A friend of ComNavOps made some very good points in a series of recent discussions. The
has become complacent in many aspects of its warfighting due to the second rate nature of the opponents it has faced since the demise of the U.S. Soviet Union. We have come to expect air supremacy as the natural state of affairs, we take for granted our unchallenged use of the sea, we assume the ability to freely move troops and materials around the periphery of a conflict, and so on. These complacencies will come back to bite us and find us wanting in our capabilities if we fight a peer ( ) or determined near-peer. China
One of the most glaring complacencies is our assumption of remote warfare, meaning that whatever conflict we engage in will not occur on
soil or in U.S. waters. In particular, our assumption of unfettered and uncontested use of our own ports is a glaring weakness. Consider this scenario: an enemy sends a submarine(s) to covertly deploy mines in key U.S. commercial and military port approaches. What would the result be? The affected port(s) would be paralyzed. Remember, it only takes a few mines to completely shut down operations. The U.S. would be forced to redeploy the very few mine countermeasure (MCM) platforms it has back to home waters. In turn, this would severely impact our ability to conduct naval operations (or even simple passages) in mined areas in the remote combat zone. U.S. naval efforts would be severely restricted, if not paralyzed. We simply don’t have enough MCM assets to clear a dozen major home ports and simultaneously support warfighting efforts. U.S.
ComNavOps’ friend went on to suggest the use of diesel-electric SSKs for use in home port defense. SSKs are ideal for this purpose. They’re extremely quiet, relatively small, well suited for shallower water operations, and deadly. A small fleet of a dozen or so SSKs would not only provide valuable defense but could serve as realistic opponents in ASW training.
The point of this post is not to promote the use of SSKs, though there is ample support for doing so, but to suggest that the Navy needs to broaden its warfighting focus. A pivot to the Pacific is fine but we must not forget the vulnerabilities in our home waters that can be exploited by a determined enemy and subsequently impact our forward deployed capabilities. As with mines in our home ports, a few enemy submarines operating off our coasts or just outside our ports can wreak havoc all out of proportion to their actual impact.
The Navy needs a broad range of capabilities and platforms, not just carriers and nuclear subs. We need a robust mine warfare capability, focused shallow water ASW platforms, enhanced home port defenses, coastal escort capability, and so forth. The Navy exists not just to build carriers, as Navy leadership seems to believe, but to conduct the entire spectrum of maritime warfare. Today’s Navy needs to reexamine and rebalance its focus and capabilities.