Category Archives: New Initiatives

July Member Round-Up

Welcome to the July 2015 Member Round-Up. Our members have had a very productive month discussing three major security topics; the rise of China, the Iranian Nuclear Deal, and the fight against ISIS. A few of the articles are shared here for some light reading over your Labor Day Weekend. If you are a CIMSEC Member and want your own maritime security-related work included in this or upcoming round-ups be sure to contact our Director of Member Publicity at dmp@cimsec.org.

Henry Holst begins our round up discussing the PLA/N’s options for submarine activity in the Taiwan Strait. His article in USNI News states that the Taiwan situation remains the driving force behind the Chinese military buildup. Holst goes into depth discussing the capabilities of the Yuan Type-39A class SSK in a standoff between China and Taiwan/US forces. This article is a must read for all who are interested in the recent developments of the Chinese submarine service.

CIMSEC’s founder, Scott Cheney-Peters, meanwhile discussed the nuances of potential joint aerial patrols in the South China Sea with CSIS’ Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) and joined fellow CIMSECian Ankit Panda from The Diplomat for a podcast discussion of India’s evolving approach to maritime security in East Asia.   Also at AMTI, Ben Purser co-authored a piece on China’s airfield construction of Fiery Cross Reef. AMTI’s director, Dr. Mira Rapp-Hooper joined others testifying before a Congressional committee on America’s security role in the South China Sea.

Zachary Keck, of The National Interest, provides the next piece. July was an especially intense month for Mr. Keck, as he wrote 25 articles in July alone. Staying in East and Southeast Asia, Mr. Keck writes that just as China has done in the South China Sea, the PRC could build artificial islands nearer to India as well. His concern is due to a constitutional amendment in Maldives that was passed in late July. This amendment allows for foreign ownership of Maldives territory.  China has rebuffed these concerns and says that they are committed to supporting “the Maldives’ efforts to maintain its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.” This piece will be of interest for those that are keeping tabs on Chinese expansionist tendencies.

Moving on from the Chinese situation and the South China Sea, Shawn VanDiver takes us to the Iranian Plateau and the Persian Gulf to discuss the Iranian nuclear deal now before Congress. He penned two articles last month describing the advantages of the deal. His first article, in Task & Purpose, describes his support for the P5+1 Talks With Iran in Geneva, Switzerlanddeal as a 12 year veteran of the United States Navy. He describes his apprehension and the sense of foreboding transiting the Strait of Hormuz at the sights of a .50 caliber machine gun. The next day his second article on the Iran deal came out in the Huffington Post. This article was slightly different as he focuses more on the stated positions of the then current crop of GOP presidential contenders and Senators. He states that the deal is a new beginning. Well worth the read if you are at all hesitating on the importance of this crucial deal.

For the last mention in our member round up, Admiral James Stavridis spent time last month discussing the role of Turkey in the current fight against ISIS. As former Supreme Commander of NATO forces, Admiral Stavridis is uniquely qualified to render judgement on the role of a critical NATO member in the region, the only one directly affected by ISIS fighters. He was interviewed on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos.  In the same vein, he penned an article in Foreign Policy discussing the importance of NATO use of Incirlik Air Base in Turkey on the Mediterranean Coast.  This base is seen as critical to the effort against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

CIMSECians were busy elsewhere too:

That is all for July. Stay tuned to CIMSEC for all your maritime security needs.

“A good Navy is not a provocation to war. It is the surest guaranty of peace.”

President Theodore Roosevelt, 2 December 1902

The views expressed above are those of the author’s.

On Books: An Interview with VADM James P. “Phil” Wisecup, USN(ret)

Vice Admiral James Wisecup recently sat down with me to chat about books and how they have shaped him throughout his career.  It was a wide-ranging discussion — covering everything from poetry, science-fiction, history, and some of his favorite authors.  Following our conversation, I purchased some of the recommendations he offers below.  Suddenly, my stack of books to read has become much, much taller.

The interview has been edited for style and length.

What do you think the state of reading is in the naval profession today?

I think everybody knows they should be reading.  I think that many naval officers are voracious readers. I’ve talked to a few of my friends in the last couple of weeks.  And one of the first things we always ask each other is: “What are you reading?” In the normal life of an active naval officer, you have to carve that time out to read, no one is going to give it to you.  If you are going to work those long days then you have to cultivate it in yourself.  And it is a lifelong thing if you do.  In formal education you can develop that, but you know, the naval officers’ ability to carve that time out to read is a personal thing, you either do or you don’t.  Unfortunately, everybody doesn’t make time to read.

What are three of your favorite biographies?  And why?

One is J.O. Richardson’s On the Treadmill To Pearl

Admiral James O. Richardson. He was relieved in 1941, shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Admiral James O. Richardson. He was relieved in 1941, shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Harbor.  Richardson was the fleet commander before Husband Kimmel.  Richardson got across the breakers with FDR over whether the fleet should stay out in Pearl Harbor and watch it diminish little by little, because there was no place to train — or to bring it back to United States for training.  Richardson wanted to bring the fleet back to the U.S.  Well, in the end, Roosevelt wanted to leave the Fleet out in Hawaii, so Richardson was asked to retire.  He was relieved by Husband Kimmel.  That’s one book I like.  I also enjoy the biography of Admiral Spruance, The Quiet Warrior.  Another book that I like is Eric Larrabee’s Commander in Chief.  Larrabee’s chapter on FDR is excellent.  All three of those books are great.   

What books do you think are timeless — ones that you would recommend to officers from ensign to admiral?  

The first book that appealed to me when I was a young officer was a book of collected essays by Jonathan Swift.  I read them when I was in my frigate wardroom.   This was years ago. These were the days before TV.  In that book was an essay he wrote on good manners and good breading.  I encourage you to read it.  It’s very interesting.  And it is where I developed some of my philosophy, some of my thinking.  The key thing he says in there, is that the person with the best manners is the person who makes others feel at ease.  When people think about manners they think about how they hold their fork, and sit, etc. But in the end what it really has to do with is a way of being.  Whether you want to put the other person at ease or make them tense. I have also recently been reading books about the Greeks.  Of course, part of that started when I was at the naval war college, with Thucydides.  J.E. Lendon wrote a book called Song Of Wrath.  And it is another take on the Peloponnesian War, and it is very interesting.   I like short stories, myself.  One is a collection of stories by Richard McKenna called The Left-Handed Monkey Wrench. It’s a hard to find book. Richard McKenna wrote the well-known book called The Sand Pebbles. Well, The Left-Handed Monkey Wrench is a series of stories that he tells of essentially the old Navy.  But what the book really is, is a book that talks about people.  That’s whats interesting about it in my view.  A lot of these kinds of stories are still relevant today because the people are still the central piece of the Navy.  Even though we work with machines — and we work a lot with machines — it is still about the stories you tell are rarely about the machines.  They are mostly about what people do.  

The Admiral's at work library.
The Admiral’s at work library.

There’s an author named Robert Harris who has written two books on the Romans, one is called Imperium the other is called Conspirata.  One of my heroes is Cicero.  While he wasn’t a perfect man, Harris tells the story of how Cicero rooted out corruption in many places. He also tells the story as his rise as a magistrate.  What you really see from reading these types of stories is that human nature is unchanging over time.  As I’ve read more-and-more of the classics, that’s what I’ve learned.  There is a book by Steven Pressfield called The Tides of War where he talks about Alcibiades.  It’s interesting because he basically says about Alcibiades is that “the Spartans understood battle, Alcibiades understood the rest.”  I reread that and I thought it was very interesting. Steven Pressfield has also written three nonfiction books that are very interesting.  The one I like the most is Do the Work.  There are times where you have to simply buckle down and work.  And if you know Pressfield’s story, you know he never had it easy.

That’s right.  I believe Pressfield wrote The Legend of Bagger Vance while living out of his car?

Yes, that’s absolutely right.  It’s a great story.

Other books that you think are timeless?

The other book that I came across — and this was in 1990, after Desert Storm — I came across the Norton Book of Modern War, edited by Paul Fussell. After I read it I wrote a letter to him.  This was in the days before e-mail.  He wrote me back on a postcard; he was in the imperial war museum doing research.  I was coming back from Desert Storm and I found Fussell’s book in Hong Kong, and I sent him a short note.  

Paul Fussell postcard

Another timeless book is Jacob Needleman’s The American Soul. Needleman is a philosopher out at the University of San Francisco.  One of the interesting things in this book is the preamble. He has a great quote in the book on how we shouldn’t take the U.S. for granted.  He has great anecdotes in this book about why the U.S. has become the country it is today.  There is also a great story later in the book about George Washington that people must read — the Michael Widman story about Euphrata.  It’s a story that goes to the American Soul.  Joseph Ellis’ Founding Brothers is also a great book.  One of the stories in there is the story about how Washington D.C. became the nation’s capital, in a story called “The Dinner.”

You’ve had a long and distinguished career.  Did you use books to prepare you for any of the jobs you have entered?

I didn’t necessarily use my reading to help me prepare for the job I was going into.  But often I came across books that were helpful when I was in a particular job.  Here’s an example, War and Politics by Bernard Brodie, which falls in the timeless category, and every naval officer should read this.  He writes this in 1973, and it really lays out the difference between the political and the military.  In the first chapter, Brodie asks the question, quoting Ferdinand Foch — “What’s the war about?”  Someone has to be able to explain what a war is about.  In the end, it’s up to the politicians to decide what is worth fighting for, and then explain that to everybody.

I also like to reread a section in The Thin Red Line, by James Jones.  And a movie was also made about it.  It is about World War II and Guadalcanal.  It’s one of those books in which there is fighting, but it also talks about risk.  What’s worth it?  In other words, the captain in the book doesn’t want to take his men to attack a machine gun nest, because he doesn’t want to get them killed.  There is some interesting dialogue in that book about what is worth it. 

CIMSEC content is and always will be free; consider a voluntary monthly donation to offset our operational costs. As always, it is your support and patronage that have allowed us to build this community – and we are incredibly grateful.

What book or writers did you think were great stylists that helped you with your own writing?

I love George Orwell.  His essays are very interesting.  He wrote a book called Why I Write.  It’s a little Penguin book, only about 120 pages. But it is a great book.  I’ve read most of his stuff and really enjoy it.

Do you enjoy poetry?

I do. In the Fussell book there is a good bit of poetry.  And some from the First World War; in it there is some from every war.  Robert Graves, Siegfried Sassoon, they are all in there.  There’s also some World War II poetry, like “The Ball Turret Gunner,” for example.  Fussell has included poetry in there all the way up to Vietnam.  So yes, I do like poetry.

If you could only choose one book to take with you, a book that you would come back to over-and-over again, what book would that be?

It is Paul Fussell’s book.  I’ve read it and reread it.  There are a lot of short stories in there, which are what I like.  Another book that I must mention is Hemingway’s book, called Men at War, which came out in the forties.  It is a selection of Hemingway’s favorite war stories.  He included, in its entirety, Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage.  I like Hemingway’s short stories as well.

Do you enjoy fiction?

Oh yes.  I particularly like William Gibson’s science fiction.  And those books over there, those are some of the books in the Harry Turtledove series — for example, Legion of Videssos — which I was reading with my son.

What’s your oldest book in your library?

Oh, that is at home.  It’s a book of Joseph Conrad’s short stories.  

Sir — Thank you for your time, I enjoyed it.

Thank you.  I enjoyed talking with you.

Vice Admiral Wisecup is the Director of the Chief of Naval Operations’ Strategic Studies Group, assuming the position on 1 October 2013. He is from Piqua, Ohio. A 1977 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, he served 36 years of active duty service. He earned his Master’s degree in International Relations from the University of Southern California, graduated from the Naval War College in 1998, and also earned a degree from the University of Strasbourg, France, as an Olmsted Scholar, in 1982.

 At sea, he served as executive officer of USS Valley Forge (CG 50) during Operation Desert Storm. As commanding officer, USS Callaghan (DDG 994), he was awarded the Vice Admiral James Stockdale Award for Inspirational Leadership. He served as commander, Destroyer Squadron 21 during Operation Enduring Freedom after 9/11. His last sea assignment was commander, Carrier Strike Group 7 (USS Ronald Reagan Strike Group).

Ashore, Wisecup was assigned to NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, served as force planner and ship scheduler for Commander, U.S. Naval Surface Forces, Pacific, and served as action officer for Navy Headquarters Plans/Policy Staff. He served as a CNO fellow on the Chief of Naval Operations Strategic Studies Group; as director, White House Situation Room, and Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Korea. He served as the 52nd president of the U.S. Naval War College.  

Lieutenant Commander Christopher Nelson is CIMSEC’s book review editor.  Readers interested in reviewing books for CIMSEC can contact him at books@cimsec.org.

LCS: The Distributed Lethality Flotilla Combatant

 

140423-N-VD564-016  PACIFIC OCEAN (April 23, 2014)  The littoral combat ships USS Independence (LCS 2), left, and USS Coronado (LCS 4) are underway in the Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Keith DeVinney/Released)
PACIFIC OCEAN (April 23, 2014) The littoral combat ships USS Independence (LCS 2), left, and USS Coronado (LCS 4) are underway in the Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Keith DeVinney/Released)

The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is the ideal platform to host a significant amount of offensive firepower in support of the emerging concept of distributive lethality. It is large enough have greater endurance and to support capabilities beyond that of the average missile combatant. Its modular approach to embarked capabilities allows for more potential offensive systems to be employed aboard than in similar ships. Deployed as a dispersed flotilla of networked combatants with other organic means of communication, it has the potential to deliver significant amounts of ordnance against a variety of targets. The dispersal of the LCS flotilla complicates and dissipates enemy counter-targeting abilities. LCS is the ideal combatant to carry forward the concept of distributed lethality into the next decade.

LCS’ Size and Modularity Brings Advantages

Ambassador
Ambassador class missile combatant
MH 60R on LCS
MH60R on USS Fort Worth, 2014

As described by Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work in his 2013 history of the LCS program, the ship was always designed as a compromise between smaller, but less capable and globally deployable small combatants, and the larger, and more capable, but more expensive FFG-7 class frigate.1 Compared to smaller designs such as the Ambassador III or dedicated surface warfare corvettes like the Israeli Sa ar V, the LCS’ size and modularity offers advantages above those conventional small combatants. LCS’ has greater endurance then smaller missile combatants like the Ambassador (21 days verses 8) which enables it to remain at sea longer in support of surface warfare missions. The Saar V is more heavily armed then the baseline LCS seaframe, but supports only one rotary wing asset, and lacks the modularity to accommodate future sensors, weapons, and associated systems.
Both LCS seaframes, in contrast support two rotary wing assets (one MH-60R and one Firescout Unmanned Air Vehicle). The MH-60R in particular supports anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare missions, as well as extending the host ship’s sensors, weapons and communications capability far beyond those of a conventional missile combatant like the Ambassador.
The modularity of LCS also supports the embarkation of a more diverse set of capabilities than those hosted by mission-specific platforms like the Ambassador and the Saar V. An LCS might support a number of unmanned surface or subsurface vehicles separate from its Fire Scout UAV. Mines, additional munitions, and additional command and control equipment could also be supported depending on the desired mission. As the Spruance class destroyers later hosted Tomahawk cruise missiles, LCS’ modularity could support an array of heretofore undetermined systems and new capabilities in the future.

Keeping LCS Simple, but Lethal

LCS 1 ASCM
Possible cruise missile arrangement in LCS-1 variant
LCS mission bay
Expansive LCS-2 mission bay

Although not presently suited to the Distributive Lethality mission, the LCS could be modified into a potent surface warfare platform with the addition of cruise missiles such as the Kongsburg/Ratheyon Naval Strike Missile. Both LCS producers (Lockheed Martin Corporation and Austal USA) have also said their respective ships could be outfitted with larger 76mm guns in place of the present 57mm weapons. While cruise missiles are a requirement for the Distributive Lethality mission, further weapons, sensors, armor and armament add little to that mission capability and increase costs which the Navy estimated to be from $60 to $75 million dollars per ship.2 This money might be better spent in additional LCS platforms as the original aim of the LCS program was to increase the size of the U.S. surface combatant fleet.
Application of additional weight for armor and warfare capabilities not related to Distributed Lethality limits the opportunity for mission package improvements in the future and could limit the number of offensive weapons the LCS can support in its current length and displacement. As reported by the GAO, LCS already has relatively tight weight ratios for further additions to the sea frames outside mission module improvements.3 Every warship is a compromise of virtues, where armament, fuel capacity, speed, survivability and other factors must be carefully balanced to achieve desired operational goals for the class. An appropriate balancing of such issues for LCS should be in favor of offensive capability to avoid the need for a costly redesign of the sea frame to support significant additions. The cost of the LCS sea frame has steadily decreased from nearly $700 million to approximately $440 million.4 Three can now be built for the cost of one DDG. This is not the time to increase the cost by redesigning the ship to fit an expanded armament. Such a process defeats the concept for making the LCS the “low” component of a new high/low mix of surface combatants.

Distribution plus Speed Equals Survival

LCS at speed
Speed equals life

A squadron of LCS employed as part of a Distributive Lethality scheme will rely on their dispersed deployment pattern to reduce susceptibility to opponent targeting. The ships’ high speed, although often derided by critics is also a useful means of escaping enemy detection. An LCS capable of 40 knots can move away from a missile launch point faster than other U.S. combatants and potentially increase the area of uncertainty an opponent must consider in launching weapons down a return bearing.
An enemy would be forced to weigh significant risks in confronting such a force. An opponent might detect and attempt to eliminate one element of a distributive LCS force, but the remaining units might launch a devastating counter-salvo against therm. Such a response could cause significant harm to an unprepared, massed adversary force.
A basic LCS sea frame equipped with a moderate surface to surface missile capability could be a potent addition to the distributive lethality concept. Using means from fleet-wide networks to bring your own networks (BYON’s) created by groups of ships, a distributed LCS squadron operating as an anti-surface warfare (ASUW) formation could be a significant threat to opponent surface formations. The LCS’ larger size and rotary wing capabilities allow them to spend more time at sea, and see further beyond their own sensor horizon than smaller, dedicated missile combatants. LCS’s modularity allows the ships to bring additional weapons and capabilities to the fight beyond those of even heavily-armed corvettes and light frigates. These advantages suggest that LCS squadrons should be in the vanguard of the future distributed fleet.

Steve Wills is a retired surface warfare officer and a PhD student in military history at Ohio University. His focus areas are modern U.S. naval and military reorganization efforts and British naval strategy and policy from 1889-1941. 

1. http://awin.aviationweek.com/Portals/AWeek/Ares/work%20white%20paper.PDF, p. 13.

2.  http://www.defenseone.com/technology/2014/12/upgrades-will-let-navys-lcs-operate-more-dangerous-waters/101172/

3. http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665114.pdf, p. 29.

4.  http://news.usni.org/2015/04/01/navy-awards-2-lcss-to-austal-1-and-advance-procurement-funding-to-lockheed-martin

CIMSEC content is and always will be free; consider a voluntary monthly donation to offset our operational costs. As always, it is your support and patronage that have allowed us to build this community – and we are incredibly grateful.


Geographic Re-balance the Solution to Right-Sizing the Navy

The new 2015 Maritime Strategy demands a significant part of the Navy be forward based or operated in order to achieve national goals. The current number of ships and their present deployment pattern may not support the new strategy’s goals. Several recent articles have bemoaned the Navy’s shrinking surface ship fleet, or sought to make light of the overall number of ships as a significant determinant of strategic naval power. Both are, in a way, incorrect. The number of ships does matter, but wishing for a return of the halcyon 1980’s and the 600 ship navy is a futile hope in the face of the present budget deficit and growing welfare state. The post World War 2 U.S. Navy deployment structure has been based on the maintenance of a specific number of total ships in order to maintain a consistent overseas naval peacetime presence and credible war fighting force if required. The solution to this combination of forward deployment requirements on a limited budget is a fundamental change to the post-1948 U.S. naval deployment scheme through a global redistribution of U.S. naval assets. Potential threats, strategic geography, and support from potential coalition partners should govern this effort. The Navy should also seek new technologies to reduce overall budget costs. If this sounds familiar, it is not a new concept. Great Britain’s Royal Navy, under the leadership of the fiery transformationalist Admiral Sir John Fisher, executed a similar successful change just over a century ago in a similarly bleak financial environment. A modified version of Fisher’s scheme represents the U.S. Navy’s best hope to assign relevant naval combat power where it is most needed and at the best cost.

Britain’s Successful Rebalance
Like the U.S. today, Great Britain at the turn of the last century was a nation in rapid relative decline. British industry and its share of the world economy were shrinking in response to the rise of Germany, Japan, and the United States. The navies of those nations, as well as traditional enemies like France and Russia were growing in size and capability. Great Britain had just concluded the financially taxing and internationally embarrassing Boer War, which strained the nation’s tax base and earned it international opprobrium for harsh treatment of Boer combatants and civilians. The concept of a British Welfare state had gained significant support, and expenditures for this new government responsibility threatened the budgets of the Army and the Navy; both of which required significant modernization.
Admiral Fisher was selected by the Conservative Party’s First Lord of the Admiralty, Lord Selborne, specifically for his daring pledge to cut naval spending, while increasing the power and overall capability of the Royal Navy (RN). Fisher scrapped large numbers of older warships; created a ready reserve of minimum manned, older, but still capable combatants; reformed the RN’s personnel structure; and argued for the adoption of revolutionary technologies such as turbine engines, oil fuel for ships, director-based gun firing, submarines, and naval aircraft. A succession of Navy civilian leaders from both of the large British political parties supported his efforts. Most importantly, Fisher presided over the biggest re-balancing of British naval assets since the end of the Napoleonic wars. Before Fisher the RN was divided amongst various colonial stations around the world. Its most significant operational commands were the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Fleets that protected Britain’s line of communication to India via the Suez Canal.  Although Fisher’s initial strategy was to counter France and Russia,  the concentration of British naval strength in home waters allowed it to counter rising German threats.  Britain sought simultaneous colonial agreements with France and Russia to reduce tension, and signed an official alliance with the emerging Japanese Empire to secure communications with its Pacific possessions. It also unofficially acquiesced to U.S. naval domination in the Western Hemisphere to eliminate any tensions with the other great English-speaking nation. All told, these efforts allowed Fisher to keep British naval spending at 1905 levels until 1911.1 They also ensured that a significant British naval force was in place for war with Germany in 1914.

Conditions for U.S. Rebalance
The U.S. would be well served to create a global re-balance program along the lines of Admiral Fisher’s for its own Navy. In reverse of Fisher, however, the bulk of America’s naval strength must move from bases in home waters to the periphery of the nation’s interests. Some reductions in overall naval strength will be required to ensure that forward forces are well trained and equipped for both peacetime presence and wartime combat functions. Assignment will depend on regional geography, threat level and the availability of coalition partners to augment, or in some case replace U.S. naval assets.
The large deck nuclear aircraft carrier and its associated air wing are best employed in locations where land-based aviation assets are vulnerable or scarce due to geographic location. For this reason, the bulk of the carrier force should be assigned to distributed bases in the Indo-Pacific region. A force of six large carriers would serve as the core of the Pacific naval component. The surface combatant and attack submarine force based in the Pacific would be a commensurate percentage of its overall strength. They should be sufficient in number to support carrier escort, independent operations, and surface action groups as recommended for the emerging strategy of distributive lethality. This force would be large enough to conduct meaningful fleet and large scale joint exercises in a number of warfighting disciplines.

The carrier’s assignment to the largest ocean area of responsibility (AOR) best supports a joint commander’s warfighting requirements in a predominately maritime environment. The caveat with the assignment of carriers geographically is that the post-1948 deployment pattern of ‘three aircraft carriers equal one forward deployed, active carrier’ must be scrapped. This means retiring two carriers, perhaps the two oldest Nimitz class when the USS Gerald R. Ford is commissioned in next year.  One carrier strike group costs $6.5 million dollars a day to operate.2 The funds saved in the retirement of two carriers could be directed toward the maintenance of and operational costs of the remaining eight, with the proviso that these be consistently ready for service as required.
The Eurasian littoral areas historically supported by east coast naval forces would receive smaller, tailored force packages in this new organization scheme. Given that Eurasian littoral operations can be supported by land-based air units, only two carriers need be assigned to the Atlantic coast with perhaps a third designated as a training carrier.

A Substitute for a Carrier Strike Group
Under this arrangement the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf areas would not see regularly deployed large deck carriers. To offset their absence, it is proposed that two light carrier groups be forward-based on the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean respectively. Such a group would each be centered on an LHA-6 class amphibious warship configured as a light carrier with an airwing of 20+ F-35 Lightning II strike aircraft. The CVL-configured LHA, too small to support the full traditional carrier wing of both attack and support aircraft, would be supported by land-based assets that would provide airborne early warning (AEW), tanking, and other strike missions. Each group would contain three DDG-51 class destroyers for offensive and defensive roles including missile defense, a DDG-1000 class destroyer for surface strike and other warfare roles, and a flotilla of four to six littoral combat ships (LCS) or similar frigates (FF’s) for a variety of low intensity combat and surface strike missions. Attack submarines may be included as needed and an amphibious warfare group similar to the present 7th fleet formation based in Sasebo, Japan round out the numerical assignments. A full amphibious ready group (ARG) with associated Marine Expeditionary Force (MEU) based at Rota could exploit NATO/EU capabilities in the region as well. Most of these rebalancing efforts can be completed between 2020 and 2025, with the fight light carrier group ready by 2017. It may begin operations with the AV-8B II Harrier, but later transition to the F-35B Lightning II. After 2020, an international carrier strike group (CSG) presence might be maintained in the Eastern Mediterranean with British, French, Italian, and Spanish carriers playing a role.3
The Mediterranean offers a number of ports that together are capable of hosting such a force including Rota, Spain, Sigonella, Sicily, and Souda Bay, Crete. The Western Pacific/Indian Ocean represents a more complicated basing picture, but a combination of facilities in Singapore, Darwin, and Perth, with a forward anchorage in Diego Garcia might offer sufficient space to support to forward deployed forces. Both regions offer a number of land-based aviation facilities to support a light carrier formation.
The navies of friends and formal allies offer additional support to this strategy. The U.S. has consistently sought and depended on coalition allies in the conflicts it has engaged in since 1945, and especially since 1990. European fleets have changed from antisubmarine Cold War forces to smaller, but more deployable, larger combatants capable of global operations. Resident European force in the Mediterranean and deployed forces in the Persian Gulf region might augment U.S. efforts in those regions. The Libyan Operation of 2011 (Operation Odyssey Dawn for the U.S.), showcased what a U.S. light carrier group, as centered then on USS Kearsarge, and European forces might accomplish. The British Defence Secretary’s recent announcement that the Royal Navy will develop a base in Bahrain suggests that at least British and perhaps other Commonwealth nations’ navies might support U.S. efforts in the Persian Gulf region.

Options for Cooperation and Technological Offset
Strong U.S. relationships with Western Pacific nations are essential to any re-balancing strategy in that region. The adoption of AEGIS systems by the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force, the South Korean, and Australian navies significantly aids in cooperative efforts. Close U.S. ties with Singapore, the Philippines, and other regional naval forces are also essential to U.S. efforts. One method of achieving this might be a Western Pacific version of the Standing NATO Maritime Groups. An international squadron with rotating command responsibilities would be useful in easing old tensions and promoting better relations amongst this diverse group of nations.
The “long pole in the tent” of such a re-balancing strategy is how to manage the personnel disruptions such a change would cause. The CONUS-based U.S. deployment strategy, and dependent housing agreements in Japan and some Mediterranean nations has allowed for a great deal of family stability. Sailors can remain reasonably close to their families, even when forward deployed. There is no guarantee that Pacific or Mediterranean nations would accept large increases in the population of U.S. naval personnel and their dependents resident within their borders. In addition to the foreign relation concerns, such additions would cost a considerable amount of money and involve greater security risks in protecting a larger overseas American service and dependent population. The answer to this problem is to ‘dust off’ some of the reduced and creative manning projects of the last decade. While not ideal in many ways, reduced manning, crew swaps, and longer, unaccompanied deployments may become the norm, rather than the exception for American sailors.
Unfortunately, this is the price of putting more credible combat power in forward areas at present or even reduced costs. The U.S. will be hard-pressed to duplicate Admiral Fisher’s other revolutionary changes. The U.S. Navy has retired nearly all of its outdated warships, and further reductions of newer platforms will harm overall naval capabilities. Revolutionary changes in armament such as the rail gun and other directed energy weapons, and continued advances in the electric drive concept may allow for some cost reductions in naval expenditures, but they remain far from mature development. The rail gun is slated for additional afloat testing, but with a barrel life of only 400 rounds, it represents a 21st century equivalent of the arquebus.4 Fisher, by contrast, had relatively mature technological solutions in propulsion, and rushed fire control, aircraft, and submarine advances into full production with mixed results. The present U.S. test and evaluation culture would not permit such bold experimentation.
The U.S. can, however, improve its overall forward naval posture by re-balancing its force structure along geographic lines to better support national interests and regional commanders’ requirements.  Additional force structure will be difficult to achieve in the face of present budget woes. Transformational technology is moving toward initial capabilities, but is not yet ready for immediate, cost savings application. The post-1948 CONUS-based deployment system is becoming more difficult to maintain with fewer ships and persistent commitments. Despite these dilemmas, the U.S. must fundamentally change the deployment and basing structure of the fleet in order to provide credible combat power forward in support of joint commander requirements. The new 2015 Maritime Strategy will not achieve many of its goals using the present CONUS-based deployment construct. Geographic re-balance of the fleet will provide strength were it is most needed.

1.  A detailed explanation of the Fisher/Selborne re-balance strategy may be found in Aaron Friedberg’s The Weary Titan, Britain and the Experience of Relative Decline, 1895-1905, pages 135-208.

2.  Captain Jerry Hendrix, USN (ret), PhD, “At What Cost a Carrier”, Center for New American Security (CNAS), March 2013, p. 7.

3.  Conversation with retired NSWCCD Senior Warfare Analyst James O’Brasky.

4. 15 February statement of Statement of Rear Admiral Mattew L. Klunder, USN, Chief Of Naval Research before the Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee  of the House Armed Services Committee on the Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Request,  26 March, 2014.