From Blue Water To Cadre Navy
The Heritage Foundation, in a new report titled Quadrennial Defense Review: Building Blocks for National Defense, offer up a proposed military, specifically with the Navy, which would make any lobbyist from Boeing, General Dynamics, and Lockheed giddy with anticipation. Submitted for your disapproval is this astounding proposal which would not have been out of place in the 1980s:
The Navy’s future force structure is the minimum size needed to secure U.S. maritime interests, but it lacks the proper internal balance and sufficient funding for the necessary shipbuilding rates. Specifically, it shortchanges aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, and attack submarines in favor of littoral combat ships. The U.S. has 11 aircraft carriers, and that number should increase to 13 over the longer term. The number of cruisers and destroyers should increase from a projected 88 to 100, and the number of attack submarines should rise from 48 to at least 60. This should be facilitated, in part, by reducing the projected number of littoral combat ships from 55 to 20.
And thats not all. The thinkers at Heritage further call for continued procurement of that $5 billion blunder wonder which even the Navy doesn’t want, the 14,000 ton DDG-1000 Zumwalt:
Further, the QDR should at least consider recommending that the Navy proceed with DDG-1000 procurement instead of extending the construction of DDG-51 Arleigh Burke destroyers by ensuring that the DDG-1000s will have both air and ballistic missile defense capabilities.
When you consider that the Zumwalt’s most likely foe would be pirates in speed boats armed with RPGs and machine guns, you get the picture of overkill beyond all reason. Makes you wonder if the Heritage Foundation failed to notice a little election we had recently which placed in power a Party and President intent on cutting, if not gutting the military budget!
Back to reality, we have a slightly different proposal which takes into account stable if not smaller shipbuilding budgets and the threats we currently face in the 21st, post Cold War, post Industrial Age Century. Simply cut the above proposal by two-thirds, holding on to the old legacy force of carriers, destroyers, and amphibious ships, for the “just in case” scenario, the Blue Water conventional warfare which Western navies have been planning for 60 years or so but seen very little of.
The money saved would go to larger numbers of cheap, easy to build austere platforms more suited to fighting the low tech warfare we too often find ourselves engaged in this new century. No longer would we send billion dollar carriers and their equally pricey escorts to combat non-naval or small boat powers. Instead, the enemy would face attack boats, corvettes, and patrol ships of our own, backed by force multipliers such as new UAVs used so effectively in Iraq.
My USN Future Fleet then becomes:
Blue Water Navy
Aircraft Carriers-3 or 4, with at least 2 more in ready reserve.
Amphibious ships-10, all helicopters carriers.
Destroyers-With the cruiser/destroyer role now virtually identical, only 25 of a single type.
Littoral combat ships-see below
Submarines-including SSGNs about 40 total.
Support ships-20 or 30
With the money saved from 200 ships, each of which costs many billions to build (save for the half billion LCS), funds would go toward creating a true littoral fleet consisting of numerous shallow water-capable warships rather than a single frigate type. High Speed Vessels and patrol ships already in service would be supplemented by cheap corvettes, mines ships, fast attack craft, and offshore patrol vessels. Monitors, and Vietnam-type swift boats (Arrow boats?) would be utilized for riverine warfare.
It is possible that the latter fleet could consist to up to 500 vessels, forward deployed and supported by HSV craft and motherships. Concerning Vietnam, consider the Brown Water Navy from that era deployed worldwide, fighting pirates, supporting ground troops and Marines, and intercepting terrorists who smuggle WMDs and other arms at sea. Such a force would take care of the “presence” and gunboat diplomacy now engaged by the massive, vulnerable, and costly supercarriers, plus their equally pricey escorts, without putting the Big Ships and tens of thousands of sailors at risk.