Saturday, December 31, 2016

Perhaps This is a Sign We Should Have a Sea Power Debate

So we have a gap in big deck carrier deployments:

For the next week, not only will there be no U.S. Navy aircraft carrier in the Middle East, but there will be no American aircraft carriers deployed at sea anywhere else in the world, despite a host of worldwide threats facing the United States.

I know as a conservative I should be upset at this sign of President Obama's lack of seriousness on defense matters.

But I'm not, even though I agree he is not serious on defense matters.

As our defense establishment notes:

In the meantime, the Navy tells Fox News the U.S. military has other jets available to make up for the aircraft carrier gap in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world. The Navy can also “surge” a carrier now in port to deploy if necessary. But the absence of a deployed U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, long seen as a symbol of American power projection, is noteworthy. It is believed to be the first time since World War II that at least one U.S. aircraft carrier has not been deployed.

I'll go one step further. Even if we don't have a carrier up and running with maintenance scheduling, surely we have a carrier air wing capable of fighting. Given that in the Middle East in particular we have allies with airfields we can use, why not deploy a carrier air wing or elements of one to land bases in the region?

If the Air Force can't handle the job, that is. Which they can.

Really, land-based naval air power is not some mysterious new concept.

And I'm just not upset that this gap is new thing. It's been a while since we had a battleship at sea. Or a wooden-hulled ship of the line. As time goes on, the primary weapon fades in importance.

As I've long noted, aircraft carriers--while very useful in power projection roles against enemies without navies or air forces--are too much firepower in one basket for my tastes in a sea control mission to battle for control of the seas against enemies with potent navies and air forces.

So maybe we need to have a sea power debate before we aim for a 350-ship Navy under the Trump administration.

UPDATE: Related. I don't think it is safe to assume that our enemies can't be as skillful as our allies.