US Military News, Reports, Data, etc.


MarKoz81

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I think you are seriously understimating how fast AI advances and that it is actually accelerating now (and even more in the future). There have already been talks about how AI is now learning to dogfight in the air.

There also reports on how the PLA is planning (already in R&D, unknown how much they advanced) to use AI to help a commander on making tactical decisions.

AI is advancing so fast that we might actually see 6th gen systems coming out sooner than we thought they would.

For now all these are in heavy R&D with a lot of progress happening. The XLUUV is a good example on what the US Navy is planning to do. Ofc manned submarines will be more capable than AI-enabled drone subs in the near-to-medium future. But I fully expect that in max 12 (10?, <10?) years AI subs will be able to hunt enemy submarines

Anyways this is a bunch of theorycrafting. My point was that underwater drones shouldn't be underestimated. We are now moving from platform vs platform warfare to a system of systems warfare.

Quite to the contrary. It is you who underestimates the challenges that any intelligent system will and must encounter in its evolutionary path.

Evolution occurs under evolutionary pressure not as spontaneous generation of traits. For any system to evolve it needs to contest evolutionary space against a rival, often a predator. This is straight from mathematics. Evolution is like flow. If it is unrestricted (no pressure) it goes everywhere and the fluid disperses. If it is restricted (pressure) it begins to form a coherent fast-moving stream.

It doesn't matter how well AI does during simulated dogfights because AI simulated dogfights since the advent of PC gaming ;) It matters whether it will be capable of successfully contesting evolutionary space on the battlefield against actual challenges which will involve people and AI exploiting the "bugs in the code". In other words - if it can adapt fast enough or if it runs into a dead end.

Development of AI is just evolution of basic behavioral traits which are abstracted into the digital environment and it is governed by the same mathematics. It's just that the people who write about AI for the general public are not the same people who develop or study AI and/or evolution. Quite to the contrary they are among the dumbest individuals who are drawn to the subject because they believe that using buzzwords will make them seem smarter. This is why we persist with "AI" even though it's not a real thing at all. Machine intelligence is preferred term in the field and even then it's only because these machines do not meet the fundamental criterion for life - self-reproduction. Any machine that can reproduce is alive and is no longer a machine in the traditional sense.

Anyway, returning to the problem at hand...

This is why I mentioned the isolation of underwater drones. An isolated system can be deceived more easily because the total information and adaptive potential is limited. Things will go differently with surface drones because they will have the access to the same pools of information and adaptive potential as crewed ships. Not only that the combination of human and machine intelligence will be by default superior in the next several decades - again, for mathematical reasons.

Imagine the information problem as a kinetic problem. Your underwater drone's AI is a company commander. The obstacle or problem is the enemy defensive position in the town you are meant to capture. You can't because the enemy has matched you strength. If you are an underwater drone you're on your own, and that is true for all foreseeable future because of information flow in water. If you are a surface drone you can relay the problem to the higher echelon and the additional intelligence will work like an artillery strike or a couple of jets doing a bombing run. They will clear the path for you if you are stuck. The underwater drone is on its very small own.

XLUUVs are meant to replace expensive nuclear submarines in menial tasks: underwater mining, basic surveillance, decoys, tasking enemy ASW forces with unindentified presence. In strike capability they will have to know a specific target with pre-programmed libraries of acoustic signatures which makes them into a cruise missile more than a "unmanned ship". They will also be susceptible to enemy deception.

They will not replace submarines because they can't - in physical terms, as in physics limits what they can do.

All other drones that can be linked together - that's another story. You should never compare UAVs and USuVs to UUVs because an unmanned surface ship, unmanned aerial vehicle and an unmanned orbiter have more in common in how they operate and what they are capable of than an unmanned underwater system.

In simplest terms - there's a reason why in the ocean depths you can still find fish from the Dewonian and why no significantly intelligent organism emerged in the marine ecosystem and why the best is most likely the octopus which can't form societies because it's stuck in an evolutionary dead end.
There's also a reason why the most sophisticated marine ecosystems are more fragile than terrestrial ecosystems.

Once you put all that into the form of numbers the answers are clear and "artificial intelligence" is just a special case of the general problem. The military planners know that if they're smart to listen to people smarter than them, and if they don't then the simulations written by those smarter people provide them with results that they can't ignore. Mathematics is incapable of lies.

Anyway - my point is that the XLUUVs and their equivalents in other countries are misunderstood because ignorant people in the media are throwing them into the same bag as unmanned ships or aircraft to sell their content. Large underwater drones are useful tools for augmenting of submarine operations and a replacement for some of them. But here again the impressions on what submarines do in actual life is governed by the ignorance of general public. People read Clancy's Hunt and think they are as good as a submariner.

Also as far I know currently the largest number of XLUUVs programmed for the 30-year period by any organization is 40 systems. That's from the Hudson Institute's white paper that accompanied the 30-year-plan and is treated as an unofficial alternative like a minority report.

hudson inventory.jpg
The number of SSNs is greater by 50% than the number of XLUUVs and there's a reason for it that I just explained in the broadest strokes possible. This table has 99 MUSVs but the plan also postulates 80 DDCs which is a large corvette capable of cooperating with the drones. You could in theory replace some of those corvettes with drones and you can plan for 200 or 300 surface drones and have plenty of alternatives on how you use them as a platform. There's a limited use for underwater drones that are not directly physically linked to a submarine and any drone that is linked to a submarine has to take up valuable space.

Also here's another table detailing how Hudson imagined task force composition including undersea operations. They postulate a "wolf pack" approach for submarines:

hudson task force groups.jpg

Two "wolfpacks", each consisting of seven submarines and seventeen XLUUVs. This should give you an impression of what the actual role of an XLUUV might be in such formation.

Deepest apologies for the overlong and somewhat confusing explanation. Semi-professionally this is very close to my field. This is also why I'm watching the China vs America contest. I do it for different reasons than most people here and it's reflected in the content my posts.
 

MarKoz81

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Registered Member
I think the problem with USN surface fleet building is that the American domestic ship building industry has atrophied significantly since the 80s and 90s. Combat aircraft are relatively cost effective since the civilian aerospace industry is robust.

You're correct about the general historical trend, but I disagree that this alone explains the problem.

It certainly is true that the levels of production including warships have decreased tremendously. Below you have a table I made some time ago listing the deliveries of new hulls in the period of 1975-2010.

USN 80-10 commissions.jpg

The increase in production corresponds with the Reagan bump in military spending

spending US & China.jpg
but the programs funded were the result of Zumwalt-era restructuring of doctrine. Also we need to remember that underfunded navy will decay faster due to maintenance deficit so the drop in spending during the 70s (the collapse of the Bretton Woods system and the resulting financial crisis) affected the ship number on its own. As for the percentages - take them with a grain of salt since they are relative to overall government spending which increases over time - federal welfare programs etc - so the total spending probably is comparable or might even be higher under Reagan in real terms but the deficit persists.

The rest is in the total ship numbers - below is the number of ships in each category from 1945 to 2020:

USN 1945-2020.jpg
In general we have an unsustainable boom in ship production during WW2 which translates into an unsustainable fleet size in the first period (WW2-Vientnam War). Then you have the tranformation with Soviet threat (incorrectly understood) in focus in 1975-1995, and then you have the "end of History" and the American empire - 1995 to 2020. Nothing about the USN structure or the shipbuilding was ever sustainable in the long term but better or worse shipbuilding plans provided better or worse results.

Also compare the difficulties that American shipbuilding has with Europe. Both have seen their shipbuilding industries collapse as the markets shifted the capital to Asia but Europe does not suffer from the same problems as America does despite significantly lower defense spending that tends to deprioritize naval forces and political fragmentation disrupting economies of scale.

Consider that Constellation-class is European design while Europe has not ordered American design since Spain licence-built Oliver Hazard Perry class (Santa Maria) in the 1980s. Afterward ship designs were influenced by insertion of American systems - most notably AEGIS, the Mk.41 and the GE gas turbines - but they were not American design in terms of naval architecture. If you look around the world it is the Europeans who are exporting their ships despite far lower political capital to be spent on promoting the sales, and not Americans. That's because Americans have nothing to sell and that in turn is because they behave in terms of naval productio like Ming China. They decided that they do not need to concern themselves with the matters and needs of the outside world and they can achieve perpetual self-sufficiency.

American shipbuilding has also atrophied because American shipbuilding is driven by the corporate policies of defense industry not shipbuilding industry. Korea is cranking out ships like crazy but they also crank out Daegu frigates to replace Ulsan frigates and Pohang corvettes. The Daegu is a light frigate with basic systems and the fashionable FFBNW (fitted for but not with) approach to new indigenous weapons (K-SAAM, SSM-700K). They keep the hulls in production because hulls can be modernized and up-armed while at the same time taking most of the infrastructure. In contrast to this approach Americans assume that every single hull has to come out bristling with top-of-the-line systems and as a result the price-tag is exorbitant. It also hampers future-proofing of designs since if the ship comes out of the shipyard with full set of systems and it is the systems that drive the budget for the project then you reduce hulls as much as possible because more hulls faster mean more expensive systems faster and also provide the "cost reduction" that some clueless hack at Capitol Hill is going to vote on. The fact that Flight IIA Burkes are barely capable of MLU with the AN/SPY-6(v)4 radar is a direct consequence of that.

In simplest terms the reason why American fleet is crumbling is because unlike its opponents (China, Russia) and most of its allies the Americans no longer treat their shipbuilding as a strategic industry. They say that it is but they behave as if it wasn't. They treat it as an excuse for a massive cash-grab with barely any oversight. The same is true for the other branches - this is where the F-35 disaster came from. Only the ground force is spared this fate to some degree but that's mostly because ground warfare hasn't changed that much since the Cold War. Those atittudes on the other hand follow directly from American hubris and their delusions of grandeur and exceptionalism that struck them after 1991 and especially after 2001. History and time wait for no man but they will stop for them? That's what Jesus told them so it must be true. I'm being facetious here but it describes well the stunning lack of foresight or even any attempt to assume that things might be different in the future that governs the decisionmaking circles in the Pentagon. The very same thing that gave America its current position during WW2 seems to be gone. Mahan's writings are all but forgotten and relegated to academic discussions that have no bearing on the policy.

What is also holding the fleet by the throat is the cost level of individual ships. Just like with the submarines additional capacity could be developed if additional resources were dedicated to the purpose. The reason why it doesn't happen is not the lack of resources but how they are spent. When you breakdown the cost of a modern warship the hull and general systems are a small portion of the total cost. It is the combat systems that drive the cost and this position is responsible for the unsustainable price tag. Here's a slide from the presentation for the Danish frigate program - keep in mind that Iver Huitfeld extensively cut cost by re-using weapons thanks to the StanFlex modules introduced in the 90s.


02.jpg

This is now being fixed with the Constellation class which reduces overall size and cost of the ship (destroyer to frigate) as well as specific systems (fewer missiles, less capable sensors etc) but it's too little too late. If instead of just focusing on the Arleigh Burkes USN built twice as many frigates the problem of PLAN would not exist until probably late 2030s which would obviously give more time to address the issue. But Arleigh Burke is a feast for Raytheons and Lockheeds and Northrop Grummans and those companies rule in the Pentagon - not the shipyards. Designing the ships is just a game of who gets how much money and the shipyards are losing to the point that some of them ended up bought out by their competitors in that game. The only reason why submarines maintain their course is because underwater environment is more separate technologically from the rest that even space industry.

Anyway, another overlong post. Hope it brings some interesting perspectives to the discussion. Apologies for wall of text.
 

MarKoz81

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You did not understand anything from my explanation and instead chose to reinforce your bias by citing the very sources which I expressly dismissed as unreliable. Those are marketing articles intended to manipulate the market and which rely on the ignorance of the audience. Those are neither scientific papers nor excerpts from R&D logs. They are as irrelevant and misleading as everything Elon Musk says. I think this is the best place to end our exchange on the subject since it will go nowhere. It will be me trying to explain things and you pretending that you know better because you read an article on Forbes about this or that. Have a good day.
 

MarKoz81

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A few more tables illustrating the problem affecting the US Navy

from: Department of the Navy - FY2020 Budget Highlights

USN20HL-PROCUREMENT.jpg

If the budget for new ships and conversions is 100% then the US Navy spends 80% of the equivalent amount on aircraft. For those who don't understand how to interpret these figures: it indicates how much of US Navy's combat potential is locked in a small number of vessels. In other words it describes the flexibility of power projection, especially long term.

20% of the equivalent amount is spent on weapons which is also not good, indicating that the weapon pool is expensive and that the main role of the navy is warfighting rather than maritime operations. That makes the USN closer in its performance to the Kaiserliche Marine's Hochseeflotte rather than the Royal Navy. There are obvious problems of available strategic choices resulting from that structure and performance.

USN20-budget.jpg

This graph shows why there can't be any aggressive expansion - operations and maintenance are greater than procurement which currently replaces old ships. Military personnel is almost equivalent and as we know it is the personnel (cadres) that fights for its interests and they justify them by expanding the structures in which they serve. This is "peak"-type institutional structure and therefore there's no other trend available for it other than institutional decay. The only other alternative is institutional revolution - disintegration and aggressive re-building of structures. That is impossible since the structure is what drives the policy. This is also why China found it easier to reform its military since the military is to a much larger extent subservient to the interests of the political cadres. In America the political cadres are result of special interest - not the other way around. So the policy of institutional self-propagation will dominate.

from: Department of the Navy - Report to Congress on the Annual Long-Range Plan for Construction of Naval Vessels

Figure A2-1 [640px].jpg

This graph illustrates funding for the 30-year plan for which the delivery table I included in the previous posts. It shows what share of the funds is taken by Columbia and Virginia vessels at current rates of production. Submarines take up approximately 50% of the pool of available funds just to deliver 3-4 vessels per year.


Figure A3-1.jpg


The graph illustrates increase of sustainment costs in 2020 US dollars so it includes projected inflation. Still it is quadrupling of nominal costs over 30 years. However over the last 30 years the military budget only doubled in nominal terms.

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from: Congressional Research Service - Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding

CRS navy plans 2.jpg


This last table shows the institutional thought process from 2001 to 2015. The LCS numbers stayed at 52-82 level despite the absolutely disastrous, nonsensical architecture , nonexistent combat and maritime capability and obvious excessive cost. What is even more surprising is that the obvious lessons from the OHP class which was a cheap (compared to DDGs) but bad design were completely ignored even as navies in Europe innovated to a much greater degree - but in a meaningful way, meaning they did not throw away functionality and capability for the sake of gimmicks that look good on paper.
 

gelgoog

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Also compare the difficulties that American shipbuilding has with Europe. Both have seen their shipbuilding industries collapse as the markets shifted the capital to Asia but Europe does not suffer from the same problems as America does despite significantly lower defense spending that tends to deprioritize naval forces and political fragmentation disrupting economies of scale.
Consider that Constellation-class is European design while Europe has not ordered American design since Spain licence-built Oliver Hazard Perry class (Santa Maria) in the 1980s. Afterward ship designs were influenced by insertion of American systems - most notably AEGIS, the Mk.41 and the GE gas turbines - but they were not American design in terms of naval architecture. If you look around the world it is the Europeans who are exporting their ships despite far lower political capital to be spent on promoting the sales, and not Americans. That's because Americans have nothing to sell and that in turn is because they behave in terms of naval productio like Ming China. They decided that they do not need to concern themselves with the matters and needs of the outside world and they can achieve perpetual self-sufficiency.

It is hardly surprising European ships have more success at exports. Most countries do not need huge ships for ocean patrol on the other side of the world. This applies to both surface vessels and submarines. Those are precisely the type of ships the US needs and builds though. Most countries just need ships to patrol their own waters and handle regional conflicts at best. What most European ships are designed to do. The US does not have any regional adversaries so its ships are huge like the DDGs and they do not even build any diesel submarines but instead huge nuclear ones.

While there are European nations which have similar so called blue ocean vessels because they have relics of their colonial past on the other side of the world their fleets are much smaller. These fragments of the past are not large enough to justify more than that.

Another factor which I think kind of blindsided the US is that modern frigates are hugely more capable than older ones.
 

voyager1

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This is a significant development

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The scenario involved, in part, simulating the launch of multiple Precision Strike Missiles (PrSM), a weapon that is still in development, at targets more than 310 miles away. The AML also engaged mock targets at shorter distances using unspecified artillery rockets. The current HIMARS launcher can fire precision-guided 227mm artillery rockets, as well as the Army Tactical
The video presentation that the Army released along with its disclosure of the real-world test, seen earlier in this story, shows a pair of C-130s, one carrying a standard HIMARS vehicle and the other loaded with the AML, landing on an austere airstrip and unloading the launchers. The two vehicles then take up firing positions, with the manned HIMARS engaging a Russian Slava class cruiser at sea and the AML conducting a strike on what appears to be a Russian-made S-400 surface-to-air missile system battery. The two launchers are then loaded back onto the C-130s and depart the area, while U.S. Air Force F-16C Viper fighter jets are shown then moving in to conduct follow-on strikes through the newly formed gap in the enemy's defenses.
 

AndrewS

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This is now being fixed with the Constellation class which reduces overall size and cost of the ship (destroyer to frigate) as well as specific systems (fewer missiles, less capable sensors etc) but it's too little too late. If instead of just focusing on the Arleigh Burkes USN built twice as many frigates the problem of PLAN would not exist until probably late 2030s which would obviously give more time to address the issue. But Arleigh Burke is a feast for Raytheons and Lockheeds and Northrop Grummans and those companies rule in the Pentagon - not the shipyards. Designing the ships is just a game of who gets how much money and the shipyards are losing to the point that some of them ended up bought out by their competitors in that game. The only reason why submarines maintain their course is because underwater environment is more separate technologically from the rest that even space industry.

Anyway, another overlong post. Hope it brings some interesting perspectives to the discussion. Apologies for wall of text.

Excellent analysis.

Yes, the Constellation-class is cheaper, but it still isn't really an affordable ship.

It is still 8000 tons displacement and will probably cost $1+ Billion.

A modernised Type-054 Frigate could come in at half the cost.
 

AndrewS

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XLUUVs are meant to replace expensive nuclear submarines in menial tasks: underwater mining, basic surveillance, decoys, tasking enemy ASW forces with unindentified presence. In strike capability they will have to know a specific target with pre-programmed libraries of acoustic signatures which makes them into a cruise missile more than a "unmanned ship". They will also be susceptible to enemy deception.

Excellent summary overall, but I would add the following:

1. XLUUVs will also be deployed in a terminal hunter-killer role.

You're likely to obtain a fuzzy track for submarine or opposing XLUUV

So it makes sense to send in an expendable XLUUV to flush out the enemy submarine. An XLUUV also has enough space for an active sonar and some torpedoes.

2. If you have air superiority (like near your carrier group or an airbase), you can network your underwater assets

If underwater gliders or XLUUVs obtain a submarine track, they can surface and transmit a location and bearing.

You can have communication buoys dropped from MPA aircraft which can transmit commands to fleets of underwater submarines and underwater gliders. Alternatively, permanent buoys can also incorporate radar/infrared/sonar like those in the South China Seas

3. Island and port blockade

Suppose you just want to blockade a port or island. You could use XLUUVs to silently deliver a large number of torpedo-mines.

An XLUUV would easily carry 4 Mk48 torpedoes
Given how cheap torpedoes and XLUUVs are, it makes sense to saturate the few ports in Korea/Japan/Taiwan/Philippines.
These are all small island nations that are critically reliant on maritime trade.
In comparison, China is geographically the same size as the continent-spanning USA, so it can survive a blockade

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So in such scenarios, I can see much larger numbers of UUVs being built.
 

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