Monday, October 15, 2018

Not Enough Escorts For Convoys

Defense News website has what I’m sure they believe is an eye-opening article about the Navy not having enough escorts for convoys in future wars. (1)  I have no doubt that the article will cause a brief sensation and then fade into the realm of the forgotten as all such eye-opening revelations do.  Before it fades, however, commentators will, no doubt bemoan the state of the Navy and suggest that we have no hope of winning a future war.

Here …  read this quote from the article.  You can’t help but be alarmed, right?

“The Navy has been candid enough with Military Sealift Command and me that they will probably not have enough ships to escort us. It’s: ‘You’re on your own; go fast, stay quiet,’” Buzby [Mark Buzby, the retired rear admiral who now leads the Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration] told Defense News … (1)

This sounds like just the kind of thing that ComNavOps will jump on, right?  Wrong.  I have zero interest in the fact that the Navy does not have enough escorts for convoys.  What’s more, the lack of escorts is meaningless and – hold on to your hats for this – probably a good thing.  Wait, what now?!  How can a lack of convoy escorts be meaningless and a good thing?

Well, military observers and commentators have a consistent problem with their analyses and that is that they analyze from the perspective of being able to wage an instantaneous, full on war from day one.  If we don’t have all the escorts we need on day one then the Navy has failed.  If we don’t have all the minesweepers and minelayers we need on day one then the Navy has failed.  If we don’t have all the logistics support auxiliaries we need on day one then the Navy has failed.  If we don’t have all the cargo/transport ships we need on day one then the Navy/Merchant Marine has failed.  And so on.

The reality is that no one has all the things they need for a war on day one.  It takes time to gear up for war.  Factories need to convert to war production.  People need to be inducted and trained.  Ships, tanks, and aircraft need to be built.

We know the Navy had thousands of ships in WWII but what did the Navy start the war with?  Let’s look at, say, 1935 which was just before we began the gradual build up to war (by 1935 it was obvious that war was coming and the US began a slow build up).

Carriers        4
Battleships    15
Cruisers       25
Destroyers    104
Submarines     52
Mine Warfare   26
Patrol         23
Auxiliary      71

Total         320

If you subtract the ‘Patrol’ ships, whatever those are, which are probably not combat vessels, we had only 297 ships.

A 297 ship Navy???  That’s nowhere near enough to fight a full on war!  That’s nowhere near enough escorts for all the convoys!  All is lost!  We can’t win a war with that Navy!  …  …  Except that we did.

It just took time to build up.  By 1944 we had over 6000 ships in the Navy and every convoy had escorts.

The lesson is clear.  The lack of escorts, today, is meaningless.  We’ll build what we need, when we need it. 

In fact, the lack of escorts is probably a good thing because it means we aren’t wasting ships, crews, and budget on a task that doesn’t exist.

Now, there are some aspects to this that I will jump on.

Shipyards – The most important aspect of this is our lack of shipyards.  Before WWII we had dozens of shipyards which meant we had the capacity to quickly build whatever we lacked when we entered the war.  The same applies to factories.  We’ve sent so much of our production capacity overseas that we may lack the factory capacity to build the required tanks, aircraft, munitions, etc.  This is a very serious issue and is one that the nation should be addressing as a strategic national interest.

Institutional Knowledge – One of the responsibilities of the military/Navy should be to maintain institutional knowledge about operations, tactics, and capabilities that we may not use frequently but which we can anticipate needing when war comes.  Escort tactics is an example.  When was the last time you heard of the Navy training to escort a merchant convoy?  The answer is never.  How many escorts do we need for a given convoy?  How should they be deployed to counter modern air and subsurface threats?  What kind of command and control structure is needed?  I have no idea (understandable) but neither does the Navy (unforgivable). 

It’s not a problem that we don’t have all the escorts we need for a war but it is a problem that we don’t maintain a small group of dedicated ships that train constantly for the escort role so as to provide a fully competent training cadre when the need arises.

Simplicity – Gearing up when war comes is greatly facilitated by being able to build things that are relatively basic and simple.  An F6F Hellcat, for example, is a lot easier to build quickly and in large quantity than and F-35.  This is not to suggest that we revert to Hellcats but we should factor complexity into our design criteria.  In other words, a state of the art but relatively simpler fighter aircraft that we can build quickly, in large numbers, might well be a better choice than an F-35 that we’ve been trying to build for decades and still can’t get right.  Alternatively, we might consider a slightly second tier aircraft that can be quickly mass produced as a supplement to the overly complex front line aircraft.

Specifically, for the escort issue, we currently lack a suitable, simple, general purpose escort vessel that we can quickly mass produce when war comes.  We don’t really want to have to use front line, multi-billion dollar Aegis vessels to conduct routine convoy escort where, 95% of the time, nothing happens.  There’s nothing wrong with attaching a Burke to a convoy that we anticipate is likely to encounter the enemy but most convoys will not fall into that category.  A simple corvette/destroyer escort type vessel is needed.  We should have a few such vessels in service in order to maintain the design, train, develop tactics, and test new equipment (see, Institutional Knowledge, above).

Convoy Escort - WWII Flower Class Corvette

While I have no problem with the Navy’s current lack of escorts for merchant convoys, I have a severe problem with the Navy’s utter indifference to the issue.  Simply telling the Military Sealift Command and various merchant groups, ‘You’re on your own; go fast, stay quiet,’ is not the answer.  The answer is to maintain a small group of escorts for training and competency, have a simple ship design that can be quickly produced, and have a plan to build, train, and man those ships when the time comes.

Unfortunately, the Navy is so focused on big, shiny, expensive hulls that they completely ignore the mundane.  Well, I’ve got news for the Navy – unless those mundane convoys get through, those big, shiny, fancy new Fords are going to grind to a halt for lack of parts, fuel, munitions, food, etc.

Laughing off the convoy escort issue with a ‘go fast’ admonition is irresponsible and dereliction of duty.  This is yet another example of CNO Richardson’s failure of command.


(1)Defense News website, “‘You’re on your own’: US sealift can’t count on Navy escorts in the next big war”, David B. Larter, 10-Oct-2018,


  1. Not totally post related - delete if you like, So the US Army finally listened to me and did a experimental new howitzer, XM907 with a longer gun looks like someone has done it right again, BTW that gun could have also a naval application.

    1. That's interesting but my question is what does the Army gain from the added range? In a real war, the Army will be more than occupied handling targets a mile in front of them! What practical benefit is there to being able to shoot targets 35 miles away when you have more targets than you can service directly in front of you?

      The entire military is getting so enamored with deep strike that they're forgetting about needing to survive the immediate front!

    2. Just catching Up i guess . . The 2S35 Koalitsiya-SV (Russian: 2С35 «Коалиция-СВ») is a Russian self-propelled gun Initial reports describe the main armament as a 2A88 152 mm gun with a range of up to 70 kilometers using precision-guided rounds

    3. "handling targets a mile in front of them!" thats what tanks and ATGMs are for :)

    4. Doesn't this help when you advance, ie not having to redeploy /move forward with the ground troops)as often must have advantages?

    5. ""handling targets a mile in front of them!" thats what tanks and ATGMs are for :)"

      Or, dropping endless artillery on the human wave attacks right in front of you. The point is that in a real peer war there will be so many targets in the immediate front that we won't have artillery to spare to prosecute distant targets. Deep strike is the AF's responsibility. Once upon a time, we had clearly delineated zones of responsibility but in recent decades all the services have attempted to branch out into the other's areas in pursuit of increased budget.

    6. "not having to redeploy /move forward with the ground troops)as often must have advantages?"

      It's a huge advantage - for the enemy! Because of automated counterbattery fire, artillery can't stay in one place for more than brief salvo. Artillery is constantly moving just to stay alive. In fact, many people believe that towed artillery (the type of longer range artillery being discussed here) is obsolete because it can't 'shoot and scoot' quickly enough to survive.

    7. "Or, dropping endless artillery on the human wave attacks right in front of you. "

      Oh, cmoooon, what human wave attacks, hey thats not WWI , you think the chinese are that stupid.

      For the sake of argument 70km is the max range that does not mean that any howitzer can make a straight shot within a few miles in front, read more about manuals of howitzer fire modes ;)

    8. "Deep strike is the AF's responsibility"

      30 miles is not deep strike, in near peer the sky will be contested forget about A-10s

    9. "what human wave attacks, hey thats not WWI , you think the chinese are that stupid."

      The Chinese conducted human wave attacks in the Korean war and Russian conducted them in WWII. So, yes, I do think the Chinese will not hesitate to do so again.

    10. C'mon , even the Iraqis in 91 did not do such a stupidity . . again at close range any howitzer can fire just like a tank, depending on the ammo of course.

    11. "C'mon , even the Iraqis in 91 did not do such a stupidity"

      From Wiki,

      "During the Iran–Iraq War, some of the attacks conducted by Iranian forces in large operations, were considered to be human wave attacks."


    12. You may think attrition warfare and human wave attacks are foolish but our enemies do not. See the post, "Attrition Warfare"

    13. If you want suppression at closer ranges than thats the answer it even has a naval version

    14. There are serious advantages for the Army having longer-ranged artillery. Analogous to dreadnoughts, being able to out-range the enemy means being able to hang relatively safely further back from the front, increasing the area to disperse in, while still being able to bring the enemy's batteries under fire. By no means is their only target within a mile of our own troops. Also, a longer range means that whether in attack or defense, more batteries can be brought into action from the left and right flanks, even from neighboring units, enabling a greater concentration of fire, if necessary, without having to physically concentrate batteries near the decisive point. Of course, we are playing catch-up with near-peer competitors, with the M-109A5 rather short-ranged compared to what potential adversaries can field. The Army very much needs this long-overdue enhancement, and hopefully we can begin rebuilding M-109s with the longer barrels soon, and fielding the new rounds. These are liquid-fuel ramjets, not solid-fuel RAPs, which should bypass the weaknesses of current RAPs (ramjets are dirt simple steel geometry and the shock of firing would open fuel flow, so none of the weakness of solid fuel). The big question is: are liquid-fuel ramjet shells LRAPs (no, not really, since they aren't Rockets) or JAPs (Jet-Assisted Projectiles)? Or are JAPs only those shells with terminal guidance systems, or are those JAKaPs -- Jet-Assisted Kamikaze Projectiles?

    15. The Politically Correct urgently need to know about JAPs before suffering a snowflake meltdown.

  2. Purely looking at ship numbers you could argue that it does matter.

    China does have the shipyards, understand builds ~ 50% of world's commercial ships per year, and therefore has ability to immediately pump up their warship output while Navy will be scrambling to design easily built escorts and set up new shipyards and the necessary industrial support base. Navy will be left standing and unlikely ever to catch up.

    The Chinese are rapidly gaining the institutional knowledge especially with their new generation ships in current build, they have launched 50 of their relatively simple Type 056 89m 1,500 ton corvettes with an elevated helipad, 40 are in service, the last 20 with twin tails, VDS + TAS, another 20 expected by 2020 supported the Type 054A(+) 137m 4,270 ton frigates with VDS from ship #17, 30 ship class, first of the follow on 54Bs expected to be launched soon; Type 052D 157m 7,500 ton destroyer, 8-10 in service, 14 launched to date and still in production, latest includes a lengthened flight deck for larger helicopter; the new Type 055 180m ~13,000 ton cruiser 12 planned, four launched, their third aircraft carrier is in build. Its a similar story with amphibs, support ships and submarine numbers, Chinese build both nuclear and conventional subs, Navy just nuclear and just the two shipyards with capability of building them with production cycle of ~ six years, targeting 5 years, so there will be little chance to increase numbers even on war footing in meaningful time. The above numbers exclude the numerous Chinese previous generation surface warship Types still in operation.

    1. "Purely looking at ship numbers you could argue that it does matter."

      Sure, one solution is to build huge 'stockpiles' of ships that aren't needed during peacetime but the logical solution is to create the shipbuilding environment (yards, steady demand, infrastructure, regulations, etc.) that allows us to forego un-needed ships during peacetime while remaining secure in our ability to quickly gear up and produce new ships in war.

      In WWII, we built thousands of LSTs. Does it make sense to build thousands of LSTs now because we don't have the capacity to make them when war comes? No, of course not. It makes more sense to build the environment that would allow us to make them when needed.

      Numbers of ships are an issue but only if they're useful numbers. There are certain ship types that just have no useful purpose outside of war and, therefore, don't need to be built until war comes.

    2. Agree not in favor of huge stockpiles of ships, but would suggest that design is proven and in limited build so if need arises capable of ramping up build, my understanding was most WWII ships were of pre-war design, may have that wrong. Would have thought a escort ship might be more complicated than a LST :)

      My feeling is it will be very difficult for the two nuclear shipyards, EB and NN, to increase output of Virginia and Ford by any meaningful numbers due to their design and constrained supply of nuclear reactors, Burke Flight III with original design dating back to 1980s is now densely packed due to SPY-6, helicopter etc., requiring high manhours/time to build, again not very amenable to increased output.

    3. "would suggest that design is proven and in limited build so if need arises capable of ramping up build,"

      Exactly what I said in the post!

      "very difficult for the two nuclear shipyards, EB and NN, to increase output of Virginia and Ford by any meaningful numbers due to their design and constrained supply of nuclear reactors"

      Quite right! This suggests that a non-nuclear carrier design ought to be built and in the fleet as a wartime alternative that could be built faster when the need arises.

  3. "We’ve sent so much of our production capacity overseas that we may lack the factory capacity to build the required tanks, aircraft, munitions, etc. This is a very serious issue and is one that the nation should be addressing as a strategic national interest."

    It seems one of the problems is that all to often military production has differed very far from civilian production since WW2. Back in 2012 Ford passed on bidding for the Humvee replacement. Likely because they could have put forth something like the Israeli Plasan Sand Cat at a low price and likely potential volume production if needed. But they were not going to be able to offer a unique vehicle like the Oshkosh JLT (which as far as I can tell is too expensive to replace all Humvees).

    If you want capacity you have walk into industrial policy and by in large that is no no in the USA. Suppose the Pentagon did decide they wanted a Ford Sand Cat like vehicle. A new F-350 line designed to knock them out would likely need to subsided because even if it could still make normal commercial versions it would be more expense. If you really wanted capacity you might have to also need the government to buy the equipment to alter a regular line as well.

    On ship building capacity I suppose the best you could is take hard look at Japan see why they are still the 3rd largest ship builder (in an environment of high wages and good regulation). I would say it would take significant government effort to get the US to that state one that would have latent capacity to build a lot of ships

    Either of those is hard. Sad fact is easier to go just build whatever and say look we have 350 ship navy, even we could only replace those at maybe at 4 a year or so.

    1. "easier to go just build whatever and say look we have 350 ship navy"

      Oh, you are so very, very, very, very far off of what will be needed in a real war. Consider WWII - we had a 6000 ship Navy!!!!! A 350 ship Navy doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of what we'll need in a real war. There's no getting around it - we'll need to gear up and mass produce all kinds of ships, planes, and tanks. The only question is how best to prepare for it and that is what this post touches on.

    2. That was sarcasm. What I was getting at is the political decisions needed to maintain the industrial capacity you suggest are ones that are not popular in the US. Simply saying look we have a big navy no matter what the ships are is comparatively easy.

    3. Again nobody in Congress cares if we have a Ago-Industrial policy. I mean really nobody seems to care is the US is storing 1.39 billion pounds of cheese (and god knows how much powdered milk), along with loans, insurance and farming advice to keep dairy farmers farming (and turning a blind eye to how many illegals work dairy farms). That is sort of picking winners. Do the same in Industry and people we cry socialism. The current US model for industry does not reward slack capacity or anything but 2 or 3 quarters ahead thinking. If you want Japanese level ship building capacity the government is going to have to subsidies to one way or the other to crawl out the hole of letting US ship building atrophy. I don't see the the US congress doing that.

      On balance you would likely have better luck actually building and mothballing ships. Works for Ag - The USN make simple charts equating stored escorts to stored cheese.

    4. Before ramping up production of warships, we'd need to build the factories to produce the heavy equipment needed by the new shipyards we'd need to construct in order to build more new warships beyond those that could be handled in existing yards. Moreover, we'd need to begin training the workers that could build these ships -- far too many of our shipyard workers are getting older rapidly. Last, but not least, I suspect we'd have to make quite a number of industry and union leaders "offers they couldn't refuse" to either retire or get with the program. For that matter, a bunch of admirals, too.

      People (not our esteemed host) tend to forget that our industrial mobilization began rather before Pearl Harbor, though in a quiet way. Had FDR waited until December 8, 1941, we'd have been in a world of hurt on all fronts until at least 1943 and probably 1944 since the long lead time on a lot of projects were already being addressed at least in planning form (but not only!) for nearly a couple of years by the time of Pearl Harbor. I pray we have that much warning, but without a Congress and President and JCS to make use of it, I fear for the worst.

  4. Interesting take on the issue. Two things:
    1. I think it useful to discriminate between MSC Fleet auxiliaries and other ships. Fleet auxiliaries would rarely be in convoy, though would need protection in transit to and from Battle Groups etc.
    2. I have long been an advocate for defensive armament for our merchant ships. CIWS, electronics/chaff and perhaps a simple ASUW missile would not be expensive, and if properly employed by a trained crew might save us quite a few hulls (and lives).
    Oh, and (re)arm our Fleet Auxiliaries. Without them, nobody goes very far, stays very long or does very much.

    1. "advocate for defensive armament for our merchant ships."

      Have you carefully thought through the actual cost of doing that? It's not just a matter of bolting on a missile launcher. You need sophisticated sensors, a fire control software suite, magazine storage, elevator(?) for munitions transfer from the magazine, electronics techs, sensor operators, increased power supply, increased cooling capacity, more computers, a combat command center of sorts, etc. The increased crew requires increased berthing, food storage, water storage, larger galley space, etc. That cheap merchant ship is suddenly quite a bit more expensive. Do the realistic math on this and let me know what you find.

      Too many people think that we can just "sprinkle" weapons on ships wherever there's a bit of open deck space and that's not even remotely true.

    2. Why can't we sprinkle weapons about?

      Semi-Trailer Mounted Phalanx system have been in use for nearly a decade as CRAM systems protecting major bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.

      There are dozens of compact mobile SHORAD systems (including radars) on the market, any one of which could be placed on a container and parked on a merchantman. All it would need would be power hook ups. Most systems are designed for a handful of operators, 3 or 4.

      Is it as good as a warship? No, but it is a sight more than nothing.

      Its very feasible IMO.

    3. Concur, and is what I had in mind for the merchies. CLF force, on the other hand, needs a full up (and yes, ComNavOps, somewhat expensive) rearm.

    4. "Why can't we sprinkle weapons about?"

      Phalanx comes the closest to 'sprinkling' and even that requires some type of magazine storage, maintenance techs, power supply, and extra manning. This is not free by a long shot.

      The actual statement in question was,

      "CIWS, electronics/chaff and perhaps a simple ASUW missile"

      The electronics/chaff and ASuW get rapidly more complex as I indicated and are not even remotely 'sprinkle' systems.

    5. Well, nothing (useful) is actually free. Yes, do a (real) cost/effective analysis with various degrees of self protection versus "Plan Lemming" (i.e. bunch up all the cargo ships and hope enough survive the transit to accomplish the mission). BTW: I meant to include Nixie or equivalent in the equipment list.

    6. "I meant to include Nixie or equivalent in the equipment list."

      And now we're punching holes in the stern, building compartments for the winch/handling equipment, providing power, providing a compartment for the display/operator station, computers, underwater warfare software suite, operators, additional berthing, electronics/maintenance techs, etc. Nothing's free, indeed!

      In WWII we were able to quickly build Liberty ships. Presumably we could do the same today. However, if we have to add advanced weapons, magazines, sensors, computers, software suites, etc., then the modern Liberty ship becomes just another drawn out ship build and won't be all that helpful. We'll have supplies piling up on the docks waiting for a sophisticated modern Liberty/frigate to be built.

    7. "Well, nothing (useful) is actually free."

      Note that I'm not against defensive equipment/measures, per se. What I'm against is the simplistic notion that so many people have that adding these things is "free" and easy. It's neither.

      If, after doing a realistic assessment, one concludes that it's worth the cost and effort then, by all means, go ahead.

      By the way, every CIWS (or whatever piece of equipment) that's bolted on to a merchant ship is one less that's available for use on a warship. Even in WWII we were limited in availability of various weapons and sensors for new construction. Today's highly advanced electronics suggest that manufacturing availability of even something as "simple" as a CIWS will be severely limited. Do we use our limited equipment to arm merchant ships or their escorts? This is part of the overall assessment that has to be done to make a good decision.

    8. HM. Yes, but we should be building and installing/stockpiling these systems now, and not in competition with installations on warships/Fleet Auxiliaries. One LCS= How many defensive outfits?

    9. @CptSteve, it would be good, but we have few merchant ships that are "our" ships. They're mostly flagged as Panamanian or Liberian or some other 3rd World S**thole. What do we do, then?

  5. Convoy Escorts are an admission of failure, not success.

    There is a long chain between an enemy missile or torpedo hitting a cargo ship, and an enemy aircraft/frigate/submarine leaving base, and convoy escorts are the worst place to break that chain.

    1. "convoy escorts are the worst place to break that chain."

      Your point is valid but that doesn't eliminate the need for escorts. In WWII we attempted to break the U-Boat chain but still needed escorts. The same applies today.

  6. I hope we keep increasing the tariffs on china. Lets weaken them before the inevitable conflict occurs. I'm guessing they will have 4 CBG equivalence in 7 years?

  7. I cringe when I see what the Decatur did last week. Would it not be better to bring the New Jersey back from retirement? At least we would not have to swerve and are not modern weapons relatively ineffective against the behemoth?

    1. The New Jersy is coming on 80 years old with steam plants that have not been maintained since the 90s, and some overzealous young LT ordered her guns soiked and it was carried out nefore anybody could countermand that order...

    2. Peter G, you're conceptually correct and I completely agree. You also make an excellent point. If we're going to attempt to 'play the game' with China, we need ships that can stand up to some abuse and, more importantly, dish it out.

      The Russians used to bump our ships and, sadly, we didn't learn any lessons about ship design from that.

  8. American shipbuilding is not going to solve this, and shipyards aren't going to come back from Japan, South Korea, PRC.

    My recipe is to go with a renewed ARAPAHO concept - self-defending convoys for oceanic trade lances, and coastal/land-based assets to secure coastal trade lanes (protecting areas rather than convoys there).

    We know how the USN would react to an ARAPAHO 2 proposal; the same way it did in the 80's. It will ask whether ARAPAHO 2 would cut into the quantity of real warship hulls to play with, the answer will be yes, USN will bury it. The USN is following its peacetime self-interest, not preparing for war. It's certainly not protecting maritime trade for real. The USN has been a land attack navy first and foremost since the late 40's.

    1. "American shipbuilding is not going to solve this, and shipyards aren't going to come back from Japan, South Korea, PRC."

      It could. The US would simply need to engage again in the same type of polices that Japan the ROK do. Subsides one way or the other US ship yards. Return to using construction differential subsidies and all the other games Japan and the ROK use. Sure they get challenged in the WTO but that takes years and you just shift to a new subsidy. Use the Jone Act to create more demand for US ships and sailors.

      I will cost obviously in taxes and to some extent in prices. But it slowly grow ship building capacity in the US.

    2. Emphasis on "slowly". Sure, such things can be changed over 20...30 years, but that might provoke the PRC to pressure SK to not build warships for the U.S., arms race at sea with the shipbuilding industry that's bigger than Japan's, the American and Europeans combined and seek a decisive victory at sea before the Americans become stronger with their shipyard plan in 30...50 years.

      As of now the USN's relative position is eroding and no-one is going to strangle the PRC to keep it from reaching naval parity because trade with the PRC is too important, big business special interest groups and relationships too powerful.

      Thus I say the smart thing to do is to move away from a dependency dedicated warship hulls for all naval tasks. To secure coastal trade lanes does not require ships at all, and to secure transoceanic convoys doesn't require warships.

    3. I just don't see that working. Cargo ships of any kind are not really designed to be quite. I really doubt they could find a AIP sub no matter much space you take up. What of air defense? Even the US just recently recalled you could launch a harpoon from a sub. Its not like subs have to close to torpedo range to just blaze away with anti ship missiles.

      I mean if you need convoys than you are in a war where BVR worries went out the door. I would imagine in a hypothetical US/China war both sides would declare exclusion zones and be willing to fire first and ask questions later.

      In any case you solution is still one a lot of spending up front. Why not just build escorts and put them in a the reserve fleet and expand the USN reserves or coast guard reserves as your ideal would require to man real war ships not cargo ships. I think the sailors would be better off on on dedicated escorts brought out reserve than trying to run a dropped in ASW kit on leased space on a container ship.

      Also I am not sure recovering Ship building would be that slow (I did not me to say very slow - how about gradual but expanding (*)). When we stopped playing the subsidy game the results were immediate. If you restored them and used the Jones act to create market demand, I think you could get reasonably fast results. You could even toss in the government buying up the dept of some the yards that have recently gone under or are in chapter 11. It the game Japan likes almost zero interest loans and then oh well writing them off. Honestly I surprised Trump a man willing to break NAFTA over Canadian dairy has not actually done so now.

      * I don't think it would take 30-50 years.

    4. I looked it up and judging by the Chinese example, you're right that it wouldn't take that long. The Chinese expanded their shipbuilding over approx. a decade, with no doubt 2...3 years lead for shipyard investments.
      To set up a giant shipbuilding industry would take 10...15 years in the U.S., assuming the manpower is available and the government does all the necessary cheating and all the necessary market distortions.

      I suppose we know there's not enough lobby to bribe Congress into such a huge preferential treatment for an almost non-existing sector.
      Who cares about quietness in convoys? There are going to be loud civilian ships on transoceanic convoys anyway, so no real difference.

      Subs are nowadays found by blasting the ocean with p180+ dB low frequency waves. AIP or not doesn't matter, even anechoic tiles don't help much.

      Sub-launched missiles are a thing, but that merely means that the convoy needs some air defence. Besides, that applies to warships as well - except one or two frigates would have a much tougher time shielding 20 cargo ships than a self-defending convoy would have difficult defending itself. Self-defence would include countermeasures and horizon scanners on all ships.
      You should look at how little shipbuilding the U.S. has today. It's almost nonexistent. USN orders, USCG orders, some yachts, some offshore oil industry specialty ships, some great lake shipbuilding. That's it.

      old, but related:

    5. "Emphasis on "slowly"."

      Not necessarily. It just takes one man with vision and courage. President Trump has demonstrate how much one man can accomplish with vision and courage to fight the existing political inertia. You can agree or disagree with his policies and actions but there is no denying that he has drastically and significantly changed things at a rate far beyond what anyone believed could come out of Washington. -Be warned, I'm not going to allow this to become a political discussion.

      "Sure, such things can be changed over 20...30 years, but that might provoke the PRC to pressure SK to not build warships for the U.S."

      ?????? What warships are they building for us now? Since when has China had any influence over SKorea?

    6. "To secure coastal trade lanes does not require ships at all, and to secure transoceanic convoys doesn't require warships."

      ???? I don't even know how to respond to this!

    7. "* I don't think it would take 30-50 years."

      You're quite right. The key is demand. Create/foster demand and all the rest will take care of itself. The Navy needs to stop its trend towards very few, very expensive, very complex ships and start building many more (demand!) simpler, single function ships. We need to revise our regulations to encourage commercial shipbuilding. We need to bring manufacturing back home (Trump is doing this) and increase our exports (demand, again). Do all this and shipbuilding can rebound.

    8. "You should look at how little shipbuilding the U.S. has today. "

      The US shipbuilding industry is depressed, without doubt. However, the real issue is how is it trending? I don't have any data so I don't know. My sense is that it is trending somewhat upward. The US 'boom' in oil has increased demand for both intercoastal and international shipping. GD-NASSCO has some lucrative oiler contracts in hand. There have been a series of tankers built in various yards. And so on. Not a lot by some of the international standards but possibly trending better. Maybe someone can take the time to supply some trending data for us to see what direction we're going?

    9. "What warships are they building for us now? Since when has China had any influence over SKorea?"

      I didn't write that they were, but SK has the capacities, and the '"West' would stand a chance in an arms race if SK shipyards joined said race on the side of the West.

      The PRC can say "Don't build more warships than usual or we will overrun you, and nuke you if that fails by some miracle."
      SK would gladly accept the civilian ship orders that would not be picked up by the Chinese and Japanese shipyards.
      South Korea is continental - its security depends on land power. Sea power is by comparison irrelevant to them.

    10. "I don't even know how to respond to this!"

      That's because you stay in the box and disregard historical precedents.

    11. "To set up a giant shipbuilding industry would take 10...15 years in the U.S., assuming the manpower is available and the government does all the necessary cheating and all the necessary market distortions."

      Now that hurts "cheating". If everyone else does it I'm not sure it is cheating its just the nature of the game.

      You do not need a massive shipbuilding industry, just a substantial one. Maybe not Japan or the ROK, but maybe just back to a moderated commercial capacity. If the US is willing to spend and use the Jones act there there is room to take away business from China. Their margins are thin and they are heavily subsidized. In they argue simple go on the WTO merry go round of charge and counter charge.

      In any case back to the arming convoys alone. This is still an expensive plan. You need either the USN or the USGC to support a whole new level of reserves to be available to be stationed on these ships. Where are these ships coming from? Only American flagged ships? You are going have to pay to do training exercises right. That means paying for ships to not be working. You need to buy lots of gears to be in storage and maintained.

      At the end of the day why is not simply easier building escorts for the reserve fleet and expanding sailor reserves to man them. They be small enough that you could rotate them and base them all over the US coasts and even the Great Lakes for reservist to train on. As long as they had a few 25/30 MM cannons. There is no reason they could not supplement the USCG for drug inter dictation and US coast patrolling to keep busy.

      A small ship focusing on range and sea keeping, with one helo and a full onboard ASW kit, Say a large load of ESSms and just a single bolt on 4 box of the new NSMs. There are lots of solid corvette designs out there to do that with US gear and a reasonable price. Seems easier than trying to bolt tons sensors and weapons in haste to a cargo ship.

    12. Although maybe a good offense is the best defense you know 3 Zumwalts not built get you 40 US Soryu-class AIP subs. Based out of Japan and Guam that's a really bad time for the PLAN to go to sea. Even before the Virginia class Subs show up.

    13. "a whole new level of reserves ... pay to do training exercises ... buy lots of gears to be in storage and maintained."

      Very good point. We can buy, man, train, maintain hundreds of CIWS, for example, or we can buy a relative handful of reusable escorts.

    14. "Although maybe a good offense is the best defense you know 3 Zumwalts not built get you 40 US Soryu-class AIP subs."

      Correct. We've discussed many times the opportunity cost associated with the Zumwalt, LCS, and Ford class purchases. We're cutting our own throats and bragging about it while we do it!

    15. Three Zumwalt hulls would get you one fine trimaran AAW/ASAT platform. All those odd-number LCS hulls would get you fine one-way drug-runners in a permissive environment. Other than that, I'm at a loss for the Navy's current acquisitions programs...

  9. It is almost like we need to build a modern blue water ship along the theme of the Fletchers for escorts & pickets. I wonder how much it would cost for someone to dust off plans for one of the proven hulls and build a modernized version (modernized weapons, sensors and powerplant).

    I think that we also need a CAG-X as a modern major surface combatant with a bunch of cells for land attack missiles and a couple of sets of 8" guns for NGFS, built to take a beating and retain combat capability. That might free up some of the Burkes for other tasks.

  10. We’re not likely to have 5 years, like the prelude to WWII, to prepare and build up our forces for the next war. And, one of the jobs of the Navy is to deter aggression by any nation so as to prevent war from happening in the first place. It seems to me that we need the biggest Navy we can afford. I'll leave it to the experts what that takes. Though, the biggest deficiency seems to be ASW and mine warfare.

    1. "We’re not likely to have 5 years,"

      Some might say that we're having it, right now. China is engaged in a regional, leading to global, land grab. They're flouting international laws, treaties, and norms. This is the run up to war. It's up to us to recognize it and take advantage of it while we can.

      Wars don't happen instantaneously, overnight. There's always a slow run up.

  11. I'm going to deliberately throw out a controversial thought to provoke discussion here: In the context of a war with China, does it really matter whether MSC can get convoys going?

    I mean, if the fight isn't going to involve ground forces at all, do we really need said MSC convoys? Particularly when the US has options for basing in Singapore and Malaysia, and can fly munitions out to local airbases to truck them to the naval bases to reload USN warships?

  12. We haven't had a direct "big powers" war (excluding proxy wars) since Instant Sunshine was invented.

    If there is a next big war (with China) in my humble opinion it will be short. There will be a mad scramble for advantage / territory / influence, then either nuclear or a stale mate / standoff.
    Assuming the people on both sides believe living in the stone age is a bad idea it will come to a halt for peace talks, with the "winner" being the side that took the most ground.
    This may well (in my opinion) happen suddenly (e.g. China landing troops in Taiwan / toppling the government in the Philippines or any other provocation the US can not back away from and escalates).
    If the US is not ready (as they are the only country with enough or potentially enough military or determination) we (the West) may as well give up before we start.

    Assuming the scenario above the conflict will be fought with the personnel and equipment that can be used at very short notice.

    Any thoughts anyone

    1. I believe the exact opposite. Both sides have large amounts of force ready to go and could fight for quite some time. Thus, neither side is going to achieve an 'instant' success. Further, both sides have immense resources to draw on to restock war materiel which will, again, tend to draw out the conflict.

      The initial months of war are fought on a 'come as you are' basis but, after that, it becomes an industrial war of attrition.

    2. We could both be correct! The five years build up, as you said above has started, it's just the US didn't hear the starting pistol.

    3. Wouldn't the destructive power of modern weapons and there range speed up a modern war?

    4. "Wouldn't the destructive power of modern weapons and there range speed up a modern war?"

      No, because that same destructive power allows much smaller forces and individual platforms to create much greater effects. Thus, significant combat can occur with smaller forces which suggests longer, drawn out war.

  13. It reminds me the Soviet tanks. T64 and T80 were the expensive peacetime tanks for first day of war. T72 tank was the simple movilization desing for wartime production. Paradoxically, in the end the T72 (T90 is a heavily upgraded T72) MBT has become the standard Russian tank both for their Army and export.

    A somewhat simplified version gives you such advantages that it usually becomes your best asset even against a technologically superior option. You get far more reliability when SHTF and economies of scale become bigger thanks to exports.

    1. I should note that the T-72 - at least the version the Russians kept for themselves, not the monkey model they sold their client states - wasn't really *that* far behind the T-80; it was a solid tank and a peer contender with the equivalent NATO tanks of its era (Chieftain, Leopard 1, M60 Patton). There's an argument to be made that for much of the Cold War, the USSR had the superior tanks; it was only once NATO's 3rd gen MBTs came online that the gap was narrowed.

      I think the T-72's longevity is helped by how it had a 125mm smoothbore gun from the get go, so it's easier to keep it relevant by giving it new ammo; in contrast it's NATO peers were running the rifled 105mm gun, and so NATO *had* to buy new tanks with the new 120mm smoothbore gun.

      Although with tanks, I'd argue it's relatively simpler to keep them relevant on an evolving battlefield; the T-72B3 is basically an incremental update to the baseline cold war T-72, the improvements being to the sights, fire control system, new ammo and new ERA packages. Not to say that it can't be done with ships and aircraft, just that it's a little easier with tanks.

  14. china telegraphed their intentions when their "fishing fleet" began
    grabbing our towed arrays years ago. When they claimed the whole SCS and militarized their impressive islands it was like Hitlers book Mein Kamph with history rhyming. Anyone who has their eyes open can see where this is going. Here's my problem. The first real act of aggression from them may be their seizing one of our ships. As the conditions escalate at some point all trade with china will stop. All their oil imports. All their food imports. The US feeds the world with our exports. How will china sustain a multi year war? I just don't see it. Some one tell me how their economy does not collapse. We are almost self sufficient in energy. They are not. We feed the world if we choose to. We would not feed them. As far as I know china does not have food reserves.

  15. My assumption is their massive soft fishing fleet which is depleting the worlds oceans would be picked off by our allies while we did the heavy lifting.

    1. One would assume that China is not really planning for a long war.

      On balance I China just like the US has kinda sees a peer war as not a reality. They do want to attain their primacy in what the expose as there proper sphere of influence.

      But they get there by a thousand cuts not by war. Create a sufficient force that they could overwhelm Taiwan and convince everyone to shun them and nobody to arm them. Create a sufficient threat to the US such that parking a CV or two in the Taiwan strait is no easy decision. Their artificial islands are ridiculously vulnerable but to the extent they happen they create facts on the water. Or take the USNS Bowditch. Unless the US sends it back and inside of China's imagined sea sovereignty area escorted by a Burke DD, the US has ceded w/o fighting the sovereignty of what are Filipino waters to China since they can now apparently dictate what happens there.

  16. China's fishing fleet will have to be eliminated, for the simple fact they can and have provided intelligence to their navy brethren. God forbid if we let any live and the provide enough information for a DF-21 launch.

    1. @Purple Calico: In actual wartime, convoy escorts and CSG escorts should be chasing away those fishing boats; the CSGs aircraft and escort ships in particular should be sanitising space around the CVN, precisely to avoid this sort of shenanigans. It's not like this is a new idea; the Soviets used to do this in the Cold War as well.

      That said, the threat of ASBMs like DF-21 and DF-26 is overstated; the Chinese have only tested their ASBMs on stationary targets and DF-21 has never been demonstrated to be able to hit a manuevering target at speed, and the flight time it takes to hit its target gives the CVN plenty of time to escape the seeker head of an ASBM reliant on itself for terminal guidance.

      China isn't talking up ASBMs because it thinks ASBMs are a credible threat against CVNs, it's talking up ASBMs because then people focus on the antiship role and the carrier killer role and overlook how China's using these ASBM platforms to recapitalise its MRBM force.

    2. @Wild Goose, I must apologize for taking so long to reply, I hope you understand.

      While it isn't a new idea of using fishing ships as a picket force, comparing it to the Soviet Union's tactics or capabilities isn't accurate. Many things are different... Communications equipment has gotten smaller and cheaper in the 3 decades since the USSR collapsed.
      Further more the USSR fishing fleet is dwarfed considerably by China's. According to Wikipedia, which states these figures are from 2002, they have over 25 thousand vessels in the 100+ GT range and nearly 220,00 smaller vessels. We literally don't have the ordnance to destroy them all in a timely manner.

      The Fact that we would have to eliminate them to pursue an attack on the any military target, is a warning that we are operating in the area. Jamming, in and of itself, is a similar prospect.

      Not all of their ships will have long range communications, granted. How do we know which ones thou?

      As to the DF-21 and DF-26 threats being overstated...
      Who knows. We have no idea of the capabilities cause we have no comparable weapon system. Furthermore, the systems that we have to deal with them are questionable because they themselves have not been tested in a realistic scenario against that type of attack profile.

      Nor have our weapon systems been tested against a maneuvering target at speed... not that makes much difference considering our carriers do between 35-40mph.
      BTW, a similar statement was used against Billy Mitchell after the Project B: Anti-ship bombing tests.

      Simply dismissing the ASBM as insignificant, due to its complicated targeting, isn't something I personally find reassuring. Especially since we'll likely have to operate well within it advertised range as some point.


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