Surface Forces: September 25, 1999


The US Navy is asking for funds to build the first experimental prototypes of two new warships classes. With adequate money, current plans to build these in 2010 can be moved up to 2006.Street Fighter is a small 2,000-ton heavily-armed corvette designed to get close to shore. Being very small, it will be cheap, allowing many to be built and some to be lost in combat. Navy brass are concerned that Congress might latch onto the Street Fighter idea as an excuse to cancel the expensive DD21 Land Attack Destroyer, which is designed to operate behind a screen of Street Fighters. The Street Fighters are, in their own turn, designed to operate with the heavier DD21 backing them up from farther offshore.The Littoral Support Craft (based on commercial ferry designs) is intended to bring supplies ashore (and to ships working close to the shore) during a conflict. The Navy wants 10 of these "packmule" ships and expects to pay only $300 million for all of them. Navy brass is concerned that Congress might see these as an alternative to building a new class of heavy amphibious combat transports, which would cost considerably more than $300 million each.--Stephen V Cole

Racal has reached the second stage of development of a new radar system known as the "opportunistic bi-static radar". Mounted on a US warship, this radar does not need to transmit any signals that would give away its own position. Instead, it detects reflected radar waves emitted by any other operating radar in the area, including aircraft weather search radars, merchant ship radars, or even enemy ship fire control and surface search radars. Powerful computers and software determine where the transmitter (which probably does not realize that the US is using it as such) is and then detect energy from that radar reflected from targets in the area. The donor radar could come from an aircraft operating far enough out of the area to be safe from attack.--Stephen V Cole




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