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.