The Navy has learned many lessons throughout its history; lessons that were generally paid for in blood. Those lessons have served the Navy well. Of late (on a relative basis, meaning the last few decades), though, the Navy seems to have developed a debilitating loss of memory and the lessons learned are being forgotten and ignored. Consider, the following timeless lessons.
Aircraft operating over open ocean need two engines. When there is no dirt below, the loss of an engine means the loss of plane and pilot if the aircraft does not have a second engine. Despite knowing this, the Navy has committed to a fleet of single engine F-35 (JSF) aircraft.
WWII demonstrated that steel is cheap and armor is the most cost effective form of protection available. Despite this, not a single Navy ship currently has any effective armor. Multi-billion dollar ships are being hazarded for want of simple armor plating.
Aluminum is totally unsuited for naval ship construction. The Navy witnessed first-hand the results of major fires on aluminum ships and, as a result, switched back to steel for the Burke class. Despite this, the Navy has constructed one of the LCSs with all aluminum and the other with half. Further, aluminum is creeping back into use as a major structural component of almost every class of ship. The Navy claims it must use aluminum for weight reduction. Really? How did we manage to build every WWII combat vessel from destroyers to battleships not only out of steel but with heavier steel and added armor? And now the Navy is using wood composites for its largest surface combatant, the Zumwalt. The wisdom of that remains to be seen but a reasonable guess suggests that is going to be a mistake.
|One Engine, No Guns|
As seen throughout WWII and right up to today, the most important factor in successful damage control is manpower. The larger the crew, the better the chance of saving the ship. Knowing this, the Navy is nonetheless committed to minimal manning – as if our ships will never sustain damage in combat. Again, multi-billion dollar ships are being hazarded for want of a sufficiently large crew to conduct effective damage control.
The Navy’s institutional memory is fading quickly and hard-learned lessons are being forgotten – lessons that will have to be relearned in blood, come the next conflict.
Any lessons you want to add to the list?