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The New Green Water Navy

January 13, 2010


Currently this fleet does not exist, despite the fact this is where the Navy’s interest had been since the demise of the Blue Water Soviet Navy. Amazingly this also is where each successive Maritime Strategy starting in 1992 with From the Sea has pointed to where the service should be with operations in shallow seas, and even the most recent strategy declares her intent to conduct soft power in such waters.

Inexplicably, the ongoing procurement programs instituted by the admirals during the past 20 years without a peer adversary has seen little change. The most money has been spent on the 60+ strong Arleigh Burke class, the most powerful but also the most expensive surface combatants in history. Add to this new aircraft carriers, successive aircraft programs, and the troubled LPD-17 and you have a navy little different in 2010 than the one deployed in 1980, howbeit greatly reduced in number. The Virgina class littoral submarine was supposed to be smaller and cheaper than the mighty Cold War diver the Seawolf, except at 7000 tons it is only slightly smaller, and not at all cheaper than the larger boat.

Here again is author and lecturer Capt. Wayne Hughes along with a team of strategists who have returned rationality to Navy procurement with the document titled “The New Navy Fighting Machine“, the foundation of which will be a new Green Water Navy geared at long-last to push the fleet toward the long-promised goal of dominating the littorals. First the rationale:

Early in the twentieth century, the introduction of the torpedo and mine pushed the battleship’s domain to seaward. Starting with the Russo-Japanese War and culminating in World War I, battleships  and other surface warships were sunk in significant numbers off enemy coasts. The modern analog to the first wave of submarine and mine attacks is the missile—not as lethal in terms of sinkings, but equally fatal in terms of a firepower kill.

And while the plan returns the Navy to the coastal environments, where missiles are driving it from, it also returns the Marines to the sea, their natural domain. New Wars has made no secret we think this is a long overdue event:

…Restores responsibility for riverine warfare to the Marine Corps as a natural core capability. Marines have been expert at constabulary and riverine operations over many years. Control of rivers, while powerful in its effects, is accomplished not so much by patrolling the waters, deltas, and estuaries as it is by coordinated land, water, and air operations, accompanied by appropriate C2 systems and exploitation of waterways for suitable logistical support and great tactical mobility.

Here is Capt. Hughes’ list for the Green Water component:

  • Offshore Patrol-160 $60 million (Offshore Patrol Cutter?)
  • Fleet Station Ship-12–Cost $150 to $250 million each. “Twelve is enough to maintain one on each of
    four global fleet stations, with a reserve for surges.”
  • Inshore Patrol-400 “The theater security component comprises 400 small craft, each costing, at
    most, $400K, for inshore patrol and to assist friendly, but poor nations in antipiracy and countersmuggling.”
  • Gunfire Support-12–(Here is something for the  naval gunfire support (NGFS) advocates. I don’t discount the need though I am not a big fan of gunfire support. Hughes complains about the cost of missiles for such warfare but then advocates rail-gun technology. Talk about expense)!
  • Fast MIW-12 $200 mill each. (Dedicated anti-mine vessel, finally!)
  • ASW Ship-12 $150 million corvette–(RSN Victory class)?
  • CVL-8–advocates the 20k  to 30k ton light carriers with 20 F-35B V/STOL aircraft. (We gave our opinion of these ships on Thursday.)
  • Coastal Combatant-30 cost $100 million. (The return of “Streetfighter“. I question this cost, thinking the Visby’s $220 million more realistic.)
  • CC Tender (Mothership)-“The new fighting machine provides two tenders for the coastal combatants, each costing about as much as an LCS without its modules. The tenders notionally support ten  vessels each, and more aerial surveillance aircraft than carried by an LCS.”

Totals come to a 648 ship Navy–very impressive numbers though we question some of the ship types chosen. Still the diversity and possibilities here trump any current USN plans which have yet to grapple with the problems of littoral warfare in a serious manner. Even more interesting, is the costs of funding this dramatic increase in the size and capability of the fleet–$44.6 billion total or according to the plan–$1.56 billion annually. That is the cost of a single Burke destroyer! Hughes also says this is only 10% of the cost of his total plan, with Blue Water forces funded for 80% and strategic deterrent the other 10%.

Here is the might and power of the US Navy, the victor of the Cold War, which some have said to be “larger than the next 13 navies combined“, but in a new form. Instead of history’s most powerful and capable warfleet bound to the tyranny of a few exquisite and irreplaceable warships, we see this immense capability dispersed into numerous powerful and capable packages. These many smaller vessels take the technology of new weapons, and the tactics learned in land wars to its next logical conclusions on the sea.

The Navy we have now is filled with vessels individually as capable as we can make them, the most expensive and largest vessels of their type ever devised by man. Despite this, they are essentially failures since as more capable these giant multi-mission ships get, they are less practical for modern problems. Because we can only afford a few of them we have less to spare for the many global issues that arise. Because they are so costly, we dare not risk them close to shore, where, as we pointed out in the first paragraph, the Navy needs to be most in a new era.

As we have seen in the ongoing problem of piracy in the Gulf of Aden, our very costly and impressive cruisers, and destroyers have been essentially helpless to stem the tide. At best they have been a serious distraction, but most likely have taught the insurgents at sea how to do their job better, and to range further out into the shipping lanes than ever before. Much like in Capt Hughes’ proposal, we see the pirates practicing a traditional form of sea control, that Western navies have scorned as unimportant in an era where the admirals emphasize the very costly expeditionary power in carriers and amphibious warships, to the detriment of its primary reason for existence, to build hulls in the water for the defense of the sealanes.

20 Comments leave one →
  1. Steve Petty permalink
    January 15, 2010 2:48 am

    For a “Station Wagon Frigate” how about the S. Korean FFX: 335ft., 3200tons full load, 32kts. max., 4500nm @ 18kts., 76mm Gun, Phalanx, RAM, 8xHarpoons, 2xTriple TT, Lynx helo. and the price I have seen quoted is less than $110m even if this is low ball in the extreame buy the design bid it directly to the shipyards [no Lockmart or GD there shipyards can bid directly but no defense contractor “management”
    ] $200m is the most we will pay no design changes by the Navy or the builder. The 2 lowest bidders get 30% of contract and must re-bid every year for the addition 40% low bidder takes all this was done with the Tomahawk and the price dropped 30% over the life of the contract.

  2. D. E. Reddick permalink
    January 14, 2010 9:00 pm


    Your wrote: “Someone needs to hire him.” Meaning Planeman, of course.

    More precisely, either the Pentagon in broad terms or especially the O.N.I. needs to hire him for his very clearly expressed proclivities. I mean, good Lord! This guy is a jewel in the crown, if only polished and mounted into a proper position…

  3. Chuck Hill permalink
    January 14, 2010 8:30 pm

    D. E. R.,

    Thanks, yes I read his info on the Type O22, Someone needs to hire him.

  4. D. E. Reddick permalink
    January 14, 2010 1:54 pm



    Yeah, the Absalom class Command & Support ships of the Danish Navy are amongst the most impressively flexible warships afloat today. HDMS Absalom is about to become the flagship of the NATO taskgroup operating in the waters of the Horn of Africa in a few days. Previously she had served as the flagship of the CTF-150 or CTF-151 anti-piracy forces and had the highest catch rate for pirates for any warship operating off the coast of Somalia (88 pirates taken).

    Of course, it might be nice to have some of Absalom’s half-sisters of the still-building Iver Huitfeldt class AAW frigates along to provide some area-wide AAW defensive capabilities.

  5. D. E. Reddick permalink
    January 14, 2010 1:40 pm



    Here’s a different link for more of Planeman’s works. This one presents his “Bluffer’s Guides: Index” and includes numerous comments from his many admirers at Military Photos. The two links provide two different views and arrangements of his work.

    Planeman would seem to be the top amateur military analyst & artist present on the WEB. You have to read about how he has realized that the Chinese Houbei class (Type 022) stealth missile boats each has its own individual camo paint scheme. So far, he’s counted 64 different Type 022 Houbeis (each is armed with eight AShM / SSM missiles). He looked at hundreds of pictures and found 64 unique & different camo paint patterns. He eventually gave up on that particular effort after he got to that number (those missile boats appear to be typically deployed in squadrons of eight vessels, so he had found enough of them to equip eight squadrons). He is very persistent and his efforts are quite impressive!

  6. Chuck Hill permalink
    January 13, 2010 3:18 pm

    elgatoso–great link

    Given our stated objective I hope there is an ARG at least enroute Haiti. I know the Coast Guard is on the way.

  7. elgatoso permalink
    January 13, 2010 1:36 pm

    I found this blog with all the anemies and adversaries of the West.Very interesting.

  8. Scott B. permalink
    January 13, 2010 1:34 pm

    Distiller said : “A class of 60 frigates for patrol & presence! A self defence suite that deserves that name for the major surface units so they can take care of themselves! And a lot of the Navy’s problems would go away …”

    At the risk of repeating myself :


  9. Distiller permalink
    January 13, 2010 1:09 pm

    A class of 60 frigates for patrol & presence! A self defence suite that deserves that name for the major surface units so they can take care of themselves! And a lot of the Navy’s problems would go away …

  10. Scott B. permalink
    January 13, 2010 12:41 pm

    When I first read the *Streetfighter Reloaded* report, this was the first image that came to mind :

    One pic is better than a thousand words

  11. Scott B. permalink
    January 13, 2010 12:36 pm

    B. Smitty said : “Personally, I want to know he expects from the 400 speedboats he advocates. “

    The expectation is clearly stated : ”to assist friendly, but poor nations in antipiracy and countersmuggling.”

    IOW, create some kind of *Global Coast Guard*.

    Which begs a couple of observations at the *strategic level* :

    1) The neo-cebrowskist background is rampant throughout the *Streetfighter Reloaded* report : the nefastuous influence of the SYSADMIN fallacy is obvious.

    2) Why is it that people continue to fail to grasp the very meaning of Strategic Overstretch despite what happened in the past 8 years ?

  12. leesea permalink
    January 13, 2010 12:32 pm

    I too had some problems with small ship/boat selection for NNFM which I voiced to Capt Hughes. Some of his cost data was dated remember the study has been a year in the drafting.

    Bsmitty is right there are plenty of less expensive OPV designs to be had.

    In today’s environment I think every small ship must have at least one boat and an aviation asset be that UAV or helo. The size of the ship may well be determining factor for helo ops. Motherships can have more boats and helos and crew to augment or relieve those on smaller ships.

    FYI small boats ARE bought in conjunction with the ships they are assigned to (not all but those on ships) and guess who gets to pick them – NAVSEA engineers. Any thoughts for small boat imagination there is doubtful.

    UNTIL the fleet commanders stand up and say give me more/better boats the USN ain’t buying all the nice boats which other agencies are already driving. Look how long it has taken NECC to get new boats and not some many at that?!

  13. Mike Burleson permalink*
    January 13, 2010 12:23 pm

    But I wouldn’t get too hung up on Capt. Hughes’ ship proposals, as I mentioned in the post I wasn’t crazy about many of them. He had some interesting ideas other than the Patrol Cutters, for instance, almost everyone likes the Visby and can imagine it in US service. Plus if the cutters are good enough for the Coasties, why not for the USN instead of sending our Burke missiles battleships to fight the pirates speed boat navy?

    Overall, he makes an intriguing case. Needs work? Of course! Better than anything the Navy has proposed in decades? Absolutely!

    Smitty they are almost delusional thinking they can grow the fleet by making each successive class of warship bigger and adding on some extra mission. They are building the Navy they want, not the one we need and their metrics for economy and savings are heavily skewed for peacetime sailing rather than any plans of the future, which they claim they are preparing for. Even Adm. Harvey cautioned against using peacetime metrics for building the fleet and preparing for obscure threats since we don’t know what the future holds.

    But we know the enemy we have today, the terrorist smugglers, the pirates, the Iranians, Chinese, and NK not waiting to deploy giants ships and supersubs but using vessels they have on hand to disrupt the sealanes and threaten the free passage of commerce. They are not adverse to new ideas or impressed by our giant ships which they know can’t be everywhere at once. So they make trouble everywhere and stretch us thin, wear out ships and crews prematurely, slipping passed easily the broken net because we didn’t build enough escorts, enamored as we are by power over the economy and natural stealthiness of the insurgent. We spend many billions while they put together a scratch force off the shelf, and they are often equally successful.

    We are in a naval race with the Third World and our answer is only billion-dollar ships that are supposed to do all and be all, except they can’t magically reproduce themselves, being everywhere they are needed. Yeah, send in the patrol boats and corvettes, and lets see if they have what it takes, where the battleships have failed. Its worth a shot instead of deluding ourselves, while spiraling into bankruptcy for no gain.

  14. B.Smitty permalink
    January 13, 2010 10:42 am

    What next? Do we start considering every Zodiac and SOLAS boat as part of the fleet too?

  15. B.Smitty permalink
    January 13, 2010 10:38 am

    IIRC, the British Admiral said his SHIPS need a RHIB and a helo. He didn’t say he JUST needed RHIBs. So I don’t see the point in considering them separately from the ships that carry them, unless we plan to greatly expand our shore-based presence. Buy them along with the OPVs that carry them. Buy them with the Naval auxiliaries that can carry them.

    There just isn’t a point in making them a separate line item, IMHO.

  16. Mike Burleson permalink*
    January 13, 2010 10:01 am

    RHIB’s. Exactly! Isn’t this what the British Admiral in the Gulf said he needed along with helos? And these craft aren’t going to be alone. A balanced fleet motherships, bases, AAW ships. No stone left unturned. But we can’t get there only building to fight China.

  17. B.Smitty permalink
    January 13, 2010 8:56 am

    I’m all for a Threats Based Navy Mike.

    The price for a Navy open top, Willard Marine 11m RHIB is around $500k, IIRC.

    How do you actually use 400 of these to combat piracy? Where are they based? These are short-ranged assets. You’d pretty much need basing IN Somolia or directly offshore to use them. They are usually carried BY other vessels, not considered independently.

  18. Mike Burleson permalink*
    January 13, 2010 7:55 am

    Smitty said “Even the USCG Long Range Interceptor RHIB costs more than $400k, so what real capability are we getting here?”

    Considering the caliber of the enemies we face in modern times: pirates, smugglers, rogue state auxiliary cruisers, how about a Threats Based Navy, rather than the one we want?

  19. B.Smitty permalink
    January 13, 2010 7:12 am

    The USCG Offshore Patrol Cutters will be over $300 million each, so they’re too expensive for Hughes’ OPV.

    For $60 million, you’re probably looking at something in the Sentinel or Armidale size range.

    Personally, I want to know he expects from the 400 speedboats he advocates. Even the USCG Long Range Interceptor RHIB costs more than $400k, so what real capability are we getting here?


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