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Navy QDR-More of the Same

January 28, 2010

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.

19 Comments leave one →
  1. Michael permalink
    January 29, 2010 6:02 pm

    O’h and Mike, Britain decided to concentrate on sea control in the 1770’s after the fiasco during the American war of independence when the British fleet was outnumberd by the French, the rest is history.
    We need sea control as we are an island and if we haven’t learned the lessons of ww11 then it is at our peril.
    It’s not now about power projection but more about sea lane protection for the imports that are vital to our survival, oil and liquid gas from the middle east being one of the more important.

  2. Michael permalink
    January 29, 2010 5:38 pm

    You say ‘What did I leave out’ well only 90% of his speech which if one reads in full goes completely against your claims that he is somehow not in favour of the carriers.
    He is fighting tooth and nail to safeguard these vessels,and if that means that he has to sell them as a combined forces asset so be it.
    As 1sl he is a political animal,and we all know what that means including yourself so please have the good grace to either print his speech in full,or refrain from editing for your own ends.
    The Royal Navy wants them,they need them and they will have them, whether they will fly the F35b off them is a questionable matter seeing as the cost is even causing concern in the U.S.A.
    What though will the U.S. Marines fly,they are obviously committed to them but I suspect the numbers they get will be reduced.
    There has long been talk in the U.K. of reverting to the F35c and even now a version of ‘Sea Gripen’ is being mooted,whatever happens they will fly off these carriers be assured of that.

  3. Mike Burleson permalink*
    January 29, 2010 3:45 pm

    Michael, you give me too much credit. What, for example did I leave out? But the 1SL was only repeating things said by American carrier admirals. Expeditionary warfare and power projection is their obsession. Because of costs, Britain chose to concentrate on sea control in the 1970s and rightly so, but they have mistakenly taken the American lessons to heart, and are suffering the same strains and difficulties with technically complicated warships are we are.

  4. Michael permalink
    January 29, 2010 2:56 pm

    Well I must congratulate you on what I would kindly describe as judicial editing, and as for taking Sir Mark Stanhopes remarks out of context and then using them to forward your own argument you have excelled.
    You have obviously read his complete speach and must be aware of his reasons for the sound bite you published.
    I thought it was the British media who led the world in this sort of skulduggery.

  5. Graham Strouse permalink
    January 29, 2010 6:35 am

    “Quantity has a quality all it’s own.” -Stalin

    Evil bastard, but he was right then & still is…

  6. Graham Strouse permalink
    January 29, 2010 6:34 am

    What was Johnny Depp’s line as Dillenger: “They have to be at every bank all the time. I just have to be at one bank.” Something like that, anyway. I butchered the quote a little but it’s accurate.

    Exquisite platforms are of local political necessity, usually coming from small states with limited economies beyond the handful of big defense contractors in the Senate who call (or are called on by lobbyists) to bring home the bacon for the homies.

    I don’t care if you’re a democrat or a republican, if you’re an over-represented multi-term US Senator & you & your cronies are stealing food from everyone else’s mouth so you can get re-elected, you ARE Public Enemy #1.

  7. B.Smitty permalink
    January 28, 2010 10:40 pm

    Oops. Bad formatting with that last one. Only your quote was meant to be italicized.

  8. B.Smitty permalink
    January 28, 2010 9:53 pm


    My point is in reference to the first sentence of your post, “In a Nut Shell–The Navy’s future makes a token response to the wars we are fighting now…”

    In the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan (whether they are technically declared wars or not), NavAir, sealift and logistics have played a far greater role than any other part of the Navy.

    So if the measure of success for the QDR is to respond to the wars we are fighting now, continuing to fund NavAir makes perfect sense.

  9. Mike Burleson permalink*
    January 28, 2010 8:27 pm

    Smitty, your point being “disaster relief is not a shipbuilding strategy”?

    If so I wholeheartedly agree, but we can’t ignore the lessons of shallow water operations, even amphibious warfare we can get from even this operation. The type of damage the Seebees and others are having to fix might be likened to battle damage. Resupplying an entire native population would offer equal challenges of logistics for ground troops. I imagine, from the Medical point of view, soldier and civilian look much alike on the operating table.

    So we can’t ignore the lessons learned, anytime you have a major mobilization of military strength, for whatever reason.

    Concerning Pirates, I’ll admit we are not fighting them in the same magnitude as in Iraq and Afghanistan, but here is certainly something only a Navy can do. No one wants to invade Somalia again, so it is this or nothing. However lackluster the response, there is some kind of action ongoing against the pirates, causing the surging of most of the world’s seapower down there, who could very well be fighting one another, if you count the Chinese, Russian, and Iranian vessels.

    Last I heard, we aren’t officially at War in Iraq and Afghanistan. Has there been a declaration from Congress that I missed? But all this in the Middle East ties together. Radical is radical.

  10. B.Smitty permalink
    January 28, 2010 7:11 pm


    Are we fighting a “War for Disaster Relief”? Last time I checked we are only at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those are the “wars we are fighting now”, as you say. Not Haiti, not counter-piracy.

    The Navy is certainly involved in other operations, but they aren’t wars.

  11. Mike Burleson permalink*
    January 28, 2010 7:01 pm

    I was curious about the small LCS numbers as well. Maybe this is just for the next 4 years only.

    Smitty said “If the measure is to respond to “wars we are fighting now”, then carrier air, sealift, and logistics are really the only major naval contributions.”

    Well when the only weapon you have is a Hammer…I didn’t realize the Navy Hornets were all that useful for disaster relief, but the helicopters sure are, which can launch from any ship with a landing deck.

    Also, I don’t think this justifies still building 30+ multi-billion dollar and technically troubled landing ships. Landing craft are certainly important, but they have to have cargo to land, and that means sealift. You can move a lot more cargo for a lot less cost with sealift vessels, not so much with a handful of specialized amphibious ships.

  12. B.Smitty permalink
    January 28, 2010 2:59 pm

    If the measure is to respond to “wars we are fighting now”, then carrier air, sealift, and logistics are really the only major naval contributions.

    Do i need to pull out the sorties flown by NavAir during OIF and OEF again?

    What has the rest of the fleet done to contribute to these operations? Protect a handful of oil platforms and ports during OIF? Fire off a few TLAMs?

    (Note: We are not at war with pirates.)

  13. Matthew S. permalink
    January 28, 2010 2:47 pm

    “Might be the 28 ssc number constitutes the first LCS batch.”

    Well it says force structure by 2015. There is no way there will be 28 LCS by 2015. Im guessing there will be a slow introduction of LCS into service while the Perry frigates are retired at a faster rate.

  14. Marcase permalink
    January 28, 2010 2:44 pm

    Might be the 28 ssc number constitutes the first LCS batch.

  15. Marcase permalink
    January 28, 2010 2:43 pm

    Any word so far about the future of the NECC? I might’ve missed it, but rumors are that it will loose one of its three riverine sqns, since Iraq is drawing down and all.

    Leaving that fighter gap unaddressed is really worrying.

  16. Matthew S. permalink
    January 28, 2010 2:41 pm

    “■ 14 to 28 small surface combatants.”

    So does this mean retirement of more OHPS? Reduction of LCS? Where is the 55 number that usually in these lists to account for LCS? Mike you must be heartbroken, they are going in the opposite direction. I am not as big a supporter as you for small ships but having 14-28 smalll surface combatants is troubling.


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