Is there a connection between your strategic and tactical assertions?
Wayne P. Hughes, Jr., Captain USN (Retired), Professor Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey CA
Alfred Thayer Mahan is often described as America's greatest naval strategist. Wayne Hughes is America's greatest naval tactician, and what a cool treat it has been to ask Captain Hughes to answer the question that has been 50 years in the making.
I have a fairly long history of discussing the 600 ton $100 million corvette - particularly in 2009 when I basically wrote about that topic every other week. I can't think of a topic better suited for Information Dissemination than one that discusses the potential value of the $100 million corvette to the US Navy.
Would 64 corvettes cost more to man, maintain, and operate than say 4 DDG-51s? Absolutely. But the better question is whether the cost of manning, maintaining, and operating 64 corvettes be better use of investment in the fleet than 4 DDG-51s, and for reasons that would require it's own series of blog posts - my answer to that question is absolutely.
1 DDG-51 costs $2.2 billion. 1 LCS costs $550 million. If the US Navy could field a well armed corvette for $137.5 million, 64 corvettes would equal 4 DDG-51s or 16 LCS. In my opinion, right now the US Navy would be super smart to build the 64 corvettes instead of 16 LCS - meaning build 32 Littoral Combat Ships, 64 corvettes, and 8 large motherships (if new, specialized for supporting LCS module repair and corvette logistics and aviation support).
And btw, I'd take a serious look at those 8 combat logistics ships I mentioned as being conversions of the Whidbey Island class, because in my opinion that would be a 13 ship squadron built to be a true littoral warfare capability.
What should the US Army be contributing to AirSea Battle?
Dr. Andrew Exum, Senior Fellow at the Center for New American Security
Dr. Exum is a smart guy. If he struggles to answer the question, I think it accurately reflects the struggle the Army is currently having answering the same question. The key here is that I think the Army looks at AirSea Battle and is convinced their input must be in the context of China to be relevant. That's the fatal flaw, because it is absolutely true that the Army has little to offer AirSea Battle if it is 100% about the Pacific region. Libya has already chipped a hole in the 100% theory, so it's time the US Army starts thinking about AirSea Battle in the context of something other than the 'big one' with China.
In the comments of that post, John Maurer, Chair of the Strategy and Policy Department at the Naval War College, and a man I really should know but do not, observed keenly the following:
A big part of the Army's problem today is that it is on a certain level a victim of its own success. One of the major reasons that potential enemies of the United States have been investing heavily in A2 technologies is to avoid having to fight the United States' Army-Air Force combination in a straight-up fight... The biggest mission going forward for the US Army is to continue providing what it has provided for the last 30 years - assured conventional escalation dominance over any conceivable adversary.I agree completely with this, and I would add one final thought to going forward in what is turning into a maritime century.
"The United States is to all intents an insular power, like Great Britain. We have but two land frontiers, Canada and Mexico. The latter is hopelessly inferior to us in all the elements of military strength. As regards Canada, Great Britain maintains a standing army; but like our own, it numbers indicate clearly that aggression will never be her policy, except in those distant regions whither the great armies of the world cannot act against her, unless they first wrench from her control of the sea. No modern state has long maintainer a supremacy by land and by sea, -- one or the other has been held from time to time by this or that country, but not both."If the US chooses to have priorities in defense strategy in the 21st century, it is entirely possible to grow naval power and reduce the size of the Army - and this would be the natural state of things. Is it possible for political leaders to make that choice? Is it possible for Army leaders to concede that choice? Is it possible for the Army to assure conventional escalation dominance over any conceivable adversary in that environment? For that last part to be true, we will need a different US Army in 2020 than we have in 2012, and that US Army in 2020 will have a far more robust and ready answer to the question I posed to Dr. Exum.
-- Alfred Thayer Mahan, "The Interest of America in Sea Power, Present and Future," Chapter VI: "Preparedness for Naval War" p.113
When matching the strategic objective of preventing war to resources, can the US Navy prevent war in the 21st century, and if so, how?
Jan Van Tol, Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments
The Navy is reevaluating the Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower, so I naturally wanted to get someone who has been critical of that strategy to write about it. I've been thinking a lot today about this piece from Bryan McGrath and this piece from Jan van Tol and Bob Work as a result of this article.
I have no idea if sequestration will be a reality or not, but I do know FY14 and FY15 are going to cut into the DoD budget significantly with or without sequestration. Every choice is going to be hard. The only question the CNO must answer is whether he is ready to publicly declare priorities, and fight publicly for those priorities. The first part is hard because it means disruption and prioritization within the three big Navy communities: surface warfare, underwater warfare, and naval aviation. The second part is even harder, because it asks the CNO to do what no one has ever been able to do in the Goldwater Nichols era - it requires one service to declare itself a higher priority to the National Defense of the United States with a strategic argument why. Goldwater Nichols has made the joint force tactically and operationally brilliance, and we have been strategically adrift over that entire period of time. If that doesn't change, the decline in the DoD will never end and will be an issue regardless of the size of budget. The Mahan quote above applies as much in this discussion as it does the one above.
Jan van Tol has asked several important questions and highlighted what the priorities are. The picture captions he sent in are spot on: between an aircraft carrier and a hospital ship, which ship prevents war? When asking how the Navy can provide the leaders of the United States a political capability to influence events in the world, is the answer a technological capability for combat, or an operational capability for influence? Would one more technology on a DDG-51 multipurpose vessel significantly change events today in Syria, or would a squadron that allowed me to put MK VIs, corvettes, and Littoral Combat Ships closer to shore - supported by AEGIS ships behind them - engaging the population at sea and insuring information dominance by sea provide the nation with more political leverage? Will the next maritime strategy prioritize choices to insure the Navy provides the maximum number of choices to leaders? It is yet to be determined, but the CS-21 didn't do that.
What is the potential and what are the challenges the Navy faces in fielding a UCLASS to the fleet?
J. Randy Forbes, Congressman from Virginia's fourth district, Member of the House Armed Services Committee and Chairman of the Readiness Subcommittee
In my opinion, the great debate in the Navy today is in regards to finding the right balance between quantity and quality, and while that debate is most often taking place in regards to surface warfare specific to ship numbers, it exists in the submarine community with the ever increasing high cost of nuclear powered attack and ballistic missile submarines, and naval aviation in the form of the future Carrier Air Wing.
I strongly believe the F-35C has not only sucked all the innovation out of the carrier based naval aviation community today, but it has sucked all the money out of the naval aviation overall heading into the future. Congressman Forbes notes it may cost up to $1 billion to accelerate the UCLASS program of record. Well, in the context of the F-35C, that's the annual cost increase of a program that has a never ending list of problems specific to promises unlikely to be kept regarding capabilities.
I do not know if UCLASS can meet existing objectives for the program in the next ten years. My sense is unmanned systems in the Navy is always harder than initially believed, at least that is what is painfully obvious in regards to unmanned underwater, unmanned surface, and even unmanned aviation systems to date. I do believe however that if the Navy wasn't sinking every last dollar into the F-35C, because the superiority of the US Navy is unlikely to be yielded in the next decade, the Navy would get more mileage with multiple UCLASS programs while holding the CVW line with Super Hornets than the Navy would get with continued investment in the F-35C.
The Navy has passed all cost threshold red lines for the F-35C. I have no idea how the program will fit into the FY14 and FY15 budget, but it's entirely possible a cut in the buy of F-35Cs is coming in the next budget simply because the money isn't there to absorb the cost increases anymore. Admiral Greenert has described these kind of moments as an "inflection point," but from a budget perspective it is a tipping point by any metric.
It will cost the Navy $44 billion just to build 340 F-35Cs. The Navy could build 12 plane Super Hornet squadrons for $20.4 billion and take the remaining $24 billion and innovate UCLASS, and save money in maintenance and operations while ending up with more aircraft.
Which approach is the best use of resources for the nation and the US Navy? Is the F-35C ever going to be able to represent the value relative to it's enormous cost? It's nearly impossible to believe the aircraft ever could, particularly if the $24 billion investment used in the development of UCLASS choices enables a much more dynamic air wing with a much broader set of capabilities.