Author Topic: Alternative Weapon Systems  (Read 1075 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

Offline 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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Conservative, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others. [Ambrose Bierce, 1911]

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.
Over, Under, Around or Through.
Anticipating the triumph of Thomas Reid.

"One thing that being a scientist has taught me is that you can never be certain about anything. You never know the truth. You can only approach it and hope to get a bit nearer to it each time. You iterate towards the truth. You don’t know it.”  - James Lovelock

Conservative, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others. [Ambrose Bierce, 1911]

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)

Over, Under, Around or Through.
Anticipating the triumph of Thomas Reid.

"One thing that being a scientist has taught me is that you can never be certain about anything. You never know the truth. You can only approach it and hope to get a bit nearer to it each time. You iterate towards the truth. You don’t know it.”  - James Lovelock

Conservative, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others. [Ambrose Bierce, 1911]

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.

Offline 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