By Dmitry Filipoff
This past week CIMSEC hosted a topic week on alternative naval force structures. Contributors proposed new fleets with hypothetical warship designs with an eye towards future threats and technological opportunities. Others analyzed historical examples of attempts to overhaul naval force structure, and many authors applied imaginative thinking to see how the U.S. Navy can make the most of its existing fleet. The topic week’s Call for Articles may be read here. We thank our contributors for their excellent submissions.
The Perils of Alternative Force Structure by Steve Wills
“Even the best alternative force structure that meets strategic needs, is more affordable than previous capabilities, and outguns the enemy could be subject to obsolescence before most of its units are launched. These case studies in alternative force structure suggest that such efforts are often less than successful in application.”
Unmanned-Centric Force Structure by Javier Gonzalez
“The conundrum and implied assumption, with this or similar future force structure analyses, is that the Navy must have at least a vague understanding of an uncertain future. However, there is a better way to build a superior and more capable fleet—by continuing to build manned ships based on current and available capabilities while also fully embracing optionality (aka flexibility and adaptability) in unmanned systems.”
Is the U.S. Navy moving from an era of exceptional “ships of the line” – including LHA’s & LPD’s, FFG’s, CG’s, DDG’s, SSN’s and CVN’s – to one filled with USV’s, UAV’s, LCS’s, CV’s, SSK’s and perhaps something new – Long Range Patrol Vessels (LRPV’s)? But what in the world is an LRPV? The LRPV represents the 21st century version of the WWII APD – High Speed Transports.
“Designing and building new naval platforms takes time we don’t have, and there is still abundant opportunity to make the most of existing force structure. Fortunately for the Navy, histories of previous wars are a good guide for future action.”
“Luckily, the United States has three maritime services—the Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps—with different core competencies covering a broad range of naval missions. Current investments in force structure can be maximized by focusing the maritime services on their preferred missions.”
“The Navy should consider investing high-end warfighting capability in the Coast Guard to augment existing force structure and provide a force multiplier in times of conflict. A more capable Coast Guard will also be better able to defend the nation from asymmetrical threats.”
“2045 is a useful target date, as there will be very few of our Cold War era ships left by then, therefore that fleet will reflect what we are building today and will build in the future. This article proposes several new ship designs and highlights enduring challenges posed by the threat environment.”
Closing Remarks on Changing Naval Force Structure by CAPT Wayne P. Hughes Jr., USN (Ret.)
“The biggest deficiencies in reformulating the U. S. Navy’s force structure are (1) a failure to take the shrinking defense budget into account which (2) allows every critic or proponent to be like the blind men who formulated their description of an elephant by touching only his trunk, tail, leg, or tusk. To get an appreciation of the size of the problem you have to describe the whole beast, and what is even harder, to get him to change direction by hitting him over the head repeatedly.”
Dmitry Filipoff is CIMSEC’s Director of Online Content. Contact him at Nextwar@cimsec.org.
Featured Image: PHILIPPINE SEA (Oct. 2, 2016) The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) underway in the Philippine Sea. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Tyrone Pham/ Released)