Over the past several months we’ve covered a lot of information. I think it would be useful, at this point, to identify the trends that we currently see in the Navy and, briefly, compare them to worldwide naval trends.
Throughout the world’s navies, we see the following trends.
- proliferation of small, non-nuclear subs
- increasing dependence on the use of mines
- increasing numbers of small patrol/missile boats
- use of the frigate as the high end ship
- increasing development of aircraft carriers
- movement towards lower end, modular platforms
Now, bear in mind that some of these trends are due to factors, such as cost, that have no relation to naval requirements. In other words, just because world navies are doing, or not doing, something doesn’t necessarily mean that the various countries think it’s the best or preferred thing to do – it may be that what they’re doing is all they can do given the limitations they’re operating under. So, be very careful about jumping to the conclusion that because everyone else is doing something, it must be the smart thing to do. Also, remember that
’s role in the world places different requirements on our Navy compared to any other. Still, the trends are informative. America
Now, what trends do we see in the US Navy?
- decreasing fleet size coupled with decreasing overall capability
- movement away from specialized ships towards do-everything platforms
- abandonment of the small patrol vessel
- movement towards ever larger ships; every class is physically bigger than the one before it
- decreasing numbers of platforms in favor of increasing capability (contrast this with the first trend!)
- proliferation of unmanned vehicles
- decreasing numbers of aircraft carriers
|Frigates - World Standard?|
The world is investing in mine warfare while the US Navy largely ignores both offensive mining and mine countermeasures. Given that most of the damage done to Navy ships in modern times has been due to mines, it’s puzzling that the Navy would ignore the offensive use of mines for itself. Combine that with the lack of mine countermeasure (MCM) capability and the Navy would seem to be unwisely missing out on an entire area of naval warfare that the rest of the world seems to understand and embrace.
Those countries in the world that have the resources are trying to increase, or develop, their carrier forces while the US is decreasing carrier numbers and debating whether the carrier even has a future. That’s an interesting comparison.
, China , India , France , Britain , and others would like more and bigger carriers if they could afford them while the Italy is debating whether we should even have carriers in the future! Are the other countries striving to build a ship that has no future in modern combat or are we considering prematurely abandoning a hugely effective platform? US
The world’s proliferation of small, non-nuclear subs is notably at odds with the Navy’s steadfast refusal to consider such vessels. Of course, the Navy’s requirement for worldwide deployments certainly and understandably drives the nuclear requirement but there are many shallow water chokepoints of interest around the world (the Chinese A2/AD zone being a good example) where a cheap, non-nuclear sub would be quite effective. Is the Navy demonstrating a blind spot on this subject or is the nuclear sub fleet adequate? And, if it is adequate, is it cost effective compared to the use of non-nuclear subs deployed outside home waters?
One area of agreement between the Navy and the world is the trend towards modular platforms. CNO Greenert has certainly made his desire to emphasize payloads over platforms quite clear. The question is, is this a wise trend that maximizes capability, takes advantage of easy upgrades in response to future technical developments, and makes best use of limited budgets or is this a knee-jerk reaction to limited funds and an attempt to shoe-horn less capable payloads onto generic platforms that are not optimized for either the payload’s role or combat in general?
Many navies are moving towards the frigate as the high end ship of the fleet. Clearly, this is a budget issue in large part. Still, it’s interesting that the
has totally abandoned the frigate as a useful naval vessel. US
I’ve attempted to point out various trends and raise questions. You’ll note that I’ve not attempted to answer any of the questions. Answers will come in future posts. For the moment, consider the issues yourself and see what conclusions you come to. Given its role and budget, is the Navy on the right path or are we straying from the proper course?