The Next Navy Procurement Disaster
Even as we suffer through reports that the new USN “destroyer”, the DDG-1000 will cost up to $7 billion each, or about the price of supercarrier, the brains at the Navy Department are laying even more grandiose plans for the next cruiser design, dubbed CGX. From Defense News:
The roughly 22,000-ton CG(X) will have an integrated power plant that can drive the powerful radars needed to pick up the fast, small warheads. It will be a challenge, Navy and industry experts concede, to create a radar and power plant that are up to the task yet able to fit in the less-than-10,000-ton DDG 51 hull.
But Navy plans show a total of only eight CG(X) cruisers over the next 30 years, far less than the stated requirement for 19 of the ships. That leaves a smaller, “CG(X) light” version of the FSC as a possibility – able, perhaps, to be fielded faster and more cheaply. The shape of the CG(X) program has been in limbo for more than a year.
Here’s hoping it stays there. Back in 2006 I wrote on this continued absurd obsession with bigger and ever more costly warships, as a Navy more concerned with the threats against it than being a threat to its enemies:
History details the account of a great naval race in the ancient world which transpired between the Greek nations that arose following the death of Alexander the Great. The navies of Macedonia, Syracuse, and Egypt built ever larger and more absurd vessels which were for little more than show. One great galley with 40 banks of oars and 4000 rowers was so large it could barely put to sea. Finally the Carthaginians and Romans put an end to the madness, by producing vast numbers of similar galleys which could be easily massed produced.
Here’s a prediction: if the CGX makes it to production, the lead vessel will be priced at $10 billion. For the first time a USN carrier escort will surpass the cost of the ship it is escorting. Might I suggest two alternatives to building future warships in the age of precision aerial threats? First there is an arsenal ship design, with a giant vessel riding low in the water, barely manned and barely visible. Such a craft would be double hulled and use water protection as armor, making it very hard to sink. In other words, it would be built to take hits, like the old wooden ships of the line, rather than trying to hit a bullet with a bullet by ever more costly radar and missiles systems which are pricing old legacy platforms out of even a superpower’s price range.
My own preference would be building many smaller warships of corvette size of less, large numbers of which can be assured of surviving any future missile exchange at sea. No vessel is unsinkable, as as we learned in the World Wars, it is better to have many warships than just a few. Even when the ships are badly handled, as the US fleet in the Guadalcanal campaign, being able to replace losses quickly and build more as needed can make a difference in victory or defeat.