WHAT FUTURE EXISTS FOR WESTERN CRUISERS?

A Study of Prompt Global Strike / Arsenal Warship and

Will Cruisers still exist in Western Navies in 10 years?

This study is a spin off  from  a number of questions that came recently to my attention.

1. / what role in a modern Navy, if any, is there for a Prompt Global Strike and Arsenal Warship?

2. / will Cruisers still exist in Western Navies in 10 years?

In my mind I believe that the answer for both questions is linked so I have grouped the conclusions together. The time line is actually in reverse to the order of the questions.

As to the question for the roll of ‘hull classification of Cruiser” it is in fact being absorbed by ‘DDG ‘ at this time, so to be Classified as a ‘Cruiser’ there has to be some new capability that a modern destroyer size vessel is not able to 'ship' on board.

When refering to the Hull Clasfication o 'Cruiser' it should be noted that we are refering to Modern day Cruisers and not ships that have been constructed with the classical armored arrangement. Construction of that type of Cruiser ceast stopped in the 1970's.

It whole question of type classification in the modern western navy has evolved from a classification of size & function to simply that of function alone. We have had for some time now ships of displacement & hull size that use to be light cruisers designated as frigates (type 22 batch 3 at 5,000 ton) and it is rare to find any frigate below 3,500 ton. If you think that the older frigates were less than 1,500 tons. This increase is not limited to frigates as all classes of hull types have generally being increasing in displacement to current designs displacements.

Maybe instead of the title of “Hull Classification” the classification of type should be called “function classification” or “operational classification”.

 When it comes to the only operational western cruiser class, the Ticonderoga class, it was actually lighter than the class it replaced, mostly to do with the use of aluminium in the superstructure and the ‘all steel’ Arleigh Burke class batch 3 destroyers that will replace this class are similar displacement to the preceding class to the Ticonderoga class.

The fact is once hull designs stopped being built to the actual hull classification the whole question of hull type stopped being a relevant factor so you could say that the cruiser classification CG has been, or will be, reclassified as and thereby absorbed by the 'DDG' clasification, much in the same way as Destroyer Escorts were reclassified as Frigates.

For this classification to stay in current usage some new capability would need to be deployed. Let us look at the current next generation of DDG.  

Zumwalt class destroyer

An idea described as leading edge design in the advancement in the concept of naval warfare. Apart from the stealth characteristics of the hull shape, which I hazard a guess at been more to do with the composite material used than the actual shape of the hull. As to the shape of Tumblehome wave piercing hull design is more akin to ‘Back to the Future’ syndrome than any “advancement in design”. I am being to think that there is no “history” component in the qualifications of naval designers.

In addition I could not believe that the inherent instability issues were or are going to be swept under the carpet as it were. Especially as been aLittoral Zone Combat Ship , that is to say, that to actually attack a land targets it will need to be situated in the littoral zone to do so yes? So..  she will encounter some of the highest sea states can exist in this region, I find it hard to understand the reasoning. As far as having a stable gun platform the design requires to be ‘flooded down’ to use the main gun which is another way of confirming the reports that the design is not stable.

Personally it would be more accurate to place this ship in the class of ship in the category of Littoral Combat Ship together with the USS Independence and USS Freedom as a all are ‘multi role’ designs and further sub classification of focus on land attack.

This beings into question why there is being comparisons between  the Zumwalt and Arleigh Burke classes in the first place as the Arleigh Burke is more focused on overall Fleet defence and fleets tend to avoid operating to close to land as it restricts defensive navigational manoeuvring options.

So it is with some relief that I see that not only are there some serious fiscal questions been asked in the comparisons reports to the Arleigh Burke class destroyers, but in the Operational Capabilities content is also now being brought into doubt with the, and I quote here an Wikipedia article, “In view of recent intelligence that China is developing targetable anti-ship ballistic missiles based on the DF-21, this could be a fatal flaw.” by the future operators themselves. The need to launch from a greater disance is paramount due to the development of this weapon.

(Remember this quote as it is one of the links to the idea behind the prompt global strike ship.) 

In my opinion you end up with ship the costs about as much as a submarine to build, will spend what sounds like a inordinate amount of the time Sub Surface ‘piercing waves’, why not just build a Land Attack Submarine  and be done with it?

Now I am not trying to say that Zumwalt class is a complete failure as a number of design features that are leading edge and worth pursuing, they are the AGS system,  the Sensor suite  and originally proposed propulsion system. All of which are capable of been fitted to more conventional designs.   

Advanced Gun System (AGS)

This is an interesting development in naval cannon /gun technology.  Been derived from the Vertical Gun for Advanced Ships (VGAS) and described as been as a more conventional arrangement mounted in a rotating turret. The turret is about the only ‘conventional’ part of this system as after viewing the video of the test firing you come to realize that this gun is loaded in the vertical position instead of the more conventional horizontal position.

This is obviously to make the loading cycle faster as been designed primarily as a land attack weapon, the higher angle of elevation in parts greater vertical penetration of any land target. In this I wonder if it is more accurately described as a “extra-long range breech loading Mortar”instead as that describes exactly its operational parameters.

The fact that a light weight turret/ AGS proposal has been mooted for a upgrade to the Arleigh Burke class is another sign that the Navy is having second thoughts about the Zumwalt class.

Proposed Sensor suite

The question of the sensor suite is interesting as the U.S. navy is transitioning to ACTIVE array scanning as opposed to the PASSIVE scanning of the AGEIS system. All I have to say on this is a question; “Is it possible to combine the two types of radar operating them on different bands?”

Engine (ducted internal pods)

The engine pods design is possibly the biggest brake thru in which is a workable method of shrouding the propeller and shielding it from damage and is long overdue to be incorporated into normal designs, except for one little problem, the ducted drive awj-21 from Rolls-Royce  were not used, excuse was too costly to develop to military standard.

What I do not know is why not take the idea of an external duct propeller and just place it inside the hull of the ship itself? 

For instance take the double end drive pod setup and duct it internally in the hull no control ducts simply two props in a duct.

cross section of simplified internal ducted drive
exterior hull shot of drive units
side view

Prompt Global Strike.

 

This is what I consider the new capability that will ensure the survival of western naval cruisers.

With the SSGN conversion of four Ohio SSBN to conventional attack mode, this allows for a existing platform to cover the  strike concept in a convention war arena that has been recognized in open discussion.

It covers the stealth part completely and the only part that needs to be covered is the ‘Congressional requirement’ for naval fire support role. This would be a most interesting design project marrying an AGS system into a submarine.

This next design for the Future Combat Ship Series is a more realistic option to ‘float’ the idea of a global strike platform combined with the ‘strike’ and improved naval fire support role by combining a strengthen Mk 45 style turret with the 155mm/ 62 AGS barrel. Further I have theorized a VLS for SICBM (small ICBM) like the defunct Migetman to cover the global strike ability.

You could point out that the Global Strike concept has been ‘put to bed’ by the fact that any ballistic missile launch could be misinterpret as a nuclear strike. This fear has not stopped the Chinese developing their ship strike D-21. This development puts the Global Strike Option back on the table in my opinion.

Why?  You may ask. The answer is that one of the original reasons to can the idea was the potential to confusion with a launch as a pre-emptive nuclear strike which is far enough except that when one of your potential offended parties goes ahead and develops a ballistic anti ship strike missile you need to be able to strike back at a equivlent attack distance while keeping the nuclear option out of proceedings.

As a ship based launcher I thought a up sized vls would be the answer. Using the parameters of the Migetman SICBM for design of the missile you would end up with a 500 ton 32 cell launcher 15m x 10m x 12m .

When using the Design software and attempting to fit the above launcher into a future combat vessel DDG hull approximating the Arleigh Burke class the program indicated the end design was overweight and needed a hull size starting out at least 30,000 ton displacement, not the 14,000 ton of DDG.   

Now the one area of design that would have to change is the ability to absorb damage in the ships and it is obvious that the current DDG’s displacements are heading into 6,000 to 14, 000 ton range that some sort of armor arrangements have been placed into the designs reversing the stupid decision made back 1950’s that armor in smaller ships were not required. These warships may well be not only at cruiser like displacements, but actually have what has been describe in the past as ‘Cruiser Hull’ or more accurately a ‘Armored Floating Gun Platform’ hull arrangements. The modern descriptor is ‘A Hardened Warship’.

With the DDG 1000 design I cannot see the need for stealth consideration  to overcome good hull design principle and revert to a hull form that makes for a ‘wet ship’ in high seas levels and  unstable handling. This hull form does nothing to ‘hide’ the ship from submarines. What I think is required is a design that is a wave piercing type crossed with a tri hull design for stability. I will have more on this idea latter.

The weapon system I have based the PGS is missile the same as or similar to the Migetman SICBM launched from a modified VLS.

The first problem to overcome is having a balanced design and as at first I started with a design close to existing size of 14,000 tons and the design program indicated an over balance so I increased displacement to 24,000 tons and while an over balance of some 4000 tons over maximum displacement the actual unit did physically fit the hull.

See VLS unit just aft of helipad. Note internal docking bay. Hull dimensions 197m x 30m x 7.4m 24885ton (max displacement 20829 ton)

PGS CRUISER +NAVAL FIRE SUPPORT

Obviously another increase in displacement was required and this next design is the result.

The increased size has allowed for a change in main gun to a AGS 155mm  arrangement. The PGS unit is both forward of the main bridge and aft of the helipad. The biggest change was to the number missile in the each unit which was reduced to 36 missiles. Hull dimensions are 252m x 31.2m x 11.5m. displacement is 31,158 ton max been 32,732 ton so it is balanced (just). With the addition of AGS type main gun introduces the role of Naval Gun Support role to the mission profile.

Taken some designs aspects from the DDG 1000 test bed ship on bridge design and propulsion.

This I think answers the question as to what is need to keep the ‘cruiser’ designation going. As an pure AAW platform this  is covered by the modern DDG classes in existence today and some new weapon/role would need to be created but as to whether or not that new system would encompass a Global Strike ability or is limited with a ‘cruiser’ size hull.

note the extra PGS vls unit just fwd of superstructure.

Hardened Warships.

To make this system more cost effective, adding functionality or ‘multi-roles’, so as this ship is already a ‘land attack’ platform the extra roles should be based around this premises. The extra role could be Naval Fire Support role and/or a Amphibious attack role. Either way this would require extra displacement and hardening of the hull and systems fitted.   

Hull size has to increase to both allowing for the ’balance’ of the overall design and the fact that the ship would require extensive ‘HARDENING’ ( what use to be called armored) of the hull design for any chance of survival in what would be a potentially a very hostile operating environment. This would require the substantial increase to hull displacement to ‘float' the extra weight.

The other aspect is the AGS for Naval Fire Support role as this would require operations in the Littoral Zone which is the operational domain of the diesel electric submarine and shore based anti ship missile systems and this brings into question the operational survivability of any ship when faced with such a hostile environment with limit navigational options.

Even the largest warship, the super carrier, is described officially as having a ‘limited Kevlar armor’ although the increase displacement from the Nimitz to the George Bush of some 20,000 ton with no obvious change in overall dimensions makes the accuracy of this statement without further explanations, questionable inhow 'limited' the arrangement is.

Having the chance to walk thru some of the Australian frigates I found clear evidence of ‘limited Kevlar armour’ on the inside bulkhead separating the passage way from the outside of the ship which corresponded to the position of anti submarine torpedo mount which demonstrates the limited nature of armour in ships today. The other method used to ‘protect’ ships in event of damage is to have “blow out “sections so if a magazine explodes the forces is ‘directed’ away from critically damaging other part of the ship.Having the 'allowance' to accept the distruction of a weapons system to 'save' the ship from distruction shows how far the mindset of designers has come. There is no obvious consideration to 'operational' surviability over a exstended time period in a hostile arena.   

The other question that comes to mind is the loss of a true heavy calibre cannon system with the overdue retirement of the Iowa class. It is obvious to me reading the declassified reports from the last activation of this class that they were basically too old and the dependence that resulted in relying on such an outdated and defective design has had a negative effect on maintaining a functioning industry that can develop large calibre weapons. (Oh by the way the use of the word defective was deliberate as they were modified Washington treaty warships if you recall. See the ‘historical studies 1 page in this web site.)

The point here is that when deciding on what size of hull, that hull has to be able to support the overall weight of weapons systems, armour, support equipment cannot out way the max displacement of the hull design. It all has to be ‘balanced’.

What of the environment? When considering what threats that could or would be faced in any hostilities when close off shore you cannot assume that the threats would be kept away by the supporting fleet so therefore there is no need to do anything to the design. The threat that has the most urgent need to be counted is the threat of damage to a hull design and the ability to still function as a operational weapons platform after damage has been inflicted, is that of covert attacks from submarines either  airborne or sub surface. The images of what a modern torpedo can do is terrifying to be behold. No matter what defences that are employed, you have expect ‘leakage’ and damage to occur.

It would be fascinating to read the damage report into tests conducted on the USS America sinkex.

If you go back in time and see what protection systems that were planned or used in battleships you would see the major system used could be called a crush zone principle were areas of the ship were given over been damaged (crushed as it were).  i.e. :   the ship’s reserve buoyancy was given over to absorb the effects of torpedo’s exploding warhead. The problem with this idea when it come to the Treaty Limited designs is there was limited ‘reserve’ buoyancy to trade in while maintaining a effective weapons platform.

Effectively the basic description of the armour arrangement is a armoured box with bottom removed. The only design that attempted to close the box as it were was the H44 design and nearly all commentators consider this design a flight of fancy. In my opinion is that although the German Design Bureau may have known that by this stage of the war the design would only ever be theoretical it should still be taken seriously in any discussion on battleship design as it was an actualdesign and has just as much right to be considered as such as any other design that was in existence.             

 Under today’s threat conditions a multi layered system of hardened sectioned spaced apart by with an shock absorbing Kevlar honeycomb structure or similar performing material so not only do you face hardened warheads there is also delay action fuses that allow for the deep penetration of the target before exploding. Not one layer but multi layered and spaced apart to bring into the mix the idea of ‘spaced Armour’, a concept that has existed for some time now in armoured warship in the torpedo protection zones, whether or not you call it layered or spaced it amounts to the same thing. I wonder if taking the armoured box and turning it upside down so you effectively have a armoured double hull arrangement. The outer hull that has the hydrodynamic shape to plane thru the water and to which damage is resisted but is allowed to occur; the inner hull that is shaped to resist all penetration and is heavily armoured. The internal area between the two hulls can utilize as seen fit as long as that use has no operational parameters, maybe cold storage, dry storage or crew accommodation etc.    

As to the protection against high angle ballistic attacks having each deck armoured to various thickness, having the power source protected under seven armoured decks should provide adequate protection. The individual weapon system are treated exactly as that, individual separate armoured modules that are completely self contained units. As for the idea of blow out panels / sections all explosive forces should be directed directly upwards and away from the hull.  

 MULTI ROLE  PROMPT GLOBAL STRIKE / NAVAL FIRE SUPPORT / LHA WARSHIP.

 This design is what I think would be required to combine the two strike systems of PGS & NFS and have the ability to survive damage and maintain combat effectiveness. Further to the idea of multirole functionality, adding a combat aviation / Landing dock ship ability to the design combines two more combat roles.

Statistically she is a monster at 474 m x 73m x 19.2m displaces 164,000 tons, 9 modern x 406mm / 62  AGS canons firing 280mm sabot rounds, 4 x 155mm / 62 AGS cannons, 4x 128mm / 72 AGS canons for the NFS role. 4 x 36 cell vls PGS-SICBM for the PGS system. For anti air defence 16 x 64 cell vls for sm-3/sm-6 missiles, 8 x 32 cell vls for sm-3/sm-6 missiles, 2 x 128 cell vls advanced sea sparrow missiles, 4 x 20mm phalanx systems, 2 x rams launchers. Nuclear powered with 10 x fully submerged internally ducted propulsion units rated to 20MW each = 39 knots.

Multifunction active phased (ABM capable) radars etc. 85987.15 ton of advanced composite armour for passive protection. By and by max displacement is 287,686 tons so is well balanced.

The inspiration for this desgin should be clear

Design fix for Tumblehome wave piercing hull design

One way to 'fix' the stability problem of a Tumblehome wave piercing hull design is to add stability as shown below

note complete fit out option not complete.
Completed ship

Latest comments

19.05 | 15:01

Good point! I was thinking Helo pads but never got around to it. The design thought been why not have full port or base resources including dry dock and repair

19.05 | 11:44

Why is there no airport on top of the base?

03.04 | 13:07

Just found your site-very cool. Also agree with your views regarding government decision processes, all about looking after their arse after they're booted out

19.01 | 08:39

Detailed answers on blog page.