We previously looked at what the future Navy will look like based on the current trends, funding, and direction. As we said, not a pretty picture. Worse, though, is that the future Navy would appear to be ill equipped to deal with the foreseeable threats. We can reasonably anticipate massive mine warfare challenges, Anti-Access/Area Denial threats, very long distance engagements, expanded submarine warfare, and deep penetration strikes, among other threats and requirements. That leads to the question, what should the Navy of the future look like? Forget about budget issues for the moment. Just from a pure requirements point of view, what platforms, equipment, and capabilities should the future Navy have? This is a chance to engage in out and out speculation.
In no particular order, here are some platforms, equipment, and capabilities I’d like to see our future Navy have. Note that these are just “fun” concepts in some cases. For this exercise, I don’t particularly care about the practical realities, budget constraints, or, within limits, the technical difficulties. I say within limits so as to rule out invisibility, anti-gravity, photon torpedoes, and other simply ridiculous ideas. The ideas that follow are reasonably achievable while still being unconstrained by an overemphasis on reality. I don’t have rail guns or lasers on the list because they’re already being developed but, honestly, I almost rank them as ridiculous, at least for the next few decades.
Expanded SSGN Force. The submarine is the ultimate in stealth and will continue so for the foreseeable future. We should take advantage of that and expand our deep penetration strike capability by not only replacing the soon to be retired SSGNs but adding to their numbers. There is no more survivable and potent attack platform than the SSGN.
Tactical Anti-Ship and Land Attack IRBMs.
is continuing development of Intermediate Range Anti-Ship Ballistic Missiles (IRBM’s). These large, powerful, supersonic ballistic missiles will present a difficult to defeat threat. We should develop our own and add a land attack version as well. Some might argue that IRBMs are too risky to use because they might be interpreted as a nuclear attack. Of course, the Chinese have already clearly indicated that they have no compunction about using IRBMs so why should we hesitate? This will give us a much needed, very long range anti-surface and land attack capability. China
Midway Sized Carriers. Air Wings are getting ever smaller and the aircraft are not very large. We don’t need Ford sized carriers that cost $15B apiece. Midway size carriers (small carriers by today’s standard!) can accommodate a modern air wing at a fraction of the cost.
Battleship Armored LSTs. Currently, we have no good means of landing an assault force safely. Heavily armored LST craft can transport large numbers of troops and, more importantly, heavy equipment directly to the beach with safety. LSTs armored to battleship standards would be able to resist any artillery or missiles short of giant supersonic cruise/ballistic missiles. Add in purpose built anti-mine armor and you’ve got as safe a means of delivering an assault force as possible.
Fighters and Strike Aircraft. We’re anticipating 1000 nm or greater A2/AD zones. Land attack and anti-surface warfare is going to have to be conducted over vast distances. We need 1000+ nm range strike, fighter, and EW aircraft in order to operate effectively in the Pacific theatre. Long Range
Exo-Atmospheric Strike UAVs. Where’s the safest place for an aircraft in future combat? Well, that would be the same place ballistic missiles go – to the edge of the atmosphere or beyond. Why not develop strike UAVs that can follow a ballistic path on their way to their targets?
Expanded SSN Force. Submarines are the ultimate in stealth and it’s one of the growth areas for our enemies. We should be expanding the size of the SSN force.
As I said, some of these ideas are practical and just amount to rebalancing current capabilities, some are logical developments of existing technology and would be quite practical, and some are just fanciful ideas for fun. Have some fun and feel free to describe your own pet ideas or practical developments that will address the foreseeable needs.