As you all know by now, the Navy has announced that it will idle 11 Aegis cruisers. These are the most powerful AAW vessels in the world. The Navy says it only needs half the current number of Aegis cruisers given the budget constraints that currently exist. OK, that’s fair. But, if that’s the case, doesn’t that inexorably lead one to ask why we’re pursuing new Burke Flt III ships that are the intended replacements for the Aegis cruisers? If we already have 11 extra of the most powerful AAW vessels in the world why do we need to build more? Couldn’t we just skip the first 11 Burke Flt IIIs?
Some will say that the Flt III’s BMD capability is what we need. Think about that. The Navy has already told us that Aegis ships can perform BMD and that many Aegis ships already possess that capability so what does the Flt III gain us? The only real difference between the Tico/Burkes and the Flt III will be the AMDR radar. As I understand it, the advantage of AMDR over Aegis/SPY is that it gives us the ability to perform AAW and BMD simultaneously which is something that Aegis/SPY can’t do. OK, that’s fair. But, does that alone justify scrapping (cause that’s what will ultimately happen to the 11 cruisers – once laid up, they’re never going to sea again) 11 of the most powerful cruisers in the world and spending billions for new ships?
If BMD is that important and the AMDR is the key to that capability, then why are we skimping on the dimensions of the AMDR for the Flt III so that it’s not anywhere near as powerful as its statement of needs says it should be? If BMD/AMDR is that critical shouldn’t we be building whatever size ship we need to gain the full advantage of the AMDR?
Alternatively, and most logically, given the very limited applicability of the BMD mission, wouldn’t it make more sense to develop a dedicated BMD sensor vessel and keep the Aegis/SPY ships as more general purpose combat ships? I’m thinking, of course, of the proposal to base a BMD sensor suite on an LPD-17 derivative. A handful of LPD(BMD) vessels to sail with carrier/amphib groups would take care of the BMD mission without requiring that we scrap 11 Aegis cruisers while simultaneously building Aegis cruiser replacements that only partially meet the stated need.
I just don’t understand the Navy’s ongoing path of early retirements to fund ever-decreasing numbers of new construction vessels. This is a classic death spiral in action.