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Unleash the TLAM Warships Pt 3

August 19, 2009

In no case can we exercise control by battleships alone. Their specialization has rendered them unfit for the work, and has made them too costly ever to be numerous enough. Even, therefore, if our enemy had no battle-fleet we could not make control effective with battleships alone. We should still require cruisers specialized for the work and in sufficient numbers to cover the necessary ground. But the converse is not true. We could exercise control with cruisers alone if the enemy had no battle-fleet to interfere with them.

Some Principles of Maritime Strategy, by Julian Stafford Corbett

Battle Group Alpha (Carrier Midway, Battleship Iowa) underway in 1987.

Battle Group Alpha (Carrier Midway, Battleship Iowa) underway in 1987.

America’s fleet of large deck aircraft carriers, along with the ballistic missile submarines, are the most powerful naval weapons ever devised. A single vessel of the Nimitz class possesses more firepower than many nation’s entire air forces, and there are 10 such nautical marvels in service. Though many countries deploy aircraft carriers or plan such useful craft in the near future, none match in capabilities or numbers the USN’s sea-going flattop armada.

We think with such unparalleled command of the Blue Water ocean, the Navy could safely disperse its equally powerful and unmatched fleet of Tomahawk missile equipped-Aegis warships. Without any cost or expansion, our naval presence could immediately be enhanced worldwide by taking advantage of the accuracy and flexibility of this 10,000 missile arsenal. In all recent conflicts of late, these TLAM warships have been at the forefront. When some rogue dictator like those in North Korea threatens the peace with long-range missiles, it isn’t the carriers who are called on but out fleet of BMD “shooters”, our cruisers and destroyers.

As Corbett has stated concerning the battleship, today in the form of the aircraft carrier, they can’t be everywhere at once or available for every crisis. Their great expense and inevitable small numbers prohibit such a wasteful strategy. In absence of enemy carriers, the fleet screen of cruisers, destroyers, and attack submarines can act as battleships in their place due to their large numbers and the enhanced reach of the Tomahawk.  An example of this played out when the destroyer USS McFaul sailed into a Georgian port with relief supplies and as a show of support after its recent invasion by Russia. Such an action is reminiscent of the battleship USS Missouri cruising into a Turkish port to deter Russian aggression at the dawn of the Cold War.

Pioneer RPV on USS Wisconsin (BB-64).

Pioneer RPV on USS Wisconsin (BB-64).

As noted in our first post, the range, precision, and power of naval aircraft on large decks superseded the short gun-range and slow speeds of the surface battleship in World War 2. Today the cruise missile has restored much of the surface warship’s edge, with range and firepower duplicating the carrier mission, while in a more compact and affordable package. Where the Big Deck still reigns supreme is in persistence, the ability to conduct numerous strikes indefinitely, but a new weapon may be a rival for this traditional role. During the first Gulf War the Iowa class battleships deployed unmanned aerial vehicles to spot shot from their humongous 16 inch cannon and also for surveillance purposes. A future requirement for all TLAM ships should be the deployment of drones onboard. With proven attack and loitering abilities in our land wars, the UAVs will restore the preeminent and independent position of the surface ship lost during the last world war.

Concluded tomorrow with lessons from Lord Fisher.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike Burleson permalink*
    August 19, 2009 8:38 pm

    Hudson-You could also do a lot of damage with NetFires!.

    Chuck-Auxiliary warships!

    Undergrad-Yeah some type of gun can go a long way in confined waters and save the cost of missiles where neccesary. 57mm gun on a 3000 ton hull? Not so much!

  2. Hudson permalink
    August 19, 2009 6:07 pm

    U.G., I didn’t know that the Stark had an aluminum hull. Still, thanks in large part to the courage and tenacity of its crew, it survived two Exocet strikes. The idea isn’t to make these ships bullet proof or necessarily burn proof. They have speed and are are relatively cheap. I think the M Stiletto has a composite hull.

    Go to YouTube and watch land demonstrations of the 57mm Bofors firing at targets to see what it can do with tungsten pellets and patterned fire. Fire-at-sea demos only show the gun shooting into the distance.

  3. UndergradProgressive permalink
    August 19, 2009 4:29 pm

    Mike, do you think it’s still a good idea to mount a medium caliber (57mm, maybe 76mm) aboard naval craft? It does seem that such a weapon might be useful against small craft at moderate ranges, and supplanted by 25mm and 30mm cannons (and sundry MGs) for short range, no?

    @Hudson: Interesting idea for Sea Fighter. The SF itself, though, has one problem – aluminum construction, just like the USS Stark.

  4. Chuck Hill permalink
    August 19, 2009 3:05 pm

    Sorry, I was trying to say it would not require building more ships.

  5. Chuck Hill permalink
    August 19, 2009 2:55 pm

    A cutter also went into a Georgia port, but neither went into a disputed area.

    We could put a VLS system on virtually any surface ship including amphibs, cutters, and UNREP ships. This could give us the advantage of a shell game for the TLAMs. (Which ships do you target?) At the same time for relatively little cost could give them an ESSM capability, maybe ASuW too.

    That does require building additional ships, but it does give us more shooters.

  6. Hudson permalink
    August 19, 2009 2:50 pm

    The Sea Fighter, pictured above, could be used as a potent low cost VLS ship, by removing one of the helo spaces and using it for a mix of long and short range missiles, including the Evolved Sea Sparrow, which can hit surface ships–you can watch demonstrations of this on YouTube.

    The other helo spot would host an attack helicopter like the Sea Cobra to protect the ship and extend its range. The SF doesn’t seem particularly well suited as a gun platform. Same for the smaller M Stiletto: some vessels with helo, some with missiles. A fleet of these could protect the carrier battle group, attack shore targets, and generally raise hell.

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