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Think Outside the Hull - USNI


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An interesting article.  Does it apply to Canada?

Key Elements:

What does it take to design a fleet?

"Fleet architecture consists of those activities that support the fleet design, to include:

• Presence, surge forces, and force packages

• The processes through which forces are prepared for and recover from deployment

• Bases and facilities that support or host material components of the fleet

• Material components of the fleet, such as ships, aircraft, personnel, weapons, and sensors 4"

The Missile Is the Primary Weapon

Ship Characteristics Are Not That Critical.

The Maritime Operations Center Is a Weapon System

Capabilities Other Than Ships Can Be Decisive.

The Navy’s Strategy Is Based on Factors Other Than Ships.

"Given the length of time the U.S. defense procurement system requires to field new ship types, the Navy cannot base its strategy for maintaining a technology edge on building new types of ships. Rather, it must focus on building ships in a way that they can be easily and rapidly modified to accommodate new sensors and weapons. Weapon and sensor packages must be designed so they can be mixed and matched and easily installed."

Think Outside the Hull

Thinking outside the paradigms of hull shapes and numbers of ships can lead to some interesting concepts for fleet design. First and foremost, modern naval warfare is all about missiles.
In the past year, the subject of fleet architecture has attained front-page status within Navy circles. Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral John Richardson lit the fuse by issuing a policy document calling for the development of alternative fleet designs. 1 Not long thereafter, Congress mandated the preparation of three independent studies of fleet architecture, which have now been released to the public. 2 Each of the studies, following congressional guidance, produced an alternative concept for how the Navy should look in 2030 and beyond, ultimately resulting in depictions of how many and what types of ships and aircraft the Navy should procure. 3 In September 2016, the CNO asked me to chair a panel to “red team” the studies, examine their assumptions and logic, and develop criteria by which the Navy could judge any architecture proposal. The panel submitted its report to the CNO in March.

The three studies were conducted by teams of experts, using the best information they could obtain and included creative thinking about the problem. Each study incorporated advanced technologies that are in various stages of development to envision a fleet that would be structured and operate differently from that currently defined by the 30-year shipbuilding plan. The panel, while not attempting to pick a winner among the studies, found that each had some good ideas while also incorporating some contestable assumptions and challengeable logic. My key takeaway was that the thinking behind each study was constrained because Congress asked for a listing of numbers and types of ships. One might argue that this is right and necessary because it is the business of Congress to authorize shipbuilding, which of course has significant economic implications for districts. However, that requirement kept the teams from thinking freely about alternatives to a fleet of traditional combatants, which in turn governed the utilization concepts they crafted to underpin the lists of platforms.

There is a different way to approach fleet design and fleet architecture, but first a definition of terms. Fleet design, per Navy definition, is how the fleet fights and wins in any environment, as expressed through concepts, doctrine, and tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs). Fleet architecture consists of those activities that support the fleet design, to include:

• Presence, surge forces, and force packages

• The processes through which forces are prepared for and recover from deployment

• Bases and facilities that support or host material components of the fleet

• Material components of the fleet, such as ships, aircraft, personnel, weapons, and sensors 4

The CNO directed that fleet design comes before architecture, indicating that how the Navy plans to fight must be understood before platforms can be designed. There is merit to this notion, but there is also a kind of chicken-or-egg relationship in that there currently exists a fleet that cannot be abandoned to start over, and of course there is a constant percolation of new technologies and evolving threats that must be factored into ship design, which in turn influences operational concepts. The net effect is to channel thinking about new concepts and new architectures through the lens of ships. This makes any concept for fleet design and architecture a matter of adjustments on the margin.

If such adjustments were sufficient to prepare the Navy for future challenges, there would be no need to say more, but they are not. China is intent on creating a multidimensional force that is large and lethal enough to keep the Navy from operating at an acceptable degree of risk within the first, if not the second, island chain. Russia is determined to achieve the same in some of its peripheral seas. These countries are basing their strategies on large arsenals of new, more lethal antiship missiles supported by unmanned vehicles, space assets, and cyber. Whether fired from land, ships, aircraft, or submarines, these missiles and their supporting technologies demand a fundamental rethinking of how our Navy fights, not just from the perspective of countering antiaccess systems, but from a true war-at-sea orientation.

Many senior officers can recall the intellectual churn of the “transformation era,” characterized by calls for “disruptive” thinking and attended by many a priori and unsupportable claims of effectiveness for various concepts such as “effects-based” operations. Actual combat experience in Afghanistan and Iraq revealed the hollowness of such claims. Having experienced the churn first-hand from various positions within the research arm of the Naval War College, I developed a healthy skepticism about rethinking naval warfare. It seems more practical to provide some reasonable baseline propositions about the nature of emerging technology and establish a logic trail that leads to principles of fleet design and architecture.

The first proposition is that future naval combat will center on the missile in all its forms. This is already evident in the number and sophistication of missiles being procured by all parties. The United States has routinely used Tomahawk missiles for land-attack missions that were too dangerous, too distant, or too politically sensitive for manned aircraft. China and Russia, having no credible carrier-based aviation capability, have invested heavily in antiship missiles to achieve some degree of sea denial against the U.S. Navy, which, for its part, is now buying several types of antiship missiles, attempting to catch up with China and Russia.

If the missile becomes the Navy’s decisive offensive weapon, several important factors follow. The first is targeting. The history of naval combat suggests that the force that can strike most effectively from the greatest range gains a significant advantage. This is why carrier-based aviation superseded the large-caliber naval rifle as the decisive war-at-sea weapon in World War II in the Pacific. Dive bombers and torpedo planes could deliver a greater weight of fire at a greater range than naval guns. While modern tactical aircraft have a combat radius of hundreds of miles, missiles are more responsive, and some, like the antiship version of Tomahawk, have twice the strike range of manned aircraft. Missiles, however, cannot be launched without precise target locating and identifying information. This means that a missile-centric force must have high-quality intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance for targeting (ISR-T) data to make use of its missiles’ ranges. While individual units may have their own over-the-horizon targeting capabilities, such as unmanned aircraft, the range of such ISR-T data is likely to be less than the full range of the unit’s missiles. Effective targeting from a force-wide perspective requires synthesizing information from many different ISR assets and broadcasting that information to firing units. Moreover, a dispersed and complex enemy force laydown requires efficiency and coordination in the use of offensive missiles. Key to achieving both is a battle force network that includes sophisticated processing nodes to manage the use of missiles force-wide.

Outside-the-Hull Insights

The Missile Is the Primary Weapon. Modern antiship missiles are nowhere near as large as their first-generation forebears. Even relatively small vessels can carry several. The Chinese Houbei-class catamarans, for example, carry eight YJ-83 antiship missiles with a range of more than 100 nautical miles. Moreover, if missiles are housed in a box launcher or a modified shipping container, they could be placed on almost any kind of ship. If the missiles are capable of being launched on remote command, the host vessel may not need to support them in any way other than an electrical power feed. This means that virtually any vessel could be a missile shooter. The key is a network that can supply the ISR-T data.

In the past, a defining characteristic of a capital ship was its ability to deliver a greater weight of fire at a greater distance than any other kind of ship. In the missile age, the network assumes that characteristic. 5 In previous eras, fleet design and architecture revolved around enabling the capital ship to bring its power to bear. In the age of dreadnoughts, cruiser squadrons scouted for and screened the battle line and destroyers protected it from torpedo boats. If the network becomes, at least metaphorically, the Navy’s capital asset, then it is possible to envision a range of combatants, including aircraft carriers, becoming escorts of sorts for the network. The network will require various capabilities for sensing and communications that will be targeted by an enemy using cyber, electronic, and kinetic means. It is likely that the opening shots of a war will orient on a fight for information superiority, so fleet design and its resultant architecture will have to be focused on winning that fight.

Ship Characteristics Are Not That Critical. A question that is currently difficult to answer is how many missiles would be required to put a single combatant—such as a Chinese Luyang III-class destroyer—and, by extension, a whole force out of action. Modern defensive development suggests that a number significantly greater than one missile would be required, but the total is almost imponderable, despite the best simulation algorithms. The implication is that the Navy must be prepared to mount precisely timed multi-missile salvoes and keep feeding a fight with missile reloads. Current vertical launch systems cannot be reloaded at sea, and even if a reload capability were developed, it likely would require a very calm sea state and a lot of time. If, on the other hand, missiles were housed in a shipping container/launcher, a new set of missiles simply could be dropped on deck by a helicopter. Such a capability not only would distribute combat power—complicating enemy targeting and permitting graceful force degradation—but also would simplify combat logistics. Therefore, the second outside-the-hull insight is that the characteristics of offensive (as opposed to defensive) missile-shooting ships are not that critical, although deck area and container storage capacity would facilitate operations.

The Maritime Operations Center Is a Weapon System. The efficient use of missiles across the force is highly desirable. Because the force is (hopefully) firing from over the horizon, it must avoid blue-on-blue engagements, and it must avoid targeting civilian ships. The force also must avoid overkilling some enemy units while failing to engage others. Achieving all these goals requires not only the requisite sensing and communications, but also a high level of processing and decision making across the force. Given the range of modern missiles, this makes the regional Joint Force Maritime Component Commander’s Maritime Operations Center (MOC) a key node. Just as the U.S. Air Force considers its Air Operations Centers weapon systems, the Navy should regard the MOCs as weapon systems. Thus, our third outside-the-hull insight is that the Navy must start thinking about weapon systems across the force as a whole—not simply within the confines of a particular ship.


Part 2

Capabilities Other Than Ships Can Be Decisive. History shows us that naval battles generally occur in the littoral and that geographic features, such as islands, often influence the battle. Moreover, land-based forces can play significant roles. This was true from the Battle of Midway to the Falkland Islands. On the other hand, what also was true was that when land-based forces, especially air forces, came into play, they often were coordinated poorly with naval forces. In future missile-based naval combat, geographic features can be useful to the side that has a fleet design and architecture that can exploit them. They can mask forces from enemy missiles, and they can be turned into threats to the enemy by placing land-launched antiship missiles or electronic deception equipment on them. The Navy has significant land-based aviation resources, such as the P-8A Poseidon and the MQ-4C Triton, and the Air Force potentially could provide long-range bombers and other assets. This is to say that future naval battles likely will not be purely ship-versus-ship engagements. Therefore, fleet design and architecture must take this into account. Unfortunately, while mentioning them tangentially, the three congressionally mandated studies essentially factor out land-based forces. This is a mistake. Fleet design and architecture should integrate them from the outset. This reflects our fourth outside-the-hull insight, which is that in future fights at sea, capabilities other than ships likely will be critical or even decisive.

The Navy’s Strategy Is Based on Factors Other Than Ships. In his “Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority,” the CNO identifies the speed of technology development as one of today’s key driving forces. This highlights the challenge of maintaining a technical lead in weapons and systems. Given that both Russia and China have robust research-and-development programs (including programs to steal and copy U.S. and allied technology), it is reasonable to think that any technological advantage the U.S. Navy attains will be temporary. This suggests that the Navy must be able to field new advances more rapidly than the opposition; in other words, it must assimilate new technology and concepts quickly.

Given the length of time the U.S. defense procurement system requires to field new ship types, the Navy cannot base its strategy for maintaining a technology edge on building new types of ships. Rather, it must focus on building ships in a way that they can be easily and rapidly modified to accommodate new sensors and weapons. Weapon and sensor packages must be designed so they can be mixed and matched and easily installed. As ships and aircraft enter maintenance periods they can be upgraded with the latest capabilities. Beyond the physical aspects of implementing the third offset, the Navy will have to develop training and readiness processes (the CNO calls for “high velocity learning” 6 ) as well as adjustments to organizational structure and culture that facilitate rapid assimilation of new technology and concepts. This is our fifth outside-the-hull insight: the Navy’s strategy for maintaining maritime superiority is based on things other than ship types and characteristics.

There are no doubt other outside-the-hull insights we could uncover, but the five described here are enough to provide a basis for envisioning an alternative approach to fleet design and architecture. The bulk of the ships of the future fleet already exist, so design and architecture must proceed from that basis. The Navy must develop an investment strategy that takes it toward the future fleet. Given the rapid pace of world events, the quicker the Navy can achieve increased offensive punch the better.

While there may be an eventual need for new classes of ships, the immediate need is to create a robust and resilient battle force network. Investment should prioritize the necessary ingredients, including ISR, secure communications, cybersecurity, and processing. Accompanying the equipment investments must be the development of concepts and doctrine, along with the building of a corps of personnel trained to operate the network.

Concurrently, the Navy should accelerate the design and production of a diverse family of missiles, including air-launched versions, for offensive antiship work. Some of these should be housed in either deck-mounted box launchers or—preferably—shipping containers. Another type of missile that should be developed is an advanced, very long-range air defense missile that can provide protection at range for ISR and other assets.

The production of an unmanned tanker aircraft should be sped up so carrier air wings can maintain distant combat air patrol stations. This collection of investments will yield a more lethal Navy relatively quickly. In fact, some of the basics already have been set in motion. Another rapidly available element of the battle force network is the Marine F-35B operating from big-deck amphibious warfare ships. The electronic capabilities of the aircraft will be of great value in all aspects of defending and fighting the emerging battle force network. Amphibious ready groups should deploy with as many F-35Bs as possible.

The Navy should redouble its efforts to develop a joint sea-control doctrine with the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Army. Long-range bombers carrying antiship missiles and expeditionary shore detachments with land-launched missiles will enhance the concept of distributed lethality. Similarly, the Navy must achieve greater levels of integration between its sea-based forces and its maritime patrol and reconnaissance community. Greater cooperation between Tenth Fleet and the forward fleets must occur to make deception operations more effective. Finally, in terms of collaboration, the Navy must undertake patient and nuanced efforts to develop warfighting interoperability with as many nations as are willing. The net effect of such collaboration would be a force more difficult for an enemy to understand and thus to defeat.

We may desire a quick, decisive victory in any future war for any number of reasons, including nuclear escalation risks, but history indicates that wars drag on. The Navy will have to be prepared to “feed the fight” with combat logistics and ships that can stay in the high-end fight longer than a few days. Rearming engaged units with containerized missiles is one idea. Of course, replenishing forces in a hot war zone must be further developed. Moreover, given the potential for significant attrition in a missile-centric fight, the Navy should consider developing a reserve fleet. Since containerized missiles could be put on almost any vessel, and if sensing and decision making are network functions, even commercial ships could be pressed into service as shooters or to perform other functions. In fact, it may be more advantageous to maintain a roster of commercial ships that could be rapidly converted to warships than to maintain a mothball fleet of retired combatants. A fleet of reserve ships requires an expanded Navy Reserve whose sailors must be trained to function in a modern battle force network.

Having explored some implications of thinking outside the hull, we must consider what it allows us to do when we start thinking about ship numbers. The CNO has stated that the choice between combat posture and presence is a false one. In other words, to support national objectives the Navy has to produce both. In a former, less-threatened world, presence was privileged over combat posture. Thus, the Navy acquired the LCS to increase total numbers using a ship that was less expensive and had less combat power. A fleet design that made sense in the early 2000s, however, has been overtaken by events.

In a high-end threat environment, the equation shifts to combat power first, with as much presence as can be generated. A key technology that offers significant help in this is long-range missiles. With them, two advantages emerge: a single ship can engage multiple enemy units, and missiles can be mounted on almost any ship, expanding the types of hulls that can be used as combatants. This is the basis for distributed lethality. If offensive missiles are installed on amphibious ships and service force vessels, then we can do some interesting arithmetic.

In 1987, when the Navy had a total force of 595 ships, 337 were combatants (carriers, cruisers, destroyers, frigates, and attack submarines—not counting SSBNs or amphibious warfare ships). The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments future force study lists 265. 7 However, if missiles were mounted on the 35 amphibious ships called for in the study, the number of offensive shooters would rise to 300, significantly closing the gap. Mounting missiles on some combat logistics force ships brings the future fleet even closer to the combat capability of its 1987 forebear. Moreover, the CNO Assessments Division (N81) study prescribes another 136 surface and undersea unmanned vehicles, which further addresses the difference. 8 It must be noted that this arithmetic only works if missiles become the weapon of decision for the Navy.

Thinking outside the hull allows us to discern the outlines of a future fleet that fights primarily with missiles and uses that logic to define its priority investments. The advantage of that approach is that, at least in the short term, it maximizes the use of existing platforms and promises to yield a much more lethal Navy quicker than if the design was based around numbers and types of hulls from the outset. Certain developing technologies, like the rail gun, electromagnetic weapons, high-velocity projectiles, and various types of unmanned vehicles, will all, if they prove viable, further enhance the Navy’s lethality. However, missile and network technology are within our grasp now, and with a little creative thinking, they will allow the Navy to maintain its maritime superiority
Assuming your network is going to function correctly against a peer enemy that will be targeting your network.
Colin P said:
Assuming your network is going to function correctly against a peer enemy that will be targeting your network.

Agreed.  So how do you harden the network?  Redundancy?  Multiple nodes?  Multiple modes?  Hardwired?  Electronic? Audio? Visual? Line of sight? Broadcast? Highspeed?  Lowspeed? All of the above?

Personally I think it is all of the above.  Semaphore, Heliograph, Aldis, Laser, Radio, Cable and Fibre Optics.
I suspect that an island hopping strategy using Army and Air Force assets to create safe resupply points would be the way to go. I wonder if Coastal defenses will reappear when laser and other active defenses improve? 
One thing which comes to mind reading this is that speed is going to be much more important. While ships will not be able to outrace mach 6 anti ship missiles or even torpedoes coming in at over 40 Kts, the idea of being able to bring missile carriers in and out of theatre, massing forces by bringing lots of launchers into range or dispersing your forces to get the launchers out of range will still be important.

The best way to combine high speeds, long range sensors and other elements of this sort of missile drive kill web might be to take to the sky, in the form of more naval aircraft. Being high up gives you greater sensor range, and aircraft, even large cargo aircraft, are at least an order of magnitude faster than any conceivable ship. Naval task forces might be best accompanied by large UAV/UCAVs which can scan over the horizon, sprint out to provide missile coverage (or missile defense) and perform other tasks. An interesting question is if they should be career launched, land based or even amphibious (seaplanes), or even if using aerostats (blimps) would be a viable alternative.

Ships themselves may have to be "disposable" since armouring and protecting a ship against a mach six antiship missile might be too complex, a series of "Liberty ships" with the sort of deck space for air delivered missile "boxes" might be a useful way of thinking of a surface warship in the future. Once again there will have to be an analysis of size, speed and costs of these ships; do we want "Corvettes" with one or two containers on deck, or larger ships with a dozen missile containers?

Finally, the analysis seems to be silent on submarines. New classes like the USS Virginia and the Indian Arrant class demonstrate that smaller boats of 6-7000 tons displacement (essentially large attack submarines) can carry a large and versatile missile battery as well. If the RCN had 9 Arrant equivalent submarines, we could have one off each coast at all times, a considerable improvement over the current situation.
Thinking about this even more, if you can deliver ISO containers full of missiles via helicopter, why not deliver "everything" by container. Shipping by ISO container revolutionized transportation around the world, but modern navies haven't fully embraced that yet. This would also have lots of benefits ashore as well, including being able to use port facilities almost anywhere, being able to easily ship things across Canada from coast to coast if needed, and support of land forces using containerized freight would also be easy.
The original containers were much smaller, focusing mostly on 10', 20' containers may be the way to go for the Navy. I suspect the economic impact of losing a VLCS to war would be sobering. I suspect the navy fears to many eggs in one basket and with good reason. I could see a "Harbour defense vessel" Basically a freighter with good cranes and small well deck & helicopter deck. It would arrive at the resupply harbour, deploy anti-torpedo defenses (nets, hydrophones) , anti ship missile defense, patrol craft, both manned and unmanned. Also Underwater Autonomous Vehicles for patrol the entrances. The mothership would have some defensive armament to help bolster those defenses. So your mobile armada support would consist of one of these ships, a docking ship to provide mobile dock, a submersible ship to act as a drydock, Munition ship designed to quickly reload missiles and ammunition to warships and can handle reloading 2 ships at once. A landing ship to deliver ground forces to secure the harbour from the land side and deliver more land based defenses. This "harbour" would be the transition point for civilian ships to deliver supplies and the AOR's to resupply. Air cover would have to be from a CV unless there is a airfield to hold the fighters and other aircraft.   
Thinking about this a little bit more, I suspect the biggest sticking point of all would be finding a suitable helicopter that can carry containers full of missiles, supplies or other things that would also work in a naval environment. For picking things up and carrying them around, the "Skycrane", suitably updated and navalized would seem to be ideal, at least in carrying things from the shore to the ships and back again. The KMax might be a suitable contender for the shipboard support helicopter, especially the robotic version experimented with by the USMC (although it does not seem suitable to be used for other roles like ASW), and the ARES concept *might* be suitable as well, depending on the size and weight it can be scaled up to carry.


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Israel Just Launched A Containerized Ballistic Missile From The Deck Of A Ship
Long-range weapons the size and shape of shipping containers can turn almost any ship quickly into an impromptu missile boat.



According to IAI, a notional complete containerized LORA battery would include a command and fire control container and four launchers, each with four missiles, plus four reload vehicles. On land, trucks would carry these components, giving them additional mobility and the ability to escape a first strike. At sea, the self-contained nature of the system means a customer could easily load it onto any vessel with the appropriate space, quickly turning it into a stand-off weapon platform. Since the command section has all the equipment necessary to launch the missiles, no other modifications to the ship are necessary.

I don't know if I would trust high-tech weapons system from a company that manages to make three spelling mistakes on a single slide that only has ten words on it in total.  [:D 


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Silly bugger lawyers.  Always assuming words mean something.  ;D

Meanwhile IAI hires mathematicians, physicists, engineers and rocket scientists - none of whom can write a complete sentence in their own language - but strangely enough their missiles can knock speeding bullets out of the sky.

Tomahawk6 on the Japanese XASM-3 got me to thinking again - sorry.

Ohio Class SSBN - armed with up to 24 Trident missiles in individual silos
Ohio Class SSGN - 22 of 24 silos converted to take a Vertical Launch System for 7 Tomahawk Cruise Missiles

LA Class SSN - armed with a mix of torpedoes, Harpoons and Tomahawks launched from 21" torpedo tubes
Virginia Class SSN Blocks I to IV - armed with 21" torpedo tubes for torpedoes, Harpoons and Tomahawks and 2x Virginia Payload Tubes each capable of launching 7x Tomahawks.
Virginia Class SSN Block V - enhanced with the Virginia Payload Module to carry an additional 4x Virginia Payload Tubes each capable of launching 7x Tomahawks.

I wonder if the Virginia Payload Tube could be containerized and dropped into the sea by air or by ship?

A submersible container with 7 missiles (potentially Ramjet Tomahawks?) that could be dropped into contested waters or anywhere in the high seas within range of the targets of interest.  Kind of like a strategic Captor mine.

The effect without the need for a vessel and crew.






The days of manned subs may be numbered, take away crew and the sub becomes smaller and quieter. Finding ways for the sub to passively listen and correctly interpret noise will be the main challenge. 
A future navy will be a very 3D force, more so than even today. Submarines, surface ships, aircraft (including high altitude, long duration UAV and UCAV vehicles) and even elements based in space will all nave to be networked together to find and prosecute targets. Thinking back to the late stages of the SDI ("Star Wars") program of the 1980's, there was a conceptual proposal to orbit a thousand or more "brilliant pebbles" kinetic energy interceptors so there would always be a large number in view of the Soviet missile fields. It turned out that there was no real or conceptual "centralized" command and control architecture capable of running the system during wartime, so the small interceptors would have been programmed to communicate with each other to coordinate autonomous and independent attacks against ICBM's and SLBMs.

This suggests that the Navy may have to ensure that they have some similar sort of methodology to keep all the interconnected pieces communicating and coordinating without recourse to centralized command and control nodes. This may be especially important with robotic subs, surface ships and UAV's, and especially with robotic weapons like the putative missile launching robot Chris suggested upthread.

So it isn't "just" about how future warships are going to be designed and built, but also how they are going to work together to get the job done.
Interesting if true.....

The Chinese seem to be claiming that they have real-time, instantaneous, under-water communications over long ranges (hundreds of miles anyway).

China is looking to guard its territorial claims in the Asia-Pacific from what it considers U.S. aggression, and Beijing's latest maritime tool could catch the Pentagon's submarines faster than ever.

China claims it released 12 unmanned drones, known as gliders, into the depths of the South China Sea to collect environmental data, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported Sunday. The outlet described the high-tech glider, known as Haiyi (meaning "sea wings" in Mandarin Chinese"), as an underwater robot that was more efficient, more durable and used less energy than its predecessors, all while instantly relaying data underwater, a feat not even the U.S. has mastered. The scientific devices were not weaponized but could be used to instantly detect U.S. submarines traveling in waters China claims as its own.

"The data is being transmitted back to a land-based laboratory in real time," the expedition's chief scientist, Yu Jiancheng, told the Xinhua News Agency, according to an article published Wednesday by the South China Morning Post. The piece quoted Yin Jingwei, dean of the college of underwater acoustic engineering at Harbin Engineering University, as saying the project's success, if true, "is definitely a breakthrough."

Interesting that even the prof at Harbin is cautious in his assessment.

For most Canadian needs, we could go to a "cut down" version of the dedicated car carrier hull. The large internal volume can be purposed for many different roles (and indeed a design capable of receiving containerized freight or weapons via helicopter can be reconfigured on the fly, so to speak).

I can see this being used as the hull for the AOR replacement(s), and "magazine" ships to support naval task forces, with missile load outs for whatever the main mission/threat is, but guidance etc delivered from other ships or platforms. With the missile pods taken out, the ship could be used to transport troops and equipment, or deliver humanitarian aid.

A flexible hull like that could be used by the naval reserve, to add "surge" capabilities to the RCN and be the 80% solution to many of our needs (specialized ships are still needed for things like patrolling the arctic waters and ASW warfare, for example).


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Do you have any idea how poorly those car carriers sea keep, or what they look like on radar?

They do suffer from severe top hamper, a cutdown version would reduce that effect, but the radar image would still be significant. With the advent of unmanned refueling UAV, I wonder if we will eventually see smaller refueling carriers, that fly only drones and helicopters. They would provide refueling services and possibly communications and surveillance UAV's for a fleet or region. I suppose the takeoff and landing characteristics of a refueling UAV would be the deciding factor.

As for underwater comms, I worked with SFU Underwater Research Lab in the 90's while they were trying to develop autonomous underwater vehicles. It is incredibly hard to send data through the ocean, even for a short distance. I suspect any underwater comms the Chinese have is limited to very simple information and the rest will be dumped through a surface antenna on occasional pop ups.