Defending against anti-ship balistic missiles

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Unread post10 Jun 2012, 21:18

It seemed like it would be appropriate to start a thread for this here given the discussion of the Chinese "carrier killer" anti-ship ballistic missiles that is going on in the F-35 section.
So, how about it? What are the likely guidance mechanisms? How can they be defeated? How easy will be be to intercept them? Does this require enough re-thinking of naval air power to change carrier design in the long run (submersible aircraft carriers?)?
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Unread post10 Jun 2012, 22:34

The discussion so far seems to limit a potential attack to a single ASBM. What about a coordinated barrage of DF-21 missiles directed at a single target.. the carrier? Would this overwhelm the current defense aparatus currently employed by the USN? It seems as though the Chinese are developing the capability to launch multiple missiles from multiple sites from mobile-type launchers. Also, given the somewhat confined area of the South China Sea where a potential conflict may arise, this may make it easier to locate the carrier.

I think this will need to be address in future carrier designs. If China is successful creating an exclusion zone with ASBM, this would encourage other nations unfriendly to the US to invest in the technology or just buy it from the Chinese. The world knows the capability that the US gains from having carrier battle groups sitting right off their coast. I can imagine the Iranians would love to have this option given the proximity of the Abraham Lincoln and the Enterprise to their shoreline.
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Unread post10 Jun 2012, 23:02

Iran would not need that... put 100 truck-launched CMs in the sky at once and the carrier is a virtual goner.
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Unread post10 Jun 2012, 23:22

Combining the guidance and targeting difficulties to be overcome by such a system, attacking carriers with conventionally-armed IRBMs is like trying to shoot bats on the wing at night with a .22 and a flashlight. I seriously doubt China really has this capability as we've yet to see an actual demonstration of the thing; they're probably just trying to goad us into a panic as we did with the Soviets and Star Wars. Even if China overcomes the technical problems, it's not exactly exportable because none of China's clients have the ISR assets necessary to use it; without extremely advanced targeting, the DF-21 is just an expensive bottle-rocket.
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Unread post11 Jun 2012, 02:10

If you can put a nuclear warhead on the missile, the missile can destroy multiple ships at once without needing to be particularly accurate.

And didn't China have an old submarine surface right in the middle of a group of American surface ships a few years ago?
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Unread post11 Jun 2012, 02:17

delvo wrote:And didn't China have an old submarine surface right in the middle of a group of American surface ships a few years ago?

As far as I can tell, that was a "we know where the battle group will pass in the exercise, so we'll just park a diesel sub on battery power and wait for it to pass over" kind of thing.
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Unread post11 Jun 2012, 02:22

1st503rdsgt wrote:Combining the guidance and targeting difficulties to be overcome by such a system, attacking carriers with conventionally-armed IRBMs is like trying to shoot bats on the wing at night with a .22 and a flashlight. I seriously doubt China really has this capability as we've yet to see an actual demonstration of the thing; they're probably just trying to goad us into a panic as we did with the Soviets and Star Wars. Even if China overcomes the technical problems, it's not exactly exportable because none of China's clients have the ISR assets necessary to use it; without extremely advanced targeting, the DF-21 is just an expensive bottle-rocket.

What if they use a satellite that can get a visual fix on the target, and update the targeting for the RV second to second? It isn't particularly exportable in that form, but China may not want to sell it to anyone -- they are planning on deploying their own carriers.
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Unread post11 Jun 2012, 03:07

count_to_10 wrote:
1st503rdsgt wrote:Combining the guidance and targeting difficulties to be overcome by such a system, attacking carriers with conventionally-armed IRBMs is like trying to shoot bats on the wing at night with a .22 and a flashlight. I seriously doubt China really has this capability as we've yet to see an actual demonstration of the thing; they're probably just trying to goad us into a panic as we did with the Soviets and Star Wars. Even if China overcomes the technical problems, it's not exactly exportable because none of China's clients have the ISR assets necessary to use it; without extremely advanced targeting, the DF-21 is just an expensive bottle-rocket.

What if they use a satellite that can get a visual fix on the target, and update the targeting for the RV second to second? It isn't particularly exportable in that form, but China may not want to sell it to anyone -- they are planning on deploying their own carriers.


That might work for an atmospheric weapon, but IRBMs are a different animal altogether. With a ballistic weapon, you have to have a very, VERY solid fix on where your missile needs to hit before you even launch, and the capacity for course corrections is extremely limited once it's in transit, which complicates things all the more when your target can change its position by several miles in any direction upon receiving warning of your attack.

As for space-based targeting, satellites aren't the all-seeing eyes of God that conspiracy theorists would have us believe. First, a satellite would have to know exactly where to look; then it would have to collect several minutes worth of data on the target's location, course, speed, and direction before launch even took place; then it would have to provide continuous updates during the missile's entire ~15 minute or so flight. I don't think optical surveillance satellites can observe a target for that long because, well... they're satellites; they have to keep going in their orbits whether you want them to or not. It's also worth mentioning that their satellites are just as vulnerable as ours, and our anti-space technology is somewhat more advanced than theirs.
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Unread post11 Jun 2012, 16:29

503 - I would like to note that you're one of the very few people poo-pooing the Chinese ballistic missile threat.

The proposed flight path for the ABM is as follows:

1. Ballistic (ish) flight until re-entry
2. Pull up into a hypersonic gliding cruise mode
3. Search for the carrier battle group
4. Terminal attack

Look at the picture in this article: http://www.popularmechanics.com/technol ... ic-missile

In that attack profile, the missile is still constrained by the sensor and flight-path foot print, but it will have time to do a simple surface search before it ditches into the ocean. Now, a single missile may not be able to hit all of the carrier's evasive maneuver zone, but that doesn't mean it is an ineffective weapon. It can be fired in salvos, with several missile's flight path overlapping the entire feasible region for the carrier to maneuver into. Or, the Chinese can add some sort of mid course guidance to the ballistic stage to give the missile better cross-range performance.

About satellites, you're discussing a different question: is the ASBM a practical weapon system. THat depends on the PLA's recon capabilities. According to a story I posted in the previous thread, the PLA is indeed pursuing a concentrated effort to develop a recon-strike complex. In addition to satellites, they're building over the horizon radars and long range UAVs. (It can almost be assumed that the Chinese are working on a stealth recon UAV as well) This doesn't make the anti-ship ballistic missile impossible, instead it just requires that the Chinese get a lock on the battle group before they fire. (Which was always the case). As I've mentioned above, the Chinese probably won't need continuous tracking of the battle group, perhaps a mid-course update, but everyone envisions the terminal stage to have its own homing and maneuvering capability. Terminal attack and perhaps some terminal search will be conducted by the warhead.
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Unread post11 Jun 2012, 23:01

arkadyrenko wrote:503 - I would like to note that you're one of the very few people poo-pooing the Chinese ballistic missile threat.

The proposed flight path for the ABM is as follows:

1. Ballistic (ish) flight until re-entry
2. Pull up into a hypersonic gliding cruise mode
3. Search for the carrier battle group
4. Terminal attack

Look at the picture in this article: http://www.popularmechanics.com/technol ... ic-missile

Thats odd. That sounds too advanced. I think the US has been having problems getting experiments like that to work.
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Unread post11 Jun 2012, 23:34

Ark,

What you're describing is a force of mini-space-shuttles with sensor capabilities far beyond anything fielded on a guided weapon before, all completely dependent on a vast, vulnerable ISR infrastructure. The reason I poo-poo the carrier-killer's threat is because two years of research have given me some insight into the technical difficulties associated with such a system. I'm not saying it can't be done, it's just not cost effective compared to other means of area-denial. Besides, what's the point of building a conventional weapon, the only purpose of which is to do something that's likely to trigger a war with nuclear arms? Frankly, I don't think the Chinese are dumb enough to waste money on such a thing, though it wouldn't surprise me if they were building something to hit ships in port (a useful capability to have against their neighbors).
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Unread post12 Jun 2012, 00:10

Let me ask..is it possible for an ABM stike on a carrier to be implemented using Initial GPS coordinates loaded into a BM (I would think yes) with only additinal terminal guidance? Everyone and everything can be GPS tracked even via a simple personal cellphone. You think with 5,000 sailors on board with personal electronic items, that the GPS signals could be intercepted or hacked? My understanding is even when your phone is turned off, there is still a signal unless you remove the SIM chip.

Now before you correct me, yes I always thought GPS was a passive multi-angular determination of location. But how does a phone company know where to have a cell phone call come to your proximate cell tower when you are say in Montana, but live in Georgia? You don't believe that every tower in America sends a query?

But back to carrier BMD, if the GPS coordinates are known, then attacking a CBG will only be dependent on the area coverage of terminal guidance. Figuring a CBG at 30 knots, then within 10-15 minutes, the terminal phase only needs to "see" less than 200 square miles of ocean. This is not 86 Libya anymore and I am sure the Chinese did not ever forget the bugging of Boeing VIP aircraft many years ago.

I hope I am wrong in this layman assesment. Maybe just a nut, I dunno.
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Unread post12 Jun 2012, 01:07

Cell phones can be tracked because they stay in constant communication with cell phone towers. They actively report their position to the network. GPS alone is purely passive.
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Unread post13 Jun 2012, 05:50

503 - I don't get your, and many other commentators, insistence on ballistic missile launch(!) --> nuclear war. That linkage had no serious basis. If the country is salvo-ing ballistic missiles towards a target, and that target isn't a US missile field, than the US has NO REASON to launch nuclear weapons in response. Especially if that country has a well developed and publicized arsenal of conventional ballistic missiles. I do not understand how that can be otherwise. Why assume a launch on warning posture, when the nuclear missiles are not threatened?

Second, the Chinese have done it, very few public military commentators seriously doubts the existence of this weapon system, nor have I seen many doubts about the technological feasibility of the warhead. And if you're wondering about that system's flight profile, its already been done, ableit in a different form. There's a picture online of an alleged US test of such a re-entry vehicle flight path. Heck, the US army tested a similar weapon quite recently.

http://www.parabolicarc.com/2011/11/18/ ... e-vehicle/

As for the homing methods, people have questioned the systems radar foot-print, but I don't recall reading many questions about the ability to mount such a radar on the re-entry vehicle itself. Just because the US hasn't had a need to do it doesn't mean that it isn't possible. And, I may add, the USN is acting as if it is very much possible. It could be the case that the ASBM is a boutique weapon, one which works only in the most narrowly defined circumstances, but that is hardly a new circumstance in military history.

Finally, I agree with you in that the vulnerability of the system will probably lie in its attached recon component. Given that such a network is already needed for the Chinese military, we can assume that they're pursuing that technology quite aggressively. Also, recon technology has advanced dramatically since the end of the cold war. Microsats and long range UAVs give a different form of ocean recon, forms which can supplement the traditional RORSAT constellation. But, all those nodes are vulnerable to attack and will be a target in wartime. The vulnerability of those nodes does not mean that an ASBM is impossible. It only suggests that it is vulnerable.
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Unread post13 Jun 2012, 06:40

Pershing II used radar for homing in on the target. Radar in the nose of a ballistic missile (the bus at least) is nothing new.
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