5 Quick Fixes for the US Navy
As noted for the past few weeks, I think a new naval revolution is upon us, where ships costing in the tens of millions will gain renewed importance over those we generally buy pricing in the billions. High end warships still have their place, but are becoming increasingly difficult to procure in adequate numbers, and when they do enter service, are so technically complicated, they require numerous trips back to drydock to make them fully operational. You have to wonder if these high tech marvels will actually work in major combat, and what will break down at a critical moment?
I think history bears this out, that every century or so the fleet must have a radical makeover or face obsolescence against new threats. Even national calamity can result when countries prepare to fight the wrong war, as France learned in 1940. In the unlikelihood the enormous difficulties and challenges the USN currently faces is crying for fleet overhaul, there are some cosmetics changes the service can do to the fleet they have, without losing capability.
- Build small carriers. Take advantage of the revolution in naval airpower, specifically smart bombs that have put an end to multiple sorties by huge airwings to ensure a target is destroyed, and smart planes that need low maintenance. 50,000 ton ships with 20-30 planes should be more than adequate, and you could build enough of them to matter. Price range from $1.5-$4 billion each.
- Build smaller nuclear submarines. It seems the primary advantage of a modern sub is the near-universal endurance it gets from nuclear power. Can’t we find a reactor to fit in a smaller submarine? With so few peer antagonist, it seems a 3000 ton nuke boat would be quite adequate for most needs. Price at about $1 billion or maybe less.
- Replace cruisers and destroyers with frigates. Frigates today are no longer low end escorts though most price less than modern guided missile destroyers. From 4000-6000 ton, they can carry Aegis, and though often a smaller weapons load than larger ships, are extremely powerful nonetheless. Price starts as low as $300 million+ but no more than $1 billion each.
- Replace frigates with corvettes. If the frigates become the new destroyer, what will replace their vital role as low end escorts? The answer is the corvette, most of which are more heavily armed than our Perry and LCS ships, which we have to disarm in order to afford them! The USN could build a decent corvette closer to $200 million each, the original asking price for the LCS.
- Build smaller European style amphibs. The Marine’s main complaint these days is not possessing enough amphibious lift. If you look at the type amphibious ships we are getting, over-priced and underperforming monoliths like the LPD-17 and LHA-6 classes, is it any wonder? The amphibs we buy should be more practical as with European versions which rarely weigh over 20,000 tons but are immensely capable and affordable. All prices range from $500 million to $1 billion.