What Does It Take to Sink a Ship?

The Coast Guard spends much more time thinking about how to keep ships from sinking, than it does about how to sink them. But because the Coast Guard is tasked with maritime security and because of the potential for terrorists using a ship as a means of attack, the question has become relevant. It becomes important when you consider, is the Coast Guard adequately armed for its missions. I’ve mentioned several times that I don’t believe the 57 mm gun is adequate to stop a medium to large ship being used as a weapon. I’ll try to explain why I have reached that conclusion and offer some examples.

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ea/BB61_USS_Iowa_BB61_broadside_USN.jpg

Stopping–keeping it from reaching the target–rather than sinking a ship is probably more the relevant criteria, but generally ships don’t sink rapidly, particularly if you are trying to do it with a gun, so almost inevitably it is necessary to do enough damage to ultimately sink the ship if you are going to stop it in a timely fashion. Many of the ships that I will talk about continued to fight on for over an hour after the first hits were registered. Think of sinking a close surrogate for stopping a ship before it reaches its objective.

There are of course many examples of ships either surviving grievous attacks or alternately ships sink after a single hit. What it takes to sink a ship is highly variable and at best probabilistic. Its highly dependent upon ship design and preparation, but the most important variable seems to be size.

World War II experience

Over a long period, I’ve made an informal study of this subject. The primary source I used was the US Navy Report of War Damage series available here. The same index also includes reports of individual ship damage and reports of damage to British warships. I would also recommend the “Destroyer Report: Gunfire, Bomb and Kamikaze Damage, 17Oct41-15Aug45” which includes annotated damage control plates. The amount of damage these little ships took and in some cases survived is truly amazing.

The US Navy Report of War Damage series briefly outlines all incidents of damage to US Navy Battleships, Carriers, Cruisers, Destroyers, and Destroyer Escorts as they were known at the time the document was published and includes diagrams of the location of hits. Continue reading

Giving More than 100%–Part 2, Missions and Resource Hours

This is a continuation of a look at a report the Department of Homeland Security presented to Congress regarding Coast Guard mission performance begun in part one.

The report divides the Coast Guard’s 11 missions into Department of Homeland Security Missions and Non-Homeland Security missions as follows (percent of hours associated with each mission is in parenthesis):

Homeland security missions include:

  • Ports, Waterways, and Coastal Security (25.25%)
  • Drug Interdiction (11.22%)
  • Migrant Interdiction (10.60%)
  • Defense Readiness (7.82%)
  • Other Law Enforcement (foreign fisheries enforcement) (0.93%)

Non-Homeland Security Missions include:

  • Marine Safety (7.32%)
  • Search and Rescue (8.16%)
  • Aids-to-Navigation (14.05%)
  • Living Marine Resources (domestic fisheries enforcement) (13.12%)
  • Marine Environmental Protection (0.41%)
  • Ice Operations (1.12%)

The first thing you may notice is that the “Homeland Security Missions” were Coast Guard missions long before the creation of DHS.
This distinction is artificial. DHS seems fixated on terrorism. Once the DHS is reconciled to the fact that they are the department responsible for disaster prevention, response, and mitigation regardless of whether that disaster is natural, accidental, or a terrorist attack, then they will see that the remaining Coast Guard missions are also to some extent DHS missions.  (Notably the previous year when GAO testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation,  “Drug Interdiction” and “Other Law Enforcement” were listed as non-homeland security missions.)

Marine Safety and AtoN help prevent accidental disasters. Living Marine Resources and MEP help prevent environmental disasters. Any SAR case is at least a small scale disaster for those involved. SAR can be a major part of disaster mitigation as in the case of Katrina or Haiti. The SAR organization is the frequently the basis for post disaster communications. Even Ice Operations can mitigate the possibility of flooding by preventing the accumulation of water behind Ice dams that may release catastrophically–all good DHS missions.

As noted in part 1, the report seems to miss a signifiant part of the Coast Guard’s operation, but for now lets look at what it does show. We will look at Measures of effectiveness later.

General:

The report actually covers the entire period from 2001 to the present and compares current operations with a baseline established on the basis of eight quarters prior to 9/11. One important item is that although total resource hours declined since 2005, hours are still up considerably compared to pre-9/11 levels, up from a little less than 500,000 hours to 717,992 hours, so a decline in percentage doesn’t necessarily reflect a decline in activity.

Homeland Security Resource Hours:

Hours increased significantly as might be expected, 115%, from a baseline of a bit less than 200,000  to 400,742.

Ports, Waterways, and Coastal Security: By far the greatest percentage of hours (181,264 hours/25.25%) was taken by ports, waterways and coastal security missions. Resource utilization is up ten fold from the baseline after peaking in 2003/4/5.

  • So what are these Cutters and aircraft doing? Mostly patrolling.
  • Did we do patrolling before? Yes.
  • So if they saw an oil spill, a SAR case, or a suspected drug smuggler, would they ignore it? No.

So maybe we ought to add another 25.25% to MEP, another 25.25% to SAR, and another 25.25% to Drug interdiction. Still do we patrol enough? The vessel and aircraft related measures of effectiveness targets are being exceeded. But the targets are abominably low, considering we are dealing with events with potentially catastrophic consequences.

Drug Interdiction: Hours are down 34% from the pre-9/11 baseline from a little over 120,000 down to 80,564. Here we are getting substantial help from DOD but that doesn’t show up in the hours, and the efforts of our LEDETS, like those of the small boats, are also not reflected by the resource hour measure.

Undocumented Migrant Interdiction: Up more than 150%  to 76,100 hours. Reportedly we are achieving record high interdiction rates.

Defense Readiness: Hours are up considerably, to 56,128 hours or 7.82% but the baseline was ridiculously low at what looks like less than 7,000 hours or less than 300 unit days. The results have been poor with little improvement expected until the National Security Cutters and Fast Response Cutters replace the 378s and 110s.

Other Law Enforcement: (6,686 hours 0.93%) The number of hours has bounced around quite a bit by percentage (now 19.2% below the baseline). The entire effort is less than 280 unit days, but the service is exceeding its performance goal by a wide margin.

Non-homeland security

Non-Homeland Security hours (317,250 hours or 44.18%) dropped below the baseline in 2002/2003/2004 but are currently slightly above the baseline.

Search and Rescue: SAR Hours are down more than a quarter, from over 80,000 to 58,607 hours or 8.16%. Even so, we are meeting our performance objectives. SAR hours are demand driven. In 2005, hours were still below baseline, but bumped up 14.8% from 2004 as a result of Katrina. Hopefully we will be able to do more rescuing and less searching as a result of innovations like Rescue 21. The depressed economy may have a role here too.  If we were a SAR only organization we would have to fly or get underway just to train and maintain proficiency. As it is, much of the proficiency training is done working on other missions, so perhaps we should credit a few more percentage points to the hours we spend on SAR.

Marine Safety (52,579 hours 7.2%): The Coast Guard did not even report commitment of resource hours to Marine Safety before 2005. I’m still not sure what we are doing with this much cutter and aircraft time that effects the number of commercial mariner and commercials passenger deaths or injuries (two of the three measures of effectiveness) Most of these hours must go to Recreational Boating Safety (the third measure of effectiveness). This may be another way to count patrol hours.

Aids to Navigation: AtoN hours show a drop from the baseline of about 10% to 1000,904 hours, but it is still 14.05% of the current total. Improved reliability of aids appears to have made this possible without a drop in service.

Ice Ops (8,033 hours/1.12%): This category is primarily a reflection of ice conditions on the Great Lakes and navigable waterways that can fluctuate substantially year to year. It says very little about our Arctic capabilities, long in decline.

Living Marine Resources (94,178 hours/13.12%): Hours declined after 9/11 but now slightly exceed pre-9/11 baseline.

Marine Environmental Protection (MEP) (2,949 hours/0.41%): Like Marine Safety, MEP recorded no resource hours committed before 2005. Hours are down over 40% since 2005, but in FY2009 we exceeded our goals for prevention of chemicals and oil discharges per units shipped. There were no performance measures specifically related to safety of or pollution from offshore wells. I suspect most MEP work is not done by the cutters and aircraft included in this report, but that we will see a big increase in MEP hours when figures come out for FY2010. In the minds of most people, fisheries enforcement, both “Living Marine Resources” (domestic fisheries) and “Other Law Enforcement” (foreign fisheries) is a form of “Marine Environmental Protection.” Perhaps we need to group them with regulation of the chemical and petroleum industries and pollution clean-up under an expanded Marine Environmental Protection Program, so that there will be a better appreciation of what the service does.

Conclusion:

Traditional Coast Guard missions continue within the Department of Homeland Security. They have not been neglected.

For the Coast Guard to have gone from less than 500,000 resource hours to consistently over 700,000 hours, a more than 40% increase, when there has been no substantial increase in assets and as the average age of the assets increased has got to be a strain.

Coming in Part 3: Performance Measures and Where the Problems are.