Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Fleet Problems to Avoid a Fleet Defeat Problem

Yes, we need to stop assuming control of the seas at our convenience is an American birthright.

Hear, hear:

With the urgent need to rebuild the fleet’s capability and competence in sea control, a gap in the fleet’s operational repertoire has become increasingly apparent. Simply, there are few, arguably no, venues where operational-level naval formations are permitted to rehearse their wartime tasks free from the constraints of the formal training process or the distraction of technological experimentation. The fleet is overdue for a re-introduction of the Fleet Problem.

Our small fleet has apparently gotten so focused on meeting overseas presence and power projection missions that it has forgotten its basic mission is to fight for control of the seas.

Fleet Problems were a key factor after World War I for preparing our Navy for World War II.

It is true that America's need for naval presence and power projection missions means the Navy can't focus on those exercises as it did in the inter-war period.

Still, let's start doing Fleet Problems again.

With no sacred cows that impose a script on the exercises. As I've mentioned, I'd love an exercise that unexpectedly denies the Navy commander their carriers.

Set up a wargame assuming a three-carrier armada to support Okinawa-based American and Japanese forces.

A week before the exercise, tell the Americans one of the carriers has a reactor problem and must remain in port.

Wow! Out of nowhere! The fleet commander has to adapt at that late date. But carry on.

On the day the fleet sails, a salvo of Chinese anti-ship ballistic missiles (we didn't know that they had that range!) cripples the second carrier.

Egad! Respond to rescuing the crews. Regroup. But carry on.

Then, as the fleet down to one carrier approaches the theater, a Chinese submarine sinks the last carrier.

Will the fleet carry on? Can it fight with its anti-ship missiles and land-based air power? (And will anyone remember the air wing of the carrier with the reactor problem sitting in port?)

I don't like the notion that our carriers seem to be permanent fixtures in our plans. Even if they can't be sunk--and I have trouble with that--they can be mission killed.

Who knows if we are again in an inter-war period that is edging toward a pre-war period?