Building a Bigger, Better Navy Pt 2
It was numbers and mobility that determined flotilla types rather than armament or capacity for sea-endurance. Their primary purpose was to control communications in home and colonial waters against weakly armed privateers. The type which these duties determined fitted them adequately for the secondary purpose of inshore and dispatch work with a fleet. It was, moreover, on the ubiquity which their numbers gave them, and on their power of dealing with unarmed or lightly armed vessels, that we relied for our first line of defence against invasion. These latter duties were of course exceptional, and the Navy List did not carry as a rule sufficient numbers for the purpose. But a special value of the class was that it was capable of rapid and almost indefinite expansion from the mercantile marine. Anything that could carry a gun had its use, and during the period of the Napoleonic threat the defence flotilla rose all told to considerably over a thousand units.
Some Principles of Maritime Strategy, by Julian Stafford Corbett
Behold the Behemoth!
There has been numerous articles written on how the Navy is far more powerful than in decades past, a giant floating missile magazine no doubt. Yet, we concentrate firepower in a handful of large packages, expecting them to do many functions traditionally required of numerous smaller vessels. You can have all the firepower at sea you want, but if it can’t be where it is needed on time, it is of very little use. Here is something we wrote back in 2005 concerning A Navy Second to None:
The numbers of warships in commission do not give an accurate portrait of the fighting power of the modern US Fleet. Since the 1980’s the navy has equipped its cruisers, destroyers and submarines with Harpoon and Tomahawk cruise missiles until it has become one vast missile magazine. Its decks of giant super carriers are filled with warplanes each capable of loading new smart bombs giving them vastly greater bombing capability.
A marvelous capability to fight against a like enemy, but such have been few and far between since the Cold War, or the world wars for that matter. The larger fleet since the demise of the Red Navy has been an object lesson in overkill, while we fail to manage the threats from piracy, and arms smuggling to radical regimes. Our answer has been to discount the threats altogether, or delude ourselves into thinking allies or airpower can take up the slack. But there is a better, more sensible, more economical way.
Taming the Leviathan
America doesn’t need Arleigh Burke superdestroyers chasing pirates, or $2 billion LPD-17s to evacuate an embassy or invade the Island of Grenada. For this she requires an economical low end fleet, with vessels built off the shelf. Call this a Navy version of the “Sys Admin” force, recalling military strategist Thomas Barnett’s terminology:
The U.S. military’s warfighting capacity and the high-performance combat troops, weapon systems, aircraft, armor, and ships associated with all-out war against traditionally defined opponents (i.e., other great-power militaries). This is the force America created to defend the West against the Soviet threat, now transformed from its industrial-era roots to its information-age capacity for high-speed, high-lethality, and high-precision major combat operations. The Leviathan force is without peer in the world today, and—as such—frequently finds itself fighting shorter and easier wars. This “overmatch” means, however, that current and future enemies in the long war on violent extremism will largely seek to avoid triggering the Leviathan’s employment, preferring to wage asymmetrical war against the United States, focusing on its economic interests and citizenry. The Leviathan rules the “first half” of war, but it is often ill suited, by design and temperament, to the “second half” of peace, to include postconflict stabilization-and-reconstruction operations and counterinsurgency campaigns. It is thus counterposed to the System Administrators force.
So we see we are over-compensating our Leviathan Navy, the carriers, destroyers, nuclear attack submarines, and high end amphibious ships, while almost totally neglecting the low end flotilla which performs the functions of Barnett’s Systems Administrators, but at sea. We would propose that since the Navy tells us their Big Ships are so much more capable now “1 ship replacing 4“, we could build fewer of them, with that portion 1/3 the size it is today. The dramatic savings from limiting our Leviathan forces to match their enhanced firepower would allow the creation of a secondary fleet, more suitable for gunboat littoral warfare in peacetime, and also effective for convoy escort and defending the shallow seas in wartime, recalling the destroyer escorts and frigates of the war years. These would be affordable in many hundreds, greatly easing the strain on the stretched thin fleet, and its over-worked sailors.
So you would end with :
- Leviathan fleet-(aircraft carriers, missiles cruisers & destroyers, nuclear submarines, amphibious assault ships) 100
- Sys Admin fleet-(motherships, high speed vessels, corvettes, offshore patrol vessels, fast attack craft, conventional submarines, mine warfare ships, ect) 400
Thats 1 ship for every 4. I get that!