Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Dilute the Fleet’s Combat Power


Another exceptionally solid bit of work by our friend Jim Holmes at TheDiplomat.

Read it all, as it is full of wholesome goodness;
... last month, Secretary Panetta announced that the Navy will take delivery of forty new warships in the coming years. That sounds impressive. But what kinds of hulls comprise that forty? The single-mission Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), for example, aren’t descendants of the multi-mission Oliver Hazard Perry frigates they replace. The Perrys were built to perform picket duty with the battle fleet, fending off aerial, surface, and subsurface threats. The lightly armed LCS has important diplomatic and maritime-security uses. It is no frigate.

This uneven shipbuilding program will dilute the fleet’s aggregate combat power at a time when the threat environment has grown increasingly stressful – witness the proliferation of air-independent diesel submarines, stealthy missile craft, antiship cruise and ballistic missiles, and other hardware useful for disputing U.S. access to “contested zones” around the world. Secretary Work’s boast that the low-end LCS will “kick [the] asses” of foes it encounters may be true. But it misleads. It’s one thing to apply a boot to the posterior of a pirate in a skiff, quite another to enter the lists against the likes of China’s People’s Liberation Army. The LCS is eminently qualified to do the former, but ill-suited to the latter.

...

History is unkind to sea powers that invent fudge factors – golly-gee technology, tactical mastery, indomitable élan – to explain away numerical shortfalls. The interwar Imperial Japanese Navy had boundless faith in Japanese seafarers’ resolve and tactical virtuosity. Commanders talked themselves into believing that these intangibles would negate superior U.S. Navy numbers. Their navy now litters the bottom of the Pacific – in large part because Rosie the Riveter and her comrades turned out warships and merchantmen like sausages during World War II, overwhelming Japan with insurmountable numbers. Quantity does matter. Let’s not succumb to the sort of thinking that beguiled Tokyo in those fateful years.

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