Did Congress Get My Memo?
Before you go any further, please recall something yours truly proposed recently concerning future Navy plans for BMD ships to defend Europe and elsewhere. Writing here in Arsenal Ships for Ballistic Missile Defense, we suggested:
As an alternative to our over-worked missile battleships in the role of ABM defense, we would suggest reviving the 1990s proposal for an Arsenal Ship. You may recall this revolutionary hull design as an attempt to replace the Iowa class dreadnoughts with a low cost “missile barge”, until canceled in favor of a more traditional and more costly Zumwalt class destroyer. The arsenal ship was a great idea which never saw the light of day, but also refused to die out completely.
The modern concept would be to use a low-cost ship hull, preferably of mercantile specifications (T-AKE?) equipped with vertical launchers (VLS) for missiles. Keeping the hull cost low would mean the SM-3 missiles would be worth more than the ship, as it should be. Other benefits would be extremely low manning, which could allow for crew swapping, keeping the ship on station for as long as possible.
Apparently, Congress has pushed the Navy into thinking along these lines, sort of. According to Inside Defense, the experts would see the Aegis radar itself on a low cost platform, which sounds very similiar to the Aegis mothership we also proposed. CDR Salamander (who hates the idea) provides the text:
The fiscal year 2010 defense authorization bill allocates $15 million for the Navy to look into a “mobile maritime sensor” that would essentially be a dedicated radar ship for use in sea-based ballistic missile defense, according to Senate Armed Services Committee staff.
An Oct. 7 committee press release following the passage of the conference report on the bill announces that the funding would be added “for a mobile maritime sensor development program to provide options for the Navy in meeting its sea-based missile defense requirements.”
Dave Baker, a naval author and analyst, said a dedicated radar ship “is not a bad idea.” The option would be “infinitely cheaper” than doing it on a CG(X), and the service could use cruiser hulls or even merchant designs instead of developing a whole new platform.
“There’s no sense in going out and building something specialized for that role,” he told ITN Oct. 21. “A bulk cargo ship could do it.”
I think Mr Salamander was particularly incensed over the quote from the above mentioned naval analyst “”They’re not going to be shooting at other ships at sea“. Not good, reminding us of an equally bizarre statement from the commander of the Seventh Fleet a while back ““The purpose of the Navy is not to fight.”
That said, I would hope we don’t throw the baby out with the bath water, simply because for the service to be considering out of the box ideas such as auxiliary warships is such a breath of fresh air. With every current navy building project suffering some form of setback, we think the time for off the shelf warships is past due, continuing with our philosophy that “smart weapons don’t need smart platforms“. Lets just get these capabilities to sea.
When we see China deploying nearly 40 submarines to their fleet in the past decade, where we build less than a handful, the idea of decades long procurement cycles which produce fewer and fewer vessels is ludicrous. Our obsession with the perfect over the good enough, has led the West on a death spiral, as we also see with the British Navy breaking its bank and gutting essential fleet assets, still unable to adequately build 2 medium size aircraft carriers. Yet they are getting them anyway. Sheesh.