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Dissecting the Influence Squadron Pt 1

April 5, 2010

Fords versus Ferrari's: The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Farragut (DDG 99) passes by the smoke from a suspected pirate skiff it had just disabled.

One of most important authors in the fight for a New Navy for a New Century is Commander Henry J. Hendrix, USN. While the fleet is currently struggling with numbers and maintaining presence in a world where threats are increasing even as ship numbers continue to fall, he has given us simple answers to complex problems. In the April 2009 issues of USNI’s Proceedings magazine, Jerry gave us the important article “Buy Fords, Not Ferraris” introducing the world to the “Influence Squadron”. In a new post in the current April issue, he expounds further on the subject with “More Henderson, Less Bonds“:

Our Navy, larger than the next 13 international navies combined, can be compared to the highest-paid team in baseball. With its Barry Bonds super carriers, Mark McGwire cruisers, and Sammy Sosa destroyers, today’s Navy consists of all power hitters, with huge slugging percentages and salaries to match. But what if there were another way to build the team? Oakland’s ten-time All-Star and two-time World Series champion Ricky Henderson epitomized the ability to get on and get home by setting a career record for runs scored (2,295)-despite a .279 lifetime batting average-because he also held the career records for walks and stolen bases as well as a lifetime on-base percentage of .401. What if presence, the naval version of the oft-neglected on-base percentage, was actually the most critical naval mission?

There’s your analogy. I’m not a huge baseball fan, but most of you get the concept. I did see the  Baltimore Orioles’ Cal Ripkin Jr. play his 2,131st game on September 6, 1995. Ripkin was known for “doggedly remaining in the lineup despite numerous minor injuries and for his reliability to “show up” to work every day.” He was dependable in other words, and having the ability to “show up” when needed is a life lesson, and important for a global naval force as well.

The international strategic environment that defines the backdrop for naval operations continues to evolve, with fewer support missions in the Persian Gulf but rising challenges in the waters of the Philippines and Indonesia, increasing agitation in the Caribbean and Central and South America, as well as growing threats along the shores of Africa. The rise of China as a Pacific naval power is defining the future test for the Navy.


…defense spending has decreased, and the naval shipbuilding budget has remained stagnant at or around $13 billion a year…One can only shove so many ships into a $13 billion procurement bag. The price tag for Littoral Combat Ships is $600 million. Ballistic-missile-defense Arleigh Burke-class Aegis destroyers/San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ships/Virginia-class nuclear-powered attack submarines come in at $2 billion. Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine replacements cost $6 billion. And Gerald Ford-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers set us back $10 billion. This continues to suggest a need for a new, cheaper, yet larger force structure.

The Navy has pretty much abandoned the larger fleet concept. Though they occasionally throw out the “313 ship Navy” mantra, more close to reality barring a dramatic increase in defense spending (good luck with that), more likely there will be decreases nearing the 200 ship navy mark. Most amazingly, even with this fantasy future military spending increase, it would only just sustain our numbers, not dramatically increase them!

So, as Jerry and yours truly often contends, buying only or mostly large exquisite Blue Water warships are not helping but hurting our seapower, as well as contributing to the decline of our “Influence” around the world:

It is a naval force tailored to missions both new and old. Harking back to the founding of the republic, Influence Squadrons will be numerous enough to combat piracy-the only naval mission actually enshrined within the U.S. Constitution-and strong enough to take on terrorists who smuggle weapons across the seas as well as interdict the drug lords whose products kill more Americans per month than al Qaeda has in its history. Larger numbers of platforms will also enable Influence Squadrons to both provide local medical assistance in the form of vaccinations and respond swiftly to natural disasters and thus prevent epidemics of such diseases as dysentery and cholera.

In addition, the simplified characteristics of the Influence Squadron’s platforms will help the Navy to build partnership capacity and perform security force assistance missions without over-awing local coalition partners with Aegis-level technology.

The Influence Squadron is a new way of thinking about sea control. Out of the powerful “kick down the down” mindset from the Cold War, really the last World Wars, it would be something entirely different, more focused. A thinking Navy as much as a doing one, where diplomacy and good will amounts as much as over-whelming firepower. That latter is good to have to but not for most of the problems of seapower.

Yet, it doesn’t neglect firepower either, but in the spirit of this Age of Precision, it promises to use our impressive fighting power more wisely. In today’s world, firepower is drastically more efficient, less massive retaliation to “one bomb, one hit”. The new squadron then becomes a smart bomb in the midst of pirates, smugglers, and rogue states. Most importantly, it will see the return of numbers, and the spreading of capability around the fleet, instead of concentrating it within a declining force of exquisite platforms.

Tomorrow-We open up the Influence Squadron for a peek inside!

35 Comments leave one →
  1. June 4, 2014 4:04 am

    You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this matter to be actually something that I think I would never understand. It seems too complex and extremely broad for me. I am looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the hang of it!

  2. Scott B. permalink
    April 6, 2010 12:16 pm

    leesea said : “I would simply note that one should not compare little apples with big grapefruits especially if one has never eaten either.”

    Riverine stuff should be discussed separately in the first place.

  3. leesea permalink
    April 6, 2010 11:24 am

    I would simply note that one should not compare little apples with big grapefruits especially if one has never eaten either.

  4. Scott B. permalink
    April 6, 2010 4:19 am

    leesea said : “The key to Cdr Hendrix’s new IFron is affordability and flexiblity as well as presence.”

    At the risk of repeating myself again, the ABSALON is CHEAPER to procure than the JHSV once you factor their respective service lives into the equation.

    Which means that, for a given initial investment, you can have more of them and/or more of something else, which is the best way to increase numbers, therefore presence.

    In terms of flexibility, the and the JHSV are not even in the same league, the latter being nothing more than a fragile intra-theater vessel that would succumb in anything but the most benign environments.

    You might want to take another look at all the capabilities an ABSALON can offer.

    Is the ABSALON-class the be all and end all of naval warfare ? Probably not, but they are AFFORDABLE and possess all 10 critical attributes defined by Dr. Robert Daljsö.

    That’s good enough in my book, and certainly much better than all the promises made by people like Bob Work who have invested so much of their personal credibility in failed programs like LCS or LPD-17…



    NOW !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. leesea permalink
    April 6, 2010 12:22 am

    Abaslons are not the be all and end all. Both in terms of size and cost they have to be considered in a spectrum of ships needed by any navy. I would not want them in an IFron for instance. But I would want an JHSV because it works in several roles the USN needs them for. The key to Cdr Hendrix’s new IFron is affordability and flexiblity as well as presence. Fleets can not be made up of all large ships be they CVNs or Absalons.

    The Absalon are not meant for littoral warfare. Though they can handle mission modules like LCS but who says those will work? Their capabilites are a good compromise but for instance they are not that good at being an AGP like to support small warboats and I don’t think they have extensive helo support capability.

  6. Scott B. permalink
    April 5, 2010 7:09 pm

    leesea (aka leerw LOL) said : “LCS should have been several ships and none the size of the Absalon.”

    As Dr. Robert Dalsjö recently pointed out : “A frigate may seldom be the optimal and perfect fit for operational requirements, but is normally so versatile that it can always make a useful contribution. In this context it is better to be roughly right than precisely wrong.”

    Several ships as you suggest necessarily almost invariably leads to several one-trick poneys, which is EXACTLY the best way to be precisely WRONG, and might explain why such one-trick poneys (especially in the high-speed variety) may have had very short service lives in the US Navy (think Pegasus).

    I’d rather be roughly right with a VERSATILE and AFFORDABLE design like ABSALON. And much like Stuart Slade, it makes no doubt to me that “the Absalon and her near-sisters are exactly what the LCS should have been”.

  7. Scott B. permalink
    April 5, 2010 6:55 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “So with the Influence Squadron you have numerous low cost focused mission vessels that share the workload.”

    Here is more maths for you :

    Let’s assume you want a force of 50 *motherships*.

    The choice is between :

    1) ABSALON : $226 million per unit with a service life of 30 years.

    2) JHSV : $194 million per unit with a service life of 20 years.

    Over a period of 30 years :

    1) The ABSALON option requires an acquisition investment of $11.300 million.

    2) The JHSV option requires an acquisition investment of $14.550 million, i.e. almost 30% more than option 1 (ABSALON).

    Which option do you think will produce the most numerous fleet ?

    And I am not even talking about capabilities…

  8. leesea permalink
    April 5, 2010 6:53 pm

    in case you haven’t figured it out leerw is same o same o as me – leesea, call it senior moment! LOL

    BTW I did not coin the term Expeditionary Frigate I picked it up off French site Naval Nationale.

    As to several earlier posts:

    LCS should have been several ships and none the size of the Absalon. I think Bob Work was saying the LCS could be modified in ten years time to something else in an new production run? Well ok~

    JHSV for Riverine unit support. I was addressing the specific section of Cdr Hendrix article, read it to see how much is expected on the JHSV. He was talking multiple large boats and people and their support, more AGP than sealift ship. I got informed opinions from those onboard the earlier HSV operations. Not to mention doing something similar in Vietnam!

    JHSV is most assuredly a variation of the Austal 101 meter HSV cat. I know that for fact having worked on WestPac Express project, and Austal says same on its website. The JHSV price was lower than LCS for several reasons, first it is a variation of an EXISTING design see above, next it conforms to ABS HSNC not NVR, next its rqmts were specifically limited to a minimal threshold for joint use purposes. For anyone to say a JHSV can do this or that ignores the designs origins. Mothership was NOT a design rqmt. All changes to specs equal more money period.

    The RFA Bay class is an LSD(A) intended for amphib support a good design for that purpose, but a better choice would be the German Berlin class Type 702 and that is NOT the only possibility for mothership. Remember the key rqmts * Logistic Support* that means to me a multi-product naval auxiliary. Key term of art: multi-product. Also need a new NFAF type which is neither a station ship type nor shuttle ship type. Key phase: new type

  9. Scott B. permalink
    April 5, 2010 6:44 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “So you get a poor performing weapon but at a Ferrari pricetag.”

    Let’s look at the numbers, shall we :

    * cost : DKK 2,500 million for 2 ships, i.e. about $226 million per unit based on current exchange rates.
    * service life : 30 years

    JHSV :
    * cost : $1,555 million for 8 ships (per FY2011 30-year shipbuilding plan), i.e. about $194 million per unit.
    * service life : 20 years

    Now, you do the maths : which one is the best investment for the US Taxpayer : the WARship @ $226 million that will serve for 30 years or the High Speed boondoggle @ $194 million that will serve for 20 years ?

    Which one is the Ford, and which one is the Ferrari ?

  10. Mike Burleson permalink*
    April 5, 2010 5:49 pm

    Another problem with the military as a whole Scott, has been betting the farm on individual, do it all platforms that rarely perform as promised, and with the inevitable cost overruns. So you get a poor performing weapon but at a Ferrari pricetag.

    Concerning the HSVs, it has been used in combat situations and peace-keeping functions worldwide, and the pricetag is really what the LCS should have been, though not a patrol boat. A good mothership-type which shouldn’t be used as a combat vessel anyway. Thats what patrol boats are for.

    So with the Influence Squadron you have numerous low cost focused mission vessels that share the workload. If something fails there will be another platform to take its place.

    Fewer chances, more options, more survivability. Capability shared.

    Haven’t we learned any lessons from LCS or JSF? I love Absalon but also like to keep options open.

  11. Scott B. permalink
    April 5, 2010 5:42 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “I’m just saying, it is too much. Think USS North Carolina BB-55 in WW 2 versus the U-boats. It won’t work.”

    All fine and dandy, but you didn’t answer the question. So I’ll rephrase : if a shell is too expensive to sink a pirate skiff as you proclaim, what is it that you suggest the Navy should use instead ?

    Boarding with knives and hatchets perhaps ?

  12. Scott B. permalink
    April 5, 2010 5:40 pm

    leerw said : “Here are a couple of thoughs on your later post (I hope I’M reading the right one?):”

    Some quick comments :

    1- As our resident leesea summed it up not so long ago, Stiletto = plastic POS.


    a) *Expeditionay Frigate* is an expression coined by our resident leesea. Personally, I like *Station Wagon Frigate* (courtesy : Dr Dalsjö) better, but I would simply call it a Patrol Frigate so as to avoid the semantics orgy that started with LCS.

    b) No matter how you wanna call them, the ABSALONS are exactly what LCS should have been, as Stuart Slade pointed out so many times.


    a) Aluminium is NOT necessarily needed in HSV hulls of this size and capability. The Corsaire HSVs built by Alstom Leroux in France are steel monohulls, and the GD/Rolls-Royce contender for JHSV was also a steel monohull.

    b) JHSV is a boondoggle because over 90% of what it could offer in terms of sealift could be had with a commercial off-the-shelf design (pick your favorite) that could half as much if not less. And could easily be chartered.

    4- and 5- Agree with you. T-AKE is a very poor choice. JHSV simply doesn’t fit the bill, as has been explained soooo many times before on this blog and elsewhere.

    7- Back to ABSALON :

    “A containerised modular hospital can be installed on the flex deck. The hospital has a throughput capacity to treat 40 emergency patients a day or up to ten major surgical operations.”


  13. Mike Burleson permalink*
    April 5, 2010 5:09 pm

    Scott wrote “If you find a 5-inch shell too expensive for the job, what is it that you’re proposing instead ?’

    I’m just saying, it is too much. Think USS North Carolina BB-55 in WW 2 versus the U-boats. It won’t work.

  14. Mike Burleson permalink*
    April 5, 2010 5:06 pm

    Leerw wrote “I would question ther details of how those sailors and boats can be supported on a JHSV? ”

    The Joint Venture HSV was used to support special forces craft in Operation Iraqi Freedom:

    I agree that the T-AKE is overly large for the role of mothership, and personally prefer something like smaller like the British Bay class, that have been used like frigates in the Gulf. They are half sized and half the price of Lewis and Clark.

  15. leerw permalink
    April 5, 2010 4:35 pm

    Scott you got to drink something cool before launching like that LOL

    Here are a couple of thoughs on your later post (I hope I’M reading the right one?):

    1 – 100% agree that the M-80 Stiletto is a plastic toy. I do NOT understand Mike’s fascination with those thin walled go-fast boats from unsuccessful yacht builders? Especially when there are so many good small warboats designed and built and in operation in this country.

    2 – I, as many others, do like the Absalons but they are more support ship than Expeditionary Frigate. Their sister in Ivar Huitfeldt class are much more a frigate. The real key is a new kind of frigate which does not cost over one-half billion each to build. The USN should do like the USCG had done buy existing designs to be built in US shipyards.

    3 – I would hardly consider the JHSV to be an aluminum boondoogle both in terms of number (of similar versions) built or in capacity/capablity. JHSV is what it is a tactical sealift ship nothing more (regardless of all those who mis-characterize it as a mothership, or a station ship. Aluminum is needed in ANY HSV hull of its size and capability. AND there are no close relatives which can perform such a manuever mission. Though I like the Austal MRV, I would observe that Austal has yet to find any buyers. There are already good FACs designs avaiable/in-service. Halter Marine MFC off the top of my head.

    4 – Being a Brownwater Navy vet and having met many of the new riverienes, I have posted on the need for them to be part of an IFron before. I whould question ther details of how those sailors and boats can be supported on a JHSV? There might have to be some serious modifications to the design to accmplish that? POL, provisions, store rooms, shops, ammo lockers etc. Doable I suppose but I would rather provide that support from an Absalon or different mother ship. ( which leads me to next point)

    5 – The T-AKEs are blue water NFAF station ships. Not only are they not suitable in current form for dispersed operations with smaller ships, they modifiications needed to make them perform a mission for which they are note inteneded could easily add $100 mil to each. The support/command ship for a small squadron MUST have more POL lift capacity, more helo deck space and M&R. Sure the T-AKEs can be converted but why not just buy an existing design which fits the needs and build?

    6 – The PC replacement needs a lot more capability than the Cyclones. I would size them up towards 200 ft loa and less than 1000 ton fld. There are plenty of usefull designs NOT from yacht builders. Those could be supported from an (OLD?) amphib maybe? An expediant if not desirable platform. The Navy has been even foggier about what constitures a “station ship” and I contend naval auxiliary could fit the duties performed to date.

    7 – While Medical Diplomacy may use T-AH19 class ships, I would submit that smaller more flexible ships should be used when neeeded. With ANY hospital ship mission comes at least one NFAF to support it.

    It is not a Big or Small issue it is a range of ships to fill an need just now being discussed.

    The link I got for an Expeditionary Frigate (maybe from you?) is this: a little dated now

  16. Scott B. permalink
    April 5, 2010 4:11 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “The shell the Farragut used likely cost more than the boat it sank.”

    If you find a 5-inch shell too expensive for the job, what is it that you’re proposing instead ? Just curious…

  17. Scott B. permalink
    April 5, 2010 4:03 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “A smaller ship would force them to prioritize, as well as being more suited to shallow water warfare, such as…”

    Smaller ships get overloaded as well, and since there is limited room for growth in the first place, every add-on is more expensive and further compromises their very limited survivability (and decreases their service life by the same token).

    A very poor investment. Very Obama though…

  18. Scott B. permalink
    April 5, 2010 3:58 pm

    Heretic said : “I’m merely suggesting only keeping them in USN service for 10 years before selling them off”

    Bob Work suggested the exact same with his beloved LCS(-1).

    Although it might sound *very Obama*, this is a pure WASTE of taxpayer money.

  19. Mike Burleson permalink*
    April 5, 2010 3:58 pm

    Whatever platform we use, it has to better than things are now. Look at the above photo. The shell the Farragut used likely cost more than the boat it sank. We must and can do better. Such a waste and too much force concentrated while we are stretched thin and over-deployed.

  20. Mike Burleson permalink*
    April 5, 2010 3:54 pm

    ScottB wrote “I was pleased to discover that some of the Ferraris included in Hendrix’s original *Influence Squadron* have finally been dropped,”

    I was too! Its the cost of the giant ships that are changing minds about what is needed, and what is not. Puts things into perspective.

    Concerning Absalon, if only the admirals could be trusted not to overload it with unessential add-ons, but you know how that goes. A smaller ship would force them to prioritize, as well as being more suited to shallow water warfare, such as…

    Steve Symm said “Stiletto is positively cheap for its capabilities.”

    Couldn’t have said it better!

  21. Scott B. permalink
    April 5, 2010 3:53 pm

    Steve Symm said : ” I dislike pointing out the obvious, but simply as a point of logic, bigger is not axiomatically better.”

    If you wish to be *argumentative or discursive* on this kind of subject, perhaps you should search the blog to find out what the motto *THINK BIG, not small* means in the first place.

  22. Scott B. permalink
    April 5, 2010 3:46 pm

    Steve Symm said : “You contend that the M-80 Stiletto is a ‘plastic toy’ and a ‘Ferrari’. This is emotive, rather than quantitative, argumentative or discursive.”

    There’s exactly ZERO emotion in my assessment : Stiletto is a VERY EXPENSIVE (much more than $10 million a copy) plastic toy that offers VERY LIMITED capabilities.

    As for being argumentative or discursive, your comparison with Skjold is grossly uninformed and misleading.

  23. Heretic permalink
    April 5, 2010 3:27 pm

    Scott B. I’m not suggesting that the Influence Squadron ships only be built with a design life of 10 years. I’m merely suggesting only keeping them in USN service for 10 years before selling them off (with useful life still left in them) to foreign navies/coast guards to recoup the cost of building them in the first place … and dramatically extend the reach of their Influence.

  24. Steve Symm permalink
    April 5, 2010 3:23 pm

    B. Walthrop:

    M.V. Simkin and V.P. Roychowdhury (UCLA) have indicated that only about 20% of academic papers are read in full by individuals using the paper’s main argument(s) in their own thesis. This figure is supported by other studies. *There is no inherent, absolute epistemological rule that states that extracting particular extracts is neither useful nor illuminative.* As a simple illustrative example, I can accurately state Newton’s Laws of Motion, without having read in full the Principia Mathematica.

    It is rational to posit that is such a ‘pull quote’ approach is good enough for a PhD, it’s good enough for a blog. I think you should acknowledge this.

    Scott B:

    You contend that the M-80 Stiletto is a ‘plastic toy’ and a ‘Ferrari’. This is emotive, rather than quantitative, argumentative or discursive. At an approximate cost of USD $10 million per copy, Stiletto is positively cheap for its capabilities. If we compare the vessel (without systems) to a relatively comparable ship such as the Norwegian Skjold class (without systems) it is approximately a third of the cost per ton. On a cost basis, it compares very, very well to similar sized vessels in the military or commercial spheres. Its range, speed, ride and payload are at least competent (if not above average) for its size.

    As to its utility: at USD $10 million a copy compared to USD $5 to $10 billion for a new super carrier, I say ‘buy some and experiment’. It would be long-winded exhaustively to list the roles a shallow draft, cheap, fast vessel such as Stiletto could undertake, but they must surely include coastal patrol, special forces insertion, interdiction, fast attack boat, missile boat, convoy protection, and anti-piracy vessel. All of these are perfectly useful roles in a modern navy.

    Incidentally, in any kind of ‘hot war’ against a technological near-peer armed with submarines, Harpoon, Exocet, RBS 15 or similar, the survival chances of the small and stealthy Stiletto dwarf those of the Absalon. I dislike pointing out the obvious, but simply as a point of logic, bigger is not axiomatically better. Form and function should fit together dependent upon the mission and the operating environment.

  25. Scott B. permalink
    April 5, 2010 2:11 pm

    (please delete previous post : missing tags)

    Heretic said : “Build 3 complete Influence Squadrons per year with the explicit intent to SELL THEM to foreign navies after 10 years to recoup a portion (half?) the cost of building them in the first place.”

    1) For $1.35 billion, you could get 5 ABSALON and keep them for 30 years.

    2) You won’t recoup half the initial investment after 10 years, especially in the case of the aluminium boondoggles (JHSV and MRV).

    3) Bottom line :

    a) drop the aluminium stuff out of the mix.

    b) use your T-AKEs for what they were designed for, i.e. Dry Cargo / Ammunition ships.

    c) let our Third World allies invest in manpower-intensive Coastal Patrol crafts.

    d) replace all of the above with a proper Station Wagon Frigate, aka Expeditionary Frigate like, for instance, the extraordinary ABSALON.

    e) and now you’ve got a useful *Influence Squadron* !!!

    In other words : THINK BIG, not small !!!

  26. Hudson permalink
    April 5, 2010 1:34 pm

    Would not a standard amphibious task force basically do the job of an influence squadron? The Navy has vast experience with these, the ships to man them, and they can be mounted in all Fleets.

    Or am I missing the point, thatI.S. is a new fangled term proposed by people like Henry (I want to say Jimi) Hendrix to confuse everyone into thinking the Navy must buy new ships, that it can’t afford, to accomplish new tasks, that it doesn’t really need to perform or is already performing under different nomenclature?

  27. Heretic permalink
    April 5, 2010 1:03 pm

    Taken as a whole, each [influence] squadron will cost the nation $1.35 billion [for 10 ships]

    SOLD !

    Build 3 complete Influence Squadrons per year with the explicit intent to SELL THEM to foreign navies after 10 years to recoup a portion (half?) the cost of building them in the first place. A steady procurement rate running indefinitely like that would push the cost DOWN on building them, and as the yards acquire experience churning these things out as a matter of routine, efficiency will go up (so long as oversight isn’t asleep at the wheel, again).

    For $4 billion a year, the USN could reach a 300 ship navy of Influence that would relieve the 200 ship navy of Peer Competition from needing to do all the “dirty work” of actually protecting the global commons on which our economic prosperity depends.

  28. Heretic permalink
    April 5, 2010 12:07 pm

    Because of fleet rotation schedules, what you “need” to have to maintain continuous presence is a (Stations * 3) + 1 count on carriers. Deployed, En Route or Training, Replenishing is the basic duty cycle. You also need one more beyond those in order to have a single ship in SLEP for drydock maintenance and the like.

    The USN is currently looking at dropping down to 10 carriers, which “supports” allowing 3 carriers to be deployed at all times with 1 carrier in SLEP. Dropping down to 8 carriers would allow for only 2 carriers to be deployed at all times, but which would in turn reduce the op-tempo on crews somewhat by going from a 3 stage rotation to a 3.5-4 stage rotation schedule which would be less sensitive to timetable disruptions.

    You just have to decide where you want to have continuous presence more carefully.

    And dropping down to 8 carriers would “solve” that Nuclear Parking Lot (empty) problem the USN seems to be facing.

  29. Scott B. permalink
    April 5, 2010 11:47 am

    Jerry Hendrix wrote in April 2009 : “The next step on the Navy’s path to a new future should be the creation of “Influence Squadrons” composed of an amphibious mother ship (an LPD-17 or a cheaper commercial ship with similar capabilities), a destroyer to provide air, surface, and subsurface defensive capabilties, a Littoral Combat Ship to extend a squadron’s reach into the green-water environment and provide some mine warfare capabilities, a Joint High Speed Vessel to increase lift, a Coastal Patrol ship to operate close in, and an M80 Stiletto to provide speed and versatility.”

    I was pleased to discover that some of the Ferraris included in Hendrix’s original *Influence Squadron* have finally been dropped, namely : the Überexpensive Little Crappy Ship, the equally Überexpensive LPD-17 and Mike B’s favorite plastic toy aka M80 Stiletto.

    I am particularly pleased with this quote from Hendrix’s new article :

    “Some might ask why the Littoral Combat Ship is not included within the Influence Squadron, and the answer would be is that it is, at more than $600 million a copy, too expensive for the capabilities it brings to the environment.”

  30. Mike Burleson permalink*
    April 5, 2010 9:17 am

    B. Walthrop-Thanks for your thoughts. Very interesting and I may read this book.

    My first book didn’t sell too well, so naturally I’m a little hesitant, but it has often occurred to me.

    Marcase, you are right about the USCG and their excellent littoral capabilities. As my friend Lee Wahler would insist, this isn’t something the Coast Guard should be leading. I fear the USN possessing an all battleship force would be its death knell as such vessels are not so required in an era of mostly small threats.

    Historically she has found future leaders for the Big Wars from among sailors who gained valuable experience fighting in small brush fire conflicts, and that includes against pirates and smugglers. There are some things you can’t learn in front of a video game (simulators).

    The USN has often led the charge against small threats, howbeit reluctantly as you point out, and I think they must do so again or face cuts, the politicians being naturally horrified at continuous bad news from the shipyards of cost overruns and faulty construction.

    The USN is a battleship navy, even more so than the British Royal Navy ever was. The latter balanced their capital vessels with numerous smaller cruisers, gunboats, corvettes, sloops, etc. America still has a small navy mindset but with global responsibilities. But you get too stretch you are liable to break under the strain. We see signs of that already.

  31. ShockwaveLover permalink
    April 5, 2010 9:00 am

    First thing to do, as far as I can see, is drop the carrier numbers to 8, and put the oldest ones in reserve. Keep the first Ford (rather ironic isn’t it, that this $12 billion dollar vessel is called a Ford) as it’s already been started, and then dedicate a fixed percentage of the shipbuilding budget, say 7.5 billion, towards a definite 30 Influence ships in the first year, the 35 in the second, 40 in the third and so on, until it reaches the stage where costs can’t be brought down any lower. Failure to deliver ships on time and on budget is paid for by the companies making them. Off the shelf technology and proven stuff only thanks. Probably JHSVs or HMS Aboukir Bay types, as well as orders for other useful vessels.

    The other 5.5 can go towards building more Arleigh Burke’s and Virginia’s, two types that at least serve a purpose. At the latest costs, that would get you 1 Burke and 2 Virginia’s per year, enough to keep the shipyards going if we need them.

  32. B. Walthrop permalink
    April 5, 2010 8:53 am

    CDR Hendrix has clearly been reading “Moneyball, The Art of Winning an Unfair Game” by Michael Lewis. I highly recommend this book for an interesting “out of the box” take on the business of competitive sports. As CDR Hendrix shows in his article, there is also some applicability of this analogy across multiple disciplines including the USN.

    That said, the analogy, as far as it goes, is thought provoking and should be carefully considered. Where I believe this argument really breaks down in a Naval endeavor is that the book tells the story of the methodology the Oakland A’s used to remain competitive (as well as make the play-offs) with a minuscule budget compared to power houses like the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. The Oakland team was very successful in remaining competitive with their larger salaried brethren by focusing on the metrics that really “mattered” in providing the best opportunity for a team to win games. I am not sure that the goal of the USN should be merely to remain competitive.

    Unfortunately for the A’s, while they remained competitive (and enjoyed a fair degree of success) on a limited budget, they never were a true power house that was going to win the World Series on a consistent basis with this model. It was certainly required based on their fiscal constraints, but it was not a model that was going to allow them to consistently come out on top. This weakness (and it is indeed a weakness) is a dangerous attitude to accept when making national security decisions surrounding the navy of any maritime nation. From my perspective, the USN should be seeking to be the power house that will consistently win when it matters (and that is the World Series in this analogy’s parlance). Unfortunately as the Yankees, the Red Sox, and the Phillies have recently proven, this effort is also likely to require a great deal of capital investment.

    On this point I agree — The USN should definitely re-examine some of their metrics that are driving the institutional business.

    Make sure you read the book and think about the applicability to an organization like the USN before using “pull quotes” without the appropriate context in suggesting decisions that will haunt or help the United States global interests for decades to come.

    As is common, a blog is a very challenging environment to have a discussion surrounding issues that have wide ranging implications, and the challenge of in depth analysis (that I believe is required when proposing to radically alter a navy’s force structure) is often side stepped in the rush to “score some runs”. I am left to assume it is a limitation of the medium, and nothing more.

    Mike, perhaps you should consider wrapping the ideas expressed in your posts (as well as some of the commentary) into another book.


  33. Marcase permalink
    April 5, 2010 6:57 am

    The debate should really be based upon capabilities, and not about ship numbers.
    The USN abhorrs being a ‘Coast Guard’, but the USCG has the right ships and aircraft for ‘littoral’ missions. If the flaws can be corrected, the USCG Deepwater program may be a ready and available roadmap for a ‘lower tier’ / Influence element of the USN, which could then reserve its amphibious and carrier expeditionary groups for pure strike and power projection.


  1. Rapid Fire: 2010-04-12
  2. links for 2010-04-06 « Budget Insight

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