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Wednesday, January 06, 2016

The small-ship navy

In USA TODAY. Now, I wonder where Instapundit might have come across this bit of discussion on reshaping the military?
When it comes to the Navy, we can have a big fleet of small ships, or a small fleet of big ships.  For quite a while now, we’ve gone with the big ships, but some people are arguing that that’s a mistake.

One of those is Commander Phillip E. Pournelle, U.S. Navy, who recently wrote in the Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute that “In an age of precision-strike weapon proliferation, a big-ship navy equals a brittle fleet. What’s needed is a revamped force structure based on smaller surface combatants.”

He makes some excellent points. Currently, the U.S. Navy dominates the seas. A U.S. Navy Carrier Battle Group can project power in a way no other nation’s navy can approach, essentially placing a large airbase within striking range of pretty much any place on the planet worth striking. Of course, the problem with this is that aircraft carriers aren’t just powerful. They’re also big, expensive and vulnerable. (The non-carrier part of a Carrier Battle Group is basically there to protect the carrier from submarines and missiles).
However, the fact is that regardless of how the USN reconfigures, it can't expect to dominate the coastlines like it did in the heyday of the aircraft carrier. Great Britain managed the transition from the age of the ship-of-the-line to the age of the battleship without losing its dominance of the high seas, but there is no guarantee that the USA will be able to do so.

In fact, in light of the demographic changes and consequential decline in national capabilities, I expect that China will surpass the USA as the leading naval power before the 22nd century.

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151 Comments:

Blogger dc.sunsets January 06, 2016 4:00 PM  

I never tire of recalling that the modern aircraft carrier concept was invented by the British, but (according to the history I encountered on it) they lacked the spare wealth to bring it to reality. Lucky us.

The USA must be the first global empire to have a military that ignores securing the nation's borders. From this I must assume that the civilian rulers now believe that the entire world is part of the USA, so the notion of "borders" is meaningless.

Blogger Student in Blue January 06, 2016 4:02 PM  

In fact, in light of the demographic changes and consequential decline in national capabilities, I expect that China will surpass the USA as the leading naval power before the 22nd century.

Even with China's probable economic collapse? Why China and not Russia?

Blogger Dexter January 06, 2016 4:04 PM  

Meh. Small surface ships are less able to defend themselves than carriers, are less able to sustain hits and keep fighting, and are not less hard to find than carriers (i.e., a nation that can find and attack carriers will be able to find and kill small surface ships as well).

Small ships are also not "cheap" - at least we can't build them cheap. The LCS unit cost is now over $500 million. We can't build enough of those that we won't care about losing them.

OpenID paworldandtimes January 06, 2016 4:04 PM  

From this I must assume that the civilian rulers now believe that the entire world is part of the USA, so the notion of "borders" is meaningless.

This is such an obvious, but also such an insightful observation. Well done.

PA

Anonymous Jonathan January 06, 2016 4:10 PM  

You're forgetting how much better our navy will be now that we allow gays to openly serve. Diversity strengthens us. Just wait until we have female seals!

Blogger pyrrhus January 06, 2016 4:15 PM  

Nobody is going to be spending vast amounts of money on big ships, especially aircraft carriers, after one of them encounters a supersonic (or ballistic) missile, megawatt laser, or advanced torpedo and goes to the bottom....

Blogger Student in Blue January 06, 2016 4:17 PM  

Nobody is going to be spending vast amounts of money on big ships, especially aircraft carriers, after one of them encounters a supersonic (or ballistic) missile, megawatt laser, or advanced torpedo and goes to the bottom....

Scummy Politician Narcissistic Admirals Always Double Down.

They have to do it, or else they're out their job. And they couldn't possibly admit they're wrong.

Blogger pyrrhus January 06, 2016 4:18 PM  

I disagree with Pournelle, however, about the value of small ships. Except as expendable defenders of your own coastline, they don't have a future because they require support vessels.

Anonymous Stephen J. January 06, 2016 4:19 PM  

I expect that China will surpass the USA as the leading naval power before the 22nd century.

This is certainly possible, but I do see a couple of obstacles. Economically, China isn't nearly as stable as its ferocious growth of the last few decades indicates, and it doesn't seem at all implausible to me that they could face their own infrastructure-limiting cashflow collapse -- or a demographic aging collapse -- before they can build up their navy to the necessary point. Geopolitically, China only borders on the Pacific Ocean, as opposed to the United States which borders on both Pacific and Atlantic and has external bases to boot in many nations; China may be able to match the States' navy for hulls or weaponry, but I suspect there will be many locations China simply cannot get ships to as fast as the States can. And politically, Chinese culture as I understand it is just simply less inherently interested in territorial expansion or taking command of protectorates outside its historical sphere of influence; China has always saved its worst violence for its internal conflicts, to which navies are much less relevant, rather than its wars with other powers.

Of course, if we flip this around and say that U.S. naval power is expected to decline to the point where it is no longer a match for China's, rather than China's developing to surpass it, then that regrettably sounds more plausible than I like.

Blogger VD January 06, 2016 4:23 PM  

Small surface ships are less able to defend themselves than carriers, are less able to sustain hits and keep fighting, and are not less hard to find than carriers.

You clearly haven't read the article. Next time, do so before opining in ignorance. The carriers don't even dare to go where the small ships have to go. Hence the word "littoral" in the title.

Anonymous Hezekiah Garrett January 06, 2016 4:23 PM  

@3

A frigate is less able to defend itself than a carrier? We're you a sailor? Did you get blown across a flight deck, or suffer head trauma in a comparable incident?

Enquiring minds wanna know!

Former FC3, USN

Blogger Salt January 06, 2016 4:27 PM  

Carriers are near obsolete as weaponry will shortly become space-based.

Blogger Cogitans Iuvenis January 06, 2016 4:29 PM  

Even with China's probable economic collapse? Why China and not Russia?

I don't see either being a possibility if the US is still a continuous entity by the 22nd century. If population trends hold, then Russia will drop from 143 million to 102 million by the end of the century. Russia might develop enough of a technological base to make up for this but I personally am skeptical given Russia's long history of economic and technological backwardness coupled with their unfortunate geography.

China will also experience a population decline, of course assuming trends hold, and will only have a population 2.3x the US rather than the 4.3x now but my skepticism comes more from the history of China itself. They have always gone through periods of wealth, instability and then collapse. In ancient days, due to their sheer size helped prevent other powers from being able to dominate them save for a few such as the Mongolians (Yuan Dynasty), Jurchen (Qing Dynasty) and the European powers (Nationalist Period) but in today's global era things might be different. I'd say the threat of China breaking apart into waring factions is actually greater than the US given history of the Chinese.

Blogger Ingot9455 January 06, 2016 4:33 PM  

What we consider a small ship and what other countries consider a small ship are radically different things.

Basically, our Navy/Merchant Marine third-line garbage scows are equivalent to many other country's top naval offerings. That doesn't mean they're immune to the above mentioned missiles/lasers/torpedos, but it does mean that we built a Naval Culture that achieved a multi-generational continually improving level of naval capability and our competitors were unable to compete.

So they compete in other ways.

China stole our tech to do it. Others concentrate on other technologies or by exploiting our rules of engagement.

The one of the problems with China becoming the dominant naval power is, 'Where will they steal their next design from?'

Blogger slarrow January 06, 2016 4:36 PM  

Dexter, Pournelle isn't recommending a bunch of $500 million LCS vessels. His recommendations, for what it's worth, are a Coast Guard Sentinel-class fast-response cutter (FRC) and the Mk-VI patrol boat. He puts the cost at one LCS with 2 MH-60 helicopters vs. 14 to 28 FRCs, depending on configuration and usage, and vs. 14 Mk-VIs and one mother ship.

Pournelle's article made me think that this is how 4GW hits the seas. The current naval configuration is not designed to operate very well against non-state actors. Too big, too slow, too expensive to risk hit-and-run engagements. Pournelle's piece put me in mind of the points Lind and Thiele were making about light infantry in the 4GW handbook.

Anonymous LurkingPuppy January 06, 2016 4:39 PM  

@14: The one of the problems with China becoming the dominant naval power is, 'Where will they steal their next design from?'

Oooh! Maybe they'll copy the F-35 Next-Generation Kitchen Sink!

Anonymous dB January 06, 2016 4:42 PM  

Any relation between this commander dude Phillip Pournelle and author dude Jerry Pournelle?

Anonymous LurkingPuppy January 06, 2016 4:44 PM  

@17: Any relation between this commander dude Phillip Pournelle and author dude Jerry Pournelle?

Phillip is one of Jerry's sons.

Blogger Ingot9455 January 06, 2016 4:44 PM  

China might be able to build the F-35 under budget.

If we're lucky, the F-35 was all just a CIA scheme to get the Chinese and Russians to waste a lot of money spying on it; just like stealing the McDLT technology (keeping-the-hot-side-hot-and-the-cold-side-cold) was how the Coca-Cola company got Moscow to accept a McDonalds and gave them their first footprint inside the country.

Blogger mistaben January 06, 2016 4:45 PM  

@15 Exactly. More, smaller ships means better exercise of control. It does have a bit of 4GW about it, depending on things like ROE.

Anonymous TLM January 06, 2016 4:52 PM  

1978 was the year serving in the US Navy officially jumped the shark. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=InBXu-iY7cw

Blogger Joe Keenan January 06, 2016 4:54 PM  

Big ship may equal big risk, but it also equals increased capability. Attack carriers are approx 100,000 tons because a bigger ship can carry more weapons, be it a carrier, battleship, or, 'destroyer' (the Zumwalt class destroyer being rolled out now is approx the tonnage of a WWII heavy cruiser). The Navy has always wanted capable small ships, they just can't make the desire real. Smaller platform = less capable platform. It's blue water that needs control, not the littorals.

Blogger Alexander January 06, 2016 5:00 PM  

The hell you say! Independently China *might* be a match for one them, but the combined naval capabilities of Estados Unidos del Norte, The Baltimo' and A'lanna New Africa Confedercy, Al-Michigan, and Sodom-upon-Hudson will forever rule the waves.

Actually - genuine questions here: what is the most advanced warship built by a non-European, non-East Asian? My instinct is that every capital ship since Dreadnoughts that found itself controlled by leaders in or south of Istanbul was purchased, not domestically produced.

I mean even India, which is light years beyond Africa, is sailing the HMS Hermes(!) and a Russian-bought carrier. That doesn't bode well for the shipbuilding capabilites of Peru. Or Namibia.

Anonymous dt January 06, 2016 5:15 PM  

"The one of the problems with China becoming the dominant naval power is, 'Where will they steal their next design from?'"

Hillary will sell it to the highest bundler.

Anonymous VFM 9054 January 06, 2016 5:24 PM  

We are surrounded by an ocean. In order for anybody but Canada or Mexico to invade us, they have to either cross the ocean, or invade Mexico. Nobody currently has the logistical capability to invade the US except Mexico, and they are doing it with their population, not their army. So our naval strategy should be different than most other nations.

Not being an expert in naval warfare, I fully admit that I could be wrong, but it seems to me we must do four things. 1. Prevent enemy vessels from restricting our ability to move men and material across the ocean, including ordinary civilian trade. 2. Restrict the enemy's ability to move men and material across the ocean, including ordinary civilian trade. 3. Defend our naval infrastructure, including civilian infrastructure, from enemy attack. 4. Destroy enemy naval infrastructure.

The ocean matters because it is the fastest, cheapest way to get stuff from here to there. And if there is on the other side of the world, the only way to get from here to there. Ensure that we can, and they can't is the primary purpose. Being able to drop bombs on there from the sea is just gravy.

So the question seems to be, what is the most cost effective way, in dollars, and manpower, to ensure that we can, and they can't? And that seems to obviously be small vessels that are up gunned out of proportion to their size for close defense, a commitment to building shore defense facilities for our ports and shipyards, and submarines with cruise missiles to destroy enemy shipping and infrastructure, with the possible addition of assault ships loaded with Marines to take enemy ports for follow-on landings, ala the Battle of Tripoli.

Blogger bob k. mando January 06, 2016 5:27 PM  

1. dc.sunsets January 06, 2016 4:00 PM
From this I must assume that the civilian rulers now believe that the entire world is part of the USA, so the notion of "borders" is meaningless.



from this what you should assume is that TPTB are using the Communist Manifesto, not as a warning against the excesses of the Bourgeois, but rather as a blueprint to force the emergence of the proletariat and the New International Man.


i should probably make a blog post about that.


2. Student in Blue January 06, 2016 4:02 PM
Even with China's probable economic collapse? Why China and not Russia?



regardless of any fiat economy collapse, China controls much of the world's means of production ( factories ) and has large stockpiles of commodities ( remember when scrap steel went through the roof ~5 years ago? went to China. now junk price of steel is through the floor ... because China thinks it has enough ).

Russia, while not inconsequential, is mostly a resource economy and trade dependent. China could close their border tomorrow and, except for oil, tell most of the world to kiss their ass.

guess it's a good thing they've got a long border with one of the major oil producing nations.



12. Salt January 06, 2016 4:27 PM
Carriers are near obsolete as weaponry will shortly become space-based.



this.

except as a means of moving an army, most of what the Navy does could be better accomplished from space, cruise missiles or drones+Hellfires.

so far as application of force is concerned, dead mass *at orbital velocities* is as destructive as anything we've got up to a nuke.

and if you want too bad enough, you can impact a target from his entire 360° perimeter ... from space.

imagine a coordinated attack, in depth, from dozens of directions, by RodsFromGod with, at most, rudimentary steering. how would you stop them? set off multiple airburst nukes? that ain't to good for the salient that you're trying to protect, what with all the fallout.


the only thing is that, like the supersonic torpedo, the very use of ballistic / orbitally deployed weapons pretty much defines who the attacker is.

US, Russia, China, Japan, Israel. possibly the Euro space agency. India has made ~100 launches? who knew? ah crap, Iran is orbit capable as well.


14. Ingot9455 January 06, 2016 4:33 PM
China stole our tech to do it.



please.

they bought it from Al Gore and the Clintons fair and square.

Anonymous Daniel H January 06, 2016 5:34 PM  

>>Even with China's probable economic collapse? Why China and not Russia?

Russia's defense spending is currently close to $70 billion, a bit more than 10% of U.S spending. The Russian economy will just not grow fast enough for them to become a major naval power anytime soon.

Blogger Student in Blue January 06, 2016 5:46 PM  

>Everyone's responses on why China and not Russia

Fair enough, makes perfect sense.

Blogger Timmy3 January 06, 2016 5:47 PM  

Free trade has diminished our capability to produce weapons. There will be more parity in military capability in the future. Carriers still have a place. They project military power rather than engage directly so maybe there will be more smaller ships along side with large carriers.

Anonymous VFM 9054 January 06, 2016 5:50 PM  

@29 Can you define "project military power" for me?

Blogger Cogitans Iuvenis January 06, 2016 5:55 PM  

@14

It also bears mentioning that US Naval culture also has lead to a giant mothball fleet located in various harbors which include recently decommissioned air craft carriers, submarines and frigates. In the event of a major war scenario these ships can be reintroduced to the navy in 20 to 120 days depending on their condition. It's smaller than it's ever been, about 100 ships, but that would still put it in the top 25 navies in the world going by pure vessel count.

Blogger Mr.MantraMan January 06, 2016 6:04 PM  

FRC looks like a fishing vessel, doesn't even look ready to accept a team of SEALs or Marines.

As far as conservatives playing admiral, playing Battleship 1945 can Detroit field a navy?

Blogger Steven Moss January 06, 2016 6:05 PM  

The cost of a Sentinel cutter is $88 million each.

The cost of a Mark VI patrol boat is $15 million each.

To decommission (take out of service) a Nimitz class aircraft carrier costs $750-900 million. Each. We have 10 of them.

To build the new Ford class carriers is $13 billion (i.e. $13,000 million) each.

So we can build roughly 867 Mark VI patrol boats or 148 Sentinel cutters for the cost of 1 Ford class carrier. We plan to build 10 of them.

Here's a novel idea. Let's build 6 of them. In lieu of 2 Ford carriers, we can build 148 cutters and 867 patrol boats. The rest can go toward paying off debt. If we want to double that amount, we can simply scuttle the current Nimitz carriers over the Marianna Trench and avoid the decommissioning costs.

We'd still have the strongest carrier fleet in the world, coupled with the ability to literally swarm the world's seas and oceans with the cutters and patrol boats. That's not even considering the Virginia class submarines and Zumwalt destroyers we're already building.

We could eradicate piracy the world over, intervene anywhere, and have the firepower (in whatever combination needed) to crush everyone on the seas for decades to come. All the while being (relative to the current plans), fiscally prudent.

Go USA.

Blogger Matamoros January 06, 2016 6:07 PM  

George Friedman in "The Next Hundred Years" predicted a move to space based weapons platforms.

I would think they could both protect the carriers from a lot of harm, and also, because of the high position, target anything with the new hyperfast weaponry.

Anonymous Sam the Man January 06, 2016 6:15 PM  

I work in the electronic industry. Right now we are seeing the Chinese start to purchase US electronic component manufacturers, or at least put in bids for them. Not passives, but the companies that make switchers, and all of the various ICs needed to make a real product. Motorola's cell phone division was sold to Chine (Lenovo)and the most recent thing making the buzz is the attempt of China to purchase Fairchild semi. All of this seems to have official state backing, based on the seemingly large sums of money offered under terms that no US company could match. Once bought and ingested these companies will be in a position to undercut use equivalent companies such as TI.

They have already taken over memory and displays, virtually no US company makes these today.

The end result, unless someone puts the kibosh on it, is these companies, their IP and the next generation of folks with the know-how will soon be Chinese. The packaging and manufacturer of the devices is now mostly done in China, soon the engineering will be.

Having been in electronics since 1979 (drilled out PC board holes for a small manufacturer, 1 penny per 2 holes) the decline in US engineering really was not noticeable in the 80s and 1990s. In the last decade the decline has really started to gallop. Loose the high tech industries and you will not be able to be back to technical leadership with anything less than a major national effort.

I very much doubt we can maintain a competent Navy without the high tech to keep the technical edge. I worked on Navy projects 2 decades ago, they very much depend on US companies to push the envelop of design.

Anonymous JN January 06, 2016 6:17 PM  

@33

With a plan like that, the appropriate send of is not Go USA, but 'Merica, Fuck yeah!

Blogger frenchy January 06, 2016 6:29 PM  

@ Dexter,

You would be correct, but in war, you would be wrong. Small ships may sink easily, but it's hard to hit a small ship that is fast and can lob missiles at you from range. The German Schnell boats are multi-purpose. They can lay mines and lob anti-ship missiles at you among other things. Also, how fast can you build a destroyer versus how fast can I build a 45kt Schnellboat? I'm turning out boats at least bi-weekly and my crews are easier to train. My boats are hundreds of thousands of dollars. Your boats cost millions, billions. I can sink your ships faster than you can build them and at a fraction of the cost. For each one of your boats I'm building over 50. Your mistake is using the US as a metric of what a small boat is. Secondly, with nukes, nation states are not going to have large fleet battles as one nuke and it's all gone. In Victoria, this is made clear.

Today, nations nations need to be able to defend their coasts, and the current US Navy fleet is ill-suited to do this. Piracy is only a problem because nation states have have placed such harsh restrictions on merchant vessels. Private security is one way around this.

Imagine this. An F-15 costs roughly $100 million each. An F-16 costs about $18 million. For every F-15 built, 5 x F-16s can be built. Unless your name is Saburo Sakai, that F-15 going up against five F-16s is going to lose. In war, numbers matter.

And carriers and other surface ships are easy targets. One vessel outclasses all of them--the submarine. It only takes one to destroy a fleet. Submarines are capital ships. Carriers are not. [Foreign] Subs are cheaper, easier to man (German 210A has a max crew of 32 in war-time), and have six torpedo tubes...and the 26inchers will bring any ship down., especially if it is a nuke. Our subs are huge, have huge crews, four tubes, and only 21 inch torpedoes. The only fortunate thing is that only states, for now, can afford subs. When that changes, God help us.

@ 25,

I would think small boats and submarines. Zeppelins could be used to guard the coasts as well. They can stay aloft forever.

@ 30,
Attack your shores.

Anonymous Trimegistus January 06, 2016 6:35 PM  

Big ships go faster.

Anonymous Dave Gerrold's Cabana Boy January 06, 2016 6:39 PM  

ON Semi is getting into a bidding war with China over Fairchild semi. ON previously offered 2.4B for Fairchild, and China just offered 2.46B...and Fairchild's board is proceeding to Eskimo ON Semi over the deal, but it looks as if ON is stepping up to the plate.

That being said, I wouldn't get Dave's curvy heart panties in a wad: there's a reason Fairchild has been passed around owners over the last few years like Dave's previous Cabana Boy.

Blogger PatrickH January 06, 2016 6:39 PM  

If "[s]mall surface ships are less able to defend themselves than carriers..." why are they being used to defend carriers? Anyway, imagine the US taking control of the Mediterranean without asking the Euros' permission and just shutting down the smuggling operations that are destroying Europe. I think small ships in largish numbers could end that pretty much right now.

Anonymous Mike from Pasadena January 06, 2016 6:47 PM  

@13

"Even with China's probable economic collapse? Why China and not Russia?"
China's collapse has been widely predicted for years now. I'm still waiting.

"If population trends hold, then Russia will drop from 143 million to 102 million by the end of the century."
Russia has been reproducing above replacement level for about 8 years now. This current downturn has not slowed them down.

"Russia might develop enough of a technological base to make up for this but I personally am skeptical"
Perhaps this explains why we quit flying in Syria.

"given Russia's long history of economic and technological backwardness coupled with their unfortunate geography."
Unfortunately, Russian geography includes an abundance of almost every resource worth having. Ask Madeline Albright.

It is worth noting what Russian politicians have said they hope to achieve if they ever had to fight a war with the West. First of all, they will probably not shoot first, so they have developed the means to stop most of our likely attack. Second, they intend to ensure that we will never attack them again, so they will absolutely obliterate our industrial capacity. Any other damage would be incidental, and not central to their plan. They do not intend to cross our protective ocean and invade our land. If our economy was pre-industrial, they would not need to worry about us for a couple of generations. The Russians have developed weapons which they think can do that quite amply.
That is what Russian politicians think. If one reads publications from around the world, education is possible.

Blogger weka January 06, 2016 6:49 PM  

From the War nerd, 2009....
This: two Egyptian missile boats-small craft carrying big bad weapons, the only sort of surface craft that make any military sense-come out of the port and fire Styx missiles (SS-N-2). The Eilat was hit by between two and four Styx, depending on whose story you read, and sank very quickly. 47 of the crew died, and 41 were wounded. That’s an awful lot of casualties when you consider that the IDF lost less than a thousand soldiers taking all of Sinai, the West Bank and the Golan Heights. Especially because the guys on the Eilat died for nothing, just showing off.

The Styx was a simple Soviet design that had been in service for years when it sank the Eilat. Like the longbow, antiship missiles were just not taken seriously because they were cheap peasant weapons, whereas if you were roaring around in an ex-Brit destroyer, you were somebody. It’s that simple. That stupid.

The difference between the Israeli navy and ours is simple: the Israelis learned their lesson and switched to smaller, lighter missile craft. No more ocean-going muscle cars to act like giant magnetized targets. The newer Israeli boats are small enough that when you lose one, like they did in the 2006 war to land-based Hezbollah surface to surface missiles, you don’t suffer 100 casualties.

That’s one way the US Navy could have gone after the Eilat went down: a fleet of smaller, lighter ships, basically ships you could afford to lose. There are some real interesting computer modeled naval war games that seem to be telling us that’s the way to invest your naval budget: lots of small ships carrying big missiles.

Another way would have been to develop an effective defense weapon against ballistic missiles. Maybe the navy tried that; maybe that’s part of what the whole Star Wars boondoggle was actually about, protecting the carriers against weapons like Dong Feng 21. I don’t know.

But it’s real clear by now that if they did try it, they failed. There is no defense. So either you go with boats you can afford to lose, or you downsize the navy radically, turn it into a low-tech anti-piracy force only used against stone-age opponents like the Somalis, or you go the U-boat route the Germans took when they realized the age of the battleship was over, sticking to subs. Because one way or another, if we get into it for real with China or even Iran, all our ships are going to subs, one way or the other.


What the nerd misses is the issue of distance. My local navy runs ANZAC frigates and patrol boats: we need the bigger ships because NZ is in the roaring forties and the southern ocean is no joke.

If I was war gaming a US fleet I would want about a thousand missile boats and lost of missiles... and, ideally, a fleet of slow, electric, quiet subs with fast big torpedos. The German type 212 is the current state of the art.

But the USA could break up first, given the current state of play. The bigger enemies are internal, and got to the USA because of their stupid immigration rules.

Anonymous JI January 06, 2016 6:50 PM  

"In fact, in light of the demographic changes and consequential decline in national capabilities, I expect that China will surpass the USA as the leading naval power before the 22nd century."

In light of boondoggles like the LCS and F-35C, I would say this could happen much sooner.

Anonymous Sam the Man January 06, 2016 6:50 PM  

All US electronic manufacturers have been sold, cut up, diced, merged, etc. A chap I know worked for general instrument, Next level, something else I cannot recall, Motorola, Goggle and his current company (6 total in something like 15 or 18 years without every once changing jobs, the company or portion of it he worked for changed hands. On-semi used to be the application IC part of Motorola until spun off, apparently it needs Fairchild to keep of a sufficiently large size to be competitive. My point in now China is entering the game with big bucks, made selling stuff to the US.

Now riddle me this: If a US company wanted to buy a mainland Chinese company how much could they buy? answer 49 percent. It is a one way street.

Blogger Unknown January 06, 2016 6:58 PM  

@#31

There are exactly two available mothball carriers available right now. Ex CV-61 and Ex CV-63, both are docked at PSNS Bremerton, and while the Kitty Hawk could probably be put back in service, the Independence would need years in dry dock to be put back to sea again. She has been sitting since 1998 or so. She is not in good shape. I just drove by her last week.
You can forget about any of those mothball ships going to sea in anything less than months. Plus, from whence are you going to draw the crew to man them?
Same with all these concepts for a small ship navy: Where are you going to draw the crews from? All those serving now are trained for the big ship navy. Those who man PC class and smaller are mostly SWCC, which is a branch of Naval Special Warfare, and not regular Navy.

Blogger weka January 06, 2016 6:59 PM  

Additional: NZ has 4.6 million people. We have 11 vessels in our navy. Note the use of offshore patrol boats, and that two of the ships are designed for logisitic support.
http://www.navy.mil.nz/mtf/default.htm

Australia has subs, and its biggest ship is going to be a helicopter carrier. They will not use fixed wing planes from a carrier. Their fleet is about six times larger, but then, they have about six times the population.

Anonymous ArmyStu January 06, 2016 7:01 PM  

In fact, in light of the demographic changes and consequential decline in national capabilities, I expect that China will surpass the USA...."

Interesting way of calling immigrants "dumb".

Is there any data that might show a declining IQ in the US over the last 50 or 60 years?

Blogger Cogitans Iuvenis January 06, 2016 7:02 PM  

I think something is being omitted in this discussion and that is the fact that the the US essentially has two navies, one for force projection, i.e the Navy, and one for home defense, i.e the coast guard. The US Coast Guard, whose entire raison d'etre is protecting the US coasts, is bigger than all but the 10 largest navies in the world by ship count. They have 244 cutters and some 1,800 boats.

Given that the US Navy has always been about force projection the decisions made by the US is what is the best way to project force, and protect our shipping lanes, most cost effectively.

Given the development of anti-shop missile, space based and drone technologies carriers are definitely becoming obsolete, at least in the form that they exist now. If were the Secretary of the Navy I would certainly be pushing for increased in our submarine force along with the specialized submarines that could launch drone aircraft.

Blogger Unknown January 06, 2016 7:03 PM  

Addendum, I forgot about CV-67, ex John F Kennedy. Docked in Philly, worse shape than the Kitty Hawk, take a long time to recommission. Not as long as CV-61, though, but it would be close. She was in bad shape when she decommissioned.

OpenID sigbouncer January 06, 2016 7:09 PM  

The earliest Russia could create an aircraft carrier would be 2027. It took China 13 years to build their lone aircraft carrier. These things run anywhere between 10-14 billion dollars each.

The US currently has 12 aircraft carriers (2 are currently inactive), with 56 decommissioned. Russia has 6 decommissioned aircraft carriers, China has none. England has 40 decommissioned, Japan has 20 and France has 7. The US has 3 under construction, China has 1 under construction, India has 1 under construction (along with 2 active) and England has 2 under construction. Just to give an idea of where each country is currently with respects to the big boys on water.

In comparing the US vs China vs Russia Navy outside of aircraft carriers (which the US easily dominates as shown):

The U.S. Navy has 9 amphibious assault ships, 22 cruisers, 62 destroyers, 17 frigates and 72 submarines.

China currently has 3 amphibious transports, 25 destroyers, 42 frigates, 8 nuclear attack submarines and approximately 50 conventional attack submarines.

The Russian Navy has 79 ships of frigate size and larger, 5 cruisers, 13 destroyers, and 52 submarines (15 are nuclear subs). All are Cold War era.

Anonymous WillBest January 06, 2016 7:11 PM  

I didn't think China had figured out how to build quality ship hulls, I thought they were still buying those from the Russians. And that goes with them buying US companies. They have the man power, they don't have the ingenuity. I will start really getting worried about the Chinese when they figure out how to get creative (beyond faking research papers).

Seems like you would want a few carriers they do move a lot of stuff. I don't entirely that space based stuff would necessarily be better. Sure if you were going after the Muslims, but if its the Chinese or Russians they can shoot it out of the sky. Plus we signed a treaty, and for some reason the US likes to abide by those unless the other party isn't one of Vox's relatives.

Anonymous WillBest January 06, 2016 7:18 PM  

There are exactly two available mothball carriers available right now. Ex CV-61 and Ex CV-63, both are docked at PSNS Bremerton, and while the Kitty Hawk could probably be put back in service, the Independence would need years in dry dock to be put back to sea again. She has been sitting since 1998 or so. She is not in good shape. I just drove by her last week.

Is there a reason why these ships aren't scrapped for their metal?

Blogger Cogitans Iuvenis January 06, 2016 7:22 PM  

@45

There are exactly two available mothball carriers available right now. Ex CV-61 and Ex CV-63, both are docked at PSNS Bremerton, and while the Kitty Hawk could probably be put back in service, the Independence would need years in dry dock to be put back to sea again. She has been sitting since 1998 or so. She is not in good shape. I just drove by her last week.

The USS Ford took 4 years almost to the day to build. So long as refurbishing takes less time it remains an option. That of course doesn't mean that at some point that the cost of doing so is far greater than what it is worth.

You can forget about any of those mothball ships going to sea in anything less than months. Plus, from whence are you going to draw the crew to man them?

The mothballed ships are held in varying degrees of readiness. The highest classification B are kept in the highest level of maintenance possible with the intent that they could be mobilized in short order in the event of dire need. As for crew, well that is what the Navy Reserve is for is it not? Currently there are 108,457 individuals in the Navy Reserve so, in the event of a national need to mobilize, the issue isn't going to be personnel it's going to be will there be enough ships.

Same with all these concepts for a small ship navy: Where are you going to draw the crews from? All those serving now are trained for the big ship navy. Those who man PC class and smaller are mostly SWCC, which is a branch of Naval Special Warfare, and not regular Navy.

You draw from the Coast Guard and Coast Guard Reserve.

Blogger Cogitans Iuvenis January 06, 2016 7:25 PM  

@52

They are being scrapped and the Kitty Hawk will soon be retired from reserve status once the USS Ford becomes active. List of US carriers and their current status below:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_aircraft_carriers_of_the_United_States_Navy

Blogger Christopher Yost January 06, 2016 7:30 PM  

Small ships will not replace big ships until such weapon systems that are emplaced upon/within the big ships can be squeezed into the small ship.

Which then brings about the fact that the bigger ships will then be able to hold more weapon systems or next Gen, etc.

The U.S. will stick with big ships for their force projection.

Warfare hasn't received that massive periodical change (due to technology nowadays) to warrant anything else.

Too, what isn't being considered (disingenuously by those that should/would no better) are the actual deployment costs of the more numerous smaller ship fleets.

Smaller ships effectively reduce deployment longevity. Unless, of course, you create even more small ships to allow for proper deployment coverage.

The whole thing is a headache that provides no real tangible benefits in the current and prophesied near-future state of technology.

Anonymous Hezekiah Garrett January 06, 2016 7:30 PM  

@salvationarmystu

Are you a simpering illiterate, or a fucking liar?

Anonymous Anonymous January 06, 2016 7:40 PM  

For what little it is worth, I vote carry our big ship navy forward, but all future development should be to develop our small ship navy and associated capabilities, especially logistics. The most disruptive platforms of the next naval war will be a combination of a 'headquarters' submarine running a large number of unmanned underwater and surface vehicles (unmanned attack subs and surface vessels, sensor platforms etc, effectively an undersea AWACS C4I platform) and a 'sub-carrier' that can launch and recover unmanned aerial vehicles for intel, sensor and attack purposes while on the surface, but can submerge. The combination of the two should be able to control large areas of ocean at acceptable cost in dollars and blood.

From a Navy culture perspective, the most interesting challenge is probably developing the logistics culture. I actually wonder if space/missile/UAV/UUV technology makes sub-surface logistics/cargo/re-supply vessels a necessity. Although there is a lot of overlap, it is a long way mentally from surface warfare or naval aviator to UUV service tech.

Daedalus Mugged

Anonymous Napoleon 12pdr January 06, 2016 7:51 PM  

Gentlemen, I'd highly recommend a quick review of Corbett's "Principles of Maritime Strategy". Writing about 1905, he argued that a Navy had three components - a battle fleet, to win control of the seas; a cruiser fleet, to exploit that control; and a flotilla, to extend that control to inshore waters.

The Littoral Combat Ship grew out of attempts to build a vessel for that flotilla function. Unfortunately, the program got bushwhacked by requirements bloat and a loss of focus on the basic concept. A flotilla vessel is, by definition, an attrition asset. CDR Pournelle is calling for a refocus on the mission, and the procurement of ships for it.

There's a pair of jokers in the deck, though. First, direct power projection ashore has become a major new naval capability. Second, fighting and patrolling have become separate functions. A small combatant is ideal for stopping and inspecting fishing boats...if you just want to sink anything in those waters, airpower is far more capable. Or long-range antiship missiles with ISR aircraft providing targeting.

As for the CVN, it remains the most useful asset. It's a utility player, capable of battle fleet, sea control, and power projection functions.

The real problem lies in Fleet strength. Today, the U.S. Navy has ~280 ships...about half the strength of 30 years ago. And in a multipolar world, those gray moving things are a priceless asset. You can move them where they are most needed far faster than Army or USAF assets.

Blogger Danby January 06, 2016 7:52 PM  

@56 Hezekiah Garrett
@salvationarmystu
Are you a simpering illiterate, or a fucking liar?


That's not an either/or question. The answer is both/and.

Blogger Achilles January 06, 2016 7:58 PM  

I've read a lot over the years in the big Ship versus little ship debate. As a total layman little ships make a lot of sense. The problem is that the best naval power is still air power. And you can't store or launch jets from a ship the size of a coast guard cutter. Maybe when we can effectively deploy drone swarms we can't drop the carrier. Until then we should have a healthy mix of both as others have suggested.

Blogger Rusty Fife January 06, 2016 7:58 PM  

@38.  Trimegistus

Big ships go faster.

Brilliantly concise definition of the problem.

Translated to english: only big ships can keep up with the long aircraft carriers at operational speeds/durations.

For a short course on naval architecture look up Froude number.

In essence the naval equivalent of the speed of sound changes with the length of your ship; longer ships go faster with less energy.

Therefore, to have the legs to keep up with a nuclear powered carrier, you have to have a big ship.

Blogger rumpole5 January 06, 2016 8:11 PM  

Nano tech might change everything. Imagine a swarm of tiny drones armed with -- you name it. Acid to corrode flesh or metal, disease germs, tiny bits of enriched uranium that explode when the swarm collects into a critical mass. . . The armored French knights were undone at Agincourt by mud and a bunch of unarmored peasants with armor piercing Long bows. "Pluck yew Frenchies!" (origin, I believe, of the middle finger). Technology and technique can change everything in war.

Blogger Rusty Fife January 06, 2016 8:17 PM  

@61

It's like going on a fun run with team woman in your squad. Even if the rest of the squad can do a 9min mile with 35lbs; she can only do it in 10min. Therefore, the squad only moves at 10min mile pace.

You won't be able to mix a fleet of little ships with big ships if the little ships get too little.

I'll wager the LCS can keep up with a carrier fleet; the Mark IV can't.

Blogger Rusty Fife January 06, 2016 8:21 PM  

@62 rumplole5

origin, I believe, of the middle finger

Very close. It is why the English show two fingers; index and middle. Captured archers had them removed so they couldn't pull a bow. It was a sign of "come and take them".

Blogger Nick S January 06, 2016 8:31 PM  

Small ships will not replace big ships until such weapon systems that are emplaced upon/within the big ships can be squeezed into the small ship.

We already have laser cannons, rail guns, UAV swarm and stealth capability for smaller littoral combat ships.

Anonymous Napoleon 12pdr January 06, 2016 8:32 PM  

@63 Rusty Fife:

LCS is reported to have a serious range issue. It was never designed to be a Fleet escort. The original concepts were for ships in the 700-1,000 ton range...then the requirements bloat hit.

Blogger Thucydides January 06, 2016 8:34 PM  

A few points:

Pournelle may be correct in a macro sense (many small targets are much more difficult to neutralize than a few large targets), but in order for this to work, the small ships need to be very capable. Larger ships provide stable platforms and can stay at sea for prolonged periods of time, and one of the reasons for having a navy is to be able to remain on station for extended periods of time. Otherwise, the United States should just build 1000 more B-52's and project power from the air.

Given the ever increasing ability to see targets (and bring swarms of cooperative weaponry against them), surface combatants are a poor choice. Submarines are going to be the capital ships of the 21rst century, but there will have to be a change in the thinking of the US Navy, including the adoption of non nuclear SSK's, and making nuclear boats smaller and cheaper as well. The Indian Arihant class, at @ 6000t displacement and capable of carrying both ballistic missiles and SSN type ship attack weapons might be a good jumping off point.

China's ability to become a sea going power is severely limited not only by historical and cultural factors, but by geography. Any Chinese warships need to pass the "First Island Chain" in order to do blue water patrols, and the various choke points and bottlenecks can be used to deny the PLAN access to the sea, or more importantly, block imports of raw materials or exports of finished goods to and from China. Russia still lacks a warm water port, and as a Continental Power, needs to secure its land borders first before diverting resources to the sea. (China should also be considered as a Continental Power in this context as well).

Space will be an important element in force projection, but spaceborne weaponry is limited by its visibility (once you have the orbital parameters, you always know where the weapons are). While steps can be taken to make space platforms more versatile and less vulnerable, this adds complexity and expense, limiting what you can put in orbit. Pournelle's argument actually applies to space as well: the 1980 era SDI program of a small number of high tech laser weapons was eventually superseded by the concept of thousands of semi autonomous "brilliant pebbles" in LEO.

Great discussion

Anonymous Frank Brady January 06, 2016 8:34 PM  

How big will our Navy (big ship or small ship) "need" to be should we decide to mind our own business?

Just wondering.

Sign me an old ground pounder

Blogger Rusty Fife January 06, 2016 8:35 PM  

@63

The final consequence of not being able to mix the fleets is that it limits the design of your operations.

The little ships can't hide under the carrier's wings and the carrier can't use the little ships for defense in the near littorals.

Blogger Cataline Sergius January 06, 2016 8:37 PM  

I expect that China will surpass the USA as the leading naval power before the 22nd century.

I'd have to caveat that with; if they want to.

Middle Kingdom Syndrome runs pretty deep with the Han. I'm not sure they can look past their back yard in any serious way.

Blogger Rusty Fife January 06, 2016 8:40 PM  

@66  Napoleon 12pdr

Agreed they don't have the range for blue water. But I expect they have the speed to keep up with the fleet in the short term.

Blogger Dexter January 06, 2016 8:42 PM  

You clearly haven't read the article. Next time, do so before opining in ignorance. The carriers don't even dare to go where the small ships have to go. Hence the word "littoral" in the title.

The small ships can only go into the littorals when no serious enemy is shooting at them. In a shooting war with a serious enemy they would die quickly. They'd never even know what hit them.

Blogger Dexter January 06, 2016 8:43 PM  

A frigate is less able to defend itself than a carrier? We're you a sailor? Did you get blown across a flight deck, or suffer head trauma in a comparable incident?

Yes, a frigate is less able to defend itself than a carrier, because the carrier can detect and destroy threats at great distance but a frigate cannot.

Blogger Tom Kratman January 06, 2016 8:45 PM  

Yeah...color me skeptical. People have been predicting the death of this or that major weapon system - battleships, tanks, aircraft carriers - for a long time. Sometimes, as with battleships, the prediction was eventually correct but not for the reasons given (and, even then, the battleship is quite possibly still the answer to hostile shore defenses threatening carriers and amphibs). The reason the predictions end up wrong is redundant carrying capacity. Thus tanks, faced with ATGMs, can always add in more defenses than the ATGM can carry in offense. Brit battleships, when the Frogs were trying to make them obsolete with torpedo boats, simply started adding in below the water line passive defenses and on-deck lesser caliber, quick firing guns eminently suitable for dealing with torpedo boats. Our carriers probably have more redundant carrying capacity than any other warships in history. We don't know what the defense against new forms of attack will be, though that we come up with one or more effective ones for each new form seems inevitable. What we do know is that the carrier will be able to carry them, too.

Blogger Rusty Fife January 06, 2016 8:46 PM  

@72 Dexter

This is my point about the small ships hiding under the carrier's wings. If the carrier can provide a it superiority; then the littoral ships can sub hunt for those pesky diesel subs.

Blogger Dexter January 06, 2016 8:52 PM  

You would be correct, but in war, you would be wrong. Small ships may sink easily, but it's hard to hit a small ship that is fast and can lob missiles at you from range.

Nope. It is very easy for airplanes to hit small ships. Those small ships are not faster than the airplanes, and those small ships missiles will not get within range of the airplane's launch platform.

carriers and other surface ships are easy targets.

No, the carriers aren't.

One vessel outclasses all of them--the submarine. It only takes one to destroy a fleet. Submarines are capital ships. Carriers are not. [Foreign] Subs are cheaper, easier to man

No, they are not easier to man. A competent submarine force is a very difficult thing to create. Most of the third world sub fleets sit in port doing nothing.

Submarines have their uses. But if the goal is projecting power ashore, the CV outclasses them.

Blogger Cataline Sergius January 06, 2016 8:53 PM  

I had liked Pournelle the Younger's article myself. It spoke to something that I had noticed a while back.

We no longer have any Destroyers.

Shermin set the Way-Back for February 8, 1904. The Battle of Port Arthur was a disaster for the Russians. The Japanese gave them a preview of what was going to come in 1941. During the hotwash afterward it was found that one of the most devastating weapons had been the Torpedo Boat.

When Jackie Fisher was building his Dreadnaught fleet he also came up with a small ship to deal with those pesky Torpedo Boats. The Torpedo Boat Destroyer, which was so good at it's job the boats were relegated to commerce raiding.

The thing was Destroyers were incredibly useful for just about anything that didn't require major muscle.

And we don't have them anymore. We have huge frigates that we call Destroyers but they are fundamentally incapable of performing traditional Destroyer missions.

It's serious hole in our fleet.

Blogger Rusty Fife January 06, 2016 8:56 PM  

@74.  Tom Kratman

I expect looking at littoral ships as scouts and light infantry is the best analogy.

Battleships are artillery, carriers are air support and excetra.

You wouldn't want to turn your whole army into Rangers; but they have their uses.

Blogger TheRedSkull January 06, 2016 8:56 PM  

Don't worry, the swabbies will keep the decks spic and span until the Chinese takeout turns them into tins of spic spam.

Fish gotta eat, same as worms.

Blogger SirHamster January 06, 2016 8:58 PM  

I've read a lot over the years in the big Ship versus little ship debate. As a total layman little ships make a lot of sense.

I find it interesting how that echoes the early debate over the US Navy, and whether it should be a gunboat navy or one with big ships capable of force projection.

IIRC, the politicians who were primarily from agricultural regions thought the gunboats made sense and were good enough, but it didn't work that well when tested by the British fleet in the War of 1812.

Not that the situation then is directly comparable to the needs of not. Just a humbling thought for laymen opinions in this realm.

Blogger Rusty Fife January 06, 2016 9:04 PM  

Of course, having a carrier-centric Navy is like an Air Force-centric Army whose whole job is to protect the wing-nut's FOBs.

Oh wait, that is what we have now. My bad.

Blogger Rusty Fife January 06, 2016 9:18 PM  

@74 Tom Kratman

 Our carriers probably have more redundant carrying capacity than any other warships in history. We don't know what the defense against new forms of attack will be, though that we come up with one or more effective ones for each new form seems inevitable. What we do know is that the carrier will be able to carry them, too.

Many moons ago Richard Fernandez made this point about LASERs. The battle will eventually turn on the electrical generating capacity of your platform. I'm not sure there is anything that can out generate a carrier.

The new dreadnought will be nuclear powered.

This is why all the new ships are diesel electric.

Blogger clk January 06, 2016 9:24 PM  

I will tell you one thing.. when you stand on the deck of a battleship you know you are standing on a engineering marvel... especially if you get on one of the old WW2 ships.. these are impressive monuments to metallurgy.. I don't think we could afford to build ships like these anymore... the amount of high quality steel, the strength of construction... build by hardworking shipbuilders to keep a nation free... I doubt the lowest cost bidder model of today could do this... The Navy has impressive toys...

Anonymous Hezekiah Garrett January 06, 2016 9:24 PM  

@68

Depends on whether you want to continue to trade with the world. A navy's primary function is keeping sea lanes open and protecting commercial shipping.

If the US desnt control the seas, someone else will. In the Pacific, that will be China. In the Med, that will be either Russia, Britain, or fuck all. (Of course, as risk averse as the US is, fuck all is the practical reality out there anyway.)

If you don't want a resurgence of piracy globally, you gotta give people a reason not to take your cargo ships.

OTOH, if America learns to mind her business, I don't see why the Army couldn't be pared down to an officer corps of less than 50k, with levies to the States as needed. You know, like the Constitution envisioned.

Blogger Rusty Fife January 06, 2016 9:30 PM  

Now, if there were just a sonic LASER that could kill a nuclear tipped torpedo before it got within blast radius of the dreadnought...

Blogger Stilicho #0066 January 06, 2016 9:33 PM  

It all depends on the mission the Navy is asked to perform. Improved anti-ship missile/laser/torpedo technology makes it more difficult for carriers to project power ashore. Similar challenges have been faced with advances in SAM technology in the past. Enter the Wild Weasel and successors, stealth aircraft, improved counter measures, etc. Designed to thwart improved threats. It is a leapfrogging process most of the time. I can envision a Wild Weasel, stealth drone carrying sub being used to clear out anti ship defenses along with space based systems.

The bigger threat to the carrier battle group is enemy subs. We need improved detection capabilities. If we find a sub we can kill it, but they're getting better at hiding...and they're a threat even when carriers aren't being used to directly project power ashore.

Just as with sex, every generation thinks it discovered war. They typically fall into the trap of thinking that, because they have better technology, they are smarter than all preceding generations. And they're always wrong.

Blogger Rusty Fife January 06, 2016 9:34 PM  

...unless the dreadnought hovered or flew, then the hydrostatic pressure wave of a subsea detonation wouldn't effect it as much.

Blogger weka January 06, 2016 9:35 PM  

I accept that Tom Kratman is correct on one point: the Carrier group (like the Abrams tank) can take a hell of a lot of punishment and keep going. And that there is room to add more stuff to them because they are robust: the Abrams is not obsolete, unlike the HumVee.

The trouble is that Abrams tanks and Carrier Groups are frigging expensive. Hugely, horribly so. And there are almost as good but less survivable options out there.

Kratman knows this: his Carrera books are tutorials on how to build a lethal war machine on a budget.

In the last lethal war (WW2) when it was all-out, total war, and everything was used, the T-34 won against the (much better) Panzer, and the new, expensive carrier won against the older fairly expensive battleship and definitely against the cruiser. The latter had one role: onshore bombardment. They were no use in sea battles after the fall of Singapore.

And this debate will continue until there is another lethal, all out war. Nuclear weapons make this a little less likely: during the code war the Soviets and NATO had enough sane leaders not to use them.

I think the American empire is fragile, and like the European empire, will be one with Tyre. After that we might find out which option works the hard way.

Blogger weka January 06, 2016 9:38 PM  

@84
The Anzacs, Malays and Singapore will control SE Asia and the Pacific from piracy. If we get rid of the SJW written ROE, and start hanging pirates when caught again.

China and Russia will project south if the SJW continue to write policy: they hate pirates just as much and WILL hang them.

Anonymous FAILBOAT January 06, 2016 9:41 PM  

This thinking is a good ten to fifteen years too late, and is a wonderful example of yet another Navy officer obsessing over fighting the last war. This article would have been the conventional wisdom in 2005, today, not so much. The infamous exocet during the Falklands is probably the most interesting target an ASCM will ever kill.

Blogger Rusty Fife January 06, 2016 9:49 PM  

@86.  Stilicho #0066

We need improved detection capabilities. 

Active side-scan SONAR is awesome. It is possible to image a 55gal drum in 10,000ft of water right now.

I imagine a good baseline image of the area to start, then drop a few passive SONAR drones to detect a sub sneaking in, might get you where you want to be.

Anonymous KoranBurningFaggot January 06, 2016 9:50 PM  

In fact, in light of the demographic changes and consequential decline in national capabilities

The navy probably asks the most sacrifice of its people during peacetime. You are stuck on a crowded boat for 6 months at a time. The navy has hot bunking where 9 people live in an area the size of a normal closet, with officers living in a walk in closet. Even when I was out in the field as a medic I had more spacious living quarters & control over my environment than seamen.

It also seems to have a lot of tech requirements. Just as non Asian minorities are missing from special forces + tip of spear units, they also don't show for nuke engineering. Nuke submarines might be the last place in the military for having objective standards.

Just wait until we have female seals!

Next on animal planet female seals on the rag vs. sharks.

I expect that China will surpass the USA as the leading naval power before the 22nd century...

This is certainly possible, but I do see a couple of obstacles


Don't forget China is making its own Panama Canal that will probably be a major naval base for them along with building its own islands in Japan's sea.

The carriers don't even dare to go where the small ships have to go.

If I recall the Persian Gulf is too small for a carrier group.

Oooh! Maybe they'll copy the F-35 Next-Generation Kitchen Sink!

Someone please write submarine on top of the plans for them and leave them near a Chinese worker.

Blogger Rusty Fife January 06, 2016 10:07 PM  

The real answer is sitting fight under everyone's nose...triple the size of the Coast Guard. It is our littoral Navy.

It practices 4G warfare and boarding operations on a daily basis. You might even sneak it in under Obama because it falls under homeland security, tax collection, and drug interdiction.

The Navy won't hear of it though.

Blogger Rusty Fife January 06, 2016 10:40 PM  

Similarly, they could gather up all the federal SWAT teams from the department of education and etc. into one big 4GW trained para-military organization within Homeland Security.

I propose we name them 'Federali's' in recognition of the new normal. It will make our new guest workers feel right at home.

Blogger Nick S January 06, 2016 10:54 PM  

Ha! That's enough talk about seamen, KBF.

Anonymous Eric the Red January 06, 2016 11:18 PM  

A small-ship navy is not the same as a small navy. Obviously we could have a lot of small ships, replacing a fewer number of large ones. However, TPTB will ensure that we have a small navy of small ships, thus constituting the worst of both worlds. There may be more recent examples, but during WWII the US did not have the highest quality of weapons systems. What they did have was an enormous number of them, thereby being able to effectively swamp the opposition no matter how many Tiger tanks or ME262's they threw up. Looking at our future situation, it is easy to predict that the Chinese will have both superior numbers as well as superior or at least equal quality, making the US a sitting duck.

Blogger Cogitans Iuvenis January 06, 2016 11:27 PM  

@92

Don't forget China is making its own Panama Canal that will probably be a major naval base for them along with building its own islands in Japan's sea.

That isn't happening, as of November not only has no real construction started but the money for the project hasn't been deposited. The cherry on top is that the Chinese investor proposing the plan lost 85% of his wealth in the latest stock crash according to Bloomberg.

http://www.globalconstructionreview.com/news/wangs-bi7ll7i7on7s-slashed-stock-fall/#read

It was a dubious project all round especially considering that the Panama Canal is in the middle of being upgraded for less than 1/10th of the cost for the Nicaragua Canal and completion well before the Nicaragua Canal is finished if it were ever built.

Blogger Azimus January 06, 2016 11:35 PM  

96. However, TPTB will ensure that we have a small navy of small ships, thus constituting the worst of both worlds

I don't know, that doesn't appear to have happened yet...

What the Navy does have is the long-lead-time fleet ready in hand - it can fill the oceans with torpedo boats, corvettes, diesel attack submarines and Littoral Combat Ships (perish the thought!) quickly if a total-war should start.

I would challenge your statement that the US did not have high quality weapon systems. The US Navy was years ahead of any other power including allies by 1944. As an example, the Navy stopped building Fletcher Class Destroyers and started building cheaper, faster-to-the-front ships because they didn't need the completely dominant ships that they had. What carrier-based plane held a candle to the Hellcat? TBF Avenger? The Yamato could outgun the Wisconsin but it couldn't catch it...

It's true the Germans and Japanese had some curiosity weapons that had the edge, that had no more bearing on the outcome of the war than the Hunley did on the US Civil War.

It's an age old debate, quantity vs quality. The US MUST choose quality over quantity due to it's culture. Let's hope quality wins...

Blogger Eric January 07, 2016 12:07 AM  

Pournelle is biased, somewhat, since he's pretty much staked his career on the success of LCS.

The problem with the small ship navy idea is not everything scales down very well. You won't have small ships with nuclear propulsion. You won't have small ships with the sorts of powerful sensors (radars and TAS) you find on destroyers and frigates, nor the same sorts of communications capabilities. Smaller ships can't support the sorts of specialists you find aboard larger ships (like surgeons, for instance), and they present logistics problems. They're great for coastal defense, but they don't project power, particularly for long engagements.

You'll never see a railgun on a ship smaller than about 10k tons.

Beyond that, the same trends that threaten large ships threaten smaller ships in spades. A few years back the USAF tested a strategy that would be used if China assaulted Taiwan. With control of the air, between automation, GPS, and advanced communications, a handful of F-15s can sink over a hundred patrol boat type ships. An F-15 can carry 20 SDBs, and it can put every one through the deck of a ship. You must have control of the air to win a modern naval engagement.

On top of all that, it's not as easy to sink a CBG as people seem to think. We can stop supersonic cruise missiles. We can stop ballistic missiles. Any attack on a CBG will have to be large and well coordinated, meaning the chance of discovery is high. How everything plays out is really dependent on the particular scenario.

Blogger bob k. mando January 07, 2016 12:18 AM  

47. ArmyStu January 06, 2016 7:01 PM
Is there any data that might show a declining IQ in the US over the last 50 or 60 years?



first item to enter into evidence?

contrast and compare Brig Gen Robert Scott with ArmyStu.

BG Scott had a vocabulary, familiarity with culture and geography and mental facilty that puts Stu to shame.



58. Napoleon 12pdr January 06, 2016 7:51 PM
As for the CVN, it remains the most useful asset. It's a utility player, capable of battle fleet, sea control, and power projection functions.



nobody wants to ELIMINATE carriers.
http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2016/01/06/us-navy-fleet-ship-size-aircraft-carriers-pournelle-column/78238004/
"Well, nobody wants to abolish aircraft carriers, but Pournelle argues that more effort should go into smaller ships, ships that are harder to destroy because they’re less conspicuous, and less disastrous to lose because they’re much smaller."


CBGs are practically invulnerable to 3rd world nations and can still be a pretty hard target for 2nd world stuff.

but if one of the top tier powers goes all in against us, all of the carrier GROUPS ( not the CVN, the whole damn flotilla ) are going to disappear in balls of steam.

and for the 2nd tier nations, we're still going to have to stand off pretty far to launch those planes. anti-ship cruise missiles at $1M a pop are going to make a billion dollar carrier look pretty damn stupid.


74. Tom Kratman January 06, 2016 8:45 PM
simply started adding in below the water line passive defenses and on-deck lesser caliber, quick firing guns eminently suitable for dealing with torpedo boats.



yeah, that doesn't mean much when the 'torpedo boat' is standing off 100NM throwing cruise missiles at you.

i know we've got some countermeasures for cruise missiles, but i'm assuming Iran or NK or whomever would be willing to burn up their cruise stockpile if they thought a wave attack could take down a Nimitz.

i will say that a CVN is capable of powering a rail gun ... if we want to start fitting those out. that could be fun.

then a CVN would function as a carrier and battleship simultaneously.


84. Hezekiah Garrett January 06, 2016 9:24 PM
If you don't want a resurgence of piracy globally, you gotta give people a reason not to take your cargo ships.



Letters of Marque.

Blogger Ken Prescott January 07, 2016 12:36 AM  

1. Small ship equals less capability. Which ones are you willing to reduce or eliminate? Offense? Defense? Sensors? C2? Survivability? Sustainment? Some of each? Eggshells armed with sledgehammers and utterly depending on offboard C5ISR? Inquiring minds want to know...

2. Submarines have one limitation that makes them far less useful than a surface ship: the air/water interface. Sensor and communication capability drops precipitously; one very nasty ASW tactic would be to drop several high yield nuclear weapons into the ocean AOR. The resulting blue-out blinds your sonar--but it also blinds the submarine sonar, and that's the submarine's only usable sensor.

3. All of this presumes that the USN will continue its present mission of securing the global commons within the Bretton Woods system. I don't think that's the way to bet. A more insular America would likely shift its defense investment to aerospace forces because the relative value of sustained presence would decline, and I think that Bretton Woods is coming to an end within the next decade or so.

Anonymous VFM 5589 January 07, 2016 1:01 AM  

I've been wondering what the hell destroyers were supposed to be destroying since I first heard the term as a wee lad. Thank you!

Anonymous Hezekiah Garrett January 07, 2016 1:47 AM  

@100

With all regard, legalising prostitution doesn't turn the clap into applause.

Blogger Nick S January 07, 2016 1:49 AM  

When they build the Donald Trump class ships, they will be 1000 times greater than anything...this I can tell you.

Anonymous Hezekiah Garrett January 07, 2016 1:51 AM  

@101

I thought Bretton Woods was Nix'ed before I was born?

Anonymous A. Nonymous January 07, 2016 1:56 AM  

The armored French knights were undone at Agincourt by mud and a bunch of unarmored peasants with armor piercing Long bows

Longbows were not armour-piercing. Only the most powerful, windlass-driven crossbows could ever reliably penetrate steel plate.

Blogger AdognamedOp January 07, 2016 2:12 AM  

We should build a fleet of old style dreadnaughts. Modern day ASm's wouldnt penetrate those hulls.
Think of the cool names we could give them.

Anonymous map January 07, 2016 2:28 AM  

I don't understand.

The game changer in naval warfare is fielding an air force at sea. Each fighter jet or helicopter carries loads of missiles and torpedoes for hitting any target you need.

Oh...aircraft carriers can make jet fuel from sea water.

Blogger Dire Badger January 07, 2016 2:40 AM  

I think you overestimate China's economic power.

Without America as the major Chinese consumer, their economic power will drop back down into the oversized banana republic it has always been.

Blogger Doom January 07, 2016 3:31 AM  

All things pass. However, what is often found, is that those who have it usually only lose it by relinquishing it. A decision, at the top, is made to surrender power. Then it is done. If China replaces the US, it will be a decision by the US to let that happen.

Now, I think the choice has already been made and implemented. It wasn't done, exactly, for that purpose. The decision was to make America a banking/financial power. It failed, it had to fail. To be such, for one thing, you have to be neutral, and I mean dead neutral, a la Switzerland. Next, you have to be better, you have to be willing and able to cheat more, and you have to own certain "foreign" assets. You can't just bully with firepower or even economic prowess. You have to earn it and work it. Oh, and you mustn't forget about the people who used to be reasonably employed in industries you destroy in order to build the new style empire. The planners failed in every case, badly. They didn't even foresee the easily foreseen, so the complicated stuff is... well... tearing them up. The elites of the boomers are proof positive why their generation will go down is history as the worst clown and buffoons man has ever known. They threw it all away like the spoiled children they are.

Blogger Ahazuerus January 07, 2016 4:51 AM  

In the economic sphere, sensible and conservative commentators such as Austrian economists etc, have been underestimating the lengths our masters will go to, in order to kick the can down the road a little further, for decades.

If we're making this same error in the military arena then we can expect to see the west's nuclear arsenal used again within the next 20 years.

Empires in their dotage, eh?

Blogger Joe Keenan January 07, 2016 6:59 AM  

America has an advantage as regards the blue water Navy, that no one else in the world can equal. Russia has no warm water ports, we abound in them. Our infrastructure was built over centuries, China must build everything from scratch. We have bases that span the world. No one can put to sea a serious challenge to a CBG. The threat during littoral operations is land based cruise missile/guns. The pond skimmers advanced by some as an alternative to capital ships could be destroyed by tanks (the Abrams for example, mounts a 4.7 inch main gun and has a range out to 8700 yards with existing equipment), artillery can deliver 5 inch shells on target from 30 miles away. Lack of air cover/or reduced air cover will give these platforms the ability to survive and sink littoral ships.

http://www.army-technology.com/features/featurethe-10-most-effective-self-propelled-artillery-4180888/

Blogger Ken Prescott January 07, 2016 7:00 AM  

@105

The core elements of Bretton Woods are still in place--the US dollar as the world's reserve currency, and the US Navy guaranteeing everyone's access to the global commons. That's going to go away in the next decade or two because of the return of geopolitics, the global demographic inversion (which is going to make capital very scarce, parrticularly outside the US), and the interplay of those first two items is going to force the US to become energy independent. What we're seeing right now around the world are the foreshocks of these trends.

Blogger Ken Prescott January 07, 2016 7:15 AM  

@100

"CBGs are practically invulnerable to 3rd world nations and can still be a pretty hard target for 2nd world stuff.

but if one of the top tier powers goes all in against us, all of the carrier GROUPS ( not the CVN, the whole damn flotilla ) are going to disappear in balls of steam."

First, there are exactly two countries that fit your description: Russia and China. They are neighbors. Geopolitical neighbors tend to have a certain degree of fear and distrust of each other.

Second, if my next-door neighbor decides to start throwing firebombs at, say, every police car in my municipality, I am likely to engage in some premeditated self-defense, if only on the suspicion that I might be next on the hit list.

"and for the 2nd tier nations, we're still going to have to stand off pretty far to launch those planes. anti-ship cruise missiles at $1M a pop are going to make a billion dollar carrier look pretty damn stupid."

Agreed, which is why most naval warfare revolves around scouting and antiscouting. In the opening phases of a naval campaign, if you have the choice between killing an enemy strike asset or a scouting asset, it's generally more profitable to kill the scouting asset. Strike assets can't do anything to the enemy if you can't see the enemy in the first place.

You are correct about standoff; that is an issue that has been building since the 1980s. We need to procure longer-ranged strike assets for the carrier groups. Retiring the A-6 Intruder without a replacement of similar range/payload capability was criminally stupid; it was also a sign of just how much the Air Force dominated aerospace procurement and used that dominance to support their narrow institutional needs at the expense of national strategy.

Anonymous Quartermaster January 07, 2016 9:17 AM  

@84
New ships, other than nukes, are powered by turboshaft engines, not diesels.

@99
Where do you get that Pournelle has staked his career on LCS? There certainly is no indication from his article that he has.

There are strong indication that the LCS project is not a popular thing. The operational record of the ships is not good. One stationed in Singapore was able to get there, but has done little since it got there.

Commander Salamander has dealt with the "Little Crappy Ship" since they were on the ways, and has little use for them. Most of the mission modules have never been completed either. I don't see the project lasting much longer.

Blogger Some Guy January 07, 2016 10:03 AM  

I can answer some of the questions regarding the LCS as I work at Austal USA and help build the independence variant.

Range - 4300 nmi at 18 knots. It really burns fuel at top speed, but our boat has 4 engines that can be cycled down to two. We are MUCH more efficient than our Lockheed competitor on fuel.

Requirements bloat and cost - requirements come in daily so the cost will stay up. The biggest single issue with cost is the dual contract with us and Lockheed. One contractor getting all the boats would greatly reduce the price. On top of that, requirements for the weapons packages have to be adjusted for both designs, thus increasing the cost for those.

Operating with the carrier group - our variant can. We have the largest flight deck outside of a carrier and amphibious assault ship. One of their favorite tactics is to team our boat with a guided middle destroyer for anti submarine warfare or use us as extended range refueling stations for helicopters since we can land two helis, with rotors spinning at the same time.

The main capability of the LCS in its current configuration is its ability to put air assets in the sky without having to commit larger ships.

Blogger justaguy January 07, 2016 10:12 AM  

The Navy has been unsuccessfully trying to thread the needle of declining survivability with increased missions for over twenty years and the surface fleet continues to lose. Define the missions and one defines the type of Navy. The bureaucratic and political fights in DC matter more for the public missions, but the roles aren't hard to fathom. Force projection is a large one. as is sea control and visible presence. The Navy isn't omnipotent and never was. Also remember that technology is shrinking our relative advantages. Ken at #114 has it about right. Realize that submarines became the capital ships of the Navy in the 1960s--able to sink any and all other sea vessels. Carriers remain capital ships- able to sink anything except submarines.

For non-nuclear force projection, the large carrier gives a staying power and long-term flight sortie counts that no other configuration can come close to matching. Submarines can fire a couple of dozen expensive land attack missiles but that is about it. A destroyer can fire off maybe many dozen expensive land attack missiles,so if we want the ability to project force--blow up things in third world countries, we need a carrier battle group and all of its protecting ships.

Please note that against modern opponents, such as China and Russia, all bets are off for force projection. Submarines can still clear any relatively deep water anywhere, albeit with substantial losses. So what missions do we want to do and pay for in loss of lives, ships and funds...

Anonymous KoranBurningFaggot January 07, 2016 11:04 AM  

It was a dubious project all round especially considering that the Panama Canal is in the middle of being upgraded for less than 1/10th of the cost for the Nicaragua Canal and completion well before the Nicaragua Canal is finished if it were ever built.

I thought the dubious part was that there are no plans for them to copy of canal through Nicaragua

When they build the Donald Trump class ships, they will be 1000 times greater than anything...this I can tell you.

Wont that just be a wall built down the middle of the Pacific with hotels on top? /sarc

Blogger Nick S January 07, 2016 11:29 AM  

Wont that just be a wall built down the middle of the Pacific with hotels on top?

And golf courses...big beautiful golf courses.

In all seriousness, I think the big difference in new ships, going forward, is going to be modularity with quickly interchangeable mission specific packages. Range shouldn't be too much of an issue with transoceanic refueling ships.

Blogger frenchy January 07, 2016 11:45 AM  

@ 112,

"Russia has no warm water ports."

Wrong. Why do you think they are in Syria? And what about the Crimea?

Blogger frenchy January 07, 2016 11:58 AM  

@99,

"You must have control of the air to win a modern naval engagement."

No you don't. Nonsense! The Brits, in the Falkland war sent the entire Argentinian fleet back to port how? Their sub sank their flagship, and fearing losing what was left to an enemy they could not find, they went back to port. The end.

Blogger Cogitans Iuvenis January 07, 2016 12:05 PM  

A@117

So what about something like the Type B1 (aircraft) submarine that the Japanese employed during the war? It won't replace the carrier in regards to force projection but the advent of drone technology certainly has to make the concept of an aircraft submarine much more viable for fleet scouting, ASW and first strike capabilities.

Blogger Cogitans Iuvenis January 07, 2016 12:19 PM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger Cogitans Iuvenis January 07, 2016 12:19 PM  

@120

I believe he is talking about contiguous Russia in which case the statement is still true. In the event of a major conflict, say hypothetically with Europe, how does Russia get their supplies from Russia to Syria? Keep in mind that it would require they move supplies through either Turkey or Iran and Iraq.

Supplying Crimia isn't difficult since the Sea of Azov will most likely be uncontested but the Black sea might as well be a lake as far as geopolitics is concerned. It's Russia has no warm water port that has unfettered access to the ocean (Vladivostock is in the Sea of Japan) like the US does in San Diego or Norfolk

Anonymous rienzi January 07, 2016 12:27 PM  

I've been wondering what the hell destroyers were supposed to be destroying since I first heard the term as a wee lad. Thank you!


They were originally designed to be "torpedo boat destroyers". Even way back in the days of WW1, the navies of the world were concerned with the idea of small, cheap torpedo boats being able to swarm, and sink, large expensive dreadnoughts. Destroyers later took on the role of anti-submarine warfare, for the same reasons.

ex-destroyer sailor, DC2 USN

Anonymous Napoleon 12pdr January 07, 2016 12:28 PM  

If you want a complete discussion of the LCS issue, I highly recommend the CDR Salamander and Information Dissemination sites. The debate has been raging hot-and-heavy there for nearly a decade.

Blogger OldFan January 07, 2016 12:47 PM  

The enduring problem of the "little fighting ship" (LFS) approach to naval warfare is:

1) LFSs are Fragile: Aircraft can totally destroy the entire unit in one engagement, e.g. Saddam's missile boats were destroyed by two Sea Cobras with anti-tank guided missiles. 2.75" rockets and 20mm gatling guns would have done the job more cheaply, BTW

2) Room is limited on an LFS: if you put a respectable air defense system on a small surface combatant, it will tend to survive - at the cost of not being able to do much else. torpedoes, anti-ship missiles and big (>75mm) guns [pick ONE system] take up all of the available payload of an LFS

3) The game-changing weapons systems of the near [lasers, rail guns] require lots of power and large hulls. The firepower of our crack Tugwell-class nuclear-powered Battlecruisers will obliterate any swarm of missile boats - and pick their missiles out of the sky

The lessons of Star Wars are not realistic: big platforms actually have real defenses, not just two gun turrets and three fighters!

4) We do not need to cover the seas with ships to defeat the foe. Drones, aerostats (blimps), and satellites enable large-scale sea control, if the weapons systems have enough range.

5) Larger ships are easier to put on station for extended periods of time.

6) None of this applies to "brown water navy" systems - they operate in a different environment, against a different threat.

7) LFS squadrons would suffer heavy casualties (win or lose). How do we arrange for the children of our ruling class to be required to man them?

Little fighting ships (or "frigates" as they used to be known) have important supporting tasks, but they are no substitute for real combat power

Anonymous Feh January 07, 2016 1:33 PM  

The Brits, in the Falkland war sent the entire Argentinian fleet back to port how? Their sub sank their flagship, and fearing losing what was left to an enemy they could not find, they went back to port. The end.

Bzzzzt. Wrong. The Argentine Navy stayed in port because the Royal Navy controlled the skies.

The Royal Navy did NOT stay in port even though the Argentines had submarines.

Anonymous Feh January 07, 2016 1:36 PM  

Submarines have one limitation that makes them far less useful than a surface ship: the air/water interface.

Also, subs have very limited magazine capacity.

Blogger justaguy January 07, 2016 2:02 PM  

Subs magazine capacity for force projection may be small when compared to a carrier, but the ability to carry anti-ship or asw weapons isn't small. No country wants to lose even a dozen ships to one or two subs. The modern sub is the penimulte sea denial weapon with extremely sophisticated capability. However, sea denial is but one of many Navy missions.

for 128, the Argentines went to port after the first Brit sub arrived. Air power/control is a different concept for sea than air because of the distances, time, and clutter of the sea.

As long as we want to project force against low capability opponents, the carrier battle group will have a mission. No one controls the sea surface against high level opponents--too costly.

Anonymous Mike from Pasadena January 07, 2016 2:04 PM  

@ 106
"Longbows were not armour-piercing. Only the most powerful, windlass-driven crossbows could ever reliably penetrate steel plate. "

In REAL history, at the battle of Crecy, the fields were soaked from a heavy overnight rain. That same rain had ruined the bowstrings of the mercenary Genoese crossbowmen with the French army. The English archers were able to unleash up to 15 volleys of arrows per minute from densely packed formations protected by sharpened poles (sticks, not Western Slavs). The French heavy cavalry became bogged down in the muddy fields and fell victim to the enormous swarms of arrows. The "Bodkin Arrowhead", an iron point, was very effective at penetrating the French armor, and the casualty rate was pretty high among the French. The French heavy cavalry actually ran over the Genoese crossbowmen on their way to the mud bog.
This was the most famous example of longbowmen defeating armored knights, but it was not the only example.

Anonymous Feh January 07, 2016 2:23 PM  

Subs magazine capacity for force projection may be small when compared to a carrier, but the ability to carry anti-ship or asw weapons isn't small. No country wants to lose even a dozen ships to one or two subs. The modern sub is the penimulte sea denial weapon with extremely sophisticated capability.

The sea denial capability of a carrier is even greater than that of a submarine.

for 128, the Argentines went to port after the first Brit sub arrived.

No they didn't. The Brit subs were already out there when the Argentine Navy decided to sortie.

And again, the presence of Argentine subs did not deter the British surface fleet.

Air power/control is a different concept for sea than air because of the distances, time, and clutter of the sea.

Air control is the prerequisite for sea control.

As long as we want to project force against low capability opponents, the carrier battle group will have a mission. No one controls the sea surface against high level opponents--too costly.

Against high-end opponents, crappy little ships don't have a mission either.

Blogger Red Jack January 07, 2016 3:05 PM  

The Blue Water Navy will never shift to small ships. There is to much pride in being the admiral or captain of a CVN.

However, the article has some good points. If a CBG can take out 1000 little ships, what happens when the OPFOR sends 3000?

Anonymous 0007 January 07, 2016 3:29 PM  

The last useful "small" ship the US navy had built was the FFG-7 frigate. Anti-air, anti-sub, and even a decent anti-ship suite with a reasonable weapons mix. The LCS (littlecrappyship, heh, heh) doesn't even have the weapons suite of the new coast guard long-range cutter.
The LCS suffer(s)(ed) from the McNamara syndrome(can you say F-111?) in that it was/is supposed to be all things to all users.

Blogger bob k. mando January 07, 2016 3:59 PM  

114. Ken Prescott January 07, 2016 7:15 AM
First, there are exactly two countries that fit your description: Russia and China. They are neighbors. Geopolitical neighbors tend to have a certain degree of fear and distrust of each other.



well, duh. if Russia and China both actually believed in Marxist ideals ... they'd be the same country and have the same nomenklatura and stretch from the Pacific to the Baltic and Black Seas.

they've been on again-off again frenemies ever since Mao rose to power.

but Communists are like Muslims. if it's a choice between fighting a ( nominal ) capitalist and fighting another Communist, the pinkos will almost always join together to take down the Bourgeois.

the infighting, power struggles and wholesale slaughter of the proles doesn't begin until after they have achieved hegemony.


120. frenchy January 07, 2016 11:45 AM
Wrong. Why do you think they are in Syria? And what about the Crimea?



that's not what they mean by 'warm water port'. they MEAN easy and strategic access to blue water operations areas.

Syria, on the Med, is not only not Russian; it's bottlenecked by the Straits of Gibraltar ( have to pass under the nose of the British and Spanish ) and the Suez canal.

in the Black Sea, Crimea is even worse as it has both of the Syrian bottlenecks PLUS you have to pass through the Bosporus and Dardanelles just to get into the Med.

gosh, Turkey went to a lot of trouble to shoot down two Russian jets last month. wonder if they'd have any problems letting Russ warships sail past their largest city?


there's a reason why St Petersburg is NOT considered a viable military port, in spite of the fact that it provides easier access to the Atlantic than Archangel does.

you can figure out for yourself why that would be.

Blogger bob k. mando January 07, 2016 4:16 PM  

110. Doom January 07, 2016 3:31 AM
The planners failed in every case, badly. They didn't even foresee the easily foreseen



the planners did NOT fail and it was NOT "unforeseen".

almost all this shit was predicted by Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto.

published in 1848.

Anonymous Feh January 07, 2016 4:39 PM  

If a CBG can take out 1000 little ships, what happens when the OPFOR sends 3000?

Carrier aircraft will kill those little ships too, with very cheap bombs and missiles. Send as many as you want, keep 'em coming, I'll keep 'em dying.

Blogger Kyle Searle January 07, 2016 4:51 PM  

The best ship in the present technological epoch is a drone carrier, either submarines drones or aircraft drones. Such vessels would permit projection of power into brown water without sending the mothership into said brown water. The US navy clearly hasn't been watching what the USAF has been doing in this case.

Blogger bob k. mando January 07, 2016 5:19 PM  

138. Kyle Searle January 07, 2016 4:51 PM
Such vessels would permit projection of power into brown water without sending the mothership into said brown water.



combat wise, perhaps.

the problem is that a large part of the 'brown water' mission involves boarding/searching other boats and delivering marines to shore for land ops.

both of which functions your drones would be useless for.

Blogger Tom Kratman January 07, 2016 8:45 PM  

"yeah, that doesn't mean much when the 'torpedo boat' is standing off 100NM throwing cruise missiles at you."

I think perhaps that you missed the points, which are not that torpedo bulges and 3" guns are our answer now. Nor that cruise missiles are all that impressive, either. Rather, the point is that there is no particularly good reason to think that anything that comes along will not have adequate defenses raised against it, and carriers CAN CARRY as much of it as they want.

Blogger bob k. mando January 08, 2016 2:22 AM  

140. Tom Kratman January 07, 2016 8:45 PM
Rather, the point is that there is no particularly good reason to think that anything that comes along will not have adequate defenses raised against it, and carriers CAN CARRY as much of it as they want.



easy to assert, rather more difficult to demonstrate.

and the USN has a historical habit of getting caught with it's pants down. Pearl was supposed to be too shallow for the use of torpedo bombs, remember?


you also have the problem of CVNs being a nice, fat, sweet, juicy target ( Nimitz class being +$4 Bill, the upcoming Ford class being well north of $10 Bill ). which means they're going to attract a lot of flies in a real shooting war.


Nimitz ships mount 3-4 CIWS, Fords look like they're going to concentrate on AMM systems.

how many ASMs do you think these systems ( or carrier groups, if you prefer ) will be able to handle simultaneously?

because i tell you what, you park a CVN off my beach, i'd be willing to expend my whole cruise arsenal to take it down. so what i'm going to be throwing downrange is going to be limited by *my budget*, not your defensive capabilities.

i wonder how many cruise missiles Iran can field? especially since they've been trading directly with Russia / China and could have been making direct barter swaps of oil for munitions ...


$50 million dollars worth of cruise missiles ( 50 x $1mill for the Exocet, say ) is a good trade for a CVN plus probably a couple of screening vessels.

you can triple or quintuple that number if you want too, and it still looks really damn good as a trade.


don't get me wrong, CBGs are *great* when we're whupping up on nations that can't fight back.

but nothing lasts forever ...

Blogger Tom Kratman January 08, 2016 6:43 PM  

Once is not a habit, Bob. For the most part, the USN has been the ones to catch opponents with their pants down. See, forex, 1812, when our frigates (so called, Constitution had a throw weight about equal to HMS Victory because it could man both broadsides while Brit ships were restricted to one side only), the Civil War where they demonstrated that cotton might be king, but the king couldn't generally swim for beans, against Spain in 1898, in the rebound against Japan. I'm not sure what naval histories you've been reading, but they seem to have elided over some events.

Why don't you try reading with a little more care; it just might help. In case that's not the problem, let me try this: Can is not the same as do; what we choose to mount now is not the same as what we could mount if we wanted to. Our budget is bigger than almost anyone's. What beach, Bob; the big advantage of naval is that it can choose where it goes as a general rule. Moreover, Mass remains a principle of war. Your calculations, such as they are, seem to presume lone CVBGs. We don't have to operate that way, either. Ten carriers east of Taiwan might be a tougher proposition for China than one near Shanghai.

I invite you attention to Luttwak's Strategy to see a more thorough debunking of the kind of linear thought process that seems to be misleading you.

Blogger Tom Kratman January 08, 2016 6:50 PM  

My assertion was that, "There was no particular reason to think..." Historically there is not particular reason to think there ever has been or ever will be a weapon against which no defenses can be found. Still, I haven't read _everything_ on the matter. Do you have a particular reason to think that no defenses can be found? Has there ever been a weapon for which no defense was ever found? I would love to hear about it. So would the Pentagon, I am sure.

Blogger Tom Kratman January 08, 2016 6:50 PM  

My assertion was that, "There was no particular reason to think..." Historically there is not particular reason to think there ever has been or ever will be a weapon against which no defenses can be found. Still, I haven't read _everything_ on the matter. Do you have a particular reason to think that no defenses can be found? Has there ever been a weapon for which no defense was ever found? I would love to hear about it. So would the Pentagon, I am sure.

Blogger Joe Keenan January 08, 2016 9:23 PM  

The CBG is the means by which the military power of the USA is projected around the world. This means is actualized via information gleamed from the most advanced information service in the world. Before the CBG begins moving towards target, the game is on. Enemy systems and capability are being degraded before the CBG arrives on scene. As the CBG enters the action area, it comes alive. The CBG has cruise missiles too. Just as the CBG has a defense in depth that must be overcome to worry it, it projects an offense in depth. Enemies strike capability is degraded, the CBG will stand tens of miles off shore and destroy the enemy via cruise missiles, attack aircraft and now rail guns. There is nothing like it, and it is becoming more and more capable.

Blogger JoeFromSidney January 08, 2016 10:36 PM  

We've seen this argument before. During the 19th Century, the French realized they couldn't match the British fleet. Their "thinkers" came up with the idea of the "guerre de course." Instead of a fleet that could project power, they argued for a fleet of commerce raiders, which could deny the enemy the economic use of the sea. These ships would not be intended to combat and defeat the enemy's capital ships. Instead, they would be intended only to destroy the enemy's merchant fleet. The argument seemed to ignore the possibility of convoying the merchant shipping with capital ships. In reality, the German submarine campaigns in the Atlantic in both World Wars came as close as anyone has tried to the guerre de course. It was costly to the Allied side in both wars, but was not fully effective. Despite terrible losses, convoys made it through to Russia despite German submarines and German bombers. I question whether the idea will be any more effective now than it was when previously tried.

Blogger bob k. mando January 09, 2016 1:57 AM  

142. Tom Kratman January 08, 2016 6:43 PM
Our budget is bigger than almost anyone's.



last i checked, the US .mil budget was larger than the aggregated budgets of the next 19 largest militaries on the planet combined. China has been growing though, so it may not be quite that bad anymore.

some might wonder at the need for that?

i mean, sure, maybe we ought to play world cop. but IF we're going to do that THEN doesn't that mean the rest of the world should be paying us taxes?


142. Tom Kratman January 08, 2016 6:43 PM
We don't have to operate that way, either.


*baffled*

of COURSE you don't HAVE to. but when have you EVER aggregated them all in the same theater? and why would you UNLESS one of the CVBGs had been hit by a major cruise storm ( and mostly sunk ) like i'm spitballing above?

look, i'll be happy to admit that i don't actually know the max number of cruise missiles that a CVBG can interdict at one time.

nor do i expect you to post that number out in the wild if you know it.

but i'm going to be a little credulous if i'm supposed to believe that 7-9 ships are supposed to be able to down +98% of a swarm of subsonic cruise missiles closing @ 700mph when they number in the triple digits.


nor is this actually a particularly innovative idea, so i would have a hard time believing that i was somehow breaking OpSec by talking about something like that in public.


142. Tom Kratman January 08, 2016 6:43 PM
What beach, Bob; the big advantage of naval is that it can choose where it goes as a general rule.



doesn't matter, Tom.

you're constrained by the flight range of the aircraft on the carrier. you get further away than that and the carrier has already rendered itself useless.


wiki says the Super Hornet has a combat radius of 450 miles. so this means that in order to carry out meaningful strikes against land targets, the *CVN* probably can't stand off more than 300 miles from the shoreline in most situations.

Exocet only has a range of ~100 miles, so i would probably have to get some ships out a ways towards you. if you wanted to hit much of anything in Iran from carrier borne though, you'd have to be up into the Persian gulf ...



144. Tom Kratman January 08, 2016 6:50 PM
Historically there is not particular reason to think there ever has been or ever will be a weapon against which no defenses can be found.



errrr.

the CVBG is a weapon ...
which there is no particular reason to think there never has been or never will be a weapon which can be deployed as a defense against it.


144. Tom Kratman January 08, 2016 6:50 PM
I would love to hear about it. So would the Pentagon, I am sure.



*shrugs*

how about a low tech Exocet defense? Exocet only flies 3-6 feet above the water.

adapt the 'spike strip' concept that the cops use. drop a long string of mines in the water, perhaps connected on a line. Exocet approaches, set the appropriate mine off, throw a bunch of water up in the air, missile hits the water @ 700mph ... and goes poof.

could be deployed from one of the screening ships but it would be better if it could be deployed from an aircraft.

that would also be useful against my swarm idea.

i don't know how many cruise missiles fly that low though, so that may be too specialized to bother with.


145. Joe Keenan January 08, 2016 9:23 PM
and now rail guns.



uh, maybe you've heard something i haven't heard? in which case, it's probably classified?

but right now, there doesn't appear to be enough reuseability in multiple of the railgun subsytems ( but especially the rails ) to bother with trying to install them.

the last news on that seems to be a flurry in early 2014 in which there were 'plans' to install a test system in 2016. maybe.

because military weapons development programs never run over budget or behind schedule.

besides, i already mentioned how awesome a CVN mounting multiple railguns was going to be a long ways up thread.

Blogger Tom Kratman January 09, 2016 4:04 PM  

You're still stuck in "what is, is, and can never change," Bob. It only matters how many a CVBG can intercept for the brief current moment. What matters ultimately is, "how can they reconfigure, given what they can carry, for the future?" and "What shall the future bring, defense-wise."

Is there a vulnerablity now? Okay, some. So what? A vulnerability _now_ does not render a weapons system obsolete in perpetuity, and especially not when it has a nearly infinite capacity for carrying and powering new defenses as they come on board.

You want some simple solutions to exocets? Armor. Launchable fence on floats. ECM. Chaff. Lasers. 400 human controlled .50s, but the tanker variety with 1000 or so RPM, on each side.

Yes, the CVN is a weapon, and there have been defenses found - indeed, there were defenses long before there were carriers - none of which are perfect, either. As the carrier is not the perfect and invulnerable weapon, especially gfrom the POV of an NVA grunt dug in with overhead cover, neither is it obsolete for not being perfect and invulnerable. Also, note: Defenses and offenses are not the same.

There's are unclassified figures I've read suggesting a CVN can take 5 major warhead hits before it's disabled. Making it go under would be harder.

One of the problems, by the way, with demanding smaller ships is that the size of the CV is largely driven by the need for flight deck and hangar space, while those are driven by the size, power, weight, etc. of the aircraft to be carried, which is further driven (at least I think so) by the need to take on and defeat land based air. We could conceivably dispense with that requirement, but if so we may as well also dispense with the Marine Corps, who actually need it. If we did, we could make smaller CVs, but if they had no naval peers to duke it out with and couldn't handle a land-based air force, why have them at all? Once we determine that we still wish to be able to assault over hostile shores, then the CV, pretty much as is, remains worth keeping, if possible, at which point the question becomes, "How?"

Blogger Tom Kratman January 09, 2016 4:08 PM  

Okay, I answered this. Comment went to moderation, no clue why. Since the last one that went to moderation I also had no clue about and it never materialized, fuck it; go ahead and declare the carrier a floating corpse.

Blogger Tom Kratman January 09, 2016 7:17 PM  

Tried to answer. Answer eaten. To hell with it.

Blogger Joe Keenan January 12, 2016 5:06 PM  

@147 http://defensetech.org/2015/04/15/navy-will-test-its-electromagnetic-rail-gun-aboard-ddg-1000/

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