Author Topic: Alternative Weapon Systems  (Read 1613 times)

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Offline tomahawk6

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Alternative Weapon Systems
« on: March 19, 2017, 16:54:27 »
An interesting concept to augment expensive systems with a lower cost option.This has been tried before with mixed results.The Pentagon will have to resist the temptation to add the gold plate to these lower cost weapon systems.

https://www.fool.com/investing/2017/03/19/3-cheap-weapons-systems-president-trump-pentagon-w.aspx

Online Thucydides

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Re: Alternative Weapon Systems
« Reply #1 on: March 19, 2017, 22:36:56 »
While maybe Chris Pook may be more enamoured by unusual solutions than I am, there are some issues with the article as written. Ideas like the inexpensive UAV, Ghost warship and robot fire support vehicle gloss over their shortcomings (or overlook why some expensive programs like the LCS end up the way they did).

Smaller and cheaper means less capable, and one of the reasons the upgraded Reaper, M=1 tank or LCS is so expensive is they combine a multitude of systems from thermal imagers to long range communications gear, the ability to go for very long ranges and carry a significant amount of ammunition. (Note, not every project has every attribute).

In the case of the UAV, is it a correct comparison with its limited range and payload to the newer UAVs which can carry 4 Hellfires and a sophisticated sensor suite? The LCS turned out to be large and expensive because the USN was trying to get the capabilities of a Corvette for Littoral combat, but needed an ocean going hull to deploy these ships around the world. Perhaps a better platform might have been the large US Coast Guard cutters (and taking economies of scale into account, building them on an already existing assembly line would save tons of money). The Ghost isn't a replacement for the LCS, it is actually the sort of thing the LCS would be facing in an enemy Littoral (think of swarms of Iranian speedboats, or Missile and Torpedo boats with 4 ship killing cruise missiles and torpedoes aboard). And the Ripsaw would be great for accompanying infantry or escorting a convoy, but would come out very second best in a contest with a real tank, and would have difficulty breaching bunkers or heavily defended, complex obstacle belts.

The other thing which is unstated is there is no doctrine for using these tools. If I had the small UAVs, I would also need to have ways of controlling the airspace, assigning some vehicles as sensor platforms and some as weapons carriers, require a large footprint for a multitude of ground control stations, launch a d recovery assets and so on.

This is not to say we should not be considering ideas like these, and there is possibly a place for these and many other ideas. Perhaps more pressing would be changes to management to make procurement and project management less convoluted, and pressing manufacturers to use assembly line techniques and other innovative manufacturing to bring costs down. Much of the expensive military hardware is replicated in the $600 smart phone in your pocket (multiple communications receivers- WiFi and cellular- cameras, accelerometers, GPS receivers, database software etc.), so there should be lots of potential cost savings in "smart" weapons. Imagine if Excalibur rounds cost 1/2 of the current price, for example.

And manning also has to be reduced, as personal costs are the biggest driving factor for most militaries. An artillery piece with an automatic loader (like the Archer SP or 120mm Dragonfire mortar) can be manned with a crew of 3 or 2 respectively, yet deliver fire far more rapidly than any conventional artillery or mortar system. I'm sure there are a multitude of other systems that could be considered.
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline tomahawk6

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Re: Alternative Weapon Systems
« Reply #2 on: March 19, 2017, 23:15:39 »
True but numbers are a quality all it own. One reason why human wave attacks were successful.

Offline CBH99

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Re: Alternative Weapon Systems
« Reply #3 on: March 19, 2017, 23:57:52 »
Some of this could also be a cheaper way of contributing to low-intensity peacekeeping conflicts.

The UAV for example might find a good home in places like Mali, where something like an armed Heron might be useful - but a Reaper would probably be overkill.       :2c:
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Online Chris Pook

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Re: Alternative Weapon Systems
« Reply #4 on: March 20, 2017, 12:05:24 »
While maybe Chris Pook may be more enamoured by unusual solutions than I am,

I resemble that remark  [:D
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Online Chris Pook

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Re: Alternative Weapon Systems
« Reply #5 on: March 20, 2017, 12:11:36 »
The Billion Dollar Toys will last, what?, 30 days?

After that it is back to pointy sticks and these guys launching jam tins with black powder and rusty nails.

What is the next thing that available industry can put in the hands of the troops in a really big hurry?   It won't be Zumwalts and B2s.

It might by Toyotas and UAVs with missiles.
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Online Chris Pook

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Re: Alternative Weapon Systems
« Reply #6 on: March 20, 2017, 13:18:29 »


I would remind that this aircraft was put into production because:

It worked
It used stock engines currently in production
It was made entirely out of wood and didn't use scarce strategic materials like aluminum, steel and brass
It employed under-employed skilled tradesmen (piano-builders)

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Offline Eland2

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Re: Alternative Weapon Systems
« Reply #7 on: March 20, 2017, 17:56:17 »


I would remind that this aircraft was put into production because:

It worked
It used stock engines currently in production
It was made entirely out of wood and didn't use scarce strategic materials like aluminum, steel and brass
It employed under-employed skilled tradesmen (piano-builders)

More than that, the Mosquito had the same payload as the US-made B17 bomber, which flew at a much slower speed. The wooden fuselage of the Mosquito also reduced its radar signature and made harder to detect. The Mosquito could fly almost as fast as some fighters, and this meant that it could zip in, drop bombs on a target, and often fly its way out of danger on night bombing runs.

Offline Underway

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Re: Alternative Weapon Systems
« Reply #8 on: March 20, 2017, 19:41:45 »


I would remind that this aircraft was put into production because:

It worked
It used stock engines currently in production
It was made entirely out of wood and didn't use scarce strategic materials like aluminum, steel and brass
It employed under-employed skilled tradesmen (piano-builders)

It's actually an early example of "modern aircraft composites".  The layered wood and resin that made up much of the aircraft was akin to modern carbon fibre/matrix composites.  Something I learned in my material science classes way back when.

Offline GR66

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Re: Alternative Weapon Systems
« Reply #9 on: March 20, 2017, 20:00:45 »
I think the article completely blows the argument by suggesting completely useless substitutions.  Of course you can't replace a destroyer, frigate or even the LCS with a $10 million hydrofoil.  A self-propelled autocannon is not a tank replacement since it can't engage similar targets as a tank or survive against the kind of targets a tank would face.

The basic question I think still remains though...when can a valid argument be made for replacing (or even just supporting) the most advanced (i.e. most expensive) systems/platforms with something less capable but available in larger numbers?  When extreme cost means you can only afford a very small number of something, could you be better off with the 80% solution in large enough numbers that overcome that 20% capability loss in the individual platform?  (not the false 25% solutions presented in the article).

I think that it's a question that can't be answered uniformly across the board.  Each capability requirement would have to be examined along with the available alternatives to determine what the risks/advantages would be in each area.

Offline jollyjacktar

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Re: Alternative Weapon Systems
« Reply #10 on: March 20, 2017, 20:14:38 »
Then you might end up with the modern equivalent ratio of 5 Shermans to kill 1 Tiger.   Not good for recruitment,  morale and retention.

Online Thucydides

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Re: Alternative Weapon Systems
« Reply #11 on: March 20, 2017, 20:43:31 »
The basic question I think still remains though...when can a valid argument be made for replacing (or even just supporting) the most advanced (i.e. most expensive) systems/platforms with something less capable but available in larger numbers?  When extreme cost means you can only afford a very small number of something, could you be better off with the 80% solution in large enough numbers that overcome that 20% capability loss in the individual platform?  (not the false 25% solutions presented in the article).

I think that it's a question that can't be answered uniformly across the board.  Each capability requirement would have to be examined along with the available alternatives to determine what the risks/advantages would be in each area.

I'm certainly for that. Tankers might not be enamoured of the CV90120 as a replacement for the Leopard 2 in Canadian service, but for the price we pay to run and maintain two different types of Leopard 2's in two extremely tiny mini fleets, we could probably afford to outfit the Armoured Corps with enough tanks for all the Regiments (and logistically only support one fleet). A similar argument could be made to replace all the various armoured vehicles with CV90 based platforms, individually some might be more expensive per unit or not "entirely" Canadianizable, but the economies of scale, economy of effort and overall capabilities of going with one system or one "family" certainly makes a project like this worth contemplating. In cases like this, purchasing a 80% solution probably provides far more advantages than disadvantages.

OTOH, given the proliferation of defensive systems, it might actually make more sense to split purchasing missiles among two different types (for example Javelin and Spike, or STARSTREAK and RBS-70) so the enemy has to deal with more possible problems when protecting their platforms. This is the sort of problem space where pressing manufacturers to make cheaper individual systems comes into play. Other types of ammunition natures might also benefit, or using weapons in novel ways to increase their utility might also be a choice (the debate on using coastal artillery is one example, such a weapon is also feasible as long range artillery for land targets as well, and long range FOG-M type weapons are also usable as target seeking UAV's, a triple threat).

All in all, however, there still needs to be some sort of overarching doctrine of how we intend to fight wars and conduct operations, otherwise we look at catalogues, sigh with envy and try to make square equipment pegs fit into round doctrinal holes.
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline tomahawk6

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Re: Alternative Weapon Systems
« Reply #12 on: March 21, 2017, 08:29:38 »
Considering that a tank or warship for that matter stays in service 20 years the initial cost isnt all that bad. At some point I would like to see replacement systems evolve. For example I would like the US to move in the direction of SES [surface effect ships] and WIG platforms like the Russian Ekranoplan.

http://www.military.com/video/logistics-and-supplies/russian-equipment/the-russian-caspian-sea-monster/1288272993001

Online Thucydides

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Re: Alternative Weapon Systems
« Reply #13 on: July 12, 2017, 12:30:20 »
Repost, but this is an example of a system which could be adapted to all service environments, and provide a lot of benefits through economies of scale, versatility in terms of target typos and effects which can be achieved and forcing potential enemies to spend more resources on defending against these weapons. Versions already exist for the navy and air force, and it isn't a huge stretch to think that truck mounted launchers are not possible as well:

https://strategypage.com/htmw/htairw/articles/20170712.aspx

Quote
Air Weapons: Norway Delivers Stealth And Surprise

July 12, 2017: Japan has become the latest F-35 user to order the Norwegian "Joint Strike Missile" (JSM). Kongsberg has been developing JSM since 2011 as an air-to-surface weapon that is not only stealthy but also designed to be launched from the internal bomb bay of the F-35 (where two can be carried). The half-ton JSM, with a 250 kilometer range, is based on the existing Kongsberg NSM (Naval Strike Missile). That means JSM added up with capabilities like two-way communication, image recognition for homing in on a specific target and the ability to fly very low and take advantage of local terrain to evade detection and interception. JSM is basically a small cruise missile using a small jet engine and pop-out wings to keep itself moving.

Adapting this weapon for air launch got American manufacturers and the U.S. Department of Defense involved and soon Kongsberg had made deals for integrating the JSM with the still evolving fire-control software of the F-35 as well as a U.S. partner to manufacture JSM for American users.

JSM uses the NSM guidance system to hit moving targets, like ships as well as very small targets on land. Japan wants JSM because that missile would be perfect for a Japanese F-35 making a surprise attack on North Korean missile or nuclear weapons facilities. Other nations see the JSM as more useful against naval targets or even specific vehicles moving along a distant road. The JSM thus becomes a very useful weapon for nations adopting the F-35. The JSM is also superior to the heavier Harpoon, which has become a standard anti-ship missile in many navies. The JSM has other competition, like the Harpoon variant, SLAM-ER, but at the moment no one weapon has a lock on future anti-ship missiles or the kind of versatile air-to-ground missile JSM has indeed evolved into. JSM is completing its final tests in 2017 and will be available adaptation (software mods) for F-35 users as they receive their aircraft. Each nation will have the F-35 fire control system (as well as some of the other electronics) modified to handle local preferences, especially when it comes to specific bombs and missiles and other unique bits of hardware.

The F-35 is armed with an internal 25mm cannon and four internal air-to-air missiles (or two missiles and two smart bombs) plus four external smart bombs and two missiles. A special bomb rack was developed which allowed the F-35 to carry eight SDBs (230 kg Small Diameter Bombs)s All sensors are carried internally and max weapon load is 6.8 tons. The aircraft is very stealthy when just carrying internal weapons. The more compact (it looks like a missile) SDB was designed with the internal bomb bays of the F-22 and F-35 in mind and has proved to be a very effective smart bomb.

JSM is based on the older, and quite successful, NSM. This is 410 kg (900 pound) missile is designed for use from ships or land based launchers (or trucks). NSM has a 125 kg (275 pound) warhead and a range of 185 kilometers. NSM uses GPS and inertial guidance systems, as well as heat imaging system (and a database of likely targets) for picking out and hitting the intended target. NSM entered service in 2007 and work on an air launched version led to the JSM. A major chore was the JSM's advanced electronics (especially the gear that defeats defensive jammers) and this stuff required a lot of tweaking and realistic testing. That was expected and the JSM was ready for service on schedule.

JSM is also being adapted for use on other aircraft, especially the F-16, F-15E and F-18, which would carry it externally. The F-35 can also carry JSM (and all other bombs and missiles) externally but sacrifices a lot of its stealth protection to do so. Japan may not consider this to be a major problem with North Korea, which has an antiquated air-defense system. The official reason for arming Japanese F-35s with JSM is to deal with the threat of ballistic missile attack by North Korea. JSM is well suited to find and destroy hidden North Korea missile launch sites. But JSM would also be an excellent weapon to use against Chinese warships, which Japan does not mention but is implied.
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Online Colin P

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Re: Alternative Weapon Systems
« Reply #14 on: July 12, 2017, 13:05:24 »
The US can't do simple well, what they needed was a bunch of fast small missile/gunboats with a commercial LASH/submersible type ship to deliver them to theatre and act as mothership or depot ship. More of this sort of stuff.




But they also need to work on their risk avoidance, command and training to avoid this being repeated. Because running small fast vessels in contested waters is high risk and requires CO's that ware willing to act on the spur of the moment using their judgement and knowing they have a command structure that has their back.




Online Chris Pook

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Re: Alternative Weapon Systems
« Reply #15 on: July 12, 2017, 17:30:43 »
The US can't do simple well....

Amen Brother.  Nuff said.
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