Friday, December 4, 2020








There are some things related to the military that are constants and can never be changed.  As we discuss the various issues, I often see this attitude reflected in comments.  People scoff at certain ideas because they see them as constants, as givens.  This introduces and promotes a degree of rigidity of thought;  an unwillingness to even consider certain ideas.


What is a real world example of what I’m talking about? 


Over the last few years, I posted that the Marines were moving steadily down the path of becoming light infantry and that they would shed their armor and firepower.  This notion was roundly and soundly dismissed and mocked with statements such as:


‘The Marines are never going to drop their tanks.’


‘The Marines are never going to reduce or drop artillery.’


‘The Marines are never going to abandon amphibious assault.’


And yet, all of those unthinkable things have come to pass.  The people who held fast to their inviolable beliefs were wrong.  Completely and totally wrong.  The unthinkable not only happened but it happened with stunning speed.


The point of this post is not to mock those who were wrong, the point is to note that the unthinkable can, and does, happen and we have to at least consider the possibility. 


With that backdrop, I’d like to consider some unthinkable possibilities for the Navy.  Please note that just because I mention these, it does not mean that I favor them or believe them likely to happen.  In fact, I’m far more likely to be violently opposed to them but they need to be contemplated so that we can watch for their appearance and react appropriately.


So, here are some previously unthinkable actions that could come to be:



Burkes Early Retired and Replaced With Umanned Vessels – I have made this statement many times and the common reply is mocking and scoffing and yet the Navy has stated publicly that Burkes will be replaced, if not on a one for one basis, with unmanned vessels.  I suggest that it is possible that the entire Burke fleet may eventually be replaced with unmanned vessels and far sooner than anyone might think.


Carriers Reduced to 9 – The Navy has tried multiple times to early retire one of the carriers only to have Congress stop them.  We only have 9 air wings so you can see where the Navy is planning to go with carrier numbers.


Air Wing Size Reduced To Less Than 60 Aircraft – Air wings have dropped from around 90 to the current mid 60’s and the Navy has already stated that when the F-35C joins the fleet, F-35 squadron sizes will be reduced from 12 aircraft to 10.


Entire LCS Fleet Retired Early – Would this one really be a surprise?  The Navy has already announced that the first four ships are being early retired and the remainder have no mission.  Given the Navy’s obsession with reducing manning, do you really see them continuing to crew ships that have no mission?


Ballistic Missile Submarines Eliminated – The Navy already rationalized a reduction in SSBNs from the current 14 with 24 Trident missiles each, to 12 with 16 Trident missiles each.  Given the enormous cost of construction and operation and the unlikeliness of ever using them, is it really unthinkable that they would be eliminated?  The Navy could build a lot more unmanned ships if they didn’t have to pay to build and operate SSBNs.


Amphibious Ships Eliminated – The Marine Corps Commandant has publicly stated that the Marines are out of the assault business and has called for small transports instead of large amphibs.  I suspect the amphibs will be early retired without direct replacement.





I strongly suspect that most readers would instantly claim that none of the above could happen (with the possible exception of the LCS fleet being retired) and would mock the very notion.  However, all available evidence suggests that some or all of these will happen.  Recall that we’ve seen the Air Force attempt to eliminate the A-10, the most effective close air support aircraft ever built.  Who would have ever thought that?


Once you recognize the Navy’s real objectives – to put new hulls in the water and to reduce manning to zero – many of the above possibilities become much more ‘reasonable’ and likely from the Navy’s warped perspective.


So, with all that we’ve seen, go ahead and tell me how none of the possibilities I’ve listed could ever happen!  Or, tell me what unthinkable possibility you see.


  1. I would say the SSBN is unthinkable. With fewer however the US might need to work on upping the load of MIRVs to keep the same key deterrence capacity (I believe current treaty lets the Russians load more right now or we are below what we allowed to load).

    Amphibious ships. Seems possible but likely a mistake. They may not be useful in a Peer war per say. But thay are useful day to day. It seems to me the marines risk very much being again just appendage of the Navy just a place holder for potential amphibious experience pending a real war expansion.

    I would not be sad to see the LCS go. No loss there its all sunk cost really anyway.

    The air wing reduction is insane but seems like a slow motion thing.

    Unmanned ships is a bit horrifying. Congress really needs to put its foot down. Demand the USN build one and throw it against every possible disruption or attack our closest allies can come up with in a real test and hand those classified results over to whatever committees are cleared to read them before buying into the ideal.

    If we can let Israel modify the F-35 codes and the UK share our Trident missiles and do five eyes we can let them toss everything they have against an unmanned destroyer.

    1. "I would say the SSBN is unthinkable"

      Two years ago you would have likely said that the Marines dropping all of their tanks was unthinkable and yet it happened!

      Twenty years ago you would likely have said that shrinking the air wings from 90 aircraft to 60 was unthinkable and yet it has happened - with further reductions already promised.

      So, how sure are you that dropping SSBNs is unthinkable?

    2. It is the most secure part of the Triad. With China now fully a ICBM/MIRV rival if the USN gives up on it will loose that budget slice. To either Air force hyper sonic nuclear cruise missiles and updated ground based ones or both. But essentially the national need for a credible nuclear deterrence would trump some navy attempt to shift funding away.
      Again the reduction is subs and tubes is still countered by the ability to add warhead capacity to to the existing systems.

      By comparison the Marines if you squint don't really have a good plan with the navy to storm defended beaches anymore. We have not fought a peer war in a long time and so sliding into a roll of light navy infantry for peacetime operations and 'small' wars is not that big of a break.

    3. "It is the most secure part of the Triad."

      Hey, no need to defend your thinking! Unfortunately, almost by definition, the unthinkable is irrational and reasonable people can't imagine it happening. That's what makes it unthinkable! And yet … the unthinkable all too often happens anyway.

      We'll cross our fingers and hope this one doesn't happen but Navy leadership doesn't inspire me with confidence.

    4. While this is certainly unthinkable with our process, the examples you noted above is a logical conclusion coming from a flawed perspective. The cutdown of the Air wing came from an obsession with sortie rate and the removal of the Marine tank force both from the recognition of the lack of relevancy and from the infeasibility of current amphibious doctrine. Thinking along that line, I could think of several reasons that the Navy could justify the cut and probably will.

      The SSGN does not fit in with the Navy's networked warfare and remains irrelevant. The SSGN doesn't do peacetime presence and port visits mission and remains irrelevant. The SSGN takes up a large amount of personnel and funding for what is a single wartime useful mission(Navy's obsession with multi mission?). The navy could even go as far as claiming that some magical F-35s could replace the submarine because somehow they are not stealthy enough to deliver nukes. Maybe unmanned SSGN? Just some thoughts to ponder.

    5. "The SSGN does not fit in with the Navy's"

      Did you mean SSBN because the SSGN is already slated for retirement without direct replacement.

    6. Ah yes, my mistake. I certainly meant SSBN instead of SSGN. That said, some of the points I noted above could apply to both.

    7. No problem. I suspected that was the case. Your points about the SSBN (and SSGN and likely the SSN) are well taken.

    8. "The SSGN takes up a large amount of personnel and funding for what is a single wartime useful mission"

      Funny thing here is that is actually a good thing. Whether SSBN or SSGN, their single focus and optimization makes them standouts as good warfighting tools and should be looked at in a positive light!!! (And ill again express my severe love for the SSGN, and bemoan that there isnt a plan to have more!!)

    9. I would argue that SSBN missiles are our most lethal tools, with incredible destructive and deterrent power....but there is a critical metric where Minuteman III, and its hopeful replacement GBSD missile stomp the shit out of SSBNs.

      MMIII has an almost perfect safety record, 98% on alert availability rating. But most importantly of all, MMIII has the absolute lowest amount of accepted risk.

      1 missile, 1 warhead, 1 site, maybe 2-10 maintainers and cops on site if its being worked. That is the most amount of assets at risk for any given "Worst Case flag word scenario.

      Worst case in a sub? 200 sailors, 1 reactor,24 missiles, 288 warheads, all in peril and all thousands of miles away from home. That's a shit ton of eggs, in one precarious basket.

      MmIII doesn't care about the latest and greatest ASW tech. The only enemy weapon anyone bothers to aim a Minuteman is an equivalently sized and capable ICBM.

      MMIII never needs a drydock. MmIII will never have a reactor Scram or emergency ballast blow. MmIIIs don't care about crush-depth. No one has ever ran a launch facility into an underwater mountain or a third world freighter.

      In any future funding fight pitching Columbia/Ohio Class against MMIII/GBSD, the fight will be overwhelming lethality vs absolute Safety and risk avoidance. In a world without the soviet Union and Eastern Bloc, I know which side I think is the most relevant and likely to win.

  2. The tanks with the Marines was logistically evident for awhile. The knee jerk move is the bad part. Missed opportunity to be part of an overall plan that kept a big gun around. All your navy proposals seem feasible although I'd suggest the Burkes will live out there lives and then their future replacement splits in 2 or 3 directions. Unmanned, frigate manned nodes, cruiser manned nodes.

    1. "All your navy proposals"

      Whoa! Just to be clear, they aren't proposals on my part. I'm not advocating for them to happen (except the termination of the LCS!). They're just things that most people would view as unthinkable, today, but could, conceivably, happen tomorrow.

    2. Yes, agreed, not your proposals.

    3. "I'd suggest the Burkes will live out there lives and then their future replacement splits in 2 or 3 directions."

      We can see this already happening. The Navy has stated that unmanned vessels will replace "some" of the Burkes and those unmanned vessels will be the smaller, ISR vessel and the somewhat larger arsenal vessel. So, the Burke function is being split apart into sensor vessels and shooter vessels. What's missing is the main, powerful, Aegis/AMDR radar platform. Perhaps that will be a yet-to-come unmanned vessel or perhaps a modification of the LPD-17 (which has already been proposed).

      If the Navy has their way (and I hope not!) the current Burkes and FFG(X) will be the last manned ships in the Navy - thus, realizing the Navy's dream of not having to pay for manpower.

      Of course, with no people on board, those vessels will be one-hit kills with no one to perform damage control.

    4. Unmanned ships isn't that like abandoned ships ?
      Salvage rules apply. Let the cutting out expeditions begin.

      "For England, for home, and for the prize!"

    5. You should consider Marine together with Army.

      To make Marine second Army, although make someone proud, is inefficient.

      Due to its legal status (Marine is what US president can use without Congress prove for a long time), many presidents like to keep Marine as it is. It is wrong.

      We should make Marine and Army complementary.

  3. Given the Columbia class has a lifetime nuclear core, those boats won't need a 2 to 3 year midlife refueling which should make them more available for patrols. So, the 12 Columbias should, in theory, be able to replace the 14 Ohios.

    And, due to the New Start agreement, the Navy already reduced the number of missiles the Ohios deploy from 24 to 20. The New Start agreement limits the US and Russia to 800 bombers and missiles. All things being equal, we would be going from 280 to 192 SLBMs. Which, in my opinion, is not a bad thing providing we have a sufficient number of bombers and ICBMs.

    1. "Given the Columbia class has a lifetime nuclear core"

      Rationalization is a powerful force. At one time we thought we needed to be able to fight and win 2 major wars. We've now rationalized that down to one regional war and holding against another small conflict.

      Once upon a time we believed we needed 15-20 carriers. We rationalized that down to the current 11 (pushing to 9).

      Once upon a time, we believed we needed 18 (24 were planned but only 18 built) SSBNs. We've rationalized that down to 14 and now 12 with fewer missiles.

      Have the requirements changed or have we just rationalized poor management and smaller budgets (larger actually) into accepting less and trying to make it look like that's what we needed all along?

      You (the global you, not you personally) can rationalize anything if you try hard enough.

    2. What ever you rationalize, be it how many wars you expect to fight at one time or what you need to fight them, you have to be able to pay for it. As it is, the Navy expects to spend $110 billion for the 12 Columbia boats for an average cost of $9.2 billion per boat. Adding another 4 to 8 tubes could easily make them $10 to $11 billion per boat. Is that worth the extra cost or is that money better spent on bombers or land-based missiles?

      The Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) program to replace the Minuteman III ICBMs and the B-21 program are each in the $60 billion range. And, we all know, all three programs are likely to cost more.

      The military has not been able to manage their program costs for quite some time. The Navy aside, look at the billions the Army lost between the Comanche and the Future Combat Systems programs. And, fighting two wars for 20 years has taken its own toll on the defense budget.

    3. You don't rationalize defense needs. You define them and then you make the case to Congress to fund them. If you rationalize, you lose credibility. You may be forced by Congressional budget limits to accept less than what is needed but you don't rationalize you. You continue to make the case until you get what the country needs.

      One good way to make a strong case is to demonstrate wise stewardship of the funds you do have. For example, not producing LCS, Zumwalt, and Ford debacles would have been a good way to save gazillions of dollars while demonstrating responsible budget management. Buying another Nimitz would have saved $7B or so - that buys a lot of things you rationalized away! And so on.

      Defense needs are non-negotiable. They are ironclad requirements. Now, the 'trick' is to be able to distinguish actual needs from wants and the military/Navy has been atrocious at that. For example, our entire Combatant Commander and Navy deployment system is based on wants, not needs.

      True defense needs are the number one national budget priority. If you can't fund your true needs then you're just marking time until someone conquers you.

    4. @Fighting Irish: "Is that worth the extra cost or is that money better spent on bombers or land-based missiles?"

      Submarine launched ICBMs are really the only viable nuclear deterrent.

      Strategic bombers (like the B-52/B-1/B-2 being used for tactical bombing in low intensity wars tells us everything we need to know about how woefully outdated strategic (nuke) bombers are.

      Ground based ICBMs are only really viable if you can move them around *safely* over large distances (Soviets) or at least in underground tunnels.


    5. "You don't rationalize defense needs. You define them and then you make the case to Congress to fund them. If you rationalize, you lose credibility."

      Agreed. But, you adjust your needs as the threat changes or is expected to change. And, that needs to be matched with budget constraints and other program priorities.

      In WW2, the Navy cancelled the Montana-class in favor of continued production of the Essex-class carriers. After the fall of the Soviet Union, many major defense programs were downsized or eliminated. Seawolf production was capped at 3 boats which lead to the smaller and more affordable Virginia-class. Production of the B-2 bomber ended with 21 built instead of the planned 132.

      Between the LCS and Zumwalt fiascoes, the Navy has much to prove with the Constellation frigate program. And, if they are going for a billion each, I doubt the Navy builds all 20.

  4. The Navy is about to get a budget increase

    It seems most of your "thoughts" would require a flat or declining budget, the navy will have a hard time to justify these things on an increased budget

    1. There is an enormous gap between one man's thought and actual increased budgets. The new administration is unlikely to increase budgets and may well cut them. We'll see what happens.

  5. This man isnt just a talking head, he has enough power to be taken seriously on such things

    1. He has no authority to set or alter budgets. That's purely Congress' responsibility.

      By law, he has no operational command authority over any service unit. He's largely a ceremonial figurehead whose main function is to offer advice to the President, if the President cares to listen.

      He presided over an Army that spectacularly failed in multiple major acquisition programs. I doubt he has much credibility with Congress.

      His opinion is just that - one man's opinion.

  6. Technology advance but people tend to stick to what they are familiar with.

    Take an example - large battle ship. UK's Prince of Wales was sunken by Japanese fighters despite it fired 60,000 rounds in one hour, just one day after Pearl Harbor as another Japanese fleet attacked Singapore. Even so, Japan built two super heavy iron wastes - Yamanto Class with 18.2 inch guns which has not been surpassed even today.

    Even though aircraft carriers became dominant naval force in WWII, many old generals still .... US was actually first turned and gained great success.

    Learn and understand new technologies, keep open mind to think from ground zero to evaluate if a new technology really could replace old one is better than stick to familiar old stuff. Your enemies might not stick to old stuff.

    Generals usually fight last wars.

  7. Only one 1 disagree with is the SSBN, I think we will be lucky to see 8 to 10 Boomers, doubt that they will be completely eliminated BUT 10 seems to be the ceiling for me, no way USN gets them for $9 billion, IMO, I would bet $12 billion for each one.

    Everything else seems very plausible.

    1. Ironic, if there is one platform the USA/USE needs it is the FBM for nuclear deterrence.


    2. "Only one 1 disagree with is the SSBN"

      There's nothing to disagree with. They're not proposals or predictions. They're just formerly 'unthinkable' actions that could, conceivably happen. Given the number of unthinkable things that have already happened, NONE can be ruled out, no matter how unlikely or illogical they may seem.

    3. If the new boomers cost $12B each, then they are way, way overdesigned. What in the heck justifies that king of price tag?

      And CBO prices the Navy's proposed Virginia replacement at $5.5B each. What on earth do they have that the Virginias don't?

    4. "What in the heck justifies that king of price tag? "

      What justified the Ford's price tag? Answer: a lot of unnecessary equipment that offered no enhanced combat capability. The Ford is no more combat capable than the Nimitz and likely a bit less capable.

      I assume the new subs will fall into the same scenario.

    5. For one, the Columbia 2024 boat is the cheapest on the 5 year budget at 9.326B The expense is the quieting and the electric drive. With Suffren a 2.114B, Astute at 2.889B, This year's Virginia VPM at 3.742B (before Congress funded the second)its easy to see that there is no cheap(er) path with nuclear on the present trajectory.

    6. "The expense is the quieting and the electric drive."

      The Navy has, for decades, built every submarine and many surface ships with various quieting measures. Navy ships have used turbo-electric drives dating back to 1917. Can you explain what about the Columbia's quieting and drive are so unique as to cost billions more than any previous quieting and drive?

    7. Because they were engineered in America now and that's what things that are nuclear, cannot fail, and must be the most quiet money can buy cost in America now. There is no spreading the cost at these volumes. At least there is no need to pay for the refueling anymore.

    8. The overall sub may be excessively expensive but the quieting and drive are certainly not major cost drivers. Simply being nuclear is not a factor either since we've been building nuclear subs for decades.

      We're going to have to look elsewhere for the cost explanation.

    9. "What justified the Ford's price tag? Answer: a lot of unnecessary equipment that offered no enhanced combat capability. The Ford is no more combat capable than the Nimitz and likely a bit less capable.
      I assume the new subs will fall into the same scenario."

      Then can them and the people who advocate for them. Nuclear, drive, quieting, and sonar do not seem to be major cost drivers. Have those things and and some tubes to launch torpedoes and missiles, and you have all that a submarine needs. What on earth are we spending an extra $2.5B per boat (be that Columbias or Virginia replacements) except to fund somebody's compensation from whatever defense contractor is going to hire him after retirement?

      We really do need a return of something like old BuShips, where the Navy has trained naval architects in uniform who function as a real design bureau. I still like the idea of following the Royal Navy concept of splitting line officers into engineering and deck/weapons career tracks, where engineers run the ship and deck/weapons fight the ship. The deck/weapons career track leads to command at sea. The engineering career track leads to command of major shore repair and maintenance activities, and includes getting a Masters degree in naval architecture by the time you reach captain, and a Doctorate by the time you reach admiral. And from that pool of people, we pick those who form the new BuShips.

    10. Yes, the lack of engineering knowledge in the decision making is very evident. The math on the LCS design can be seen with a few hour's interest. Let alone the conops.

    11. "the lack of engineering knowledge"

      You could not be more right. For me, the most stunning engineering omission on the LCS was the failure to add galvanic protection - a requirement known about since the sailing ship and installed on every ship built since … until the LCS. The result was a corroded LCS that is being early retired.

      It doesn't get anymore basic, in terms of naval engineering than that, and we failed to do it.

  8. I would say the reduction in carriers will not happen. The Navy floated the idea of retiring the USS Truman early to avoid the planned refueling, and had the idea shot down quickly by the administration with full agreement from Congress. Congress and the administration rarely agree on anything but on this issue they were united. The next administration and Congress will be of a similar mindset, as such, the Navy got the message and will not try again.

    However, one ‘unthinkable’ you didn’t mention was the Navy switching to unmanned air wings. The switch might not be for every air wing, but I suspect a modern air wing centered around the F-35 will not work out as planned, and costs associated with developing a next-generation fighter will balloon out of control. As unmanned air vehicles already proving themselves very capable, and the Navy is in an unmanned mindset, they will try out an all unmanned air wing.

    1. "I would say the reduction in carriers will not happen"

      Actually, I see that as almost certain! As you note, the Navy has already tried to eliminate a carrier … twice! The new force structure studies seem to agree on carrier reductions, differing only on the final number with 8-11 being commonly rumored numbers. Given that we only have 9 air wings and no plans to increase that number, how long do you think the Navy will continue to pay to operate a carrier that has no air wing?

      "one ‘unthinkable’ you didn’t mention was the Navy switching to unmanned air wings."

      I actually view that not as unthinkable but as inevitable!

    2. I could see the carriers going away somewhat "easily": USN got a pass with FORD, what happens if the next 2 carriers are just as crappy and tech bug ridden as FORD? Not impossible than to see USN leaders just shrug their collective shoulders and Congress decides to pull the plug on USN carriers, especially if USN leaders stop fighting for them and just want more money for unmanned toys. The only real obstacle is the shipyard so USN will have to throw them a bone but it's highly likely carrier numbers will go down if not eventually all retired, for lack of maintenance, over abused or just tired of having them in inventory.

    3. It's not even difficult to justify the losing the CVs with the current Navy's belief. The Navy just need to do some "creative" thinking!

      Hey why do we even need the Hawkeye? The Marines light carrier has none and it seems to perfectly fine in some regional war. It's not difficult to wargame out a need for a Hawkeye because we always have avaliable regional base for our amazing 24/7 BAMS. Why do we even need a large carrier anyway? The America class can carry 30 F-35 and we can buy two or more. In fact, we carry Marines equipment in our carriers right now. Why procure an extra program with less ports profiting from it and instead buy two of these amazing LHA/LHD and demonstrate our commitment to global peace. Why do we even need the double deck and armor anyway? Our main surface forces are perfectly fine without these non-transformational items, also because we can see all and know all so we would never get hit. Seriously, the jokes write itself!

      You know what's the icing on the cake? I originally wrote "misguided" in place of every time the word Navy was mentioned and then I realized it's pretty redundant. The word is pretty much exchangeable now. Silly me!

    4. "As unmanned air vehicles already proving themselves very capable"

      They are? Of doing what? By whose reckoning?

    5. When I wrote “proving themselves very capable”, I should have added “in the USAF”. Obviously the Navy has been a laggard in the field of UAVs, but their track record in the DOD is very positive. So much so the Air Force is reported to have trouble retaining their UAV pilots

      The reckoning of positive achievements with UAVs can be found all over the defense world. Everything I’ve read talks to expanding their use and capabilities. Two examples are linked below, but there are countless others.

      Meanwhile, back in Navy-land...we had what appeared to be a very successful program in the X-47B. Everything seemed to prove positive, at least for a short time, (even ComNavOps wrote positively of the program!) Although the program ended in 2015, there’s been no follow up. !?!? In a way, it’s painful to see our sister service achieve so much, while we sit around and do nothing.

      Returning to this post of ‘unthinkable’ events, I can see the Navy getting religious about UAVs. The Navy seems intent on unmanned ships, so, shifting focus to air vehicles to the point they replace manned air wings strikes me as an unthinkable that might actually happen.

    6. "The reckoning of positive achievements with UAVs can be found all over the defense world."

      There is one major caveat with that statement and it is that the positive achievements have occurred in non-combat scenarios. All UAV use has occurred in low threat situations. The few brushes with even mildly threatening conditions has gone poorly with UAVs shot down or taken down by electronic means.

      The Air Force has publicly stated that large UAVs are non-survivable over the modern battlefield.

      In foreign use, UAVs have been regularly shot down. Of course, smaller swarm drones have had some success but, again, that's been against totally unprepared defenses.

      So, you might want to consider the degree of success you want to attribute to UAVs in light of possible combat operations. I see limited usefulness for UAVs in war unless we drastically change our doctrine for using them (I've advocated small, cheap, expendable ISR drones which the Navy seems to have no interest in).

  9. My thoughts on each of these, with a couple more thrown in:

    Burkes Early Retired and Replaced With Unmanned Vessels – I think cheap, expendable unmanned vehicles make sense for ISRT (intel/surveil/recon/targeting) missions, but not as substitutes for manned combat ships. In my proposed fleet, each cruiser would be set up to launch, recover, and operate about 100 of them.

    Carriers Reduced to 9 – The Navy needs at least 12 CVBGs, and they should be two-carrier groups. Obviously we can’t even remotely afford 24 Fords, and 12 is an extravagant waste. Build Nimitzes and use the savings to build conventional CVs/CVLs. I would use LHAs/LHDs as interim “Lightning Carriers” until those conventional CVs/CVLs come into the fleet.

    Air Wing Size Reduced To Less Than 60 Aircraft – Air wings need to be 85-ish, with 30 VF, 20 VA, 12 S-3 (6 ASW/patrol, 5 tanker, 1 COD), 5 AEW, 5 AE, 7 helo, 1 V-22, 5 drones. I would start phasing the missions not directly related to amphibious support/CAS from Marine air, and move Marine F/A-18 squadrons into Navy CVWs.

    Entire LCS Fleet Retired Early – Absolutely. Couldn’t happen fast enough. Only problem is that we can’t get back the SINKEXed Perrys and Spruances in return.

    Ballistic Missile Submarines Eliminated – The Navy could build a lot more unmanned ships if they didn’t have to pay to build and operate SSBNs. Yes, but I’d rather have 12 SSBNs than 200 unmanned ships. The SSBNs may be the single most essential piece of military hardware in a peer war. Giving them up would be lunacy.

    Amphibious Ships Eliminated – I would go back to smaller amphibs like what we had in a 1970s-era PhibRon. I would transfer the LHAs/LHDs to interim “Lightning Carriers,” to be replaced by conventional CVs/CVLs as their service lives expire and those ships come into the fleet, and I would convert the San Antonios into the ABM/BMD ships proposed by HII on the same hull.

    As far as Marines giving up tanks, artillery, and amphibious assault, I think that is incredibly stupid. I can see the Marines involving into a combination of commando and littoral combat forces. Maybe merge SOCOM and the Marines into a Royal Marines type commando force of around 30,000, with Army, Navy, and Air Force keeping about 10,000 Green Berets/SEALs/AFSOCs each, for a total special operations force of around 60,000. The amphibious assault capability that I would envision would include about 32,000 Marines in MEUs, and using the Marines 3:1 ratio, would require a total of about 96,000 FMF. Add 15-25,000 for admin and overhead, and you’d have a Corps of around 140-150,000, which seems a reasonable size. Army would focus on overland conventional warfare, Marines on littoral and commando/special operations.

    1. Your arguments against the various possibilities are all valid, however, that was not the point. The point was to try to contemplate the unthinkable. If you view the possible actions through the Navy's warped lens, some of the actions become almost downright inevitable!

      The point was to consider the Navy's (and Marine's) past unthinkable actions and, with that precedent, then ponder whether the possibilities cited might actually occur, no matter how insane they might appear to us. Frighteningly, I have to believe that one or more WILL happen. In fact, I rate a couple of them as inevitable.

    2. Understand your point. Just trying to point out how ludicrous all of them (except ditching the LCSs) area. Unfortunately, ditching the LCSs is the one thing that probably won't happen.

    3. "Unfortunately, ditching the LCSs is the one thing that probably won't happen."

      Well, that just cut straight to the heart of the Navy's problems!

  10. Too true. Knowing the state of Navy leadership, I can't really think of anything to actually refute any of the items listed in your article.

    Considering that, is it possible that what we are seeing in both Navy and USMC thinking is the result of the great purge of high-ranking officers instigated by Obama?

    Was his goal to turn the Military leadership into ineffectual yes men more concerned with the military industrial complex and with messaging and ideology than with warfighting? People who are convinced whatever ends always justify the means (ie. Cutting capability and lying to secure funding, ship naming being more political than traditional)? I don't say that to be overly political myself, but (to quote you) is it not unthinkable? I am sure these people always exist, bit it seems now they dominate the current leadership?

    Regardless of intentions of that purge, it it not what we are left with?

    On an only slightly related aside, as an aviation enthusiast, I would actually love to see the A-10 replaced if they had an adequate replacement. Funny enough, I think a modern equivalent to the A-7 would be perfect for that. Something with much higher speed and range than the warthog, with a similar payload capacity, reliability, and loiter time. All this while utilizing more modern avionics seems not only possible but readily affordable with off the shelf or existing components/avionics.

    1. I don't doubt your thoughts regarding the impact of the purge, but without getting political it is clear that whatever the cause, the problem is real.

      I really think that if I were president or SecDef, I would summon all the senior flag and general officers into a meeting and say, "Look, I've been watching and evaluating the decisions you have been making, and I've come to the conclusion that you are all f****** idiots. So as of now, I'm in charge of decisions and you're in charge of doing what I tell you to do. And if you can't handle that, we can process your resignations today."

      Next I would give all selection boards specific guidance to promote warriors instead of paper shufflers. In that regard, one thing I've wondered about is making all flag and general officer selection boards joint. I'm not sure whether the primary effect would be to reduce inter service rivalry or simply to cultivate a new type of "yes" men. I want senior officers who will fight for their service, but I also want them fight for the USA and taxpayers. And I don't want them fighting for Boeing or LockMart or Raytheon or whomever. I would consider something like if you retire and go to work for a defense contractor, your retirement benefits don't kick in until you retire from that contractor.

    2. "...if I were president or SecDef, I would summon all the senior flag and general officers into a meeting and say, "Look, I've been watching and evaluating the decisions you have been making, and I've come to the conclusion that you are all f****** idiots..."

      Absolutely!! We need some house cleaning done desperately!! Any way one of us can somehow get that job??? 😁
      I was hoping the current Pres was gonna go down that road, especially when he started complaining about the Ford and its issues, but it never really happened... Probably even less likely in the future...

  11. SSBNs will never be retired. It is only really reliable deterrence tool USA has. Abondoning od SSBNs will be suicide without abandonig such things like anti-russian policy at Ukraine, countering China and generally world policing.

    ICBMs and bombers aren't so reliable as people believe.

    1. "SSBNs will never be retired."

      Almost any admiral in 1930: "The battleship will never be retired" … Fifteen years later, the battleship was gone.

      Anybody in 1902: "Man will never fly" … Sixteen years later, dogfights in WWI.

      And the list goes on almost endlessly.

      An Anonymous reader today: "SSBNs will never be retired" … hmm, we'll see.

      I love people who make absolute statements because they're almost always wrong!

    2. Why do we need an SSBN when the sub can be a UUV and just blow up when it gets there. Or even why not a UUV built around the missile. When signalled, tilt upward, blow the front off and launch. Might have to when the opposition can afford to park a sub or UUVs outside the sub base.

    3. The US Navy is developing nuclear armed Tomahawk cruise missiles that can be fired from any ship or submarine, or air launched. This is far, far cheaper and more flexible than SSBNs. They wont' have the range to hit some inland targets, although aircraft with tanker support could help. But nearly all targets in China would be in range.

    4. "But nearly all targets in China would be in range."

      Uh, no, not really. Not in any practical sense. Depending on where you measure, central China is a thousand miles from the coast and western China is multiple thousands of miles. Yes, there are many targets within 500 miles of the coast but even those require that the launch platform be within a few hundred miles of the coast. If we've managed to roll back the A2/AD defenses to that point, we don't need nuclear cruise missiles. If we've mismanaged a war or are losing to the point that we need nuclear missiles, we need to be able to deliver them from outside the first island chain which is offset from the coast by a thousand miles.

      Tomahawk cruise missiles are woefully obsolete. They're slow, non-stealthy, non-maneuverable, and have few or no penetration aids. In the modern battlefield context they're what's called a target drone - utterly non-survivable against a peer defender unless launched in massive salvos of hundreds or thousands.

      A tactical nuclear cruise missile might be of value but that's an entirely separate topic with its own immense problems.

    5. I would not be surprised to see dedicated air defense drones flying CAP just to shot down slower cruise missiles such as the Tomahawk, in the near future.

    6. "dedicated air defense drones flying CAP"

      Now that's a really interesting concept that I had never considered. Good thought!

    7. The Navy is dusting off TLAM-Ns?? Thats nothing new to be developed... They were carried by many ships with VLS, and some in box launchers in the 80s and 90s. Not sure exactly when the Tomanuke left the fleet but its been a while...

  12. I ansolutely think the Navy will try every year to retire a CVN. Whether Congress eventually relents is the question, and hopefully they continue to shut that down. Id love to see the committees become informed and more involved. See them question Fords vs Nimitzes. Question why Columbia is so expensive. Question if we actually need nuclear bombers anymore. Question why we're still building LCS. Question what a tank and arty-less Corps van actually accomplish. Question why we practically have an Admiral for every ship...
    Clearly if we continue to let the mentals run the asylum, and Congress continues to buy the BS that DOD is selling, these predictions are all quite likely im afraid...

    1. The others that I would like to see questioned include:
      - CBO estimates the Virginia replacement to cost $5.5B apiece? Why the 80% cost increase from the Virginias? And the Navy estimates te cost as $3.4B. Why such a wide discrepancy in cost estimates?
      - CBO estimates the SSGN replacements to cost $7.8B each, based on adapting Columbia. How much would it cost just to build more adapted Ohios? Why not do that?

    2. Exactly!! Arguably the Ohios are the stealthiest subs ever to put to sea... So why not just build a fresh batch with current systems??? Dust off the prints n build em!! Kind of a no-brainer!!

    3. "CBO estimates the Virginia replacement to cost $5.5B apiece? Why … ?"

      I wouldn't even call that an estimate. There are no specs or requirements for the new sub. It's pure speculation. CBO just took the Seawolf and factored in cost of living plus unspecified 'improvements' and made up a number. You've focused on that number but you really shouldn't treat it as anything more than a blind guess, at this point.

    4. "You've focused on that number but you really shouldn't treat it as anything more than a blind guess, at this point."

      I've focused on that number because it's the only number I've been given. Except for the Navy's $3.4B number, with seems utterly absurd.

      Navy, here's what you can do:
      1) You can build half your SSNs as Virginias, including VPMs, or something else for the substantially same price (and $5.5B is not remotely close to substantially the same price)
      2) You can build the other half as smaller, cheaper (roughly half the price each), and at least theoretically harder to find subs.

      Every two subs, one of each. The yards should be able to turn out the smaller ships faster, which should help solve the numbers problem. Instead of 40 Virginias, we should be able to build 25 Virginias (including VPMs) and 25 of the smaller subs. And have money left over to build 10 SSKs for choke point interdiction.

      ComNavOps, I know you don't like building to cost or SSKs, but that's the only way we are going to drive any cost discipline into these idiots.

    5. "building to cost"

      There's a fundamental problem, here. If you build to cost without addressing why the cost is too high in the first place, you'll just wind up with a stripped down, inferior vessel.

      What's needed is to address the root cause of high costs, correct/reduce those, and THEN build to cost (I'm just playing along, here, because you never build to cost).

      Our ships aren't overpriced because they're not built to cost, they're overpriced because of root problems like overhead being distributed to too few ships (the volume issue), govt tendency to back out of contracts which inflates industry bids, widespread specification of unnecessary equipment (dual band radar on Ford which the program manager stated was a mistake of his), and so on.

      Eliminate the root causes and then the pricing will take care of itself.

    6. Without diving down the rabbit whole, just use the 2020 budget proposal. First 28 boats had no VPM and their combined average cost 2,617.635M. The current VPM boats in the 2019-2025 when ordered 2 per year range between 3,203.567M and 3,741.839M. The budget for the single boat this year before the second is added was 4,946.733M. The Navy's own estimate to complete the final 7 projected boats in the next block buy is 4,644.812M. With the first boat authorized at the tail end of the 2020s and production really picking up later with eventual block buy later in the 2030s 5.5B will feel low by then.

    7. I'm not sure where you're getting your numbers. The FY2020 Navy SCN budget shows the following buys for FY2020-FY2024 (Vol 1-42):

      2020 3 $9,274.442M $3.1M ea
      2021 2 $6,161.822M $3.1M ea
      2022 2 $6,494.076M $3.2M ea
      2023 2 $6,631.890M $3.3M ea
      2024 2 $6,803.748M $3.4M ea

    8. Those were cut and past from FY 2021 proposed.

    9. "There's a fundamental problem, here. If you build to cost without addressing why the cost is too high in the first place, you'll just wind up with a stripped down, inferior vessel."

      Not if you do it right. Get the ship you need, get it priced out, adjust if you need to, and then build to that cost.

      What causes it to get out of hand is the, "Oh, let's just add this or that," mentality that leads to change orders. Shipyards love that, because that's where they make their money. But it's a huge waste for the rest of us to pay for.

      "Eliminate the root causes and then the pricing will take care of itself."

      Design what you need, adjust the design to fit any cost constraints, and then build what you designed for the price you designed it to cost. Probably more build to design than build to cost.

    10. That is pretty accurate. We could buy the little ships just based on large ship change orders.
      2020 CVN 152M
      2021 LPD 31M
      2021 DDGs 29M

  13. It would be wise to cut two carriers. Use the savings to add two more carrier air wings and add aircraft to the remaining carriers. Put one wing a Guam incorporating Marine Corp F-35s based in Australia and Hawaii. Put one in the Persian Gulf. These will have a sea control mission, but use land bases. During World War II, most aircraft that fought in the Pacific flew from land bases.

  14. Unthinkable.
    1.Scrap the carrier's completely as the airforce promise with ultra long range drones they can be anywhere in the sky and do any mission.
    2. Marines are absorbed into the army as it is thought more flexible.
    3 No more SSBN's as the new space force will provide the nuclear in space.
    4. All DDG's replaced with Small stealthy motherships to control fleets of in manned ships round them.
    Don't shout at me, I'm just thinking what I think is unthinkable but others may not as Donald Rumsfeld might say.

    1. The idea of a space based nuclear deterrent instead of the submarine based is interesting. They might be more susceptible to destruction, though.

    2. I was under the impression that space based weapons were illegal due to multiple treaties..(??) I thought even ASATs were banned, and that the rumors about Russian KillerSats, if true, would be violations...

    3. Technically, your idea is slightly incorrect. The way I understand it is the Outer Space Treaty bans the use and placement of WMDs and nuclear. Everything else is a free for all. So technically, CNO's proposition would be illegal but we have pulled out before when Russia failed to comply with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Same reasoning might be used to facilitate this if it affects US interests.

  15. "Entire LCS Fleet Retired Early"

    LCS is a strategic mistake. These ships have little use. They should be retired and sold immediately (as poor Saudi been conned and forced to buy some). This would free up money.

    LCS were designed to attack nations without strong navy. They rely on foreign bases to achieve the goal.

    Have you ever seen LCS performed any useful missions? apart few "freedom of passages" to provoke China knowingly China would not attack. Even in these missions, crews understood that Chinese ships accompany it could sink it at will.

    1. "Have you ever seen LCS performed any useful missions?"

      They've given our tugs good practice towing them home from deployments.

    2. CDR Chip, you failed to see the prospects of the amazing LCS. We have seen before the Spruance class getting SINKEX with relatively little damage and that's really underwhelming in my humble opinion. Just imagine the LCS getting hit by an AShM, would that make for a spectacular explosion? That's gonna solve the manning issues as well, a lot of young people are already sold from the explosion itself! I just got two birds with one stone. Your welcome, Navy!

      On a slightly unrelated note, I need to scale down my sarcasm in these comments. It's taking a real toll on me ;)

    3. See the LCSs to billionaires!

      They're fast, can handle helos and have lots of room for storing alcohol, drugs and prostitutes.

      Biggest superyacht/party boat ever?

    4. "We have seen before the Spruance class getting SINKEX with relatively little damage"


    5. CNO, nothing really passes your all seeing and all knowing intellect, is it? They should make you the model for the sensors and then Navy's networked warfare might get a chance at it.

      That said, I will note that the statement is factually incorrect if taken at face value. The intention of the statement is ridicule the the LCS generally non-existent survivability compared to the Spruance Class standards. Of course, there is a lot of exaggeration at play here as but it does give me an interesting thought. Care to comment?

      The SINKEX is more akin to a product demonstration (from my observation) and validation where one by one tests are conducted and data are recorded to be analyze. After the first two or three tests, the Spurance class seems generally to hold up pretty well. AS in, they survived the attack but combat incapable. This begs the question that what level of survivability standards we should be aiming at?

      Here is why I ask, for all practical purposes, any military has limited amount of missiles to expend during a mission. For China, it maybe 300 antiship missiles at most (just a wild guess) per counter-attack. Now let's assume that the Navy's focus on AAW has paid back divinely, about 90%-95% missiles have been neutralized. The remaining 5%-10% of missiles will be dealt with the close in weapon systems but it is inevitable that no matter latter or sooner, leakers will get through. The question is since there is an extremely limited numbers (3-4?) of missiles that may get through and spread out different targets for an entire carrier group. For most cases, would the escort then only need to survive a single hit?

      Of course, I think playing with the numbers will yield different results but two or three hits seems pretty feasible? I understand that we maybe aiming at combat capable but this sometimes is infeasible. I am trying to understand the bare minimum for staying alive -- not sunk!

    6. "I am trying to understand the bare minimum for staying alive -- not sunk!"

      Honestly, you've pretty much lost me on this entire comment. I'm not sure exactly what you're saying or asking?

      You're making some reference to Spruance SINKEXes but I'm not sure what/why? I would just generally note that SINKEX ships are prepared for sinking with all watertight doors left open, automated damage control deactivated/removed, tanks emptied, etc. The subject ships are SUPPOSED to sink and fairly easily. To try to infer a ship's inherent damage resistance from a SINKEX is not possible, if that's what you meant.

      As far as the minimum amount of damage resistance we should design for, the old Level 3 survivability requirement kind of says it all. A ship should be able to take hits and continue to fight until it is literally pounded beneath the waves. I refer you to the incredible amounts of hits and damage our WWII ships routinely sustained. THAT'S a warship.

      As I said, I'm really not sure what point(s) you were trying to make so if I've misunderstood, please try again.

      "CNO, nothing really passes your all seeing and all knowing intellect, is it? They should make you the model for the sensors and then Navy's networked warfare might get a chance at it."

      You seem to be criticizing me for something but I'm really not sure what. Feel free to offer any criticism as long as it's done politely. Just try to be a bit more specific.

    7. "Sell the LCSs to billionaires!"

      Billionaires don't get to be billionaires by spending money stupidly.

    8. CNO, As I have noted in my comment, The whole thing is a humorous jab at the LCS survivability. Nothing more and nothing less. It was really never intended to be taken seriously.

      "CNO, nothing really passes your all seeing and all knowing intellect, is it? They should make you the model for the sensors and then Navy's networked warfare might get a chance at it."

      This comment is just another attempt of sarcasm that failed to get through. It was not intended as an attack on you personally, just a (funny?) remark made about your astute observation.

      Now for the second part of my second comment, I have tried to offer a scenario where escorts may not needed to be as survivable. You have mentioned "level 3 survivability requirements" which I noted that this should have been the basis for all ships in a perfect world.

      For practical purpose, I think this may never be realized. The reasoning is the complicated electronics and super sensitive systems are too fragile to protect sufficiently to the point of getting hit and move on. You can see this somewhat with our current destroyers in incidents as opposed to WW2 standards on. Most other countries' ships are also including as fragile systems as ours. I wanted to see if we can find the medium between the level 3 and the current destroyers.

      I think that we can implement a complex-simple mix of ships built to different standards. My argument is for a much stringent standard for complicate mix so that it may survive in battles not to continue fighting. As I have given my scenario above, I see that at most, there would be two or three missiles hit a single ship in the rarest scenario. Most ships will only get one missile hit per operation. I concluded that the ship just needed to be built to survive up to two missiles hit. Now I was asking if you have any inputs on this standard? Again the target here is to find the middle between the current destroyers survivability and Level 3. I am trying to understand the bare minimum for staying alive.

      Another question, I like to ask though: in an older post, you noted that the carriers lies in the same level 3 survivability requirements as a destroyer. I was under the impression that they were built to different standards, the carrier being extremely survivable. I thought that only the battleship can rival the survivability of a carrier. Can destroyers can actually be as survivable of a carrier?

    9. You may be misunderstanding what the levels of survivability are and mean. Note, these are the original levels before they were modified to accommodate the LCS which could not meet even Level 1.

      "Level I represents the least severe environment anticipated and excludes the need for enhanced survivability for designated ship classes to sustain operations in the immediate area of an engaged Battle Group or in the general war-at-sea region. In — this category, the minimum design capability required shall, in
      addition to the inherent sea keeping mission, provide for EMP and shock hardening, individual protection for CBR, including decontamination stations, the DC/FF capability to control and recover from conflagrations and include the ability to operate in a high latitude environment.

      Level II represents an increase of severity to include the
      ability for sustained operations when in support of a battle Group and in the general war-at-sea area. This level shall provide the ability for sustained combat operations following weapons impact. Capabilities shall include the requirements of Level I plus primary and support system redundancy, collective protection system, improved structural integrity and subdivision, fragmentation protection, signature reduction, conventional and nuclear blast protection and nuclear hardening.

      Level III, the most severe environment projected for combatant Battle Groups, shall include the requirements of Level II plus the ability to deal with the broad degrading effects of damage from anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMS), torpedoes and mines."

      The levels talk about redundancy, protective systems, EMP and shock hardening, signature reduction, fragmentation protection, compartmentation, and other measures. There is one other critical statement in the survivability document:

      "Ship protection features, such as armor, shielding and
      signature reduction, together with installed equipment hardened to appropriate standards, constitute a minimum baseline of survivability."

      Note that armor is considered a baseline requirement and yet we've abandoned it in direct violation of the standard.

      In any event, the survivability levels do not guarantee the same OUTCOME for various ships (destroyer versus carrier, for example), only the same EFFORT, PROCEDURES, AND EQUIPMENT. Obviously, a carrier, being immensely bigger than a destroyer, has much more compartmentation to sustain buoyancy, more personnel available for damage control, much more fire fighting equipment, much more mass to absorb and disperse explosive shocks, etc. However, both the destroyer and carrier have the same types of equipment and standards - ie) they both meet the same standards, though not the same results. Both have redundancy. Both have shock hardening. Both have armor commensurate with their size. Both have reduced signatures to the extent possible given their inherent shapes, and so on.

      Does that make the issue clearer?

      The full survivability standard is remarkably short and succinct and can be read as OPNAV Instruction 9070.1. It's readily available with an Internet search.

    10. I guess it does. I might have equaled the levels of survivability with the damage that a ship can sustain in a hit. I think my issue may not be related to the SINKEX or survivability standards at all. Maybe I need to explore my concept more and probably then I could offer a better thought. I guess we will revisit this topic in hopefully not-so-distant future.

      Thanks for the reference, it's helpful!

    11. I would offer you a final common sense thought …

      A WARship that cannot sustain a hit and continue to fight effectively is not a WARship. It is a one-hit kill of almost no value in war. We're currently spending multi-billions on ships that cannot effectively fight hurt. This makes no sense.

      I urge you to read the WWII accounts of ships fighting EFFECTIVELY even as they're being slowly battered to pieces. THAT'S a WARship. Many of those were able to survive their battering, be repaired, and return to the war effort. That's value for the dollar.

      The ships we're designing and building today are not WARships - they're a joke … a pale imitation of a WARship.

  16. Assuming the Columbias are all built (let's say 50/50 chance) and they serve out their expected lives like the Ohios (again 50/50), it's tough to predict the deterrence requirements in 2070.

    Taking the VPM as a guide along with the military's tendency for building multi-purpose ships; I wouldn't be surprised to see nuclear warheads spread amongst SSNs.

    I'm not saying it makes perfect sense but I wouldn't consider it unthinkable.

    Assuming weapon accuracy continues to increase one can get away with smaller nuclear warheads.

    If I can get decent range on an air-breathing mach 10 missile with a nuclear warhead do I even need ballistic missiles?

    I know the math isn't this simple but I can get ~30 VPM boats for the price 10 columbia class.

    Sure they won't be as good as a dedicated SSBN nor carry the same payload. But quantity is its own quality.

    All that said, I am not suggesting this as a course of action; I don't know nearly enough on such matters. Merely commenting why I don't view an end of dedicated SSBNs as "unthinkable".

  17. "Once you recognize the Navy’s real objectives – to put new hulls in the water and to reduce manning to zero"

    But why are those the objectives? What do they accomplish with respect to war winning? And shouldn't all of the Navy's objectives be derived from war winning?

    1. "But why are those the objectives?"

      That's the one part of the Navy I can't crack. I can observe what they do. I can predict what they'll do with uncanny accuracy. However, I can't explain the why. Otherwise intelligent individuals make consistently stupid decisions and I can't explain why.

    2. I can offer one possible explanation. The Pentagon has become the province of bureaucrats. And every bureaucrat has three priorities, in order:

      1. My career
      2. My agency and its reputation
      3. What I am supposed to be doing

      I don't see any way out but to fire the lot of them.

    3. "1. My career"

      That's undoubtedly true but it doesn't explain the fixation on new hulls over maintenance, readiness, etc. One can further one's career in many ways. New hulls has no particular career enhancing property especially since the people initiating the buys are long gone by the time the acquisition comes to fruition.

      I remain baffled.

    4. When my career includes Boeing or LockMart or HII or whichever defense contractor after retiring, I think it becomes somewhat less baffling. But I agree, it is still somewhat incredible.

  18. The Unthinkable:
    Severe budget cuts and congressional scepticism lead to the FFG being cut entirely (and the FLTIII Burkes) and the "already in production" LCS, with new "unmanned vehicle mothership" modules expands production.
    Ford production is halted after the JFK. A Nimitz is retired early, along with the scheduled decom of Nimitz herself. Air wings cut to 7. The bean counters and the Marines get the Lightning Carrier to become the future focus of naval aviation.
    After the ruckus the Air Force causes about the cost of Columbia, the program is cut by half. But in a suprise move in response by the Navy, the VPM is augmented/replaced with 4 silo modules, turning the attack subs into ICBM capable boats as well.
    In a move to further reduce manning, the Navy sidesteps Congress' insecurity with unmanned ships, and gets a production run of 75 Sea Hunters. The Navy press releases for the next decade are chock full of Officers comments about how theyre "figuring out new and exciting" uses for them...

    1. Pretty sure the second Sea Hunter is the end of the line. Start thinking MUSV. 3x 5 times bigger by displacement. About the same or less money.

  19. The US Navy's "planning" is solely to advance the military-industrial complex's balance sheet and career advancement, not actual warfare.

    By cutting manpower, there is more money that can be spent on high-tech ships and conceptual systems. This advances various careers in the service, DoD, Capitol Hill, and the major defense contractors.

    If you note, a lot of programs are now focusing on networked systems, sensors, code, etc. There isn't much money to be made in producing capital goods (trucks, planes, rifles, iron bombs, etc.). That's just "boring" manufacturing that isn't going to give you much profit margin and has little relevance to what corporate America understands as the future of business (tech, AI, machine learning, etc.)

    You're not going to get promoted in either the service or in business by just making an iterative product.

    You'll also note how these systems can go on for years of cost overruns, delays, and other failures without anyone being penalized in any way. Failures in leadership are never identified and names are never named.

    I will further state that, certainly for the Navy, there is a realization that actual combat with a peer is out of the question. There is no thought-out US strategy that involves the US Navy. Otherwise you would have robust discussions about how many assets, performing what types of tasks, and in what locations are needed. In this vacuum, basically people can "brainstorm" combat concepts, initiate a major program to implement it and move on before the consequences ever come home to roost.

    This is how you sell people on the concept of the F-35 providing a "networked fusion of sensors" but don't actually have any system for receiving and using that data. There is no overall picture of how we would fight a major war with how all of the parts would fit together and be used in a given place and time.

  20. I'll further explain my comment about no US strategy, especially in terms of China.

    The US strategy towards China is compromised by competing visions that we lack the political will to resolve. The US desires access to China's vast economy and population for the products of US corporations. The US also desires access to cheap labor to increase profits for US corporations. As a result China is our largest trading partner and we have about double the trade with them that we do with our next two Asian partners (Japan and South Korea) combined. Loss of access to Chinese markets and manufacturing would be a disaster for the US economy.

    On the other hand, the US wants to be able to influence foreign policy, trade, and other policies with China.

    To the best of my knowledge, there are no major defense treaties between the US and China aside from the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Likewise, I am not aware of any major bilateral trade agreements between the US and China. I believe most US-China trade is under WTO terms.

    Since the US does not have any treaty framework to work in, and doesn't have any economic leverage, then we have to use either more direct diplomatic or military influence. China's defense policy for decades has been to build a defense force that can resist US military pressure. They have a nuclear deterrent and are building a defensive barrier so that traditional US means for force projection (carriers and marines) are not viable.

    And remember China, unlike Japan, is land power. Any strategy to militarily defeat China has to defeat one of the largest armies in the world on their turf.

    I know CNO has proposed a strategy of bombardment to defeat China, but I don't believe it will work. Historically it hasn't worked and China is really, really big with some very rugged terrain. If we can't defeat the Taliban and its leadership, we can't defeat China with conventional weapons.

    In the meantime, the Navy is claiming to need money to build our warfighting capability with China, while at the same time our trade deficit pays for Chinese defense spending, and directly contributes to Chinese infrastructure, technology, and industrial capabilities. And that's leaving aside Chinese spying and technological theft, which we are reluctant to do much about for all of the above reasons.

    As long as the US fails to decide between trade and defense in its relationship with China, we will have no effective strategy.

    1. "I know CNO has proposed a strategy of bombardment to defeat China, but I don't believe it will work."

      You've missed the concept by a bit. I'm not proposing a WWII style, general bombing campaign. You're correct, those don't work. I've proposed a very targeted campaign aimed specifically at academic and military-industrial facilities so that upon conclusion of the war, China will not have the ability to reconstitute another military.

      That's a vastly different and smaller set of targets and very focused. Honestly, the academic targets are the more important because that's where the research and design for a future military would come from. Destroy that and you destroy the capacity to regenerate a military.

    2. You were very clear in your original post, my summary far less so.

      T0 address this specifically, even a very targeted bombardment strategy still runs into the perennial problem of bomb damage assessment. How do you know you have destroyed what you wanted to destroy, especially when the enemy has a very powerful incentive to make you think you did destroy the target?

      Given the sheer size of China and the central governments control over vital infrastructure, it seems like it would be almost trivial for them to move their high value R&D underground in their vast interior. That would greatly limit the number of weapon platforms the US can use, requires greatly increased accuracy to damage hardened targets, and further complicates DBA.

      If we accept the validity of this type of strategy, it just means that the Navy isn't terrible relevant as this would be more of an USAF show. The Navy could be relevant, but it would require a massive organizational transformation which would upset too many apple carts (and careers and defense contracts). Which brings me back to my point that the Navy isn't really interested in fighting a war with China, other than to argue for a bigger budget.

    3. "it just means that the Navy isn't terrible relevant as this would be more of an USAF show."

      Half right and half wrong! It would be a USAF show BUT the Navy would play an immensely important role by eliminating the defensive impediments to the USAF. The Navy would eliminate the Chinese naval AAW capability and establish local air superiority for USAF attack routes (escorting AF bombers, in a sense, by establish safe fly zones). Hence, my call for the carrier as an air superiority platform rather than the traditional strike platform. The posts all tie together!

    4. That's an excellent strategy and exactly the sort of thinking I'm accusing the US services, particularly the Navy, of avoiding. It also goes back to your point about needing a CONOPS. I would go further and state that the CONOPS needs to be driven by an actual, specific strategy. "We need to ensure we can reinforce our forces in Europe via sea lanes." "We need to make deep air strikes against targets far into the Chinese mainland for a prolonged period (while ensuring we don't provoke Russia)."

      And I completely agree, it should all tie together, except that the services practice acquisition on a project basis, not on a "how does it fit into our strategy" basis. It's acquisition based on making something really cool. Updated Spruances and Perrys are boring. LCSs and Zumwalts and EMALs and "distributed lethality" sound cool.

  21. And I'll wrap up this time on my soapbox now.

    Now, maybe somewhere deep within the Pentagon there is a secret office where they have a map and a plan on how to fight a war with China under the current conditions. But I highly doubt it.

    Ultimately China is a land power and they only need a navy to protect their trade routes and to keep the US Navy out of their backyard. Their island defense chain accomplishes the latter and they are rapidly working on land routes to eliminate their vulnerability in the former. Plus, how exactly would we go about interdicting Chinese maritime trade with our own allies and partners?

    So as long as China can keep US naval forces at a distance, they win. US naval power cannot impose US political will on China through either firepower or occupation. China has way too much geography and has way too large an army for either to work. I should also say I disagree with CNO’s suggestion that it might be possible to neutralize the Chinese state with bombardment. There are very few examples of this working historically and China has too much rough geography for this to be effective. This would be, at best, like Afghanistan on a much more massive scale.

    And the Chinese will ensure they have just enough nuclear deterrence capability to prevent the US from considering strategic weapons.

    All of the talk about the Marines landing on islands (which islands exactly?), distributed lethality, drone swarms, and A2/AD warfare is just glorified tactics. Unless there is a discussion on how to maintain a large land-air military force in high intensity combat on the far side of the Pacific for an extended time, then we aren’t addressing the fundamental question of how the US can apply sufficient military power to force China to accept US dictates.

    1. I tend to agree with most of this, which is why I have favored an approach the ComNavOps has labeled as containment. Well, containment is how we won Cold War I versus the Soviets.

      China does not have a blue-water navy that can contest the USA, or anyone else, on the high seas. Two reduced capability carriers and a few noisy nuke subs do not get them there, and they are some years away from being there. What they are building, and do have, is a navy that can intimidate its neighbors into submission. And that is what they are doing with it.

      It kind of reminds me of the story about the kid who used to steal your lunch money every day back in school. They've kind of learned from us, because that's kind of how we've treated the world. But in the school lunch money story, one day your big brother showed up and beat the crap out of him, and then he didn't bother you any more. What's happened to us in our version of the story is that nobody beat us up, but a few have bloodied our noses, and when they have we have cowered and backed down. Nobody has backed China down yet, but if we decided to play big brother (in the school lunch story version, not the 1984 version) I think we could keep them off the first island chain. Let them have their little games inside the SCS, but they don't get any of the first island chain, and their ability to project further is limited.

      The real war with China is economic, not military. And that is the one that, right now, we are losing--badly.

    2. I agree with your last point and would frame the question as "why is our largest trading partner also our primary strategic threat?". And realize we can't impose economic sanctions against China since they are a WTO member. So our biggest stick is not available for us to use.

      And I agree with your point about learning from history. In essence, the CCP analyzed the mistakes the USSR made in terms of economic and trade policy. For example, they came up with a policy that allows most of the benefits of a market economy while still giving the central government a high degree of economic control.

  22. "I agree with your last point and would frame the question as "why is our largest trading partner also our primary strategic threat?". And realize we can't impose economic sanctions against China since they are a WTO member. So our biggest stick is not available for us to use."

    We unfortunately don't really have a lot of sticks to use in this effort. That means it is going to be very difficult, not that we should not try. Given the uproar over CV-19, there could be a very strong consumer preference to boycott anything made in China, but so far that hasn't really materialized. Whatever we do would have to be deigned by people more knowledgeable about trade policy than I am.

    "And I agree with your point about learning from history. In essence, the CCP analyzed the mistakes the USSR made in terms of economic and trade policy. For example, they came up with a policy that allows most of the benefits of a market economy while still giving the central government a high degree of economic control."

    The Chinese system is almost more fascist than communist. And it has been very effective for them. We do okay with free market entrepreneurship, which I favor, but that does take our economy more in the direction favored by entrepreneurial profit than the direction guided by national security interests.

    1. "We unfortunately don't really have a lot of sticks to use in this effort."

      This is utterly incorrect. We have all the sticks we need. What we lack is a national consensus/vision and the will/courage to act on it. We have the 'sticks', right now, to remove all our manufacturing from China, evict every Chinese national from our country, cease all trade with China, impose economic sanctions, bring unceasing WTO and UNCLOS violation accusations against China, etc. Interestingly, those types of actions would create more jobs in America and the West, strengthen our economies in the long run, revitalize US manufacturing, protect American intellectual property, etc. - a huge benefit!

      Beyond those measures, we could militarily contest and destroy China's illegal islands, hound every ship that leaves China's territorial waters, forcibly confront China's attempts to violate Vietnamese and Philippine
      EEZs, harass Chinese aircraft in international airspace, etc. (you know … the same kinds of things they're doing!). All we lack is the will to do so.

      The list goes on almost endlessly. We have piles and piles of 'sticks' that we can use. What we don't have is the will to use them.

    2. I suppose I should have expanded my statement to say that we don't really have a lot of sticks that don't come at a cost, and so far we are unwilling to pay those costs. The thing is, the longer we let things go, the higher those costs become.

      We could go full-blown global thermonuclear war against China tomorrow, and probably come out way ahead in terms of winner/loser, but there would still be a huge price that so far we are unwilling to pay. At lesser levels, the cost is of course much less, but there ain't no free lunch.

      Some of the things that would be most helpful would probably run afoul of all sorts of WHO rules, but there may be subtle things can do. A simple provision that US companies had to pay US tax on any profits earned in China would create a fairly significant incentive to move out. I still like the double-edged sword that is we could get them to move to places like Indonesia and Malaysia and Singapore and Vietnam, we could use that carrot to build up alliances with those states that could become very useful.

      I think the intellectual property angle might be the biggest hammer we have. We can probably direct some significant trade restrictions against China based on that.

      The big problem I see right now is that for several reasons Silicon Valley is very comfortable with China, and SV can exert significant stroke in our domestic and political affairs.


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