Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Myth Of The Invulnerable Weapon

The MSM has picked up on the infighting around the US Navy's planned DD(X) super-ship. As usual they pick up on the dumbest arguments against it and miss the real story.


The DD(X) is designed to fight close inshore against nations such as Iran, North Korea and China all of which have big coastlines and can field lots of nasty little boats. Here's what the MSM says.

The United States navy has launched a ferocious campaign to counter critics of its new stealth super-ship who say the vessel will cost more than any warship in history and yet still be vulnerable to attack by terrorists.

Each vessel is expected to cost up to $4.7 billion (£2.6 billion) but skeptics have said the ship could be badly damaged by the sort of low-technology rocket salvo fired in Aqaba yesterday.

Senior naval officers say the DD (X) is vital for the navy's future and its electronics are so sophisticated that it would avoid many threats... its stealth technology made its radar signature 50 times smaller than a normal destroyer. The first America's enemies would know of the ship's presence would be when they saw it. If it was hit, it had been designed to fight on.

The navy says the ships also pack a fearsome punch, with vast arrays of guided missiles. The two 155mm guns can fire satellite-guided shells up to 100 miles inland...that would allow the ship to bombard Paris from the Channel.

That last example looks like a gratuitous attempt to sway US public opinion!

The congressional critics don't understand that every weapon has vulnerabilities. For example all US aircraft carriers are vulnerable to very quiet German-powered diesel submarines firing Russian wake-homing torpedoes. Even if the carrier stays afloat, without propellers it can't steam into the wind, so it's ability to launch and recover planes is compromised. But the US navy isn't scrapping its the carriers - but tracking threats from satellites and attcaking them with destroyers, hunter-killer subs, missiles and planes.

So the question isn't whether the DD(X) is invulnerable, but whether it can do its job as part of a mixture of ships, planes and subs in a range of hostile environments. And there are plenty of more worrying threats than Katyusha rockets.

The other argument against the DD(X) is that upgraded WW2 battleships can do the same job. It's is a good argument, since they are almost unsinkable and a damaged ship can be repaired while a sunk one is gone. But there are only two of them available. Still, Navy types are traditionalists (which is why they still have the battlewaggons). If they've decided battleships can't do the job, I'm inclined to believe them.

The real issue is picked up by a post by Murdoc at the irritating-but-useful DefenseTech: the shipbuilders are suffering from (or inflicting) massive cost inflation. This is traditional and has to be painfully fixed by competition and nasty nit-picking Pentagon procurement and program managers (they have plenty of these).

The pro-upgraded battleship comments on the Murdoc post are interesting, but didn't convince me, so I vote for the DD(X), completely unswayed by their ability to pot the Quai d'Orsay...