US military proposal


Current state

Currently, United States have 8.725 M1 Abrams MBTs. At unit cost of 8,6 million USD, this gives total expenditure of 75 billion USD for MBT force.

As for APCs, there are 6.000 M113s costing 1,8 billion USD, 6.724 M2s costing 12,1 billion USD, and 4.187 Strykers costing 20,5 billion USD, for a total of 16.911 APCs costing 34,4 billion USD.

Infantry anti-tank weapons are as following: FGM-148 Javelin, reusable top-attack AT missile costing 164.000 USD for launcher and 100.000 USD for each missile (in FY 2013 USD, according to Wikipedia); BGM-71 TOW, with each missile costing 50.000 USD; AT-4, a single-shot unguided AT rocket launcher costing 1.480 USD.


Main Battle Tank will be diesel-powered, no heavier than 60 metric tons with range of 400-700 kilometers. It will have 120 mm smoothbore cannon but main purpose will be breaking through enemy lines and encircling the enemy or destroying enemy supply lines. Cannon will use tungsten and HE rounds (against armored and soft-skinned vehicles, respectively), and armor will also contain tungsten layer(s). It will cost no more than 6.000.000 USD.

Light tank will also be diesel-powered but will weight no more than 30 metric tons. Range will be at least 800 kilometers, and it will use 105 mm rifled cannon. It will exploit breakthroughts achieved by MBTs and destroy enemy supply lines; armor will be RHA with possibility of adding composite and/or tungsten panels to the outside, making repairs far easier. Cost will be no more than 2.500.000 USD.

APC will be based on M113 and will cost no more than 500.000 USD. It will be equipped with either 12,7 mm machine gun, 40 mm automatic grenate launcher or 105 mm recoilless rifle depending on variant, providing a far more effective infantry support vehicle than Stryker or Bradley.

Thus, along with 1.311 AAVs and 1.500 LAV-25s which will be kept, there will be 68.800 new APCs, 8.000 new Main Battle Tanks and 10.800 light tanks. This gives twice as many tanks and 3,6 times as many APCs for the same cost, while allowing for far more versatility in combat.

Main infantry AT weapon will be a recoilless rifle. Ammo is a dominant cost factor for both AT missiles and recoilless rifles; HEAT shells for M40 cost 750 USD each. What this means is that for price of one Javelin missile, one can buy 130 projectiles for recoilless rifle; this article however suggests that cost per missile is 260.000 USD, which would give 346 RR projectiles for one Javelin missile. AT-4 is “only” twice as expensive as each round from M-40 recoilless rifle, and being lighter and disposable it can find good use on a battlefield, particularly in urban warfare – though its higher cost and less versatile nature (only one type of warhead) means that it cannot replace recoilless rifle, and Carl Gustav recoilless rifle might be a better choice. All of this points to a question of why US bureocrats believe that 1/130 as many Javelin missiles or 1/76 as many TOW missiles are a better option than using recoilless rifles (or AT-4 launchers, which give “only” 33 times as many rounds as TOW and 67 times as many rounds as Javelin).

Air force

Current state

Currently, USAF has following aircraft:

Close air support: 343 A-10, 37 AC-130 – total 380

Strategic bombing: 66 B1, 20 B2, 76 B52 – total 162

Airlift: 73 C5, 28 C12, 217 C-17, 13 C-27, 367 C-130, 2 C-144, 8 C-145, 5 C-146, 10 LC-130 – total 723

Air superiority: 254 F-15, 1.003 F-16, 183 F-22 – total 1.440

Tanker: 59 KC-10, 417 KC-135 – total 476

Total is 3.181 aircraft. Unit flyaway costs in FY 2013 USD are following: 262 million USD for F-22, 126 million USD for F-15, 70 million USD for F-16C; 16 million USD for A-10, 80 million USD for AC-130; 403 million USD for B-1, 1,1 billion USD for B-2, 76 million USD for B-52, 248 million USD for C-5 and C-17, 6 million USD for C-12, 30 million USD for C-27, 69 million USD for C-130/LC-130, 41 million USD for C-144, 5,5 million USD for C-145, 126 million USD for F-15C, 70 million USD for F-16C, 262 million USD for F-22A, 126 million USD for KC-10, 56 million USD for KC-135. Thus, overall cost of all aircraft is 342.385.000.000 USD (342,4 billion USD).

(Note: F-16 is actually multirole – that is, mostly bombing in US parlance – but was originally designed as an air superiority aircraft)


New air superiority fighter would be based on Saab Gripen C airframe configuration, but with modifications. Exhaust ports from canopy’s rear would be removed, and metal plate to the rear replaced by glass canopy piece in order to provide rearward visibility. Center part of canopy would also be redesigned to remove centerline metal piece. Radar would be smaller than in Gripen C (50 kg) and would supplement IRST as a secondary sensor, being used only for gun firing solution in dogfight; nose shape will be primarly optimized for aerodynamic performance. Second IRST would be mounted on aircraft’s rear, preferably on tail fin if possible. Radar-based missile warners would be replaced by DDM NG-style IR missile warners which will also double as an imaging IRST, albeit shorter-ranged than primary IRSTs. It will use IRIS-T as its primary missile and MICA IR for BVR combat. Empty weight would be 5.500 kg, with 3.500 kg of fuel. It would have 30 m2 of wing area, not counting the canards. Standard loadout would be 1 BK-27 revolver cannon with 125 rounds and 2 IRIS-T missiles; additional 4 hardpoints would be located under wings with ability to carry either IRIS-T, MICA IR or drop tanks, and single fuselage centerline hardpont would be provided for carriage of either MICA IR or a drop tank. It would be capable of rough field operations. Cost would be 30.000.000 USD.

New Heavy Close Air Support aircraft would be based on the A-10. It would also be equipped with an IRST and using tungsten projectiles instead of depleted uranium. It would be capable of rough-field operations and have IR supression measures. Cost would be 15.000.000 USD.

Light Close Air Support aircraft would weight 5.000 kg empty and only armament would be a single BK-27 revolver cannon firing HE shells. It would be capable of rough-field operations and have IR supression measures. Cost would be 8.000.000 USD.

New Forward Controller aircraft would be propeller-driven. Cockpit and other important systems would be armored, and it would be equipped with an IRST. Configuration would be similar if not identical to OV-10 Bronco aircraft of the Vietnam war, but with stronger engines and FLIR optimized for detection of ground targets. It would have IR-based missile warners, radar and laser warners as well as countermeasures. It would be capable of rough-field operations, have long loiter time and ferry range, IR signature supression and ability to take off or land in less than 1.800 meters. Cost would be 7.000.000 USD.

New SEAD/DEAD aircraft would be a small, agile wooden turboprop or subsonic jet aircraft equipped with anti-radiation and IR air-to-ground missiles as well as a high-calibre gun (which is only weapon system that would not force it to remain above terrain mask for prolonged period of time). It would be capable of rough-field operations and have IR reduction measures, as well as high fuel fraction allowing for long loiter time. Cost would be 1.000.000 USD.

New tanker aircraft would be modification of four-engined turboprop airlifter. Cost would be 280.000.000 USD.

New airlift aircraft would be a two-engined turboprop cargo plane carrying 7.000 kg payloads. It would be capable of landing on unpaved dirt-strip and rough field airfields. Cost would be 30.000.000 USD.

Heavy airlift aircraft would be a four-engined turboprop cargo plane capable of carrying 70.000 kg payloads. Cost would be 150.000.000 USD.

Aircraft would be procured with spending of 12 billion USD per year for next 20 years, for 240 billion USD total. Procurement rate would be 30 air superiority aircraft for 30 heavy close air support aircraft for 50 light close air support aircraft for 50 forward air controllers for 60 SEAD/DEAD aircraft for 4 tankers for 10 dirt strip air lifters for 1 heavy air lifter (total of 235 aircraft for 3,73 billion USD).

Thus with 240 billion USD spent (64 batches), end quantities would be:

1.920 air superiority fighters

5.120 close air support fighters

3.200 forward air controllers

3.840 SEAD/DEAD fighters

184 tankers

640 dirt strip air lifters

64 heavy air lifters

For a total of 14.968 aircraft, or 11.787 more than current-day USAF (3.181 aircraft), for total of 4,7 times as many aircraft and 7,9 times as many tactical aircraft. In addition, every single of these aircraft would be more capable in performing assigned mission than USAFs current platforms performing same missions.

If total cost is to be identical to total cost of current USAF inventory, 91 batch could be bought and resulting numbers would be this:

2.730 air superiority fighters

7.280 close air support fighters

4.550 forward air controllers

5.460 SEAD/DEAD aircraft

364 tankers

910 dirt strip air lifters

91 heavy air lifter

This gives a total of 21.385 aircraft, or 18.204 more than current-day USAF, for total of 6,7 times as many aircraft and 11 times as many tactical aircraft.

These aircraft would not need concrete runways and would be easy to maintain, thus cutting down costs on several fronts aside from per-aircraft cost: dirt strip air fields are far easier to maintain than concrete ones, and do not require as much or as varied machinery; maintenance-friendly nature of aircraft would also reduce both number and required qualifications of maintenance personnel for each aircraft, as well as amount of expensive machinery required to carry out maintenance; vast majority of aircraft (all except heavy A-10 replacement) will consume far less fuel than aircraft they are replacing, and could be designed to run on biofuel. Ability to fly from dirt-strip air fields would allow for concealed strips in forrested areas with aircraft distributed among the trees; air strip would be concealed by suspended tree tops, which would be removed for aircraft taking off / landing. Aside from emergencies, aircraft would be able to belly-land in case that there was not enough free area for standard landing.


Current state

Currently, US Navy has 10 Nimitz class carriers, each of which cost 4,5 billion USD to produce and 350 million USD per year to operate; 10 amphibious assault ships (8 Wasp-class costing 750 million USD each); 22 cruisers (Ticonderoga class, cosing 2 billion USD each); 62 destroyers (Arleigh Burke class, costing 1,8 billion USD each); 17 frigattes (Oliver Hazard Perry class, costing 662 million USD each), 3 LCSs (2 Freedom class, costing 670 million USD each, 1 Independence class, cosing 704 million USD each).

There are also 18 Ohio class ballistic missile submarines (3 billion USD each), 41 Los Angeles class nuclear attack submarine (1,25 billion USD each), 3 Seawolf class nuclear attack submarines (2,6 billion USD each) and 5 Virginia class nuclear attack submarines (2,7 billion USD each). Not counting Ohio class, this gives a force of 49 submarines.

Current US Navy has:

10 aircraft carriers

10 amphibious assault ships

22 cruisers

62 destroyers

20 frigattes

67 submarines

TOTAL: 191 ship


Nimitz-sized conventional carrier would cost 2 billion USD to produce and 143 million USD per year to operate, and would allow for 10% greater force presence. New amphibious assault ship would be similar to Wasp, but with more austere design and possibly smaller displacement, cutting cost to 500 million USD.

Destroyers and cruisers would be replaced by frigattes. There would be 2 multipurpose frigates for each dedicated anti-submarine, anti-aircraft, missile defense

12 Ohio class submarines would be kept, but other submarines would be replaced by new, cheaper nuclear attack submarines and AIP submarines, with cost mix being 1:1. Total cost of new submarines would be 90 billion USD. Nuclear attack submarine would cost 1,25 billion USD (based on, but smaller than, Los Angeles class submarine), and AIP submarine would cost 100 million USD; this will allow for 36 nuclear attack submarines and 450 AIP submarines.

All cruisers, destroyers and frigattes (including LCS) will be replaced by frigattes. Total cost would be 169 billion USD. Frigattes would be general-purpose (50%), anti-aircraft, anti-submarine, anti-ship and missile defense (12,5% of hulls each). Average cost would be 250 million USD, allowing for 676 ships, or 338 general-purpose frigattes, 85 anti-aircraft, 85 anti-submarine, 84 anti-ship and 84 missile defense frigattes.

Thus US navy would have:
22 conventional aircraft carriers

15 amphibious assault ships

676 frigattes

498 submarines

TOTAL: 1211 ships

In total, US Navy would have 6,34 times as many ships as current US navy.


This proposal will result in US military having far larger inventory of, in most cases, individually superior weapons compared to what it currently has. These weapons will be equally useful in case of World War 3 (as long as it stays non-nuclear) as in wars against incompetent militaries of rich Arab countries, and will offer far greater versatility than current (and even more so than planned) inventory of weapons.


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27 replies

  1. I love to read your post but I will suggest that the Navy proposal needs revision.
    A single Tico cruiser has the equivalent firepower of 50 WW2 battleships the size of the Bismarck as well as having a very expensive Aegis anti aircraft radar system that we can’t afford to install in a third of those over 600 frigates that you are suggesting we replace them with. Not to mention the man-power required by 1200 ships as well as the docks, repairs, etc. Every Navy ship caries at least one but often two multi-role helicopters with their crews and maintenance personnel.
    This sort of Navy will be more expensive and not less expensive than the one we now have.
    Also the M113 for the army has no protection against radiation or gas. The troops would need to protect themselves individually. So it would not be an ideal solution for all types of warfare. The Generals have said they have enough tanks and they keep getting handed more so there is truth to that as well as to the weight problem of the main battle tank but I do not think they want two tanks… it will complicate logistics.

    • Problem is that one ship can only ever be in one place. And specialized air-defence frigates do use AEGIS system:
      That being said, passive system might be better but I’m not sure how a high humidity would affect IR and visual sensors so I don’t want to hurry with such proposals.

      Problem with having only one type of tank (or one type of anything) is that you can’t have one design that does everything and does it well. In Blitzkrieg, tanks are used to cut off enemy supply lines. For that you need very mobile and long-ranged tanks – exactly opposite of M1 Abrams, which is a breakthrough and defensive tank. But you also need heavy tank to destroy enemy defences where needed. Etc.

      • Our frigates are only 4000 tons. Those are “larger” frigates of countries for whom a frigate is one of their capital ships. They only have a few of them but they are lavishly equipped and they follow a philosophy of hitting as hard as a cruiser with its first punch. Once spent they must race to port to rearm. The small Israeli navy has that philosophy too with top heavy ships armed to their teeth and it is valid if you operate close to your own ports and repair facilities. Not good for the USA who must accept a degree of lesser efficiency in exchange for endurance and staying power.

        Aegis is a “name” for a system that is periodically upgraded and improved. Current editions’ need for space is such that it is threatening to displace other systems in cruisers. Energy and cooling needs for its radar is also an issue. As a reaction to those growing problems the Navy has floated proposals for dedicated Aegis cruisers connected to much less costly “arsenal” ships similar to large container ships that would carry the missiles in large quantities. They would be interconnected. This is already a reality of sorts since one Aegis cruiser can detect a target and have a sister ship nearby fire the missile to destroy it.

        And space is the main problem with almost all ships; US frigates at 4200 tons are simply not big enough to accommodate this and growth. The Perry are lightly armed already and are being retired ahead of the end of their useful life with few official explanations other than “they are worn out”. That is probably code for “they are difficult to up-grade and modernize and do not have enough space”. The LCS is its replacement and the surface is upset about it. But the LCS makes official what has been unofficial until now which is that most frigates are employed in littoral waters, that a strong aviation component is decisive and that to sustain it you need to include a decent hangar.

        Current frigates do not have enough space to grow, speed to react and neither are they well suited to combat mines and swarms tactics from small boats. They are well armed for ASW in open ocean but how about littoral waters? And the LCS is a more efficient 3000 ton ship with more space than the 4000 ton US frigates is replacing.

        High end Naval warfare against a well matched enemy is very much a war of attrition. You sink each others ships at different rates until one of the adversaries is left with enough of an advantage to attain sea control. This requires large ships that can stay on station and do not have to race to port to be re-armed; frigates will not do.The USA has not fought an adversary of this caliber since WW2 and probably will not do it again in our lifetime.

        There are three reasons for that,

        (1) The USA has been careful to maintain a world wide maritime commercial system that prevents conflicts among maritime powers and makes an arms race unnecessary.

        (2) Countries that can develop powerful navies tend to do it because they have important maritime commerce that pays that navy. Today, all those maritime countries with the exception of China are aligned in one way or the other with the USA.

        Countries with out large maritime commerce tend not to have the internal-political will to channel significant economic resources towards a Navy . This is probably the single most important factor that has prevented a Naval armament race among smaller nations.

        (3) Nuclear weapons have made all-out-war between major economies impossible. The only wars being fought are local, against non-nuclear countries or discrete in scope with the maritime powere enjoying support from the other maritime countries. That is why France in Africa, the USA in the Middle East and the UK in the Falklands where able to act like they did; they enjoyed the support or at least the acquiescence of their rival maritime powers who where the only ones who could have prevented them from doing what they did.

        These factors that I mentioned shape the planning for the future USA Navy. The LCS which is a magnet for criticism is actually just a small yet very visible part of that shift taking place. There is a “floating base” ship that will act as a tender and dock for smaller ships operating presumably in littoral waters. This is because the new threats are not going to come from maritime nations but from smaller rogue nations using access denial tactics including asymmetrical threats. The frigates’ are generally unable to deal well with them.

        So we are going to have a different surface Navy in the future and there is a lot of vocal opposition to that. It is mostly from surface officers who would love a 1200 ship Navy no matter how inefficient it was.

        A 1200 ship navy would be more expensive.

      • 1) LCS is not more effective, European corvettes can match it in combat.

        2) European frigates have displacement between 5 ad 6 thousand metric tons. Arleigh Burke displaces between 8 and 10 thousand metric tons.

        3) Submarines are most efficient counter to ships. Also, if ship only does one role it can be smaller and cheaper while still being as effective at that role.

        4) Nuclear weapons haven’t made war impossible, economy did.

      • Picard,

        The Burke’s are destroyers. Those are larger, more heavily armed and have more endurance than a frigate. They are more like a cruiser.
        I just came back from Philadelphia where I drove around the old Navy yard and saw three Perry frigates being decommissioned and currently cannibalized for parts. These are the old ones and at least one had the dual arm missile launcher instead of the vertical one. One look at them and you know why we have the LCS.

        These frigates where being deployed to South America, Africa, Middle East, etc. and every time they do so and whether they need it or not they haul with them an entire suite of multi-purpose equipment. If they are in the Middle East they have to deal with mines and swarm of small boats, in Africa with anti-piracy, etc. In South America and the Caribbean with smugglers. In Malaysia with piracy and patrol duties. In the Philipines with Chinese encroachment, etc. Why haul all that equipment around when you only use one or two suites of equipment at a time?
        The answer is to take with you just what you need: The modules. That is what the LCS is about… you have modules that equip the ship with a suite of armament to deal with two or three types of likely threats. If you are doing boarding or searches, antipiracy, mine warfare, etc. You just arm the ship with what you need.

        By the way, what they always need is the helicopter and the helipad in those Perrys are small. The ones in the LCS is huge in comparison and will allow them to use the air component with a lot more flexibility. It was probably the Perry’s main weapon and will remain so with the LCS.
        Almost all the LCS armament is deployed in externally. It might be the helicopter, the unmanned underwater vehicles, etc. Very little fighting is done by the ship itself.
        We can’t do this with purpose built frigates.

        I do think that the current plans for the Navy are upsetting a lot of sailors. It is not what they saw themselves doing in a traditional sense and would like to see the money put into what they believe in and not these cavernous weapon haulers but despite the critics this is one part of the Navy that is probably heading in the right direction.

        To use a huge missile like the Harpoon to destroy a small boat is a waste. Many of those foreign frigates you mentioned carry Harpoons or similar domestic missiles because they are designed to take on a large cruiser and have a decent chance of sinking it. They are ships designed for access denial and costal defense.

        To use a 5” shell that is going to be in the air for 20 seconds before it hits a target 10 miles away is useless if that target is a fast moving small boat that will zigzag and evade the shell. A smaller gun with less range but a faster rate of fire is a better choice of a weapon for that type of threat.

        The Army has changed a lot in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is a more efficient and economical one. The weapons are smaller and do less collateral damage. Some of those missiles design to hit fast moving vehicles could find their way to the LCS for that same reason. Right now the issue is range… the Navy would like to see a little more range than what the Army stock missiles have so that is in a state flux. They are working on that.

        The Navy that is coming will be different.

      • 1) Problem is that LCS is lot of expenses for very doubtful capability.
        2) LCS is not very modular. Modules are very few and take very long time to replace.
        3) And what if enemy uses a whaler loaded with cruise missiles? LCS will get sunk… as it will against anything even resembling Swedish Visby or Croatian Kralj classes. Against anything less than that, it is too costly and maintenance-extensive. Most long-range missiles in combat will miss, which means that you need ships with a) crapload of missiles and b) powerful gun. But LCS’ missiles aren’t powerful enough to be usable against anything its own size or up.

      • Let us agree to disagree for now about the LCS. I would like to touch on one subject, that of missile accuracy.

        At the present our experience with missile warfare generally agrees with what you mentioned about passive defenses. Naval missiles carry small radars, etc, that can be jammed and mislead by passive measures. When the Hanit was hit by the Lebanese it had its radar off so it was defenseless. But in other environments like in the battle of Latakia counter measures ruled the day and the Israelis where able to evade the Syrian attack, close in and sink the Syrian boats with their own shorter range missiles (yes, the victorious side had shorter range missiles!).

        It is still a mystery if in our time something like this will repeat itself. It might be that boats need to get a lot closer to each others and fire more missiles to be effective. But the LCS is not a patrol boat like the Syrian and Israeli ones but a larger frigate size ship with a significant air component. If that same battle of Latakia had taken place with an LCS you would probably would have seen the helicopters do the actual fighting using smaller more accurate missiles. So there is a change.

      • Except other ships can also carry helicopters, and greater number of them too.

  2. You keep talking about an wouden aircraft…you do know that the Mosquito of wwII was easy to detect by RADAR ,didnt you?It is used often as an example that materials do not make an aircraft invisible.Source«An Illustrated Guide to the Techniques and Equipment of Electronic Warfare (Illustrated Guides Series)»

  3. Replace the Arleigh Burke with frigates!??!? No thank you. The Arleigh Burke has to be one of the best destroyers. It has one of the heaviest armors one of the farthest ranges and can also be mounted with Railguns and LaWS systems. It will last from today to 2030-2041

  4. Also the Arleigh Burke helps with missile defenses so removing them would leave a HUGE gap in the Patriot system.

  5. Do you have a real-life frigate you are basing your cost estimate off?

  6. Here’s a question Picard, having the M40 (106mm) and the AT-4 (84mm) as your only AT weapons would leave a gap for infantry fired weapons to deal with larger MBTs (A role somewhat filled by the FGM-148), how do you propose soldiers destroy a main battle tank with such underpowered weapons?

    • AT-4 has penetration of 400 mm RHA, M40 has penetration of 700 mm RHA with new ammunition (not used by the US Army), latter figure should be enough to penetrate side armor of all tanks I know of, and even frontal armor of most of them. Hardly underpowered.

      • Thanks for the reply, I see where you’re coming from. Compared to the M256 of, say, an Abrams firing at 1,580 to 1,750 m/s, with the M40 firing at only 503 m/s, I’m not totally convinced it WILL penetrate modern MBT armour. Not to mention the difference between HEAT and sabot rounds when it comes to destroying tanks.

        • Your comparison is not apples-to-apples, recoilless rifles use, as you have noted, HEAT ammunition which is less dependent on muzzle velocity than subcalibre ammunition.

      • I was under the impression that HEAT rounds were largely ineffective against modern armour? (Unless there is some form of tandem HEAT recoilless rifle round that I’m not aware of)

        • It all depends on where it hits. Against frontal armor yes, they are ineffective. But not all parts of tank are equally armored, a side or rear hit will penetrate. ERA makes this more complex as it destroys HEAT round and can disrupt flight path of a sabot, but considering how relatively cheap ammunition from recoilless rifles is, nothing stops you from firing several rounds in the same general area.

        • Oh, and Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle does have tandem warhead HEAT rounds, with one of them having cca 500 mm penetration (FFV651 and FFV751).

      • Thanks for explaining, you learn something every day!


  1. Air superiority fighter for the 21st century « Defense Issues

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