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Unleash the TLAM Warships-Finale

August 20, 2009
HMS Vengeance-A predreadnought from the Fisher era.

HMS Vengeance-A predreadnought from the Fisher era.

The type of naval strategy we have been discussing this week might be likened to an anti-Fisher strategy. Admiral of the Fleet John Arbuthnot “Jackie” Fisher was Britain’s First Sea Lord (1904-1910 and 1914-1915) one hundred years hence and responsible for the creation of the battleship Dreadnought and the less successful battlecruiser. Baron Fisher also played his part in the decline of the British Empire by recalling a vast chunk of the Royal Navy to Home Waters and discarding around 150 old cruisers and gunboats that formerly helped secure that Empire.  This was all Fisher could do under the circumstances with a German Juggernaut rising practically off England’s shores, but with no such threat facing the West today we could and should apply the same strategy in reverse.

We propose to scatter the battlefleet, currently guarding the powerful aircraft carrier strikes groups, which are always kept at peak readiness as if World War 3 is about to start. Instead, smaller Influence Squadrons, as recently detailed by Commander Henry J. Hendrix USN, would operate world-wide and forward deployed. Initially these will be led by our current fleet of powerful Ticonderoga class and Burke class TLAM ships.

Herein is another lesson we get from Fisher.  The Admiral then used his best ships including the predreadnought battleships as the foundation of his own Home Fleet until newer more advanced vessels like the dreadnoughts were built. Ships we already possess would be used at first to implement the new strategy, until more spartan and numerous vessels like littoral ships and corvettes can make themselves felt. Without the need to escort giant task forces or combat peer adversaries, the TLAM ships will be supplemented by plentiful new coastal warships better able to deal with shallow water threats. Such craft would be the true heirs of the gunboats Fisher discarded so casually as he prepared to combat the first peer enemy Britain had faced in 100 years.

The carriers then would be taken off their hair-trigger alert status and kept at home for training purposes, called out only for crisis. The high operating tempos which place so great strain on our ships and sailors would finally be a thing of the past. They could also be reduced in number, with their many thousands of crew spread amongst the fleet, dramatically easing manpower problems.

Guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens (CG 63) and the guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) are underway in formation.

Guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens (CG 63) and the guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) are underway in formation.

The Navy we have today is geared to fight another conflict, one where naval airpower is all supreme and more useful and versatile small ships have little place. This narrow-minded thinking fails to take into account the increasing abilities of modern weapons, from the Tomahawk cruise missiles, to UAVs, which duplicate many functions the Navy claims only traditional aircraft and their 100,000 ton motherships can perform. While the flattops and their costly jets are still important in modern war at sea, they are not the last word in seapower, as our TLAM warships continue to prove with their flexibility, economy, and firepower.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Distiller permalink
    August 21, 2009 1:25 am

    If the SHTF on a larger scale the DDGs will be all tied up protecting the carriers. There are not even enough surface units to protect the reenforcements coming into theatre, or the more sealanes against a sub threat. And what the amphib groups don’t have from the very beginning they won’t get afterwards. Not needed my ass! NOT HAVING anything is more like it! And that also means no organic naval gunfire support, btw.

  2. Chuck Hill permalink
    August 21, 2009 12:50 am

    Right now our ARGs have no organic escorts. They have stopped routinely forming Expeditionary Strike Groups, so apparently they believe there is currently little threat and they will add escorts when necessary so presume same would apply to Influence Squadrons.

    Of course the escorts might be otherwise engaged.

  3. Mike Burleson permalink*
    August 20, 2009 5:58 pm

    Undergrad, with the Influence Squadron geared toward shallow seas operations, there should be little problem as far as land based air support. Otherwise, I have complete confidence in the increasing abilities of UAVs launched from such small platforms. Backed by air defense missiles on surface ships, the Marines should be well taken care of.

    But be mindful that the IS isn’t for high risk areas. For now at least there will be a need for Blue Water forces to “break down the door”, and ensure Marine forces are well established. The high end battle force ships make possible the Squadron mission, by defeating or containing the enemy fleet, but then they need to step back and let these specialized vessels do their job.

  4. UndergradProgressive permalink
    August 20, 2009 5:00 pm

    My only concern with the influence squadrons (IS) as the idea stands is the lack of air cover for the Marines. With an America-class at the center of the IS, there’d be JSFs, but with an LPD, unless you’ve stuck an AH-1 or two aboard, you’re limited in the amount of air support.

    The Proceedings article is an excellent one, for sure. The IS concept seems infinitely more efficient than what we’ve got today, and with UAVs, perhaps CAS concerns could be allayed.


  1. Dismantling the Fleet that Jackie Built Pt 1 « New Wars

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