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The Washington Naval Treaty of 2012 Pt 2

March 9, 2010

American Lexington class battlecruiser, 2 of which were converted to Aircraft carriers under the terms of the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty

The following is presented not as professional or even complete, but as a topic for further discussion. With the lessons of the past in mind, here is my version of a modern Washington Naval Treaty, with the subsequent reduction in naval armaments:

Total Tonnage for Capital Vessels*

  • United States-750,000 tons
  • China-500,000 tons
  • Russia-500,000 tons
  • Japan-250,000 tons
  • Britain-250,000 tons
  • France-250,000 tons
  • India-250,000 tons

The US Navy Subdivided

  • Aircraft Carriers-350,000 tons (7 x 50,000 tons)
  • Amphibious Ships-140,000 tons (7 x 20,000 tons)
  • Frigates-135,000 tons (27 x 5000 tons)
  • Nuclear Submarines-125,000 tons (25 x 5000 tons)

Capital Ships*

Interestingly, the first naval treaty designated Capital Ships any vessel larger than 10,000 tons with a gun caliber larger than 8 inches, and excluded aircraft carriers. Today we include aircraft carriers, but also any warship with an area SAM missile more than 30 miles, often designated guided missiles cruisers, destroyers, or frigates. We also include any large amphibious ship above 10,000 tons, nuclear submarines, or conventional submarines of more than 2000 tons.

The document recognizes America possessing a Two-Ocean Navy. It does, however, call for dramatic reductions in her war-making capacity, for instance, the tonnages for aircraft carriers alone is reduced by one-third from its current size of about 1 million tons.

The Flotilla

The New Naval Treaty restores the long neglected Flotilla, sidelined since the Cold War, into prominence. Tonnage of all ships in the Flotilla  will match that of the total maximum tonnage of Capital Vessels of each Navy. The types (listed below) are seen as essential for new warfare, less intimidating than larger vessels, more suitable for the Cooperative Strategy which is the increasing norm of sea-faring nations.

Warship Definitions-Capital Ships

Aircraft Carrier-Limited to 50,000 tons for fixed wing versions and 30 airplanes. This is seen as the least size able for a modern fixed wing capable ship, coupled with existing naval aircraft. The reduced size and numbers will alleviate much of the ruinous cost suffered by navies seeking such expensive and regionally intimidating weapons. The small numbers of aircraft recognizes the power of modern precision weapons, allowing aircraft to perform more missions with fewer sorties.

Frigate-5000 tons light. Any vessel with an area SAM or cruise missile of 30 miles or more. Brings designation order to the guided missile escort warship variously described as cruiser, destroyer, or frigate, though each mainly performing the same function.

Nuclear Attack Submarines-5000 tons.

Conventional Submarine-Large non-nuclear ships over 2000 tons. Ocean spanning vessels are included in this category.

Amphibious Ships-Limited to 20,000 tons. Through-deck helicopter carriers which are V/STOL capable do not fall into the aircraft carrier designation unless they breach the tonnage barrier.

Warship Designation-The Flotilla

Mothership-Typically over 10,000 tons as a command and logistics support vessel for smaller warships in the flotilla. Of mercantile specifications, not possessing an area SAM or cruise missile capability, such then falling into the Capital Ship designation under the Treaty.

Sloop-4000 tons. General purpose warship used for long-range patrol duties, near the littorals. A Green Water command ship or mini-mothership. Some possess light assault abilities, or anti-mine weapons. Takes the place of the non-guided missile frigate.

Corvette- 2000 tons maximum. The largest coastal defense warship. Missile armed with a short-medium range SAM, cruise missiles.

Cruiser-1500 tons. Formerly designated Offshore Patrol Vessels. Lightly armed with mainly small guns, helos or UAVs, RHIB. These may be the most important large littoral craft, and hopefully the most numerous.

Littoral Submarine- 2000 tons or less. Coastal Submarine though self deployable.

From Battle Cruisers to Peace Cruisers

As we noted, and as with the previous era of the 1922 Washington Treaty, it is time for some restraints placed on international arms buildup, especially those of the Great Powers. With economies suffering through recessions and the need to monitor threats from radical regimes and rogue states, now is not the time to engage in superpower stand-offs, with the subsequent allies gathering into one bloc or the other.

Instead, the international situation calls for more cooperation, plus the building of “peace cruisers” which can quickly respond for non-war missions such as famine and disaster relief. The rise in piracy in the Gulf presages how we can be distracted watching mainly for the rare Big Wars, and fail to manage the ongoing small threats, which can eventually lead to large problems is left unattended to.

Hopefully, this document with help to prevent such a ruinous armed conflict at sea. This is not to predict an end of Great Power conflicts, but hopefully to avoid one at all costs. At least three times in the past century the world has come close to destruction because of rivalries between the major world powers. Meanwhile, radical groups taking advantage of petty discord, seek to sow anarchy and break down centuries of the world order that ended slavery, and reduced poverty and infant mortality the world over. Another world conflict can only hasten the end of Civilization as we know it.

*****

Which brings us to the following question. If you could rewrite the Washington Naval Treaty today, how you would limit the naval tonnages, or are limitations even necessary?

22 Comments leave one →
  1. Matt permalink
    March 10, 2010 12:25 pm

    “Littoral Submarine- 2000 tons or less. Coastal Submarine though self deployable.”

    Overall, I think that costs of SS outweigh benefits for the USN, particularly considering most US submarine missions are conducted far from CONUS.

    The costs required just to deploy an SS to say PACOM (tenders, shore facilities, etc.) would be astronomical — not to mention how many SS you’d need in the rotation pool just to keep one onsta. It probably goes without saying that nuke power buys you an awful lot of flexibility, particularly at range.

    I do see value in SS in low-intensity warfare — coastal patrolling, SOF insertion, etc. but would probably only be workable if trans-shipped to the AOR on a tender or left in theater.

    While SS (particuarly w/AIP) is a fearsome capabilility, I don’t hear anyone in the submarine community clamouring to trade in their nukes for diesel boats.

  2. Joe permalink
    March 10, 2010 11:00 am

    Mike said: The USN and British supercarriers are proof that you can build warships however large you want but that doesn’t mean you will have enough planes to fill their giant decks!

    The Ford-class carriers are substantively no larger than the Nimitz-class decks they are intended to replace. The fact that we had ample numbers of naval jets in the past to fill a larger qty of aircraft carriers…yet now have a burgeoning shortage of planes to occupy the smaller qty of combined Nimitz/Ford decks of today…isn’t a factor of the ship size, but rather poor planning on the naval air asset acquisition side of the ledger.

  3. Mczosch permalink
    March 10, 2010 10:42 am

    Just thought about the flotilla and it’s ship-types:

    “Mothership-Typically over 10,000 tons as a command and logistics support vessel for smaller warships in the flotilla. Of mercantile specifications, not possessing an area SAM or cruise missile capability, such then falling into the Capital Ship designation under the Treaty.”

    What’s the difference to a tender?

    “Sloop-4000 tons. General purpose warship used for long-range patrol duties, near the littorals. A Green Water command ship or mini-mothership. Some possess light assault abilities, or anti-mine weapons. Takes the place of the non-guided missile frigate.”

    OK, this is clearly a LCS. Depends on how long “long-range” is defined. The Perrys have 4,500 nm (8,300 km) at 20 knots, LCS-2 is stated 4,300 nm at 20+ knots with a max. of 10,000 nm (source: wikipedia). How about renaming LCS “Light-assault Command Sloop”.

    “Corvette- 2000 tons maximum. The largest coastal defense warship. Missile armed with a short-medium range SAM, cruise missiles.”

    A Visby+? What is their tasking? NGFS? Anti-shipping? Sea-denial-ops? Hit-and-run-attacks on land targets? Neither very “influential”, nor anything peaceful.

    “Cruiser-1500 tons. Formerly designated Offshore Patrol Vessels. Lightly armed with mainly small guns, helos or UAVs, RHIB. These may be the most important large littoral craft, and hopefully the most numerous.”

    Perfect ship – for the coast guard. Quite handy in peacetime, vulnerable to radical group’s attacks in the “new wars”, almost useless in wartime, even if we suggest to convert them to ASW-sloops. The idea of this 15-knot-baby exerting it’s “sea control” and trying to stop a chinese container-carrier in the Malacca strait makes me freeze. Maybe we should try to sink it with 30mm-guns.

    “Littoral Submarine- 2000 tons or less. Coastal Submarine though self deployable.”

    Like German Type 212? 550 m$ apiece for … what purpose? Taking out pirate-skiffs with torpedoes? Reconnaisance? Littoral ASW against… whom? Seal-ops? Not very convincing.

    If I lay down Marcase’s SAG and compare it to a “influence squadron” of 4 bare-bone LCS-2s. I ignore the MLP, which can be added to any squadron. I assume the sloop carries the same aviation as LCS and has 1 gun, but still no sonar. In range and speed, I take the numbers of the weakest performer in the squadron.

    Ships: (7) to (4)
    Helos: maximum (6) to (8)
    UAVs: (4) to (8)
    Medium Guns: (2) to (4)
    Air-defense sets: (2) against minimum (4).
    Cruise missiles: maybe (8) against none
    Small missiles: (none) against (120)
    Sonar: (1) against (none)
    Cruising speed / knots: (15) to (20+)
    Range without refueling on cruising speed / nm: (1,500) to (4,300)
    Cargo space: clear advantage LCS
    Manpower: (~370) to (~280)
    Price: around (2.14 b$) against (1.84 b$)

    Proposal? Give LCS-2 a hull-mounted-sonar, insert a 16-cell-VLS in front of the bridge instead of NLOS, if possible build it from steel, cut down the machinery to 30+ knots to save cost and weight. Build 80+ instead of 55, on minimum 3 different yards.

  4. Matt permalink
    March 10, 2010 8:01 am

    Mike wrote:

    “We are all set for the rare major conflicts, but ignoring the vital sea control mission.”

    I think you’ve got it backwards.

    Per the verbiage in the Cooperates Strategy, SEA CONTROL is the ability to take on a peer navy for local/regional command of the seas. I belive our current naval force structure has SEA CONTROL capability in spades — and I think you’d argue that we have excess capability and capacity in that area.

    I’m guessing where you think we are lacking in capability and capacity is in MARITIME SECURITY – piracy, terrorism, WMD proliferation, etc. This is more of the global cop mission — as opposed to peer v. peer.

    Not trying to be nit-picky, but words have meaning…

  5. March 9, 2010 6:30 pm

    A nice idea to “force” reform by Treaty but it is not going to happen. Having lost any strategic focus since 1989 we find our overwhelming strategic advantage waving in the breeze so to speak. Those of us who would like to see the carrier force scrapped have to fight the obvious — they are unmatched. But they are also useless. Yes, it may be that missiles will make them vulnerable but there is no pressure to give them up even if they entirely distort the naval mission and any real flexibility. The control of the seas, freedom of the sea lanes and the exploitation of resources under them will be maintained from space and from the deep. Are we investing sufficient resources in ressearch and planning. From what I can see, absolutely not. Above all, we need to redefine our strategic mission in the world, create a national defense that matches means to needs, and go about reforming ourselves. Seems like a pipe dream to me given what I hear coming from the mouth of Mullen and others.

  6. Mike Burleson permalink*
    March 9, 2010 5:47 pm

    Chuck said “there is no incentive for for the US to give up its maritime dominance”

    I don’t see us losing dominance as much as giving it away. Power concentrated is power wasted, and the fewer battle force ships we now deploy with each new decade is sign of decline, it is not maintaining strength. We are all set for the rare major conflicts, but ignoring the vital sea control mission. By emphasizing the flotilla over the battlefleet, America might have to build from scratch, the odds mostly even as when Britain deployed HMS Dreadnought in the last century. Every nation has to fight to keep dominance. It can’t be taken for granted, in others words, the mantle of seapower belongs to no one by right.

    If we are worthy, we can fight to keep it. If not, it is better to find out sooner rather than later, wasting away year by year, avoiding the challenges by building ships whose sole purpose is “not to fight”. Eventually someone is going to catch on that the Emperor has no clothes.

  7. Marcase permalink
    March 9, 2010 5:15 pm

    Hmm…
    I’m sensing this discussion is turning into a ‘dismantling the US Navy’ issue instead of looking at the current New Wars requirement from a fresh naval perspective.
    But I could be wrong.

    From the fleet numbers I humbly suggested, I see that there is an emphasis on smaller (which DOES NOT mean less capable) hulls, ideally suited for littoral warfare. Instead of investing in AEGIS-priced, AEGIS-less corvettes (yes LCS, I mean you), the money/tonnage is instead invested in smaller anti-piracy/patrol/presence hulls, yet with still enough capital tonnage available for ‘near peer’ threats.
    Especially combined in a (still to be defined) Air-Sea Battle doctrine, the reduced number of CSGs can be compensated.

    When applying the Blue/Gold dual crewing principle currently used on LCS and SSBNs, numbers grow and could suggest a permanent presence of three fleets (LANTFLT/Indian Ocean/PACFLT), each averaging –

    1 CSG (reinforced with SAG)
    1 ESG (reinforced with SAG)
    3-4 SAG Flotillas

    That’s more than current hulls, which are typically centered around the carrier strike groups, and/or the amphibious expeditionary strike groups, leaving few ships for near-permanent patrols near SLOC choke-points of which there are (too) many (Hormuz, Malacca, Red Sea, Med, etc. etc.).

    The Capital/Flotilla concept allows CSGs and ESGs to fall back and only intervene (‘surge’) when SAGs are outgunned or decisive ‘kinetic’ action is required. The SAGs are always forward, and take the strain/bear the brunt of day-to-day ops, including gunboat diplomacy.

    Just my take.

  8. papa legba permalink
    March 9, 2010 3:56 pm

    Regarding the original treaty: I see a tendency here to conflate “exceeding” the treaty limits with “completely ignoring” them. This is a false equivalence.

    Even where tonnages were exceeded– and that wasn’t uncommon– it still put a significant brake on the formerly-mushrooming tonnages of most surface combatants. Treaty limitations are what drove Japan to upgrading their Kongo-class instead of building new hulls. The rebuilt Kongos were not bad ships, but they were less effective than the new-build battleships that Japan wanted and would have built except for the Washington Naval Treaty.

  9. Chuck Hill permalink
    March 9, 2010 3:16 pm

    Mike, I think you may have jumped the shark on this one. It is totally unconnected to reality.

    First unlike the Washington treaty period, Ships are no longer expected to fight their counterparts directly. We don’t build Burke class DDGs to fight Russian or or Chinese DDGs. We build them to shoot down missiles and aircraft. We don’t build carriers to fight other carriers, we build them to project power ashore. So as Marcase says you have to consider everything.

    Second there is no incentive for for the US to give up its maritime dominance which most of us think has been a good thing. This would create a situation where the Russians and the Chinese could gang up on the US and have a numerical advantage. Why would we want that?

  10. UndergradProgressive permalink
    March 9, 2010 3:10 pm

    As much as I love treaties, it’s tough to actually enforce them…
    The vessel designations hearkening back to the era of imperialism, as always, are awesome.

  11. McZosch permalink
    March 9, 2010 1:52 pm

    I wonder, how transition would be handled. As the USN doesn’t possess 50k ts aircraft carriers, it will be fun to scrap ANY carrier in the fleet today and replace it with gold-plated smaller carriers, built by only one supplier trying to maximize profit. Seems to be the ultima-ratio of shipbuilding efficiency.

    The PLAN has to fear nothing from it, as their “Capital ships”-tonnage is not reaching the quota, and on the smaller combatants it hopelessly outproduces the US.

    For signing this brilliant piece of dismantling naval supremacy I would recommend a hotels back room at Copenhagen, Denmark, Barry Obama and Wen Jiabao sticking their heads together and imposing rules on carbon-emission reductions… ahhm, oops, naval forces reductions. And hope, the Chinese build warships slower than coal-plants.

    All this for solving the management-problems of western defence procurement agencies. The obvious questions are not being asked and therefore left unsolved. What are the split-up COST (not price) of design, machinery, seaframe, sensors, electronics, weapons, integration work, toilet brush? What are the cost-drivers? If we replace seaframe + machinery with something strictly conventional, how cheaper will it be? Do we get comparable values from foreign shipyards, are they cheaper? For what reason? Can we expect such in-depth analysis from the pentagon?

    And while we’re at it: is it me, or is 460 m$ per LCS damn near 200 m$ multiplicated with the manufacturing industries magic number 2.3 (y’know: for factoring in sales cost, discounts, profit, payed congressmen and military staff etc.)? You want to learn from Denmark? Put nitpickers and expertise on top of the foodchain.

  12. Marcase permalink
    March 9, 2010 1:21 pm

    Should such a “Naval START” treaty be at all effective, it has to be all inclusive. Back in the days, the USSR moved entire air armadas under the umbrella of the navy, so it could bypass CFE beancounters.

    So your treaty will also have to include land-based systems, both aviation and especially land/coastal. A potential Indian P-8I loaded to the brim with Brahmos missiles could alter the equation, as could batteries of CHICOM anti-carrier ballistic missiles. Modular NLOS-like missile packs coupled to Scaneagle UAVs could turn any fishing trawler into an area denial weapon.

  13. James Daly permalink
    March 9, 2010 1:11 pm

    I dont really think any kind of treaty would be possible, bearing in mind domestic and international politics. History has shown that self-policing treaties are just problems waiting to happen, and international bodies such as the UN are in no position to enforce. In real terms it just doesnt seem workable to me.

    As a theory I see the merit, and as I have already stated, I can see how it would focus the minds of planners and designers. But an unworkable treaty would be dangerous.

  14. Matt permalink
    March 9, 2010 12:27 pm

    Mike,

    I still maintain that the outcome of such a treaty is likely to be less than favorable to the US.

    If we radically lower the barriers to competition in creating and maintaining a Navy — by redefining what type of ships navies can have — we’re likely to see more wars rather than less.

  15. Mike Burleson permalink*
    March 9, 2010 11:42 am

    I don’t think it a terrible idea, just a last resort to bring change to navies, short of war. Change must happen periodically or the fleet will die under the weight of outdated ideas and bloated costs. I think we are right at the tipping point, and proof being all the flawed designs coming out of many US shipyards. Most every program is in trouble, and the LCS is further evidence of the Admiral’s flawed thinking. Here is a political solution to the problem.

    The shipyards themselves are only part of the problem. More money is not the solution. A radical solution in warship design and procurement is the answer.

  16. Chris Stefan permalink
    March 9, 2010 11:42 am

    Mike,
    Would your proposed limits apply only to new-build vessels or to all vessels in the current fleet as well?

    Because if it is the latter I don’t see the US Government agreeing to scrap the rather substantial investments in carriers, amphibious ships, guided missile frigates, or nuclear submarines it has made over the years.

    Part of the problem is there are few ships in the current or under construction fleet that meet the proposed limits.

    True, we’ve done this in the past with naval treaties and more recently with nuclear weapons. However at least in the case of nukes, we’re talking about a weapon that every sane person hopes never has to be used. Furthermore the sunk costs of the nuclear arsenal were far less than the investment the bulk of the capital ships in the USN fleet represents.

  17. Mrs. Davis permalink
    March 9, 2010 10:52 am

    You could return waving a piece of paper telling reporters, “We are not a superpower in decline.” Be sure to wear a bowler and carry an umbrella. Maybe change your name to Frank Kellogg.

    God grants liberty only to those who love it and are always ready to guard and protect it.

    Webster

  18. west_rhino permalink
    March 9, 2010 10:35 am

    Historically, I have to side with Matt, noting that too often these treaties offer a hollow cushy feeling that might be likened to “self gratification” as hoodna is not only practiced by Mohammedans…

    It does keep the lunatics that buy and move into castles in the sky envisioned by dreamers and scoundrels employed at State, and hopefully away from playing in the electrical system or plumbing, out of trouble.

  19. Matt permalink
    March 9, 2010 10:07 am

    Mike said:

    “Matt, I don’t think even China could cheat and build anything close to the conventional naval power the USN currently exerts. The Chinese would have to build up to get to the tonnage I gave her”

    Mike, I would imagine pundits after WW1 were saying the same thing about Japan!

    I tend to agree that the Navy’s force structure is way out of whack with current and likely future threats. However, I think trying to implement change via international treaty is a terrible idea!!!

  20. Mike Burleson permalink*
    March 9, 2010 9:14 am

    Marcase, thanks and also for the extra info.

    Matt, I don’t think even China could cheat and build anything close to the conventional naval power the USN currently exerts. The Chinese would have to build up to get to the tonnage I gave her.

    The USN and British supercarriers are proof that you can build warships however large you want but that doesn’t mean you will have enough planes to fill their giant decks!

  21. Matt permalink
    March 9, 2010 8:07 am

    Wow. A couple of major historical problems if you’re citing the 1922 treaty as a guidepost for 2012:

    1) Italy pretty much ignored the terms of the treaty, Japan renounced in 1936, and it never applied to Germany. By the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, it was really only affecting the allied powers.

    2) The Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 is commonly viewed as a casus belli for Japan. Japanese ultra-nationalists felt that the 5:3 limitation was an expression of the West’s disdain for the East. Japanese naval theorists cited their inherent numerical inferiority as justification to conduct a surprise attack – laying the seeds for what would become the attack on Pearl Harbor.

    Historical lessons to be learned: naval treaties are very difficult to enforce, often only served to hinder the good guys, and in the end may serve to force the hand of an adversary.

  22. Marcase permalink
    March 9, 2010 7:51 am

    Interesting.

    So if I see this correctly, your USN would look something like this;

    6 CSGs, each 1 SSN, 1 CV, 2 Frigates (“AEGIS DDG”)
    6 ESGs, each 1 SSN, 1 LV, 2 Frigates

    These would follow a deployment, training, RDF cycle, ie 2 CSGs and 2 ESGs always available, with 2 on high readiness.

    2 SUBRONs, each 5 “Lone Wolf”/Special mission SSNs.

    Undergoing SLEP/overhaul at any time; 1 CV, 1 LV, 3 ‘Frigates’, 3 SSNs.

    750,000t available for the “Influence Squadrons”:

    ~20 SAGs, each 1 SSK, 1 MLP, 2 DD, 2 Corv, 2 OPV.

    A SAG would be around 37,000t, based around the MLP (Modular Landing Platform, the semi-submerging “all carrier”).
    Four SAGs, would be unavailable due to training or maintenance, another 4 could be assigned to the 2 CSGs and 2 ESGs, leaving 12 SAGs available for overseas ‘presence’ tasks.

    Not too shabby.

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