The Harpoon ASCM tubes should be replaced with trainable Hell-fire box launchers and a gyro-stabilized 2nd Gen FLIR, tied in with a high-mast mounted MM wave Longbow radar array. In this way, Hellfire missiles could be used for direct attacks on coastal fortifications, as well as attacks on small Fast Attack craft likely to be found operating along a contested coastline. Also, a Goalkeeper 30MM CIWS for point-missile defense and close-in surface engagements should be mounted.
This vessel could zip along the enemy coast at 50+
knots, drawing fire to be dealt with by fleet and TACAIR attack, or with it's own weapons. A modified Pegasus class would also be very useful for screening friendly landing craft from attack by hostile fast attack craft, shore bombardment, and general
reconnaissance duties. Today's Navy lacks a swift, maneuverable, missile armed vessel.
A modified Pegasus class is the answer.
There is also no doubt that the Pegasus would also find considerable peacetime employment in our
nation's never-ending "War on Drugs".
Once the various warheads gain IOC, the SM-4 LASM system will equate to a naval contemporary of the US Army ATACMS theater ballistic missile, as fired by the MLRS SPLL (Self Propelled Launcher-Loader). In this vein, I propose replacement of the aft helicopter hanger, maintenance, and refueling/tankage facilities with a gyrostabilized, slewable US Army MLRS armored box launcher. An internal magazine and autoloading device would allow for approximately one dozen 2x6 sealed container reloads of M26 MLRS rockets to be carried. An autoloading magazine of this type would allow for a greatly increased rate of fire over land based equivalents.
This weapons system would yield a total of 160 standard US Army M26 rockets. Each M26 rocket contains 644 M-77CEM submunitions and can cover an area nearly the size of a football field with a dense pattern of bomblets. M26 rockets have a range of 45Km, and would be ideal for laying an initial saturation barrage on beach-head fortifications at the point of assault. Because of the high ammo consumption of it's rocket systems, the helo pad will be maintained for rapid ammunition resupply.
Since the magazines are to be full of ground attack munitions, a dedicated point defense SAM system will be needed. I propose the installation of fore and aft Mk31 RAM 21cell launchers. The fire-and-forget IR/RF RAM missile would provide a powerful point defense against swarm missile attacks. Finally, the twin Phalanx CIWS mounts should be replaced by the more potent 30MM Goalkeeper CIWS. This system, with it's excellent Signal-Flycatcher radar, would be a significant improvement over the Mk15 Phalanx Block II, and would provide a lethal surface attack system for close-in defense against small vessels. It could also be used to detonate any mines detected in the ship's path.
The two 5"/54 gun systems will remain unchanged, with the exception of an increase in barrel length to 62 calibers, as is already planned by the USN for Ticonderoga class cruisers. As it becomes available the USN 155MM FGS (Future Gun System) should be retro-fitted in place of the 5" armament. Appliqué reactive armor blocks ,composite armored plates, and RAM (Radar Absorbent Material) coatings should be mounted to protect the ship from the hazards found when operating as close as 10NM from a defended coastline. The single most important modification to this vessel, and the heart of the integrated weapons system, would be a dedicated and fleet wide integrated Fleet Fire Direction Center (FFDC). This would provide real time data transfer, allowing for immediate, prioritize, and appropriate fire to be called by friendly amphibious forces.
As a dedicated component of the FFDC, a US Army Fire-finder counter battery planar array should be integrated, this would minimize the threat faced by US landing forces in the face of enemy artillery fire. The SPY-1A phased-array radar and AEGIS sensor suite will be maintained to allow for a complete 3D view of the battle space in the AO (Area of Operations). Also operating as an integrated appendage of the FFDC, remotely piloted vehicles (RPV's) would be a key component of the total weapons system, allowing for precise and timely indirect attacks on enemy forces both on the front, and deep behind the FEBA (Forward Edge of Battle Area). There are many existing RPV's which could be adapted to this role, with a compliment of six being an ideal number.
The final class of vessel is a modern adaptation of a design steeped in US Naval tradition. What I propose is a monitor type vessel of the exact length (88 feet) and beam (47feet) of a Landing Craft Air Cushion, to be carried in the well-decks of USN amphibious assault vessels (below), and released as the fleet closes to within 50NM of the enemy coast. From this point, the monitors will steam to within a mere thousand meters of the beachhead and proceed to engage targets with sustained direct/indirect fire. Further, once the beach is secured by friendly forces, the monitors could anchor close to shore and act in the classic role as sea based artillery, firing in support of operations farther inland.
Obviously, a vessel operating in the enemies lap will be subject to intense counterfire. To meet this threat, the monitor will feature a hull and turret of the same armor and protection level as an M-1A2 Abrams MBT. The combination of Chobham and DU238 armored plate mounted by the M-1A1HA and newer Abrams has proven to be extremely resistant to the effects of enemy fire in battle, and is therefore the PERFECT choice for the mission requirements of the monitor. This armor, combined with the monitor's low-profile, outer RAM coatings, and sea-water cooled/away from hull exhaust, would bestow upon the vessel the ability to operate in even the most intensely defended coastal waters for hours on end.
Such a vessel would be heavy (approx.1000tons), but nearly impervious to all but the largest shaped charge missiles, such as the US Maverick. The armor package of the A2 Abrams has proven able to withstand multiple short-range hits from US 120MM APFSDSDU tank main-gun rounds, and can withstand even a Hellfire AGM hit without penetration. The monitor should be internally constructed to provide for a high level of compartmentalization. The demonstrated ability of the Abrams tank to withstand multiple heavy weapons hits and yet continue to fight intact would be greatly enhanced in the monitor through the use of this feature. This is because the types of very large HEAT warheads that would be necessary to penetrate the heavy Chobham/DU238 plate tend to create rather small holes, relying on the jet of molten gasses and metal to score a "kill". With compartmentalization this jet would be fully contained, leaving the rest of the vessel fully battle-ready.
For this reason each of the turreted weapons should be housed in individual compartments and fed from armored magazine chutes. This would allow the weapons systems to continue to function should the turret be breached. Clearing all personnel from the upper turret deck during battle would ensure that all crewmen were safely located below the waterline, and thus fully protected from direct fire weapons. Such a heavy vessel as this would require serious propulsion, so I propose the use of twin 1,500hp Avco Lycoming AGT-1500 gas turbines, as those installed in Abrams. These powerful plants are compact, reliable, and quiet- just what the doctor ordered. An under armor APU should also be installed, to allow for station keeping and systems power when the turbines are shut-down, or even when lost due to battle damage.
A twin outlet jet-drive, coupled with twin titanium reinforced Kevlar rudders round out the propulsion system. I have obviously gone to great lengths to conceive a vessel capable of withstanding severe punishment in order to bring it's weapons to bear for sustained fire. That fire will be provided by a single steeply sloped, high rate of traverse, gyro-stabilized turret featuring twin 5"/62 USN RF Light Weight Gun Mounts (LWGM). A large auto-loading magazine of 300rds of 5" shells is integral to the Monitors mission of sustained direct fire. Sustained ROF for the 5" LWGM is 20RPM per gun. We therefore have conceived a vessel capable of firing one 5" shell every 1.5 seconds for seven and a half minutes straight.
Additionally, a co-axially mounted 30MM Goal-keeper CIWS capable of +75 deg elevation, with an extended magazine capacity of 5,000rds should be incorporated. With a range of 1500+ Meters, this weapon could be used for direct engagement of shore fortifications, small vessels, mines, and of course, missiles. The Signal-Flycatcher and surface search radar systems should be mounted on the turret roof, and encased in a heavily armored enclosure. A 2nd Gen gunner's Flir and commander's independent FLIR viewer will also be mounted on the turret roof, also in heavily armored boxes. For it's primary AD capability the Monitor should sport a single Mk31, 21cell RAM launcher mounted on the afterdeck. This system would provide significant anti-helicopter and point missile defense capability in a 360 degree arc.
Finally, my design allows for up to six externally mounted 2.75"
FFAR (Folding Fin Aerial Rocket) Hydra 19cell rocket pods to be mounted on the turret sides. These would allow for an initial stand-off barrage of up to 114 rockets as the Monitor initially closed with the shore.
Resupply should be accomplished through the use of an armored afterdeck hull elevator. This will allow for rapid underslung helicopter resupply from fleet ships farther out to sea.
Fully loaded for combat, the Monitor's sealed hull should sit no higher than 18" above the water line, making it quite hard to detect, and harder still to hit.
Earlier in the night, fighters flying off the decks of the carriers USS Reagan and USS Nimitz struck a heavy blow, attacking Iraqi airfields and SAM sites in the KTO to ensure local air-superiority for US Amphibious forces. A never ending CAP of Phoenix armed F-14D Tomcats keeps Iraqi MIGs from trying to take part in the opening hours of the second Gulf War. At 0300, and still 50NM from the primary invasion beach, the LSDs USS Wasp and USS Bataan flood their respective well-decks and deploy three Monitor class gunboats each. The monitors form into a loose line abreast formation about 2KM across, and begin the 2+hour cruise to their assigned sector.
They are followed at a distance of 5 miles by the USS Yorktown, the first of the "new" breed of shore bombardment rocket cruisers to complete her refit and re-join the fleet.
For the past day a pair of Pegasus hydro-foils had been flitting along the coast of Kuwait, goading the Iraqi defenders to engage, thus revealing their well concealed positions. This data was of course
automatically forwarded to the Fleet FDC aboard Bunker Hill for fire mission planning. The six RPV's of the Bunker Hill had been in continuous operation for the past twelve hours as well, so there was no shortage of Iraqi targets in the AO.
The section of beachfront that had been chosen for the main invasion was less than ideal, the beach was rough and rocky with shallow approaches. Therefore, it was not as heavily defended, as at this moment it was occupied by a regiment of deeply entrenched Iraqi infantry conscripts with heavy artillery support. Still a formidable defense, but preferable to the much stronger enemy forces arrayed at the prime invasion locations. For the individual sailors and Marines, there was nothing to do now but wait......
At 0445, far from the actual invasion point, a team of USN SEAL commandos, supported by the 76MM guns and Hellfires of two Pegasus PHMs, launches a diversionary feint against Iraqi beach fortifications. The SEALS, set off satchel charges along the waters edge to simulate heavy artillery fire, and engage the surprised defenders with intense small arms fire.
At 0459, the Iraqi leadership back in Baghdad was busy debating if this was
indeed the actual attack... Then the cruise missiles hit. The generals would never know it was but a feint, and their last act while they still had comms was to inform the theater commander that the attack had already begun, far from where it was just about to
This sudden relative calm was interrupted by the sound of six 30MM Avenger gatling cannons opening up at once. The Monitors had used the rocket barrage to gun their engines and charge to within 1,500M of the coast. Their 5" guns depleted, they made good use of the Avengers, tracers spewing forth from the big cannons in streams of continuous fire. Back and forth along the Iraqi line they strafed, with the unerring accuracy of a gyro stabilized gun aimed by a 2nd Generation FLIR. Originally designed to defeat MBT's, the high-velocity DU238 slugs cut through reinforced concrete positions with ease. These were alternated with HE rounds, loaded in a 50/50 mix.
The monitors were now within 1,000M of the coast, and every Iraqi system in range was returning fire.
Most rounds just zipped by, missing the low-profiled monitors. While the Iraqi infantrymen did score hits, their relatively small weapons were unable to do any damage.
The monitors responded to this return fire with remorseless efficiency, putting highly lethal seventy round one second bursts into position after position,
systematically decimating the opposing fortifications. By this point there would have been little doubt to an impartial observer that this was the primary US invasion point, but the
cruise missiles (TLAM's fired by the fleet and the CALCM's by the B-52s) had knocked out most key Iraqi C3i facilities. The word to higher HQ would not get out, at least not in time to matter.
It was at this altitude that the self forging fragment in each submunition was fired downward at a velocity of 14,000 feet per second. Slicing through the thin top armor of the tanks and APCs, the SFF penetrators drove straight through, often blowing right out the bottom of the vehicle and deep into the ground below.
Of the 540 SADARMs dispensed, three had parachute failures, twelve failed to lock, and two were duds. The 523 remaining BATs targeted a total of 425 vehicles. Some hit hot engine compartments, some others hit turrets. In all cases the resultant explosion was quite impressive.
In less than twenty seconds it was all over. Reduced to below 50% strength, the CINC could now rest assured that any Iraqi counterattack would be minimal.
An Iraqi SAM emplacement that had managed to stay well hidden until now lit off it's radar and fired at the last Harrier. The USMC pilot got an immediate warning from his RWR, and tried to evade. Unfortunately, it was not his day. The SAM hit his port after exhaust nozzle and blasted a good bit of wing off as well. Dazed, the pilot could do nothing more than eject over the Gulf.
The SAM launch was seen by one of the orbiting RPV's, and was immediately entered into the FDC for highest-priority engagement.
All friendly aircraft now clear, Bunker Hill engaged the SAM site with her 5" guns, firing an even two-dozen rounds at it's GPS plotted location.
The carnage at the SAM site was evident, the RPV operator watching with satisfaction as a good 60% of the 5" shells landed within
30 feet of the launcher.
Pegasus patrol craft are deadly
William Clarke’s article was one of the more
interesting reads I’ve consumed in a long time.
Especially his simple and elegant solution to improve the usefulness of the
Pegasus patrol crafts.
Especially his simple and elegant solution to improve the usefulness of the
Pegasus patrol crafts.
The Longbow system is an utterly amazing hunk of
military hardware. This would allow multiple Pegasus crafts to conduct
rapid and lethal raids using coordinated strikes against both land and sea
targets. I’d hate to be the Harbor Master that sees a squadron of them
swiftly approaching. There wouldn’t be a harbor left after just a few
minutes work. Hellfire missiles are devastating and just thinking of 30 or
40 of them ripple fired into enemy coastal strongholds is just frightening.
Should we be forced to throw down with China, such a tool would be ideal for
However, I’d rather not totally lose the long range
anti-ship punch that the Harpoon missile gives you. Instead of refitting
both racks, just refit one of them. The Hellfires are easily and quickly
reloadable. Even on the bouncing deck of a fast attack patrol craft.