For those with two hours to kill, here's a link to the Hudson panel on Seapower generally and Seth Cropsey's new book specifically. Of note: HASC Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee Chairman Randy Forbes' introductory remarks.
UPDATE: By way of correction at 1:38:18 I speak of the ships that will be present in East Asia in 2020, and I say "DDG" when I mean "LCS" initially.
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
For those with two hours to kill, here's a link to the Hudson panel on Seapower generally and Seth Cropsey's new book specifically. Of note: HASC Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee Chairman Randy Forbes' introductory remarks.
Posted by The Conservative Wahoo at 2:52 PM
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
The following slides are from Document One - Maritime Strategy Presentation (for the Secretary of the Navy, 4, November 1982) that can be found in Newport Paper #33 U.S. Naval Strategy in the 1980s: Selected Documents, edited by John B. Hattendorf and Peter M. Swartz (2008) (PDF).
If you take these slides and compare them to the second document in Newport Paper #33, The Maritime Strategy of 1984, you can almost match up everything in these slides to a section in the Maritime Strategy.
With history I enjoy the luxury of hindsight. As I was reading these slides, and various other documents associated with the Maritime Strategy of the 1980s, I noted this particular maritime strategy was only tested once while the cold war was still hot - in the Persian Gulf in dealing with Iran in 1987-1988.
And ironically, everything the Navy discussed ahead of time was executed. The Maritime Strategy discussed protecting sea lines of communication for oil, and that happened. The maritime strategy of 1984 specifically discussed the Army having an essential role in the littorals, and it was US Army special forces aviation that was deployed to the Persian Gulf - off US Navy ships - to deal with Iran. For a maritime strategy written before the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986, the Navy was thinking about maritime strategy in a remarkably Joint context. It was also a global context.
The focus was clearly the Soviet Union, but the scope of strategy was global and while the maritime strategy was incredibly detailed on the main issues, it included general information related to all contingencies, and it was very specific in how it prioritized theaters, what responsibilities in each theater were, and how the Navy was going to execute political policy with naval power regionally within a global context. There wasn't room for buzzwords, because this was a serious strategy by serious people intended to be seriously executed by the United States Navy.
The US Navy is about to either finish or has already finished the rewrite of the Cooperative Maritime Strategy for 21st Century Seapower, which is in my opinion perhaps the least influential maritime strategy of any nation with a coastline in the 21st century. If you want to read a serious maritime strategy in the 21st century - read the English translation of virtually every nation in the Pacific that has written a maritime strategy over the last decade. I have admittedly not read them all, but I have had the brief on many of those documents, and serious people tend to speak seriously when they have something important to say.
The Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower has almost nothing in common with today's US Navy, an organization that is being stretched to the limits to meet COCOM demands; a US Navy that is deployed for war in the Middle East; a US Navy that has been deployed again and again to conduct some form of combat operations throughout the rest of the Middle East and Africa since the day the maritime strategy was signed; and a US Navy that is involved in a major pivot to the Pacific specifically for the purposes of reassuring allies during the uncertainty associated with the rise of China, who hasn't exactly been making friendly relations with neighbors when it comes to maritime territories.
Explain why we need italics to emphasize statements like Seapower will be a unifying force for building a better tomorrow? The US Navy doesn't build a thing in the world, it insures access so that others build upon the peaceful prosperity the US Navy enables.
So here is my question. As it is completely impossible to develop anything similar to the first 12 slides shown above from the original Cooperative Maritime Strategy for 21st Century Seapower, does anyone believe it will be possible to produce slides similar to that with the rewrite of the Cooperative Maritime Strategy for 21st Century Seapower? Here is what I think... if one can rewrite the Cooperative Maritime Strategy for 21st Century Seapower based on the first 12 slides updated to the modern maritime challenges and environment the US Navy operates in today, the 13th and 14th slides become very easy to write, and the whole thing will actually sound like a strategy when it is done.
Except one thing... there is one challenge I am unsure anyone in the military can do well in the age of PowerPoint and groupthink, and it may in fact doom the effort of a rewrite the strategy regardless of content.
The Unclassified Maritime Strategy of 1986 - the Fifth document in Newport Paper #33 - which is really a collection of articles by the CNO, Commandant, and Secretary of the Navy; are written in first person singular and plural. I have read the Cooperative Maritime Strategy for 21st Century Seapower (PDF) many times, and there is something that always bugged me - for the most part; it is sometimes difficult to tell who exactly "we" is in that document. One thing that is clear as day though, "we" represented a lot of people and was not consistent. Depending upon what was being said, "we" might be the Navy, "we" might be America, and "we" might be some military or political entity that remains undefined. I linked the document, so go back and read about what "we" were saying - and maybe like me you might ask yourself who the hell "we" are.
The point is, "we" was a product of groupthink and committee that lacked clear definition, rather than the "we" that carries with it a personal touch. In 1986, "we" were Admiral James Watkins, General P.X. Kelley, and Secretary John Lehman, Jr., and the reader easily understood when "we" meant a service, because the word "I" was used intentionally in the articles when talking about what a person thought.
In 2007 "we" didn't sound anything like General Conway, Admiral Roughead, or Admiral Allen. In 2013 or 2014, or whenever this new rewrite of the Maritime Strategy comes about, my hope is that who is talking and what "we" are saying is clear to the reader - and if "we" can't produce something similar to those 12 slides highlighted above, then maybe "we" don't actually have anything important to say.
Saturday, June 15, 2013
While I was about two years premature with Part I, it appears that predictions about Ethiopia's hydro-electric developments on the Blue Nile have panned out with increased rhetoric and the potential for war in the region. Egypt's President has recently stated plainly that he is prepared to defend its water rights, keeping military conflict open as an option.
|The Nile River supports the lives |
of more than 100 million Africans.
The opinions and views expressed in this post are those of the author alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense, the US Navy, or any other agency.
Friday, June 14, 2013
|Lord Selborne (Spy Magazine)|
|Admiral Sir John Fisher (also from Spy)|
When he assumed the role of Great Britain’s First Lord of the Admiralty in 1900 the Earl of Selborne was ordered to maintain Britain’s superiority over its immediate rivals France and Russia, account for the rising strength of the German, Japanese, and American fleets and make cuts in his own budget to ensure successful prosecution of the Boer War. Rising British entitlement spending in the first several years of the 20th century further complicated Selborne’s efforts. In the end he made a bold recommendation to scrap nearly a century of trans-oceanic British naval policy in exchange for a smaller, more powerful and globally deployable fleet capable of both warfighting and traditional show-the-flag missions. Arguing that the British Navy’s global disposition dated from “a period when the electric telegraph did not exist and when wind was the motive power,” Selborne consolidated isolated British squadrons into concentrated capable fleets. He also ordered the wholesale scrapping of both outdated ships and those too slow for global combat operations. After a long naval supremacy throughout the world’s oceans, the British welcomed the development of the Japanese and American navies and significantly reduced both their Pacific and North American forces.
To carry out this scheme, Selborne brought fiery Admiral Sir John Fisher from his post as Britain’s primary battle fleet commander in the Mediterranean in 1902 to London and made him First Sea Lord (the Royal Navy equivalent of the Chief of Naval Operations). Fisher, a technologist and transformational innovator who often stalked the halls of the Admiralty wearing signs that said “I have no work to do” or “bring me something to sign,” ruthlessly implemented Selborne’s plan over the collective protests of many Royal Navy officers. The admiral advocated high speed cruisers armed with battleship guns to patrol the trade routes and serve as Britain’s “911 colonial defense force”. He experimented with aircraft and submarines, and instituted a new reserve force intended to preserve older ships too expensive to operate in peacetime but useful for combat. Fisher also sought to bring logic to the business of naval strategy and operations. He stated that “Strategy should govern the types of ships to be designed. Ship design, as dictated by strategy, should govern tactics.” Naval officers of the time were aghast at such thinking. Surely all one needed to do was to place their ship alongside the enemy in true Nelsonian tradition. Fisher also successfully communicated his strategy to the general public in that every Englishman of the first decade of the 20th century knew his nation’s fate depended on that of its fleet. The British Navy was reasonably well deployed for war in 1914. Despite a crippling German U-boat campaign that was blunted with help from the U.S. Navy, the British were able to achieve many of their naval objectives of the war. Acquiescence in the growth of both Japanese and American allies ensured both would be British allies in the First World War.
What then can the United States learn from the British example of “relative decline” and naval rebalancing? Our force structure and global deployment has undergone some revision since the end of the Cold War but perhaps more change is required. This change must be based on a clear strategy and the platforms, weapons and systems allocated must be designed to fit this strategy. The operational and tactical employment of these elements should be determined by their design features and how they best support the desired strategy. If the U.S. does indeed intend to re-balance a significant portion of its naval forces to the Pacific, that change may involve leaving large parts of the oceans in the care of other democratic nations much as the British did in the early 1900s. The Indian Navy would be such a partner. Europe may also need to completely provide for its own naval security, including ballistic missile defense. The U.S. can then focus its naval assets on those regions where naval supremacy is vital to securing our strategic interests. Admiral Fisher replaced slower armored cruisers with battlecruisers capable of rapid transits for defense of imperial trade routes and as Britain’s “911 force” for naval intervention. U.S. naval units should also be high endurance units capable of rapid deployment across the globe. We must also avoid the mistake Fisher made in not building enough flexibility into his ship designs. His battlecruisers were excellent for imperial defense but highly vulnerable in a line of battle with peers. In short we need to think more about what the strategy for the next few decades ought to be before populating it with operational art, new platforms and tactics. Hard choices like those made by Selborne and Fisher may be needed to balance any U.S. relative decline while continuing to secure our vital maritime interests. For further information on Great Britain’s solutions to relative decline, read Aaron Friedberg’s The Weary Titan and for one expert’s take on building a strategy first and then platforms in its support, see Seth Cropsey’s Mayday. Both are excellent reads.
Posted by Lazarus at 10:00 PM
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
I like this slide, but I keep thinking this slide needs to be associated with a slide that details what kind of ships the US Navy is buying through the years.
In FY2012 numbers, the FY14 budget is around $150 billion, which can be compared with the green number.
The Naval Strike Warfare Center ("Strike U") is probably the most important major initiative in the 1980s, because in 1983 it is legitimate to say naval aviation was terrible at actually hitting targets. Following the embarrassment in Lebanon, strike warfare in naval aviation reoriented itself much in the same way Top Gun reoriented intercept.
This increase in naval aviation strike efficiency combined with the addition of long range cruise missiles on both ships and submarines had an effect that was greater than the naval buildup in the 1980s, it increased the lethality at range of each platform. By 1989 not only was the US Navy fielding 14 CV/CVNs, 4 Battleships, over 100 cruisers and destroyers, and 99 submarines; but each ship was increasingly more capable. The ultimate effect of the naval buildup of the 1980s wasn't simply the expanded growth of the fleet, but in every category of naval power the force was extending the gap separating the capability of US naval power and naval power throughout the rest of the world.
It is simplistic to focus on the raw numbers of fleet size when looking at the 1980s when measuring naval power of the United States relative to the world. It is more important to focus on the elements within each community that increased capabilities relative to the world. Technology was only a small part of the story, the increased emphasis on quality training for the all-volunteer force was at least as important as technology was in extending the gap between what US naval forces were capable of and what competitors were capable of.
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Posted by Lazarus at 1:41 AM
Once upon a time the nuclear threat was the dominant military discussion in the DoD. As someone whose only up close and personal experience with the cold war was watching Pink Floyd at Brandenburg Gate in July of 1990 at 14 years old... clearly I struggle to relate to the time period and threat of nuclear war. I read about it, I study it, I know the stories, but I simply cannot relate.
Naval power in the Atlantic for nearly the entirety of the cold war was about maintaining a balance of power for nuclear war. The expected use of tactical nuclear weapons and the various kinds of nuclear weapons revealed during this period speaks to how virtually all strategic planning in the North Atlantic was probably unrealistic, because if nuclear war broke out there would be no supply from the US to Europe, the US would be too busy picking up the pieces of a nuclear strike. The primary mission was really the only mission that mattered - keeping track of Soviet ballistic missile submarines. I have no sense for how effective the US may or may not have been in actually protecting the US from that threat, but the all nuclear powered submarine force of today is a direct product of developing the deterrence regime underwater necessary to protect the United States from nuclear attack.
That Hymen Rickover experimented with nuclear power on aircraft carriers and surface combatants was part of the innovation process, and like all true innovation some of it didn't quite work out. Ultimately nuclear power worked for aircraft carriers and submarines, but not so much for everything else. The Atlantic theater throughout the cold war is primarily about strategic deterrence where the US Navy was heavily engaged in a sea control and sea denial campaign against the Soviet Union, specifically the US Navy tracked and monitored Soviet submarines.
The Korean War and the Vietnam War confirm what has been said of naval power since the cold war, command of the global commons has for the most part been conceded to the US Navy since 1945. In both wars the US Navy basically operated as they pleased off shore feeding aircraft into the theater of war operations, and at no point were aircraft carriers ever considered under legitimate threat.
Consider how completely different the experiences of Vietnam were for Admiral Zumwalt and Admiral Holloway, both CNOs - back to back even. Admiral Zumwalt fought a violent green and brown water war attempting to control inland waterways and littorals with an Army of sailors, while Admiral Holloway and the rest of big Navy sailed around Yankee Station and Dixie Station where ships sailed as they pleased rarely encountering a legitimate threat. The burden of danger for big Navy was entirely on the shoulders of airmen flying sorties in support of the war, a burden of danger sailors in big Navy never faced.
The Navy has been organized for projecting power in uncontested seas in the Pacific since 1945. The question facing navy planners today, indeed the reason for Air Sea Battle, is to ask difficult questions of whether the US Navy that has been organized around aircraft carriers since 1945 is prepared for an emerging maritime environment where the seas are contested. Beyond tailing a submarine every now and then, the US Navy has not needed sea control capabilities in the Pacific for almost 70 years. That inexperience suggests to me it is hard to believe the US Navy is very good at sea control today.
The Mediterranean Sea
To me, everything about who the US Navy is today can be found in studying the political use of naval power in the Mediterranean Sea since 1945.
- In April 1946 the US supported Turkey to deter the USSR. We sent a battleship.
- In July 1946 the US Navy operated in the Adriatic Sea to deter Yugoslavia and Italy from hostilities.
- In September 1946 the US Navy deployed to Greece in support of the Greek government, and continued that support for Greece at sea through 1949 to deter Soviet influence.
- In May 1956 US naval forces deployed to the Eastern Med in support of Jordon to deter Egypt.
- In October-November 1956 naval forces deployed to the Eastern Med in support of Israel, France, and the U.K. and to deter Soviet meddling.
- In April 1957 naval forces deployed to the Mediterranean Sea in support of Jordon and to deter Egypt.
- In May 1958 naval forces deployed off the shores of Lebanon in support of Lebanese politics, trying to deter Egypt.
- In August of 1958 naval forces deployed to support Jordon and deter the Soviets.
- In April 1963 naval forces against deployed to support Jordon, but this time to deter Egypt.
- In June 1967 naval forces deployed to the Eastern Med to deter the Soviet Union from engaging in the regional conflict.
- In September 1970 naval forces deployed to the Eastern Med to coerce Syria and deter Soviet influence, while supporting Jordon.
- In October 1973 naval forces against deployed to the Eastern Med to deter the Soviet Union from engaging in the regional conflict.
Strategically, the United States Navy enjoyed freedom to maneuver in the Mediterranean Sea, because there were very few ways to see how the Russians would attack the US without getting nuked. This gave the US Navy in the Mediterranean Sea tremendous flexibility to engage with partners and deter aggression throughout the region.
If one did not believe that interests in the Mediterranean Sea justified nuclear war, and it is clear that neither the US nor Russia ever believed that, then influence in the Mediterranean Sea was determined almost entirely by naval presence and the threat of credible combat power. All indications are the Soviets accepted the balance and understood that naval presence was the essential piece to influence and power in the region, but the Soviet Union fell apart before the ships that would provide vital naval presence were built.
I note this because it would appear the Russians remember well the lessons of the cold war. It was recently reported the Russians are sending their aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov to the Mediterranean Sea in support of Syria. Hard to see a scenario where the US gets involved in Syria when the Russians are cruising a large deck aircraft carrier with escorts off the Syrian coast. The Russian carrier deployment schedule for later in 2013 is a vivid reminder of how influential presence can be in supporting allies or how armed suasion can influence competitors.
It seems to me that the CNA study could have done a better job focusing on the three primary theaters in the 1970s, particularly operations in the Mediterranean Sea, but simply how each theater was different but each theater shaped the context by which naval leaders were looking at the world. In my opinion this was something Admiral Holloway did very well in his book Aircraft Carriers at War: A Personal Retrospective of Korea, Vietnam, and the Soviet Confrontation, using personal stories to explain how the Pacific and Mediterranean theaters shaped his views. Another excellent book that covers much of this is The Political Uses of Sea Power by Professor Edward Luttwak. His follow up Strategy and History, Collected Essays, Volume 2 is easily one of my favorite book of all time.
Each theater contributed towards the strategic deterrence, naval presence, power projection, and sea control strategic framework that was developed at the time. It is noteworthy that as the Navy moved into the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s as the Navy became less involved in the historic naval strategic missions in the Mediterranean and Atlantic theaters, the Navy also put less emphasis in strategy on the traditional naval missions associated with those theaters.
Monday, June 10, 2013
|PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 22, 2013) An MH-60R Seahawk assigned to Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 73 flies in front of the littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1). This is the first fleet MH-60R to operate with a Right Hand Extended Pylon (RHEP) and a full compliment of eight AGM-114 Hellfire Captive Air Training Missiles as it joins Freedom for sea trials off the coast of Southern California. Freedom, the lead ship of the Freedom variant of LCS, is expected to deploy to Southeast Asia this spring. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class James R. Evans/Released)|
The following contribution is from Rear Admiral John F. Kirby, Chief of Information for the United States Navy. For those who don't know about Rear Admiral Kirby, I highly recommend listening to the first 30 minutes of this interview on Midrats.
I’ve been following closely all the debate over the Littoral Combat Ship. I’ve even chimed in here and there to refute what I thought was bad reporting and erroneous claims by those using old information. I figure that’s part of my job as the Navy’s spokesman -- not to staunchly defend but rather to inform and to educate.
The truth is, these are healthy debates. We need them. Talking about problems is a good thing. And yet, as a guy who also taught naval history at the Academy, I can’t help but think how very often we’ve been here before. Throughout our history, it seems, the boldest ideas are often the hardest to accept.
Take legendary shipbuilder Joshua Humphreys, contracted in 1794 to build a new class of frigate for the fledgling American Navy. Longer and broader than traditional frigates, Humphrey’s ships were designed with graceful underwater lines for speed, packing an impressive 44 guns and over an acre of sail.
But to many, the design seemed freakish. With its angled hull curving inward from the waterline, unusually flush decks and several feet of extra beam, it was deemed too ungainly to be of service.
Worse yet, Humphrey’s design had only partial support from a reluctant Congress not particularly interested in stirring up the ire of the British or French, both of whom were at each other’s throats again. We didn’t need a Navy, not now, they said. And even if we did, it shouldn’t consist of anything quite as drastic as Humphrey’s frigates.
All that changed in 1797, when, in response to warming relations between the United States and Great Britain, French privateers began raiding American commerce. By the summer of that year, they had captured no less than 300 U.S. ships.
In a huff and in a hurry, Congress ordered the completion of three of Humphrey’s frigates: United States, Constitution and Constellation.
They would accord themselves well, proving vastly superior in speed and durability to their French foes. In one of the most famous battles of that short, little undeclared war, Constellation forced the surrender of one of France’s mightiest frigates, Insurgente, in little more than an hour. Humphrey’s frigates would go on to even greater glory against the Barbary pirates of the North African coast a few short years later.
The critics had been silenced.
Silencing critics became almost sport for a whole generation of ship designers and engineers in the early 1800s. Robert Fulton shut them up by proving the power of steam over wind; Commander John Dahlgren did it with a revolutionary new gun capable of far greater range and accuracy, and Swedish designer John Ericcson awed them with something called a gun turret.
Ericcson didn’t stop there, of course. He went on to design a whole new class of warship. He called them Monitors, and they changed naval warfare forever.
The Monitor’s case is instructive for any discussion of LCS. Nearly everything about it was new and untried. Its features were striking: a long, low stealthy profile, making it hard to locate; a shallow draft and good maneuverability, making it perfect for work in the littorals; and a radically new weapons system that boasted the largest and most powerful gun in the Navy's inventory -- John Dahlgren’s.
The ship operated with less than a third the number of Sailors required of conventional warships. And it was multi-mission in scope, capable of offshore operations and supporting campaigns on land. Even the material used to form the hull -- iron -- was revolutionary and added to the ship's defensive capability.
Ericcson called it his “self-propelled battery at sea.”
Critics called it a mistake. Too small, too slow and too lightly armed it would, they argued, be no match for the larger, cannon-bristling sloops of the Confederate Navy. Even Union Sailors had taken to calling it a “cheesebox on a raft.”
It wasn’t until much later in the war, after improvements had been made to the design, that the Monitor-class would prove its worth.
There were Monitors with Farragut at Mobile Bay. They took part in the Red River campaigns of the West and proved ideal for coastal blockading work. A Monitor even served as then-Admiral Dahlgren’s flagship during the 1863 attack on Charleston. They proved durable ships and had an incredibly long service life, the last of them not being stricken from Navy rolls until 1937.
The spirit of Monitor -- and every other type of revolutionary ship -- is alive and well in LCS. As Monitor ushered in the era of armored ships and sounded the death knell for those of wood, so too will LCS usher in an era of a netted, flexible and modular capabilities.
With its interchangeable mission packages, its raw speed, and its ability to operate with so many other smaller navies around the world, LCS gives us a geo-strategic advantage we simply haven’t enjoyed since the beginnings of the Cold War.
The response by Singapore and by other Pacific partners to Freedom’s deployment, for example, has been overwhelmingly positive. They like the ship precisely because it isn’t big, heavily-armed or overtly offensive. They like it because they can work with it. I fail to see how that’s a bad thing in today’s maritime environment.
Let’s be honest. LCS was never intended to take on another fleet all by its own, and nobody ever expected it to bristle with weaponry. LCS was built to counter submarines, small surface attack craft, and mines in coastal areas. Thanks to its size and shallow draft, it can also conduct intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations, maritime security and intercept operations, as well as homeland defense missions. It can support Marines ashore, insert special operations forces and hunt down pirates in places we can’t go right now.
Let me say that again … in places we can’t go right now.
That counts for something. The CNO always talks about building a Navy that can be where it matters and ready when it matters. Well, the littorals matter. The littorals are where products come to market; it’s where seaborne trade originates. Littorals include the major straits, canals, and other maritime chokepoints so necessary to this traffic. It’s also where a whole lot of people live. Coastal cities are home to more than three billion people right now, a figure that some experts estimate will double by 2025.
In addition to strains on local economies and the environment, this rapid population growth will continue to exacerbate political, social, cultural and religious tensions. You don’t have to look any further than today’s headlines to see the truth in that. Consider the Levant, North Africa, the South China Seas. And you don’t have to look any further than at our current fleet of ships to see what we’re missing.
We need this ship. We also need to be more clear about it -- what it is and what it isn’t. This ship is a light frigate, a corvette. I never understood why we didn’t just call it that in the first place. Maybe it’s because a corvette conveys something less muscular, less macho. I don’t know. Maybe it’s because a corvette is something completely new to us, at least those of us with no memories of picket destroyers, PT-boats, and hydrofoils.
Remember the whole debate over the Perry-class frigates? I sure do. My first ship was a frigate. Too small, the critics said, too slow, too vulnerable. It couldn’t defend itself, they argued. The 76mm gun was little more than a pea-shooter. The Phalanx system, poorly situated aft on the O-2 level, fired rounds too small to be effective against incoming missiles. The sonar? Well, let’s just say that some people compared it being both deaf and blind. Sailors on cruisers and destroyers used to joke that “they wished they were on a ‘fig’ so they could get sub pay.”
As one contemporary observer noted, “When [then] Soviet Admiral of the Fleet Sergei Gorshkov goes to bed at night, he's not lying awake counting Oliver Hazard Perry frigates.”
And yet, the little frigates became one of the most useful -- and most popular -- ships in the Navy. “By saving money, manpower, and operating costs, the FFGs helped the Navy pass through the economic trough of the 1970s and, with upgrades available from increased defense spending in the 1980s, have served as a reliable platform through the end of the 20th century,” writes Dr. Timothy L. Francis, a naval historian.
“Moreover,” he continues, “without these low-end ships the U.S. Navy never would have been able to grow to the numbers needed to conduct the last phase of the Cold War, which allowed the service to meet the multi-faceted challenges of that period.”
Criticism is good. Criticism is healthy. We should have to justify to the very public we are charged to protect how we are spending their hard-earned tax dollars. And we are. We’re working very hard to be as forthright and open as we can about all the problems still plaguing both variants of the ship. But let’s not forget that it was critics who laughed at the aircraft carrier, disparaged the F/A-18 Hornet and the MV-22, and scoffed at the idea of propelling submarine through the water with the power locked inside an atom.
The critics have been plenty wrong before. And even the most skeptical of us have to be willing to admit that they will be wrong again.
Look, LCS isn’t perfect -- by any stretch. But it’s still experimental. It’s still a bit like Humphrey’s Constellation and Ericcson’s Monitor when they first joined the fleet. New and untried, yes, but valuable in their own way to making us a more capable Navy. It just takes a little time to prove the concept. Sailors didn’t exactly clamor for PT-boat duty in World War II until it became a tactically proven and exciting option for them.
Navy leaders have been very clear that all options for LCS remain on the table. If we find that LCS needs to be more lethal, we’ll make it more lethal. If we find the ship needs to be manned or maintained differently, we’ll do that too. Just like with the Perry-class, we’ll upgrade and we’ll update. We’ll change.
But one thing that hasn’t changed is the dangerous world we live in. The threats and the opportunities we face are real. And, quite frankly, they are every bit as “multi-faceted” as were those we faced at the end of the Cold War.
As Aviation Week’s Mike Fabey wrote recently, “The Navy needs to rid the service of the ‘old think.’”
“Whether the Navy achieves operational or acquisition success with LCS remains to be seen,” he noted. “But we do most definitely have a ship that is designed to be operated far differently than any other warship before it. At the high-altitude conceptual level, that is precisely what the Navy wanted.”
He’s absolutely right. We want -- and we need -- a new class of ships that can meet these new challenges, that can get us on station fast and close, one that can perform in the coastal areas where our partners, our forces and our potential foes will also operate.
To the critics I say, this is such a ship. Give it time.
Thursday, June 6, 2013
|The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), foreground, USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63), center, and USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). 2006 U.S. Navy photo by Chief Photographer's Mate Todd P. Cichonowicz|
While I would not characterize the years since 1945 as a golden age, in terms of naval warfare, the seas have been a remarkably peaceful place. The United States has enjoyed unchallenged command of the sea, allowing her commerce to move unmolested and allowing her to insert the US Army virtually anywhere she chose. Even engaging in local sea control was a rare need. For the most part, the US Navy has focused on power projection ashore. However the good old days are drifting away as China, Iran and others develop potentially contending navies and land-based forces that can exert powerful influence out to a thousand miles or more. The Navy will have to get its mind right about fighting at sea again, and to do this it wouldn’t hurt to dredge up some old concepts, knock the seaweed and barnacles off and see if they can be made seaworthy again.
On Tuesday, June 4th, the 71st anniversary of the Battle of Midway, I gave a presentation to the students at the Naval War College on operational leadership connected with the battle. To do this, I engaged in comparative analysis in which I argued that the mistakes in planning and decision making that General Robert E. Lee made in the Gettysburg campaign were similar to those made by Isoroku Yamamoto during the Midway campaign. I wrote an article about this in the Naval War College Review back in 1995. Of course, a lot of new books have been written about Midway since then, and I decided to go into some of the newer literature to make sure my remarks were up to date. As I read the Parshall and Tully book Shattered Sword, I realized that there were some additional insights I could use concerning the role of moral courage in high level leadership, but also, a couple of operational concepts jumped out of the page at me. The first was the notion of a combined air fleet, and the second was the utility of skirmishers. I think that both of these ideas are at least worth a second look in today’s emerging naval operational environment.
Combined Air Fleet
This was the brainchild of Minoru Genda. His idea was to combine six aircraft carriers together in order to have a virtual air force at sea. Depending on the classes of carrier in the mix, the combined air fleet might have 3-400 aircraft available. That air strength, operating from six decks created something that was more than a naval task force. In those days, it was well understood that naval forces should not get into a mano-a-mano fight with land-based forces, resulting in the “250 mile rule.” Moreover, in 1942, the offense was king; he who struck effectively first won. Carriers toted relatively fewer fighters, so the dive bombers were likely to get in devastating hits if they found the carriers. This was true tactical instability. However, if you had a lot of fighters, radar directed or not, defense was more robust. Moreover, lots of decks meant you could multi-task; perhaps do power projection at the same time you were engaged in a sea fight. In any case you were packing a serious punch either way. Had Nagumo had two more CVs at Midway, the outcome would likely have been much different, American code breaking or not.
What would a combined air fleet look like today? Let’s start with the basic inventory of CVNs. We certainly have enough to gang six of them together. That would give us roughly 300 strike fighters in a single air force. The question is would we know what to do with such a force? In Desert Storm we had seven CVs participating, but they were just feeding an ATO; there was no underlying naval doctrine for how the planes should be used. Plus there was no appreciable sea threat other than some mines. What would an air strike doctrine look like for a modern combined air fleet?
I think doctrine would have to start with understanding the differences between command of the sea, sea control, sea denial and battlespace superiority. Without going into detail on these things (you can check out my NWC Review article at http://www.usnwc.edu/Publications/Naval-War-College-Review/2012---Autumn.aspx ), we can say that offering up six CVNs as a target is pretty risky, so a) they either would need to operate tactically dispersed and/or b) the threat level would have to be manageable, plus c) the strategic stakes must be worth the risk. The idea would be to concentrate effects. What effects would we want? I would say that the first thing would be air superiority. The good news today is that we have strike fighters, so the old tradeoff dilemma between bombers and fighters is moot. But we must work in conjunction with the Air Force, surface units and even subs to create a condition for the enemy in which if it flies over water, it dies. At the same time we work to eradicate their surface shooters (especially ones with good SAMs). Once those conditions are met, suppressive ASW becomes a possibility. Of course, the enemy still might have land-based missile systems that could contest the sea space, and if defensive means do not suffice (both right and left of launch), then strike will have to be considered, but preferably with our own missiles.
If we bought into this concept, the next question would be how do we generate such a force and in what time frame. Right now, it would take some doing to round up the necessary decks. Having such a force in readiness year round would mean that we would not be able to continue deploying CVNs as we do now. Moreover, we would have to conduct quite a bit of exercising in order to work out the kinks and nail down doctrine. Presence would have to be performed by gators or CRUDES. So, there would be a strategic price to pay for developing such a concept, but man, would it be impressive. I can see it scaring people into being quiet.
Variations on the theme: perhaps all the CVs don’t carry the same kind of wing. Some have different kinds of UAVs; X-47s, big wings, etc. Perhaps you pack the E-2s, and most helos on one deck and load the others with fighters. The whole concept is a blank canvas just waiting for artists to start painting.
This sounds like a Civil War thing, but as I compared Gettysburg and Midway I realized that skirmishing played an important role in the carrier fight. Gettysburg: Brigadier General John Buford placed his dismounted cavalry in a blocking position to delay Heth’s division until Major General Reynolds could bring up the First Corps. The First Corps, in turn, conducted a delaying action (really they were forced into flight) long enough for General Mead to get his army into position along Cemetery Ridge. Buford’s command acted as a skirmisher to find, delay and disrupt the enemy.
Midway Island, that is its air base and air forces performed a similar role at Midway. They found Nagumo’s force and their attacks, while unsuccessful, served to delay and disrupt the Japanese carriers, forcing them to maneuver. This disrupted fighter operations and arming/rearming, and produced the golden moment when McClusky, Best and Leslie arrived overhead unmolested.
In a new era of potential sea fights, we ought to think again about the potential utility of skirmishers. What would constitute cavalry in this age? LCS? Subs? The USN has been locked into the group paradigm for so long, it doesn’t even have words to describe something else. I have a feeling that in the event of a real fight, the flags and COs would improvise, probably brilliantly in some cases and rediscover skirmishing on the fly, but why not think about it now? Yes, I get that cyber could be a skirmisher too.
Ok, nothing cosmic here, but I thought that these two ideas, popping out at me from the pages of history, were worth a second look; at least they might stimulate some good dialogue.
Slides from Strategic Concepts of the US Navy under CNO Holloway.
Over the course of his career as a flag officer, Holloway consolidated the air wing into one multi-purpose model and consolidated aircraft carriers to the big deck, removing the smaller carriers from the fleet as a cost saving effort. CNO Holloway is why the United States Navy has one type of aircraft carrier today, CVNs, and was who began the process of making all carrier air wings of standard configuration. This consolidation of CVNs and CVWs has given naval aviation remarkable efficiency and has saved the Navy a lot of money in a post cold war world.
Nothing can be said here that isn't said better in U.S. Naval Strategy in the 1970s: Selected Documents, edited by John Hattendorf (2007) (PDF)
There are plenty more slides available in The U.S. Navy in the World (1970-1980): Context for U.S. Navy Capstone Strategies and Concepts and U.S. Navy Capstone Strategies and Concepts (1970-1980): Strategy, Policy, Concept, and Vision Documents that add significant detail to the ones I have cherry picked.
It is noteworthy The Future of U.S. Sea Power influenced the Carter administration, not aligned when written but influential over time. This upward push towards attempting to influence administration thinking was tried with the Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower, and wasn't anywhere near as successful.
Note also how The Future of US Sea Power favors quality platforms over quantity. That's pretty much the story of US Navy fleet design through today. But something has changed from then and now. I am not sure the US Navy today thinks in terms of offensive ops/systems and defensive ops/systems anymore in force design. I think part of that is because seas today are not contested, and haven't been for many decades. I think another part of that is that the Navy looks at information capabilities as an important offensive function in the 21st century, and it counts ISR as an offensive function.