Dissecting the Influence Squadron Pt 2
A New Navy for a New Century is the goal, as we continue to peek inside the Influence Squadron devised by Commander Henry J. “Jerry” Hendrix, U.S. Navy. Here in the April 2010 Proceedings, we learn more about the concept for restoring numbers and maintaining sea control by the US Navy with “More Henderson, Less Bonds“.
Yesterday we discussed the imperative need for such a concept, with a fleet shrinking under the weight of outdated concepts involving massive firepower of supercarriers, Aegis destroyers, giant amphibious ships, and nuclear attack subs from the Cold War. Instead we think a lighter footprint is called for, not only to increase drastically fallen ship numbers in an age of sterile shipbuilding budgets, but also for ships more relevant to the concerns of littoral warfare, where the Navy needs to be in this new environment. As a starter, Jerry would see the Influence Squadron something like this:
The Influence Squadron-Riverine Detachment
- one 49-foot riverine command boat
- three 38-foot patrol boats
- two 33-foot assault boats
Cost-About $40 million
According to Jerry, these craft would extend the reach of the Squadron, which would itself extend the reach of the Blue Water element of carriers, destroyers, and subs. The latter we recognize as immensely effective and powerful, but aren’t right for modern sea control, which would more effectively and less costly be performed by these “new cruisers”. Neither are they adequate for operating with allied navies, which often consist of corvettes, frigates, and patrol boats, to guard their coastlines from pirates and smugglers.
I also appreciate the plan to deploy coastal warships of 100-200 ft, that price in the tens of millions, from “$20 to $40 million a copy”. This is a huge leap in thinking when present day warships usually start at half-billion dollars each, and end up at the $10 billion. But this is how you restore ship numbers, and such craft are sufficient for most problems of modern seapower such as anti-piracy and anti-narcotics smuggling. Today we are using $2 billion Aegis destroyers and $700 million LCS for this type of extreme low tech work!
The Influence Squadron-Coastal Element
- Austal Multi-Role Vessel at $150 million each
- Joint High Speed Vessel at $170 million each
- Motherships-Lewis and Clark-class T-AKEs at $400 million
Now we are spreading out further from shore, but in layers, giving future foes no leeway. In the ongoing anti-piracy mission off Somali, we see the new insurgents at sea slipping through the net of the very powerful but very few Western frigates, no matter how individually capable they are. This is how the guerrilla is intimidating Western armies on land. Despite the lack of capability, they can still do power and presence thanks to their dispersed numbers and agility.
Other essential support (including medical help from large Hospital Ships) would come from unmanned vehicles which are transforming war on land, sea, and air, such as:
- Thales’ Spartan Scout unmanned surface vehicle
- Insitu’s Integrator unmanned aerial vehicle
- Bluefin’s autonomous underwater vehicle
Finally for some cost comparisons:
- One Influence Squadron-$1.35 billion (10 ships)
- Two Littoral Combat Ships-$1.4 billion
- 1 Arleigh Burke Destroyer-$1.8 billion
Only a small portion of the Blue Water budget would need be diverted to the new ships, about 10% according to the author. The contrast in purchases would be dramatic, as we pointed out: up to 10-1.
So, for all the current Navy woes, from inadequate presence, declining force structures, over-complicated ship programs constantly delayed and suffering enormous cost-overruns, the answer seems simple. The Influence Squadron provides more ships, which are affordable and easy to build, which would also provide work for long-suffering shipyards, while at the same time are more relevant for where the Navy wants to be, dominating the littorals as it already does with the Blue Water.