We spend a great deal of time arguing over the LCS and F-35 and other pieces of highly advanced military hardware. However, can we win a future major war with just military equipment? Presumably, a major war will not be over in 90 days. Presumably, it will last years since both the
and China/Russia/Iran/NKorea all possess large
inventories of military assets and sufficient resources (to greater or lesser
degrees) to build new ones as losses occur. US
Consider, now, the rate at which we can replace combat losses. It’s not fast! A single ship takes years to construct. We won’t be replacing many combat losses. Even modern aircraft take quite awhile to build.
ComNavOps has previously suggested that the winner of a major war will be the side which has the greatest number of second tier assets. Think about it. The initial period of a major war will see both sides throwing their best units at each other and attrition will ensure that after that initial period both sides will be left with many lesser units. The side with the most, wins! Also, building lesser (meaning less complex and, thus, easier and quicker to build) assets as replacements for top level units may be a way to achieve a relatively quick and cheap advantage.
This ties directly into one of our previous posts in which we stated that numbers are the most important factor in winning a war.
How else can we sustain an effective military force in the face of attrition and insufficient replacements? Well, one way is by conscripting civilian equipment and painting it green. Our fathers made extensive use of civilian ships, small craft, and equipment during WWII. Consider the many amphibious ships of WWII. They were either purely or essentially civilian ships. The landing craft, while built exclusively for military use, derived from civilian small craft and were built to civilian standards using common materials.
This leads to several thoughts about civilian equipment usage. For example, once we run out of giant amphibious ships and turn to civilian transports, how will we get troops and equipment on and off the ships? Perhaps, amid our fixation on LCACs, we should pause momentarily and think about a landing craft that can operate from and with civilian ships.
The flip side of the civilian usage issue is that perhaps we should be requiring that all civilian ships be built with certain military interface capabilities such as RO/RO or helo flight decks. The Chinese do this – their entire civilian merchant fleet is military compatible.
We’ve already seen that the military made an extensive effort to maintain the tooling and expertise required to reconstitute the F-22 production line. Perhaps we should also be maintaining the ability to reconstitute the A-4, A-6, F-14, F-15, F-16, and similar lines, assuming that they can be produced faster than an F-22/35. Again, if we devolve to second tier assets, the side with the most, wins.
And, of course, it goes without saying that we should be maintaining an extensive reserve fleet of ships. Consider what we could have in a reserve fleet right now: the entire Spruance class, the Kidd class, the entire Perry FFG class, Forrestal, Saratoga, Independence, Ranger, Constellation, Enterprise, America, Kennedy, Kitty Hawk, the Tarawa class, and so many others. The nine supercarriers that have been retired would be completely capable of being reactivated for emergency war duty and would totally outmatch any enemy capability.
It may not be our best, frontline assets that win a major war; it may be our second line and civilian assets. Maybe we should begin planning accordingly and preparing for war with secondary, civilian, and retired assets.