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Overgunned

Last week, the US Navy announced that its vaunted "next-generation" destroyer, the DD-1000 or "Zumwalt" class of ships, would be discontinued after only two ships were built. Originally, they had hoped to put 32 of these hulls in the water, but constantly rising costs finally took their toll on the ships.

This got me to thinking about something that has been preying at the back of my mind for some time: what the hell should we be doing with our defense budget?

The primary mission of our armed services is to defend our nation and our interests wherever necessary, by whatever means necessary. And those means are most often through force, or the threat of force.

Or, as some are wont to put it, "killing people and breaking things."

No, it's not pretty and pleasant and nice, but far too often it's necessary.

So, these days, what sorts of people need killing and what kinds of things need breaking?

That's a very, very flippant way of putting a very, very essential question: what are the threats to America and our interests?

One thing that has changed in a huge way just in my lifetime has been the collapse of the Soviet Union. For literally decades that was the primary focus of the US military -- and while Russia still has a formidable military, it is nowhere near the threat the Soviet Union was. Hell, now that it's no more, we have found out that the Soviet Union wasn't quite the threat we thought they were, either. It's even arguable if they were the threat they thought they were, their systems were so screwed up.

Anyway, threat the Soviet Union posed was of a modern, technologically advanced, very large military force. They had quite a few very advanced, very capable weapons systems, and huge numbers of less-advanced systems. So, to fight them, we prepared to have a sufficiently advanced military that could counter their advantages in numbers with efficiency. So what if Ivan had more attack subs? Ours were so much better! The same held true for surface combatants, tanks, fighters, and bombers.

For those decades, our military was poised to fight -- and defeat -- a superpower. We needed both quality and quantity, and we got it.

But we won that battle, without ever actually having to fight. We beat the Soviet Union by largely economic means. We simply outspent them, turning military expenditures into a game of "chicken." And since -- as has been proven over and over and over and over again -- the combination of democracy and capitalism will utterly destroy socialism and communism in the long run.

OK, we won. We won by building the baddest military force the world has ever seen. Now what?

Let's look around and see what other superpowers (or even near-superpowers) there are that might be a good match for our own. That will show us whether or not we still need the kind of force that brought down the Soviet Union.

First up, there's China. Huge numbers, lots of low to medium tech weapons. But let's be blunt -- they suck at power projection. Their navy (the hysterically-named "People's Liberation Army Navy") is pretty much limited to a coastal force. They aren't a true "blue-water" force, able to operate far from their home shores.

The same holds true for the People's Liberation Army Air Force. Not much for advanced aircraft.

In short, China's military is strictly a regional force. A force to be reckoned with, to be sure, but nonetheless very tightly tied to their own territory and immediate neighborhood. They can cause big problems for us, but not for very long. No, the bigger threat from China is through espionage and economic warfare, not actual steel-on-steel conflict.

There are other nations that possess formidable militaries, but they are all -- to various degrees -- allies of ours. The United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Australia, and others. They could cause us some concern, but realistically speaking, they're not going to. They might not always be the best of our allies, but they're certainly not potential enemies.

India also has a respectable military force, but again they're strictly regional. Also, they're more interested in increasing social, political, military, and economic ties with us, not confronting us.

So, what are the big threats we currently face? The kind of threats that require a military response?

First up, obviously, is terrorism. The best weapons we've discovered so far are, to be blunt, "the bloody infantry." Americans in uniform, carrying small arms and communications equipment. When he needs more firepower than he has on hand, he can call in for tanks, artillery, helicopters, aircraft, and missiles -- but those all act in support of the infantryman.

The other threat that is not discussed very much at all is pirates.

Fine, get the Johnny Depp jokes out of your system. I'll wait.

Piracy is becoming a major problem on the high seas. The new pirates don't fly the Jolly Roger and sail big ships with cannons running out the sides. No, the new pirates use small boats and light arms (automatic rifles, machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenades, just to name a few) to carry out their attacks. Rough estimates put the toll of piracy at between $13 and $16 billion dollars a year, and I'd be willing to wager the true cost as a bit higher.

The International Chamber of Commerce keeps close tabs on piracy incidents, and it's a troubling total.

The United States Navy got its first real challenge fighting pirates, off the Barbary Coast of North Africa. (The Marine Hymn's reference to "the shores of Tripoli" predates Colonel Quadafi, or however the hell he's spelling his name this week, by well over a century and a half.) And the most recent "action" our ships have seen has been against pirates off the eastern coast of Africa. The Cruiser Cape St. George and the destroyer Gonzalez took on some pirates last January off Somalia, killing one and wounding five without suffering any casualties of their own.

By international law and custom, piracy is the enemy of all nations, and all nations' navies have not only the right, but the duty to fight pirates wherever they may be found. It's a fundamental principle of every navy in the world, long encoded in international law and treaties.

With these two threats, how well do projects like the Zumwalt destroyers, the new fighters being developed, and other new high-tech wonders fit?

I hate to say it, but not very well.

The biggest militant threats we now face are small. I'd wager that a single US naval task force could easily wipe out every single pirate on the high seas, quite possibly without using a single aircraft. And our combined Army and Marine Corps probably outnumbers the number of active terrorists, let alone outguns them on every single worthwhile metric.

But their size is not just a weakness, but a strength as well.

Our military is designed to fight other militaries, put forth by other nations. We don't have that problem any more -- there's not a nation on earth that either wants to or could stand up to us in a fair fight.

So they don't even try.

Instead, they focus on attacking "soft" targets, avoiding the kind of force-on-force engagements that will end very, very badly for them. And in between those attacks, they disappear, they hide, they lurk in the shadows and avoid drawing our attention.

Against such non-state actors like that (even when they enjoy covert support from actual states), how will such high-tech, high-price-tag, high-capability weapons systems like the Zumwalt and the Joint Strike Fighter fare?

Not very well.

Those amazingly capable weapons are remarkable technological achievements, and they represent the latest and greatest in American ingenuity and technology and innovation and industriousness. They are the ultimate (for now) example of the American tradition of "quality over quantity."

But they are expensive as hell. We can't afford very many of them.

And against foes like terrorists and pirates, we need quantity over quality.

The Zumwalts will be, quite simply, the most powerful destroyers ever built. Indeed, I question whether they qualify as "destroyers." They are far closer to cruisers in size, and will possess greater destructive power than the mightiest battleships ever wielded.

But against pirates, I'd trade one Zumwalt in for a half-dozen World War II-type light cruisers, modernized with advanced communications and sensors. Hell, keep the cruisers -- gimme a half-dozen Fletcher-class or Sumner-class destroyers with modern electronics. Their vintage weapons would be more than enough to take on today's pirates.

Now, in a straight battle, if the Zumwalt was to take on six World War II destroyers, it'd be no contest. The Zumwalt would put all six on the bottom before the old ships even knew they were under attack. But against pirates, the old ships would have one huge advantage over the Zumwalts -- they could be in six different places at once.

In the absence of some actual World War II vintage vessels, though, we need new ships. Ships designed to handle the high-speed, low-tech, low-firepower threats modern pirates pose. Here's my suggestion:

A small ship, considerably smaller and ligher than the Zumwalt or even the current Burke-class destroyers. Maybe four to five thousand tons. Two 3" automatic guns on the bow, one on the stern. Helipad astern, just forward and above the stern gun. Hangar space for one helicopter and some drones. Modern communications and sensors. Four Phalanx mounts, one forward, one aft, one on each beam. Half a dozen 20mm cannon sprinkled along the sides. Enough engines to move the ship at 35 knots or more. Enough fuel for a range of at least six thousand miles at cruising speed. A brig scaled for up to a dozen prisoners. No torpedoes, no missiles,

The first argument against this design I can think of is the traditional one -- it's focused on the current threat, and not versatile enough to deal with future threats.

Well, there aren't any major, high-tech threats on the horizon, and our current forces are more than capable of dealing with any force-on-force threat we might face.

What we don't have is what we need right now -- numbers. Cheap hulls, cheap weapons, in sufficient quantity to cover a lot of ocean and a lot of amall threats.

So while I do feel a bit saddened at the cutbacks to the Zumwalt-class destroyers -- they promise to be fine, outstanding ships -- I think that it was the right decision. They are the solution to a problem that doesn't really exist any more. The dangers that they are optimized to face -- surface combatants, submarines, aircraft, and missiles -- aren't the weapons of choice of our current opponents, or those we are likely to face in the immediate future.


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Comments (46)

I, too, <a href="http://www... (Below threshold)

I, too, have reflected on this, with particular emphasis on the demands of asymmetric warfare. But as the saying goes, generals are prone to refighting the last war, which is the basis of most military organization and procurement decisions.

Maybe it'll be blog on blog... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

Maybe it'll be blog on blog warfare, such as one blog pirating readers with links to their own blog.

Na, no body would do that.

Reminds me of a joke I hear... (Below threshold)
Faith+1:

Reminds me of a joke I heard from a comedian back in the 80s. The B-2 bomber was announced at a cost of 2 billion dollars (which it exceeded). The mission was stated as "being able to penetrate Soviet airspace without being seen on radar."

The joke was "2 billion dollars!? Didn't some 19 year old kid land a Cessna in the middle of Red Square just awhile back and they didn't know about it until he buzzed the Kremlin. We could buy a helluva lot of Cessnas for 2 billion dollars."

Now, before the flyboys come out of the woodwork defending the B-2 and saying how it's flying missions in Irag and Afghanistan--yeah, yeah I know... They spent millions more retrofitting the B2 to carry conventional weapons so they would be available to fly 1/4 as many sorties for Middle East missions as the B-52....which the last one was built in the 60s.

Granted, as a former zipper suited sun god Viper driver I tend to view the skies as filled with only two types of aircraft--fighters and targets--I could be biased. Of course, my brother being a BUFF driver shades my opinion as well..... ;-)

JT, I think you'd be intere... (Below threshold)
epador:

JT, I think you'd be interested in reviewing the current status and well as history of the Coast Guard Deepwater program to modernize their fleet. It has its problems with appropriate planning and politics. Knowing the firepower available to South and Central American drug lords, I tis heroic that our current USCG cutters ply the Atlantic, Pacific and Caribbean and successfully challenge these erstwhile brigands and pirates. Imagine if we had a coastal force better than CHINA's defending our coasts.

Oh, and Mr. Viper Driver, d... (Below threshold)
epador:

Oh, and Mr. Viper Driver, do you or your brother know anywhere that repairs flight boots? I've got two pair that are in desperate need of resoling and new bootstrings.

The military can be put to ... (Below threshold)
Herman:

The military can be put to good use building bike lanes and fixing potholes. Now I suspect that because of some posse commitatus (or some such nonsense) the army couldn't participate, but the navy and marines could. The air force could spend its time looking for UFOs, and upon finding them, being friendly toward them.

All points granted, but... ... (Below threshold)

All points granted, but... There is still the need for carriers, to project power (and lots of it), and carriers cannot be built quickly in a contingency. And where there are carriers, there need to be ships to defend those carriers against air, surface and subsurface threats. And that's where the Zumwalts fit in. I concur that we need a large number of small, lightly armed and fast combatants. We also, though, need to have some larger vessels to fill out the carrier task forces. It wouldn't hurt, as well, to have a fair number of ships equipped with SM3 to float around the world. I concur with larger number of cheaper vessels, but we still need a high-low mix.

And I should add that the p... (Below threshold)

And I should add that the procurement process desperately needs to be fixed.

Jay Tea,Do you remem... (Below threshold)
jdgjtr:

Jay Tea,
Do you remember the Pegasus class? They were hydrofoils armed with Harpoon ASCMs but also a 76mm up front. They supposed to be carried in the well deck of a gator freighter. An amphibious task group centered around an LHD or LPD, armed with helos, hydrofoils (minus the Harpoons, UAVs, and possibly Marines would have the ability to saturate the area with maximum use of assets. It would be great for hunting drug smugglers, too.
On the other hand, I thought the DD 1000s were supposed to be a response to the Marines request for Naval Gunfire Support, since the Iowa class were taken out of the fleet.

The Viper, whats that? OH, ... (Below threshold)

The Viper, whats that? OH, you drive a Dodge Viper! Sweet man! OHHHHH, that's right! You mean the F-16 FIGHTING FALCON!! Man, I flew the C-130 Hercules, but that sounds kind weak, kinda like Fighting Falcon. Perhaps us Herc drivers should call it the C-130 Death Bringer II, or C-130 Imperial Star Destroyer... yeah... that's the ticket..

(just busting you balls faith+1, just busting your balls)

What worries me about China... (Below threshold)

What worries me about China is that they are updating their Navy, especially as their economy continues to grow. An argument could be made that we don't need the F-22 either. After all, the F-15C has dominated the skies for over 20+ years. My argument is that we want to focus, indeed, on the current war and not on the last. But let's also get prepared for the next war, and if we neglect updating our Navy and Air Force, those infantryman might have a much more difficult time either getting to the fight on ships, or getting attacked from the skies (something I don't think has happened to American troops since Korea I believe).

Duncan has it right, I thin... (Below threshold)

Duncan has it right, I think. Our weapons platforms are all 20-30 years in the past, and the B-52 is generations past. We should be building new platforms and systems recognizing that they will be our defense in 20 years.

In 20 years, should China survive as a power, they will have a blue water navy. India will also be a power and I wouldn't count Brazil out of the mix. Russia, as well, only needs a nudge, to be a world power again.

These pirates are a ragtag ... (Below threshold)
iurockhead:

These pirates are a ragtag bunch on small boats with small arms and a few RPGs. Mount a 50-cal machine gun on each end of the ship, to give a 360-degree coverage, and blow their scrawney butts out of the water. These guys go after cruise ships and commercial transports because they know they are unarmed. Knowing they are going to shoot back with superior firepower is all the deterrent these cowards need to stay on the beach.

China has a huge advantage ... (Below threshold)
cirby:

China has a huge advantage in navy forces that we don't have: a very large pool of experienced sailors.

Most folks don't know this, but the vast majority of the Chinese "merchant" fleet are effectively members of the Chinese Navy. In the case of an upcoming war (that they would be preparing to start), the only thing holding them back would be ships - and they have the advantage in shipbuilding, too (they're in the middle of a heavy building program right now, incidentally).

Sure, we have some of the finest hardware afloat, but when you can be suddenly outnumbered by a lot, that gets less useful - especially when their best ships are mostly pretty good. A recurrence of a Pearl Harbor situation (a successful attack on San Diego, for example) would put us in dire straits.

China also has a lot less need for a huge blue water force, too - they only have a few choke points and a couple of large open-water areas they'd need to cover (basically, the East out to the Philippines). Most of the rest of their potential attacks would be overland (to Siberia and the Mideast).

They HAVE been building forces to hit the places that would be important in a resource war. Troop transports and escorts are what they'd need, and those are the ship classes they've been building. Once they make their first move, a big blue-water force isn't that crucial. If they pick the right political moment, there's a good chance that a big military move would go unanswered by the US - at least, until it's too late.

One of the "conventional" moves the Chinese could pull involves their container ships. With only one or two of their bigger vessels, they could put up to 50,000 troops (with supplies for a real fight) on the ground in any of a dozen major ports worldwide, and due to Chinese staffing of the ports, nobody would know about it until they rolled out of the port's gates.

The problem with aerospace,... (Below threshold)

The problem with aerospace, and I would imagine shipbuilding as well, is that the long lead time needed to get ANY innovative product deployed is incredible.

Take the F-22, for example. The proposal for THAT one started in 1981, was approved by the AF in 1991, and the first line unit was sent to Nellis in 2004.

23 YEARS from proposal to the beginnings of deployment. And the government's gone from an initial contract for over 600 to one that's less than 200, so the per-unit price has risen greatly, even considering inflation.

But the problem is - once that programs's shut down, it's going to be darn hard (and expensive) to get it started up again if needed. You can mothball a production line, but you can't mothball the people and expertise, and the suppliers of the components aren't going to turn THEIR facilities into museums - they're going to scrap the tooling and get contracts for other work.

And that might not be a problem... IF you're sure nothing like it will be needed ever again. The optimist in me hopes so, the pessimist in me reminds me of what happened at the beginning of WW2, when the US had to spend billions to jumpstart moribund industry to get the materials we needed....

Re: China. IIRC, they've p... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

Re: China. IIRC, they've purchased the three aircraft carriers from the former Soviet Union. One was complete, one incomplete and one built primarily for training (learning how to do air-ops). I don't think they'll be converting them to restaurants.

A good use for "herman" wou... (Below threshold)
jhow66:

A good use for "herman" would be a pratice dummy for M-16 training.

Hey, Jay,You forgo... (Below threshold)

Hey, Jay,

You forgot about the new Littoral Combat Ships that the Navy is buying. There are two under construction, to be delivered this year, I believe. They are about the size of Perry class frigates, but are much higher tech. If you research the subject and read the descriptions of these ships, they sound a lot like what you want to see.

As with most military programs, the LCS has suffered from cost overruns and the Navy canceled its contracts with both Lockheed and GenDyn because of those problems. As I understand it, the Navy will reopen/has reopened bidding on the next 3 ships to deal with the cost overrun issues. Even with the higher costs, these ships come in at 1/10 to 1/6 of the cost of the now-canceled DDG-1000 Zumwalt class destroyers.

"Boot Repair": Military Joe... (Below threshold)
Faith+1:

"Boot Repair": Military Joe's near LAFB, Va. If he can't fix them you can always get another pair. A bit pricey though.

Duncan: Ya can do better than that for ball bustin' ;-). "Viper" was the Warsaw Pact designation for the F-16--and way cooler than whatever nimrod in the Pentagon thought up "Fighting Falcon". The Russians may have been our sworn enemy but bygods they knew what to properly call an aircraft!

Now as for the Herc...that was one of them "targets" with big fans right? Yeah, I know the Hercs were workhorses, but they weren't the prettiest thing in the air....I firmly believe they were not aerodynamic or airworthy. They got off the ground cuz Mother Earth repelled their ugliness. :D

Now, don't get me started on Hog drivers. Ever notice how all Hog drivers had bald spots on the backs of their heads? -- bird strikes will do that to you. Of course, they could have been carrier qualified had the Navy bought them. Just pull a Hog straight and level and let the carrier catch up and pull under and then throttle back till she settled down.

Took a Hog driver for ride in my convertible once but it wasn't much fun. Once I got over 40mph he'd get all queasy and wide-eyed.

And back on tpoic for a bot... (Below threshold)
Faith+1:

And back on tpoic for a bot. China has some boats, a few diesel subs that might cause a problem, but don't forget one big thing they have that would be a problem for the US on many levels--almost complete control of the Panama Canal.

Hey, no problem Faith+1. Wh... (Below threshold)

Hey, no problem Faith+1. What is high key in an engine out situation in the Fighting Fal.. er.. Lawn Dart..er.. Viper? 10K AGL? I remember when I had an engine out situation one time... Right bout the time I reached for the handle to punch out, I remember edto just push 2,3, and 4 up a little more....

Good overview. Modern torpe... (Below threshold)
tyree:

Good overview. Modern torpedoes, however, are great for anti-submarine work, although I guess the helicopter could deploy those along with sounobouys. I would include some kind of drone aircraft to cover even more ocean more economically. The easiest fix, however, would be to make platoons of US Marines available to put on board the target ships themselves. Once the muslim "wolves of the sea" find out that the lambs are protected by sheepdogs, the problem will be solved, until we show weakness again. Countries with their own Marines who can still fight could do this without our help. Or maybe some Berkeley types could offer themselves up as human shields to protect the innocent.

This from the International... (Below threshold)
tyree:

This from the International Chamber of Commerce website:
"18.07.2008: 0720 UTC: 12:47.5N - 051:02.0E, Gulf of Aden.
Heavily armed pirates, in two, six-meter long yellow craft, attempted to board a container ship underway from the aft. Master took evasive manoeuvres, raised alarm and crew mustered with pressurized fire hoses. Upon seeing crew alertness, pirates aborted the attempt."

Alert crews armed with fire hoses! Brilliant. On the other hand, a more fatal weapon would keep them from ever coming back.

There's a reason we don't h... (Below threshold)

There's a reason we don't have Fletchers and Sumner/Gearings anymore. You said you'd like to see a with the range, armament, and speed you gave, coupled with modern sensors and comms. Unfortunately, that takes a lot of power. More power means bigger engines, which need a bigger ship (and more fuel, which means a bigger ship, which means bigger engines, which need more fuel, which means bigger engines, which means a bigger ship....)
If it were that easy, everyone would have done it already.

Duncan, you still keep a sp... (Below threshold)
epador:

Duncan, you still keep a spoon in your arm pencil slot?

> what are the threats t... (Below threshold)
Arthur:

> what are the threats to America and our interests?

You're thinking about the right subject but you blew your premise by asking the wrong question.

Here's the right question.
what are the current and future threats to America and our interests

It's easy to laugh at China when you look at what they have (or what you think they have based on old reports). But they have a big economy that is growing quickly. They can use that money to upgrade it's military quickly and on a massive scale. When that happens, you don't want a Navy that's designed to fight pirates!

Duncan,Yeah I'm im... (Below threshold)
Faith+1:

Duncan,

Yeah I'm impressed--everyone know how dreadfully scary those 3 engine approaches can be.... (eyeroll)

:D

Pirates?Bring back... (Below threshold)
cirby:

Pirates?

Bring back Q-ships. That'll stop that little problem.

(Not to mention the V-22, which is practically made for anti-pirate missions. Put one or two on a large ship a hundred miles off the coast, listen for distress calls, and put a dozen Marines on site in under a half hour. By the time the bad guys figure out where the engine room of their target is, they have twelve new things to worry about...)

You know what Jay? This is... (Below threshold)
ExSubNuke:

You know what Jay? This is a sort of battle that the military has been fighting with itself for quite some time now. The USAF keeps trying to kill the A-10, even though it's so gosh darned effective... because it's just not as "flashy". The USN got the Los Angeles class subs mainly because of Adm. Rickover, not that the navy wanted it. A smaller sub with slightly fewer capabilities (a la the Virginia Class) was what the Navy actually wanted... but it just wasn't "flashy" enough.

It's a problem that will plague the military, probably for the forseeable future, if not forever. The Pentagon always WANTS the flashy new super toys of death, but what they often need is just something that's capable of doing the job just fine.

"The Navy has failed to pro... (Below threshold)
Mrs. Davis:

"The Navy has failed to provide Congress with any evidence of a sweeping change in requirements that would justify abandoning the DDG-1000 in favor of the less capable DDG-51," said Sen. Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat.

There's a big part of your problem.

The other is the submarines. The Chinese surfaced within 5 miles of one of our carriers during fleet exercises. They will continue to improve.

And that's not the only threat the Chinese are working on.

Two great blogs I follow on this topic are Information Dissemination and New Wars.

JT, I agree we must prepare... (Below threshold)
ETP USN 71-78:

JT, I agree we must prepare for assymetrical warfare and more boots on the ground, but don't suggest too many cut-backs of our current weapon systems (or for any more base closures, either). We need to maintain a lead in both quantity and quality. Potential adversaries are continually improving their capabilities, and it would be reckless to ever let them gain an edge over us; playing "catch up" is a recipe for disaster when it comes to military capability.

We must also prepare to confront numerous adversaries at once, not just single nations or threats.

Threats such as pirates and terrorists are significant and clearly very real. They must be confronted and eliminated, too, with whatever equipment, manpower and strategy that may be required.

Furthermore, "regional" powers are continually improving their capabilities, especially as their own strategic needs expand beyond their horizons. For example, China is becoming more and more reliant upon maritime trade routes for raw materials and energy, and will make whatever adjustments are necessary to protect their sea lanes; they really do have a vested interest in the Straits of Malacca and the Indian Ocean. For context, look back 70 years at Japan's situation. "Regional" is relative, and still encompasses a lot of "blue water".

You failed to mention submarines in your suggestions for our future military. Big mistake, spoken by a former sub hunter. We need more subs, and in my opinion it would be better if we could have more quantity, not to mention many unique qualities, by investing in conventional diesel/electric subs (with AIP, air independent propulsion). I believe our subs in WWII (in the Pacific) were 2% of our naval forces, but accounted for well over 50% of the enemy tonnage sunk.

Well said USN,"I bel... (Below threshold)
tyree:

Well said USN,
"I believe our subs in WWII (in the Pacific) were 2% of our naval forces, but accounted for well over 50% of the enemy tonnage sunk."

This bears repeating.

I agree that retrofitting s... (Below threshold)

I agree that retrofitting some old arms platforms might be the best solution. Really and truly, what could a DC3 do with the right electronics? Against pirates, probably more than a lot of ultramodern platforms.

We need the ultramodern though, because a super power may rise quickly and become a thread and we do not want to be caught napping. A much smaller "high tech" "quality" segment of our military needs to remain to keep that fire burning,those design factories churning.

I the meantime, we can fight with small arms, smart bullets and high tech model airplanes.

Epador, You better... (Below threshold)

Epador,
You better believe I still have spoon in my pencil slot... ya never know when the Nav stops drooling long enough to ask for it so he can finish his box lunch....

A word about China. There'... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

A word about China. There's a reason they do not deploy for true Blue Water operations. I may write up a post to discuss that little point.

Duncan,Just make s... (Below threshold)
Faith+1:

Duncan,

Just make sure the Nav always eats the chicken...

I preferred dining alone hence the single seater. When I had a wingman I only wanted to hear one of three things from him: 1) Lead, 2 is up, 2) Lead, you're on fire, 3) I'll take the fat chick...

The military can b... (Below threshold)
Stan25:
The military can be put to good use building bike lanes and fixing potholes. Now I suspect that because of some posse commitatus (or some such nonsense) the army couldn't participate, but the navy and marines could. The air force could spend its time looking for UFOs, and upon finding them, being friendly toward them.

Herman, did you OD on your stupid pills or is that natural? I guess that you have not been around long enough to see what the men and women have done for you. If it had not been for them, you would not be able to post here or on your home page of MoveOn.org.

China has big plans for it'... (Below threshold)
bill-tb:

China has big plans for it's Navy, I wouldn't sell them short. They have enough of our money to make it stick.

We need more coastal patrol ships ourselves. With guns, big guns.

Our Navy is the most important asset regards defense. Carriers are essential, we need more carrier battle groups. Missile launch subs are next, cruise missiles, sea to ground missiles and nuclear tipped.

Drones, more drones, and did I say more drones. Especially border patrol drones, sea and land.

"A word about China. There'... (Below threshold)
bryanD:

"A word about China. There's a reason they do not deploy for true Blue Water operations. I may write up a post to discuss that little point.
35. Posted by DJ Drummond"

The Chinese have "silent" submarines which have vexed the career paths of at least two US fleet admirals in as many years. The Chinese have seen the future. Add to that the weak dollar (per USN "discontinuations") and fuel supply pricing hanky panky (per dollar value) and the writing's on the wall.

See Len Deighton's introductory chapters of his book, Blood, Tears and Folly. The inevitable abandonment of wind power by a SERVICE economy spells military overextention. The given mission becomes secondary to the support role in securing FUEL which itself becomes the new mission. Geo-politics is born. Military influence is touted and yet its effectiveness wanes.


Well all, I always carried ... (Below threshold)
epador:

Well all, I always carried an extra long glove, be I in the back of a D model, or lounging on the forward bunk while the Nav tried to prove he could perform celestial navigation, lest anyone's flight physical come due in flight. It tended to keep you all more honest to me...

JayYou should post... (Below threshold)

Jay

You should post on these topics more often. The topic and the comments made for one of the most interesting threads I've read here. This has been very informative.

Right now all branches of t... (Below threshold)
wolfwalker:

Right now all branches of the armed forces have the same problem: they face multiple enemies, and the deadliest one is one they can't fight with guns. That's the partisans in other branches who want more money and think they can get it by bad-mouthing the competition. The second deadliest is Congressthings that want money spent in their home districts, and don't care whether it buys anything useful or not.

Get past those, and the Navy's issue becomes relatively simple: power projection like carriers and escorts, vs. sea control forces like old-fashioned destroyers and cruisers. Power projection can be done with a few very powerful units. Sea control requires lots of small hulls backed by a few bigger ones.

It's ironic and amusing that sometimes military-fiction authors devise better answers to this dilemma than the Pentagon [apparently] can. For example, mil-fic author James Cobb devised a weapons platform that would do a kick-ass job on sea control: the PGAC -- Patrol Guard Air Cushion, a heavily armed patrol craft built on the hull of an LCAC. Cobb's PGACs had top speeds of 60 knots, endurance of 6 hours, and an armament of:

* 2 twin 30mm cannon
* 2 twin missile launchers capable of accepting either Hellfire LGMs or free-fall bombardment rockets
* 3 twin 50-cal machine guns
* the ability to carry 1 or 2 heavy-missile packs with four missiles per pack.
* An on-board element of Marines with as many small arms as they could carry

Picture a flotilla of, say, 16 PGACs based aboard a task-force of 6 LPDs, accompanied by an LHD carrying a couple of squadrons of attack copters and a heavier boarding force should one be necessary. Now that's sea control for you! Pirates wouldn't stand a chance.

wolfwalker:Cobb also... (Below threshold)
cirby:

wolfwalker:
Cobb also pushed the "fast transport" model, where the Navy would have some of the newer-design catamaran/wave piercing transports that would go along with the flotilla, instead of catching up weeks later.

That can make a HUGE difference in mission planning, and makes it possible to put a serious amount of power anywhere in the world in a few days instead of a couple of weeks. With that situation, you can get by with fewer ships, because you can send a couple of dozen ships (for example) to anywhere in the Atlantic from the US in less than a week.

Jay - while reading this I ... (Below threshold)
Big Mo:

Jay - while reading this I immediately thought of the canceled "Crusader" artillery system. Big, expensive, could pack one hell of a wallop -- but not something that can get in theater quickly with the necessary support (if I'm remembering this right). It was cut because going toe-to-toe with massive enemy formations was no longer a foreseeable occurance after the USSR bit the dust.

Hey JayTea, ... (Below threshold)
Dpfeiffe:


Hey JayTea,
Do you mean something like this http://www.instapinch.com/?p=1085?

The ship you are looking fo... (Below threshold)
Mikey NTH:

The ship you are looking for is called a "Perry-class frigate". We still have about thirty, and a new design could be built based on this proven platform.




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