USS Bonhomme Richard Fire – Was it Arson Or Widespread Safety Failures?
by Megan Rose (ProPublica) On the morning of July 12, 2020, the first orange flickers of destruction took hold in the bowels of the hulking USS Bonhomme Richard as it...
By John Konrad (gCaptain) Last week, gCaptain reported the U.S. Air Force demonstrated a lethal new weapon that could provide a low-cost and more widely-available alternative to sinking ships with traditional torpedoes and expensive anti-ship missiles. Today Forbes is reporting this new weapon, codenamed QUICKSINK, could sink a “vast amount” of commercial merchant and Coast Guard ships.
The new weapon, known officially as the GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munition, was tested during a demonstration last month in the Gulf of Mexico. It was the second experiment in a Joint Capability Technology Demonstration, funded by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering.
This deadly weapon solves a problem that’s challenged the US Navy for years. How do you disable a large number of commercial vessels in a relatively short amount of time? This question came to the forefront of military planning when China’s large fleet of fishing vessels, backed by lightly armed naval militia and coast guard vessels, began encroaching on territorial waters in the Philippines.
The problem has grown considerably in scope with the success of the Javelin and other small missile systems weapons in the Ukraine war.
“The US has less than 80 commercial ships in international service, while China has over 5,500 merchant ships sailing today,” one senior US Navy officer told gCaptain. “What happens if China issues Javelin type missiles to each commercial ship? What would happen if China issued a portable missle to the 122,034 Chinese seafarers serving on all types of ships? Or the potentially hundreds of thousands that could be displacing Filipino seafarers.”
Some think it would be difficult for China to weaponize its commercial fleet, but recent testing by the US Marine Corps suggests it’s possible. Last year teams of Marines armed with Javelin anti-tank guided missiles riding in small inflatable boats trained to engage enemy naval forces for the first time as part of a major exercise on and around the Japanese island of Okinawa.
The test was successful against some targets, but it remains unclear how much damage Javelin would do to a large commercial ship. The US Marine Corp is not the only one interested in discovering the answer. Finland, has taken testing a step further by arming dedicated coastal defense units armed with Spike-ER missiles from German firm Eurospike, which produces multiple variants of an Israeli-designed portable missile.
“If it’s just transport ships, they’re most vulnerable when they’re loading,” said Marine Captain Jonathan Kohler, who participated in the USMC Javelin experiment. “That’s a time when Javelins can be used against the actual ship.”
According to Forbes’s naval expert and senior contributor Craig Hooper, To confront China’s massive shipping fleet, the US Navy and allies in the Pacific had few options to stop even a single determined and potentially hostile civilian surface ship beyond a heavyweight torpedo or bulky and expensive laser-guided bomb.
“This weapon changes things for China’s far-flung and badly-behaved fleets,” says Hooper. “QUICKSINK is a simple kinetic capability where a low-cost Air Force Research Laboratory guidance kit is strapped onto a 2,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM). With lots and lots of JDAMs in the world’s arsenal, and given that JDAMs can be dropped by virtually any military aircraft, “QUICKSINK” is a mortal threat to China’s Gray Zone fleet. Now the United States has a low-cost weapon to neutralize large craft anywhere and in any weather quickly.”
Hooper’s full analysis of this new weapon’s capabilities against commercial ships can be found here: America’s New QUICKSINK Bomb Targets China’s Vast Low-Tech Navy
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