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Ending the Tyranny of the Gun Pt. 2

June 12, 2008

The main reason for this blog’s existence is to point out waste and unnecessary duplication of missions within the armed services. Articles such as our recent”Ending the Tyranny of the Gun” wasn’t meant to incite controversy as much as to propose a sensible alternative to our traditional way of warfare.

Over the centuries various weapon systems have dominated warfare for a spell only to be eventually superseded by new technology, and propelled arms have been no exception. The ages have seen the spear, the sling, catapult, bow and arrow, finally displaced by our gunpowder-fueled weapons of today. We think that with the combination of microchip to guided missiles in this new era, whether they are solid or chemically powered, will supersede most if not all functions currently performed by the gun.

In 1961, after watching a disastrous testing of the Navy’s first generation of ship-launched surface to air missiles, the famed Talos, Terrier, and Tartar, President John F. Kennedy ordered the navy’s newest all-missile warships then entering service to carry 5 inch guns as a backup. This action was tantamount to the 19th Century steam navy adding masts and sails to their new battleships just in case the new technology broke down at a critical moment. Yet, thanks to the microchip, the guided missiles has finally come of age as we have seen in the recent Middle East wars. Whether it is Air Force Sidewinders or Navy Tomahawks, few today question the validity or effectiveness of missile warfare.

Guided shells such as Excalibur  (about 25 mile range) planned for Army guns and vehicles, plus Long Range Land Attack Projectile (100 nm range) for the 155 mm cannon for new navy destroyers are certainly revolutionary. After much trial and error and enormous expense,  the ground forces have duplicated the Navy and Air Force successes with precision bombs and missiles, by placing a computer chip within what is basically an over-sized bullet. A very handy and successful weapon, but is it necessary?

The question we might ask when budget allocations are given is “can the military function without another over-priced hi-tech wonder which would require enormous logistical support to place it within a warzone (in the case of Excalibur at least)?” Is this about the Army and Marines (the latter of whom the new destroyer’s guns is geared toward supporting) wishing to be apart of the precision revolution so as not to be outdone by the other services? All this is mindful of the old atomic cannon which the Army deployed in the 1950s, just so they could play a role in the new A-bomb race.

A commenter also questions the wisdom of the Army relying exclusively on Navy and Air Force support, and the danger of a ground force being cut off in a land-locked country. First of all, we doubt the US forces would EVER be sent into a conflict out of reach of airpower in a future “Khe San“. Guided missiles such as Tomahawk would have to pass over the same airspace as a B-52 bomber in such a scenario, the latter which has proven the ultimate close support aircraft thanks to precision and cluster bombs.

The question also came up about the validity of using arsenal ships for Army ground support, in fear that the vessels would soon run out of missiles in a sustained conflict. The original plans for the unique warships called for loading up to 1000 precision weapons, not all of which were Tomahawks. We reject such an argument considering that precision has done away with the need for mass firepower. In other words, firepower has been overtaken by “accuracy”.

Neither would Tomahawk be at a disadvantage in such a campaign, considering new Tactical versions carry submunitions which can attack several different targets at once. The arsenal ships, or even the 80+ cruisers and destroyers in the fleet wouldn’t need be dependent on the super-costly Tomahawk alone, as numerous land attack missiles such as ATACMs could be modified for naval use and fired from VLS. Thanks to precision and without a need to bracket a target to destroy it, the navy ship would be no more at a disadvantage for ammunition supplies than its battleship ancestors during the WW 2 Pacific Campaign.


4 Comments leave one →
  1. charbookguy permalink
    June 13, 2008 9:00 am

    Or Gallipoli!

  2. Mrs. Davis permalink
    June 12, 2008 10:11 pm

    The Army will be there. It will just look like Anzio.

  3. charbookguy permalink
    June 12, 2008 8:53 pm

    I can easily answer your question, Mrs. D. If everything happens to the Air force and Navy as you describe, it won’t matter anyway because the army won’t be there.

  4. Mrs. Davis permalink
    June 12, 2008 7:09 pm


    You assume that the non-existant 1000 missile arsenal ship and the existant 80+ missile ship will be on station, ready to support ground troops.

    But what happens if these very vulnerable surface ships are taken out by submarines or cruise missiles? And if the answer is the SSBN arsenal conversion, will they be riding on the surface constantly during combat so that they can respond immediately to a request for fire?

    And suppose we do not have air dominance. Will the AF risk sending BUFF into a situation where it can be dropped by an enemy smart weapon system? Will they be able to keep sufficient platforms available to provide sufficient firepower in a real shooting war, not an insurgency?

    Response time

    So which will fire sooner, an organic artillery battery where the mutual commander is a colonel or brigadier or a navy ship or AF plane where the mutual commander is the theater commander? And which will arrive first, the 500 mph missile from 250 miles away or the projectile with a muzzle velocity of 500 m/sec from 25 miles away?

    Beta test

    The Army lost its F-22 and DDG-1000 with the cancellation of the Crusader and Commanche. I am not at all convinced that as I look at the next 50 years of the conflicts in which the US may find itself Excaliber falls in that class.

    If I were in the Army, I wouldn’t even consider the suggestion until the Marine Corps had turned in its aircraft to Davis-Monthan and sold its artillery and mortar tubes for scrap. Until then, it’s up to the Army whether it would rather spend the money on the GMLRS or Excaliber and its attendant logistic train.

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