USNI website has an interesting article about the size of the future surface warfare fleet.
“Rapid growth in the capability and quality of guided missiles — mostly Chinese in origin — is causing the U.S. Navy to rethink the number of surface ships it needs to effectively fight a high-end war.”
“Early estimates based [on] ongoing war games could mean the current number of 88 large surface combatants — the Navy’s fleet of guided missile destroyers and cruisers — needs to grow to more than a hundred into the 2020s just to keep to today’s current level of risk, USNI News has learned.”
From 88 ships to more than a hundred?! As you digest that, consider that we’ve documented the steady decline in combat fleet size and the coming shortfall in destroyers as retirements outpace new construction. We’ve also discussed the extremely unwise decision to forego maintenance and upgrades.
This is all very disturbing but we’ve already covered it and warned about the shortfall. So, what’s the point of this post? Well, the article touches on some interesting implications.
For instance, the article states that the existing requirement for 88 surface vessels is based on, among other factors, a requirement to provide 5 major surface combatants as escorts for each carrier group. However, the new requirement places the escort number at 7 or 8 per carrier group. OK, again, aside from not having that number available, what’s the point? The point goes back to one we’ve previously addressed which is tactics and training. Carrier groups currently deploy with 2 or 3 escorts. If we intend to fight with 5-8, where and how are our commanders learning to tactically handle a group that is 2-3 times larger than what we routinely deploy with? We have Admirals who have never commanded or tactically exercised the size group that they would fight with. This is not the way to prepare for combat!
Another interesting point that the article makes is the impact of the LCS on the major combatant force level.
“In addition, decisions to leave the two emerging Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) variants without a significant AAW capability also stresses the cruiser and destroyer fleets, since the LCS could not then help protect non-combatant ships like oilers and logistics ships in an escort role …”
Thus, we see that the decision to continue producing the non-combat LCS and to add only very minimal improvements to the follow on “frigate LCS” have the consequence of requiring more Burkes. Thus, the LCS, which was supposed to free up major combatants is actually tying down more Burkes conducting low end missions because the LCS is so impotent and ineffective.
Finally, the article documents the Navy’s decision to forego Burke upgrades that would allow the ships to conduct simultaneous BMD and AAW. Thus, in many cases, it may require two Burkes to fill the role of a single upgraded one.
“Planned upgrades that would allow destroyers to fight ballistic missiles and aircraft at the same time have been scaled back in some cases, requiring two less capable ships to do the mission of one upgraded destroyer.”
The prioritization and decision making of the Navy is mystifying, at best (that’s my polite way of saying incompetent).
Please read the linked article. It’s well worth it.
The surface warfare perfect storm is coming and the Navy is ignoring it.