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Choose Your Own Navy!

April 12, 2010

The Center For Naval Analysis has a report titled “the Navy at the Tipping Point” where they detail 5 Options for a future Navy, in mind of static military spending but ongoing, perhaps increasing threats. Here is my own synopsis of the 5. Which would you choose?

  1. 2-Hub Navy: Deterring Regional Challenges-Would consist of high end forces deployed mainly in the Western Pacific and Arabian Sea. Emphasizing carrier and TLAM strike groups, it would deemphasize amphibious and littoral forces. It would also maintain adequate forces for missile defense. Would depend more on allies for low end escort ships.
  2. 1+Hub Navy:A powerful forward deployed presence but only in the Western Pacific. Based on Carriers, TLAMs. Arabian Gulf region greatly deemphasized. The fleet would deploy West in the face of growing Chinese anti-access forces, and leave the Gulf vulnerable to resurgent Islamic terrorists.
  3. Shaping Navy: Engage and Stabilize-The Navy would maintain a strong amphibious staging capability while greatly strengthening the Green/Brown Water assets such as LCS, JHSV, corvettes, and so on. These would be supported by SSGNs and work in conjunction with Riverine forces. Carriers, Aegis Warships, the BMD mission, and SSNs would be deemphasized. The forward presence would be maintained but mostly with low end assets. CNA feels this would face “Loss of combat credibility and deterrence”.
  4. Surge Navy: Power from CONUS-The Navy would give up forward deployment in favor of a home-based fleet, something unseen in the USN since the 1930s. While presence would remain, it would be very minimal, as would the number of low end assets. The BMD force would be cut, and the lessened need for forward airpower would entail fewer CVNs. It takes for granted plenty of warning time allowing for Surge forces to reach a crisis area. Gives up presence for the threat of massive force if attacked. CNA says “No presence = no influence.”
  5. Shrinking the Status Quo Navy-This is the “balanced fleet” the Navy is currently striving for, in an attempt to be strong everywhere. The difference being the budget realities allowing only for a “230 ship Navy”. Cuts in ship acquisitions would be across the board, from CVNs and Aegis, SSNs, amphibious ships to littoral ships. Deployments would be extended and assets would be stretched. Training would be greatly curtailed. It would be an expensive fleet, but geared mainly toward low-end contingencies. It’s capacity to surge would be reduced, with the assumption that there would be fewer threats to contend with in the future. CNA’s conclusion for this option is the “Navy will do all things, but none of them very well”.

From reading the document to the end, CNA’s preference seems to be the 2-Hub Strategy. My own choice is the Shaping Navy for obvious reasons, since it is more usable for the wars we are fighting now. Furthermore, I am against the idea that only high end exquisite warships can survive in a future peer conflict. In fact, I worry the opposite may be true.


16 Comments leave one →
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  3. B.Smitty permalink
    April 14, 2010 9:51 am

    Scathsealgaire said, “ There is a place for cutting edge and a place for ugly as f*ck but gets the job done.

    Yes but what is the “job” in this case? The USN has to build vessels that can deploy and be sustained around the world. They need a diverse set of capabilities to match the many missions the Navy may be called upon to do. They also want to reduce fleet-wide manning costs.

    The massed speedboat threat only seems relevant to the Persian Gulf/Straight of Hormuz region. So whatever counter we come up with for it there may not be appropriate in other areas of operation.

    Maybe we need some specialized assets for just this region, but keep the remainder of the fleet multi-mission (or mission-reconfigurable).

  4. Scathsealgaire permalink
    April 13, 2010 8:50 pm

    My only contribution would be to remind everyone that the T-34 and Sherman tanks were not the strongest, fastest or most leading edge tanks during WWII. They were produced faster and in such great numbers that the Panzers were out numbered in almost every engagement.

    Germany learnt that numbers count. Even if you have the most sophisicated weapons, if it takes years to produce them you will be destroyed by a weapon that gets the job done and can be produced quickly.

    If fifty high-speed torpedo boats attacked a US ship, that ship would be sunk. They might loose twenty doing it, but those twenty boats could be rebuilt much faster than any current US warship.

    There is a place for cutting edge and a place for ugly as f*ck but gets the job done. the majority of Frigates and Destroyers need to be the “ugly as f*ck but gets the job done” end. They are the defense for the Cruisers and Capatal ships. They are going to take casualties defending the expensive assets.

    Wow this turned out to be longer than the short comment I thought it was going to be. I must be getting old and long winded.

  5. Heretic permalink
    April 13, 2010 4:58 pm

    I have my moments … ^_-

  6. papa legba permalink
    April 13, 2010 4:30 pm

    Heretic’s analysis of future threats is important. China is building a regional force. I’m no fan of the Chinese government, but the fact is that they have good reasons to do so– along with ambitions for Taiwan, of course.

    For all the saber-rattling coming out of the USSR, the simple fact is that they do not have the wealth to rebuild their navy to cold war size. Considering that the population of the nation is still shrinking, they won’t for several decades.

    The US Navy dominates the oceans in a way that the Royal Navy at her height never did. What’s more, There is no threat comperable to the Kaiserliche Marine on the horizon. We have more aircraft carriers than the rest of the world combined. Anyone that is speaking of a loss of “combat credibility” of the most overawing naval force in history is living in the Cold War.

  7. Chris Stefan permalink
    April 13, 2010 9:21 am

    No matter which strategy the Navy and Congress choose, something really has to be done about all of the defense procurement programs that seem to spiral out of control.

    Frankly the services need to keep it simple and build incremental improvements into their platform buys. Furthermore they need to agree to a well defined set of specifications and performance criteria and cut way down on the the change orders. I recognize we still need to do R&D but the programs to do that should be separate from major platform procurement. Prove the technology works before building a major platform around it.

    For example is there really any reason the Ford wasn’t just an incremental update to the Nimitz class? Nobody else seems capable of building or operating anything even remotely comparable to the carriers the US has been building since the USS Enterprise.

    Similarly is there any real reason not to fill the carrier decks with Super Hornets? What “peer threat” does the F-35 address if any? Modern SAM systems are a rather cheap way to counter modern fighters and attack aircraft, but is buying a large number of extremely expensive airplanes the best way to counter that threat?

    I have to agree a frigate based on the Legend class cutter seems like a good way to get a lower cost escort and small warship into the fleet. Add some decent OPV type vessels and some Absalon types for small amphibs and you’ve got the hulls you need for presence.

    I guess I come down in the “shaping” scenario camp though I don’t think that necessarily means giving up the ability to do the 1+ or even 2 hub Navy when needed. The reality is the US Navy particularly when combined with allied forces is many times larger than any possible opposing force.

  8. Mike Burleson permalink*
    April 13, 2010 4:48 am

    Short of war, the only thing which has hope of driving naval reform is the budget. As Mandal pointed out, the problems of late haven’t been funding, but cost will now start effecting the fleet in the next few years, as the Army budget continues to rise at the expense of all else.

    I am hopeful lack of funds will force the drastic change I think we need. The continued decline of sea control assets can only mean the end of Western seapower. Specifically, the US and her allies will soon have the world’s most magnificent port defense force of carriers and giant amphibs, since they won’t be able to leave for lack of escorts. Third World and rising navies are turning to asymmetric tactics proven on land, bringing them to the sea.

    The submarine is still the major threat it has always been. Sadly, its abilities have increased while our ASW techniques are neglected. Before each war in the last century we are promised technology will solve the menace, but it has always taken vast quantities of ships and planes to defeat the sub, something we have forgotten in this new century. Have the admirals conceded final victory to their undersea antagonist?

  9. leesea permalink
    April 13, 2010 1:53 am

    yes its from Center for Naval Analysis which is closely tied to the USN. Link here: which says this about themselves

    CNA is a non-profit research organization that operates the Center for Naval Analyses and the Institute for Public Research. Through innovative analysis, CNA provides public sector organizations with the tools to tackle complex problems. CNA’s objective, empirical research and analysis help decision makers form sound policies, make better informed decisions, and manage programs more effectively. In so doing, CNA has established itself at the forefront of efforts to make our country safer and stronger, and our government more efficient. The organization is defined by a unique brand of multi-disciplinary, field-based “real world” research and analysis.

    CNA’s roots trace back to 1942 and World War II. During this period our scientists conducted seminal research that helped the Allied Forces with the German U-Boat threat. In the process, we pioneered the field of operations research and analysis, now a distinct field of study and a series of techniques widely used in both military and civil society.

    Building on this rich history and our innovative approaches to solving national security and defense issues, CNA now addresses a broader range of public interest issues. CNA’s growth into new areas that affect the public—including education, health care and public health, homeland security, human capital management, and air traffic management—reflects an institution that is evolving to apply our experience to the ever more complex issues facing society and its leaders.

    CNA’s empirical approach to public interest research and analysis is increasingly important as unvarnished, objective analysis becomes increasingly rare. CNA provides decision makers with the kind of expert, cutting-edge analysis that can make the difference between good and great decisions—and between success and failure.

  10. Mandal permalink
    April 12, 2010 11:58 pm

    I think the CNA’s analysis is a bit flawed. It assumes that the future years will be exactly like the past years. It also ignores the reasoning on why we procured so few ships in the last 15 years.

    Our procurement problem wasn’t lack of money…it was lack of available “products”. The navy basically ended its last major frigate run in the early 90’s, it had no cruiser design, its destroyer design (the DDG-51) ended in the mid 2000’s. Even if the navy wanted to procure more ships there was none to choose from. The navy, especially over the last 10 years, has been trying to go through a transition to a “21st century fleet” with the procurement of the CGX, the DDG-1000, and the LCS. As we know 2 of those didnt pan out and the third is mediocre. The navy is now going back to basics and procuring ships that they know they can build, such as the DDG-51. Plus with the LCS about to get into full swing production you can easily see a procurement of about 10 ships per year over the next 5 years.

    The last 2 years we have procured a total of 16 ships….and in FY2011 we are slated to procure 9.

    I will also add that the CNA article assumes that the navy won’t change course with regards to procurement. For example, there is still alot of talk about the Legend Class Cutter being used as a new FFG for the navy (Northrop Grumman offered a navy version for yess than $500 million). If this would occur the navy would be able to afford procurement of more vessels.

    In conclusion: I am no expert but i just feel that the CNA analysis assumes too much. But i will end with this: in 1989 all budgetary projections were that the U.S. would run a massive budget defecit throughout the coming decade and that Debt/GDP ratio would be close to a 100% by year 2000. As we know from history…the last few years of that decade the U.S. ran the largest surplus in its history

  11. Anonymous permalink
    April 12, 2010 10:16 pm

    “The Center For Defense Analysis has a report titled “the Navy at the Tipping Point” where they detail 5 Options for a future Navy, in mind of static military spending but ongoing, perhaps increasing threats.”


    Not to nitpick — but the study was actually released by Center for Naval Analysis, and not the Center for Defense Analysis nor the Navy proper.

  12. Hudson permalink
    April 12, 2010 5:52 pm

    I guess I would look at matters differently, starting with preserving bases abroad as long as possible. If the trend is fewer bases, then we more long range ships, which means the nuclear carriers and subs. Maybe we should bring back nuclear cruisers as well.

    Even at 230 ships, the Navy would be tremendously strong–its core of cruisers, carriers, destroyers and subs–unrivaled in the world. Ships are expensive to build everywhere, although the USN seems to top the list. A lot of that is lack of budget oversight.

    So keep the fleets in place. Forget about major war with China but keep the 7th Fleet strong. Protect the Americas, the Mediterranean. Stand tall in the Gulf region. Add a sprinkling of patrol vessels off the Horn of Africa.

    So I’m playing the #5 card, which is more like a Jack than a seven. Though we could be headed for 2-Hub. Remember our allies!

  13. Heretic permalink
    April 12, 2010 5:42 pm

    I’m actually in favor of an approach that lies in the Option 2.5 region between a Pacific Hub for leviathan assets and heavily amphibious green/brown assets for presence in other regions.

    The simple fact of the matter is that there is really only one potentially hostile Major Naval Power on the planet to the USN, and that is China. And the navy that they’re building is not a “sink San Diego” fleet but rather a “keep off my beach” fleet interested in defending their own waters. Furthermore, China has LOTS of competitors in the neighborhood, so they’re not exactly UNjustified in taking the course they are.

    Another simple fact is that once you lose the necessary expertise and institutional knowledge required to “do” big grey floaty things and the like, it takes a long time (and/or a lot of casualties) to reconstitute it. That’s why I’m averse to just “dumping” the leviathan navy we’ve got and rebuilding everything from scratch.

    That’s why I’m thinking that there has got to be (somewhere) a happy medium between Option 2 and Option 3. I want an Option 2.5 … because that would be the most combat credible force we could build for the future (methinks).

  14. Mike Burleson permalink*
    April 12, 2010 3:46 pm

    Matt-“I respect and value your opinion — I just don’t agree with it!”

    I’d be disappointed if everyone did! We’d have little to discuss.

    But I do think we can give up numbers of high end warships, without compromising capability. They are so much more capable now thanks to precision strike weapons, new sensors, GPS, and so on.

    I say, take the risk and save the fleet. They are vanishing anyway, because of costs, as we see with option #5.

    Note that CNA never said “increase the shipbuilding budget”. They are being realistic.

  15. CBD permalink
    April 12, 2010 3:11 pm

    I’m going to have to go with what’s behind door #3…if only because CNA labels that strategy with the possibility of a “Loss of combat credibility and deterrence”. As it stands, this is a False Dilemma, albeit one with many parts.

    I think 4 leaves no quick response options. Sailing times are how long from CONUS to SE Asia? To the Gulf? To Africa?

    Option 5 goes foolishly in the other direction…also known as what we’re doing now by slowly dwindling numbers until there’s no capability left to patrol OR surge.

    Option 2 seems to be the preference of some Chinahawks…and focuses the Navy as a means of balancing international power rather than as a means of protecting US interests abroad. If there’s a war in the Western Pacific there won’t be any trade headed between the US and China…and most of the resources either country cares about are focused more around SE Asia and the Indian Ocean. It also means that anyone only needs to worry about the whereabouts of a single USN forward hub’s assets.

    Option 1 is an admission of the failure of the USN to do anything other than produce high end warships that have reduced capability from a 3 hub force to a 2 hub force…and leave us without any means of attending to lower end threats.

    Option 3 is disparaged…but CNA is also describing how it would work in their view and they don’t want it to be a serious option. Why not a 3 hub plus option? Aim for the existing hubs but emphasize (as some have in recent deployments) the need for something more like an LHD than a CVN in most likely African, Mediterranean and South American conflicts. The concept of 7 global fleet stations (4 low-level stations receive ARG and Partnership Station/Influence Squadron patrols; 3 high-level stations get those and regular CVBG patrols).

    As has been suggested, this would mean that freeing assets from 1-2 additional CVBGs would likely afford (immediately) several such “partnership and influence squadrons.” Measures to introduce mid-level ships (FFGs like the F-100) would provide modest savings but would primarily benefit the fleet by reserving DDGs for BMD and CVBG patrols. DESRON patrols would be much cheaper with 1 DDG and 2 FFG.

  16. Matt permalink
    April 12, 2010 2:58 pm

    I obviously share CNAs preference for a 2-Hub or 1+ Hub Navy. I agree with their conclusion that while a Shaping Navy may satisy the “forward present” requirement for a global navy, it is no way a “combat credible” deterrent to peer adversaries.

    I also think that the alternatives to aircraft carriers which you have postulated (particularly land-based bombers and fighters) are in fact much less survivable than carriers.

    Lastly, I want to emphasize that I respect and value your opinion — I just don’t agree with it!

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