I enjoyed this:
“If it floats, it fights,” Rear Adm. Peter Fanta says. “That’s ‘distributed lethality'[:] Make every cruiser, destroyer, amphib, LCS [Littoral Combat Ship], a thorn in somebody else’s side.”
“It just takes arming everything,” says Fanta, the director of surface warfare (section N96) on the Navy staff. “Lethality” simply means more and better weapons. “Distributed” means those weapons go on more ships, operating independently across a wide expanse of ocean to pose too many threats and too many targets for an enemy to cope with all at once.
While the Navy’s offensive ambitions are constrained by its budget, however, they’re still potentially revolutionary. After 20 years of playing mostly defensive supporting roles — carrier escort, ballistic missile defense, Tomahawk strikes on targets ashore — the Navy’s surface ships will take on a more independent and aggressive stance. That aggressiveness brings risk, especially in the face of well-armed adversaries such as China, especially for smaller and less robust vessels like the Littoral Combat Ship.
In wargames, says Fanta, “this is what we found: Without naming the adversary — you’re right, you lose some LCS in a full-up nation on nation war, [but] you put entire enemy fleets on the bottom of the ocean. Why? Because they come from everywhere and they’re all equipped with [anti-ship] weapons.”
He even suggests putting offensive weapons on combat logistics ships that could be part of the distributed offensive punch.
Good idea. Heck, I'll go one better: modularized auxiliary cruisers:
Cooperative Engagement Capability could allow a Modularized Auxiliary Cruiser with a SUW Mission Package to have its Harpoons fired by a distant warship or airborne platform. Modularized Auxiliary Cruisers could not initiate a strike against a distant target, but would be additional platforms that contribute to the saturation of the enemy’s defenses and complicate enemy strikes. AAW Mission Packages could similarly be plugged in for air defense coverage.
Yes, network-centric warfare means every platform can be part of a massing of effort even if widely separated.
Which means that the platform-centric platforms that had to physically mass power to employ it in mass against a target really aren't as necessary--and are indeed vulnerable to the same capabilities--doesn't it?
I enjoyed reading that article. I've worried we're going backwards on this front.
And I enjoyed that the United States Naval Institute wrote about the issue, too. Of course, I'd have enjoyed it more if the United States Naval Institute had published an article of mine that they purchased from me in 1999 arguing along the same lines about the logic of network-centric warfare.
We need a better carrier debate that distinguishes the roles that they can play and the roles they no longer can play--and what that means for the roles of the rest of the surface fleet.