Skip to comments.The Navy’s 2014: Subs, Cyber, & Cheap Support Ships
Posted on 01/06/2014 8:55:09 PM PST by Praxeologue
The Navy, is, hands down, the service in the best shape for 2014. Every act of belligerent idiocy from Beijing and thereve been a lot of them lately makes the Navy budget an easier sell. In stark contrast to the Army, the Navy has the central role in the new Pacific-focused strategy, a high-tech threat justifying high-cost programs, a highly visible role in peacetime engagement around the world, and, perhaps most crucial, a clear set of missions.
Submarines are the spearhead of the Navys Pacific vision, but thats not surprising given that the Chief of Naval Operations is a submariner. Whats less expected is how intensely Adm. Jonathan Greenert has gotten religion on electronic warfare and cyber, two things submariners historically dont have to deal with. (Of course, the Navy boasts a redoubtable history as a service on the cutting edge of intelligence, which puts them squarely in the park for cyber operations.) Greenert sees those as two sides of the same shield, a way for aircraft and surface ships to hide using the electromagnetic spectrum just as submarines have long hidden beneath the waves and under thermoclines.
The third point of Greenerts trident is something unexpected not just for a submariner but for the Navy, which is traditionally obsessed with big, costly and highly capable combatants battleships before 1941, aircraft carriers thereafter at the expense of less exciting vessels. But Greenert is pushing for larger numbers of cheaper ships, ships he admits are less battle-worthy, to handle the low-threat regions of the world and thus free up the submarines, destroyers, and other high-end combatants to concentrate on the Chinese dragon.
In some ways, its actually easier to see what Greenert is doing from Beijings perspective than from Washingtons. Imagine yourself a Peoples Liberation Army strategist standing on the shore of China looking east.
The first line of US naval forces confronting you, you cant even see, though you know theyre out there: nuclear-powered submarines, especially the newer Virginia class that both the Navy and key Congressional backers insist the government must keep buying at a rate of two a year. Chinas own sub fleet outnumbers but hardly outclasses the American ones, while Chinas most dangerous weapons, its land-based missiles, cant hit submarines. US subs can attack targets both at sea and ashore with a mix of missiles and torpedoes, and just as important they can spy, unseen, on Chinese forces including, in the near future, by launching drones and report back to the rest of the fleet.
The second line, at least, is on the surface though Greenerts emphasis on electronic warfare may well hide it behind a buzzing confusion of jamming and deceptive signals: the Arleigh Burke-class Aegis missile destroyers, which will be the workhorse of the fleet well past 2050. The surface ships are easier targets than the submarines but can carry far more missiles, not just for attack, but also for defense against incoming aircraft and ballistic missiles, making them important protectors of the fleet and bases on land.
Only in the third line do you get to aircraft carriers, shielded by the Aegis ships and by distance: While carrier advocates insist they can survive a war of long-range missiles, theres enough doubt that few commanders would push them too far forward. That fact helps explain Greenerts emphasis on new long-range and unmanned aircraft that can outrange conventional fighters.
Beyond these three lines containing China or any lesser power that either replicates or purchases Chinese equipment youll find the rest of the Navy doing missions around the world: amphibious warfare ships deploying Marines to disputed islands or disaster zones, Littoral Combat Ships clearing the seas of mines or small armed boats, and, increasingly, ships crewed not by Navy sailors but civilians.
We have a need for 35 amphib[ious] ships, Adm. Greenert told reporters at a US Naval Institute conference back in October, but the Navy just cannot afford that many. So to free up battle-worthy amphibs for missions in high-threat zones say the South China Sea or the Persian Gulf the Navy is increasingly building non-combatant ships to handle low-threat missions: the small Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV), derived from an Australian ferry, and the large Mobile Landing Platform (MLP), derived from a commercial oil tanker. (Some MLPs will have flight decks, upgrading them to something called an Afloat Forward Staging Base or AFSB).
Operated by Military Sealift Command and crewed by civilians, the JHSVs and MLPs are cheaper substitutes for the amphibs and can perform just as well in peacetime missions like disaster relief or even wartime missions against poorly armed opponents. Said Greenert, they resonate better with the type of operation that we are currently using very expensive high tech big capacity ships to do, when we could use a less expensive, very functional ship.
Greenert thinks much the same way about the Littoral Combat Ship. Originally conceived as a close quarters street fighter for shallow water warfare, the LCS is instead becoming a kind of Swiss Navy Knife, equipped with plug-and-play equipment modules still in development that let it clear mines, hunt submarines, shoot down small fast attack boats, or, if you take the modules out, just carry stuff around at the same speed as the JHSV but with better protection. The LCS is significantly more fragile than an Aegis destroyer, an amphib, or even some of the older frigates it is replacing, but Greenert sees it as sufficiently survivable and much cheaper for most Navy missions around the world. That, in turn, lets him focus his limited number of high-end ships against the high-end threat.
Not if they Cost a Billion Dollars a Pop.
You Could Reactive All Four Iowa Battleships for that Price Tag.
The Littoral Combat Ship is Under-gunned, Under Protected and Over Priced for what it is.
A Sad Excuse for a Destroyer because Actual Destroyers have grown too big for their own role.
fast and or invisible/submersible might have a role. missles will sweep the seas clean of all that floats..
LCS’s spend all their time at the dock because they are all FUBAR.
You're right. The latest Arleigh Burke class DDGs come in at about 509 ft and 9800 ton. Back in WW II a Fletcher class "can" ran about 376 ft and 2500 ton while a Cleveland class light cruiser was 600 ft and 11,800 ton.
So yeah, the modern DDGs are a lot closer to cruisers than destroyers. Heck even a modern Tico class CG comes in at 567 ft and 9800 ton - only a little longer but same displacement as the DDGs. The DDGs are cruisers in all but name.
“the Littoral Combat Ship. Originally conceived as a close quarters street fighter for shallow water warfare,,,”
Yeah,,, a surface ship with a 57mm gun, and a griffin high angle rocket launcher throwing 13 pound bombs 3 miles. Combat wise, it’s essentially a little less firepower than a Bradley followed by an M-113 with a big mortar.
That’s “street fighter” if I ever heard it. lol
If a littoral combat ship ran into a WWII Fletcher destroyer, or even a little DE, it would be slaughtered.
A littoral cannot even reliably defeat a main battle tank should the hapless littoral get a little too close to shore. And get this, a Fletcher even has a shallower draft, even though it is an actual warship.
The Littorals were also exempted from USN battle damage standards because they couldn’t hope to ever pass. These things are a joke.
It’s really embarrassing though, that we call it a littoral combat ship, when it is utterly helpless against any surface threat it could encounter from ANY foreign navy on earth.
This is a monument to defense contractors playing the congressional ATM, backed up by Navy Officers who only have the goal of being involved in a big program, and then getting a job with the contractors.
Its floating incompetence and corruption.
A twenty trillion dollar debt bespeaks a nation sliding into fecklessness on the global stage.
Ike is probably doing a good 3500rpm right about now....
bump for later
The LCS is, in reality, what the Perrys were turned into when their Mk13 Standard/Harpoon missile launchers were removed: small helicopter carriers with an ok defensive capability for very low threat areas. Only the LCS’s are somewhat faster.
To be frank, an LCS would eat a Fletcher or a DE alive. Because the Fletcher/DE could only reach out as far as it’s 5” or 3” guns. An LCS can reach outcas far as it’s MH-60Rs with their Mavericks, Penguins (I think these are still in inventory) and Hellfires.
I like the concept of having an LCS type ship in the fleet ... It saves you from having to send a Burke class DDG to handle Somali pirates, for instance. Those SEALs that rescued the container ship captain a few years back using sniper rifles could just as easily taken their killing shots from the helo deck of an LCS as from the Burke they were actually on.
The problem with the LCS is it’s cost. It’s not the cheap streetfighter it was supposed to be. The truth is that we could have license built those neat Swedish corvettes and gotten much better return on our investment ...
“The truth is that we could have license built those neat Swedish corvettes and gotten much better return on our investment ...”
It’s unlikely Congress would authorize spending money on a Swedish design if an absurdly expensive American alternative can overrun its budget in a Congressman’s state.