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Burning the Midnight Oil for the Arc of the Sun

Crossposted from: Voices on the Square

Way back in the third Presidential debate (that was pre-Sandy), the challenger said:

Our Navy is older — excuse me — our Navy is smaller now than any time since 1917. The Navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their mission. We’re now down to 285. We’re headed down to the — to the low 200s if we go through with sequestration. That’s unacceptable to me. I want to make sure that we have the ships that are required by our Navy.
So, how many ships does the Navy need?

On his website, the challenger says:

This will not be a cost-free process. We cannot rebuild our military strength without paying for it. Mitt Romney will begin by reversing Obama-era defense cuts and return to the budget baseline established by Secretary Robert Gates in 2010, with the goal of setting core defense spending—meaning funds devoted to the fundamental military components of personnel, operations and maintenance, procurement, and research and development—at a floor of 4 percent of GDP.
So, do we need to boost the Naval Budget?

The Few and Expensive Ships of the US Navy

The challenger touches on a quite serious debate in terms of naval doctrine. Assuming a fixed budget (which could well be all that you can squeeze out of the civilian economy), should you have fewer and more expensive, more capable ships, or cheaper and less capable, but more numerous, ships?

Let me go to a blog that explores Maritime Strategy, Eagle Speak, by Mark Tempest, a semi-retired lawyer and retired Navy Reserve Captain, and rewind the clock to 2008. In The Time Is Right for Revolution, Mark Tempest writes:

These commanders need some political help from someone who understands that we shouldn't have billion dollar ships doing missions poorly that could be done better by having many more mission-designed ships. To use a famous Navy phrase, "any ship can be a mine sweeper once." Real minesweepers can be reused after they have swept a channel- multi-billion dollar "capital ships" cannot. 

Given the promise of "network centric warfare," merely connecting a few huge platforms under-utilizes the potential for linking many small ships for greater tactical flexibility. Or, as Captain Wayne Hughes writes in Fleet Tactics and Coastal Combat (p.286):

We have seen that the number of ships is the most valuable attribute that a fleet can have. We also saw that many small ships offer more tactical flexibility... The U.S. Navy is composed of large, highly capable ships, many of which have area defense capability. It was for defense more than for offense that the American navy sacrificed numbers for quality. 
According to the Wikipedia machine, the US Navy has 11 supercarriers, 22 cruisers, 62 destroyers, 29 frigates, 3 littoral combat ships, 9 amphibious assault ships, 2 amphibious command ships, 9 amphibious transport docks, 12 dock landing ships, 53 attack submarines, 14 ballistic missile submarines, 4 guided missile submarines, 14 mine countermeasures ships, and 11 patrol boats.

The ultimate expression of a few large, highly capable, ships are the Navy's eleven supercarriers. The oldest of these is the USS Enterprise, the first nuclear carrier, 1,123ft long, 257 ft wide at its widest, displacing about 93,000 tons fully loaded. Compared that to the WWII carrier, the USS Enterprise, the "Big E", as built was 770ft long, 110ft wide at its wide, and displaced 25,000 tons fully loaded.

The ten supercarriers of the Nimitz class are 1,092ft long and 252 ft wide at their widest, but displace about 105,000 tons.

The ships complement of a Nimitz carrier is 3,200, with an air wing complement of 2,480.

But a supercarrier is too big and vulnerable to travel alone. A carrier strike group consists of one supercarrier with an air wing of around 75 aircraft, one or two guided missile cruisers (we have 22 guided missile cruisers, the size of a WWII light battleship), perhaps an attack submarine, and a squadron of destroyers and sometimes frigates (DESRON). To give some current examples, DESRON One, with the CVN Vinson, and DESRON 15, with the CVN George Washington in Yokosuka Japan, are three destroyers and two frigates each, DESRON Two, with the CVN Enterprise, is eight destroyers, DESRON 23, with CVN Nimitz, has six destroyers and three frigates.

With 62 destroyers and 17 frigates (after six frigates go out of commission in 2013), that is 79 vessels to form into destroyer squadrons of three or more vessels, so an average number of vessels per squadron of six would mean 13 destroyer squadrons.

{NB. Destroyer squadrons are administrative groups, not necessarily operational groups, so the theater commander could well, for example, send the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group out with three destroyers and send the other five destroyers in DESRON Two on a separate Sea Lane Control mission.} 
So what is this about sending "a billion dollar ships doing missions poorly"? This is not talking about the supercarriers: the most recent Nimitz class, the USS George HW Bush, cost $6.3b. It refers to the destroyers: the current Arleigh Burke class of destroyers, which cost $1.8b each.

Now, US Navy ships tend to be big: not only are our carriers are the eleven largest naval vessels at sea, our destroyers, displacing 9,000 to 11,000 tons (depending on vintage), are the size of a WWII light cruiser. By contrast, the new Australian class of destroyer, the Hobart class, displaces 7,000 tons fully loaded. Our remaining frigates, the Hazard Perry class, displace 4,100 tons, and cost about $200m in mid-70's dollars (which would be about $450m in 2012 dollars) are classed as destroyers when they appear in the navies of some other nations.

Modern corvettes are smaller vessels displacing from 600 tons to 2,000 tons. The 46-ship Spanish Navy has four corvettes of the Descubierta class, displacing 1,666 tons. The 40-ship Swedish navy has corvettes as the largest of its surface fleet, with the stealth Visby class displacing 640 tons. The modern Russian Navy corvette Boiky displaces 2,000 tons.

The US Navy does not have corvettes, though the 15 Coast Guard Reliance class cutters and 13 Coast Guard Famous class cutters are in the general size class, as is the proposed new Offshore Patrol cutter.

Instead of corvettes, the US Navy is proposing to build "Littoral Combat Ships", with two competing designs represented by the USS Freedom, costing $670m and displacing 3,300 tons, and the USS Independence, costing $704m and displacing 2,800 tons fully loaded.


What Do We Want a Navy For, Anyway?

All this tech talk leads me to the question of: what for? A fighting ship and trained crew is an instrument, a means to an end. So the question must be raised, what is the Navy for? Is the purpose of the Navy to head across the Ocean to bomb the stuffing out of some nation overseas? Is the purpose of the Navy to keep the Sea Lanes open and available for international trade? Is the purpose of the Navy to defend our shores from invasion? Is the purpose of the Navy to go to natural disasters accessible from sea and provide relief, whether at home or abroad?

In a general sense, this is the question raised by the Green Day / U2 video imagining a different response to Katrina:

"Until our weather change condemns belief, how long now?"

Wasp Class amphibious assault helicopter carrier, USS Makin Island.

And indeed, the US Navy deployed naval ships in response to Hurricane Sandy. But they were amphibious assault vessels, not supercarriers: an amphibious assault helicopter carrier, the USS Wasp, and two amphibious helicopter transport docks, the USS San Antonio and the USS Carter Hall s. The USS San Antonio had earlier served as the flagship for the anti-piracy effort off the coast of Somalia.

In a 2008 piece for Information Dissimination, Maritime Strategy blogger Galrahn asks "Where are the cruisers? ~ where he is using "cruiser" in the Napoleaonic Wars era sense of the ships that are smaller and not as well armed as the main "Ships of the Line", but which patrol the sea lanes and maintain control of the sea. He quotes the classic Some Principles of Maritime Strategy, but Julian Corbett:

It is perfectly true that the control depends ultimately on the battle-fleet if control is disputed by a hostile battle-fleet, as it usually is. It is also true that, so far as is necessary to enable the battle-fleet to secure the control, we have to furnish it with eyes from our cruiser force. But it does not follow that this is the primary function of cruisers. The truth is, we have to withdraw them from their primary function in order to do work for the battle-fleet which it cannot do for itself. 

Well established as is the "Eyes of the fleet" maxim, it would be very difficult to show that scouting was ever regarded as the primary function of cruisers by the highest authorities. In Nelson's practice at least their paramount function was to exercise the control which he was securing with his battle-squadron. Nothing is more familiar in naval history than his incessant cry from the Mediterranean for more cruisers, but the significance of that cry has become obscured. It was not that his cruisers were not numerous in proportion to his battleships—they were usually nearly double in number—but it was rather that he was so deeply convinced of their true function, that he used them to exercise control to an extent which sometimes reduced his fleet cruisers below the limit of bare necessity.

That is, you exercise control of the sea with a class of ship that can (1) operate on independent patrol at sea and (2) that you can afford to build and man in sufficiently large numbers to patrol the sea lanes that you need patrolled.

If there is no contesting of your control of the sea, the "cruisers" by themselves are sufficient, but if it is contested, then you need "battleships" in order to fend off the battle fleet of the opposing nation.

And what are the "cruisers". These range from what the Navy calls frigates, about half the size of a modern Destroyer, or what the Coast Guard calls a High Endurance Cutter, displacing about 4,000-5,000 tons, down to the Corvettes that the Navy no longer has, which the Coast Guard calls a Medium Endurance Cutter, displacing about 1,500-2,000 tons.

If the purpose of the Navy is to keep Sea Lanes open, we have our Navy force structure upside down: we have the ability to knock the stuffing out of a hypothetical rival navy that does not exist, but we do not have the ability to patrol the sea lanes and keep them open in an increasingly turbulent world without stripping our Carrier Strike Groups of the escort vessels they need to retain their capacity to bring their striking power to bear.


Actually Defending the Sea Lanes

To get a grip on what is required to keep sea lanes open, we do not have to rely solely on maritime strategy bloggers, since there is a reasonably large modern Navy which has the task of keeping Sea Lanes open as its primary mission: the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (which I will call the Japanese Navy). To quote Vice Admiral Yoji Koda (ret) in A NEW CARRIER RACE? Strategy, Force Planning, and JS Hyuga (pdf):

As for maritime operations, ensuring the safety and security of the waters around Japan is the most important mission of the JMSDF. In this way the JMSDF ensures that Japan can receive American reinforcements from across the Pacific Ocean, guarantees the safety of U.S. naval forces operating around Japan, and enables U.S. carrier strike groups (CSGs) to concentrate on strike operations against enemy naval forces and land targets. At the same time, for Japan, as a country with few natural resources and little domestic food production, the safety of merchant shipping is a matter of national survival in crisis or wartime. All of these operations are grouped under the heading of protection of sea lines of communication (SLOCs) in the northwestern Pacific. The JMSDF has accepted these simple realities as the essence of its strategic objectives.
 
Proceeding from this defense strategy, the main missions of the JMSDF have consistently been defined as the protection of SLOCs and the defense of the homeland in case of direct invasion. In support of this defense strategy and its two main missions, in turn, the JMSDF has set antisubmarine warfare as its main task. The operational concept under the Japanese-U.S. alliance is that in case of a national or regional contingency, the U.S. Navy would deploy CSGs into the seas surrounding Japan, to provide the strike capability lacking in the JMSDF to oblige the enemy to give up its intention of invading Japan or attacking its SLOCs. It would be necessary to exclude firmly the enemy’s submarines, which could pose the greatest threat to CSG operations in Japanese waters and to the safety of the SLOCs around Japan. As a result of this logic, ASW was made the main pillar of JMSDF missions.
 
Even in the present security environment, twenty years after the end of the Cold War and the threat of invasion from the Soviet Union, two factors are unchanged—the Japanese-U.S. alliance and Japan’s dependence on imported natural resources. Therefore the protection of SLOCs has continued to be a main mission of the JMSDF.
In other words, Attack Submarines, not Carriers, are the "Capital Ships" of the late 20th, early 21st Century. They are the vessels that other ships fear the most, and the vessels that most fear each other, just as the "Dreadnought" Battleships of the turn of the early Century, and the Carriers of the middle of the 20th century.

And what is the force that is most effectively deployed to defend Sea Lanes against Submarines? In the 60's and 70's, it was a squadron of two Helicopter Destroyers, carrying three helicopters each, one guided missile destroyer, for air defense, and five light destroyers ~ which the US Navy would now call a frigate ~ for general operations,

The JMSDF conducted extensive mathematical operations-research analyses of these threat scenarios and came to the following conclusion: a surface force of eight destroyers with six shipboard ASW helicopters would be the most effective against a single SS attempting to make torpedo attacks, supported by sporadic bombing by long-range bombers.
 
The six ASW helicopters in total—four available for operations at any one time—were to be used as “reaction assets”—that is, to investigate contacts gained or to conduct counterattacks. They were not considered to be primary search assets against the enemy SS. Instead, once contact was gained, the four were to be sent to the contact area to track the submarine and eventually to kill it, when tactical conditions were met.
As attack submarines evolved from sole reliance on torpedoes to surfacing over the horizon and attacking with Ship to Ship missiles, and as surface ship warfare shifted to missiles, the anti-submarine detection capacities had to be increase, so the number of helicopters was increased from six to eight. At the same time, the air defense capacity of the squadron had to be increased, so the number of Guided Missile destroyers was increased from one to two. This required converting the light destroyers to be capable of carrying one helicopter each. After developing a full range of Anti-Submarine Warfare capabilities for a helicopter light enough to be flown off of a light destroyer, the Sea Lane Control squadron was established as two Guided Missile Destroyers, one Helicopter Destroyer, carrying three helicopters, and five light destroyers, carrying one helicopter each, "eight ships, eight helicopters".

By the turn of the century, the Japanese Navy had completed four squadrons under the "eight ships / eight helicopters" design. However, while the Japanese Navy has not had to fight to defend sea lanes during that time, naval exercises and wargaming had revealed weaknesses in the squadron. One was the need for a capability to support anti-mine helicopters. A second was the need to be able to respond to multiple submarine contacts at once.

The response is the new, larger, helicopter carrier, displacing 20,000 tons, which is the size of a light carrier. However, it is provided with both the offensive and defensive weaponry of a regular destroyer, as operations may involve two or three groups of ships in pursuit of submarine contacts and the helicopter carrier on its own. It has a normal complement of three anti-submarine helicopters and one anti-mine helicopter, but can take on up to ten helicopters at once if required.

And that is the modern, state of the art, squadron for keeping sea lanes open: a squadron of eight ships: one helicopter carrier, two guided missile destroyers, and five light destroyers ~ which the US Navy would call frigates.

We don't have dedicated light carriers, but we have eight amphibious assault helicopter carriers, the Wasp-class, capable of embarking a wing of twelve jump-jets for air defense and rapid response operations and ten helicopters. Our Navy has ample guided missile destroyers to allocate two guided missile destroyers to provide additional air and surface missile defense cover for each of our amphibious assault helicopter carriers, in a Sea Lane Control squadron ~ even if many of them are devoted to the role of escort ship for supercarriers.

What are we missing? We are missing the frigates to make up the balance of the squadrons. Eight Sea Lane Control squadrons along these lines would require forty frigates. We are on track to have none. Instead we are getting "Littoral Combat ships". Given their expense, we are going to have far fewer than forty. And given their specialization in fighting in the Littoral, they seem likely to be ill-suited to play the role of light destroyer in an Antis-submarine Sea Lane Control squadron.


What is the Littoral, Anyway?

I have repeatedly mentioned the "Littoral Combat vessels". What in the hell is the Littoral?

In reading Maritime Strategy, one sees reference to "Blue Water", "Green Water" and "Brown Water" naval forces. The "Blue Water" is the "High Seas" ~ the middle of the Ocean. The "Green Water" is coming closer to land. The "Brown Water" is approaching the surf on the coastline and tidal zone in the mouth of a river.

Ever since the development of mines and torpedoes in the 1800's, the main combatant naval ships of battle have been backing away from the "Brown Water" zone, and with the rise of inexpensive land based Surface to Surface missiles, they have been backing away from the "Green Water" zone as well.

Suppose that the purposes of the Navy are to keep the Sea Lanes open and available for international trade, to defend our shores from invasion, and to go to natural disasters accessible from sea and provide relief, whether at home or abroad. For all three, we need a Littoral Navy as well as a Blue Water Navy. Sea Lanes are not open if swarms of pirates or other unconventional combatants in speed boats with shoulder fired surface to surface missiles can sink a freighter. In defending our shores, we need to be able to supplement shore-based defenses with mobile naval forces able to operate in the Littoral. And naval disaster relief is far more often relief of disaster in coastal areas accessible from sea, than relief of disaster in the middle of the High Seas.

However, small but expensive ships designed to operate in the Littoral seem to me to be trying to combine 21st Century technology and mid-20th Century thinking to solve a distinctly non-20th century problem. The problem here is the problem of the swarm. In the littoral, this can be a swam of light, maneuverable land units equipped with surface to surface missile that can concentrate fire on one or two relatively large and very expensive close-to-shore vessels ... and then disperse back into small units, making it difficult to target and take out enough of the units to eliminate them as a threat.

This is not simply my casual speculation. The re-emergence of the swarm as a critical military strategy is discussed in Arquillo and Rondfeld (2000), "Swarming and the Future of Conflict" out of that planner of more effective ways to blow shit up, the Rand Corporation National Defense Research Institute:

Swarming is seemingly amorphous, but it is a deliberately structured, coordinated, strategic way to strike from all directions, by means of a sustainable pulsing of force and/or fire, close-in as well as from stand-off positions. It will work best — perhaps it will only work — if it is designed mainly around the deployment of myriad, small, dispersed, networked maneuver units (what we call "pods" organized in "clusters"). Developing a swarming force implies, among other things, radical changes in current military organizational structures. From command and control of line units to logistics, profound shifts will have to occur to nurture this new "way of war."
...

Briefly, we advance the idea that swarming—engaging an adversary from all directions simultaneously, either with fire or in force—is one of four types of doctrine that have long been around. The other forms are the chaotic melee, brute-force massing, and nimble maneuver ...
...

This study derives insights from examples of swarming in nature and in history. Both areas are replete with instances of omnidirectional yet well-timed assaults. From ants and bees and wolf packs, to ancient Parthians and medieval Mongols, swarming in force, or of fire, has often proven a very effective way of fighting.
...

Swarming could become the catalyst for the creation of a newly energized military doctrine: “BattleSwarm.” One requirement—well-informed, deadly small units—is already coming into being. But getting them properly networked and getting a new doctrine to take hold will not be an easy process, given the continued popularity and apparent utility of the current AirLand Battle doctrine. Swarming implies radical new changes in current military organization—including the elimination of many formations above the company level. 

What does "above company level" mean? Well, in army lingo, a Lieutenant commands a platoon of about 25 to 50 soldiers, a captain or major commands a company of 2-8 platoons, a lieutenant colonel commands a battalion of 2-6 companies, and a colonel commands a regiment of 2+ battalions, which is roughly 1,500-3,000 soldiers.

So a single aircraft supercarrier is a regiment's worth in the ship's complement plus a regiment's worth in the air wing.

In other words, you got nearly 5,000 people on a single ship costing $10's of billions of dollars. You can't make a "wolf's pack" of supercarriers. Those forces can't disperse: they are all on the single ship.

Nor can you make a wolf's pack of 300 ton "Littoral Combat Vessels" costing over half a billion each.

What could you make a wolf pack out of? If based on-shore to defend coastal waters, this seems to be a role for Fast Missile Boats, like the Israeli Sa'ar 4.5 class missile boat. 202 ft long, ft wide, displacing 430-500 tons, with a speed of 33 knots (38mph) and a range of 5,500 miles running at about 25mph. The Sa'ar 4.5 class missile boat costs about $30m each, based on the $60m purchase price when Mexico bought the first two built by Israel (purportedly for defense of the offshore PEMEX oil rigs).

There is a problem with that for control of sea lanes in the open ocean, or to patrol for pirates off an unfriendly coastline, though: a boat like that is not designed for months long patrols. It would need a tender to act as a mothership.

If we looked smaller, we might be able to get a boat that could be carried by a larger boat. This might work: the M80 Stilleto, a one-of-a-kind "research platform" with a pentamoran hull mbuilt for the Navy by M ship company. It is 89ft long, 40ft wide, displaces 60 tons fully loaded, has a top speed of 50knots (59mph), a range of 500 miles, and is expected to cost $6m to $10m each, which means for the $700m of the "Littoral Combat" ship, we could buy 50 Stilleto type vessels and have $200m to spend on refitting motherships to carry them.

The Stilleto is small enough to be craned onto a commercial cargo vessel, but a more appropriate mothership might be something like a retrofitted Landing Ship Dock, like the Whidby Island class. The Whidby Island class is an amphibious assault ship, designed to carry either four marine LCAC hovercraft or up to 36 amphibious assault vehicles in an internal well deck, together with a large helicopter pad aft. And given the range of ships in the Navy that have the capacity to support LCAC boats, the footprint of the LCAC is a reasonable target for the size of an operation small swarm attack boat.

Now, for true swarm operation, one would want an ability to carry more than four boats per mothership. However, a mothership does not need well deck capacity for each boat it carries, if the boat is small enough to be craned to a carrying slip for transit. Since the Whidby Island class is about as wide as a Stilleto is long, the helicopter pad could be converted into a two high stack of four Stiletto slips loaded by crane, with the helicopter pad on top, and the Whidby Island class would be converted from an amphibious assault ship to a fast attack boat carrier, able to carry a complement of twelve fast attack boats, as well as helicopter deck capacity to support two helicopters.

A capability to Sea Base the Wolfpacks of fast attack boats is required in order to cover a full range of Control of Sea Lanes and Relief Operations, but a range of 500 miles means that they can also be based and operate out of ports and dedicated boat support bases, just as the PT boats of WWII. A hundred attack boats, with a capability of Sea Base base 48 of them on four modified Whidby Island class helicopter dock ships, combined with development of effective swarm attack and defense techniques, seems likely to be a far more cost-effective purchase than a handful of 300 ton "Littoral Combat" boats at $700m each.

For Littoral operations, we would want an operations group to have a couple of corvettes equipped as minesweepers, with capacity to carry one anti-mine helicopter each. A free-standing Littoral Control group, analogous to the Japanese Sea Lane Defense groups, would also ideally have two guided missile destroyers for air defense of the group, which also provides the capacity to carry four anti-submarine helicopters. For Littoral operations, the balance of the squadron would be the lighter, more maneuverable Corvettes. If they are 1,500-2,000 ton Corvettes with capacity to support one Anti-Submarine helicopter each, four Corvettes would round out a capacity to support ten anti-submarine helicopters: two each on the fast attack boast carrier and the two guided missile destroyers, and one each on four Corvettes.

Corvettes do not generally have the capacity to sustain months-long patrols, but since the Whidby Island class is originally an amphibious assault ship, it has ample cargo capacity to act as a mothership for the four Corvettes as well.

Four Littoral Control Squadrons of one fast attack boat carrier, two guided missile destroyers, two anti-mine Corvettes and four general patrol Corvettes would allow two squadrons to be based on the Atlantic Coast and two to be based out of Pearl Harbor for Pacific operations.


So, How Big An Increase In the Navy Budget IS This, Anyway?

So I am talking about recommissioning, retaining or building maybe forty frigates for the Blue Water Navy for Sea Lane Control. And I am talking about building a dedicated Littoral Navy, one version of which in one post at Information Dissemination is estimated as:

  •    
  • 400 Inshore Patrol vessels similar to the US Coast Guard Defender class boat.
  •    
  • 160 Offshore Patrol vessels similar to the Australian Armidale-class patrol boat.
  •    
  • 30 Coastal Combatants similar to the Swedish Visby class corvette.
  •    
  • 12 Fast MIW vessels similar to the Norwegian Alta class minesweepers.
  •    
  • 12 Gunfire Support vessels similar to the Finish Nemo Navy program except bigger, with AGS.
  •    
  • 12 ASW Inshore vessels similar to an ASW dedicated Sa'ar 5 class corvette
  •    
  • 12 Global Fleet Station vessels similar to the vessel recommended in the often discussed NPS GFS design study (PDF).
  •    
  • 8 Light Aircraft Carriers similar to the Italian Cavour class but dedicated to VSTOL aviation.
  •    
  • 2 Coastal Combat Tenders intended to support 10 Coast Combatants a piece.

This is reckoned to be 10% of a notional Naval budget. Now, its debatable whether we need all of that for a Littoral Navy: the central point in the debate is how much of this is for Sea Strike capabilities, and how much of this is for Littoral Defense, for home shores, for control of the opposite end of sea lanes and to secure peacekeeping and relief operations from interference from various form of irregular and guerrilla forces.

However, even aside from that: if what we are trying to do is home waters defense, Control of Sea Lanes, and maintaining the capacity for a range of peacekeeping (as opposed to "peacemaking") and relief operations ... we don't need eleven carrier strike groups. If we had five carrier strike groups, two to the Atlantic, two in Pearl Harbor and one forward based, for example, in Darwin, Australia, we would still have greater Sea Strike capacity than we require ~ so long as we are not engaged in multiple reckless and ill-advised foreign invasions ~ and the savings in Carrier Strike Group operations would easily permit the establishment of both eight dedicated Sea Lane Control squadrons, as well as four Littoral Control squadrons and the entire cost of balance of a serious Littoral Navy over the decade ahead.

We would not save the entirety of the operating cost of six carrier strike groups, since just as we did with the WWII era battleships, we would not scrap the supercarriers that we are standing down, but rather mothball them, and one would likely remain in active operation as a Naval Reserve squadron, so that Naval Reserves can train in Carrier Strike Group operations. However, we would save most of that operating cost. Our present sixty-two (62) destroyers, which do not require replacement over the decade ahead, implies that we could have a full-strength complement of eight guided missile destroyers as the standard destroyer escort to a Carrier Strike Group for all five Carrier Strike Groups in active service and one in Naval Reserve training operations, two guided missile destroyers in each of eight Sea Lane Control Anti-Submarine squadrons, and two guided missile destroyers in four Littoral Control squadrons.

However, accomplishing a simultaneous "expansion of the navy" by ship numbers (though not tonnage), and moderate contraction of the naval budget, requires a serious fight with the most serious threat to our national security of them all: the Military Industrial Complex. The Military Industrial Complex does not want to build a large number of vessels designed for maximum national defense benefit per dollar, since their benefit is the dollars. They don't really give a damn, after all, whether a $700m "Littoral Combat Ship" can be destroyed by $100m or $20m worth of speedboats or fast moving land based units and surface to surface missiles and mines: the victory for them is achieved when they get an order for a large boat at $2.3m per ton displacement.

Which is not surprising: when it comes down to making progress in a useful direction, the most serious obstacle we invariably face is the thorough and complete corruption of our current political system. And the Military Industrial Complex has been playing this game longer than almost anyone: they are the model and idols for the proliferating horde of yellow-bellied surplus suckers that threaten to bring our two century old Republic to its knees.


World Music: Habib Koite "Wassiye"

And to remember that its worthwhile to keep the lines of communication open across the sea ~ even if we aren't using that to roam around blowing shit up.

Originally posted to BruceMcF on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 11:49 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Good post (6+ / 0-)

    Generals (and admirals) often prepare for the last war.  We can also encourage our allies to beef up their navies, all of which were drastically reduced after 1989.

  •  Fit the force to the purpose. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elpacifico66

    We aren't going to have much need for large ground forces once we get the hell out of Afghanistan, and we only need air superiority fighters to defend US territory in some highly unlikely invasion scenario.  The force that it would be justifiable to modernize and build up is the Navy, and to a lesser extent, Coast Guard.

    On the part of the Navy, this is for two reasons:

    1.  China.  I don't anticipate that they're going to do anything too extreme, but things can spiral out of control, and it's better to at least have the ability to respond if they do rather than being caught unprepared.  They do have a pattern of sort of bullying their maritime neighbors over territory, and political matters inside China could someday motivate the government to distract people with external tensions.  It's important that there be clear signals in place to keep the PRC Navy's conduct in the region within bounds, which requires a US Navy designed to keep them in check.

    2.  The Arctic.  Russia's obviously not going to do anything drastic, but they're still some very nasty people in charge over there, and it's important that NATO nations' assets and operations in the Arctic be defended.

    I completely agree with President Obama's strategic shift toward the Pacific.  I've been arguing for that since the late '90s, but the Buscists of course tried to warp the picture into some ludicrous totalitarian war on an abstract tactic (the "War on Terror") while virtually ignoring real strategic considerations.

    "They fear this man. They know he will see farther than they, and he will bind them with ancient logics." -The stoner guy in The Cabin in the Woods

    by Troubadour on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 12:08:59 PM PST

  •  Much more than I need 2 know... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BruceMcF

    ...but you clearly did a detailed & very
    good job in writing this Diary.
    The only ship this very old WWII Hospital Corpsman
    ever made it on to
    was an on land Destroyer Escort. That,if I recall correctly was for Fire Control training
    in Boot Camp.
    So I don't know from ships.
    What I believe that I
    do know,from much
    reading of world history, is the importance of weaponry that that
    outclasses that of an enemy.
    Based on my belief
    I firmly feel that our armament (is a
    ship an armament?)
    research & development funding must be kept adequate when cutting of our military's funding begins.

    •  Yes, there's a danger in budget trimming that ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Egalitare, Calamity Jean

      ... the fat stays and the meat gets trimmed. That's true for R&D spending on the meat side as well as for keeping 11 carrier strike groups in operation on the fat side.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 12:48:38 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  a military ship, like a military plane, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BruceMcF

      is a weapons platform, designed to get those weapons into battle, as quickly as possible. same thing with a tank, actually, it's a platform for carrying a 120mm cannon into battle. the armaments are the weapons themselves.

      I firmly feel that our armament (is a
       ship an armament?)
  •  Absolutely agree that factors other than... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BruceMcF

    ...security and mission are driving all of our military spending.

    Though interesting that drone vessels aren't part of the conversation in "swarming."

    When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative. --Martin Luther King Jr.

    by Egalitare on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 12:31:10 PM PST

    •  Sure they are ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      aliasalias, Egalitare

      ... the M-80 can support 2 marine drones and 4 light aviation drones, so a squadron of 12 could support up to 24 marine drones and 48 light aviation drones, while the Corvettes could also support heavier aviation drones as well.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 12:46:57 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  My bad: skimmed too quickly (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kingfishstew, jrooth

        I know that drone is a "bad word" on this site, but it makes perfect sense to deploy drones in this context to minimize loss of highly trained personnel.

        And as someone who built carriers and subs for 10 years, I can't really understand how the MIC continues to convince us that building carrier groups aids our national security. The money would be better deploying "soft power" in a way that is better for the regions impacted than the way the Chinese are doing it.

        When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative. --Martin Luther King Jr.

        by Egalitare on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 01:34:20 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  AFAIU, the bad word involves the ... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Roger Fox, Egalitare, jrooth

          ... use of drones in hit and run assasination strikes with lots of civilian casualties ...

          ... I don't expect that drones for anti-submarine and anti-mine warfare, tracking pirates hovering around climate disaster zones looking to pinch valuable assets or in helping defend the people of Taiwan from unwelcome intrusion by a revanchist Chinese military are quite so controversial.

          Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

          by BruceMcF on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 02:29:56 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  that's been true, to a degree, since the end of (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BruceMcF

      wwII, and the beginning of the cold war. remember, eisenhower, on leaving office, warned about the dangers inherent in the "military-industrial complex".

      Absolutely agree that factors other than security and mission are driving all of our military spending.
      the stealth bombers, originally designed for use against the USSR, to deliver nuclear bombs, were funded into production anyway, after their target collapsed, because every congressional district in the country had jobs directly associated with it, not because the air force wanted them. that was newt gingrich's baby, because his home state of GA had lots of defense jobs connected with it.

      that's why the possibility of sequestration is driving the republicans bonkers, because of the built-in cuts to defense spending. national security has less to do with it than jobs does.

  •  Fighter aircraft provide a good analogy here: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus

    Jet fighters have become extremely expensive and as of the early 1980s, pundits and military thinkers were arguing that the U.S. would be better off fielding a larger number of less expensive small fighters rather than a smaller force of extremely high quality fighters. This is exactly the same argument. The U.S. went on to build a large force of relatively cheaper, smaller F-16s for the Air Force to match the extremely capable but expensive F-15s and (slightly!) smaller and cheaper F-18s to complement the very expensive but world-beating F-14s.

    But experience suggests that this reliance on cheaper, less capable fighters has in fact been a failure. The larger, more sophisticated, much more capable fighters were vastly more effective and useful in the real world. The overwhelming majority of Air Force air combat victories in Iraq were scored by F-15s, largely because the F-16s lack the high-end radar, endurance/range and overall capability to be actually useful in combat. And the extremely expensive training costs for pilots is the same for either fighter. Six F-16s cost about the same to field as 2 F-15s, but require three times as many pilots, and provide arguably less capability.

    I strongly suspect the same result with smaller, cheaper combat ships. Moreover, I am extremely skeptical about the 'swarming' thing with a cloud of small vessels being coordinated electronically. Given the chaotic nature of real world combat and the dismal performance of IFF (electronic "identification friend or foe" systems), the fratricidal 'blue on blue' problem that killed so many U.S. soldiers in Iraq is absolutely going to happen at sea. An incoming Harpoon missile doesn't care who is crewing the vessel it has locked on to. With a 'swarm' of small combat vessels, there absolutely will be fratricidal casualties.

    Finally, U.S. combat ships have traditionally been much tougher, more damage-tolerant, than foreign equivalents. This was a huge U.S. advantage in WWII, when our ships were able to survive more damage than Japanese equivalents and return to service. The same is still true. For example, the British destroyer H.M.S. Sheffield burned to the waterline and sank after a single hit from an Exocet missile, whose warhead did not even detonate. By contrast, the U.S.S Stark, a smaller and less sophisticated Hazard class frigate, survived two Exocet missiles, with at least one warhead detonating, and was repaired & returned to service. Insisting that the U.S. use smaller, cheaper vessels guarantees that more of them will sink when it comes to combat.

    •  Historic note, the Hellcat was cheap (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BruceMcF

      35k and in the hands of a good pilot could hang with the zero. Cactus Pilots during Guadalcanal, some of them became triple aces in Hellcats in just a few months.

      P-51 was 50k, P-38 100k

      FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

      by Roger Fox on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 02:08:34 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not to be a jerk about it... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BruceMcF

        but you're conflating the F4F Wildcat (1941-1943) with the F6F Hellcat (1943-1945). The latter was a vastly superior aircraft whose design incorporated lessons gained from a salvaged Zero that crashed in the Aleutians in 1942.

        The Wildcat was by most measures inferior to the Zero. But, and it's a huge but, the Zero required immense pilot skill to be used effectively. Its signal virtue of fabulous agility could only be exploited by highly trained and skilled pilots who knew how to 'knife fight' at very slow speeds. Even highly experienced British pilots in very agile Spitfires got their asses kicked when they tried to turn with Zeros. The sturdy and simple Wildcat by contrast could be very effectively flown in combat by a newbie pilot right out of flight school, using simple but ruthlessly effective tactics pioneered by a handful of brilliant American combat pilots. This involved keeping speeds high, as the Zero's control surfaces stiffened up to the point of immobility above 300 mph, making fast firing passes to shred the fragile Zero, and religiously refusing to get involved in a turning dogfight. Relentless attrition among the highly skilled Japanese pilots, and their very long training cycle, led to a precipitous and fatal decline in Japanese pilot skill.

        The 2 highest scoring American aces of WWII both flew the big and 'expensive' P-38 in the Pacific, where its virtues of long range, speed and powerful armament were decisive. And the cost of the plane was a pittance compared to the cost of training and fielding pilots.

        •  ... the F6 Hellcat cost 35k per unit (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          BruceMcF

          Yes, brain cramp on > The Cactus Air Force, they flew some Wildcats & P-40's. and some pilots ended up with 10-18 kills.

          As slow a rate of climb the F4 had, the WIldcat had more ceiling than the Zero. And when the Zero ran out of its 20mm cannon (65 rounds per) it was time to run away.

          AS beautiful a plane as the Zero was, the right pilot in even a Wildcat could take advantage of the Zero. Zero's flew in that offset tri formation. and in larger groups the sub groups were in that tri formation also. Experienced Catus airforce Wildcat pilots that got the jump on the Zeros knew to make a diagonal firing pass to line up the most Zeros.

          Lindberg flew the P-38, teaching long distance flying in the Pacific.

          The Aleutian Zero had probably nothing to do with the Hellcats development.The Wildcat prototype contract pre dates Pearl Harbor. Feedback from Coral Sea and Midway pilots, yes. The  Aleutian Zero crashed in June 42, the Hellcat was flying by then out in Long Island.

          Thruelsen, in his authoritative Grumman story, notes that excess weight was a major consideration long before the Akutan Zero was found in 1942. In fact, a weight-saving program was a feature of the old Grumman F4F Wildcat, one version of which was flying with the RN as early as December 1940. This owed nothing to the lightweight Zero, but more to the prospect of having to operate these fighters from small escort carriers (Thruelsen, 1976 p. 181).
          http://www.navalofficer.com.au/...
          Thruelsen is correct, the Wildcats flew from US Escort Carriers in the Atlantic in anti sub convoy protection circa  42.

          FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

          by Roger Fox on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 09:00:47 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Thanks! (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Roger Fox, BruceMcF

            Cool factoid on the F4F: it was so crude & simple, the landing gear was retracted manually using a handle the pilot had to laboriously crank after taking off. Consequently formations of Wildcats would be seen bobbing up and down on climb-out as the pilots cranked away on the landing gear handle, and the movement was inadvertently conveyed to the control stick.

            •  Hand crank (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Roger Fox, BruceMcF

              The hand crank had to be turned at the correct rate as well. If the pilot missed a turn, he had to crank it back down and start over.

              Another factoid. The Wildcat was originally designed as a Bi-plane and lost out to the Brewster Buffalo because of that. The best that could be said of the Buffalo was that it was a stable gun platform. Every single Buffalo used by the Marine Corps during the Battle of Midway was shot down. The Marines called it the "Flying Coffin".

              In the beginning, the universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry, and is generally considered to have been a bad move. -- Douglas Adams, The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy

              by boriscleto on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 07:24:44 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

    •  The fog of war is a strong part of ... (0+ / 0-)

      ... the argument in favor of the swarm versus putting so many eggs in so few baskets.

      I know people will bemoan that I wrote such a short piece on such a complex subject, but if I can find it when I get home, I will include a link to a paper on that subject.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 02:48:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  All these small boats are fragile eggshells. (0+ / 0-)

        The 'Littoral combat vessel' costs hundreds of millions, yet a single hit from something like a Harpoon or equivalent Russian/Chinese missile, and it's sunk. Period.

        A cloud of small vessels makes perfect sense in a high-intensity WWII style combat environment, where high losses and rapid replacement are the brutal reality. But that's not what things are like any more. Even small vessels have a lead-time of years for construction. Any future combat for U.S. Navy vessels will be rapid, decisive, 'come as you are'. It'll all be over before any new vessels from Stateside reach the scene. And a bunch of small boats will mean U.S. losses and casualties on a scale that will be unthinkable back at home.

        The notion of lots of cheap small platforms keeps coming back over and over because it's so conceptually attractive to peacetime theorists, and it fails almost every time in actual combat. Thomas Jefferson basically neutered the effectiveness of the Navy by insisting that they build a flock of tiny gunboats rather than combat-effective larger ships. The little gunboats proved useless in actual combat.

        •  Regarding this ... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JayBat
          And a bunch of small boats will mean U.S. losses and casualties on a scale that will be unthinkable back at home.
          You seem to be mushing the Blue Water and Littoral together, with is a shame after I worked so hard to keep them apart.

          I did not say word one in this diary about reducing the number of primary front line Blue Water "combat effective" vessels for ship on ship combat, which are, of course, the attack submarines. And reducing the number of carrier strike groups increases the number of guided missile cruisers and guided missile destroyers that are free of the task of defending vulnerable aircraft carriers and can be used to defend sea lanes.

          On the Littoral, the big "combat effective" ships are already conceded to be combat ineffective in the Littoral. If its necessary to engage in the Littoral, the proposed "big ship" is a $700m boat, displacing 300 tons. Which, as you point out, can be taken out by a single hit.

          And its not as if a frigate or destroyer is going to do any better in the Littoral.

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          by BruceMcF on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 05:54:27 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Gotta, confess, I find the littoral idea nutty. (0+ / 0-)

            The whole point of having a Navy is protecting sea lanes for commercial shipping, denying your opponent the same freedom of navigation, and destroying or interdicting his naval assets to prevent him from interfering with your efforts. The idea of contesting the Chinese (or whomever) with a bunch of little boats still strikes me as an armchair theorist's idea gone wild.

            A flock of small littoral combat vessels is not going to stop quiet diesel-electric subs from sinking merchant vessels. It's not going to be remotely as effective as air power for destroying small vessels. And the notion of a full-on amphibious invasion of China in the nuclear era is crazy. One of the criticisms leveled at the 1930s Washington Treaty era cruisers was that due to the tonnage restrictions imposed by the treaty, they were 'eggshells armed with hammers'. They proved to be tougher than expected due to compartmentalization, but these littoral vessels are just that- eggshells.

            •  But, increasingly, all of our ... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              JayBat

              ... ships are becoming eggshells armed with hammers, when considering the amount of firepower that can be concentrated on a large vessel operating too close to shore. That's just missile technology.

              As far as the notion of having to defend against a full on amphibious invasion by China being crazy "in the nuclear era", China is an awfully big country that is riding an awfully scary tiger in terms of the employment growth it needs to keep up with labor force growth: assuming that its politics will stay sane over the next two decades seems to me to be a reckless assumption to base decisions on.

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              by BruceMcF on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 11:25:11 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  SOme Pirates use speed boats (0+ / 0-)

          that do 40-50 mph. AK-47's and shoulder fired missiles.

          Sheese dude.

          FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

          by Roger Fox on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 09:36:35 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  and when stupid enough to confront a naval (0+ / 0-)

            vessel, they get quickly wiped out.

            SOme Pirates use speed boats that do 40-50 mph. AK-47's and shoulder fired missiles.

            Sheese dude.

            it's only when confronting unarmed commercial vessels, with non-combat rated hulls, that they are successful. if a chopper is anywhere nearby, it can take out that boat with one rocket, or riddle it with 40mm rounds, from a gatling gun.

            you notice you haven't heard all that much about pirates operating off the coast of somalia lately. there's a reason for that, the international naval taskforce has made it extremely unprofitable for them to do so. as a result, they keep having to move their operations further up the coast, and the military keeps following them. kind of like the british navy, in the late 17th-early 18th centuries, when they were under orders from the king, to rid the merchant lanes of pirates. they did so ruthlessly, never letting up. soon, it wasn't profitable, or safe, to be a pirate anymore.

    •  Note that the IFF is ... (0+ / 0-)

      ... more of a problem without them than with them, since without them, much of the firepower has to be projected into the Littoral from well outside the Littoral.

      While the Sheffield was larger than a Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate, its not all that much larger ~ it displaced ~4,800 tons as opposed to ~4,100 tons. However, for the Sea Lane Control squadron, if one were trading off the greater survivability versus greater firepower in the frigates, I would expect the nod ought to go to survivability.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 11:47:51 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  an interesting point. (0+ / 0-)
      For example, the British destroyer H.M.S. Sheffield burned to the waterline and sank after a single hit from an Exocet missile, whose warhead did not even detonate.
      the sheffield had an aluminum hull, making it far less expensive to construct, and giving it a long range, without requiring re-fueling, at relatively high speeds. the brits sacrificed armor, for speed/range, assuming (wrongly, as it turned out), that an enemy plane would never get close enough to hurt it, and it's high maneuverability would protect it, in a ship-to-ship fight. clearly, that theory proved wrong, costing the lives of a lot of british sailors. i don't believe any of their ships currently have aluminum hulls.

      aluminum is good for lots of things, electrical wiring and the hulls of military ships are not among them. US Navy vessels, since the advent of the ironclad, have always had hulls constructed of steel, in spite of the cost involved, specifically because of its high relative tensile strength, and high burn temperature. plus, it looks good in gray.

      one big mistake: the first US aircraft carriers had decks made of wood, which had a short shelf life, when hit by enemy fire.

  •  What about drydock? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BruceMcF

    How would that impact force readiness in a reduced carrier strike group?  

    I am not as sanguine as you seem to be about the benefits of greatly reducing the numbers from 11 to 6.

    In March 2011, the following carriers scheduled for maintenance:  Stennis, Eisenhower, Nimitz, Roosevelt. Truman was listed as "post-deployed", and GHWBush as "surge ready".   That's 4 in drydock, 1 post deployed and only one additional as "surge ready."

    CVN Reagan, Enterprise, Vinson, and Lincoln were listed as deployed, and the George Washington as forward deployed in Yokosuka, Japan. That's 4 deployed, and 1 forward deployed.  

    Nuclear carriers, like nuke subs, need a lot of maintenance, and must be pulled out of service.

    "Out of Many, One Nation." This is the great promise of the United States of America -9.75 -6.87

    by Uncle Moji on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 01:52:28 PM PST

    •  Some of those maintainance cycles are long (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BruceMcF, Uncle Moji

      6 months is nothing, and 12-18 months is not unheard of.

      FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

      by Roger Fox on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 02:10:27 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Certainly, if we wish to engage in ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Alexandra Lynch

      ... multiple reckless foreign military adventures at a time, we need lots of carrier strike groups to be able to roam around and blow shit up.

      But you seem to be arguing my position ~ fewer carrier strike groups on regular deployment implies fewer carriers cycling through maintenance, with carriers in reserve able to be brought up to combat readiness more rapidly than carriers in the middle of a long maintenance cycle.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 02:43:31 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I am not sure how you draw that conclusion (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Carol in San Antonio

        Unless you are unfamiliar with the workings of nuclear power plants on naval vessels.

        This isn't about "reckless foreign...adventures", this is about the nuts and bolts about how nuclear vessels work.  Your position is based on assumptions that fail to account for something as simple and disabling as regular and extraordinary maintenance.  These are NUCLEAR power plants, not gas powered engines.

        "Out of Many, One Nation." This is the great promise of the United States of America -9.75 -6.87

        by Uncle Moji on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 03:01:08 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  BECAUSE these are nuclear powered carriers ... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Roger Fox

          ... we are talking about. As you point out, keeping eleven in deployable status results at present in four in dry dock undergoing maintenance. Fewer in deployable status would be fewer in drydock undergoing maintenance at any one point in time.

          Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

          by BruceMcF on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 04:07:38 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Two other things: Donald Rumsfeld (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Roger Fox

    If memory serves, it was Rumsfeld who argued hard for a reducing focus on carrier groups to lighter smaller faster ships.  

    Barbary War.

    "Out of Many, One Nation." This is the great promise of the United States of America -9.75 -6.87

    by Uncle Moji on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 01:59:10 PM PST

  •  Anti piracy role (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BruceMcF

    Fast, capable of interdiction.

    Does this fit into the Littoral role?

    How about a conventionally powered Escort carrier, WW2 style. Except for the top speed of 16 knots part.

    A WW2 escort carrier carried between 22 and 34 planes, in the Atlantic they played a huge anti submarine role, late 42, early 43. a Modern version with 12-18 fighters & 6 helo for anti sub and supporting rubber boat interdiction, ala the HMS Cornwall.....

    FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

    by Roger Fox on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 02:18:06 PM PST

    •  Yes, the question is whether the light carrier ... (0+ / 0-)

      ... should be a helicopter carrier/destroyer or helicopter carrier amphibious assault ship that can be pressed into service as a jumpjet carrier, such as the Japanese through-deck helicopter carriers or the Wasp class vessels in the US Navy, or a dedicated light carrier like the UK Invincible class.

      The pivotal point in the thinking of the Japanese Navy was the fact that in anti-submarine operations, the helicopter carrier might in fact be left on its own, from which comes the decision to equip it with the offensive and defensive capabilities of a Japanese light destroyer ... and so a 20,000 ton "destroyer".

      The HMS Invincible class jump jet carrier is about the same size. If one can assume that the primary task is to carry a mixed air wing of jumpjets and helicopters, and that the light carrier will have a suitable escort, then unless the project gets out of control, my guess would be that the pure light carrier seems like it ought to be more cost effective.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 05:37:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Battle for the Atlantic (0+ / 0-)

        Initially some thought the Escort carrier should stick with the DE's, even be in the convoy for protection.

        Some wiley CO thought different and went hunting, and even with the Wildcats, teams with depth charges and torpedoes were very effective vs the U-boats.

        SO in todays terms who is going to screw with a light carrier that can fly a (150-200 mile radius) CAP with jet fighters and do anti sub with helo's?

        In the Littoral environment?

         I'm thinking Jets and Helo. Fleet carriers already rely on the DD, so that and the Frigate platform would match with a Jet/Helo light attack carrier defensive needs. But I want my light attack carrier to be able to make some knots, 28-35.

        Oh and I want the laser air defense model and the light rail gun planned for the electric boat mounted on my DD's. Facetiousness......

        FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

        by Roger Fox on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 09:27:17 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Don't have to screw with them ... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Roger Fox

          ... they can have the speedboats lay low, and then come out of the area "cleared" by the helicopters and jets when the boats that are their target pass close enough to shore. You cannot control an area remotely.

          The majority of the air wing for a modern carrier is required for the defense of the carrier.

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          by BruceMcF on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 04:39:28 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Also, in Blue Water ... (0+ / 0-)

          ... an attack submarine. That's the simple fill-in-the-blank for "Who is going to screw with a __ that can do __" in Blue Water.

          In Green water, special ops on the coast with missiles, special ops on the coast with missile equipped stealth drones, an attack submarine standing off in Blue Water and firing into the light carrier, an attack submarine standing off in Blue Water and releasing a swarm of air drones, a couple of wolf packs of fast attack missile boats hiding in the noise of the Brown Water, unmanned marine drones with mines, like that.

          And minefields and torpedo installations in the Brown Water to limit the carriers maneuverability in the Green Water.

          If you are going to take a light carrier into the Green Water, its going to need a carrier boat protection in addition to a carrier air protection.

          Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

          by BruceMcF on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 05:38:43 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Back track, a conventionally fueled ship (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BruceMcF

        Yorktown went from Pearl Harbor to Midway with hardly a stop.  I wonder if a modern nuke carrier could keep up with the old CV-5 in that respect. She was in Virginia IIRC on Dec 7th with no planes in her hanger.

        FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

        by Roger Fox on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 09:32:11 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent article TnR (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BruceMcF

    AS a note Cv-10, Yorktown picked up the Apollo 8 crew after they orbited the Moon on Christmas eve 1968.

    CV-10 was the second Yorktown in WW2, CV-5 was lost to a torpedo after the Battle of Midway.

    FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

    by Roger Fox on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 02:28:32 PM PST

  •  Ummm... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BruceMcF, Calamity Jean

    Yes and no, I guess.

    Nice post, and well detailed.  But more important than hardware is wetware.  If the training is done right, the hardware need not be state of the art.

    My last active duty station was across the street from "Top Gun" - the squadron that teaches fighter pilots to be expert fighter pilots.  The trainees fly the modern standard fighters - back then it was the F-14 Tomcat - while the instructors (the adversaries) fly obsolete planes - A-4 light bombers, F-4 phantoms, and the like ... and win the vast majority of encounters.  because they are very good, and very well trained.

    A modern Carrier Battle Group can do a hell of a lot, but it has limitations.  Some (especially those with close ties to the Military/Industrial complex) scream that we need more and better and bigger ships and planes.  What we really need is the right number of planes and ships to do the job (and deciding exactly what the job is, as you said, is the hard decision), but what is most needed is the right people.  yeah, an F-32 is a sexy plane and does everything but cook your breakfast, but it's a very expensive plane, and a bitch to maintain.  Every added feature means something else to break down.

    Train the troops right, and you'll win.  Train the reserves right, and you'll be ready if the next encounter gets out of hand.  But the people are, or should be, at the center of any decent operational plan.

    I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

    by trumpeter on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 04:05:58 PM PST

  •  How big is China's navy? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rhutcheson

    The only concern we need is protecting China's navy from landing troops on our borders. Other than that, our Navy doesn't need to grow or change much. As far as protecting shipping vessels, let that be the cost of corporations who ship overseas. National defense should be defending the nation. Anything more than that is warmongering.

    I'm still waiting for Obama to end the damned wars, and torture, and stand up to the Republican hegemony.

    by jsepeta on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 11:23:29 PM PST

  •  Of course (0+ / 0-)

    We always need a larger military budget, and a 600-ship navy.

    Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?

    by ActivistGuy on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 11:56:15 PM PST

  •  We should begin to build some (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Carol in San Antonio

     battleships again.  That would create a lot of jobs.  And some Galleons, we need some of those.  That should discourage the enemy, who as I understand it, are living in caves up on the Afghan border.

  •  A question: Who should bear the cost of our navy? (0+ / 0-)

    If we protect the sea lanes for all, do we bear 100% of the cost of that protection?

    Nice diary Bruce.  It's too late to give it a thorough read, but I will do so later today.

    But I did want to ask, and it is a question out of ignorance.  Much like our forces at the 700 overseas bases, should the United States bear all of the cost of this protection?

    •  First, as far as our 700 overseas bases ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bubbajim, JayBat

      ... its not really a fair comparison, because the overseas base network empire undermines rather than increases our safety, so it is public spending to decrease public benefit.

      As far as how the costs should be distributed ~ if the UK has the equivalent of two sea lane control squadrons, France, Spain and Italy the equivalent of one each, then the EU has five. Japan has four. Australia has, in effect, one.

      And of course various allies have the flotilla and cutters that the US Navy lack, since the focus of many of our allies navies is their own coastal defenses.

      If the US had eight Sea Lane Control squadrons and four Littoral Control squadrons, that side of it doesn't seem all that far out of balance.

      Now, our allies will be defending sea lanes that are most critical to their own interests ... which is why it is not so bad for a nation of 300m with two long coastlines on each of the major Oceans to have the balance of power in terms of control of the sea. To the extent that the Navy is primarily focused on a defense and service role, there are far fewer downsides than there are to our base network empire spread across the globe.

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      by BruceMcF on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 04:31:15 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks. Yes, the bases are different and I assume (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BruceMcF

        we both hold with Chalmers Johnson's assessment of that predicament.

        4π^3 + π^2 + π

        by Boris49 on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 05:52:02 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Pretty much ... (0+ / 0-)

          ... I'm unconvinced of the need for such a large standing army, and the overseas bases seem to be mostly there to maintain the fiction of the need for a large standing army as well as to provide profits to the yellow bellied surplus suckers who get paid to provide services to the base.

          But as far as the Navy, over the past two centuries we've gone from being a one Ocean maritime nation to a multiple Ocean maritime nation. We've got to be able to control our sea lanes.

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          by BruceMcF on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 11:16:03 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  I've been advocating for several years that (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Roger Fox, BruceMcF, jrooth, Calamity Jean

    we should reduce our carrier battle groups from 11 to five. Mainly I feel that too many carrier groups encourage us to stink our nose into trouble spots that are not a direct threat to our national security.

    If we took five carriers out of active service, these could be rotated in and out of service as carriers go into drydock for regular (and lengthy) service.

    You cannot "mothball" a modern nuclear carrier as you could the WWII vintage carriers. Even if they were tied up to a dock in active service, they would need a minimal crew to maintain their shut-down reactors. I do not believe there's a practical way to de-fuel them but I could be wrong.

    Helicopter carriers with some VSTOL aircraft would be cheaper to build and maintain and give us more flexibility in littoral areas.

    The nuclear attack submarine remains the "capital ship" killer. As long as we maintain the technology to keep them silent & stealthy, they remain the biggest threat to any enemy's blue-water navy.

    I never understood why the Navy scrapped the USS Pegasus (PHM-1). This was the Navy's first hydrofoil--very fast and equipped with six very lethal missiles. I know it worried the hell out of us when I was in the Navy 1974-78. We were certainly glad that it was on our side.

  •  Some comments (0+ / 0-)

    The biggest cost in the military is personnel, and I think having lots of smaller ships will require more crews, and will certainly be more expensive in the long run.

    Second, small vessels are not an 'asymmetric' response to the use of swarms of small boats by pirates and hostile states; a fight between our 'cloud' and theirs would be a much more even fight, and we would have to expect taking similar losses. The better response, as you mention, are ships with large helicopter complements.

    For the more demanding sea lane defense mission, our focus should be on the ocean-side of it, even though I think it's unlikely any country out there will challenge us on the open seas. Closer to shore, we should be cooperating with our allies' navies to handle defense of the littorals, it's a more efficient use of resources.

    Finally, we still need large carrier battle groups for medium-intensity power projection missions (like Iran if needed), but for all-out naval combat against a peer competitor (i.e., China), I agree that carriers are less useful than nuclear submarines. If it isn't impractical already, China's natural military growth will make it all but impossible to carry out surface naval operations off of China's coasts within range of its land-based air power. This has implications for Taiwan, but that's a post for another day.

    In conclusion, while I agree with your view that we need to rethink the navy's structure to fit missions better, I don't think swarms of small ships is the best response; larger helicopter or UAV-fleets, operating from motherships, coupled with our regular surface combatants, would be the best solution.
     

    •  Our regular surface combatants are ... (0+ / 0-)

      ... well advised to stay away from the Littoral. They aren't part of the equation for controlling a Littoral area: if they attack, they do so from outside the area, and attacking an area is not the same as exercising control of the area.

      Having "lots of" smaller boats in the Littoral command would indeed require more crews. For instance, a single carrier has a ships complement, including the air wing, of 5,000+. 100 stealth M-80 Stilleto boats would obviously require 100 crews, or 300 sailors, plus support crew on the mothership. So if we count the ships complement and air wing as one "crew" each, the 100 Stilletos would be 50x as many crews. 1/10th as many crewmembers, however.

      For the Sea Lane Control squadrons, the frigates have a smaller complement than the guided missile destroyers, and you can't just trade off more, less powerful, frigates for fewer, more powerful guided missile destroyers and gain the same coverage.

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      by BruceMcF on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 11:08:05 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Very thoughtful (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BruceMcF

    Very thoughtful post; I have to re-read it in detail this evening.  

    To me one key point is that a strong Navy is still important to the United States, and that if we cut military expenditures significantly (particularly by closing overseas bases) spending on the Navy might actually have to go up (in a reasonable and controlled way).

    sPh

    •  I don't think that it would ... (0+ / 0-)

      ... its not as if the overseas bases increase our national security, so closing them is not going to leave a gap that has to be filled.

      And having a base in a country is only useful for contributing to controlling the Littoral from the land side if its that country where we need to control the Littoral. An increase in spending on the kind of Littoral naval command discussed in the post could be offset by a reduction in spending on the capability to fly around and blow shit up.

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      by BruceMcF on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 10:53:56 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Aside from Somali and Indonesian pirates (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Calamity Jean, rhutcheson

    what exactly are all these threats to the "open sea lanes" that justify our astronomical military expenses?  Are there fleets of hostile attack submarines patrolling the open Atlantic and Pacific oceans harassing commercial vessels without my notice?

    “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” - Sherwood Rowland

    by jrooth on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 07:15:04 AM PST

    •  In 2030? I do not know. (0+ / 0-)

      I do not know what the political situation will be like in China, or Europe, or Japan, or Latin America, one to two decades in the future.

      As far as cutting astronomical military expenses, how about starting with the overseas bases that undermine our national security while also costing an arm and a leg?

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      by BruceMcF on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 10:46:01 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm all for doing that. (0+ / 0-)

        And for greatly reducing our nuclear stockpile too.

        But my point was more generally that one should question the wisdom of trying to maintain a military that can handle any hypothetical threat, no matter how low-probability it may be.  Maybe if we didn't have all that excess military capacity we wouldn't feel such a strong need to use it quite so much - something which also undermines our national security.

        “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” - Sherwood Rowland

        by jrooth on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 11:26:20 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, which is my argument. (0+ / 0-)

          When the wisdom of trying to maintain a military to handle any hypothetical threat is questioned, the carrier strike groups are an excellent example. And its very much an aggressive force, and much less useful in a defensive role.

          But is it possible to realistically argue that the probability of having to defend sea lanes sometime over the twenty to thirty years is low? We are going to be entering a much more turbulent and unpredictable period, unless you are arguing that global warming is a hoax. And we still have all of the unconventional threats that we ourselves provoke with our overseas base network.

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          by BruceMcF on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 12:01:14 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Any thoughts on climate change & naval planning? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Roger Fox, BruceMcF, Calamity Jean

    Bruce, this is a very informative and fascinating analysis. I'd be curious to learn if you have given any thought to the effect of global warming on naval planning. I know that the Pentagon is making an effort to use alternative energy sources, which enrages Republician denialists, but as seas warm and storms become more devastating, how will the Naval ships cope? Or any ships, for that matter?

    If my soldiers were to begin to think, not one would remain in the ranks. -Frederick the Great

    by Valatius on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 07:22:29 AM PST

    •  The Navy Office of Naval Research (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BruceMcF

      spends money on the "electric Boat Platform".

      From giant electric motors to propel ships, to rail guns to lasers to proton boron Fusion research.

      Proton Boron fusion: the vast majority of reactants are (alphas) electricity, not neutrons(heat).

      Having a P-B 1500mw power plant in a 33 ft sq space, means plenty of electricity for rail guns and laser defense weapons. a 100mw or 300mw laser might make the Phalanx gun quite useless.

      FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

      by Roger Fox on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 09:12:54 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  The biggest concern is sustainable renewable ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jrooth

      ... fuels for naval aviation.

      For diesel fueled ships, its possible to produce biodiesel in a sustainable, renewable basis ~ doing so certainly requires political will, for example, in avoiding counting something as renewable biodiesel if it comes from cutting down rain forests to grow oil palm, but if the source of the vegetable oil is renewable, and the source of the ethanol for the transesterification is renewable, then biodiesel is sustainable.

      And for ships, other sustainable, renewable fuel sources are likely to be viable as well, including a slurry of biochar converted to electric power with direct carbon full cells and electric motors.

      But jets need jet fuel. I believe that the Navy and Air Force is working on the problem of a renewable substitute for aviation kerosene, but don't know what progress they have made.

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      by BruceMcF on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 10:41:40 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The US Navy (0+ / 0-)

    and it's promise of force protection is also used to dissuade allies like Germany and Japan from building a nuclear arsenal (which they could in a few years if they wanted) to defend against antagonists nations.

    In other words we are the worlds police force.

    When it comes to open seas tactical issues like shipping lane protection - these same allies need to step up.

    If not us ... who? If not here ... where? If not now ... when?

    by RUNDOWN on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 07:36:22 AM PST

    •  You read the article? (0+ / 0-)

      Japan had four Sea Lane Control squadrons ~ they have already stepped up.

      Germany could do more in the context of the EU. The traditional division of responsibilities place more focus on the army for Germany and the Navy for the UK, France, Spain and Italy, as Germany was were the big fight with the Soviet Union was slated to happen. However, we no longer have the borderline between NATO and the Warsaw Pact running through east central Germany.

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      by BruceMcF on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 10:30:28 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Quick answer - NO. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rhutcheson

    Our entire military needs to be cut in half, at least.  We simply cannot afford to be the police of the world, and should not be doing so in any case.

    Atheism is a religion like Abstinence is a sexual position. - Bill Maher, 2/3/2012

    by sleipner on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 11:06:28 AM PST

    •  Quick rejoinder ... (0+ / 0-)

      ... you appear to be responding to some other post: there is no conflict between this post and cutting our "entire military" in half, and the post is not talking about a Navy for a military trying to be the police of the world.

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      by BruceMcF on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 11:51:44 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm convinced that the greater (0+ / 0-)

    capability that we have of waging war - the wider ranges of types of warfare we can sustain, the more war-making resources we have accumulated and can therefore afford to lose, and most importantly the more that the public is conditioned to accept a constant military mobilization - the less our leadership will be constrained from engaging in extravagant Bush-type wastes of life and resources for purposes other than ensuring the continued existence of the nation.

    Play chess for the Kossacks on Chess.com. Join the site, then the group at http://www.chess.com/groups/view/kossacks.

    by rhutcheson on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 12:21:14 PM PST

    •  Then do you oppose or favor ... (0+ / 0-)

      ... a change in the Navy's force structure that is better adapted to defense of sea lanes and not as well adapted to attack the shore from the sea?

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      by BruceMcF on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 05:23:01 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  By the way, thanks for the great diary. (0+ / 0-)

        As I understand it, current U.S. military doctrine

        is a package of U.S. military requirements known as 1-4-2-1. The first 1 refers to defending the US homeland. The 4 refers to deterring hostilities in four key regions of the world. The 2 means the US armed forces must have the strength to win swiftly in two near-simultaneous conflicts in those regions. The final 1 means that the US forces must win one of those conflicts "decisively".
        I think that that the doctrine should really be more like 1-1-1-1, so that we have enough force to decisively win any conflict involving our territory, while planning and preparation for all other potential conflicts should be addressed in concert with the regional powers directly affected rather than our unilateral building efforts.  Consistent with that, I think we probably need two carrier groups, and six ballistic subs, with very little else beyond the compliment of a stout Coast Guard.

        Play chess for the Kossacks on Chess.com. Join the site, then the group at http://www.chess.com/groups/view/kossacks.

        by rhutcheson on Sat Nov 10, 2012 at 11:03:22 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for this excellent piece.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BruceMcF

    Relevance and a clear purpose are often overlooked in favor of tradition and habit.  Not long ago I read a piece citing the relative uselessness of battleships, which were planned and built well after their effectiveness was blunted by more modern weaponry (aerial bombardment from carrier-based or long-range airborne-re-fueled aircraft).  Last war, indeed.

    Well, it sure is a mess, ain’t it, Sheriff….
    Yep, and if it ain’t it’ll do ‘til the mess gets here.

    Liberal = We're all in this together
    Conservative = Every man for himself
    Who you gonna call?

  •  vl;sr (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BruceMcF

    (very long; still reading)

    hi BruceMcF, thanks for posting your essay. & thanks for avoiding the naval acronym-shorthand that makes so many of the NIProceeedings articles unreadable!

    i think you've got some good arguments in support of changing our Navy's force-structure, i hope to respond after i've finished reading your article.

    but one thing stands out on my 1st read:
    while it's true USN has 11 fleet-carriers, that's not a measure of operational strength. of those 11:
    - 5 are on-station/operational,
    - 2 are in-transit/working up to operational status,
    - 2 are recently-returned to port & are in minor refit,
    - 2 are in major/serious dockyard refit.
    at any given time, each of these categories might be +/- 1.

    if 5 or 6 of the CVs are mothballed, the number of operational CVs would be reduced to 3 at best.

    •  Yes, precisely. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      killtherich

      As noted elsewhere in the comments, "mothballed" as not the most accurate term to use for carriers in deep reserve, which is why, as I noted in the article, its not equivalent to saving the entirety of five carrier ships complements.

      With one carrier in ready reserve, I would argue that five carriers in active service and one in ready reserve and naval reserve training duty is an ability to keep three on station, not three "at best". That is projecting from the current experience, but the current experience is without any carriers in deep reserve.

      You would take carriers being cycled out to deep reserve through major dockyard refit as they are cycled out, so there if there is a need to take a carrier through extraordinary serious refit, the carrier in ready reserve can be cycled into service while one of the carriers in deep reserve is brought up to ready reserve.

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      by BruceMcF on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 05:21:32 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  still reading (0+ / 0-)

        in "Six Frigates", author Ian Toll describes a similar question that confronted our government in the 1790s - should our Navy consist of gunboats for coastal defense, or frigates w/ blue-water capability?

        we ended up w/ a mixture of both!

        frigates had decisive impact in the quasi-war vs. France (1798).

        frigates & lighter ships defeated the Barbary States (after a major oops w/ Philadelphia).

        frigates had major impact in the war of 1812, but squadrons of light ships carried the day at Lake Erie & Lake Champlain, & aided Jackson at New Orleans. but those light forces weren't the previously-built gunboats (some of those were present at the Fort McHenry campaign) but were purpose-built/adapted from local resources.

        my point being, this question is linked to political decisions, and has been a point of contention for our navy (& every other nation's navy) for awhile now.

        President Teddy Roosevelt built a large battle-fleet & sailed it 'round the world (the Great White Fleet) as a 'diplomatic' power-projection exercise. by the time it returned to US waters, it was entirely obsolete, 'cos the Brits had launched HMS Dreadnought.

  •  for an ongoing discussion of this, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BruceMcF

    and other current/future defense issues, i strongly urge you to read robert farley's posts (and his links to columns in other, more directly defense related publications) in:

    http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/...

    mr. (or should i say, prof.) farley teaches at the patterson school of diplomacy, Univ. of KY, of which defense would be a natural topic. he recently posted a link to a column discussing china's recent acquisition of an aircraft carrier (its first) which, though not close to being ready to actually launch/land aircraft, presents some questions, relative to those raised by this post. he also posted, shortly after the debate in question, an analysis of this very question.

    i think you'd find it enlightening to take a peek, if you haven't already done so.

    assuming the question of: what is a navy for? wasn't meant to be a trick question, a modern navy is meant to do all of the above. bear in mind, only two of the world's navies have been successful in utilizing aircraft carriers in the manner they were contemplated for: forward projection of surface/sub-surface/air power, for both defense and offense. one of them destroyed the other, leaving it as the worlds only navy to have the ability to put large numbers of craft in the air, anywhere in the world. a supercarrier task force can easily multi-task, establishing complete dominance on top of/below/above the sea, while providing air/naval gun support to ground troops.

    one modern supercarrier task force could have taken out the entire japanese navy of wwII, from 200 miles away. it would have been destroyed, by an enemy it never saw. a modern missile submarine can put a cruise missile down saddam's chimney, and no one in the entire country would have had a clue it was on its way. an attack submarine can take out the entire navies of most of the countries in the world, all by its lonesome, with enough firepower left over, to put a huge dent in that country's capital, all before that country knew it was even skulking in its waters.

    all the other countries know this, which brings us to the actual question: reagan wanted a 600 ship navy, and that was when the USSR actually existed. however, the USSR & red china, combined, didn't have the naval werewithal to take on the US Navy, as it existed in 1980. who, exactly, would we be building this 300 ship navy to defend against? of course, no one actually asked mr. romney that question. if they had, my guess is he'd have flapped his lips, with no sound emanating, as a response.

    •  My answer is ... (0+ / 0-)

      ... different from Romney's answer, because Romney's desire for a larger Navy is a desire for more profits for his buddies that build ships for the Navy.

      More ships ~ and all or most of them smaller than a modern guided missile destroyer, from frigates to corvettes to fast attack boats ~ and slashing reliance on the increasingly specialized aircraft carrier strike groups, increasingly ineffective in sea lane control and littoral control and so increasingly bad bargain.

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      Robert Farley also writes at Information Dissemination, which I link to above (though not to one of Robert's posts), as I am linking to galrahn above.

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      by BruceMcF on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 05:08:04 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent article (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BruceMcF

    Unfortunately my earlier posts were eaten by the server, but great work. This is an issue our country needs to have a debate about, especially in the context of proposed budget cuts and austerity measures for social programs. Why exactly are we spending billions of dollars on obsolete surface vessels like nuclear powered aircraft carriers when people in our country cannot live in dignity? The bottom line is that these are a handout to big defense contractors.

    We need to model our Navy after Israel, who learned a valuable lesson in 1967 after losing their 1700-ton INS the "Eliat" to two cheap Egytian missile destroyers.

    This is not WWII! Large surface vessels are vulnerable to advanced anti-ship ballistic missiles, this is a non-disputable fact.

    Even our own United States Naval Institute in March of 2009 stated the following disturbing fact: “Ships currently have no defense against a ballistic missile attack.”(Source)

    That wasn't a typo, as of March 2009 the US Navy had NO defense against ballistic missiles, even against our own "harpoon" missile developed in the 1970s. This should be known by all Americans, especially those who serve on these ships and are in the most danger.

    Our large surface vessels, especially aircraft carriers have effectively become history's biggest sitting ducks. The equivalent of French heavy cavalry versus the English longbow at Agincourt, expensive, slow, arrogant and extremely vulnerable to new technology.

    •  And the 'stealth' technology which ... (0+ / 0-)

      ... reduces a guided missile destroyers radar profile doesn't reduce its profile to the Mark I "human eyeball". After substantial experience in special operations forces painting targets for guided munitions, its obvious that three or four people in three or four speedboats could easily paint the massive radar-reducing cover for a guided missile destroyer.

      And the modern missile technology ~ which can be from shore, from small boats (manned or drone), from drone aircraft ~ supplement the already existing low tech mines and torpedoes which had started making the littoral dangerous for large combat ships back in the 1800's.

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      by BruceMcF on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 04:55:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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