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Small Warships? Call Me Crazy Too!

December 9, 2008

At the brand new US Naval Institute Blog, a call for a cheap inshore fleet:

Along the lines of the “Connecticut Elephant Protection System” (”CEPS” for the acronym lovers among you), I add the concept of using billion dollar ships to keep an eye on a merchant ship already captured by Somali pirates. Using an Aegis cruiser and a few other expensive ships seems to work – the pirates haven’t moved that ship or its cargo an inch, but . . .

Yeah, I know, Abraham Maslow got it right:

“It is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”

Maybe we need more than hammers. And we need the other tools now, not when the proposed bevy of $300,000,000 – $600,000,000 (each) Littoral Combat Ships will be available with their full package (which reminds me of another Murphy’s Law – #56. Interchangeable parts aren’t. but that’s for a later discussion).

Some examples:

  1. Take $250 million dollars and put it aside;
  2. Of that $250 million, use $100 million to buy or lease 50 to 100 offshore crew boats as currently used in the offshore oil industry (many of them are reaching the end of their expected useful life in the industry – you might be able to pick up some bargains).
  3. Invest $50 million in refurbishing the boats and in getting weapons for their decks. Turn them into “navalized” vessels. Make 22 knots the minimum acceptable speed.

We support this fully! And though there is no author credit that we could find, it all sounds vaguely familiar

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike Burleson permalink
    December 12, 2008 8:02 am

    Mrs D I read that article yesterday as well. The CROWS is pretty impressive. I mentioned to Smitty earlier about using active defenses on warships, another Army innovation. Imagine some reactive armor on a monitor so equipped, to fend off missiles, but it would be too expensive to place on a missile battleship I think.

    Concerning your earlier post: I sadly contend that the Navy isn’t going to change until they get a wake-up call of the magnitude the Army faced in Iraq. That almost became a second humiliating Vietnam defeat of which we might not have recovered, but cooler heads declared “not on my watch” and I think we have a better ground force today, with heroes justly honored. Pretty worn down, I know, but now we have something to build on.

  2. Mrs. Davis permalink
    December 11, 2008 11:43 am

    Here’s a great example of what I was talking about. Technology that had been around for a while but never implemented. Then short comings in existing systems were made apparent by actual combat and all of a sudden the necessary weapon comes off the shelf.

    The same thing would happen for the USN except that it avoids combat except for F-18s. The longer the Navy waits to get in the game the more the first contact will hurt.

  3. Mrs. Davis permalink
    December 11, 2008 11:36 am

    The politicians love these ships because the goal they have set for all military activities is to avoid casualties to the scion of the constituents. Military procurement people dream up requirements which will protect service people who are admittedly expensive to train and whom no one wishes to see harmed. So we get massive systems to minimize casualties. The surprise comes when they get used in action and fail to perform as advertised and also fail to achieve the military goals. Then the military gets the equipment it needs as opposed to what congress wants.

  4. Mike Burleson permalink
    December 11, 2008 9:23 am

    I believe that building lots of small but cheap warships, replacing them as needed will make the shipyards healthy and wealthy. But the politicians love these huge hi-tech wonders which take a decade to procure and saps our fighting strength because you can only afford only a few. Reform doesn’t necessarily mean less jobs.

  5. leesea permalink
    December 10, 2008 8:55 pm

    Congressional critters are mostly driven by their desire to get re-elected. They do that by supporting their backyard shipards not by helping the USN procure the proper fleet mix. (ok call my cynical!) There are some folks on the hill more motivated to improve national security but they are few and far between.

    IRT your reference to Vietnam, both the Swift boats and PBRs were what would now be called Off the shelf or Non-Developmental Technology programs. Bot of those principles are written in current acquistion regs.

    The SeaFighter is an example of an existing ship design which has great promise in littoral and anti-pirate operations. Why not just weaponize it and take the prototype to theater? If it works out build more quickly. Quicker than going through the long drawn out process NAVSEA is using for the LCS. Oh I forgot FSF-1 was not built by NAVbrain dead.

  6. Mike Burleson permalink
    December 10, 2008 2:51 pm

    OK, I agree with this Mrs. D. Congress is constitutionally mandated to equip our military forces, and sadly some have taken advantage to enrich themselves and their constituents, at the cost of National Security. A good example is Susan Collins of Maine who will fight to the death to preserve the Zumwalt class battle cruisers, even when the Navy says they don’t want them (or can’t afford them) and when they are of dubious value in modern warfare.

  7. Mrs. Davis permalink
    December 10, 2008 9:32 am

    I don’t think the USN is distracted by old enemies so much as it is focused on the fiscal requirements of Congress. It is not prepared, physically or mentally, to fight our enemies. It is prepared to spend money on ship building programs that enrich congressional constituencies.

    Obviously the truth is not so stark as presented above. But there is more truth to it than is comfortable.

  8. Mike Burleson permalink
    December 10, 2008 8:50 am

    Leesea, I think there are numerous ways we could do this at less cost than sending in the Aegis battleships. Your proposal has merit. It is so easy to build up a sizable littoral fleet in quick fashion as needed, history bears this out from the Civil War to Vietnam, but the USN is still distracted by old enemies.

  9. Mike Burleson permalink
    December 10, 2008 8:47 am

    OK. Now someone follow the permalink I posted above. I found Eagle1 when I switched over to the homepage, but on the link it is not there, except in the comments. No big deal really, but I thought I was going crazy!

  10. December 10, 2008 7:29 am

    Mike, it’s right there, plain as day, at the bottom of the post:

    Posted by Eagle1 in Maritime Security | read comments (15)

  11. leesea permalink
    December 10, 2008 12:19 am

    Author of the idea apparently does not know much about how the US offshore fleet is bought/sold and operated? Like I said before. MSC could charter new boats with miliarily usefull features for cheaper and get more reliable vessels operated by professional crews. And when they were no longer needed they would go off charter.

    Not to mention that MSC already has OSV under charter for NSWG support and security purposes.

    For more details see my earlier post

  12. Mike Burleson permalink
    December 9, 2008 11:34 pm

    I still don’t see it, though I figured it out with the embedded link.

    Mrs D, you are too kind though I’m too sleepy to care right now!

  13. Big D permalink
    December 9, 2008 11:08 pm

    Err, note who the author of that USNI post is.

  14. Mrs. Davis permalink
    December 9, 2008 7:01 pm

    Eagle1 is the author. Lower left.

  15. Mrs. Davis permalink
    December 9, 2008 6:59 pm

    I just found the site and came over to give you a ration about that post and your new pseudonym. Guess I was wrong. Too bad you weren’t invited but now you can liven things up as a commenter. There’s a slow high one waiting for you on carriers.

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