Transcript of an Interview with Admiral J. M. Boorda Chief of Naval Operations August 24, 1995 Q1. A couple of months ago you talked about the family of ships idea. Now it seems to have started to jell a little bit more -- Could you elaborate on that? A1. This is an idea -- a concept, and maybe a technology demonstration. There's a lot more work to do. I think it's a good concept. I think there are other good concepts and I think we probably will want to do more than one thing. But I don't know that yet. When you start thinking about this -- and you put the word "versus" in there -- you also have to add "do you want to do that and this other thing and how about this one?" Part of being innovative is to be able to think creatively about lots of options and pick some. That is where we are right now. That's exactly what we are doing. I think this is a good thing to think about, and maybe a good thing to do, at least as a technology effort and as a prototype. You've heard words "maybe" and "perhaps" here. That's because there is no money against this right now and there is still more work to do. It's a concept that some people are now pursuing and will become advocates for and that's good. That's how you get a program started. We'll see how it goes. We have a lot more to see before we go bend metal. Q2. Talk specifically about Arsenal Ship and how it fits into this architecture and this family of ships. A2. This idea consists of ships, aircraft and UAV's and other means of getting targeting information. We have some platforms that provide their own fire control solution. By fire control solution I mean they take a dynamic situation and turn it into orders to a weapon that ends up on the target. What we thought about with this ship is that it would be a magazine to carry a lot of weapons -- carry them in a relatively safe way -- although nothing is 100% safe in a shooting situation -- but try to make it as safe and secure and survivable as possible within the cost realities that we face . We have a lot of ordnance that could be delivered from this platform in response to the fire control solution from something or somebody else. Examples of that (which have nothing to do with arsenal ships): * An artillery spotter rifle company, or platoon squad needs fire support. They call to a 105 battery or ATACM battery or an MLRS battery, and they give coordinates where the target is -- what they would like destroyed. In today's world it's most likely that you'd be able to get GPS coordinates. The artillery battery (or whatever) shoots and hits the target. That's one way we do fire support. Another way... * You have a forward air controller who sees a target, identifies it, and calls in an airplane to deliver ordinance -- it could be a smart bomb, a dumb bomb, SLAM -- you name it. * Another way is a ship sitting off the beach and a gun spotter ashore sees the target, describes the target, its location in terms the ship can understand, and the ship shoots and hits the target, or they shoot near the target and adjust to hit it. * Finally, just as an example, a ship is out there and it's given a target far inland with GPS coordinates and the other kind of information needed for a Tomahawk to hit its target. We shoot it and deliver from the ship. Everything I just talked about had a couple things in common. Someone described a need for ammunition at a specific point on the earth and described the target, and somebody else shot it; not the same person that described it. The arsenal ship is the gun barrel, or the airplane, or the missile tube, or the whatever -- that takes the information from somebody else that says please put your thing here and the arsenal ship shoots it. Simple operation -- not a very sophisticated ship with respect to elaborate fire control systems -- it merely gets told where the target is -- probably by some data links -- like CEC -- and it unloads the right weapon on the target. You can do that, I think, with very few people. And because there is now a family of weapons throughout the services -- and a growing family of smart weapons, many of which are launched vertically or could be launched vertically -- this thing could shoot ATACMS, Tomahawk and it's various varieties, standard missiles, or it could be a theater ballistic missile defense ammunition locker, and more. The whole idea is that it isn't a specific-weapon ship. It is whatever the Defense Department builds that can be launched vertically, can be fired off of the ship. Q3. There seems to be a mix of different kinds of capabilities. A3. It depends on the war and the mission. You should have a lot of ATACMs if what you are really doing is providing basic artillery support. You could have a whole rack of Tomahawks if you are going to do first day strikes in support of manned aircraft that are going in to bomb. If you thought you were going to be in the heavy AAW situation or SCUD situation, you might want a different kind of missile on there. That's what we haven't fully developed yet. The whole idea of this is to think about big fire support ships and artillery. What we're doing is recreating that in a modern way. To make this really worthwhile you'd want a large number -- 500 is not a bad number. People can draw you pictures of it, but what we are really talking about here is a concept. Q4. You said it would take very few people to operate -- what's Your notion? A4. I'd like the number to be as small as possible -- somebody said 100, somebody else said 50 -- I said maybe something in the 20s -- I don't think anybody really knows yet. There is a lot of technology to be developed for something like this to truly work and be minimally manned. Some of the technology is defensive in nature. In other words, the ship needs to be able take damage and have that damage be controlled by a small number of people which may mean a little different kind of construction. Right now double hull is something we do with tankers -- maybe we want to do a double-hull -- or use automatic firefighting equipment. If you want to have a really reduced crew size, you need maintenance that is not required in large amounts during a normal operating cycle. And you'd need engineering equipment that was relatively automatic. Most of the weapons we are talking about don't require maintenance. You put them in a tube and you leave them in a tube for a long period of time. You take them out when they need maintenance and they go back to an ammunition depot. I think that's okay. We need a new kind of tube to shoot out of. Right now the Mark 41 Launcher that we have on our AEGIS ships is probably more expense and not quite the launcher we would want for this ship. We have to develop some new technology and maybe a concentric launcher tube. There is a lot of technology that goes into making something like this work. It isn't as simple as I made it sound and a lot of the technology is new and needs to be explored. This isn't a "just go build it tomorrow" kind of idea. Q5. This has also has a enhanced survivability aspect to it, a Semi-submersible mode. A5. That's one of the ideas and I think it's an acceptable idea. In order to get seaworthiness and be able to go long distances and sometimes travel through heavy seas, and do a reasonable speed, you need to have a freeboard that keeps the ship stable, safe, and fairly high out of the water. When you get into an area -- this is really a Forward ... From the Sea kind of ship -- you probably will want to be able to ballast down and have much less freeboard and in effect much less target area for cruise missiles or some other type of airborne weapon -- thereby making your defensive problems somewhat easier. You're never going to make it perfectly safe -- that it can never be hit anytime -- so what you want to do is reduce the target area. And something that's ballasted down becomes very stable. Q6. All of this sounds like it's relatively affordable. The technology is out there -- the super tankers are out there... A6. I don't think we're talking about anything that's as big as a super tanker but the double-double haul is certainly something we can do. I think the reduced manning we're talking about takes some work. The launcher tubes that we are thinking about do not exist yet. They have to be designed and built. This isn't just taking a bunch of things off the shelf and doing it, but it's not as difficult as a lot of other technology projects. Q7. Where are you in terms of development? A7. We're still working hard; still doing some briefings inside the Navy and thinking about it. ONR is working it. We've talked to ARPA. Obviously, the OPNAV staff -- N86 is working it real hard -- and we're talking internally right now as well as to ARPA. We haven't spent a nickel against it yet. We're still talking about it. Q8. What is it going to cost? A8. I think any number I give you would be really speculative. I've seen numbers all the way from less than half a billion dollars to seven to eight hundred million for a ship like this. But I think it's too early to know the answer to that. Q9. Is this something you could -- you say you can't pull it off the shelf -- but you could borrow existing commercial technology couldn't you? A9. That's right. Q10. What kind of timeframe are you talking about? When might you start working? When could this first ship actually .... A10. The year 2000 maybe. You're not hearing real definite answers to your questions. You can probably find people who have real answers. I like the idea, but what I don't want to do -- I've heard everything from "this is Boorda's legacy" to "this was a good idea" and worth pursuing as an idea, and if it pans out then it will be great. And if it doesn't, it will be worth having thought about it. Q11. When do you think you'll know? A11. I think we will probably look really seriously at this at about fall of 1998. First of all things have to be affordable. We have some time between now and then. I think I like this idea a lot, but I need to be convinced that I like it before we put money against it. I haven't quite gotten there yet. Q12. Do you know where you're going to find it? A12. It's not done yet. We're still finishing FY-97 right now. How can something get born without having ideas and talking about it? That's what we're doing. But there may be some other good ideas that may be better. This is exciting stuff if it works and it's a good idea among other good ideas. I hope it will generate even more good ideas. What I hope people will be smart enough to understand -- at least internally -- is that good ideas are prized and valued and we need to have advocates. But we need to explore them and really look at them because we don't have an unlimited amount of money. Q13. If it works how many of these kinds of ships do you envision making your perfect Navy in the future? A13. I don't know what the perfect Navy looks like. A lot of that has to do with how much money can you get to build this. Q14. You probably have some notion of this because this has to Fit into an employment concept. A14. I don't think we're talking about a large number. I think (off the top of my head because nobody has really done any real good research) one of these in a theater where you thought you were going to fight at the start of the fight. DOD is going to develop -- the reason I keep saying DOD instead of Navy -- lots of people develop weapons and if we did build such a ship I wouldn't want to restrict it to just things that the Navy built. If there is a missile (like ATACMS) that gets better and better during the halting phase of a war that included armor, where you had armor coming at your forces and you've got a good weapon that you want to be able to attrite the armor -- then you'd want this to carry some of that and you'd want it to be in a position where it could, on request from an on-scene commander, bang these things off and halt the enemy force. Or do it because the UAV saw them and gave it the position. That tells you you're going to want which one of these things in the theater when the war starts. Q15. So maybe a half a dozen? Ten? A15. How many big theaters do we have right now? Three. If you could build a ship like this with a really small crew you probably wouldn't want to bring the ship back to the U.S. for awhile -- it could just be forward deployed and you could swap out crews. That means you need fewer of them and you need less money. Five or six maybe? Four or five? I don't know yet. But certainly not a large number because what you would do is use it and then take it and rearm it somewhere and bring it back. But you really want to keep a ship like this forward deployed. It would be part of your forward presence. Again, one of the reasons for keeping the crew size down is to save money and reduce costs -- you pay for that in the way you have to design something to keep the numbers down, but you also then could use this much longer. The ship's crew stays out there six months but the ship stays out there for a long time. That keeps your numbers down. Q16. Some people are thought to compare this to the first aircraft carrier in the 1920s coming in to battleships -- how some day -- not right away -- this could replace the aircraft carrier. A16. I don't think so -- certainly not with the technology I envision in the next 10, 20, or 30 years. Q17. You're talking about many of the same kind of issues -- carrier... A17. We're a long ways away from the missile being able to do the kind of thinking in the air and on the way to the target and the finding of the target that a man can do in an airplane. We certainly are a long ways away from anti-air, or the command of the air, the control of the air, in an area of operations being done this way. I think that day may come but I think it's not a decade or two away. I think it's a lot further away than that. The day may come when you can do this with less manned aircraft but I think we are a long ways away from that. I don't think we're talking about an a generation or two. I think we're talking about more. So I don't see this as a replacement for -- actually -- there were people talking about battleships -- should we keep battleships for fire support? This is certainly a modern equivalent to the battleship. It's not the modern equivalent of an aircraft carrier or a Air Force composite wing. It is an ordinance platform. It delivers ordinance. There are other ways to do this. In fact the vertical launch tubes on the AEGIS Cruiser are doing the same thing. They just have all the other expense with them for good reason of the fire control system and all those people. What we want to do is build a bigger magazine. Everything I'm talking about could be done with little or less boom out of an AEGIS cruiser although ATACMS would be kind of hard. Q18. Would you see this working in tandem working with an Aegis cruiser? A18. Yes. Somebody -- to go back to my four or five examples -- has to provide the fire control solution. This thing is not autonomous out there. It is getting target information from somewhere. It's the thing that is shooting. If it's a magazine for Theater Ballistic Missile Defense, then obviously it's not going to be capable of knowing where the target is or guiding the missile that shoots to the target. It just shoots it to a point in space where something else takes it. That's not very hard to do. In fact we do that when we shoot a missile at a ship and assign it to a fire control system on a ship and that picks it up and takes it to a target. Q19. This is an interesting notion that for so long the Navy built ships at sea -- talking about the old days or whatever and now you're talking about something that's brings every naval platform closer to shore to help with the land war? A19. Everything I said here talks about helping the land war. Q20. It's interesting to me that this is kind of the dreadnought of the 21st century but it's now .......... A20. People want to call it an arsenal ship and I think the reason is because it carries a lot of weapons like an arsenal, but in fact it's a fire support ship. It's providing fire support to troops ashore, or to make it possible to get troops ashore, and it has all the strike capability of any Tomahawk shooter. And because ships live a long time the weapons will get better and change as the ship goes throughout it's life -- but it's basic job is to project power ashore and support our troops ashore. It is not at war-at-sea platform. It reflects our strategy. Q21. I know the submarine community is now talking about something similar... A21. There is some talk about what we might do with some of the Trident boats and that's not real different from what we're talking about here by the way. They are not mutually exclusive things. The real question is we have to see what happens with START negotiations and ratifications and what we can do from a financial point of few. Those ideas -- that basic concept -- they are not competing -- that's kind of the same concept. Q22. (INAUDIBLE) A22. The deal there, and one of the things that makes you want to think about that is that we already own the platform. You have to do it in a -- I'm talking again concepts here -- not programs. That is a very attractive idea too. The reason it's attractive for all the things I just mentioned plus the relative security of the weapons and the platforms themselves with the submarine. The problem of course is that you have to deal with all the things that it brings -- a ship that was designed for one mission and has a treaty that says we agree and we won't do that mission with it anymore. We have to be treaty compliant as we start modifying the ship. There's a whole lot of questions we have to answer. I received a brief on that and it was pretty interesting. I didn't just dismiss it. I don't think these are really different ideas. They are really the same idea coming from different platforms. Q23. You would think you would get quite a bit of support for This idea from the Army, ... A23. I don't think we're at the stage yet where we are looking for support. We're still at the stage where we're talking about it amongst ourselves within the Navy. I'm just getting the answers. Q24. You haven't had any informal conversations with your fellow Chiefs? A24. I don't think I've mentioned that to them. We're not at that "let's have a program -- please support the money" piece of it yet. We'll get there I think, but we're not there yet. I'd like to have this be something we think about in the fall of 1998. We're actually starting to do the preliminaries right now. The '97 budget will go to Capitol Hill this winter. FY-98 will go next winter. So we're about at the right stage now to think about this seriously. When you have a good idea you always want to go a lot faster. But you can't build a house without having some plans first. We don't have any real plans yet. Q25. (INAUDIBLE) A25. I think that when you think about distributed fire power and maneuver where your data links are pretty good and getting better all the time, and can see the exchange of fire control information -- not just positional information on targets -- I think this fits really well. Whether this idea turns out to be something we might want to do with a sub or arsenal ship or both of them or something totally different we haven't thought of yet, the idea that you have everybody sharing fire control data -- such as the kind of information CEC will let us exchange -- is a good thing. A ship doesn't need to see the target once we can do that. It's simply needs to receive the information and if the target is within it's range -- what we would say is in it's envelope -- then it can shoot it. I think in that kind of world and we're not in that kind of world yet. That's a world we project in the not too distant future -- in that kind of a world the ship has a place. Q26. (INAUDIBLE) A26. I hope not. I hope it never shoots a single one. But if you had a ship of 500 missiles -- this is pretty far advanced from the battleship. . But the battleship carried - I don't remember how many shells -- let me step back. On my first destroyer we carried about 1600 rounds of 5 inch ammunition. I don't remember any kind of fire support mission of 1600 rounds of 5 inch. We fired what the shore fire control party asked us to fire and this ship would do that. This ship is not a command and control center. I don't envision it as such. It's not making big decisions about how to beat an enemy. It's simply the artillery battery. I think it matches our strategy pretty darn well. I don't want to sell this too hard and say, "We're going to go spend money on this thing", because I don't know that yet. I need to learn more. Our briefings are still cartoons. There are no pictures of an arsenal ship. -USN-