Streamlining Battleship Production
Note that each particular warfare command within the modern US Navy has its own battleship type which are some of the most powerful warships ever built, and all which exceed a billion dollars each. For instance:
- Naval Aviation-aircraft carriers $6 billion
- Surface Warfare-aegis cruisers/destroyers $2 billion
- Undersea Warfare-nuclear attack subs $2 billion
- Amphibious Warfare-helicopter carriers/landing ships $1-$2 billion
Now, even the Special Warfare guys are getting into the battleship spirit with the $500-$700 million littoral combat, supposed to chase pirates in speedboats, but may be too costly to risk and too few to do much good without major support from small ship navies.
New Wars continues to advocate single battleship class which would be the high end of a mostly low end navy. This would be the stealthy submarine, which is most survivable in an age of precision warfare and anti-ship ballistic missiles which soon will make large surface warships obsolete anyway. Currently, of all warship programs within the US Navy plans, the new Virginia subs are the ONLY ship class coming in on time, under-budget and without major faults when it is launched. But don’t take my word for it, read this from The Day:
Many people in the Defense Department didn’t think that Virginia-class submarines could be built in only five years, Rear Adm. William H. Hilarides said in a recent interview. But Electric Boat’s recent completion of the pressure-hull construction phase for the Missouri, the seventh Virginia-class submarine, in record time “is a clear indication that we are on track to hit 60 months and maybe even less,” said Hilarides, the Navy’s program executive officer for submarines.
EB announced last week that it had completed the Missouri’s pressure hull, which is the watertight portion of the submarine, in 64 weeks – 19 weeks faster than the USS New Hampshire, which EB delivered to the Navy last year, and 81 weeks faster than the USS Virginia, the first of the class.
The original plan for the Virginia class called for construction of the ships in 10 sections, but the submarines are now built in four. Missouri (SSN 780) is the first to see the full benefit of the manufacturing and construction improvements that are part of the four-module construction process, which is why the pressure hull was completed at a quicker pace, said John Holmander, the vice president who manages the Virginia-class program at EB.
The Virginia’s are scheduled to ramp up to 2 boats built per year, which according to the Navy will reduce its cost to about $2 billion each. The word reduction is something you seldom hear from the Pentagon, unless you are talking fleet size. There may even be room for less costly subs in the force structure, such as even quieter conventional AIP boats, each of which fall well below the $1 billion mark.
If the “purpose of the Navy is not to fight” then you can build anything you want until your money runs out. If the main purpose of a fleet is to fight other navies, then the type of ship for this kind of work in a new era of missile warfare is the stealthy and survivable submarine. No large anti-missile defenses are needed, so it will not need high end escorts to protect it. As for the land attack role the naval aviators are obsessed with, this is a secondary mission to keeping the sealanes open in wartime and maintaing only a handful in commission rather than basing the entire fleet around very costly and vulnerable flattops is more than enough.
Amphibious warfare as we know it is also obsolete, as the same guided weapons going after warships will affect our plans for landing troops on hostile beaches (an extremely rare occurrence anyway since WW 2). Low end warships or new high speed catamarans will probably suffice for missions in shallow seas, especially in the benign threat environments our fleet mostly operates.
This type of out the box thinking isn’t for the current naval leadership, who have no plan for the future other than updating last-century desings to contend with the problems of today. This is for the future generation, which will be forced to deal with multiple threats from numerous enemies in which a smaller, gold plated constabulary navy will no longer suffice. Such a force was good enough to contain the land threats of the 20th century, but with so many rising navies which aren’t adverse to new ideas, a new strategy less hostile to diverse hulls are called for if we are to survive.