One really good ship may be better than two mediocre ships but that one good ship really can't be in two places at one time. We really do need a high-low mix of ships to maintain numbers. The Littoral Combat Ship is our attempt to provide numbers:
With the world’s largest and most powerful fleet of aircraft carriers, destroyers and cruisers, the U.S. Navy absolutely dominates the deep water. But not so much in shallow waters — the so-called “littoral zones.” Close to land, a ship might face overwhelming numbers of shore-based guns and missiles, swarms of small attack boats, plus the occasional hull-destroying coral reef. It’s far too dangerous for a $2-billion destroyer, to say nothing of a $10-billion carrier.
The Navy’s solution is to build lots of smaller, cheaper ships. The heart of this effort is the 3,000-ton-displacement “Littoral Combat Ship.” LCS adapts commercial yacht and ferry designs — then adds weapons, sensors, and robots. When the ship was conceived in 2004, each copy was supposed to cost just $220 million — and the Navy wanted to build the first 13 by 2009. But after years of design changes and botched contracts, only two LCSs have been finished, each at a cost of over $600 million.
At $600 million a copy, they are still too expensive to risk in the littorals where shore-based missiles and cannons can rip them to shreds, but we do need the LCS for blue water missions so we can send a ship to multiple locations.
And if we need more numbers, we do have an option.