ComNavOps continually analyzes naval performance and the features and characteristics of the Navy’s ships and planes. One of the characteristics I’ve long wondered about is the requirement for high speed in our surface combatants. As best I can tell, our requirement for 30+ kts came from the operating doctrine developed for fleet carriers during WWII. Carriers would make a night run-in towards a target (a Japanese island), launch a dawn strike, recover, and vanish before an effective counter-strike could launch. This was an effective tactic because long range radar (both land and airborne) and satellite surveillance did not exist.
Later, high speed was found to be necessary to assist in the launching of planes.
All other ships had to be capable of 30+ kts in order to keep up with the carriers.
Now, however, we can launch planes from a motionless ship even with today's steam catapults. Also, the existence of AEW, SOSUS-like arrays, satellites, etc. all provide long range detection and would generally negate the run-in tactic. So, what is the tactical usefulness of 30+ kts of speed? It won't let you outrun or outmaneuver a missile. It won't even let you outrun an Iranian speedboat. Now don't get me wrong. I think speed is one of those things that's always nice to have. It's just that I'm not able to come up with many tactical scenarios where 30+ kts provides a significant advantage over, say, 25 kts. I assume most of you know what the power curve is like. Once you get past 20 kts, each additional knot comes with a hefty power/weight/equipment cost. I just wonder if 30+ kts is still worth the cost in weight/internal machinery volume/dollars/maintenance/fuel capacity?
The extreme example of this is the LCS which has a ton of speed but had to sacrifice enormous weight and volume margins to achieve it and it apparently has no tactical relevance that anyone has been able to elucidate.
The only scenario that seems even moderately plausible is attempting to outrun a torpedo. Now, modern torpedoes are capable of well over 30+ kts (40-60 kts) so actually outrunning one isn’t an option, however, the ability to maintain a dwindling lead over a torpedo long enough for countermeasures to work or for the torpedo to run out of fuel is valid, if unlikely. And, to be fair, maybe this scenario alone justifies the speed built into all surface combatants. I just wonder, though, if we aren’t holding on to a requirement from the past that has only marginal usefulness today. Could some of that weight and volume that's dedicated to generating the last few knots be put to better use, like armor, weapons, or electronics?
In short, I have mixed feelings about this. Anyone want to make a strong argument for or against speed?