Saturday, August 24, 2013

Believe in the Fleet

The retention of USS Mahan in the Mediterranean Sea highlights the fact that 6th Fleet is a paper fleet relying on Cold War reputation.

To have some more cruise missiles in case Syria beckons, we are keeping a transiting warship in the Mediterranean Sea for a bit longer:

The USS Mahan had finished its deployment and was due to head back to its home base in Norfolk, Virginia, but the commander of the U.S. Sixth Fleet has decided to keep the ship in the region, the defense official said.

This leaves that fleet with 4 cruise missile-armed warships, the article says. I think the fleet is really just one command-and-control ship plus whatever is sailing through the Mediterranean to and from CENTCOM. So nothing retained this way will really stay that long. But usually they can make port calls and sail about and allow the memories of our past armada to be retained in the minds of locals.

Of course, if we really want cruise missiles, we'd have one or two of our cruise missile subs either in the Mediterranean or in the Red Sea (I assume we'd get overflight permission through Saudi Arabia and Jordan for the latter).

Mind you, I'm not actually complaining about the lack of ships in 6th Fleet. We can't be strong everywhere and this fleet was only strong because of the Soviet threat. I'm fine with having land-based air power, transiting ships, and allies to police the area on a day-to-day basis. But it also means that we can't do anything Navy-wise at a moment's notice.

Also, if the Suez Canal is closed to our warships, we won't have this relatively cost-free ability to maintain the illusion of 6th Fleet.