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Tom Rick’s New Navy

April 29, 2009

Foreign Policy.com has republished a 2004 Proceedings article by Thomas Ricks titled “More on the Navy’s lack of impact on national strategy“. His force structure proposals closely mirrowed my own so I thought I would discuss each individually. First, Ricks lays out the Navy’s two essential missions for the near future:

  1. Mission One: maintain a sufficient fleet-in-being as hedge against potential threats to freedom of the seas…
  2. Mission Two: support land warfare…

Now that you have that, here are the proposed changes:

Just enough attack submarines and surface combatants to keep Mission One alive — about half the current number. Protect assets in the near-shore area with them and with the new littoral combat ship, a design tuned to the new mis-sion at a cost per hull of one-tenth that of the complex new cruiser-destroyers and submarines on the drawing boards.

This is pretty close to my own drastic changes. The idea is to form a Cadre Navy which would be ready for those “just in case” scenarios. Currently the USN maintains a worse case fleet with over 90%  geared toward conventional warfare. This is just ludicrous and unsustainable even if we weren’t in a so-called economic crisis.

Aircraft carriers as they are now, but hold the CVN(X) until Mission Two is equipped fully.

I mostly agree with this. A freeze in carrier construction for over a decade would do us no harm, as no nation on Earth can match the capabilities of even one of our giant flattops, let alone 11. The USS Enterprise probably needs to go ASAP, leaving us still with 10 Nimitz’s. The rest should be retired as needed without replacement until 2020, which by then we may have come up with a better alternative.

Cost-driven replacement of aging combat aircraft that maximizes ordnance delivery, even at the expense of air-to-air combat.

I am almost certain the F-35C won’t be purchased in anywhere near adequate numbers to fill even our handful of carrier decks. Combat UAVs may not have been a big deal yet in 2004, but are absolutely vital to operations on land, and should in the sea as well. Long range UCAS-D aircraft promise to return long-range and persistence to the carriers, lost with the retirement of high performance Cold War planes like the A-6 and the F-14. The Big Ships don’t need to be anywhere near missile and submarine filled littoral waters, so the greater reach we can give them the better.

Large numbers of sea-launched cruise missiles rebased to arsenal ships. Smart weapons do not need smart platforms and their huge per-round delivery costs.

Cruise missiles are the new decider in sea warfare, though not yet in close air support of the troops, but who knows? The “Smart weapons do not need smart platforms” quote is eerily similar to our own “dumb platforms plus smart bombs” which we often site. In other words, a high tech plane or ship married to a high tech missile is so much redundancy and unnecessary and unafordable overkill. Such small computerized weapons just need a ride to the target and the greatest “platform” of all are the boots on the ground.

Concerning arsenal ships, we still think that a handful of such fairly large and spartan craft needs be looked into, as a replacement for a multitude of super-destroyers in the fleet. With one of these “missile barges” possessing the equivalent firepower of 5 or more Burke battleships, at about the same cost of one, the savings here are enormous, and the fear-factor off the scale (knowing how much the modern USN savors shows of force and presence over real combat).

Just enough Trident submarines to maintain an adequate deterrent posture against rogue nations — six would do. Keep the four Trident conversions.

We don’t concur with this proposal, as you may recall. Considering that the Trident force is the most survivable of all our nuclear arsenal, the advantages of sending the entire deterrent to sea, as the Royal Navy does currently, should be obvious. The  vulnerability of the ancient Minuteman force was well-told decades ago, so it is high time we bow to reason on this issue.

Amphibious readiness groups, but with state-of-art ship designs and the concept expanded to embrace support of special operations forces (SOFs).

I will assume Ricks mentioning of special forces would be a nod to our call and others of  forward deploying smaller and more numerous amphibious craft as opposed to ever shrinking numbers of large amphibious ships. “State of the art” might also include new high speed vessels which as as long ago as the East Timor Crisis ferried Australian troops into a war-zone.

Expanded logistics support of land war from more fast sealift and prepositioned ships, also expanded to embrace direct support of SOFs.

In the 2010 budget, gates has called for an increase in high speed vessels, leasing some, building some. This is something we highly support.

Full commitment to mobile sea bases as a primary contribution to supporting land combat.

We have failed to discuss the issue of sea bases here at New Wars, but let me add that we support this idea, though the use of current classes of large amphibious ships is the wrong approach. Commercial type freighters and tankers or fast sealift ships would be a much better bargain and provide greater logistical facilities than a billion-dollar warship for this role. Keep it simple should be the motto, recalling it is not about the platform but the mission.

From the Vietnam Era we get an idea of what a real littoral sea base might be composed of:

The force would be based aboard U.S. Navy ships that would include 5 self-propelled barracks ships, 2 LST’s, 2 large harbor tugs, and 2 landing craft repair ships. In addition, two U.S. Navy river assault groups would provide tactical water mobility. Each assault group would be capable of lifting the combat elements of one reinforced infantry battalion. A small salvage craft would be necessary to recover damaged ships or craft.

24 Comments leave one →
  1. Heretic permalink
    May 1, 2009 11:02 pm

    Maybe … but if that’s the “point/purpose” of the ship, you might be able to make them small enough to produce them in rather fearsome quantities … which would then make them quite (shock and) awesome when massing fires against a beach (to 100kms inland?) from (well) over the horizon.

    Self-propelled artillery … navy style.

  2. Mike Burleson permalink
    May 1, 2009 9:32 pm

    That’s one high tech monitor!

  3. Heretic permalink
    May 1, 2009 8:37 pm

    It would be sooooo nice if it were possible to mount the Advanced (rail)Gun System onto a small(ish) purpose built NGFS platform that is essentially just a turret (or two) and that’s all there is to ship. A singular purpose-built NGFS gunship with deep magazine(s) capacity. A “pocket” gunboat if you will.

    All electric drive propulsion systems.
    All electric (rail)gun system(s).
    All electric 100 kW laser LOS point defense system(s).
    UAV forward observer(s) for damage assessment and ranging/accuracy/communications node.

    Its one purpose to exist is ship-to-shore gunnery bombardment.

    Makes me wonder if you’d want to have some sort of catamaran double-hulled ship for that sort of thing.

  4. B.Smitty permalink
    May 1, 2009 3:09 pm

    Distiller,

    The Marines need to be able to perform assault landings, certainly, but I think they are doing a good job striking a balance between core capabilities. Just MHO.

    I bet you’d have weight and stability issues if you packed two or three 64 cell VLSs in the back of a Burke. Just my guess though.

  5. Distiller permalink
    May 1, 2009 1:41 pm

    I don’t deny that they have some other missions besides assault landings, but that is/should be their core capability and everything else is just glazing on the cake that other branches can also do. If the likelyhood of performing an opposed landing is extremely low the Marines are sitting in the wrong ships. Then they can reduce their capability to Algols.

    Re NFS Burke: The reason against a San Antonio as NFS platform is vulnerability, low speed, &c. On a NFS Burke the AGS could replace the forward VLS hive and the 5″ gun. The 64 cell hive aft could get one or two more siblings instead of the flight deck. ScanEagles/Killer Bees could still be launched there. Studies like that were done for the Kidds and looked really good.

  6. B.Smitty permalink
    May 1, 2009 9:09 am

    Distiller,

    I disagree. That the MEU has a wide range of capabilities is one of its major strengths. The likelihood of us needing an MEU (or MEB/MEF) to perform an opposed landing is extremely low. On the other hand, the likelihood of needing a MAGTF to perform one of its other broad-spectrum missions is very high.

    A Burke with an AGS won’t have room for a “massive VLS”. In fact, the studies done on the topic concluded you’d have to lose the forward VLS AND the 5″ gun to make room for an AGS (leaving only the 64 cell VLS aft).

    If you want an arsenal ship (with or without AGS), you should look to a larger hull like the LPD-17. Size is not as much a determining factor in cost of a warship as weapon systems installed.

  7. Mike Burleson permalink
    April 30, 2009 7:32 pm

    M80s can cross oceans, though probably not ideal. We did these sort of operations in the world war, and I imagine can do so again. I would also think that the HSVs were no more flimsy deathraps than the Liberty Ships and LSTs of that era, they would need escorts, ie corvette missile ships. From every book I have read of the invasions of the Pacific and European theaters, the amphibs of that day were no worse at sea than the M80s. Their flat bottom hulls didn’t make much of a smooth ride in any kind of seaway.

    If we discount all options, judging them by current gold-plated and overly large, probably overly defensive-minded warships, we will never build our new navy.

  8. B.Smitty permalink
    April 30, 2009 5:07 pm

    Mike,

    You also need to solve the problem of getting large numbers of these small craft to the theater and supporting them once there. M80s certainly aren’t going to make transoceanic voyages and will require a huge support ship to carry them.

    I think, ideally you need something a lot larger. HSVs can go the distance, but are flimsy, unarmed deathtraps in a combat zone.

    Maybe T-craft, but it appears to be a risky technology project that may take as long as the EFV to reach service.

    Frankly, once you go down the options, EFVs don’t sound all that bad, IMHO. Sure they are going to be expensive, but at least they can get to shore and on to their objective from OTH on their own (and fight there way there).

  9. Mike Burleson permalink
    April 30, 2009 3:01 pm

    “They are not even planning for an opposed assault landing, if you ask me.”

    Distiller, considering “the purpose of the Navy is not to fight”, this is no surprise. It is the greatest constabulary force is all history, and its building strategy reflects this peacetime procurement strategy.

    “reducing the headcount of the assault troops on each LHD to around 750”

    Believe you are own the right track but I would think smaller. I am considering that for something to be affordable and survivable in a littoral environment, it would have to be small and numerous, something like the LCI of the war era, which could fit about 200 troops, but I perhaps 100 would not be too small, as long as you have numerous craft. With the USN and Marines now planning to keep as far away from the shallow seas as possible, you would need something small enough to be naturally low-observable. This would be the Strykers at sea, and you would need lots of them, assuring there would be enough around to handle a mass missile and airstrike in such a close and dangerous environment.

  10. Distiller permalink
    April 30, 2009 12:49 pm

    One of the problems I see with the MEU setup is its lack of focus on assault, like a shock troop sacrifying stamina for peak power. There is way too much support stuff in there and not enough firepower. They are not even planning for an opposed assault landing, if you ask me.

    Smaller ships don’t work, since you realistically need 8 helicopter spots for the 3D element. Faster the ships could always be, a spurt capability of, say, 35kts towards the enemy coast would give a lot of operational flexibility. SWATH-cats would be an option, but the Wasp/Makins will last long.

    Nevertheless some changes should be considered while using existing materiel:
    LHDs strictly as assault platforms only, reducing the headcount of the assault troops on each LHD to around 750 (that’s what you might get across with amphib cav tanks and air cav helicopters in one wave). Of course this also means three LHDs where one is used now, or better five or six to give the assault more mass. That would create a massive wave of almost 300 amphib assault tanks and over 200 helicopter – good luck when trying to stop that!
    Then find a way to get amphib assault vehicles out of the well deck when doing 20kts to minimize the time the LHD spends close to coat, and to avoid becoming a stationary target.
    These vehicles should be cavalry tanks only (with the go-fast technology of the EFV).
    Helicoptering infantry over the beach like they do it now is next to useless for an assault where maneuver warfare is essential. Air cavalry with MH-60 is the way to go.
    Getting all the CS/CSS elemets and supplies for three days to a week of combat onto the LPDs. One LPD for one LHD, and one fire support/light escort ship for one LHD.
    The assault has to crush the enemy head-on, supported by ship artillery (tube, rocket) and aerial assets (strikefighter and armed UAVs from the carriers), and then try to expand the landing area as fast as possible (capture a harbor, an airport – or build some) to finally secure it and prepare for the ingress of other troops (Army and Air Force via sealift and airlift).

    The Marines have an essential mission, but they should be kept from expanding from an assault force into a full spectrum conquering force. What they do now with their amphibs has more to do with strategic sealift than assault. And actually they would need around twice as many LHDs than they have now, would they really focus on assault.

    LCACs are a logistic instrument, not a fighting vehicle (even when putting 30mm RWS and Spikes onto them), they belong into the second stage of “expand and secure”, where all the CS/CSS elements are brought ashore.

    Escorts are never enough. A moded Burke with the AGS on the foredeck and a massive VLS hive aft would be a fast solution. And could also serve as light AAW escort. The ASW and mine clearing part would go to LCS.

  11. Mike Burleson permalink
    April 30, 2009 11:47 am

    Heretic, I would assume we would still be building nuclear submarines, but even if we kept some atomic experts still around on pay, even not building anything, might it not be cheaper than billions annually for upkeep of 11 carriers, then the $100 billion which the Ford class will cost us, not counting their billion dollar escorts?

    And just because a capability is wonderful, doesn’t mean we can’t do without it. You have to count the cost whether that capability you have is off-set by something else, in the carrier’s case by lower ship numbers. For a nuke carrier you must have a billion dollar aircraft program, then billion dollar escorts, then millions each for upkeep annually. Its a death cycle for a navy on a budget.

    Conventional ships seem to have worked out quite well for us in the past, and still do with medium sized navies unable to afford nuclear power. Just because something isn’t state of the art doesn’t mean it isn’t useful. This is the trap I say we have fallen into with the all-battleship, high-tech navy, and now say we can’t turn back. So we are wedded to the smaller and mostly useless fleet in case of a shooting war at sea.

  12. B.Smitty permalink
    April 30, 2009 11:25 am

    Heretic,

    Can’t you stuff a company in the gators, a company in the LCACs and a company in the helos, for a near simultaneous battalion lift? Certainly, with all their gear, they may need more than one trip.

    Distiller,

    Do you really need more escorts if you were to build a two-cat CV(X)/LPH to replace LHAs/LHDs in the ESG? Couldn’t they just use the ESG’s escorts?

  13. Heretic permalink
    April 30, 2009 8:40 am

    Distiller,

    That’s pretty much my “problem” with the MEU (LHA, LPD, LHD) organization as it stands. Right now, you can pretty much stuff only a company-worth of troops into the gators/LCACs/helicopters to go ashore at the same time. That means you have to make multiple trips from ship to shore in order to get all your marines’ feet wet (to dry). Meanwhile … one, maybe two, anti-ship missiles/torpedoes can foul up an entire MEU’s logistical backing/ride, bringing an entire operation to a very sudden screeching halt … turning a forced entry, into a forced rescue operation.

    That’s in part why I’ve been looking at company-sized MAGTF concepts for the marines, and wondering “what it would take” in order to get there … and then what kind of ship(s) result from that effort in reorganization of the marines and their required logistics. That’s why I look at a Marine Expeditionary Company sized amphibious ship, as opposed to looking at a battalion sized ship, and think … “that’s the way to go” …

  14. Distiller permalink
    April 30, 2009 12:28 am

    The Navy has hardly any (if at all) “free” blue-water surface combatants available, once you set up proper escorts for the carriers, then some escort for the amphibs, and finally some light escort for things like replenishers or MPF. And then there are still no ships for fire support.

    In a future fleet the hull numbers could be lowered (but not overall fleet displacement!) by going for a new class of nuclear powered escort cruisers instead of todays Ticos and Burkes, retire Ticos, mod some Burkes for NFS, and give the secondary escort job to whatever results from LCS.

    Not building carries for a longer time is not an option. Nine/eight is the minimum for current grand strategy, which means one every five years. Smaller carriers would work beautifully – even though the Nimitz/Ford size is the smallest that can be built as a four-cat with aircraft the footprint of a SHornet – but a two-cat carrier (especially if doubling as amphib 3D assult platform) is a perfect alternative — until you figure in the increased overall number of required escorts. The medium carrier is a beautiful solution from a military standpoint, but even less financeable on a fleet level than what we have now.

    The Marines of course are a source for huge savings. Their cancerous mission definition is a bad joke. I hope Gates will cut them back next year to their core mission: Amphibious (Opposed) Forced Entry, which consists of (i) assault = establishing beachhead area, (ii) expand and secure that beachhead area, and (iii) create an unopposed point/area of entry for the Army and the Air Force. And that’s it. Egress, regenerate, regroup, prepare for next show. No dicking around with land-army style conquering. And also Congress should revisit the three-divisions law.

    The concept of the LHD is basically sound, the execution is discussable, but putting 3000 heads on a ship that will go into the thick of AShM, subs, mines, &c is simply lunacy. Intensified by the fact that it takes wayway too long to unload the forces – all from a static ship! Against a more talented enemy a receipe for disaster. There should not be more forces on the ship than can be offloaded in one highly compressed orgasmic assault wave. I mean, what makes an amphib assault work is basically the flexibility to strike any time and in almost any location, PLUS a local and temporary dominance. But if it takes half a day or more to unload, even the stupidest enemy has time to assemble its forces and contain the landing area.

    Another question to look into is how viable and realistic a reserve is today, and if it’s worth spending money at all. After, say, ten years in reserve, technology is outdated, crews are not available any more, the electronic side might have become unsupportable, &c.

  15. Heretic permalink
    April 29, 2009 9:39 pm

    Hate to be the one to tell you this Mike … but nuclear power for carrier operations does all kinds of WONDERFUL things to a carrier’s design. There’s hundreds of little itty bitty issues that nuclear power, in a carrier, takes care of. Things as simple (yet persistently annoying to the crew!) as mere pollution … something you’d never really “think about” until you have to live with it. An oil burning vessel does in fact pollute its decks with hydrocarbons that haven’t been completely burned off. This causes (over time) a thin film of oil to accumulate on ALL surfaces around the carrier … especially topside. This is a problem because you have to CONSTANTLY work to keep this oil sheen from becoming a problem on a carrier deck where the coefficient of friction is a VERY important thing to maintain on the flight deck (lest some very valuable toys slide off into the sea, or each other, at inopportune moments).

    Nuclear power allows for the generation of FRESH distilled water on board ship for all kinds of purposes. This is, not surprisingly, a rather important strategic resource at sea.

    Nuclear power allows all kinds of shipboard space(s) which would otherwise have to be devoted to ship propulsion fuel to be dedicated to aviation fuel, crew quarters, workshops … and on and on and on and on.

    It’s the difference between using a multi-stage rocket and using a Verne Cannon to try and reach escape velocity and get to orbit (and beyond). Both will get you there … but the rocket ride is going to be a LOT more comfortable for the humans.

    And that’s even before we get into an argument over the geopolitical vulnerability of relying on oil too much. There was a wake up call of $150/barrel not that long ago that risked turning the US military services into beggars. Don’t be in such a hurry to repeat the experiment …

    As far as freezing and restarting a production line for ships goes … we’re going to see first hand just how well that works out with restarting DDG-51 production. My guess is it’s not going to be smooth sailing from the get-go.

    The problem with freezing carrier production is that the facilities used to produce CVNs are not exactly cheap to rent … nor are they quick/easy to build. Unless congress is willing to pay (every year!) to keep Newport News’ carrier building facility mothballed for a decade (and how much would THAT cost? for NOTHING gained!) it would be entirely within the company’s interest to completely dismantle that facility so as to use it to build something else that pays the bills. And consider that I’m not even talking about workforce here yet … just infrastructure … the infrastructure that allows you to build 100,000 ton CVNs.

    How much would it cost to rebuild Newport News’ carrier drydock(s) … from scratch?
    Now add on the “price” of rebuilding the skills/manpower of your workforce to do the work … from scratch.

    Oh it can be done … but at today’s prices the lead ship would probably cost nothing less that $20 billion (in 2009 dollars!). At that sort of price, it would have been “cheaper” to keep the shipyard open and building CVNs at $9 billion every five years instead for that decade.

  16. B.Smitty permalink
    April 29, 2009 3:57 pm

    Those strikes have everything to do with Rick’s Mission Two: support land warfare. And they were definitely not overkill for the opening stages of OEF and OIF.

    Ricks is saying only keep a hedge force for Mission One and focus on Mission Two. Carriers are valuable in both. They are only overkill for the low-end policing/COIN tasks. Even then, a smaller, conventional carrier (say $3-4 billion for construction, like the British CVF), flying E-2s and Predator Cs would be extremely valuable (and perhaps not overkill).

  17. Mike Burleson permalink
    April 29, 2009 3:26 pm

    Not obsolete, but in overkill. Still, the strikes you mentioned have nothing to do with sea control, or even against a major military power, which will be the major test of the carriers’ validity, but that again is speculation.

  18. B.Smitty permalink
    April 29, 2009 1:31 pm

    Mike, that analogy would be appropriate if carriers were obsolete. They are not. Not even close. (75% of the strikes sorties flown were by carrier air during OEF in 2001 . http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB9137/index1.html )

    We certainly can choose to stop or pause construction, we just have to be aware of the consequences. It will cost a LOT more, take longer and have higher risks to restart production.

  19. Mike Burleson permalink
    April 29, 2009 11:59 am

    ““Freezing” carrier construction for a decade would eliminate the industrial base”

    I hear this a lot and disagree that we have “no choice” but continue building such increasingly unafordable vessels. I think it is a myth just to keep the Big Ship Navy. Will every large shipbuilder shut down if we don’t build carriers? Britain hasn’t built a large-deck carrier since World War 2 and they are full speed ahead on the Queen Elizabeth’s, but they too are now running into the cost problem. Just keep the blueprints for Pete’s sake! I also recall that the USN didn’t lay down a new gun battleship for over a decade after the Colorado class, then seemed to do quite well with its 16 inchers, the North Carolina to Iowa’s.

    Everytime I hear this I am thinking of the medieval knight, which was obsolete by the 15th century with the kings saying “we must keep making armor or we will destroy the iron industry”. You can’t keep a dated or obsolete or unneeded weapon in production just for the sake of industry. Times change and they will survive and move on to some other lucrative arms trade.

  20. B.Smitty permalink
    April 29, 2009 10:59 am

    Restructuring the MAGTF downwards to company size isn’t the only option.

    We could buy less expensive amphibious ships, not necessarily smaller ones. Look at the French Mistral class as an example. It’s as large as an LPD-17, but costs significantly less (due to its austere combat systems and largely commercial construction).

    Survivability of such ships is an obvious compromise.

    Another option is to increase the build rate of existing amphibious ships. Economies of scale would reduce prices.

    Mike,

    “Freezing” carrier construction for a decade would eliminate the industrial base. It would be extremely expensive to reconstitute it. This would likely put us out of the carrier business once the last of the Nimitz/Fords are retired. Since naval airpower is one of the primary ways the USN supports land warfare, this would not be in line with Rick’s Mission 2. Most sorties today are CAS and ISR, neither of which are in the Arsenal ship’s CONOPs.

    I believe, instead, we should revisit a conventional carrier design. Large nuke carriers have many advantages, but numbers and a stable industrial base (as a consequence of building more, somewhat smaller, conventional ships) may outweigh the CVN’s advantages.

    I would still want a CATOBAR carrier. Tiny STOVL designs need not apply. STOVL ships can’t carry the force multipliers (e.g.E-2D, EA-18G), and have exactly one, risky fighter option for the future (F-35B). CATOBAR ships can carry every aircraft in Navair’s current and planned inventory, including, potentially, the Predator C. I could see anything from the French PA2 to a modern incarnation of the Forrestal/Kitty Hawk.

    One option I threw out on another thread is potentially replacing the LHA/LHD in the ESG with a CV(X), and adding another LPD-17 or other large amphib to make up the shortfall in surface connectors, cargo stowage, berthing and so on.

    This is obviously more expensive than the existing ESG structure, but it might allow us to slow the build rate of more expensive CVNs while actually increasing “real” carrier numbers higher than today.

  21. Mike Burleson permalink
    April 29, 2009 9:42 am

    “At current prices, you can almost buy a DDG-51 for the price of a LPD-17 class ship”

    There you go! Too many battleships in service, too few actual “fighting ships”, as most wars at sea have proved the hardest working vessels are these small landing craft and escorts.

    “the only option you’ve really got is to extend the USMC’s MAGTF concept downwards … from the battalion level ”

    Sure, why not? Isn’t this what is happening in Iraq and elsewhere? With the single insurgent himself as a weapon of mass destruction on the ground, shouldn’t we take advantage of how technology is empowering the individual soldier, thanks to GPS, advanced communications and individually more powerful man-portable weaponry? I think we need to take advantage of this revolution and start spreading more numerous and smaller ships, with Marines assets around, rather than always being stretched thin and constantly worrying about this or that threat.

    The Cold War is over and we need to get our Legions off their “bigger battalions” and out of these giant floating LPD “green zones”, make the battalions lighter and more lethal, and I think more survivable.

  22. Heretic permalink
    April 29, 2009 8:29 am

    If you’re going to deploy “smaller and more numerous” amphibious ships, that will … in and of itself … force a rethink of the MAGTF (marine air-ground task force) MEU (marine expeditionary unit) and how it gets organized/aggregated at sea. Right now, everything is structured so as to be able to put an entire battalion (the MEU) on a few specialized ships (LHA, LPD, LHD). The whole concept (currently) revolves around keeping the MEU aboard as few (and as exquisite) ships as possible. At current prices, you can almost buy a DDG-51 for the price of a LPD-17 class ship … and buy 1.5-2 DDG-51s for the price of an LHA-6 class ship.

    So if you’re going to go “smaller and more numerous” … the only option you’ve really go is to extend the USMC’s MAGTF concept downwards … from the battalion level (where it currently “stops”) down to the company level (where it currently doesn’t reach). Do that and you’ll wind up with something very much like what I outlined here starting at the 3rd comment. It seems to me that a MAGTF company that travels with all of its elements on board a single ship (what I term a MEC-amphib, for lack of a better term) is the most unit cohesive way to reach the goal of “smaller and more numerous” amphibious ships without sacrificing marine capabilities in projecting power from the sea onto land.

    AND … by building a single class of ship to do flattop and well deck work, without “overloading” either capacity through sheer weight of numbers (company-sized, rather than battalion-sized aviation and lighterage capacity) you actually wind up with far larger economies of scale in ship building (once you get the basic design “frozen”) while at the same time distributing your marine/navy assets more widely … making it harder for a single anti-ship cruise missile to “take everything away from you” in a single hit.

  23. Mike Burleson permalink
    April 29, 2009 8:27 am

    Actually Distiller, i see the small ships as forward deployed, taking back the littorals where in the next war we will have to contend with modern precision weapons in order to hold. The Big Ships will be of little use maintaining control of such an environment, and we may soon feel we can do without them altogether.

  24. Distiller permalink
    April 29, 2009 7:24 am

    No news here. Imperialism vs isolationism.

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