A recent anonymous comment pointed out that while we have been focused on fighting third world terrorists for the last decade or so, our peer competitors have been developing advanced electronic warfare capabilities, new families of armored vehicles, new cluster munitions, and so on. We lost focus on what our military is supposed to be doing which is preparing for high end combat. ComNavOps has unceasingly criticized military leadership for allowing our readiness and combat capability to atrophy. However, ComNavOps is nothing, if not fair and so it is time to note and acknowledge the first glimmer of the beginning of the reversal of that trend.
We’ve noted several instances of the Army recognizing high end combat shortcomings and beginning to take action to rectify the situation. The Army is currently far ahead of the other services in correcting the situation.
That said, the Navy is also beginning, just barely, to recognize and correct the deficiencies and I would be remiss not to take a moment to list a few of those efforts and acknowledge them as baby steps in the right direction.
LCS/Frigate – The Navy finally terminated the LCS and has initiated a frigate program to take the place of the LCS as the small combatant. Despite ComNavOps’ reservations about the usefulness of a frigate, it is still a step towards a more capable surface force.
LRASM – The Long Range Anti-Ship Missile is a long overdue replacement for the venerable and obsolete Harpoon. This will greatly increase our anti-surface lethality.
Manning/Tempo/Training – The Navy identified insufficient manning as a contributor to the recent collisions and groundings and noted that excessive operational tempo and the concomitant lack of training were also factors. Having identified these factors, the Navy is saying all the right things about correcting them but has yet to implement any significant corrective actions. We’ll have to wait to see what, if anything, develops from this.
Tanker – The MQ-25 unmanned tanker program will alleviate the dependence on F-18 Hornets as tankers.
VPM – The
class submarine Payload Module will
add additional Tomahawk cruise missile capacity to the submarines. This will help offset the pending loss of the
SSGN cruise missile subs as they retire without replacement. To be clear, this a poor solution but it is a
recognition of the impact of the loss of 600+ Tomahawk launch cells and an
attempt, if a suboptimal one, to mitigate that loss. Virginia
Hornet Upgrades – The Navy is adding IRST, conformal fuel tanks, and other upgrades to the F-18 Super Hornet. These are welcome, if long overdue, additions that will allow us to get the maximum out of the Hornet that it has to give.
These are all peripheral items that will have no significant impact on the overarching problems (inept leadership, inappropriate fleet composition, huge maintenance issues, runaway costs, quality issues, tactical atrophy, lack of warfighting focus, etc.) plaguing the Navy but they are, potentially, the first steps to reversing our decaying lethality, firepower, and readiness trends.