Toward the 200 Ship Navy Pt 2
Once 20,000 ton Aircraft carriers carried 100 planes to sea but are now 100,000 ton ships which carry less as many. Destroyers from 100 years ago and 1000 tons, the small boys, tin cans, and greyhounds are now surpassing the 10,000 ton mark. Submarines once affectionately dubbed “boats” are now far less so, approaching cruiser size of 7000 tons or more at the price of a destroyer. Finally is the once mighty amphibious fleet, in the last World War consisting of thousands of craft of various sorts and sizes, now with only 33 examples of hulking and inflexible vessels, liable to shrink even further as we noted yesterday.
The answer seems even more obvious than the demise of the Navy. A return to basics in warships design, and a relearning of basic shipbuilding skills to fashion a rebirth in the expertise, not only within the Fleet but the shipbuilders as well. Smaller low cost ships built in large numbers would restore the fleet’s fallen fortunes while bringing much needed work to various shipyards. A bigger fleet would mean more jobs and greater expertise in building adequate hulls, because limbs which aren’t exercised frequently soon wither with disuse.
In thinking small warships, look at the 3000 ton LCS and think smaller than that. That ship being the poster child of what’s wrong with the procurement process, anything smaller can only be an improvement. Small warships are exactly what is needed to combat current threats, not mythical ones long past with the demise Soviet Navy, as the Chinese are in no hurry to compete with us carrier-for-carrier, nuclear submarine for submarine, or missile destroyer for missile destroyer. In other words, we can’t concern ourselves about obscure future threats while ignoring those staring us in the face and nipping away at our sea control.
To deal with the threat of smugglers, pirates, and terrorist on the high seas, you do not even need a $700 million frigate, the continued construction of which is so much over-kill and ensuring the continued death spiral of the Navy. The building blocs of a new fleet should be these 1000 ton corvettes and patrol vessels, that range of $50 million to $250 million. They can be built in huge numbers, are self-deployable, and perfect for fighting in the world’s shallow seas, where the majority of threats loom today, in stark contrast to a Blue Water frigate, which is wasted and even at risk in such waters.
The corvette would not only be economical and more sensible tackling low tech adversaries, but also potential peer adversaries armed with stealthy diesel electric submarines. These shallow water battleships are still the scourge of anti-submarine hunters, and we recall it took the combined allied navies building hundreds of small warships, backed by land based patrol bombers, years to defeat Hitler’s U-boat arm. Today, the US Navy deploys only a handful of frigates, about 30 of the aging Perry’s with Britain less than 20 such dedicated sub-hunters.
The new destroyer then will be these 1000 ton corvettes, backed by long-range UAVs whose speed and persistence in flight make then ideal for such sundry but important function. Even these would be backed by smaller fast attack craft, cutters, assault boats, and patrol craft, and small conventional subs of our own. The latter would avert the demise of the Submarine Fleet, itself at half its 1980s numbers and likely to decline further. These smaller Brown Water patrol craft would ensure potential aggressors no hiding place in their shallow water haunts, complementing and adding to the Green Water corvettes and submarines.
Historically then, we see the fleet falling and the Navy assurances holding little water. It makes no sense that carriers, destroyers, frigates, and amphibs, which annually increase in size and cost will not induce another massive downsizing of the fleet in the near future. We are already witnessing the disappearance of the cruisers, and we wonder which class of vessel is next on the Navy’s hitlist to maintain its exquisite shipbuilding programs?