Losing the Littorals
I hate to say…Oh what the heck! I told you so!! Remember last year when the Navy’s new strategy came out and I told you they were “Conceding the Littorals in the Maritime Strategy“. Back then I also warned that:
“It becomes clear that America’s sea services intends to leave fighting terrorists in shallow seas to our allies. Meanwhile, we will continue to fund and build a more traditional and vastly expensive Blue Water fleet.”
Well, true to form, the Navy is reversing its plan to buy large numbers of shore hugging forces, with the DDG-1000 first on the chopping block and likely the recently launched littoral combat ship next facing the budget cutting knife. Here’s Bob Work at War is Boring:
The maritime area over which a strong coastal power can now influence with multidimensional, combined-arms naval reconnaissance-strike complexes is expanding. The combination of space-based sensors, over-the-horizon radars, maritime [Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance], patrol and strike aircraft, nuclear and [Air-Independent Propulsion] submarines armed with wake-homing torpedoes and anti-ship cruise missiles, and now anti-ship ballistic missiles poses severe threats to any surface ship.
Under these circumstances, the Navy has to improve its ability to fight from range, in the open ocean. The DDG-51 is a better open-ocean ASW defender than the DDG-1000, and is a capable air and missile defender. With improved networking capabilities such as the cooperative engagement capability and the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, it will get better. In addition, as you wrote in your article, ballistic missiles are a growing problem world-wide. Regional combatant commanders are asking for BMD shooters to remain on station in their areas of responsibility. So ballistic missile defense of allied territory and forward U.S. bases is posing increased demands on fleet assets. As a result, the Navy decided to stick with the DDG-51 until it could redesign and build an entirely new air and ballistic missile defense ship, the CG(X).
This is pure malarkey, that new technology is forcing the Navy to continue purchasing giant space battleships to shoot down ballistic missiles. They are choosing to do this, so they can continue building giant warships more useful in the last century, when the way to expand our Blue Water dominance to the shallow seas is to fight fire with fire. Streetfighters and swift boats, or corvettes and stealth missiles boats if you will, are the answer to fighting these new threats on their own terms. Small ships are fast and maneuverable. Their very size promotes stealth in contrast to the monstrous expense of giant stealth battleships which are soaking up precious shipbuilding funds.
The Navy is right to cancel the DDG-1000 gunships, when cheaper and more survivable platforms armed with missiles can do their missions equally well. Likewise should the half-billion dollar LCS be replaced with something much smaller and less costly (I am a recent foe of the LCS because of its size and cost overruns). The USS Freedom and her kin are too large to be used effectively against enemy speedboats in littoral waters. We need something about half its great bulk or less, which can more easily sail in mine and missile invested waters.
Such craft can also be bought in huge numbers, ending the Navy’s suicidal race toward a hollow fleet.
Running from future threats are not the answer. Eventually they will follow us to our supposed havens at sea, meeting us on our on terms. It would be best if we deal with these emerging coastal threats now rather than wait until they follow us home, severing the vital sealanes in which Western economies are so dependent. Continuing to rely on evolutionary warships like carriers, destroyers, and specialized amphibious ships in the missile and information age is not only busting our budgets, but creating in the West a defensive mindset that would be abhorrent to our ancestors of the Golden Age of Exploration, who risked just a little for so much gain in return.