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War-At-Sea or War From The Sea?
CSC 1993
SUBJECT AREA - Topical Issues
                        EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Title:  War-At-Sea or War From the Sea?
Author: Lieutenant Commander Paul M. Pietsch, United States Navy
Thesis: The U.S. Navy must continue to develop weapons and tactics
        to project power in the littoral areas of the world.
Background: The threats faced by the U.S. Navy are changing. We no
longer face a well defined threat in the open ocean. Instead we are
facing a nebulous threat in the congested, shallow waters of the
world's littorals. The Navy must improve or refine its antiair,
antisubmarine, antisurface, antimine, and naval gunfire support
Recommendations:  Continue to refine the unique requirements in the
littoral areas and ensure Navy acquisition programs are tailored
to meet the requirements.
Thesis: The United States Navy presently has the ability to conduct
operations  in the  littoral  areas of the world.  But, as the
potential adversaries to the U.S. become better armed the Navy must
refine its basic warfighting areas and tailor them to the unique
requirements of the littoral areas.
         I.    Introduction
               A. Thesis
               B. War-at-Sea
        II.    Antiair Warfare
               A. SPY-1
               B. Congested Airspace
               C. Political Solution
        III.   Antisubmarine Warfare
               A. Diesel Threat
               B. Target Identification
               C. LAMPS Helicopter Use
        IV.    Anti surface Warfare
               A. Target Rich Environment
               B. Harpoon
               C. Penguin
        V.     Naval Gunfire Support
               A. 5-inch Gun
               B. 8-inch Gun
        VI.    Antimine Warfare
               A. Gulf War Lessons Learned
               B. Importance of Mines
     The United States Navy is better prepared to fight in
the littoral areas of the world than some would have us
believe. That does not mean, however, that its weapons,
tactics, and priorities do not need to be changed to focus
on the challenges faced in littoral warfare.  These changes
are only natural since U.S. Naval forces are designed for
battle in the open ocean against a well-defined Soviet
threat, not for battle in a congested, shallow water
environment against a nebulous threat.
   War-at-sea, whether in the littoral areas or in deep open
ocean waters, takes place in one of three arenas:  antiair,
antisubmarine, or anti surface warfare.  These three arenas
are significantly different in the open ocean and the
littoral environments.  The open ocean environment is
generally clear of non-combatants. That makes it an easy
environment in which to detect, verify, and target hostile
contacts. Conversely, the littoral environment is typically
The Ticonderoqa class guided missile cruiser is the
Navy's premier ship in the antiair role.  The ship was
designed to sail in the center of a battle group with the
high value ship(s) within the protective umbrella provided
by its SPY-1 radar.  The SPY-1 radar is capable of tracking
hundreds of contacts simultaneously.  This capability is
ideal in the open ocean where the only aircraft in the
vicinity are either friendly or hostile.  Systems onboard
the friendly aircraft allow them to be identified as such on
the radar's display.  Hostile aircraft have no such systems;
unfortunately, neither do civilian aircraft. In the littoral
area,  not only are there friendly aircraft and hostile
aircraft but also there are innumerable civilian aircraft of
all types.  The SPY-1 cannot tell the difference between
hostile and civilian aircraft.  That means that the human
operating the radar must try to evaluate hundreds of
contacts a day as hostile or non-hostile simply by their
flight profile.  If there are active hostilities involved,
the operator may only have seconds to make that
determination.  One need only recall the USS Vincennes'
incident where a civilian airliner was inadvertently shot
down to find an example of the difficulty with target
identification in the littoral environment.
     The solution to the antiair problem is not going to be
found in any potential upgrade to the SPY-1 radar. In
today's economy it is also not reasonable to expect any new
systems to replace the SPY-1. The solution to the problem
will have to come through improved command-and-control.
Prior to sustained Naval action in any area our national
leaders must clearly announce to the international community
that hostilities are likely and civilian aircraft must avoid
the area. This announcement would not deter the United
States launching a preemptive strike without warning because
it could be given after our strike had been delivered. On
the tactical level, the ships that are involved in the Naval
action must coordinate their response to a perceived air
threat. This coordination could include concurrence on
target classification by more the one unit or gaining visual
on the target prior to engaging. Even with all of the best
command-and-control measures there will come a time when
only one unit has the target on radar and there are no
friendly aircraft to use as a visual platform. Then the
solution falls squarely in the hands of the ship's captain.
The C.O. of the ship will have to make his best
determination as to the best course of action in order to
protect his ship. Operating in a hostile littoral
environment is a very dangerous venture; the nation's
political leadership must be willing to accept the risk of
collateral damage to non-combatants if it intends to project
U.S. power under these conditions. Put succinctly, the right
to self defense must not be withheld from commanders on the
     Antisubmarine warfare in the littoral environment is
another area that the Navy's current systems are not well
suited for.  Today's systems were designed to operate in
deep ocean water against Soviet nuclear-powered submarines.
In the littoral area, antisubmarine warfare is conducted in
shallow water against third world diesel/electric
submarines.  The difference is significant for two reasons.
First, diesel/electric submarines are virtually impossible
to detect with passive sonar when they are submerged and on
battery power.  Submerged nuclear submarines are relatively
noisy and often can be detected at significant ranges in the
open ocean. The quietness of the diesel/electric submarine
means that today's ships must use active sonar to stand a
reasonable chance at detecting it. Submarines can hear the
constant pinging of an active sonar far enough away that it
can easily stay outside its detection range. Secondly, in
the future it is highly unlikely that the United States will
be operating unilaterally and the possibility exists that
our adversary will be operating the same class of submarine
as our allies. Determining who's Class-209 submarine that is
operating under water during wartime with the fog of war
will be very difficult.(1:128)
     Unlike the antiair problem which must be dealt with
through  procedural changes; the antisubmarine problem must
be solved with technological changes as well as tactical
changes. The problem with detection and classification of a
diesel/electric submarine requires the development of new
sensors, both acoustic and non-acoustic, and the development
of expanded procedures for the integration of coalition
submarines into the Navy's battle group.  The Secretary of
the Navy, in his paper ".. From the Sea."  laid down the
framework for fully integrated ASW in the littoral
environment. The Navy will integrate attack submarines,
maritime patrol aircraft, and mine warfare assets into
expeditionary task forces.(6:4)
     John F. Morton writing for the Naval Institute's
magazine "Proceedings" clearly stated the future ASW
challenge when he wrote the following:
   The Navy believes that the most likely regional ASW
   scenario will take place during a prolonged pre-
   hostilities period and will involve two-to-five opposing
   diesel subs. If so, the ideal course of ASW events would
   begin with the quick deployment of advanced surveillance
   assets, SSNs and P-3s (if no air threat), followed by a
   forward deployed SURTASS ship. Mobile and task-force ASW
   assets would then commence area clearance operations in
   the littoral operating area. Once they establish sea
   control, expeditionary forces could conduct  strike and
   amphibious operations. In the event of a
   compressed pre-hostilities period, the on-scene
   commanders will have to rely on innovative force
   packaging. For example, some ASW war fighters advocate  a
   number of helicopter options such as putting two
   helos on each escort, deploying them on auxiliaries or
   operating them from the land.(2:126)
Increasing the number of ASW helicopters in the battle
group, as expressed in Morton's article, will require
significant expenditures of money.
     Operating helicopters as ASW search platforms as part
of an innovative force package is an interesting concept but
an understanding of how ASW helicopters operate must be
gained prior to attempting it. Historically, ASW helicopters
have been employed as reactionary vehicles; responding to a
sonar contact gained by some other sensor in the battle
group. The helicopter would launch and proceed to the area
of interest. Once on station the helicopter places sonobuoys
in the water hoping to gain contact on as many buoys as
possible. After contact is gained the aircrew on board the
helicopter in concert with its parent ship, via the data
link, would begin to refine the contact in order to achieve
attack criteria for its torpedo.
     The Light Airborne Multipurpose System (LAMPS)
helicopter is the helicopter system employed by the Navy's
escort ships. The cornerstone of the system is the data link
between the helicopter and its controlling ship. The data
link is a "pencil-beam" directional system which means that
the ship can only link with one helicopter at a time.
Traditionally this has not been a concern because there was
no reason to have multiple LAMPS helicopters operating from
the same ship at the same time. Operating the LAMPS without
its data link significantly degrades its capability to
process the acoustic data it receives from its sonobuoys.
The cost of installing link capabilities to auxiliary ships
would be prohibitive, but Morton's  idea has merit if the
ASW module on board the supporting aircraft carrier is
equipped with multiple data link receivers so it could link
simultaneously with more than one LAMPS helicopter.
   The final war-at-sea arena, antisurface warfare, is also
adversely affected in the littoral area.  As with the
previous two arenas, the problems revolve around detecting
and/or identifying the threat at stand off ranges.  The
waters in the littoral areas can be crowded with shipping.
This makes detecting a hostile contact difficult.  The
Navy's primary antisurface missile is the Harpoon missile
that, despite a sophisticated guidance system, cannot pick
the hostile contact from a group of contacts particularly if
the contact is a small gunboat.  Assigning manned tactical
jet aircraft against small gunboats is a diversion of assets
away from their primary power projection mission and
therefore negatively affects the overall operation.  The
only other weapon available is an armed helicopter.
Unfortunately, the only helicopter compatible missile in the
Navy's inventory, the Penguin missile, has such a short
range that the helicopter must operate within the hostile
ship's weapon envelope in order to launch it.
     The solution to the antisurface problem is also a
technological one. Improvements to the seeker-head of the
Harpoon missile must be made. A video data-link between the
missile and the firing ship with a field of view big enough
to allow an operator to designate the target of interest is
the most viable solution. The problem with the range of the
Penguin missile is of such magnitude that the Penguin should
be replaced by another missile. The preferred missile would
have a stand-off range of at least fifteen nautical miles.
Additionally, new coordinated tactics allowing multiple,
simultaneous launches from multiple helicopters on different
azimuths from the target must be developed.
     Fighting in the littoral areas also includes extending
naval influence on to the land. The most significant way to
do that is through amphibious operations. Unfortunately, the
Navy no longer has the right type of ships with enough
firepower to adequately support an amphibious assault. Two
important aspects of an amphibious invasion are pre-invasion
bombardment of the intended landing area and supporting
naval gunfire during the assault. The ideal weapon for both
functions is the 16-inch gun that is found onboard
battleships. Tragically, for those Marines who will be
called upon to do those future amphibious assaults, all of
the battleships have been decommissioned. The loss of the
battleships means the biggest gun in the fleet is the 5-inch
gun. The 5-inch gun simply does not provide sufficient
firepower to soften a well prepared defensive position.
   The solution to the lack of Naval gunfire is not as easy
as it would seem. The idea of bringing the battleships back
from retirement may seem logical, but  the material
condition of those fifty year old ships makes that option
unattractive. The cost of fixing their problems would be
prohibitive. Fitting newer ships with 16-inch guns is not
possible since their hulls, decks, and superstructures were
not designed to support them. The best solution would be to
acquire an 8-inch gun that would be compatible with today's
ships. An 8-inch gun would fire a projectile large enough to
destroy enemy defenses. The Mk-71 is an existing 8-inch gun
that could significantly enhance naval gun fire. The Mk-71
with conventional 8-inch ammunition would increase range by
over 50 percent and increase area coverage 2.5 times. Using
submunitions range could be increased by 300 percent and
area coverage increased by 600 percent. The firing rate is
20 rounds per minute for both the Mk-71 and the current 5-
inch Mk-45.(3:104)
     Maneuver from the sea implies not just operating off
the coast of another country but it also means projecting
power inland. The Navy is well versed in the use of naval
aircraft to project power, but it has allowed itself to
decay in its ability to conduct amphibious assaults. Perhaps
the aspect of amphibious operations that is most lacking is
antimine warfare. In the 1992 Annual Report to the President
and the Congress the Secretary of Defense stated the most
important lesson learned by naval forces in Operation DESERT
STORM was in the area of mine countermeasures. He also
explained that the adoption of more effective
countermeasures against enemy mines, including shallow water
mines, will be required in any future amphibious
operations.(4:77) The  inadequacy of the U.S. mine clearing
capability was highlighted by the requirement for extensive
reliance on coalition nations to provide minesweeping ships.
Two dozen minesweepers from nine nations were used to clear
over 1,000 mines from the waters off Kuwait. Japan provided
four of the minesweepers which marks the first time that
nation has sent military forces abroad since 1945.(5:8)
     Mine clearing operations present challenges in both the
technological and tactical arenas. The United States will
have to devote more resources to developing more mine
sweeping ships and expanding the envelope of the MH-53E
helicopter to allow for night towing. Unfortunately,
increasing the numbers of mine sweepers will not completely
solve the mine problem; increased intelligence gathering and
properly refined tactics will also be required. Mine warfare
has become a much more serious threat to the U.S. Navy for
two reasons. First, naval mines used today are much more
sophisticated than those used in the past. Second, losing a
ship to a mine is unacceptable both politically and
ship to a mine is unacceptable both politically and
operationally. A review of the major amphibious operations
in World War Two reveals that mines did not act as an
effective deterrent to amphibious operations. The apparent
reason for this seems to be a result of sheer numbers. U.S.
amphibious operations were generally large enough and the
troops were spread among enough ships so that a few ships
lost to mines would not stop the assault, additionally the
country was at total war and the loss of a few ships was
accepted as part of the price to be paid. The sparsity of
amphibious shipping combined with the lack of acceptability
of losing a ship in what will probably be a limited war
against some regional power have combined to give mere
threat of naval mines a supernatural ability to deter robust
amphibious operations.(5:185-194)
     Current U.S. Navy weapons allow its ships to operate in
any naval environment with confidence. However, as the
future threats evolve it will become increasingly difficult
for the United States to gain the dominance of the
battlespace necessary to wage amphibious operations. In
order for the U.S. Navy to maintain its supremacy at sea the
national leadership must make the commitment to support the
types of weapons systems necessary to project and sustain
power from the sea. An easy trap for our nation's decision
makers to fall into is believing the Persian Gulf conflict
was a good model for all future conflicts. The Persian Gulf
conflict was without doubt a testament to the capability and
responsiveness of America's military. However, it is highly
unlikely the United States will have the combination of
enemy ineptitude, long mobilization time, regional
cooperation, and favorable terrain that it enjoyed in that
conflict. The United States will need to maintain a diverse
set of modern naval forces, able to function in more
demanding conditions than they encountered in the Gulf
War. (4:74)
1. Owens, VADM. W.A.. "Still a Priority." Proceedings March
2. Morton, J.F.. "The Shallow Water Diesel: A New Priority."
   Proceedings March 93:126
3. Selle, R.W.. "Is There A Place For The Mk-71 8-inch Gun?"
   Proceedings November 92:104
4. Cheney, Dick. Annual Report to the President and the
   Congress. February 92.
5. Center for Strategic & International Studies. Interim
   Report on Military Lessons Learned in the Gulf War. CSIS
6. O'Keefe, S.. ".. From the Sea." Navy and Marine Corps
   White Paper. September 1992

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