Navy QDR-More of the Same
In a Nut Shell–The Navy’s future makes a token response to the wars we are fighting now, spends vast sums on last century naval platforms even as they become unaffordable and technically over-engineered, then whines that it needs more funds.
In other words, pretty much the QDR of the last 4 years, and the one before that, and so on…
Here is what it will look like, via Defense News:
■ 10 to 11 aircraft carriers.
■ Nine to 10 carrier air wings.
■ 84 to 90 large surface combatants, including 19 to 32 BMD-capable combatants.
■ 14 to 28 small surface combatants.
■ 29 to 33 amphibious warfare ships.
■ 51 to 55 attack submarines.
■ Four guided missile submarines.
■ Three maritime prepositioning squadrons.
■ 30 to 34 combat logistics force ships.
■ 17 to 24 command and support vessels (including JHSV).
Only a shrunken version of the fleet which stood down the now defunct and rusting Soviet Navy, except for the almost total lack of small warships, which would likely be more useful in today’s wars than all of the above combined. As blogger David Axe notes:
Imagine a force of patrol craft camping out right outside Somalia’s major pirate ports, intercepting every suspicious boat that exits.
This is a proved, historical solution to low tech problems at sea.
The Fleet is still centered Around Carrier Power
This is not good when you are trying to increase ship numbers. Plus there are more cost-efficient ways to project power ashore. Basically, this is all a large deck carrier is good for, as we were reminded recently by British First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, via Royal Navy News:
At this juncture, let me say a few words about carriers. I would advocate that carriers are about joint effect and are platforms for defence. People that keep turning around and talking about the Navy’s carriers have missed the point entirely. The carriers are about supporting effect ashore, not protecting the fleet, as at Jutland. We have got to be clear that the requirement for carriers is a joint requirement for Defence as a whole and the effect they provide is a joint effect, not a maritime effect in isolation.
Yet, as we consistently observe, it is the littorals where we need ships, and lots of them. The pirates have been reminding us of the need for plenty small escort warships. The Navy consider its giant multimission warships as “swiss army knife” vessels, able to perform every function imaginable. But the type needed, as we see in Haiti are fast cargo ships and High Speed Vessels (ferries particularly) able to get close to a shore line.
Large capacity vessels are also required, but should be few and far between so as not to distract from the procurement of small ships. In other words, because they are so capable, logically you can get by with fewer of them. The combination of patrol ships and battleships in one package, the multimission ship, is slowly strangling our Navy.
More Questions Than Answers
Here are some final thoughts on the Navy QDR from Navy Times and Philip Ewing:
• It does not weigh in on what the Navy should do about its projected “fighter gap” — the period in which planners say the fleet will have too few aging F/A-18 Hornets and not enough new F-35C Lightning IIs for all its missions.
• It does not settle the issue over whether the Navy should move an aircraft carrier from Naval Station Norfolk, Va., to Naval Station Mayport, Fla., in the interest of “strategic dispersal.” The Navy issued a “record of decision” last year saying that it would move a ship, but at the behest of Virginia lawmakers, the Pentagon said it would examine the Norfolk-Mayport question as part of the QDR.
It did say the U.S. will “provide an alternative port to dock East Coast aircraft carriers to mitigate the risk of a manmade or natural disaster.” But the draft QDR makes no mention of a specific home port shift, nor does it name the carrier to be moved.
• It does not address the fate of the Marine Corps’ Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, as Defense Secretary Robert Gates said it would when he announced a preliminary round of weapons cuts last April.
In other words, today’s Navy problems are deferred for yet another generation, while the leaders still dream of better budgets, and the enemy they want.