All right, armchair admirals: Deal with a small-boat swarm

All right, armchair admirals: Deal with a small-boat swarm

Chris Rawley has a great call-out for comments today at Information Dissemination, where he asks readers to try to solve a tricky naval problem: How do you handle a “swarm” of small, fast attackers using the ships, aircraft and equipment in today’s fleet?  This is the scenario he’s laid out:

You’ve got 1) a single FLT II destroyer with armed MH-60 Seahawk helicopters; OR 2) A pair of littoral combat ships equipped with the surface warfare module (assuming the Griffin surface-to-surface missile); MH-60 and two armed Fire Scout unmanned helicopters; OR 3) a squadron (say 10) of offshore patrol craft (use the River Class for consistency) with embarked (armed) Fire Scouts.

The threat: a multi-access swarm of 15 inshore attack craft (mostly crew-served weapons/RPGs) and 5 fast attack craft with modern-ish anti-ship cruise missiles. Assume no external support in this case other than embarked organic air. How would you defend against/defeat this threat using each of the given force structures? … Go.

My two cents: You do not want to let these swarming attackers close to within gun range, because that’s going to be messy at best and deadly at worst if their crews are willing to blow themselves up. (They will be.) So the idea of a “Waterworld”-style furball between your offshore patrol vessels and the swarming bad guys will hurt you more than it will them, because the attackers won’t treat it as a fair fight — they’ll ram anyone they can and set off their explosives while your guys are trying to fight boat-to-boat. So the best bet, of these choices, is a DDG or LCS.

The rest depends on the effectiveness of the LCS’ surface-to-surface missiles. In the golden LCS scenarios of yesteryear, the ship was able to wheel around at standoff range while firing its missiles at attackers it targeted with its Fire Scout, and this seems like the most effective strategy here. The ship has plenty of weapons aboard and you’ll only need one hit per attacker for at least a mobility kill — assuming, of course, the missiles are available and they work as advertised. But LCS’ first SSM, the Non-Line of Sight missile, was cancelled, and its new one, the Griffin, is years away at best. The Fire Scouts and MH-60s from either the LCS or the DDG don’t carry that many missiles, so even if they get a kill with each shot, you’ll still wind up with, say, 10 swarming attackers left to deal with. Then, for the LCS, you’ll need to put the “Thunder in Paradise” doctrine into effect, get the ship up to full speed and see how well you can finish off the stragglers with guns while everyone is turning, bouncing and splashing.

As for a DDG, you’ve got no choice but to let your helos do their magic at standoff range, and then get ready to try engage with the 5-inch while keeping as much distance as possible between you and the swarm. CIWS Block1B in surface-sweep mode also will be your friend here, but many of the newer DDGs only have one, and those things break a lot. The best weapon for this scenario, although it wasn’t one of our options, is probably an AH-1 Cobra. Then again, do Marine gunship pilots train for this kind of scenario? Maybe they should…

What do you think?

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If I was on the LCS all we have to do really is to show the bad guys our really cool AUTOMATION and how few crew members we need to man the ship. If that doesn’t get their attention we can show our really really BIG ENGINES, if that doesn’t impress them, we can show them our HUGE flight deck, and finally we can bore them to death by giving them a tour of our MASSIVE ability to carry troops and Humvees, they will certainly turn them around. If they still don’t give up the fight then we can sit them down and lecture them on the FUTURE awesomeness of our vaporware brand MISSION modules and how they will make our enemies pee in their pants and give thanks to Alllllllllaaaaah that the US Navy didn’t use this amazing warpedSHIP against them. ;-D

A pair of MH-60s can carry a total of 16 Hellfires between the two of them. I would think that coupled with Fire Scouts lighting up boats and the Griffins from the LCS, 15 boats should be done pretty quickly.

It’s really the same strategy in all three cases. Maintain standoff and use your helicopters to engage independently and spot for your onboard weapons. The LCSs would probably do best, followed by a tie of the Destroyer and the patrol boat swarm. The Destroyer is too big and movement-constrained in coastal water, and the counter-boat swarm doesn’t have a ton of range on the onboard weapons.

First thing is to have a properly implemented Diversity Policy. Because we all know Diversity=Success! I’m very skeptical the enemy will even be able to pull off this action because they do not have any Diversity Policy at all. None! I don’t understand how any military can hope to succeed in the 21st century without a proper Diversity Policy.. In fact, it’s clear to me (as a certified Diversity Trainer who specializes in military and governmental Diversity) that the Libyan rebels are stalemated primarily due to their lack of attention to Diversity. They keep talking about needing tank, artillery, and air support — but that’s missing the forest for the trees.

If I were running the Libyan rebellion the first order of business would have been to setup a committee structure and commission an independent panel to deliver a report on Diversity and Excellence within 3 months.

As we all know, only a deep and lasting commitment to Diversity can defeat a small boat swarm.

This is the nightmare scenario for the LCS that I and others have raised here in the past. This platform can’t really defend itself close to shore; at sea its hopelessly outgunned even by most corvettes. Actually, it really can’t defend itself. Perhaps it would be better suited for drug interdiction? But then again, drug runners have automatic weapons.…
@Earlydawn is corrrect: maintain standoff and let the helos do the talking. I would dispute the contention that DDs are too big to operate in close; DDGs can operate close to shore. We have done it in the past–many times. (Remember Market Time?) Is this the optimum use of the platform? Of course not, but then again we wouldn’t be reading about “PUEBLO, Part II” if they confronted a swarm of fast little boats. Likely there’d be RPG damage and some casualties, but the little boats would be the ones having the really bad day.

By the way, DDs still carry crew served automatic weapons don’t they? I recall 4 50cals, 2 each port & starboard.

MANPADS cover a very small, low-altitude area. Most anti-shipping missiles are generally done at near-standoff range. I believe the Navy’s FAST teams originally had a specialty that revolved around Stinger sections, but I haven’t seen anything regarding them in a long time.

Good Afternoon Folks,

I don’t really see a problem here for the US forces. First the operational distance from the base line by the US forces is not given, but lets assume that it’s at least 25 nautical miles. Currently the closest US ships can get to another nations territorial waters with out authorization for higher up the chain of command.

Most likely this distance would be closer to 50–100 nautical miles, de[ending on what country it is and the zone of economic interest, which would give more time for the US to come up with an engagement strategy.

The attacking boats/ships 20 in all would have basically three choices of attack formations. A full on assault by the entire group, spread out the group in a formation where the US would have to attack each as an individual target or in cluster of one fast attack craft and 4 inshore craft.

To the commander of the US forces he has at least 45 minutes, most likely much longer before these attackers come in range of his/her group. Using his/her AGES he/she can watch them form into formation(s) and see if any air come up. With that much time if there is an aircraft carrier with in 200 nautical miles, the game is over.

I would think that most of the time would be getting clarification on the ROE’s from higher up in command and permission to engage.

But just to play the game. Really he/she has only five targets to engage the five fast attack craft, no problem there regard less of which attack formation the enemy would chose. The lightly armed inshore craft would them have one of two choices a suicide mission or turn around and go back.

The tiding up would most likely be done by the MH-60’s and if they needed exercise the armed “Fire Scouts”.

The Chinese (PLAN) tried this last Fall in the Sea of Japan, they rushed to the 12 mile territorial limit, made a few faces daring A US DD to fire on them and then turned around, there is no reason to believe that the scenario given would end any other way.

Battle over. No US blood on the water.

Byron Skinner

from the BAE website:

Bofors 57 Mk3 gun system (US denomination 57 mm Mk110) with its high rate of fire and immediate switch capability between optimized ammunition types, including the new smart 57 mm 3P all-target ammunition, provides high survivability and tactical freedom at all levels of conflict.


6-mode programmable all-target ammunition.
Air burst capability for small boat defence and engagement of concealed targets.
220 rounds per minute rate of fire and super accuracy gives short firing sequences.
120 rounds ready to fire with immediate shift between two types of ammunition.
On-mount muzzle velocity radar.
Computer-controlled burst pattern.
Remotely-operated with gyro-stabilized local control back-up.
Maximum range: 17,000 metres

Don’t you swabbies pack 20mm seawiz, or whatever? 20mm & mop up the leftovers with twin 50’s, nuff said. You don’t need a missile to destroy a speedboat you pack of button pushers.

And then that one mount fails due to Daddy-Can’t-Program-Manage.

If one wants something “littoral” they want a ship that isn’t gold-plated and has several gun systems on it.

In the real world, I can’t imagine any ship getting authorization to fire on small boats that are even 10nm away, even if everyone in the world knows they are a clear threat.

Whatever is done, I can see happening only at the last minute and at close range. That means a bit can be done with the helicopters (which I can assume would have been launched when the boats were still a distance away), but there will be a lot of work for this: http://​en​.wikipedia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​B​o​f​o​r​s​_​5​7​_​m​m​_​gun

Only problem is you really need at least two of them. A couple of http://​en​.wikipedia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​P​h​a​l​anx (or equivalent) wouldn’t hurt either.

Missiles are nice, but you can’t be firing 15 Harpoons to deal with glorified speedboats. The only hope I see on the missile front is that something like Israel’s new Iron Flame gets adapted to a lightweight, self-contained naval mount. That would be the perfect solution for this sort of thing.

This is a threat you cant fully prepare for — especialy with current armament abord ships, this type of threat is most dangerous in straights and near canals where you always have a lot of traffic and within sight of land meaning you could recieve shore based attacks from portable weapons platforms as well. While 50 cals are manned during these transits around the ship, missiles and main gun are not much use if they are coming from both sides at once. The best thing they could do is mout a couple of manual aimed 20 or 25mm gatling guns port and stbd to handle swarm attacks on the main decks, backed up by the 50’s and shoulder fired rockets from the upper decks, helos can help if you can get them in the air, and main gun/missiles to engage shore targets if encountered or to engage larger boats.

You didn’t specify which MH-60 model was available, but I believe both MH-60R and MH-60S are capable of carrying crew-served miniguns in addition to Hellfire missiles. Those would be my first choice. Engage with missiles at long range, take care of stragglers with miniguns, and only engage with surface ship (DDG or LCS) as last resort.

FYI, here’s what they are shooting at you : http://​www​.sinodefenceforum​.com/​w​o​r​l​d​-​a​r​m​e​d​-​f​o​rce
•Dimensions: ◦Length: 2500 mm
◦Diameter: 180 mm
◦Wingspan: 568 mm

• Weight: 105 kg
•Warhead: 30 kg, semi-armor piecing
•Powerplant: twin thrust chamber, solid rocket motor
•Speed: Mach 0.85
•Range: 4–15 km
•Guidance: Electro-optics/INS
•Kill probability: 0.85
•Developer: Hongdu Aviation Industry Corporation

Many ships these days do have manually operated Mk.38 25mm chain guns. Problem is you need to take out those boats with AShMs at a greater range.

Cobra works, navy already has it.

And the Iranian version of the SA-14 if you are in yhe air:

Interesting that an IOWA class BB in their 80s/90s config would easily prevail in this and even more complex scenarios. Multiple, rapid-firing, dual 5″ gun mounts (with an endless supply of ammo types), 25mm cannon, Harpoon, redundant fire control, multiple CIWS, helo capable, RPVs, and tough enough to take a hit and keep fighting.

My one cent says, what if the enemy is equip with 100+ SS-N-22 Moskit cruise missile per enemy ship, how can we deal with it?

IIRC the SWM also has twin 30mm turrets.

If the boats get too close the LCS can speed away and blast at the pursuers as they try and catch up. The pursuers cannot do too much bobbing & weaving if they want to catch up. The 30mm guns (mk46 mounts) have a combined ammo bin of 1600 rounds of multi-mode ammo.

Personally I would have gone for the Millennium Gun as it has a larger warhead and a MUCH higher rate of fire.
. http://​tinyurl​.com/​M​i​l​l​3​5​m​m​Gun
This has the added benefit of increased CIWS defense vs massed ATGM shots while being perused.

The LCS could have been the right solution for this role, but currently it seems to be little more than a fast moving helicopter platform.

The 57mm Mk.110 seems like a decent (secondary) weapon, but I do wonder we didn’t go with a newer version of the Oto Melara 76mm Super Rapid series instead. Earlier versions were used on the OHP class frigates.

When you consider the LCS is nearly 3,000 tons, we probably should have a 5″ gun on the things.

Our biggest issue here is we got away from the WW-2 thought processes of going gun-2-gun with other forces. We think that a Harpoon/Tomahawk/SM-x are the answer to anything. A DDG with a single 5in? And if that gun fowls you are down to CIWS.

Yes, we need to be seeing vessel defense being a concern again, Dual 5in, fore and aft, add to than 2 autocannons, say the guns we see on Strykers or Bradleys on each side. Add to that 3 mounts on each side of something 50cal; aside from onboard armoury weapons for man-man boarding (mp5).

A Destroyer or Frigate need to be able to do not only point defense for a CBG/ARG but also defend themselves; but we still have the Cold-War mindset and we are forgetting we are now in a terrorist/pirate world where ALCMS don’t solve all the problems.

What sort of small boat is going to carry 100+ Sunburn AShMs? Those things are big.

your right, anything smaller than a 3in is just useless simply because it lacks range. It doesn’t matter how “fast” it can shoot, a single 5in round hitting the target from 15 miles out is much more effective than a bunch of little bullets reaching out just a few miles.

If the LCS ever had to stare down a corvette or a frigate it would be facing 3 and 5 in guns and the LCS couldn’t do a damn thing about it-a single hit and it all over for the LCS.

SM2 can be used in the surface to surface mode, I just don’t know what the envelope is. But they were quite effective in tearing up the Iranian frigate in operation praying mantis

Wouldn’t it be nearly as effective to re-deploy those moth-balled chopper-carriers the USMC used to use during amphib assaults and load them with refurbed HueyCobras?

Or pulverize them with swarms of our own UAVs…

I am not so sure the Navy would reject an AH 64 BUT it’s size and non folding blades make it near impossible to work off anything but a CV or such. AH 64 have good range and with tanks excellent. They could use the new Marine AZ Cobra.

But you all have to remember if the situation reaches this level this ship isn’t going to be by itself.

Honestly, I just don’t see that if the OPFOR is smart and has good coordination that the US vessel(s) is/are likely to survive. Properly done you’ll have the attack done in a confined area with little opportunity for advanced warning or permission to respond coming from NCA. I think an attack from all four quadrants is likely to succeed — assuming the speedboats are actually quite capable.

But now that our vessel(s) has/have been destroyed they’ll have to deal with the possible retaliation against the attacker. That deterrent is the reason swarm attacks aren’t all that likely in the very near future unless the Iranian regime believes it is about to be wiped out, IMHO.

What gives me the greatest hope is that my knowledge of warfare at sea is admittedly pretty limited.

Anyway, the best I can figure for a defense is to head for open sea as fast as I can if that also means that I can maintain distance as long as possible. If I’m swarmed from multiple directions I’d want to prioritize the boats toward which I’m heading and hope that the combination of closing speed and my having a more stable platform means that my fire will be more effective and can prevent successful ramming by explosive-laden boats. Then I want plenty of .50 cal machine guns to work the boats on the stern and which are approaching from port and starboard — again, I should have the more stable platform and hopefully lengthening the engagement time and superior platform stability will work to my advantage.

But then, much of this is predicated on the idea that anti-shipping missiles launched from a high-speed boat bouncing around in even mild seas will have targeting difficulties. If they don’t have those problems (and I don’t know if they do), then I have even more dismal hopes for the success of my “plan”.

Now I’m seriously looking forward to people telling me how I’m wrong. I figure I’ll learn a few things that way. So thank you in advance for savaging my ideas.

This threat has already been resloved. You people are grabbing at straws. Cancel JSF, NGB, KC-X, B-2, and F-22. This “swarming” boat issue is a none starter. This is Lockeed and Northrop Grumman’s attempt to minipulate the DOD to purchase additional wasted platforms such as DEAD Stealth Boats (Bring another Thousand). Fired Mullins and Senior Air Force Leadership now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Do not believe all this crap being spewed by Integrators.

GAU-8 and lots of ammo. Or a OTO 76mm SuperRapido.

Did I mention that we do not need any Naval Ships to help defeat Swarming boat issues??? This is without JSF, or F-22. Imagine That!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yeah, you really need to ignore Roland. He has, absolutely, no clue at all.

This is where you do the unexpected and arm your air asset with cluster bombs. Lets say the Fire Scout can carry two and the MH 60 carry 4+. In a way it is like using a shotgun instead of trying to hit a moving target with a bullet.

We should be ready for ships like the Ustinov, Russians Moving ‘Carrier Killer’ Cruiser has been designed as a surface strike ship with some anti-air and ASW capability. It is fitted with sixteen SS-N-12 Sandbox nuclear-capable supersonic anti-ship missiles, which are mounted in four pairs on either side of the superstructure.

The LCS reminds me of those puffed-up on ‘roids over-muscled professional body builders with the “shrunken,” tiny, useless, man-part. They are really really proud of their muscles but they have no “weapon” if you know what I mean ;-D

I appreciate the fact that you don’t claim to be an expert with these matters, and is upfront about that. Unlike a certain Byron Skinner.

Byron makes a good point. There is no context here. What is your mission? Why are you attacking the “swarm”? Are you escorting ships, clearing an area before a amphibious assault, protecting MCMs, or merely just loitering around waiting to be attacked? Why not just avoid the area until the helos and fixed wing guys have killed the swarm? Why not use AH-64s flying from land bases? How is the “swarm” going to find you if you are not stupid enough to go charge into it with all guns blazing? What’s the sea state? Visibility? 5 Missile armed FACs is something like half the Iranian Navy, why isn’t someone else around?

And Byron, I have regularly operated within 25NM of another nations territorial waters with out authorization for higher up the chain of command, including the one most likely one in question.

The scenario applies to essentially one place, the Straits of Hormuz. Its the only place we are going to be hemmed enough for this sort of thing to even be remotely possible to try against the USN. Even then, it’s a surprise attack type of thing during a period of escalating tensions with Iran, and it’s a one trick pony. The day after it occurs, USN and USAF strike aircraft are going to swoop in and bomb the Iranian navy and revolutionary guard back to the bronze age.

Except the cost a fortune to maintain and can only be in one place at a time. The BBs were cool, but putting them back in service to smash fiberglass boats when all you need is Cobras on LCS is a little overkill.

A little close for the M134, I would think using the 30mm mine counter measure gun would give nice stand off range and punch lovely 30mm holes in boats.

Use a $6 Billion DDG-1000. It surely must have something on it for that price

Haul ass to blue water, make smoke screen aft and lay a spreading field of mines in your wake.

BTW, is an LCS sufficiently crewed to man anything resembling a damage control team? After all, one can expect to take hits in combat. Is the Littoral Crap Ship as deficient in taking punches as it is in doling them out?

Let’s think out of the box, using current technologies;

Mount TOW launchers, like the Army type that was mobile on small vehicles. Wire guided missiles that can project accurate fire close in on small commercially built craft.

How hard would that be to retro fit on a ship? Aside from the idiotic acquisition and testing matrices our logistic folks enjoy now, we could make this happen in a few months if the folks in the five sided wind tunnel would put politics and rivalry aside.

The problem with using helos against swarming surface raiders is,
you might as well factor in if they have RPGs, crew-served HMGs and even light autocannon (anything from 23-57mmAA extemporized from land-based AA systems?), then they most likely have access to MANPADS and even actual integrated lightweight SAMs on the “modern-ish” FACs,
so those helos run risk of needing to be on alert to dodge incoming fire to the point they may be more of a liability than an asset (no terrain to mask behind while at sea).
Especially moreso in the case of the unmanned Fire Scouts: without the situational awareness of at least two sets of human eyes in each helo (Sea Hawks have more), the UAVs are too likely to be lost to hostile AA fire.

Whoever the “heroes” (sarcasm there) are who thought such an idea thru for the LCS, they obviously (but obviously foolishly) only planned for best-case scenarios where the game would only ever be played when the US had the guaranteed advantage all the time.
If anything, the last decade of conflicts should be a wake up call telling our policy makers and doctrine writers that we don’t always have the best-case-scenario advantage in our corner.

Listen, we have studied this problem and it isn’t as easy as just pick the right weapon and shoot them out of the water. There are swarming tactics I can’t talk about for which there are no known countermeasure with today’s weapons. These craft are nearly invisible on radar (think 1 m RCS), so with horizon limitations, you may not even see them with ship radar until they are 25 nm out and then you still have to identify them and determine intent, and weapons capability all while they maneuver innocently in and among all the neutral clutter in a crowded waterway. A decision to kill or disable a craft in that situation is not one that is made quickly. By the time you know you are under attack you are probably already within their weapons range. If they attack simultaneously from all direction you won’t be able to maneuver your helos around in time to get them all before at least some of them can fire weapons. There are answers but I think it does require new technology. My bet is on a combination of swarming air and sea weapons (could you guess from my handle :-).

I do agree that we probably should have kept the rear 5″ gun like on the Spruance class. But currently Burke class destroyers and the like do have manually operated Mk.38 25mm autocannons on the side. These are nasalized versions of the same M242 Bushmaster 25mm autocannon used by the Bradley.

Going into the future we probably should have an improved dual-purpose CIWS to replace the Phalanx.

Modify the ships gun control radars for on-horizon targeting for the CWIS. Send all air assets in hover-mode in guard around your fleet. They know we’re not going to waste a surface-to-surface missile on small targets. Firehawks and MH-60 with mounted Dragons will do a fine job cutting these puddle jumpers up.

If the scenario is small swarming raiders armed with crew-served weapons and RPG types, the actual firing can’t occur beyond a few km, if even that: that perfectly puts those unarmored boats within range of the LCS’ guns ( even 50-cal and M-240 would be effective beyond 800m). The key is taking out the larger possibly-missile-armed FAC at a distance, then go for the little guys. The bigger ship is probably acting as the command component in such a swarming tactic: take that out, and organization of the swarm is mostly lost. What needs principally to be done is the USN needs to adequately revise ROEs to allow quicker determination of these threats far enough away that they can put up sufficient deterrent before it escalates into a full-fledged close-in melee scenario. One LCS couldn’t go it alone (too small a crew to man enough deck weapons and do damage control), not against more than a dozen raiders and FACs. So ROE might need to involve “battle buddy” tactics of at least always two or more LCS operating closely together.

Just use the DDG-51’s quad packed ESSMs in combo with the MH-60s carrying hellfires or penguins (though the latter have started to be retired). Then the 5in gun can hit whatever gets through the initial salvo once they are within 13 miles if you are worried about a suicide attack. The Phalanx should have little problem knocking the “modern-ish” missiles out of the sky, but maybe keep some ESSMs ready to engage them at a longer range. The 51s have enough speed to maneuver for the best firing and frustrated enemy attack runs.
The LCS squadron (2 ships) would want some speed to do the same as the 51s, maneuver to keep the enemy changing direction and give each other support. The SeaRAM on LCS-2 has a 90% kill rate in tests so it’s 11 missiles shouldn’t do too badly. The LCS-1 has the RIM-116 launcher with 21 shots so it would be even better in this case. The 57mm and griffin missiles would cut the boats to pieces, especially if the helos covered the gap between the two LCSs and added another flank to the enemy. No contest for those two types, not with this small of a swarm.
The Offshore Patrol Craft are going to have to launch all their Fire Scouts and get them into the fight quickly to stunt the enemy assault and break up formations. Each chopper should be able to take down a boat or two with focus on the 5 vessels carrying the anti-ship missiles. The remaining 5–10 vessels will have to be engaged up close and dirty. The main problem for them will be from the anti-ship missiles, so those boat will need to be neutralized early. While you may lose a few boats, this should still be a win.

1.You need to kill all 16 targets at >15km or you lose. That isn’t going to be a gun from a ship.

2. You have to stay about 8km away while shooting with a helo or the SA-14 might kill the helo.

3. So you need a 20+km weapon from the boat that can deconflict on 16 targets in moderate sea states and possibly with a marine layer. OR, you need a > 10km weapon from a helo (and the ability to get the helo in place >20km from the boat) that can quickly kill 16 targets again with reasonable sea states and a possible marine layer.

Anyone who has ever tried to hit moving tank target with a wire guided or laser designated missle will tell you that no MH-60 fired Hellfire will ever hit a small craft speeding bobbing and weaving in the ocean on its way to a suicide mission with the mother ship. A hellfire fired from an AH-64 or AH-1 will take out a building, and sometimes a moving tank, but the odds of hitting that jinking speed boat are slim. Better come up with another MH-60 weapon system such as chain gun, and a crew fired CIWS for the LCS/DDG.

I am not so sure the Navy would reject an AH 64 BUT it’s size and non folding blades make it near impossible to work off anything but a CV or such. AH 64 have good range and with tanks excellent. They could use the new Marine AZ Cobra. I think the Apache has 30 cal and AZ Cobra has 20 cal weapons.

You all have forgotten the blimp and all sorts RPV that can link with the the above platforms that gives an element of surprise.

Also if you are operating around with one ship like spoken of here without some other “big brother” being around well someone has not done their job. But it is always fun to speculate. Blimps and battleships — wow the more things change the more they stay the same. I like bringing back the BB.

I agree you need to take out the FAC first in the given scenario, mainly for the weapon. The swarm organization is not significantly degraded by taking out the “command” craft. Tactics allow continued operation so long as they have communications. That is the key, not the command craft. But if all they have is RPGs as defined in the scenario they will pose much less of a threat.
I was speaking more generally about the problem where weapons aren’t neatly assigned to vessel classes, you don’t necessarily know which boats carry which weapons or even which ones may be fast attack craft, or even if they are hostile, or if they are do they have hostile intent. I doubt you will see ROEs loosen up, particularly in crowded waterways.Buddy tactics are effective: increases situational awareness and total manpower and weapons that can be focused on the threat. Without that, I think we need to improve our ability to engage an enemy using swarming tactics. There are a lot of people seriously worried about this threat. A number of us believe that countering swarm tactics requires using swarming tactics.

I haven’t personally tried this :-), but appreciate your analysis of the difficulty of accomplishing this mission against a small, fast-moving, highly maneuverable target. Not to mention one that may be shooting back at you! That is why I believe we need unmanned systems that can provide targeting and small, fast missiles/torpedos that can be effectively deployed against such a swarm. What we have now is insufficient for the job.

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You’re throwing out the baby with the bath water.

My proposed solution, the 100-“Hellfire”-rack (meaning for example: Two 7 x 7 “Hellfires” on each side of each MH-60) takes care of 99 % of the problem posed by this naval exercise.

The very last 1 % to total success = hitting the speedboats directly, precisely, with each “Hellfire” missile, is merely a question of choosing the right sensor / seeker for the “Hellfires”.
If you say that stabilized, heli-borne laser markers can’t track small, fast vehicles on choppy waters or in low-visibility conditions, try for example the tiny, dual-mode active (laser) and passive (infrared) sensors of “Skeet” sub-munitions on “Hellfires”.


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Sometimes solving a problem takes a bit more than merely opening a can, but hey – while I’m trying to solve the LAST 1 % of the problem with a (literally) nanometric approach, others even suggest recommissioning or building new U.S.M.C. helicopter carriers to survive a simple swarm attack, in times of deep budget cuts!

These are the same guys who rant loudest against the D.o.D.‘s wastefulness.

I believe it was the rate of fire and the need for a higher ammunition capacity that drove the 57mm choice. The desire was for the weapon system to be largely modular with minimal deck penetration and system footprint, making it easily serviced and replaced, compared to other systems.

The LCS is a ship who’s design was driven by cost and not performance. Just as every soldier need not be armed with a machine gun or stinger, not every ship need to be armed with large cannons.

In a threat posed by the author, a 15 mile range of a larger cannon is moot since most anti-ship cruise missiles can shoot from a greater distance.

Next, if the LCS ever has to stare down a corvette or frigate, its doing something entirely wrong. You’d never drive knowingly into a minefield… you’d rely on a crew or vehicle specialized or adept at dealing with that threat. It would be a failure at the command level to provide the needed support. You wouldn’t engage those ships in a set piece battle. That would completely ignore what few advantages the LCS has. LCS if faced up against corvettes and frigates would attempt to use speed to keep its distance till support could arrive.

While I agree with the first part… I think the sentiments towards the LCS show how many don’t graps its worth. Comparing it to a destroyer is like comparing “apples and oranges”… its an entirely different size class. Its a PR blunder that anyone ever tried to make those comparisons. If you want to compare the LCS to any general class it should be compared to that of a corvette; any problems with the LCS are in reality just a problem with that class of lightly armed patrol oriented warship.

I think if we were to design a new system to defend against this threat you’d want missile caryring cluster munitions with a range exceeding that of the ship killing cruise missiles in the posed scenario.

I believe the implication is an enemy a little more sophisticated than pirates. Think peer or near peer. These are attack craft with anti-ship cruise missiles.

RIM-162 ESSM and tomahawks could hit the swarm before being in range of their cruise missiles.

The L.T.T.E. had no “modernish anti-ship missiles” in their arsenal. For 25 years that naval war never rose above basic, World War-I-era destroyer-versus-torpedo boat duels, with very little airpower involved, too, but with the additional element of suicide attacks.

When the LCS’s inteded missile pods were canceled, one of the proposals to replace it was effectively a modified, longer range and more accurate variant of the hellfire.

that’s true actually. by closing down the hormuz, the iran would also be choking itself out (no more shipments of gasoline and ship cargo = angry population). and the blockade wouldn’t last a long time, lsc or no lcs.

it doesn’t actually shrink, it just doesn’t scale proportionally…

can’t the uav just stay above the cloud cover (or high, if there isn’t any) and jab missiles down, prefferably ones with tri-seeker? that and a radar or CEC from the ship and you’re fine and safe.

What about the Longbow Apache’s millimeter wave radar guided Hellfire missiles?

+A lot of good comments, and most if not all serve their purpose, but wait, we have to wait to get permission to fire first.

Better then Hellfire http://​youtu​.be/​e​b​t​z​J​u​e​q​iyA

On a event we are far or close with the swarm of attacking 40 enemy boats, they still know their logistics. I’d say if we were to build a combative boat for defense, it should be prepared for both far and near distance with the swarm of enemy boats specially those boats and ship armed with 50 to 100 antiship missiles per boats like swarms of Russian missile cruiser Marshal Ustinov and Type 022 Houbei fast attack missile catamaran boats.

Better then Hellfire http://​www​.youtube​.com/​w​a​t​c​h​?​v​=​e​b​t​z​J​u​e​q​i​y​A​&​a​m​p​;fe

I’d have to agree with you in principle. Anti-ship missiles have way more range and punch than does a .50 cal machine gun.

In practice, however, I’ve got real doubts that a speedboat in a little chop and a swarming attack can properly arm the AS missile, properly target it, and launch it so that it will necessarily hit the intended target. Maybe they can frequently and reliably do that, but I don’t know of it. The closest I know of are some of the missile boat classes but I’m not sure that was what was specified in the scenario. Also, the missile boats kind of stick out like a sore thumb so the probability that they’ll engage in a swarming attack seems a little less likely.

But again, I don’t know enough about what can be done and what is done. I just see some problems and I don’t know if they are real.

You use munitions like Hellfires because the parameters of the scenario state that it’s not a battle of choice. The boat swarm is the aggressor, and is pushing the attack. Presumably, there’s some kind of terrain or condition preventing the at-risk vessel ship from just withdrawing, or calling for help.

When trouble finds you, you don’t think “How can I save some cash here?” You think “How can I end this fight as violently and decisively as possible with minimal risk.”

5 inch cvt projectiles, air bursting at low altitude turn a large chunk of ocean and anything on it into froth and kindling…i don’t see a problem unless they’re allowed to get very close.….…

Interesting scenario.

I’ll play OPFOR.

I’ll emplace semi-submersables to work as mines on the seaward side of the Navy group. Then i run my surface craft from the land sude and fire missiles from beyond max range. I’d count on the Navy commander running for blue water and being target fixated on the surface Threat. All my boats and crews are expendable.

If i sink one or seriously damage one Navy craft, i win.

But at least we’re making sure it will burn, by making the trimaran version from aluminum. (How many times do we need to re-learn this lesson, and have to retrofit Kevlar armor at a cost of billions?)

Building a “littoral” ship that can’t fight in the littorals unless protected. Now that took real (bad) imagination.

5 inch shotgun shells with 1 inch shot.
Combine that with some of the computer detonated air burst rounds. Use Dirgibles
with mini guns. Use depth charge launchers to disperse small mine packs that float and can detonated remotely. I also think that every ship should have an attack air craft that can be launched from a catapult, It can be recovered by the carrier after it does the dirty work and then redeployed to it’s ship.
The plane could be more like the BD aircraft.
small, fast, manueverable.

What about naval-anti armor hand launched missile? I’m sure the navy could buy some Army Javelins and see if they work on a ship. you could have about 5 sailors on each side of the boat ready to launch the Javelins at the boats. Reloading is possible and could be fast if the sailors are trained well. The range is not too bad. How do you guys think?

pretty risky assumption you are going to see them 25 miles away. confined waters or say using a tanker as a shield could put them a whole lot closer than that before they unmask and get in your face.

Laser ‘em.

Navy ships have not had the joy of repelling human wave attacks sense the days of sail.
I would suggest the following systems be added to all ships which might come under human wave attack.
57-mm Mk 110 Mod 0 Naval Gun System. This system will kill any small boat swarm no matter how dispersed they are.

This scenario is why the Navy should have “Bee Hive” (Flechette) shells. There is nothing preventing rockets from delivering “Flechette” loads. The upside is that it isn’t a $40B development effort between 6 major contractors.

OK, how did you find the ships in the first place? Its great to have perfect knowledge, it makes the battle of Jutland seem so easy!!! Unfortunately, coordinating widely dispersed groups of people against an enemy with a independent will becomes really difficult.

Of course, big picture, how is having my entire political structure and economy destroyed because I made an unprovoked attack on the US Navy and sank a few ships called winning. Because the only way you can make your scenario work is if the two countries are not already at war.

Would work great, against small boats Stinger would work even better. In tests the boat looks like a giant shotgun shredded it.

Flamethrowers might be a cheap and fun way to get them.

Today’s warships are not design like warships like those of WWII. Most of them are design to confront battles at medium to long range, and large targets. This scenario is a close in event and you need weapons just for that.

The RPG effective range is 1000 yards, so to counter it, I will go like this:

1. M2 Machine Gun, Browning .50 Caliber Machine Gun effective range is 2000 yards (at least make one as remote/machine operated): at least 2 per side and 2 in the aft.

2. Mk 19 Grenade Machine Gun effective range is 1500 yards (make is remote/machine operated): at least 2 per side (air burst rounds).

3. WWII Navy Anti Aircraft 40 MM Gun effective range is + 7160 yards (make is remote/machine operated): at least 2 per side.

4. M14 effective range is 500 yards, again — at least 30 riflemen.

5. Use the helicopter mainly as your scout (eyes in the sky), and lastly as a mini gun cleaner.

Plan and prepare for the kind of battle you think you will encounter. Understand?!

Pirates use RPGs, these guys use missiles that go 15km.

then just install a couple more SEA-RAM lanuchers and that’s it. maybe with a scaled-down missile, as the engagement radius won’t be so distant (ROE) and to keep the cost down (primary kill mechanism can be the kinetic power of the weapon itself, i suppose).

the RPG also has an airburst feature (after 1km, when it uses all the fuel), so i bet there would be a lot of voluenteers for the decks).

Yeah, it could stay above the cloud cover…but how then would its optical targeting sensors work?
The thicker you are in the clouds to hide, the harder it is for you to see out.

Plus, there’s then the concern of enemy aircraft going after your UAV, or the FAC/missile boat using radar-guided SAMs against it.
And if you do have complete control of the air from threat aircraft, where then are those friendly aircraft who should be supporting the LCS if it’s an area where the adversary actually has the logistical footprint to launch such a large swarm of boats?

A Catch-22, ain’t it?
How does your adversary swarm you with 20+ boats and FAC s that your Navy/Air Force/allies didn’t first-strike their port areas to eliminate that threat?

Nice. +1

#1. Israel’s Nimrod missile.
#2. Israel’s Nimrod is air– or surface– launchable.
#3. Nimrod’s range is out to around 36km.

Start at Wiki, go from there. http://​en​.wikipedia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​N​i​m​r​o​d​_​(​m​i​s​s​ile)

We just need to build them in the US so we don’t piss off muslim enemies by shooting them with jewish weapons. Of course, that will double or triple the price per missile.

Good Swarming Boats article in the Information Dissemination site: http://​www​.informationdissemination​.net/​2​0​1​1​/​0​4/s

Swarm video: http://​www​.youtube​.com/​w​a​t​c​h​?​f​e​a​t​u​r​e​=​p​l​a​y​e​r​_​e​m​bed

your right, anything smaller than a 3in is just useless simply because it lacks range. It doesn’t matter how “fast” it can shoot, a single 5in round hitting the target from 15 miles out is much more effective than a bunch of little bullets reaching out just a few miles.

Isn’t BAE have a 57mm auto cannon? I saw something like it on the Military channel. It was Weaponology and it was awhile ago. It looked pretty lethal. It was bigger than a 30mm cannon.

Assuming standard peace time cruising readiness level and that they are cruising the Arabian gulf, how would a destroyer react?
1. they “see” a bunch of “fishing” sized boats slowing trolling around in traditional fishing spots about 20 miles away
2. next, a bunch of these “fishing” boats suddenly increase speed to 40 knots
3. a large group of them suddenly turn toward the destroyer, they are now within 17 miles
4. this swarm count is 30+ and is now considered a ‘hostile” threat they are now within 14 miles
5. the ship goes to general quarters, they are now within 13 miles
6. the ship immediately go to flank speed and puts her stern to the threat, the swarm is now within 12 miles
7. battle stations are now fully maned, they are now within 9 miles
8. the destroyer is now doing 30+ knots, the swarm is doing 40 knots the captain needs to decide
if he will turn and fight (5in gun mount is masked) or if he will continue trying to get away. the swam is now at 8 miles. when all of a sudden they detect 4 AShMs inbound
9. the captain decides to turn and fight, he makes a hard right turn, and the 5in gun opens up with HE rounds, firing as fast as it can. They fire off chaff and decoys and a spread of ESSM
10. two of the missiles are intercepted, one missile goes after the decoy and the final missile hits the helo hanger causing a massive explosion and fireball which takes out both helos and the rear missile magazine. the aft third of the ship is totally engulfed, the ship loses two of its gas turbine generators, the 5 in. mount loses power and stops firing
11. the swarm is now within 2 miles and they start to open up with 30 and 20 mm and smaller caliber guns. Both of the destroyers 25mm crew served guns were taken by by the massive explosion after so now the ship
is only left with crew served 50 cal weapons mounted near the bridge
12. the swarm in now within 1 mile and dozens of 20mm rounds hit the bridge and kill or wound everyone, including the CO and XO.
13. the massive fire aft has now spread to the engine room, taking out the port turbines, the ship can now only
do 10 knots, but because the bridge is now gone and emergency after-steering was wiped out by the fire, the ship is now slowly going in circles
14. the swarm now sits 100 yards off the ships starboard side and they continue firing at anything that moves, thus preventing any firefighting or rescue efforts
15 at this point a good 1/3 of the crew is dead and another 1/3 are missing or wounded, and the fire has spread
to 1/2 of the ship
16. The ship is now dead in the water with no power and is starting to list to port 10 degrees
17. Help finally arrives in the from a pair of F-18 from a carrier stationed 200 miles away, that swoop in and
rapidly destroy several of the small boats with 20mm.
18. the rest of the swarm scatters and return to their base after losing 10 of their own, but a very small price to pay for the destruction of the destroyer
19. with no one left to fight fires and control flooding, the ship continues to list, now at 20 degrees
20. Ensign Jones orders abandon ship, 30 crew members jump

Nice writeup.

So, for LCS, it would be the same through Step #5.

6. LCS goes to 50 knots
7. LCS exits the area unscathed.

Or no?

100 Hellfires? You’ve got to be joking! The missile weighs about 100 pounds. That’s 10,000 pounds of missiles! Hopefully just a typo and you meant 10 (still incorrect for a 60S by the way). I’ve shot the Hellfire; unless you don’t care about safety it takes time to make your shots from a 60. Even if you could double the capacity of the Navy 60S (can carry 2 racks of 4 — a total of 8 Hellfire), you have to take into account what closure rate the swarm has and whether you had that many missiles up on the bird to begin with. The Navy doesn’t (to my knowledge) even have the same “wings” for hard-points that allow the Army to mount 16 Hellfire on a Blackhawk or an Apache.

While I think you’re awfully pessimistic, I agree with your premise. The small boat swarm usually has the benefit of the initiative on the attack.

Seriously, how can some of these guys write such large and long posts without a warning to shorten it?
Are they site mods?

But anyhow,
the 40mm Mk19 is no good in these scenarios; the muzzle velocity is just too low for it to be used against maneuvering targets at several hundred, even over a thousand, meters: by the time the 40mm grenades even get out that far, a swarm boat moving at even 20knots will have vacated the lethal blast area of those grenades.
What’s needed is high velocity and flat trajectories. For that you need autocannon/chain guns, not grenade launchers.

Where are all those 5-barrel 25mm GAU-12s going when the USMC retires their AV-8B Harriers for the STOVL F-35? Deck mount those “Equalizers” and we’ll see how this swarm equation changes!

Iowas did not have 25mm cannon, and Harpoon would be marginally effective against the FIAC. Five-inch ammo was plentiful, but not really endless without a stream of AOEs feeding in on a daily basis.
On the plus side, against this threat the Iowa’s deck department alone would outnumber the enemy. I would steam into the middle of the swarm and call away boarders.

Those were SM-1s IIRC. Nice against a frigate, awfully expensive way to kill a FIAC.

Not a bad tactic when you need to buy time.

Every ship has the right of self defense, never need permission to fire back.

The RPG only has a good chance of hitting a target at 400 yards or less. Sure it can probably fly 1000 yards, but not with any sort of accuracy.

I’m going to agree with Weaponhead here. The problem isn’t the boats carrying guys with AKs and RPGs, the problem is those boats that happen to be carrying anti-ship missiles.

Was that helicopter hanger packed with C-4 or something?

If they could get a Mk.110 57mm on back of the Flight III Arleigh Burke class destroyers, that would be an improvement. I don’t know where they could fit it however, unless they lengthen the design a bit.

apparently LOL
it’s was the AshM penetrating the helo hanger and hitting the missile magazine

I have no idea, no special powers here

good idea, I really hope the flight III get some needed firepower, the flight II and IIA are lacking in so many ways (no Harpoon, no CIWS, no tail, etc.,)

I’d say they need to lengthen the hull 20 feet, add (2) 57mm guns on top rear deck before the missile magazine, add a tail (for ASW). put the new Laser weapons on both ends where the CIWS would normally be, put (4) of those nice fully automated Mk38 (mod 2) 25mm guns-NOW you have a WARSHIP that can defeat the small boat swarms

Imagine this: US unmanned/ manned catamaran missile boats.…

Actually, all that’s needed in your suggestion is arming some of those Joint High Speed Vessels the US Army has been toying with (ported over from Australian cat designs).
At one point, the 35mm Millennium Gun was trialed on the bow of one.

Cats are generally more stable than monhulls, and the extra depth in the two hulls could allow for some impressive missile capabilities. The DDG1000 “destroyers” were developing VLS systems mounted at the ship’s edge rather than the center of the deck, so in theory it’s doable.
We just need the money.
But high speed cats capable of shallower water operations could be packed with ESSMs and those forgotten navalized MLRS rockets (POLAR) to do the surface attacks.
Lockheed Martin did develop the P.44 missile/guided rocket, but since it used a trimode seeker developed from the one that gave NetFires trouble, the P.44 option is probably a no-go.

The AshM issue is there, regardless of the ship, or the swarming boats. If they have standoff capability, they’ll use it. So we need to defend against it.

The only difference would be that the ESSM can allegedly engage faster weapons than the SeaRAM, but from my research, anything likely to be thrown at LCS, particularly from small boats, could be countered by SeaRAM.

I would think with today’s administration’s approach, we should broadcast a video of one our president’s speeches seeking harmony, peace, and good will, bowing to our enemies and insulting our allies, and apologizing for all that the US has accomplished in history. That should awe them to the exent that we would then be able to sneak away and escape.

you know, if I was the bad guys, I’d know that the first thing the LCS would do is to
go to flank speed and get away, but I would anticipate this move that putting another swarm
in the anticipated escape path. The LCS will then speed around, shooting off all of it missiles but eventually it will take a hit and it’ll be over quickly

I just feel real sorry for the folks who will have to crew these things. Maybe they’ll accept their fate
like I did when I was in the Navy, I was on a “torpedo sponge” ship ;-D

the LCS is just like the “Holy Grail” movie (Monty Python).

sing along now with the Navy minstrels:

“Brave brave sir LCS sortied forth from Bahrain, she was not afraid to die, oh brave LCS, she was not in the least afraid to be killed in nasty ways, brave brave brave brave sir LCS…”

and suddenly a “swarm” appears, they say “Halt” what is your name


“my name is sir LCS”


“what is your quest”/”

“to make the Arabian gulf save for.….”

Navy minstrels

“to fight and die”


“shall we cut his head off…”

Brave sir LCS make a quick escape and the navy minstrels sing:

“When danger reared it’s ugly head, the LCS turned it’s tail and fled.….” LOL

Just use ESSM,patriot missiles, gps guided missiles,aigis,Mk 41 VLS launchers, RIM-67 SM-2 standard missile, BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missile, and RUM-139 ASROC anti submarine rocket.

Some good posts but what is getting missed is that the swarm threat is from speed boats loaded with explosives designed to go off on impact with a ship (basicly a man driven torpedo), as the many found in yemen and other parts of the gulf. The north koreans and chinees also have these manned torpedos. they will be used in strights and other confined areas where you will have only minutes at most to counter attakc them because they will be mixed in with all the other traffic in the area. You have to be able to react within a few hundred yards and not miles. This is where something along the lines of ship deployed MK5 SOC’s would come in handy during transits to provide security and early detection.

Well actually, the original scenario was a mix of speed boats (high probability they could be suicide runners) and actual purpose-built surface combatants,

Quoting: “The threat: a multi-access swarm of 15 inshore attack craft (mostly crew-served weapons/RPGs) and 5 fast attack craft with modern-ish anti-ship cruise missiles. Assume no external support in this case other than embarked organic air. How would you defend against/defeat this threat using each of the given force structures? ”

I still find it odd that available intel assets would be so bad that a single LCS would sent into an environment where a possible adversary with the potential to launch even the 5 “modern-ish” FAC missile boats couldn’t have been anticipated, tracked, and kept close enough tabs on, to the point the LCS would be a bit safer going in.

…unless, of course, some fool leader somewhere opted to use the LCS AS the actual intel-gathering platform, and bad-going-to-worse, this scenario is where it learns first-hand what said adversary is/was capable of.

Microwave weapons

AH-64 is the answer.

Current versions with MMW radar and advanced FLIR for detection, and Laser and MMW Hellfire, plus 30MM cannon and rockets for fires. Standoff can be used to deny the MG’s and RPG’s, advanced defensive systems for the MANPADS.

Apache Block Three with better radar, plus JAGM and laser rockets, better external tanks, and is ship compatible.

All could operate from a nearby friendly shore, since thats what the Army does, or fly longer range missions with tanks. Or could operate from a ship deck. “Sea Cav” would be a ‘same but different’ mission for the Army, but they already do it today so have experience in the mission.

If this is truly a threat, the right force should be assembled to deal with it.

Go smaller than what the enemy uses as a weapons carrier. http://​www​.military​.com/​v​i​d​e​o​/​a​i​r​c​r​a​f​t​/​p​i​l​o​t​l​ess–.…

Dont forget the fast boat also equiped with air defend.missles I think the best way is F18 Advanced super Hoenet which can out range the fast boat.

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