The Navy faces some significant gaps and shortfalls in capability, worsening problems with numbers of platforms and weapons, and, compounding the problem, severe budget restrictions. It’s unfortunate but, realistically, there’s nothing that can be done about it. Before we totally agree with that last statement, let’s consider the following questions, just briefly.
Would cutting a hundred Admirals and their staffs have any negative impact on the fleet’s combat capability? No. Would it free up funding? Yes.
Would cutting the LCS program at the several ships already built or under construction have any negative impact on the fleet’s combat capability? No. Would it free up funding? Yes.
Would terminating the JHSV adversely impact the fleet or ground forces’ combat capability? No. Would it free up funding? Yes.
Would terminating the
class reduce the fleet’s combat capability? Not if we stop prematurely retiring amphibious ships. Would it free up funding? Yes. America
Would terminating the F-35C program hurt the Navy’s aviation combat capability? Not if we purchase additional Super Hornets and Advanced Super Hornets (ASH). Would it free up funding? Yes.
Would cutting the next Ford class carrier hurt the Navy’s combat capability? Not if we maintain the carriers we already have. Would it free up funding? Yes.
Admittedly, the lack of impact on combat capability of some of the preceding cuts is dependent on taking specific alternative actions and the savings are not as simple as adding up the costs of the deleted items. The alternative actions would have their own costs but the savings would still be significant.
So, given that the preceding cuts would have little impact on the fleet’s combat capability, could we use the freed up funding to procure additional ships and aircraft that would increase fleet numbers and overall combat capability? Certainly!
The LCS has been reduced to filling the MCM mission if the module can be developed to even do that. ASuW has been abandoned and ASW is likely to be abandoned given the reduction in numbers from 52 to 32. With the money saved, we could buy a
LOT of small, dedicated MCM vessels along the line of a slightly beefed up Avenger as well as -53 MCM helos and myriad unmanned MCM vehicles.
By dropping the JSF program back to an R&D effort until it matures and buying Advanced Super Hornets we can procure more aircraft, fill out the shrinking airwings, and possibly have a bit left over for reactivating S-3 Vikings for the dedicated tanker and fixed wing ASW roles. The R&D has already been done on the ASH and the cost was borne by the manufacturer. Yes, there will be additional developmental and production costs but the heavy lifting R&D is finished. ASH procurement would cost around $60M-$70M from most recent cost estimates. Of course those costs would increase. Every estimate is optimistically low. Still, the costs would be far less than the F-35 and the ASH actually works!
Saving the $12B or so that the next Ford would cost would allow the Navy to acquire patrol vessels, missile boats, frigates, or whatever would be useful for our peacetime and Pacific Pivot needs. Of course, this assumes that the Navy would buy existing ship designs rather than engage in a costly new design program. Ambassador missile boats and MEKO frigates are good examples of mature, proven designs along with any number of other good foreign designs.
class adds no significant improvement in combat capability and is being paid for, at least partially, by early retiring perfectly capable amphibious ships. The $4B or so that each ship costs could not only maintain the current ships that are, instead, being early retired but would certainly help acquire modern, far more capable LSTs and/or LCUs that would improve our assault capabilities far more than replacement amphibious ship that is only marginally better, if that, than the legacy ships they’re replacing. America
It’s obvious that the Navy could increase both numbers and capability through some judicious reductions. Expansion through reduction! We’re locked into a death spiral of ever increasing costs resulting in ever fewer ships. We can continue with the status quo and ride it right down to a totally ineffective fleet or we can begin to explore alternatives.