The Washington Naval Treaty of 2012 Pt 1
“Well, this one is hard to believe. The Russian Navy is planning to have a new nuclear-powered aircraft carrier (CVN) in service by 2020. Also, they’re projecting a class totaling three to six 60,ooo ton displacement CVNs. Given the moribund nature of the Russian economy and the abject condition of the Russian shipbuilding industry then this seems more akin to fantasy than reality.”
Hello, I am from the Navy and I am a Spendaholic.
When are the major navies of the World, including Britain, China, India, Russia, and the USA going to admit they have a problem and stop building ships they can’t afford, and really do not need? These vessels of monolithic price, absorbing sparse resources have little purpose other than to compete with one another, to raise international tensions, and might even be at risk from smaller, less cheaper weapons. In this they remind us of the battleships of 100 years ago which initially appeared invincible and indispensable but were mostly gone by as soon as the mid 20th Century.
All this budget blindness seems familiar, taking us back some 90 years. After ruinous land wars in which the old Colonial Empires of Europe teetered on bankruptcy, some like Germany and Russia having completely collapsed, amazingly a renewed naval arms race began much like the earlier one that started World War 1. America was then feeling its oats as a new superpower, while Japan very much was a Great Power wannabe. Each of the latter had started major battleship construction programs pre-war and now restarted their bid to replace the UK as Queen of the Seas.
The mighty British Lion, down but not out, responded in kind, drawing up even more impressive battleships and battlecruisers, designed from the lessons of the recent conflict. It was mostly for bluff, since the Empire was already heavily indebted to America who she sought to out-build (reminding us of the USA and China today). Fortunately for the world, the bluff worked, and it was the Americans who started the process for naval reductions that prevented a renewed world war.
The Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 saw the greatest destruction of warships in all history, except for peaceful reasons instead of warfare. It placed a tonnage limit on the major navies, especially in terms of battleship tons and limited the size of gun caliber. Battleships could only be replaced after they reached an age of 20 years, with a few exceptions, such as Britain allowed to build 2×16 inch armed ships (the above HMS Nelson class) as with American and Japanese vessels so armed. Aircraft carriers were recognized as prime assets of the fleet even though only a handful of them were operational and the USN possessed only a single small example. The ongoing confused design of cruisers was rectified by limiting them to 10,000 tons with of gun armament up to 8 inches.
Time for Another Conference
As with the Washington Treaty of 90 years ago, the US and UK would have much to gain from a modern agreement in this new century. It would halt the practice of naval shipbuilding creating successive classes of ships which are ever larger, fewer in number, and technically faulty when delivered. For example, the destroyer of 1921 averaged about 1000 tons in weight, or about the size of a corvette in 2010. In contrast, the Royal Navy and USA construct ships ranging from 7000-9500 tons, or about the size of a large cruiser from the previous era. Also, the 33,000 ton carriers of the American Lexington class, considered huge for the times would be dwarfed today by the Nimitz class supercarrier.
This would not be a problem except there has been few if any orders for vessels to replace the old “tin cans”, the small warships in numbers for the essential roles of sea control, everyday patrolling, and nautical policing. The ongoing neglect of the flotilla is stark, seeing these are the kind of vessels most in demand to face low tech threats, especially in the Middle East. Their lack has allowed a tide of piracy and smuggling to rise on the high seas, portending anarchy, while the Great Powers are distracted by traditional Big Wars and peer competition.
As in 1922, America has all the cards on her side since about 1991 she has been in a naval race with herself. Really, compared to the rest of the world, there is no rival with a like fleet, nor are there any projected for the foreseeable future. No nation has as many nuclear submarines. No other navy deploys a fully serviceable large deck compared to any one of her 11 supercarriers. Neither are there any destroyers in comparable numbers of her mighty DDG-51 Burke class, 62 built or building, and the 22 Ticonderoga class Aegis cruisers. Only a handful of ships are even technically comparable and these possessed by our close allies.
Tomorrow-Proposals for a New Naval Treaty