By the end of WWII, we pretty thoroughly understood what a successful naval warship needed: firepower and survivability. One without the other was pointless other than in extreme cases like a PT boat which was so cheap that survivability was a non-issue.
Survivability without the firepower to inflict significant damage would have been pointless. Firepower without survivability would have been equally pointless.
Today, however, we’ve forgotten that lesson to the point that modern
warships have neither firepower nor
Burkes and Ticonderogas have a meager anti-surface capability and a limited land strike capability in the form of Tomahawk cruise missiles. Their survivability is similarly limited compared to a typical WWII ship. They have very little armor, thin steel hulls and superstructures, aluminum superstructures on the Ticos, minimal manning which impacts damage control, and overly complex systems that can’t be readily repaired aboard ship.
Modern ships are extremely susceptible to one-shot kills unlike WWII vessels that took a pounding. The combination of little armor and very delicate electronics renders ships vulnerable to one-shot mission kills if not outright sinking. Recall the gentle grounding of the
Port Royal and the unrepairable damage that caused to the ship’s
Aegis and VLS systems. After repairs,
the Navy tried to retire the ship, the newest Aegis cruiser in the fleet, due
to the inability to bring the Aegis and VLS systems back into spec. Reports indicate that, literally, the Aegis
radar arrays were knocked out of alignment and could not be corrected. Similar damage occurred to the VLS. All this from a gentle nose-first grounding
at a couple of knots. If an Aegis
cruiser can be rendered mission killed from that, imagine what damage an actual
cruise missile hit or even a near miss would cause with shock and vibrations
violently whiplashing the ship back and forth.
In contrast, recall the incredible damage WWII cruisers and destroyers routinely absorbed while continuing to fight. The naval battles of
Guadalcanal and the Kamikaze picket lines showed the toughness
that our ships once had.
|Firepower - USS Washington|
We cannot allow a single hit to mission kill, or sink, a ship. It’s even more important today than in WWII that a ship be able to take hits and keep fighting, if for no other reason than we don’t have as many ships. Our task forces, to use the WWII phrasing, are going to have far fewer ships, therefore, each mission kill or sinking will have a proportionally greater impact on the task force’s overall combat effectiveness. A ship has got to be able to absorb some hits and keep fighting.
|Survivability - USS Aaron Ward|
Here are some specific requirements for the Navy to begin meeting the firepower and survivability needs.
- All Burke size ships need to mount two 8” guns, separated fore and aft. The 8”/55 caliber Mk 71 would be a good starting point. This would also move us a small step closer to meeting our naval gunfire support requirements. We’ve already discussed that modern naval combat will inevitably see gun range encounters due to missile failures.
- All ships need a minimum of 1.5” side armor and larger ships, of Burke size, need 3.5” side armor, the same as a WWII Atlanta class light cruiser carried.
- All ships guns of 5” or larger size need armored turrets/mounts. For comparison purposes, the WWII Fletcher class 5” guns were housed in mounts armored with 1”-2” armor. Larger guns had proportionally heavier armor on their turrets/mounts. Guns should not be disabled from mere shrapnel.
- All ships with guns need optical aiming backup systems.
- All ships should be equipped with 533 mm torpedo tubes and Mk 48 torpedoes. The 20-30 mile range of the torpedo opens up all kinds of potential uses. These, alone, would almost make the LCS a threat.
- Every ship smaller than a Burke should have an extensive short range Hellfire-ish missile battery.
- The current 20-30 mm naval guns should be replaced by 40 mm dual and quad mount guns. Recall that the WWII Bofors 40 mm gun could fire 120 rounds per minute, sustained and the immediate post-war versions could fire 330 rounds per minute.
- All electronics need to be shock hardened and tested. Without exception. Without Navy procrastination and avoidance.
- Networks, radars, sensors, and communications equipment needs to be simplified to allow on-board repair. A greater emphasis needs to be put on training technicians and designing in diagnostics.
This is not intended as an all-inclusive list. Instead, it’s just a sampling of fairly straightforward things that could, and should, be done to return firepower and survivability to the fleet. Of course, hand-in-hand with this is the need to develop much harder hitting weapons including ship-launched short and intermediate range ballistic missiles, super/hypersonic cruise missiles, enhanced 5” rounds, etc.
There is absolutely no point building a fleet that has neither the firepower nor survivability to fight a war and win.