On Wargaming: [pt. 2] – An Example of Digital War Gaming

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In our last post of “On Wargaming,” we looked at defining the concepts and ideas of game-based learning and war gaming. In this post, we’ll take a look at an example of wargaming on a digital platform and see what we can learn from it. I won’t go into a crazy level of detail about all the weapons and sensor systems being modeled, rather, I’m just trying to do some simple analysis.

For our demonstration, I’m using Command: Modern Air/Naval Operations by Matrix Games (AKA CMANO) to simulate a hypothetical confrontation between the United States Navy and the Soviet Navy. The computer is controlling both sides and I’ve assigned both units to patrol the same area. Based on the previous entry, I’ll define this simulation as such:

General PurposeAnalytical
Scope and LevelRange of Command Levels

[Single Vessel/Task Element]

Military Services Involved

[USN & VMF]


Type of Operations


[Surface patrol]


Area of Operations


[Guam – Northern Marianas]

Number of Sides2
Amount of IntelligenceOpen
Method of EvaluationRigid
Basic Simulation TechniqueComputer

Scenario Context

In this scenario, I’ve pitted one Iowa-class battleship, the USS Missouri (BB-63), in her 1989 configuration, against one Kirov-class guided-missile battlecruiser in her 1984 configuration. One of the reasons for the reactivation and upgrading of the Iowa battleships in the 1980s was due to the introduction of the Kirov-class battlecruisers into Soviet naval service in the 1970s (Muir, 1987, p. 120). At the time, the Kirov-class vessels were the largest surface combatants entering service in any navy (with the exception of aircraft carriers and amphibious assault ships). While technically more aligned with the definition of a guided-missile cruiser, the Kirovs are often called battlecruisers given their large size. The Iowa-class battleships, on the other hand, remained firmly within the classification of battleships. However, a number of changes to their weapons and sensors were undertaken.

The modernized Iowa battleships had the following characteristics:

Missouri_post_refit
(Photo credit: U.S. Navy)

Full Load Displacement: 57,000+ tons

Armament:

  • 9x 16″/50 guns
  • 12x 5″/38 guns (4 of the original 10 twin mounts were removed to make room for missile installations.
  • 8x quad armored box launchers for up to 32 BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles.
  • 4x quad canister launchers for up to 16 RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles.
  • 4x 20mm/76 Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapons Systems.

Electronics:

  • 2x Mk 38 Gunfire Control System (GFCS) for the 16″ guns.
  • 2x Mk 37 GFCS for the 5″ guns.
  • AN/SPS-49 air search radar.
  • AN/SPS-67 surface search radar.
  • AN/SLQ-32(V)3 electronic warfare system.
  • AN/SLQ-25 Nixie torpedo countermeasures.
  • Mk 36 Super Rapid Bloom Offboard Chaff (SRBOC)
  • Mk 12 AIMS for IFF.
  • Naval Tactical Data System (NTDS), the ships could receive Link 11 & Link 14 data from other ships.

(Sumrall, 1988, p. 66-122)

Similarly, the CMANO database lists the following weapons and sensors for the Missouri in the game:

Armament:

– 20mm/85 Mk15 Phalanx Blk 0
– 12.7mm/50 MG
– Mk186 TORCH Flare [Seduction]
– Mk182 SRBOC Chaff [Seduction]
– 406mm/50 Triple HiCap or AP (16″ guns)
– 127mm/38 Twin AA-VT Burst [Anti-Aircraft Common] or HE-PD Burst [HiCap] (5″ guns)
– RGM-109A Tomahawk TLAM-N [W80-0 200kT Nuclear]
– RGM-109B Tomahawk TASM  [ASM]
– RGM-109C Tomahawk Blk II TLAM-C
– RGM-109D Tomahawk Blk II TLAM-D
– RGM-84D Harpoon IC
– AN/SLQ-25 Nixie – Decoy (Towed)
Electronics:
– LN-66LP – (AN/SPS-59, 10kW), Short-Range Surface Search Radar
– AN/SLQ-32(V)3 (ECM), Offensive & Defensive ECM, ESM, ELINT
– Mk25 – (Mk37 GFCS), Fire Control Radar, Weapon Director
– AN/SPG-53E (Mk68 GFCS), FCR, Visual, TV Camera, Weapon Director
– AN/SPQ-9 (Mk86 GFCS), Radar, Target Indicator, 3D Surface-to-Air & Surface-to-Surface
– AN/SPS-67(V)1, Surface Search & Navigation Radar
– Mk13 – (Mk38 GFCS), FCR, Weapon Director
– AN/SPS-49(V)5 NTU (Mk38 GFCS), Air Search, 2D Long-Range Radar
On the Soviet Side, the CMANO database lists the following for the Kirov:
kirov
Full Load Displacement: 28,000 tons
Armament:
– PK-2 Chaff [TSP-47], Decoy
– PK-2 Flare [TST-47] Decoy
– SS-N-19 Shipwreck [P-700 Granit, 200kT Nuclear or non-nuclear]
– RBU-1000, Rocket
– RBU-6000, Rocket
– Generic GMTR [Guided Missile Training Round], Training Round.
– SA-N-4b Gecko [9M33M3]
– SS-N-14 Silex [85RU, Dual-Role, UMGT-1 Torpedo + 185kg Unitary]
– SA-N-6a Grumble [5R55RM]
– AK-100 100mm/70 HE or Frag
– AK-630M 30mm/65 Gatling Gun
– SET-65M Enot-2, Torpedo
Electronics:
– Fly Screen B – (Helicopter Control, TACAN) Radar
– Tin Man – (Helicopter Control, TACAN) Visual, Visual, Surveillance TV Camera
– Side Globes [MP-403 Gorzuf], ECM, OECM & DECM, Offensive & Defensive ECM
– Rum Tub [MP-404] (Assoc w/Side Globes/Bell Nip), ESM, ELINT w/OTH Targeting
– Bell Nip – (Wine Flask K-Band Jammer?), ECM, OECM & DECM, Offensive & Defensive ECM
– Horse Tail [Polinom] – (Wine Flask K-Band Jammer?) VDS, Active/Passive Sonar
– Horse Jaw [Polinom] – (Assoc w Horse Tail) Hull Sonar, Active/Passive
– Eye Bowl [Sprut] – (SS-N-14), Radar, FCR, Surface-to-Surface
– Pop Group [MPZ-301], Radar, FCR, Surface-to-Air
– Top Dome [3R41 Volna], Radar, FCR, Surface-to-Air
– Kite Screech A [Radar] – (AK-100 GFCR), Radar, FCR, Weapon Director
– Kite Screech A [TV Camera] – (AK-100 GFCR), Visual, Weapon Director TV Camera
– Bass Tilt [Radar] – (30mm GFCR), Radar, FCR, Surface-to-Air
– Bass Tilt [Laser Rangefinder] – (30mm GFCR), Laser Rangefinder for Weapon Director
– Bass Tilt [TV Camera] – (30mm GFCR), Visual, Weapon Director TV Camera
– Top Steer [Fregat] – (Top Sail + Strut Pair back-to-back), Radar, Air Search, 3D Long-Range
– Top Pair [MR-800 Flag] – (SA-N-3 Search, Top Sail + Big Net back-to-back), Radar, Air Search, 3D Long-Range
– Palm Frond [MR-212 Nayada], Radar, Surface Search & Navigation
– Round House TACAN, Radar, Air Traffic Control (ATC)

The stats themselves do make things seem fairly sterile, but as they say, “knowing is half the battle.” One thing CMANO does particularly well is to simulate the importance of intelligence gathering and the role of sensors. It’s not enough to simply have lots of guns and missiles, rather, you need to be able to detect the enemy, track them, target them, attack them, and finally, conduct damage assessment accurately (Hughes, 2000, p. 120). The purpose of this simulation is to analyze the feasibility of a single Iowa-class battleship with upgraded sensors, fire control, and weapons systems against a Soviet Kirov-class guided-missile battlecruiser.

Note: All times are represented in Zulu (UTC) time according to the message log in the lower left of the screenshot.

Scenario #1:

For our first scenario, both sides are operating with radars active. The radar range is represented by the yellow circle. Both sides do not have orders to maintain a standoff distance from the other. Therefore, they will try to close the distance once the engagement begins.

p01

As the simulation begins, both sides set their initial headings. The Missouri sets a heading of 356 at 15 knots and the Kirov sets a heading of 58 at 20 knots. Provided that they remain on course, both sides will definitely make radar contact.

p02

At 07:52:24, Missouri’s LN-66LP (SPS-59 surface search radar) makes contact with a vessel at 28.1 nm and designates it as SKUNK #1 (unknown surface contacts are designated as “skunk”). 22 seconds later, at 07:52:46, Missouri’s SLQ-32(V)3 electronic warfare suite IDs the contact as the Kirov and classifies it as hostile.

At this point, both ships fire their opening salvos. Missouri fires her RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles (ASM) and the Kirov fires her SS-N-2 Silex missiles. Silex were originally anti-submarine missiles (similar to the U.S. ASROC), but later upgrades, of which these are, carry the UGMT-1 multi-purpose torpedo armed with a 185 kg warhead capable of targeting both submarines and surface ships.

At 07:52:55, Missouri’s SPS-49(V)5 NTU air search radar makes contact with one of the Silex missiles (designated VAMPIRE #2) at 28 nm.

p03

10 seconds later, at 07:53:05, Missouri’s SPS-49 detects another Silex at 28 nm (designated VAMPIRE #3).

Notice how Missouri launched all of her harpoons in a single salvo, whereas the Kirov launched just two SS-N-14 Silex missiles.

p04

Around 07:55:00, Kirov launches SA-N-6a Grumble (a naval variant of the S-300F surface-to-air missile) and SA-N-4b Gecko (a naval variant of the SA-8 Gecko) missiles to shoot down the Missouri’s Harpoons.

At 07:55:05, Missouri’s Mk 68 GFCS and SPG-53 gunfire control radar IDs the incoming Silex missiles as guided weapons.

p05

By 07:55:32, all the Harpoons are shot down and none hit the Kirov.

At the same time, Missouri fires RGM-109B Tomahawk Anti-Ship Missiles (TASM) at the Kirov. Kirov’s initial salvo of Silex missiles is now within range of Missouri’s point defense weapons. Missouri’s Mk 15 20mm CIWS fires two 200-round bursts but fails to shoot down the first incoming Silex.

At 07:55:35 Missouri fires Mk186 TORCH flares which fail to decoy the Silex and it hits the Missouri achieving 4% penetration.

At 07:55:42, the Mk 15 20mm Phalanx fires two 200-round bursts. The first burst misses, but the second burst successfully shoots down the second Silex missile.

p06

Between 07:57 – 07:58, Kirov’s SA-N-6a Grumbles are shooting down Missouri’s TASMs. No TASMs hit the Kirov.

Checking Missouri’s magazines shows that she’s out of anti-ship missiles. Given the range of the engagement, she’s out of gun range and has no means of attacking anymore.

p07

By around 08:11:00, the engagement has continued. Kirov has fired numerous SS-N-19 Shipwreck (P-700 Granit) missiles at Missouri.

At 08:11:08, Missouri’s Mk 182 SRBOC (chaff) and SLQ-32(V)3 ECM have some success in decoying or spoofing the missiles. However, some missiles get through and Missouri suffers damage.

By 08:11:10, one of Missouri’s 5”/38 gun mounts has been severely damaged and a Mk 36 SRBOC launcher and Link 11 have been destroyed. Missouri has suffered 61.7% damage.

p08

Missouri continues to get pummeled with missiles until 08:14:58 when she is sunk.

Time elapsed from initial contact to sinking: 22 minutes 34 seconds

Analysis:

One thing to note is that I ran this scenario ten times (although I only took screenshots from one of them). In all ten engagements, the USS Missouri was always sunk and never managed to get within range to use her guns. I also noted that the Missouri always rapidly exhausted her supply of anti-ship missiles. Given the ranges at which the engagement was fought, this left her unable to attack once she expended all of her anti-ship missiles. While the Missouri was able to absorb quite a number of hits from the Kirov, her sensors and exposed weapon mounts were still vulnerable. Regardless, the Kirov definitely possessed the range advantage in this scenario due to her substantial number of anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles which allowed her to attack the Missouri at significant ranges and defend herself against Missouri’s anti-ship missiles before she had to use her point-defense guns. Suffice it to say, the Kirov has substantial anti-air defenses when compared to the Missouri. The ranges involved in the battle also contributed to the engagement lasting over 20 minutes.

Scenario #2

I figured I had to do a scenario where the Missouri got within gun range and blasted the Kirov with her AWESOME SUPER-DUPER-16” GUNS OF BATTLESHIPPY-NESS! because some people out there [read: too many of the uninformed] still think the U.S. Navy has battleships in commission. The last battleship, the USS Missouri, was decommissioned in 1992 and struck from the Naval Vessel Register in 1995. All of the Iowa-class battleships are now permanently museum ships. Another demographic [read: people still mentally living in the Cold War] think we need to bring battleships back into service (which is an argument I’ll save for another post).

In order for the Missouri to get within gun range both sides need to have all sensors set to passive. Therefore, this scenario is the same as the previous one, except with the Emissions Control (EMCON) settings for both sides changed to passive only.

p09

Both sides make initial contact at around 04:55:13. At 04:55:14, Missouri’s SPS-59 radar detects Kirov at 7.9 nm.

p10

In their opening salvos, Kirov fires Silex missiles & Missouri fires Harpoons and 16” shells. At 04:55:34, Missouri’s Mk 68 GFCS visually IDs the Silex missiles as guided weapons.

p11

At 04:55:46 & 04:55:56, Missouri’s flares fail to decoy the two missiles, but luckily both Silex missiles malfunctioned. All of Missouri’s 16” Hi-Capacity shells miss. [Hi-capacity shells are the USN designation for high-explosive shells. My guess is that armor-piercing (AP) shells would probably go right through the Kirov, causing negligible damage, hence the use of HiCap shells.]

p12

Around 04:56:15, Kirov shoots down some of Missouri’s Harpoons with Grumble surface-to-air missiles. At 04:56:20, Kirov’s PK-2 chaff and MP-403 Gorzuf jammer fail to decoy or spoof the missiles, and one Harpoon hits.

p13

At 04:56:22, Missouri fires high-explosive 5” shells from her secondary batteries. Most miss but two shells hit. Another Harpoon hits Kirov despite its decoys and jammer.

p14

At 04:56:36, two more 5” shells hit, and at 04:56:37, one Harpoon hits.

p15

At 04:56:39 & 04:56:43 more 5” shells hit the Kirov. At 04:56:40, the Kirov attempts to shoot down a Harpoon with its 30mm AK-630M, but it misses. At 04:56:41 Kirov attempts to jam the missile, but it fails. Luckily for Kirov, the Harpoon malfunctions.

p16

At this point, Kirov begins to get pummeled by 5” shells.

p17

By 04:56:56, three 16” shells impact the Kirov and it sinks.

Time elapsed from initial contact to sinking: 1 minute 53 seconds

Analysis:

Scenario #2 only happened because the ships were operating with passive sensors and severely restricted Emissions Control (EMCON). The Missouri and Kirov practically had to run into each other for the Missouri to get within range to use her main and secondary batteries. At that point, it effectively became a point-blank range shooting match and Missouri was able to bring her substantial gun batteries, both 16″ and 5″, to bear. The engagement was over within 2 minutes, not only due to the decreased range but also because there was no way that the Kirov could’ve used countermeasures to decoy or spoof the Missouri’s guns.

Conclusions:

According to Robert Sumrall (1989), it should be noted that the Iowa battleships were modernized in mind by utilizing them as part of a battleship battlegroup/surface action group (BBBG/SAG). This would have contained 1x Iowa-class BB, 1x Ticonderoga CG, 3x Arleigh Burke DDGs (or an appropriate mix of frigates and destroyers). These escorts would have furnished advanced anti-air warfare (AAW) and anti-submarine (ASW) capabilities. Furthermore, these were planned to operate in a number of scenarios:

  1. Operate with or supplement carrier strike groups and allow the flexible use of tactical aircraft. (high-threat environment)
  2. Operate independently against surface/shore targets if carriers weren’t available or appropriate. Support of amphibious operations. (medium threat environment)
  3. Establish naval presence, protect maritime lines of communication, & maintain control of the seas. (p. 143 – 150 )

Among the general conclusions we can make based on the simulations conducted:

  • Except in scenario #2, even with standoff distance turned off, the Missouri never got close enough to the Kirov to use her 16” batteries.
  • In scenario #1, the Missouri quickly ran out of anti-ship missiles which were shot down by the Kirov. Once Missouri’s magazines were empty of missiles, she was then at the mercy of Kirov’s anti-ship missiles.
  • Missouri’s lack of surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) meant that she could only engage the Kirov’s anti-ship missiles were her last-ditch point defenses. In contrast, the Kirov was able to shoot down the Missouri’s Harpoon and Tomahawk missiles using SAMs at longer ranges.
  • Given their higher rate of fire, Missouri scored more hits with her 5” guns than with her 16” guns.
  • Even with her significant armor and staying power, the Missouri still requires escorts (as do all capital ships). This lends further credence to Wayne Hughes’ assertion that naval battles are about attrition where defense is generally the weaker option (Hughes, 2001, p. 172 -173).

Obviously, these simulations didn’t model the Missouri with an appropriate Surface Action Group and her escorts. So while it can be argued that these scenarios are flawed and inaccurate with regard to doctrine, it misses the point because the beauty of wargames, and simulations in general, are that they can be tailored to any potential scenario, no matter how ludicrous or implausible they may seem. True, a capital ship would never sail without escorts…and the cancelled Montana-class battleships would never go up against the Super-Yamato battleships because the A-150 never made it beyond paper. But, that doesn’t mean we can’t model it in simulations. 

References:

Hughes, W.P. (2000). Fleet Tactics and Coastal Combat (2nd ed.). Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press.

Muir, M. (1987). The Iowa Class Battleships: Iowa, New Jersey, Missouri & Wisconsin. New York, NY: Sterling Publishing Co, Inc.

Sumrall, R.F. (1988). Iowa Class Battleships: Their Design, Weapons, & Equipment. London, UK: Conway Maritime Press.

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