Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Lesson Never Learned

A description of Soviet tactics planned for dealing with our aircraft carriers is relevant for the sea control portion of a carrier debate.

Our forward deployed carriers would have been in the fight of their lives at the onset of a war with the Soviet Union during the Cold War:

The article is written by former Soviet naval officer Maksim Tokarev, and contains a depth of detail about Soviet military operations that I have never seen before. So there's plenty of red meat for the military wonks, including the fact that the Soviets planned to send a fleet of 100 bombers armed with anti-ship missiles against a US aircraft-carrier battle group, fully expecting to lose half of them to enemy action.

We tend to assume our carriers are unsinkable when we plan their use. Which is an easy trap to fall into given their cost, God-like status in our fleet, and lack of real world experience since World War II to teach us that carriers can sink. We simply haven't faced an enemy prepared to send a hundred planes--and lose half--to sink one carrier.

That Naval War College paper (which I didn't read--just the article with the quote relevant to me) should be a must read for anyone in the carrier debate as a reminder that the two sides (pro- and anti-big carrier) tend to argue past each other by forgetting that the carrier debate is really two debates about their roles in a power projection mission and in a sea control mission.

I'm relieved we never learned that lesson during the Cold War--since that would mean it went dangerously Hot, of course. But we do need to learn that lesson. I'd prefer to learn it in our peacetime debates before we learn it at sea when at war.