Navy Strips CVN-79 Of Close-In AAW Enablers

by admin on December 5, 2014

web_050614-N-0000X-002Did anybody notice how the Navy responded to the CSBA report, “Commanding the Seas: A Plan to Reinvigorate U.S. Navy Surface Warfare“?  It seems the Navy’s CVN-builders are less than enthusiastic about Bryan Clark’s call to fundamentally shift the Fleet’s air-defense protocol.

The CSBA report, as we have been discussing here and here, urges a return to “close-in” anti-air warfare, engaging incoming missile threats with smaller, shorter-range missiles like ESSM, fancy things like lasers and railguns, AND placing greater reliance on various soft-kill countermeasures using “modifications to existing ships…that can be fielded by 2025”.

Here’s part of the “kit” CSBA researcher Bryan Clark feels will be crucial for close-in AAW:

“EW jamming, deception, and decoy systems will complement medium-range interceptors from 10–30 nm (depending on the missile’s altitude), and EW performance will also improve over the next decade as the Navy continues to field upgrades to the SLQ-32 EW system common to all large surface combatants.”

Well, the ever-resourceful scribes at Inside the Navy (the story is behind a paywall, but do, please, subscribe!) now report the Navy is….deferring installation of all those enablers of close-in air defense on their showpiece flagship, the USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79), which has (you guessed it) an expected 2023 delivery date:

“The Navy also expects to reduce the CVN-79 cost by as much as $250 million by deferring installation of a number of systems, including the MK 53 Electronic Warfare (EW) Decoy Launching System (DLS), also known as NULKA, built by Lititz, PA-based Sechan Electronics; Surface Ship Torpedo Defense System; and the Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program Block 3, a technology-development program that is intended to provide electronic attack capability.”

That’s gotta hurt.

And any AAW capability cut now won’t be added-back until 2027 at the earliest–and that’s, frankly, wildly optimistic (I’ve got first-hand experience in these games, and robbing-Peter to pay Paul schemes always–always–end in expensive tears).

This ship won’t be a full-up-round for years after delivery.

I mean, the most charitable idea is that the Navy is saving money by cutting things with high risk of obsolescence and holding out for lasers and railguns, but, still, these moves do not appear to be a vote of confidence for any major changes in existing Fleet air warfare/self defense doctrines (I feel Bryan’s pain too; I’m a big fan of the mini-self-defense-and-anti-UUV-torpedo).

It’s also a little worrisome that the builders of the Navy’s First-In-Class Next-Gen Flattop seem intent upon heading into an extended and–if the LPD-17 and LCS are any guide–politically ugly teething period right at the outset of the “Terrible Twenties.”

Might have been nice to have dedicated a spare up-engined MLP/AFSB to test some of these fancy new CVN-enabling technologies before putting ’em into a high-profile franchise platform.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

tpharwell December 15, 2014 at 8:47 am

Yes, You did.

This is an ambiguous event. Can you interpret it for us ? Is it a sign the Navy is preparing to oppose the report recommendations, or pave the way for them ?


1) Oh, megosh ! Here they go again. Better get rid of our close in weapons systems while we can !

2) Oh, megosh ! We’re gonna have a Navy again ! Let’s not waste the money on close-in systems for a carrier. Let’s put in into other ships !


Carlton Meyer December 8, 2014 at 11:59 pm

Since ballistic missiles will arrive at Mach 6, there is no point in wasting money pretending there is a defense. Hollywood produced a one minute video of what this means to an aircraft carrier in the future.


J_kies December 9, 2014 at 9:27 am

Speed is passé’ Mach whatever isn’t a big problem.
Linear motion even if very fast still has a very trivial aiming problem. Linear deceleration is still rather simple. Seriously maneuvering terminally guided warheads are ‘hard’ but the offensive developments to reach that point are equally hard and require extensive testing.


tpharwell December 15, 2014 at 9:10 am

Increasingly, carriers may be limited to the role of undertaking lower-order missions. That would be consistent with the history of the United States since WW II. It would be consistent with the emphasis of the CSBA report. (Aircraft are a lousy means of providing defense against air assault.) And it would be consistent with the thinking of some people about the future of the Navy. Such as yours. As for me, I know nothing.


Greg Lof December 7, 2014 at 5:19 pm

I have a question, is selecting a self-defense system for a ship that won’t be deployed for over a decade a wise use of time and money? We have no idea what sort of self-defense systems the navy will use in five years, let alone eleven. Is not the Navy’s choice to leave that part of the JFK’s design blank, to be determine latter, better than installing systems that will then have to be remove to be replaced with modern system when she is delivered.
Instead,( yes I will use the ugly word) would it not be better to design a modular means of mounting self defense systems on major ships , to simplify (and speed up) the installation of future self-defense systems while increasing the availability for deployment.


J_kies December 10, 2014 at 10:10 am

I thought the real ‘self defense’ system for the CVN was the capabilities of the air-wing and the rest of the battlegroup. Seriously.


Greg Lof December 12, 2014 at 5:20 pm

The carrier airwing is normally defined as a “area defense” just as AEGIS/Standard while systems like Phalanx, SeaRAM, NSSM, are called “self-defense”..


tpharwell December 15, 2014 at 9:28 am

Do definitions matter all that much ? A carrier strike group is a little like a cavalry troop with a wagon train. It either defends itself and the place it is in, or it does does. Cf, Battle of the Little Bighorn.

The main problem you raise is not the approach to design and construction taken, nor judgments on equipment, but rather the length of time it takes to build a ship. Deferring decisions on what to build or how is not the solution. And aircraft carrier is not a construction yard.



tpharwell December 15, 2014 at 9:00 am

I knew you were going to use that word.

Not to decide is to decide. Every decision is fateful. And ships are getting too expensive.

I can not imagine a circumstance in which a carrier would leave port without an escort, unless it would be to the scrap yard. At a time when the Navy is pulling frigates out of service, and some people are trying to argue with a straight face that the Navy of the future will not need them, I think entertaining a discussion of a modular approach to CVN construction is a little like re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.



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