I am no expert on naval strategy or procurement but several of the blogs I follow have been in the forefront of the absolutely critical topic of maintaining our presence as a naval power. Currently, we field the strongest Naval presence in the world, but will that be the kind of fleet we will need in 5, 10 or 20 years? To help wrap your minds around what is changing, check out this post and the photos of swarm tactics used to harrass a Chinese convoy in the Gulf of Aden. Then read this from Andrew Erickson and this from War is Boring and tell me if the fleet we have is what we need in this back to the future world of a hybrid assmetrical naval warfare envoirnment.
As noted, a few blogs have been in the forefront of thinking ahead and posing the really tough questions the fly in the face of those who are protecting their version of the early 20th century dreadnaughts. To get up to speed I would refer everyone to make Information Dissemination, United State Naval Institute Blog, CDR Salamander and this recent addition to my blog links, New Wars. These blogs are the tip of the spear in discussing and keeping Americans informed on the present and future of America's first line of defense it's Navy.
Here is a taste of what Mike Burleson of New Wars has to say about the The Navy's New Look Part 1 and Part 2.
Giant aircraft carriers as the mainstay of the fleet will begin to disappear. There will probably be only solitary examples in European and Asian fleets, but the mighty US Navy will only possess a handful, none likely in full service or with complete aircraft complements. They will be brought out for the occasional brush-fire wars, but their huge expense in crew and operating costs, plus vulnerability will see their day end as surely as the dreadnoughts which they preceded.
Their place will be taken by much smaller multipurpose assault carriers, which can carry V/STOL planes, UAVs, and helicopters, plus armed Marines and their equipment. Even these will not be needed in huge numbers and will be used only in benign threat areas because of the missiles.
The Marines will be busier than ever, only their “second army”, heavy brigade status will be over. They will act as small raider teams in littoral operations, plus serve as armed guards and manned riverine craft such as CB90 boats. For larger operations, they can land from submarines, joint high speed vessels, or even larger sea lift ships like T-AKE, which can carry more troops while being less costly than an amphibious warship.
Conventional submarines (SSKs) will return to USN service, the amazing abilities of the nuclear attack boat outweighed by its immense cost, advanced skills and construction complications, plus declining numbers. By 2030 at least and for the first time since the 1960s, the SSK’s will outnumber nuclear boats in the American fleet.
The surface fleet will begin to grow enormously with the return of the flotilla. With the Navy seeing its need to be in the littorals, logically they will turn to shallow water warships, such as corvettes, patrol craft, fast attack craft and dedicated anti-mine warships. The attempt to pack all these capabilities in a Blue Water frigate, the mediocre but gold-plate littoral combat ship, will be recognized as the failure it is. Likely only 15-20 of the LCS will be built, used only in an underarmed mothership role for small craft, or perhaps as an assault transport for Marines.
Production of large destroyers will likely cease, only because we already possess so many with no peer adversary having any one ship comparable as the 60-70 Arleigh Burke class. So these ships will linger around for sometime in various guises and with successive rebuildings. Because they are so capable, with Tomahawk cruise missiles, Aegis, and soon unmanned vehicles, they will be able to project power as no other warship since the aircraft carrier, only in a vastly less costly and visible package.And here is a suggestion to counter those pesky swarming fast attack boats.LCS Alternative.
Finally, I pass along this most excellent post about the on-going mission by the USS Mercy to South East Asia. This post from The USNI Blog begin:
While most of the defense community’s attention is firmly fixed on McChrystal-gate, my focus is on the softer and often overlooked side of US Navy operations. Pacific Partnership 2010 is the fifth in an annual series of humanitarian and civic assistance operations projecting US soft power in the Pacific Rim. This year, USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) is visiting six nations, including Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Timor-Leste. To give these servicemen the credit they deserve, below is a series of photos from Pacific Partnership 2010. Enjoy.Pacific Partnership 2010