Monthly Archives: July 2018

Lewis and Clark Class Dry Cargo Resupply

Warships are cool. Warships are sexy. But if you want those warships to project power beyond your shores, you have to keep them resupplied. Let’s look at some of the ways the US Navy keeps its ships supplied. We’ll start with the Lewis and Clark class Dry Cargo Resupply ships, known by the hull code T-AKE.

The Lewis and Clark class are 689 feet long, 105.6 feet in beam, and have a design draft of 29.9 feet. They displace 41,000 tons and are designed to handle up to 6,005 tonnes or 783,000 cubic feet of dry cargo, plus 2,390 tonnes or 18,000 barrels of fuel. of the 6,005 tonnes of dry cargo, 1,557 tonnes are refrigerated storage. Dry cargo can include ammunition, frozen and dry food, consumables, and spare parts. The T-AKEs are equipped with US Navy Underway Replenishment equipment, and can resupply any US or allied vessel that is equipped with same.

The T-AKEs are all-electric ships, generating power with four diesel generators. They have one electrically-driven screw, plus a bow thruster for maneuvering in port. The electric drive system can propel the Lewis and Clark class ships at speeds of up to 20 knots. Electric power is also used to run the Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS). ASRS can work with any standard container, will retrieve containers in weather up to sea state 5, and will survive undamaged in weather up to sea state 9.

The Lewis and Clark class have a crew of 124 civilians and 11 naval personnel. A mostly civilian crew is what gives the ships the “T-” prefix on the hull type classification. At present, the T-AKEs do not have any active means of self defense, but there is space and topweight available for CIWS if this is desired in the future.

Also of note is that the T-AKEs are generally built to civilian standards, with some additions for increased survivability. This was to reduce costs, bypass any potential bottlenecks, and to produce a design that would also have a lot of marketability to the civilian merchant marine.

NSWC Crane Likes Midlength Gas Systems

These days the US miltary favors M4s with 14.5″ barrels and carbine-length gas systems, which is to say, a gas port located approximately 7.8″ in front of the bolt face. It works. On the civilian market, lots of companies are offering (usually pinned) 14.5″ barrels with the midlength gas system, i.e. gas port about 9.8″ ahead of the bolt face. Civilian shooters will tell you the midlength gas system is a softer shooting system. But is it more reliable? We could make arguments about it, but NSWC Crane decided to put it to the test.

Barrel Wear: Accuracy Degradation
In a normal, carbine-length gas system, a degradation of accuracy can be seen after about 6,000 rounds. Crane’s testing found that after 12,000 rounds, the midlength barrels did not suffer appreciable accuracy degradation.

Muzzle Velocity
Does the midlength gas system cause any loss in velocity? In the unsuppressed case, the carbine had a mean muzzle velocity of 2,905.4 feet per second, and the midlength had a muzzle velocity of 2,906.4 feet per second. The difference in means is -1.0 feet per second, or 0.04%.

In the suppressed case, average muzzle velocity was 2,989.7 feet per second for the carbine system and 2,983.0 feet per second for the midelength. Here the difference is 6.7 feet per second, or 0.23%. In either case, muzzle velocity is negligible.

Terminal Velocity (100 yards)
Given the negligible difference in velocity at the muzzle between the carbine length and midlength gas systems, we would expect the difference at 100 yards to be similarly negligible. And it is. In the unsuppressed case, carbine-length gas system yields a terminal velocity of 2,635.9 feet per second and the midlength gives 2,677.6 feet per second for a difference of 41.6 feet per second or 1.57%.

The suppressed case is similar, with the carbine-length gas system providing 2,654.1 fps and the midlength providing 2,686.7 fps, for a difference of 32.6 fps or 1.22%. Overall, there’s not much of a performance difference. Midlength is actually slightly better. Of course, we wouldn’t expect much of a difference in velocities from changing the gas system length.

Cyclic Rate
We might expect a change in cyclic rate from altering the gas system length (and hence the gas pressure in the system). Also, small reductions in cyclic rate tend to be good from a parts-life standpoint as well as a controllability standpoint. So what do we get? Again, we have the suppressed and unsuppressed cases. In the unsuppressed case, we see a reduction of 127.2 rounds per minute or 15.9% going from a carbine-length 864.8 rpm to a midlength 737.6 rpm. The suppressed case gives us a reduction of 62.7 rounds per minute or 6.9% when we go from a carbine-length 944.2 rpm to a midlength 881.5 rpm.

Stoppages
Given the reduced cyclic rate for the midlength, does this translate into more reliability? The tests showed that it did. The carbine length gas system had 65 stoppages, and the midlength gas system had 30. The high temperature (160 F) testing phase accounted for 5/65 stoppages in the carbine-length gas systems and 1/30 stoppages in the midlength gas systems. Low temperature testing (-60 F) accounted for 27/65 stoppages in the carbine-length gas systems and 15/30 stoppages in the midlength gas systems. All other stoppages occurred in ambient-temperature testing.

So now we have some hard data proving that midlength gas systems are better on 14.5″ barreled weapons. Great! This gets more interesting because the USAF is looking at buying 50,000 improved M4s for security forces, battlefield airmen and OSI. That’s the kind of significant buy that can have an impact on what kind of weapons the rest of the US armed forces use. Remember, the Air Force were the first to embrace the M16.

The Crossbox Podcast: Episode 27 – Armed Services Salute

In a summertime edition of The Crossbox Podcast, we find an excuse to play some of our favorite military music: talking about procurement challenges service branch by service branch.

Further reading
* America and Wasp deck plans, compared, in which your host looks foolish for not realizing they’re the same size.
* Parvusimperator likes the F-35
* The Drive on the B-21 (see also sweet B-2 flyby GIF)
* The M14 is crap
* FFG(X) contenders

Continue reading

PMMC G5

Despite being designed in 1960, the M113 has remained popular. It’s a big, tracked aluminum box. So it’s easy to fit stuff in. And lots of things can be put in a nice aluminum box. Lots of these, like command vehicles, mortar carriers, ambulances, and the like aren’t frontline vehicles. So the M113’s increasingly marginal protection wasn’t that much of a concern. It’s adaptable and low cost. But there’s not a lot of weight capacity for more protection if the vehicle is to be used in urban operations, and the powerplant is pretty old.

Enter FFG. FFG cut their teeth upgrading old M113s, and they finally figured they might be able to offer something better. This is the PMMC G5, seen below.

PMMC G5

The G5 is actually somewhat larger than the M113, having a payload capacity of 14.5 cubic meters, as opposed to the M113’s 8.3 cubic meters. Where the M113 can handle 2.4 tonnes of payload, the G5 can handle up to 8.5 tonnes of payload. Gross vehicle weight of the G5 is 26.5 tonnes.

The G5 also has a semimodular design. The modules have a floor and roof, plus internal stuff, and can be switched out with a crane. It’s not quite as modular as Boxer MRAV, but it’s still a solid feature.

The G5 faces stiff competition, being somewhere in between a full-featured, turretless derivative of an IFV like the CV90 Armadillo or simpler M113 refits. The PMMC G5 has only been entered into one procurement contest, in Denmark, where it lost out to the Mowag Piranha V.

As for what I think, I am a fan of the concept. Whether or not I’d go with it for Borgundy really depends on cost compared to some other options, and the sort of boring details of proposals that never gets leaked. Specifically, how the cost of a cheap additional vehicle plus spares compares to additional variants of more expensive vehicles (plus more of the spares that you’re already ordering).

Reconsidering the LCS

Editor’s note: Fishbreath and I aren’t fans of the LCS, but he asked me to defend it and I can hardly resist such a challenge…

The LCS is a curious sort of ship. There are two classes, the Freedom-class and the Independence-class, and I’m going to group them together for the purposes of this discussion. They are both very fast, lightly armed, and carry a helicopter. They have some swappable mission modules to enable them to carry things like Hellfire missiles. Their only air defense system is a launcher for the RIM-116; a close-in weapon.

One is immediately struck by what the LCS don’t have. They don’t have a fancy towed sonar array. They don’t have a fancy bow sonar array. They don’t have a bunch of lightweight torpedo tubes. They don’t have antiship missiles. They don’t have a “proper” SAM system like SM-2/3/6, Aster, or ESSM. One might think of them as stripped down Oliver Hazard Perry-class analogues, but this might be frustrating. The Perrys are the quintessential Cold-war era multirole frigate. One might also look at all of the other ships called frigates these days and despair about the LCSes. They are underarmed!

Or are they? Let us first ask what mission we might have for the LCSes. Mission ought to drive the ship design. The Perrys were designed as escorts. Second-rate escorts: intended to protect the anticipated convoys running supplies and war materiel from North America to Europe in the event of a Cold War gone hot. As such, they have an antiaircraft armament of one Mk. 13 single-arm launcher for the SM-1. They also have a towed sonar array and some lightweight torpedo launchers, plus hangar facilities for two helicopters. On paper they’re much more capable ships.

However, one of the things we note is that from 2004 to 2005, the US Navy removed the Mark 13 launchers from the Perrys that remained in service. Why? Well, clearly removing the system reduces ongoing support and maintenance costs. Plus, it’s not really all that useful. The SM-1 missile and Mark 92 fire control system is grossly inadequate against modern threats. The CIWS is going to be able to (probably) handle a single inbound antiship missile fine, and anything serious attack is going to get past SM-1 and CIWS.

The Falklands War showed all manner of problems with the Type 42 destroyers. These were built for air defense, but they suffered badly at the hands of the Argentine air force. The Argentine air force used Exocet antiship missiles and the sort of unsophisticated, low-level, unguided bombing attacks one might see in the Korean War. There were problems with target prioritization, being sure that no target was left unengaged by the multiple firing ships, and ships fouling each other’s radar fixes. The Perrys were even less optimized for anti-air warfare than the Type 42s.

Anyway, the LCS-as-frigate comparison seems to be assuming implicitly that we have to have nice, simple ship types: cruisers, destroyers, and frigates, and proper navies have all three. We have Ticonderoga-class cruisers, which are built on Spruance-class destroyer hulls and are smaller than Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. Let’s unpack those a little more. There are currently 22 active Ticos, each with the Aegis combat system and 122 VLS tubes. There are 65 active Burkes with three under repair, four under construction, and five more on order. Each Burke has an Aegis combat system and 90 or 96 VLS missile tubes. Taking active hulls only, that’s a total of 87 Burkes and Ticos, which I’ll collectively (and imprecisely) refer to as “Aegis ships” for simplicity.

The Aegis ships are fantastic escorts, since they all have powerful radars, computer coordinating systems, communication networks to chat amongst themselves, and lots of missiles. Each VLS tube can hold one of the Standard family of SAMs or four ESSM SAMs. In terms of dealing with air or missile attack, they are the best ships available. They can protect themselves and something nearby. Like a carrier. We have 11 supercarriers, plus nine more straight-deck “Baby Carriers” of the USMC. So if they all were at sea at once, and all operating separately we’d have about four Aegis ships per flattop. That’s pretty good. The Royal Navy would like to be able to do that, and we’d have way more missile tubes per flattop than they would, even if they could manage four escorts per flattop.

Of course, the Mk. 41 VLS tubes on the Aegis ships can carry other missiles as well, including Tomahawk Cruise missiles and LRASMs, giving the ships a potent land attack or surface strike capability. It’s pretty easy for a task force commander to lob an awe-inspiring number of cruise missiles at some tin-plate dictator we hate while having enough SAMs to protect the fleet. For comparison, look at the positively lame ground attacks from the Russian navy deployed to Syria. They wish they had “Aegisski” ships with tons of VLS tubes to lob cruise missiles at their enemies.

In the Aegis ships, the USN has a large number of highly capable surface ships that are truly “Do-everything” ships. They can do any mission you please, and can be configured to do all of them reasonably well at once. No 4-5,000 ton frigate can do likewise. They tend to have 16-32 VLS tubes and a much less powerful radar. These ships tend to carry a mix of quadpacked ESSMs and standard missiles, or foreign equivalent systems. They can do some amount of air defense, but mostly just of themselves. It’s not clear what adding a bunch of ESSMs is going to do to the already formidable air defense umbrella in a US Navy carrier battle group.

Lets also stress that, while we could argue about the most cost-effective mix of ships, the 87 Aegis ships mentioned earlier are already purchased. We have them. They’re ours. Spending a bunch of money on redundant capabilities is silly, and that seems to be what most want to advocate for.

What the Aegis ships aren’t is cheap. They have high operating costs, and there’s plenty of flagwaving missions or antipiracy operations that could be done by a ship without all the fancy, expensive bells and whistles. Playing “Plane guard” and fishing pilots who had to eject from a botched carrier landing doesn’t require a fancy radar or lots of missiles. Hunting pirates off the horn of Africa doesn’t require any fancy systems either, just seakeeping. So the best compliment for a big fleet of highly-capable Aegis ships is a bunch of austere, cheap-to-operate corvettes with good seakeeping.

Good seakeeping is important, and is the major cost driver. Seakeeping is a function of structure, and I’m being imprecise and lumping in range as well. America, as you probably know, is separated from regions of trouble by large oceans, and anything sent to those troublesome regions has to first cross those pesky oceans. And yes, seakeeping eats up space that could be otherwise filled with weapons. If our ships could sail ten miles from our coast and find trouble, we could pack them to the gills with weapons and not care how stable they are. But that’s not the situation we find ourselves in. So no, we can’t just build a few Pegasus-class fast attack craft and call it a day.

So that is how we get to the LCS, more or less. It has a deck gun, a SeaRAM installation, and a helicopter hangar. It can accept a few other mission modules. It can handle a number of basic tasks, including to sail to not-so-hot regions flying an American flag. The one thing I don’t get is the overly high top speed of the ships. I wouldn’t have designed that in, since it drives costs up. Even so, they’re good ships for what they’re designed for: complimenting the rest of our highly-capable surface fleet.

The Opinionated Bastards: Tukayyid (Aug. 31, 3052)

Back in the Saddle

After the long retreat from the Clans and the hard fighting which occurred along it, things seem positively sleepy in the Opinionated Bastards’ mobile headquarters.

In mid-August, though, our somber ComStar liaison stops by, informs us gravely that we have a mission, and leaves as quickly as he came.

The Action of August 14, 3052

The rebels are fleeing a ComStar sweep, moving through a seaside town, where we’ll intercept them. Gale-force winds are blowing in from the shore, which forces the rebel vehicles to withdraw before combat.

There are four enemy medium mechs on the field: a pair of Vulcans, an Assassin, and a Phoenix Hawk. It’s a successful mission if we knock out two of them.

Round 1

The Bastards deploy near the center of the map. The rebels deploy to the south; they’re fleing to the north.

The hurricane winds are going to make it difficult to score many ranged weapon hits, at least while everyone is moving. Linebuster and newcomer Blinky are the only ones with a chance at a hit.

001-contact

Round 2

The wind is playing havoc with targeting systems; gusts hammer against mech arms, throwing off their aim. Woad and Blinky get into punching range, where they’ll hopefully be able to do some damage without having to rely on ranged weapons.

002-closeup

Ranged weapons fire doesn’t accomplish very much. Woad and Blinky exchange kicks with the enemy: everyone hits, but because of the high winds, everyone falls over, too.

Round 3-4

Rather than attempt to stand, both of the rebel Vulcan pilots eject. They fail to stick the landing. Both end up unconscious.

The enemy Assassin manages to take enough fire to lose its footing. Its pilot ejects, too.

003-pursuit

Round 5

The Phoenix Hawk is now most likely beyond our reach. He can simply run away.

I spoke too soon, though. Bafflingly, he turns to fight. We’ll get one more crack at him.

004-standup

The Ostroc suits Blinky just fine. Even in terrible conditions, he has at least some chance to hit.

005-blinky

Round 6

The Phoenix Hawk pushes a bit further away, but now he’s up against a little river. He probably will need some extra time to get through. I can’t imagine jumping is a very good idea right now.

006-river

Round 7

Bear’s Bruisers arrive on the field, with Wojtek in tow (his first combat deployment in a long time).

Unfortunately, it proves to be a bit of an anticlimax. The Phoenix Hawk steps into the water, trips, and falls, and the pilot immediately ejects.

007-endgame

Damage, Injuries, Salvage

Woad and Blinky both have minor injuries from falling over, and their mechs have light damage.

After the storm passes, we recover the enemy Phoenix Hawk and the enemy Vulcan, both of which are in serviceable shape. We’ll probably strip the Vulcan (a VL-2T model) and keep the Phoenix Hawk, at least for now. The latter chassis is handy to have; a good weight to fill in around the edges of a heavy lance.

One of the rebels, after ejecting, managed to shelter in the wind shadow of one of our fallen mechs. ComStar takes her off our hands as soon as the weather permits.

Kill Board(s)

Last Battle

I’ll say this: we didn’t exactly cover ourselves in glory this time. Although four enemy mechs were destroyed on the last mission, we scored precisely zero kills.

All-Time Leaders

  1. “Rook” Ishikawa (27, 8 mechs, 2 Clan kills)
  2. “Drake” Halit (14, 6 mechs, 2 Clan kills)
  3. “Woad” Kohler (13, 5 mechs, 1 Clan kill)
  4. “Carcer” Ngo (11, 5 mechs, 2 Clan kills)
  5. “Wizard” Que (7, 6 mechs, 6 Clan kills)
  6. “Teddy Bear” Jamil (5, 3 mechs, 2 Clan kills)
  7. “Double Dog” Dare (5, 2 mechs, 1 Clan kill)
  8. “Linebuster” Atkinson (5)
  9. “Severe” Payne (4, 4 mechs)
  10. “Milspec” Ortega (4, 1 mech, 1 Clan kill)
  11. “Ker-Ker” Ec (3, 2 mechs)
  12. “Hanzoku” Yuksel (3, 3 mechs, 2 Clan kill)
  13. “Euchre” Kojic (2, 2 mechs)
  14. “Kicks” Hernandez (1, 1 mech, 1 Clan kill)
  15. Simona (1, 1 mech, 1 Clan kill)
  16. “Wojtek” Frajtov (1, 1 mech)

Status

It is now August 31, 3052.

Contract Status

Rebel morale remains high. Given the much less threatening opposition, I’m trying to rotate in some of the under-utilized pilots. Wojtek was on the board this time; hopefully we can get Euchre in next time.

Finances

We have 65.323 million C-bills in the bank.

The following mechs are available on the unit market. All of our pilots currently have mechs, however.

008-market

Repairs and Refits

Both of the techs who are working on the refits flubbed their finish-on-time rolls. As of now, it’s another five months for the Awesome and another month for the Stalker.

Drake has been getting well-acquainted with his desk; it looks like he’ll be playing administrator for a little while longer. (I’ve given him two points of the Administration skill as a bit of a consolation.)

Mechwarrior Claims and Assignments

  • For the record, the following mechwarriors are claimed.
    • Captain Huri “Drake” Halit (Mephansteras) – Awesome Custom (refitting)
    • Lt. SG George “Linebuster” Atkinson (Hasek10) – Lancelot LNC25-02
    • Lt. SG Mariamu “Rook” Ishikawa (Culise) – Stalker STK-3Fb (refitting)
    • Lt. JG Sung-min “Double Dog” Dare (a1s) – Thunderbolt TDR-5S-T
    • Sgt. Jose “Milspec” Ortega (milspec) – Crab CRB-20
    • Sgt. Tedros “Teddy Bear” Jamil (Knave) – Vulcan VL-5T
    • Cpl. Damayanti “Carcer” Ngo (Dorsidwarf) – Flashman FLS-7K
    • Cpl. Ferdinand “Woad” Kohler (A Thing) – Grasshopper GHR-5H
    • Pvt. Jan “Euchre” Kojic (EuchreJack) – Trebuchet TBT-5S
    • Pvt. Cathrine “Severe” Payne (Burnt Pies) – Koshi Custom
    • Pvt. E-Shei “Ker-Ker” Ec (Kanil) – Lancelot LNC25-02
    • Pvt. Ed “Hanzoku” Yuksel (Hanzoku) – Guillotine GLT-4L
    • Pvt. Ik-jun “Wojtek” Frajtov (Blaze) – Trebuchet TBT-5N
    • Pvt. Xue-Min “Wizard” Que (Rince Wind) – Guillotine GLT-4P
    • Pvt. Abdul-Hafiz “Pepper” Popalzi (mrkilla22) – Archer ARC-2K
    • Pvt. Kevin “Blinky” Stirzacre (moghopper) – Ostroc OSR-2C
    • Pvt. Gwenael “Kicks” Hernandez (Sheyra) – Phoenix Hawk PXH-1K
  • The following mechwarriors are available.
    • Pvt. Elroy Farooqi – Dragon DRG-5N
    • Rec. Simona – Ryoken/Stormcrow B (missing lasers)

Action Items

  • We’re really rolling in the money now. It might be a good time to start looking for a DropShip or two, which costs 100,000 C-bills per month and may or may not give us something we can use. (We have a lot of mechs at this point; we’ll probably need at least two to fit our combat units, spares, and mothballed mechs.)