The Navy has a proud tradition of carrying the war to the enemy. From the frigate Constitution to the
and submarines of WWII and on up to the A-6 Intruder, the Navy has always had a seek-and-destroy offensive mentality. In contrast, though, the Navy’s design philosophy over the last few decades has become almost totally defensive. Enterprise
The mainstay of the surface fleet is the Aegis system which is completely defensive. The only anti-surface capability is the nearly obsolete Harpoon which is far too slow, short ranged, and non-stealthy for modern combat. The upcoming Burke Flt III is a purely defensive design intended to provide AAW and BMD.
Tomahawk provides a long range land attack capability but every VLS cell it occupies is grudgingly subtracted from the AAW inventory. Tomahawk, like Harpoon, is aging and will prove far less capable than it so far has if used against a capable enemy. The Tomahawk Anti-Ship Missile (TASM) has been eliminated from the inventory.
Carrier strike has become short ranged (relative to the threats and strike targets) with small payloads. One has only to compare the A-6E Intruder to the current Super Hornet or even F-35 to see what’s happened to ranges and payloads. As we’ve pointed out repeatedly, the airwings are continually shrinking.
Our offensive mine warfare capability has been minimized and seemingly relegated to a forgotten warehouse. We are focused exclusively on the defensive mine countermeasures aspect of mine warfare.
The only real semblance of offensive capabilities and mindset is the submarine force and even that’s borderline. While we are building newer and more effective subs, the corresponding weapons are not keeping pace. The Mk48 torpedo is capable but pedestrian given modern technology. Tomahawk is, again, capable but unremarkable and is susceptible to capable defenses. Further, the most potent strike platform, the SSGN, is being retired without a direct replacement. Tomahawk capability will be distributed among the
if funding holds up. Virginias
Given the preceding observations, one must ask, why do we have a Navy? The answer is, ultimately, we have a Navy to conduct offensive operations – to strike the enemy. Otherwise, we have a Navy that exists only to defend itself – that’s pointless. Unfortunately, that’s exactly the direction we’re headed.
The best defense is a good offense.
Better to kill archers than arrows.
The Navy can’t ignore defense but the purpose of defense is to get the strike force into an offensive position. The best way to defend is to attack the source of the threat. Hit the bases that the enemy’s aircraft are launching from. Destroy the missile sites. Attack harbors that the ships and subs use. And so on.
By all means, we should be working on ballistic missile defense, for example, but we should equally, if not more, be focused on attacking the source of the threat. As a general statement, that means long range targeting and attack.
Here are a few things the offensive Navy should be pursuing.
- Intermediate range ballistic missiles for both anti-ship and land attack
- Long range, supersonic anti-ship missiles
- Tomahawk replacement with greater stealth, supersonic speed, greatly enhanced countermeasures and ECM, and enhanced autonomy
- Mine delivery system capable of rapid delivery over vast distances (fully mine enemy harbors on day one)
- Simple, affordable, very long range, “throw away”, stike UAVs for high risk missions
- Mk48 follow on torpedo with greater range, speed (super cavitating?), and enhanced targeting and counter-countermeasures capability. Let the Chinese face a carrier killer!
- Dedicated long range electronic warfare aircraft capable of accompanying long range, high speed strike aircraft
- Long range, hard hitting large gun (8”)
- Dedicated SSGN replacement
- Long range (1000+ nm useful combat radius) air superiority fighter
You’ll note that I purposely left out lasers (purely defensive) and rail guns (still technically unachievable though worth continued R&D).
This list is hardly all-inclusive but would serve as a good starting point for rebuilding the Navy’s offensive capabilities.