT helmet was basically a Stahlhelm in modern kevlar. Cool. Except it’s kind of annoyingly large. When a soldier wearing the Interceptor Vest (early 2000s kit), went prone, the collar on the vest would push the helmet down so the brim went in the wearer’s eyes. Also, if you wanted to wear a headset and a helmet, you were out of luck. So the MICH-cut is a trimmed PASGT-cut, to accommodate larger armor vests and communications headsets.

Okay, so that’s the shape. Why not just get a MICH helmet? Because of that UHMWPE stuff. The ECH is thicker than earlier American composite helmets, but it can stop a 7.62x51mm rifle round at point-blank range. To be clear, the regular M80 ball ammo, not the AP stuff. Still. Seven point six two millimeter. Full. Metal. Jacket. And it’ll stop it. That’s freaking awesome. Plus it’s really resistant to fragments. In testing, the test gun was unable to get the fragments going fast enough to make 50% of them pass through.4 So against basic rifle threats and fragment threats, the ECH has you covered.

Internally, the ECH has pads and a four-point H-back strap to hold it on your head, like a bicycle helmet. This is more comfortable than a chinstrap and won’t fall over and hit you in the face if you bend over. So medics will keep their helmets on. Again, this design bit was cribbed from the earlier MICH helmet. A nape pad can be fitted to the ‘crossstrap’ of the H for some added comfort and fragment protection for the base of the neck. The pads are the Team Wendy Epic Air pad kit using their Zorbium foam. It’s a three-piece pad setup that comes in a few different sizes for comfort and providing adequate standoff between the helmet and the head. The Epic Air pads come with air channels to help with cooling.

There are a few other accessories of note. There’s a bracket on the front of the helmet to mount night vision equipment. Fabric helmet covers in standard Borgundian camouflage5 patterns are available, and come with velcro to mount IR recognition patches if desired. A counterweight can be fitted to the back of the helmet to offset the weight of night vision equipment.

Perfect. So that’s the head taken care of. On to the torso. Right now, inspired by foot operations in Afghanistan and a general desire to emulate SOCOM6, plate carriers are all the rage. Simply put, a plate carrier carries hard armor plates (duh) to protect your vital areas from getting perforated from rifle fire. This means front, back, and sometimes side plate pockets of your choice. The alternative is an armor carrier, which has some amount of soft armor (e.g. kevlar) to protect most of the torso from artillery fragments in addition to plate pockets. This is a pretty simple amount-of-protection v. weight tradeoff. What’s your expected threat? In Afghanistan, you’re walking a lot, so weight really sucks. Most of the threats are dudes with rifles. So you want rifle protection, screw the rest. In Iraq, you ride around in vehicles, and IEDs (and their friends high velocity fragments) are a big threat. Plus dudes with rifles. So you want plates and soft armor.

We’ve spilt a lot of virtual ink on IFVs. We’re pretty clearly a heavily mechanized force. And our expected operating theater is good old Europe in a conventional throwdown. I’m old school like that.7 We can expect plenty of artillery threats in addition to dudes with rifles. So armor carriers it is! They won’t provide immunity from shell fragments, but they do a great job of saving lives.

Previous drafts of this post had a highly optimized choice to shave off the last few ounces, but I’ve since reconsidered. This is general issue. So it needs to be relatively simple and reasonably priced and available in bulk right now. It needs to be reasonably modular, in that we might want to add components to get extra fragmentation protection or to upgrade to deal with the latest armor piercing rounds. We’d like a quick-release system in case someone falls in a river or to help medics get the armor out of the way in a hurry. And it needs to feature PALS webbing or some equivalent integral way of easily adding pouches for stuff. We’re not throwing load bearing equipment over the armor carrier.

Which brings us to our (somewhat boring) choice: the Gen 3 Improved Outer Tactical Vest. Lame name. It’s American. You’re shocked, I’m sure. It checks all of the boxes, and provides support for plenty of modular add-ons if desired. Plus, SAPI-pattern plates are the best shaped/constructed of the current ceramic plate options. At least for mass production. Again, we could find some improvements with respect to weight if we didn’t mind going with a smaller company, but then there would be production line questions. The IOTV G3 is made by BAE. No worries there.

Okay. So that’s armor carrier. Comes ready for SAPI-cut plates. It also comes with soft armor rated to stop things like fragments and 9 mm pistol bullets. So all we need now are plates. This is probably the easiest choice there is. There’s no good reason to go with ESAPI plates. They’re rated to stop the vast majority of AP rounds in 5.56 mm, 5.45 mm, and 7.62 mm (-x39 mm, -x51 mm, and -x54 mm) calibers. No sense making armor easy to defeat by switching from FMJ to AP issue rounds. In general, we’d expect front and rear plates only (i.e. no side plates) to be sufficient for most operational environments. Side plates may be distributed as needed like the other add-on components to the base IOTV unit.

1.) There’s also an Australian helmet called the Enhanced Combat Helmet. Ugh, naming. Anyway, ours is the American one, not the Aussie one. Sorry, Oz, the Yanks did this better.
2.) Modular Integrated Communications Helmet. Maybe it’s not for combat?
3.) Personal Armor System for Ground Troops. 80s vintage stuff.
4.) This measurement is much more statistically repeatable than trying to figure out at what velocity nothing will get through.
5.) There will be another article on these.
6.) Admittedly, they’re pretty cool guys.
7.) Judging by recent events in the Donbass, I’m also avant-garde like that.

Testing Parvusimperator’s Ideas

Stumbled upon a couple news articles today, courtesy of Both concern the USMC and their experimental units playing around with things I called.

The first, and probably least surprising, is that there’s a testing battalion experimenting with the M27 (HK 416) as a general-issue rifle. Compared to the standard M4 that the Corps has finally switched to, the M27 has a free-float barrel, a safe/semi/auto trigger group instead of safe/semi/burst, and the HK short-stroke gas-piston system. A well-designed piston system is a lot easier to regulate than the conventional direct impingement system on an AR (this will be important in a moment). There are definite gains to be made (though you could get a lot of the same stuff by changing out a few parts on the M4, but the M27 has the advantage of being in the procurement stream. It has the disadvantage of costing more, of course. They do really like the M27. As do I, as it was my choice for Borgundy’s military carbine. It was also the choice of the French.

That’s not super surprising though. What is more surprising to me is that they’ve also got a battalion experimenting with suppressors on everything. Carbines, machine guns, everything. Yes, even the Ma Deuces. Hey, that sounds familiar. It makes command and control easier, to no one’s surprise.1 It also took away the noise that provides an illusion of effectiveness. This fascinates me. Noise means “good enough”. Take a lot of that away, and you have to concentrate on what your shooting is actually doing. Huh. Plus, it’s easier to concentrate with all that racket gone. I’m very proud to say you saw that idea here first.

1.) Ever had a date in a loud restaurant? It sucks. You want a place that’s quiet. Same thing here. It really helps if your soldiers can hear you tell them things.

HF-3 Antiship missile

I’ve talked about my dislike of Harpoon before. In there, I mentioned a pretty good off-the-shelf replacement in Norway’s Naval Strike Missile (NSM). NSM is small, reasonably priced (especially if you buy a lot), and stealthy. It’s got good ECCM and terminal-phase maneuvering capability as well. Awesome!

But I am a jealous man. And those Russians have a number of supersonic missiles. Supersonic missiles, aside from being 79% cooler than slow, subsonic missiles, are a lot harder to intercept because of the shorter reaction time. For a supersonic, sea-skimmer like P-270 Moskit (SS-N-22 Sunburn), which travels at Mach 2, the missile will clear the horizon with about thirty seconds left before impact. That’s pretty cool.

Of course, there are problems. Chief among them is the source. Russia is a classic power rival for us. We wouldn’t want to depend on them for weapons in the event of hostilities (just look at Ukraine). Plus, Fishbreath generally (and rightfully so) makes me source from NATO powers since Borgundy is a proud member of the Western Powers Club. Gotta buy from friends. Again, this bears out. Even if Russia was willing to sell, NATO would also balk.1 Clearly the simple option of “Buy Brahmos” (or SS-N-22) is right out.

What to do? Well, we could look further afield for an island nation that has a lot to fear from a nearby navy.

No, not England. It’s not 1910. They suck at navies now. Heck, they’ve gotten rid of their Harpoon stocks without any kind of replacement. And even though I think it’s long in the tooth, some antiship missile is better than no antiship missile. Guess again.


Yes Virginia, Taiwan makes stuff besides consumer electronics. They make their own antiship missiles, for example. One of which, the Hsiung Feng 2 (HF-2), is subsonic. It’s a lot like Harpoon actually, though I don’t think the ECCM and GPS integration of the latest Harpoon models is present in the HF-2. I could be wrong though. But that’s not the missile we’re interested in today. If we wanted Harpoons, we’d get those.

No, the missile we’re interested in is Hsiung Feng 3 (HF-3).

There are lots of gaps in the knowledge of the new, advanced, and relatively secret HF-3. It’s supersonic. With a bit of altitude, it’s said to be hypersonic.2 But there’s no unclassifed top speed estimates that I’ve found to be trustworthy. Ditto for range, though most open source estimates put the range at about 200 km. We know propulsion is a rocket booster/ramjet pair, and we can figure it weighs about twice as much as Harpoon. It’s got inertial guidance with a terminal X-band, active radar seeker. There are also some rumors that it’s nuclear warhead capable. The conventional warhead is said to be 225 kg, which would be more than enough for e.g. the W80 nuclear warhead (maximum yield of 150 kilotons). It’s also designed to execute aggressive terminal-phase evasive maneuvers, and is built to withstand the stresses from doing this at speed.

Because it’s so new, it’s not clear if there’s a reduced-size version for shipboard mounting. This smaller version might trade off some range for ease of deployment. However, there are pictures of ROCS Su Ao (DDG-1802, Kidd-class, the former USS Callaghan) mounting eight HF-3s in lieu of the eight Harpoons she was commissioned with. It’s not clear what changes, if any, were made to accomodate this. Frankly, I don’t care about a small loss of range if it means I can deploy them as a one-for-one Harpoon replacement with speed on our F100s and Sejongs.

Sometimes the things you don’t know about a project are damning. This isn’t one of those times. Supersonic is perfectly acceptable. Even if it’s merely Harpoon-ranged. And if it’s as fast as they say, I’ll be thrilled.

Goose, I’ve got the need. The need for speed. Let’s get some superfast ship killers. We already have the best naval air defense systems available. Let’s give them no reason to hope.

1.) Cf. Turkey’s long range SAM procurement project, when they took a ton of flak from the rest of NATO over wanting to buy from the Chinese.
2.) Cue the pastiche of ‘Greased Lightning’.

Random Carrier Battles: kinematics and scale

I spent some time the other day playing the old-school DOS version of the current state of the art in carrier air warfare simulations, SSG’s 1992 classic appropriately entitled titled Carriers at War. As far as DOS-era wargames go, it’s pretty good—it doesn’t bother you with too many details, and it (largely) lets you focus on the grander strategy. I really blew the Battle of Midway as the Americans, though.

So, let’s talk about a way in which I hope to improve on the old classic: movement. Carriers at War plays out on a 20-mile hex grid; Random Carrier Battles currently tracks positions down to 10 meters; rather than a five-minute time step, I use a six-second timestep (organized into ten steps per one-minute turn) for movement and combat. This lets me do all sorts of fun things which 1992’s processing power did not allow, which I’ll get to shortly. It also causes me a great deal of trouble, which I’ll gripe about first.

The short version is, the kinematics are hard.

The slightly longer version is, there’s a lot of math involved in working out just how game entities ought to move. Warships aren’t much of a problem, because it turns out that warship maneuvering is pretty straightforward1. Aircraft, however, get a little tough. Not only do I have to consider everything I do with warships, I have to account for performance differences at altitude, as well as rates of climb and descent beyond which aircraft must either decelerate or accelerate. I don’t have the design fully worked out for that yet, I’m afraid, so I can’t say much more yet. Rest assured it’s complicated.

So, what does that enhanced positional and temporal resolution buy me above Carriers at War?

Better simulation of strike range
This is the biggest win, in my opinion. With such a high temporal and positional resolution, I can simulate fuel consumption to a much greater level of accuracy. As such, I don’t need to limit myself to Carriers at War’s fixed strike ranges2. The TBD, for instance, gets a with-torpedo range of 90 miles. I’ve seen other figures give a combat radius of 150 miles, and still others give a range (not radius) of 435 miles with a torpedo. By tracking fuel, I can, to some degree, ignore the trickier combat radius figures2, and simply grab a plausible cruise range figure. If I mix in some reasonable modifiers for speed, altitude, weight, climbing and descending, and maneuvering, suddenly I have a system which doesn’t need to work with combat radius at all. Players can launch strikes well beyond range if they want to; they just need to know that they’ll have to either deal with losing planes to fuel exhaustion, or follow the strike with their carriers.

Realistic combat behavior
The level of detail in kinematics, and the short time step, lets me make emergent some behaviors which might otherwise be the result of dice rolls. For instance, are Devastators running in on your carriers? Turn away from them, and the slothful American torpedo bombers will have to chase you, running their fuel down and exposing them to the depredations of your CAP and your escorts’ AA. Dive bombers rolling in on you? Throw the helm hard over to throw off their aim.

Many of these behaviors can be made to happen automatically: ships under dive bomb attack will make evasive turns on their own, for one. I haven’t yet decided which behaviors will end up being automatic, and which will be tactics set up by the player, but my aim is to do the low-hanging fruit for the player.

A notable exception to the above model is air combat: my current expectation is that the six-second combat step will prove too large for air combat (and relatedly, that emergent air combat behaviors will prove very complicated to code), and that the best way to handle it will be to put planes into a furball object inside which combat is handled in an abstract manner.

Exploration of unexplored formation options
Allowing the player relatively detailed control over formations, and keeping track of positions in similar detail, allows players to try some unusual tactical ideas. For example, the Japanese were not in possession of shipboard radars until fairly late in the game. What if, in some hypothetical battle, they detached some escorts from the main task force to make a search line a few miles toward the threat? Perhaps they could better direct their CAP to meet incoming threats.

That’s only one example. Undoubtedly there are others which haven’t occurred to me yet.

Those are at least a selection of the benefits of an approach with a greater focus on direct simulation, as opposed to a more traditional hex and counter approach. We’ll see how they turn out.

  1. At least to the fidelity I plan to simulate. There are lots of fascinating behaviors when you introduce multiple screws into the mix, but given that Random Carrier Battles is still, at its essence, a game of task forces, I don’t intend to allow players to give orders that detailed.
  2. The reason they’re so fiddly is that nobody ever talks about their assumptions: what load, exactly, constitutes a combat load? Is range deducted for reserve fuel and the time spent forming up? Are allowances made for maneuvering over the target? These are three of many questions left unacknowledged by most authors of military references.

Borgundy Chooses a Destroyer

Picking a frigate was hard. There are lots of pretty good frigate designs out there, but none were quite what we want. The F100 came closest, so it got the nod.

Fortunately, choosing a destroyer is a lot easier. There’s one best option: an Arleigh Burke-class derivative. More specifically, the South Korean Sejong the Great-class destroyer, which is just an Arleigh Burke that’s a trifle bigger.

What’s so great about the Sejongs? Well, for one, they carry the excellent and proven Aegis combat system. This system was designed to defend American carriers from saturation attacks by Soviet antiship missiles. It’s great at tracking multiple targets and managing the engagement. The same system (albeit in smaller form) is on our F100-class frigates too. Hooray for commonality. Plus, they can plug into land-based IADS.

Where the basic American Burkes have 96 Mk. 41 VLS tubes, which can accommodate SAMs, VL-ASROC, and Tomahawk cruise missiles, the Sejongs have 128 such tubes. This is better than any destroyer afloat, and better than any ship afloat save for the Kirovs. And the Sejongs have better radar and battle management capability than the Kirovs.

The Mk. 41 VLS can accommodate SM-2, SM-3, SM-6, and ESSM SAMs, Tomahawk cruise missiles, and VL-ASROCs for an antisubmarine punch. Which is nearly everything you’d want a destroyer to be able to do. Note of course that ESSMs can be quadpacked four to a Mk. 41 tube. The rest of the armament suite is pretty conventional: sixteen Harpoon launchers, six 324 mm torpedo tubes, a RAM CIWS forward, a Goalkeeper CIWS aft, and a 5″ gun.

From a sensor perspective, the SPY-1D(V) is a pretty obvious component, dominating the sides of the forward superstructure. There’s the usual array of secondary radar systems for navigation, some infrared search and track units for passive scanning, a bow-mounted sonar, and a towed sonar array. All very nice, nothing here needs changing, so I’m touching nothing.

As for helicopters, the Sejongs have hangar space for two midsize units (SH-60s or similar). No shortcomings there. You could lash a third to the hangar deck if you really wanted.

Like the Burkes, the Sejongs are driven by a COGAG1 powerplant, which is simple and provides for excellent speed. It leaves something to be desired with regards to range, but I don’t care. Buy fleet oilers. Besides, we’re a mostly continental power anyway.

Really the only thing we’d do is swap the Goalkeeper for another RAM launcher. RAM is a more effective system than Goalkeeper. I’m not sure why the South Koreans called for both, but we won’t.

As for antiship missiles, as I mentioned in my piece about the F100s, I’d prefer an upgrade here, but I think it’s more important to ride the coattails of what the US Navy is going to buy. If they stick with Harpoon, they’ll keep it modernish, and it will be the best option because of the number bought. Alternatively, if they opt for NSM, its price will get better because of the large quantity purchased.

The Sejongs aren’t very “transformational” or “revolutionary”. We don’t care. They’re an improved version of a good, proven design. They have plenty of space for incremental, evolutionary upgrades. Plus, when the accountants come calling, you can point to obvious working capabilities today in addition to the hoped-for technologies of the future.

1.) Combined Gas (turbine) And Gas (turbine). So you have gas turbines for cruise and more gas turbines that you can use to also drive the screws when you need MORE POWER!

Borgundy Chooses A Frigate

Let’s get to picking our own Navy. Like Luchtburg, we’d like a nice, middleweight ship to handle a wide variety of tasks. There are lots of such frigates available, with a bunch of different price points and mission optimizations. Our pick is the Spanish Álvaro de Bazán-class, also known as the F100 class. For us, it represents the best set of compromises.

The F100s have the most powerful air defense missile suite for any frigate in the world, with a whopping forty eight1 Mk. 41 VLS tubes. 48! This is awesome. You’d no doubt expect them to be loaded with ESSMs and the latest SM-2 variant, and you’d be correct. The standard Spanish Navy loadout is 32 SM-2 Block IIIA SAMs and 64 RIM-162 ESSMs. That’s awesome. These missiles are backed up by a smaller version of the American Aegis combat system, and compact versions of the SPY-1 radar system. Very cool.

Having Aegis and the American SM-2/ESSM SAMs is really good from a commonality perspective. There’s no good reason for our Destroyer to be anything but an Arleigh Burke-class derivative (more on that to follow), and it’s really nice to have common radar systems and missiles with the Burkes. I’m a big fan of logistical optimizations where possible, and fewer distinct kinds of spares is always a win. Plus, since the US Navy also uses these missiles, they’ll probably be paying for upgrades, so we don’t have to.

The rest of the F100s loadout is pretty conventional. There are eight Harpoon missile tubes, six 324 mm torpedo tubes, and a 5″/54 gun. The F100 also has the usual bow sonar and a towed sonar array, though the towed array isn’t a very advanced model. It has a Spanish-built twelve-barreled 20 mm cannon CIWS system. This is one of the few things I’m unhappy with, but it’s also one of the simplest to remedy.

The F100s are driven by a CODOG2 powerplant, and have a crew of 250. Lots of navies are going with lower crews on their frigates, but I prefer a bigger crew. More men is better for doing manpower-intensive tasks like damage control. I’m very happy with this compliment.

Maximum speed is 28.5 knots, and the range is 4,500 nautical miles at 18 knots. Pretty typical Frigate stuff here. No reason to complain or specify changes.

As for changes, a few minor things when placing our order. We’d like to upgrade the CIWS to a rolling airframe missile based system, which should be pretty easy. We’d also like a more advanced towed array. Again, nothing hard there. Pretty simple changes. The F100s, like most Western combatants, use Harpoon antiship missiles. I’m not the biggest fan of those, but we’d have to be sure to do the conversion on both these and our DDGs. Not a huge deal, but something to watch out for. Verify compatibility with both before changing things. Or see if Harpoon is getting more upgrades. Presuming it isn’t, the NSM is an excellent alternative.

The only really notable shortcoming is the helicopter capacity. The F100 has a flight deck and hangar for one midsize helicopter like an SH-60. This is decent, but two would be better. Unfortunately, this isn’t something we can easily change. Still, the F100s provide excellent capabilities at a reasonable price. At least if you don’t stop and restart production lines and do a bunch of add-ons to the command and control facilities.

1.) Hilariously, this is the same number of VLS tubes as the Daring-class desroyers, even though those are almost half again the tonnage of the F100s. And called ‘destroyers’, even though they displace as much as a World War 2-era heavy cruiser.
2.) Combined Diesel Or Gas (turbine). So you can drive the screws with the fuel efficient diesel engines or the gas turbines for high speed but not both.