Fragile ASW

Almost all of anti-submarine warfare (ASW) depends on lightweight torpedoes (LWT, typically 324 mm diameter in NATO) for the engagement of hostile submarines.


Their guidance is de facto standardised as using passive and active sonar.* Wake-homing, fibre-optic communication with a radio buoys or launcher and AFAIK also some electrostatic sensor might be used, but I've never seen these published for LWTs. The Swedish SLWT has a wire datalink to the platform.
Their warhead is always so small that mere blast does not suffice (especially at great depths), so the torpedo has to score a direct hit to penetrate with shaped charge effect.**

LWTs typically have a tiny endurance (battery-powered) and lesser top speed compared to heavyweight torpedoes. 

LWTs usually employ a search pattern (such as a downward spiral), and they need to be delivered to the proximity of the targeted submarine or else they would fail to pick it up with their sonar or be simply outrun by it. Emphasis on proximity, for their moblity and sensor really aren't all that powerful compared to similarly sophisticated heavyweight torpedoes.

Few other munitions are relevant for ASW. These are mostly heavyweight torpedoes (almost exclusively used by submarines), some rocket depth charge launchers (mostly on Soviet and Chinese design warships), naval mines (but CAPTOR is out of service) and bombs/missiles (for attacks on ports). No country appears to still have nuclear depth charges.
LWTs are really the indispensable mainstay (including as payload of anti-submarine missiles such as ASROC) munition of ASW.

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The title here is "Fragile ASW". I wrote before about the dependency of ASW on helicopters (availability, survivability) for delivering LWTs. This time I'd like to point out that LWTs (usually only one type is in service in a navy) are a critical link in ASW that renders a navy's ASW impotent if it fails.

LWTs CAN fail if they are outdated. They CAN fail due to soft kill countermeasures by the targeted submarine. They can be wasted (and not recovered) in wartime if the ASW platforms detect too many false contacts and the munition stocks particularly of the newest LWT generation are generally meagre. LWTs CAN fail if they are outrun by fast submarines (SSNs, a famous Cold War-era concern with the extremely fast Alfa SSN class). LWTs CAN fail due to hard kill countermeasures by the targeted submarine (typically anti-torpedo torpedoes, but decoy-mines are another possibility).

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It occurred to me that the seemingly obsolete approach of anti-submarine rocket launchers firing depth charges deserves a second look at least for coastal waters and non-nuclear (=much less than 30 kts top speed) submarines. 
Dumb depth charges fell out of favour because they take a long time to sink and then require a direct or extremely close hit, so it takes an excessive quantity to saturate the large no escape zone of the submarine. They remained in service the longest for shallow littoral water applications, especially in areas where stupid LWT torpedo sonars had the greatest difficulties. Such rocket launchers may also be used to deploy countermeasures to heavyweight torpedoes.

 (This is a fairly simple 1980's vintage ASW depth charge projector system.)

The sinking speed issue can be addressed with a rocket propulsion and maybe supercavitation along the lines of the famous Skhval torpedo. The high speed could be maintained till a pre-set depth to enable the use of semi-active sonar guidance afterwards.
The shaped charge warhead would need to be fairly powerful, driving up the size of the torpedo. The supercavitation concept of Skhval does literally get in the way of a shaped charge, further driving up the size (diameter, weight) requirement for the shaped charge. A tandem or triple warhead design may cope with this (saving on diameter, not so much on weight).

We could reduce the required quantity by giving each rocket a sensor and some steering ability*** to enable each munition to cover a larger footprint, but this would require a more modest sinking speed.

What remains is the question of how many such small anti-submarine rockets would be required in a salvo. This is largely an operational research (OR) question; the answer can be calculated. I strongly suppose that the quantity is bearable when the target is slow (and couldn't get much faster during an anti-submarine rocket engagement sequence). Shallow waters help, while small submarine sizes are detrimental.
Fast SSNs in deep waters would be least suitable targets.

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By the way, the latest Russian munition for their ASW rocket launchers is pretty close to what I wrote about here; unpowered underwater, but with sensor and steering.
Their effective depth is certainly much less than their published nominal (likely crush) depth.
Powered or unpowered doesn't make a difference at really shallow depths, of course. Rocket propulsion underwater would merely be a means to threaten slow-moving SSNs at greater depths.

OR has the last word, but I have a suspicion that we could use underwater rocket-depth bombs to complement LWTs and make our ASW a little less fragile in at least some environments.


*: This is not very low frequency active sonar and is thus subject to strong attenuation by anechoic tiles on submarines.
**: Some hit locations would still be ineffective and submarines may be able to cope with the leak caused by such a hit if they are at shallow depths.
***: Semi-active homing is a possibility. A buoys sends out strong acoustic waves, and the sinking munitions detect the echoes. This would only require simple, small and cheap microphone and computing technology in the munition.

edit August 2020:
I was apparently not far off. I found this in Jane's Air-Launched Weapons Issue 26 1997:
The USN participated in a NATO LCAW project, but withdrew. Lockheed kept marketing its concept nevertheless; an "ultra lightweight torpedo" 132 cm long, 27.7 kg, 5 kg shaped charge.
"Following a boosted airflight trajectory, the torpedo enters the water vertically and ignites its rocket motor for the attack phase. Search and tracking is carried out by radially and axially mounted sonar transducers. The ULWT is credited with an underwater speed of 40 kts and a high probability of successfully intercepting a submarine travelling at 8 kts (the speed specified for the NATO competition)."

The LCAW entry clarifies a lot more:
The LCAW was a provocateur, meant to force a possibel contact into reacting if it's a real submarine. It was a problem during the Cold War that ASW frigates didn't really have enough LWTs for all the false contacts they encoutner during a North Atlantic crossing.

I had previously ignored the (actually produced and introduced) A-200 because it was usually described as some special forces and anti-special forces hardware.

So essentially, think of a salvo of such tiny torpedoes (faster than A-200) being fired by a multiple rocket launcher in a pattern that creates a large no-escape zone for a submarine and you got what I thought of.



Optimism and Pessimism in the West

There's an interesting article in the Technology Review July 2020 (German edition) about perceptions in Germany and the U.S..
Polling shows that the share of Americans who are content with where their country is heading hasn't been greater than 50% since 2004 and has dropped to 20% this summer.
Meanwhile, 78% of Germans are confident that Germany will succeed in the future and only 16% are pessimistic. The German optimism has actually grown during the Corona crisis, and it was pointed out that the Germany government can still dish out extra billions to push what's believed to become technologies of the future amidst a near-global fiscal crisis.

My guess is that the 16% look like a circle in a Venn diagram with those people who think that voting for extreme right wingers is a just dandy idea. The far right has been shown to be fearful in many scientific studies. The fear of change and of 'others' is not exactly a signal of great courage, after all. In other words, far right wingers are fearful pussies, but I mentioned that a couple times already.
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The cultural influence of the United States with its fashion of apocalyptic movies, TV shows and 'dark' movies, comics et cetera doesn't seem to be powerful enough to coin German perceptions.

I can tell that there is cultural influence and political influence, but for about five years I haven't seen any big American motifs getting picked up in Germany other than by Neonazis. German Neonazis gratefully pick up whatever nonsense the American right wing distributes in the internet no questions asked, but other than that? I can't recall any American lead in anything other than IT buzzwordery ("SaaS", "Cloud" et cetera) that's basically just sales talk.

There has been very little discernible influence from most other regions as well, except maybe a little K-pop. 
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I am convinced that cultural affinity can make allying easier and cultural convergence can help fortify alliances. The latter is probably the reason for NATO's survival and unusual prominence.

More attention on the other European nations could help Europe to unify (how good or bad that would be is another topic). A parallel outlook or development can surely help countries to stay partners. The U.S. and Germany appear to go into opposite directions in some regards, and I'm sure we have a similar widening schism between Mediterranean and Central Europe/Northern Europe.

This could spell trouble in the (very) long term.
Governments are and will be trying to address completely different (perceived) major problems, failing to arrive at a consensus and thus failing to cooperate. A disunited West could fail to keep neutral countries from entering a Chinese (or later Indian) sphere of influence and so on.

And talking of the United States, a country in pessimistic (and frightened) mode might be enticed to spend even more insanely on the military and get trigger-happy when spooked again. An American-Sino war is a really really bad case possibility, and it could be sparked just as much by American fears of losing status as by Chinese jingoism and revanchism. I suppose that this possibility exists regardless of which party controls the White House.



Link drop July 2020

Half time of 2020!

We survived.
(That is, unless the zombie apocalypse has already begun.)

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I'm not aware of a single WW2 case of this being applied. I guess that the usual wind conditions are unsuitable for this. I do know of many cases when a successful application would have been decisive

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 This is a representative sample of a great website on the Ming Dynasty military.

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Mitch deserves a link as well. He covers just about everything about warfare on an Osprey book-like level of readability, illustration and ambition. Some day some corporation will ruin him with copyright claims.

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It's still a disappointing performance, but the countries of the EU look rather like functioning societies that can deal with a challenge in comparison to countries that gave power of governance  to lying right wing demagogues.

It's noteworthy that the Hungarian right wing de facto autocrat government did better than other right wing demagogue governments (U.S., UK, Poland, Brazil). They differ in general; they're actual populists (not mere demagogues who only do hatemongering and fearmongering to gain support that  exceeds plutocrats). They try to do popular policies including helping the poor. They're messing up left-right pandemic response performance comparisons whenever the authors don't notice this difference.

Now we have a cesspool of infections in the West. Blocking travel from there is the correct way to handle this.
They need to grow up and choose a different "leader" than a whining man-baby and lying moron.
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Door jammer.

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No fucking fighting!

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I mentioned that one of the blog post ideas is a commentary on Sun Tzu's "Art of War".
Now I'd like to call for feedback whether there's any interest in such an effort. I would interpret the sentences, link them to examples and clarify why and when the sentence made/makes sense. Feel invited to signal interest ("+" in comments) or disinterest ("-").

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[German] https://netzpolitik.org/2020/mit-diesem-gesetz-bekommen-alle-geheimdienste-staatstrojaner/