Thursday, May 07, 2015

Money Talks

The United States Navy has come to the conclusion that our super carriers are too expensive and too vulnerable to proliferating precision anti-ship missiles to be part of our fleet in the future. Amen.

We can't afford big deck carriers in double-digit numbers:

U.S. Navy planners are beginning to realize that the large, nuclear powered aircraft carrier may no longer be practical or affordable. Costing over $12 billion each, these ships are prime targets for a growing number of large, fast anti-ship missiles designed to evade defenses and go after large ships like this. Soon the United States will have to start replacing its ten Nimitz class carriers and given the amount of money the navy can expect to get over the next decade, the cash is not there to replace the Nimitz ships with $12 billion Ford class vessels.

I wrote recently:

I think we need means (ships and subs and aircraft) other than carriers for sea control while we need aircraft carriers for power projection.

So I think we need fewer large deck carriers and more network-centric vessels capable of focusing combat power from widely scattered and diverse assets.

It may be that we build fewer carriers to maintain a smaller force of power projection capability (and a supporting role for the sea control mission) and have some reserve carrier capability by building even larger amphibious warfare ships by building amphibious warfare-optimized Ford hulls with a backup aircraft carrier mission. (And I freely admit that I'm throwing that out without the expertise to evaluate the notion.)

Carriers are an asset to have sea power. We should want sea power, and allow the debate to honestly come to a conclusion to decide the fate of the assets to create that sea power.

Which is basically what I've been writing since the late 1990s:

Our carriers may become the aging gunslingers relying on their reputation from the glory days. As strike platforms in the Navy's network, aircraft carriers will retain a role far decades to come, but even in this role they will face limits. The Navy will need to keep them far from the enemy, closing the range only to strike.

Carriers are the ultimate in platform-centric warfare--even with unmanned aerial combat vehicles. But network-centric warfare is our Navy's future. The gun-armed surface warship, dispersed physically but networked to mass effect at sea or against targets on land, will keep our Navy dominant as it has been for more than sixty years. I love our carriers and their historic exploits are thrilling. But we cannot hang on to them forever when new platforms for a new network are built.

I was referring to long-range rail guns in development.

I regret that the US Naval Institute never published the article they purchased from me in 1999 that prompted the post above.

And of course, this reality is why I'm all in favor of the Russians wasting money on big carriers.