The Navy’s New Grand Strategy Pt 1
With the impending withdrawal of US Forces from Iraq, and probably soon from Afghanistan however the land battle there goes, we pass from the grueling phase of major combat into one of watchful vigilance. As in all past conflicts in American history, the Navy will gain a renewed importance to maintain the peace. This is natural and expected post-combat as the troops return home and defense budget’s tighten in a war-weary society. As Retired Vice Adm. Kevin Cosgriff cautions us, however:
“[People think] somehow, when we’re done with Iraq and Afghanistan, we can get back to more regular forms of like-on-like warfare — a lot of that does need to be done, but the good old days aren’t coming back…
In such an environment, the weapons of major combat, the force projecting platforms of expeditionary warfare such as giant aircraft carriers and amphibious ships will be less useful. In their place will be small warships deployed forward in Influence Squadrons, which will posses greater ability to interact with the population of the sea. While less costly, their very numbers will enable them to stifle renewed outbreaks of radicalism or any interference with maritime commerce.
Capt. Wayne Hughes and others are now advocating a forward based strategy centered around hundreds of light vessels, which has been espoused consistently by New Wars as well. These will be backed by a Cadre Navy consisting of traditional platforms of force-projecting warships, based closer to the Continental US, where they will train and wait, surging as need for the rare but likely world crisis.
It is safe enough to reduce this high end, heavy-weapons portion of the Navy. Currently there is no peer threat anywhere in the world building or even planning warships as individually powerful as the Ford class aircraft carriers, the DDG-1000 superdestroyers, America class amphibious carriers, or Virginia nuclear submarines. As useful as such vessels are, their are superfluous to sea control, since you can never build as many as you need, and are too large to risk close to shore, unless they are preceded by waves of small craft. Thanks to modern weapons such as cruise missiles, modern sensors and advanced hull forms, small ships are more powerful than ever, plus are more relevant in conflicts involving low tech pirates, smugglers and rogue powers.
This larger New Navy Fighting Machine is no wishful thinking, or fantasy as has been called the Navy’s projected shipbuilding program. As she struggles to build numbers up to 300 ships, the admirals insist full-speed ahead on new carriers, destroyers, and submarines, all exceeding many billions of dollars each, while insurgents armed with AK-47s, RPGs, and fishing trawlers make a mockery of the world’s greatest navies in the Gulf, leaving the head of the Royal Navy to admit in frustration:
“We are not going to eradicate piracy”.
Looking beyond the tactics of the last century, however, we see a light at the end of the tunnel. The new fleet will be threats based and budget driven, not the opposite which we have today. It will be much more affordable and practical, geared for the types of enemies we faced today. It is not the Navy we want but the Navy we need.
Tomorrow-explaining the Southern Strategy.