The Bow Ramp

Friday, December 30, 2005

NSFS - What We Don't Have, but Wished We Did

There is an interesting post over at Cdr. Salamander’s today about the MK-71 8” gun that the Navy had been considering back around 1980.  Please read through the comments there, and at this discussion over at

Whenever the subject of naval gunfire comes up these days, you are going to hear about the Iowa class Battleships and the pros/cons about whether they should be brought back (again).  My personal experience with them is limited to a week aboard USS New Jersey (BB-62) during refresher training in 1985.  Yes, I was one of the “Hated Enemy” of FLTRAGRU San Diego (those who know, know.)

The New Jersey was certainly an impressive ship, and we could sure use the firepower she and her sisters represented, but even twenty years ago you had a hard time finding replacement parts.  I have a lot of experience trying to keep a 40 year old ship running (much less 60 years old).  The technology those things were built with just doesn’t exist any more.  Not to mention that they were built for people about six inches shorter than today’s sailor (ouch, my forehead).  There is no point in trying to bring those beautiful ships back.  Neither is there any point in trying to build a modern equivilant.  Not as pointless as building a modern day HMS Victory, but I think you get the picture.

On the other hand, as Cdr. Salamander says, you can’t have too much firepower.  As an old “Gator Freighter” guy myself, I feel that we need some serious capability to deliver big explosions on target for our Marines.  In both Gulf Wars we had the fortunate circumstances of being able to launch an attack against Saddam’s forces from a safe haven, and the time to amass a large force before the shooting started.  In the future, we may not be so lucky.

What the Marines and the amphibious community needs is a platform that is relatively cheap (by military standards), doesn’t require a large crew to operate, and puts a lot of boom on the beach.  I have been thinking that an updated version of this might be in order.
The USS Carronade (IFS-1)
The Carronade along with the older LSMRs were last used during the Vietnam war.  For accurate plinking, the ship had a 5” 38 caliber gun.  But for putting the hurts on a large area, the ship used its eight twin-tube 5” rocket launchers.  Using the rocket launchers, the Carronade could put about 250 rounds a minute on the beach.

What if we were to come up with a ship that was diesel powered, about 20 knot speed, crew of 100 or so, and armed with a whole deck full of auto-loading rocket launchers for shore bombardment.  You could add a few VLS missiles for self defense and long range strike as well.  Does this sound something like the aborted “Arsenal Ship” that was being touted a few years ago?  Yes, and no.  My proposal would be smaller (but more plentiful) than the Arsenal Ship and devoted primarily to getting the Marines ashore against a determined enemy.  It would fight in a more up-front and personal way and the individual munitions would be way cheaper.  Use unguided rockets for area prep and general mayhem.  Use a laser or GPS guidance package if you want to take out a specific target.

The Carronade wasn’t nearly as glamorous as a battleship.  She couldn’t slug it out with a major combatant.  However, she and her sisters laid down a lot of fire support in Vietnam for a lot less money than a BB.  Her shortcomings in terms of range and accuracy could probably be cheaply fixed with modern guidance and upgraded rocket designs.