No, Our Navy is Not Big Enough

Posted in Politics
Mon, Mar 16 - 9:00 am EST | 4 years ago by
Comments: 120
Be Sociable, Share!
Use Arrow Keys (← →) to Browse

Lines of Departure - Zumwalt

Having pretty much restricted myself, so far, to eternal military verities – especially those timeless screw ups and little-changing forms of cowardice, decadence, and corruption that sprinkle the pages of military history from about the first time someone gave the order, “forward… MARCH!” unto this very day and on into the future – it would seem to be on point, at least until our civilization goes under completely, to cover a bit more closely some of the more nauseating swineliness of the present day. Hence this:

A Grunt looks Seaward… and barfs

On its one-way express elevator ride from the penthouse of “America’s Paper of Record” down to the sub-sub-basement of “America’s Paper of the Ridiculous,” the New York Times recently published an Op-Ed from that world class military analyst and strategist, Gregg Easterbrook, concerning the complete adequacy of our country’s Navy, Our Navy is Big Enough.1 The estimable Mr. Easterbrook’s qualifications to have an opinion on Naval structure and strategy? He blogs about football, contributes to The Atlantic, and once gave a lecture at the Naval War College. No I don’t know what the subject matter was, but, clearly, we’re dealing with a first class military mind here, one replete with insight and advice so valuable we should engrave it on golden plaques, and post it on the walls of the Pentagon.

Come to think of it, it’s not clear that that would do any harm. But still…

Among Mr. Easterbrook’s more cogent observations are that the presumptively evilwickedbadnaughtybadbadbad Republicans want to waste money on an unnecessarily expensive Navy, that the Zumwalt Class Destroyer represents “the gigantic advantage the United Stated Navy enjoys,” with its “advanced cannon” that can – golly, gee, whiz – hit targets sixty-three miles away, and that we have all the nuclear aircraft carriers in the world, which, come to think of it, we don’t.2 These are telling points, of course, or would be if the probability was that the Zumwalts were, in fact, going to be worth a damn. But with a mere eighty vertical launch cells and with that – oooo, shinnnny – gun being a miserable six-inch piece, pretty much incapable of anything too very useful, and with its crew of one hundred and forty officers, petty officers, and ratings being most likely incapable of damage control for a – you cannot make this crap up – FOURTEEN- Oh, dear God – FOURTEEN THOUSAND TON, three and half – or should I really be invoking His Satanic Majesty? – BILLION dollar “destroyer.”

One suspects there are reasons beyond mere money – which the Navy, frankly, is remarkably indifferent to, anyway – that the Zumwalts, even with Mr. Easterbrook’s cannon – have seen their numbers cut from thirty-two, to ten, to three. Short version: one smells, amidst the salt air and seaweed, the aroma of a bad idea, shittily executed, a sort of nautical Gama Goat, of accursed memory.

Still, we’re going to have not one, not two, but three Zumwalts. Surely three is enough for ships so replete with… something.

Well, I’m not a football blogger. Nor do I post to The Atlantic.3 Neither have I yet lectured at Newport, Rhode Island, not even for an hour or two. But even ignorant I – a mere knuckle-dragging grunt, why, barely able to feed myself with a knife and fork, and hardly fit to be allowed to sign my name with an X – still know that ships need training and maintenance, and that three Zumwalts means only one available at any given time. Yes, that means one Zumwalt to cover the seven seas. Yes, that means that its sixty-three mile ranged cannon (able to cover about twelve thousand four hundred and sixty-three miles of the oceans’ surface) is a bit overtasked when compared to the world’s ocean surface, what with eleven thousand one hundred and fifty-three Zumwalts being required to cover that.

Yes, that’s a ridiculous calculation, since ships can move and need not cover everything simultaneously, but it is not more ridiculous than citing a miserable three overpriced, over-weighted, and undermanned gunboats as a justification for keeping the Navy small.

One Navy War College Professor, James Holmes, has already taken the arrogant and ignorant Mr. Easterbrook and the preening and fraudulent New York Times4 to task for most of the above and some other things, which other things seem to include a tacit pro-totalitarian bias on the part of at least one of them.5 6 Blessings on Professor Holmes for that.


We recently were awarded a very graphic and humiliating example of what our existing Navy’s vulnerabilities are, when a French nuclear submarine, the Saphir, penetrated the screen of USS Theodore Roosevelt, one of those ten nuclear carriers on which Mr. Easterbrook sets such store, and, in the peculiar way navies have of accounting for such things, sank it and half its escort.7

The Saphir, by the way, is not the cutting edge of anything. It not an advanced diesel electric. It’s not an AIP, or Air Independent Propulsion. Oh, no, Saphir is a 30-year-old nuke boat, first generation, and noisy. And it was still able to get through what passes these days for a screen to get at one of the only ten carriers we field. One would expect a military strategist of Mr. Eastbrook’s stature – okay, not really – or “America’s Paper of Record” – okay, I’ll stop bullshitting right after this – to make the not really very large intellectual leap from “we have all the important carriers in the world” to “until we have so few escorts we can’t screen them and they’re sunk.”

The French have since then pulled the initial blog post wherein the kills were announced, quite possibly on the principle that it is unwise to reveal an important ally’s weaknesses. I don’t think anyone in public knows exactly what happened, indeed, possibly no one but Saphir’s skipper knows for sure. Some educated observation and guesses from another source (hat tip, TBR, the Kreigsmarine contingent of Baen’s Bar) include that:

  1. The F/A-18’s combat radius is only about eighty percent of the aircraft it replaced, the F-14 Tomcat, while it is an even smaller percentage of the A-6’s, which it has also replaced, thus,
  2. It must get closer to its target, which is a vulnerability, plus
  3. We have dumped the S-3 Viking and severely cut back on the P-3 Orion Anti-Submarine Warfare aircraft, which helicopters – see comment on range, above – are not necessarily adequate replacements for, as well as cut
  4. Training, which is pricey, and
  5. Sonobuoys, which are also pricey but must be expended to train properly, and,
  6. Goddammit, when your capital ships are in danger, you need more ships to guard them. Our carrier battle groups used to have escorts in the double digits, to include nuclear attack subs, cruisers, destroyers, and frigates. It does not appear that USS Theodore Roosevelt had anything like that. I was unable to find just what CSG (formerly CVBG) Twelve consisted of as of a week ago, but note that, as of 2012, Carrier Strike Group Twelve, of which TR was a part last week, had a cruiser and three destroyers.

All of which simply must mean that we’re spending enough on a navy that is big enough, right?

My ass.



2 See the French Charles de Gaulle. So much for the precision of “America’s Paper of Record,” eh? The point there is not that the French Navy is enemy, but that the New York Times is replete with idiots, idiots among the commentariat and idiots in their editorial and fact checking departments. And lazy idiots, to boot.

3 I rarely even comment in The Atlantic, and in Esquire only to lambast that epsilon double minus semi- moron and world class hypocrite, Bateman, and that only from time to time.

4 What, you mean their motto isn’t really, “All the news that fits, we print”? Who knew? Who the f*&k knew?


6 Well, what do you call it when Easterbrook compares our actions at sea, or lack thereof, with China’s increasing aggressiveness and bullying belligerence towards it’s oceanic neighbors?

7 Say what you will about the French; they’re there when we really need them. Yes, I am being serious.

Tom Kratman is a retired infantry lieutenant colonel, recovering attorney, and science fiction and military fiction writer. His latest novel, The Rods and the Axe, is available from for $9.99 for the Kindle version, or $25 for the hardback. A political refugee and defector from the People’s Republic of Massachusetts, he makes his home in Blacksburg, Virginia. He holds the non-exclusive military and foreign affairs portfolio for EveryJoe. Tom’s books can be ordered through

Note: If you follow the retail links in this post and make purchases on the site(s), Defy Media may receive a share of the proceeds from your sale through the retailer’s affiliate program.

Don’t miss Tom Kratman’s other Lines of Departure columns. Click through the gallery below to read more.

Social Justice

Don't miss this three-part series on our social justice armed forces.

Photo by zabelin/Getty Images

Women in the Military

Should women be required to register for the draft? Step right up, ladies!

Photo by Getty Images

The Kurds

Tom Kratman sounds off on our gallant allies, the Kurds, and other fairy tales.

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

Sorry Rodney

Tom Kratman explores Islam and why we just can't get along. Read Part I, II and III of this series.

Photo by Retrovizor/Getty Images

Service Guarantees Citizenship

Read this three-part series from Tom Kratman, inspired by Starship Troopers: Part I, II and III.

Photo by Marko Marcello/Getty Images


Tom Kratman explores why immigration doesn't work like it used to.

Gun-Free Zones

Tom Kratman discusses military gun-free zones and the ill-logic of the Left.

Dear Germany

Read this open letter to Germany regarding the "refugee" crisis.

Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images

Sanctuary Cities

Tom Kratman explores the real problem with sanctuary cities.

Gun-Free Zones

Tom Kratman discusses military "gun-free" zones and the ill-logic of the Left.

Price in Blood

Recently President Obama announced that the government would no longer threaten prosecution of those who pay ransom privately for the return of kidnapped loved ones. Read about the possible effects of Obama's ransom order.


Read Kratman's two-part series on torture:

Jade Helm 15

Don't miss this three-part series on Jade Helm 15. Is it necessary and should Americans be worried about it? Read: Part I, Part II and Part III.

Does China Really Want War?

Read Part I, II and III in Tom Kratman's series about the possibility of war with China.

Breakup of the United States

Be sure to read Tom Kratman's five-part series on the breakup of the United States:

The Bergdahl Case

If found guilty, should Bowe Bergdahl be sentenced to death?

U.S. Navy

No matter what you've read elsewhere, no -- our Navy is not big enough.

Military Chow

Read Tom Kratman's three part series on military food:

The Soldier's Load

Tom Kratman's series on the average American soldier's load is a must-read. Don't miss:

The Left and the Military

Ever wonder why the Left concentrates so closely on using the military to promote social change? Read part 1 and part 2 from Tom Kratman about the Left and the military.

Defining Terrorism

Don't miss Col. Kratman's five-part series on terrorism:

Humanitarian Assistance

Why does the military – not just ours, everyone’s, or everyone’s that matters – get tapped for disaster relief and humanitarian assistance over and over and over again? Read this column on the military and humanitarian aid to find out.

Why War Games Fail

It's another Lieutenant Reilly story. This time, we are talking about war games and why they fail. Read part 1 and part 2 in this series.

Military Integrity

Unfortunately dishonesty, fraud and a lack of integrity are sometimes not just accepted in the military, they are expected. Read this poignant piece about military integrity.

Arab Armies

Read this Lines of Departure column from Tom Kratman to find out why Arab armies are so generally worthless.

The Purpose of War

A military is about more than self-preservation. Security is a principle of war; safety is not. Risk is in the soldier’s job description. Read: The Purpose of War is to Win.
Use Arrow Keys (← →) to Browse

Be Sociable, Share!

Related Posts

  • Justin$Man

    so you were in the army right? why do you think you can comment on the navy?

    • Matthew

      Got a refutation in there somewhere, or is it simple ad hominem?

    • Tom Kratman

      He was joking, Matt. I think.

    • Matthew

      If so, I apologize for my tin ear.

    • Tom Kratman

      Nope, apparently not joking. Who would have thunk?

    • KenWats

      Yeah, I mean, it’s not like he writes a football blog or anything.

    • Justin$Man

      but if he doesn’t know how the navy works, how can he be so sure of his assertions? so absolute?

    • Tom Kratman

      Ah, you were serious. What makes you think I don’t know how the navy works? If you don’t know how the Army educates, and don’t know what a mind trained to logic and deeply interested in a subject can learn for itself, how can you deny my qualifications to comment?

    • Grumpy Guy

      You understand all higher commands are now “joint”? And that sea-power directly affects land power as it puts constraints on logistics? Your assertion that “Army guys” know nothing about the water was not even true in 1941, and it is even more false today.

    • Rick Randall

      Well, as someone who has to know this sort of thing to do my job in the context of how the fleet operates, what it is expected to do and face, and what it is likely to be asked to or face in the near to mid term, I’d say Tom’s dead on. Not that it takes a lot of in depth inside knowledge. Logistics, mass, how large an area you can control directly with fire, etc., these basics are much the same for any military endeavor – its only the value of the constants that shift, and those (to a reasonably close rwder) are readily available online from open, free sourses, including official US Navy websites.

    • Tom Kratman

      One suspects the standard SJW tactic of, “I don’t like the conclusions so disqualify, disqualify, disqualify.”

    • James

      Because he has educated himself.

      Not only that but the fact that the Naval blogs which the people who run the navy read also agree with him. And most of those are written or who are frequented by former or current navy sailors from every rank and multiple Navies.

      This is one.

  • Kevin Crowley

    I think we need 20 carrier groups to allow sufficient time for maintenance and to keep a constant presence on the high seas.

    • Tom Kratman

      Oh, I think I’d be happy with 12 or 13, provided they were screened adequately, had a more versatile CAW, and we had something – something armored enough to shrug off a hit, with a gun or twelve in the 8-12 inch range for NGFS.

    • amaas

      Frankly, I always thought the Zumwalts should be in the 25kton range, with about 3-4x the VLS cells and a pair of dual 8″ turrets with the same tech as the AGS they used.

      And yes, Armor. Because if you are going to use it as a capital ship (and today the USN uses Burke’s like they are capital ships, let alone anything bigger) you should be able to take a few hits. Today’s naval combatants are mosquito’s with sledgehammers.

    • Tom Kratman

      Bu’ bu’ but _stealth_…and streamlined…and high speed/low drag…and Air Force, don’t forget Air Force and the deadly and critical sexy lines competition…

    • PavePusher

      I’m trying to eat here, sir…..

    • Tom Kratman

      I’ve still got two keyboards left on my hunting license…

    • Kevin Crowley

      If we can get enough nuclear reactors pykrete fills the bill.

    • Neil

      I’ve been having running debates lately over the effectiveness of armor as compared to point defenses. I take the part of armor, personally. But whether armor is effective or not, directed-energy weapons make all the difference.

      You need a ship big enough to carry multiple laser barbettes and large machinery spaces, and probably nuclear-powered to provide the energy required to defend not only itself but other vessels from missile attack over the course of multiple engagements. What makes it brilliant is that your point defense doesn’t need to be replenished for years on end.

      But a proper point-defense escort isn’t going to be a “destroyer” or “frigate”. It’s going to be at least as big as the Ticonderoga class.

    • Tom Kratman

      I’d like to see calcs on what it would take – laser energy-wise – to either prematurely detonate or otherwise derange (so it misses) a large, fast moving, rapidly spinning shell. If you’re dependent on a particular ship for defense, but it has a weakness like that, it’ll make for a poor defense.

    • Neil

      It will take a multi-megawatt laser to do that, from what I’m told (not that I’m told much). Those systems are now within reach.

      Look at it this way–once you get the minimum required power to penetrate the warhead, and sufficient slew rate on the mirror system that directs the laser, it’s really a question of power and time on target required to achieve kaboom. More power means faster kaboom and higher rate of engagement. More incoming weight of warhead means you need more power in order to intercept it all.

      All these things point toward a big ship with big generators, and a big offensive battery.

      Chemically-propelled shells vs. rail guns vs. rocket-boosted missiles is a whole other debate.

    • Tom Kratman

      As I said, “Calcs, dammit, calcs!” ;)

    • Neil

      Sorry, I’m not an optics guy. They just tell me how many watts to deliver and when…

    • TheRequimen
    • Tom Kratman

      It needs at least two other variables; 1) cooling rate of the spinning target and 2) rate of spin of the targets, though I suppose that can be fudged by making the max duration _very_ short. Still, it’s a start and it may get used in a future book. If you want credit, send me an email with your name.

    • TheRequimen

      Just curious, but do you know about Winchell Chung’s Atomic Rockets site? It’s a very good resource for all things in the space weaponry department.

      Here is a list of calculators on the site, which might be very useful for your Carrera series. (Love them, can’t wait for the next one.)

    • Tom Kratman

      Interesting, thanks.

    • Ming the Merciless

      Pointless to have more carriers equipped with those short-legged aircraft Tom mentioned. First put better planes (i.e., not F-35s) on the ones we have.

  • Ray

    14,000 tons destroyer? Isn’t that heavier than a early World War 2 heavy cruiser? With a lot less and smaller gun(s). The German Admiral Hipper class was 14,000 tons, with 8, 8 inch guns and a crew of almost 1,400. Admittedly, the Zumwalt can hit targets further away, 80 times and then she’s out of missiles. And they cancelled 29 of them. They’re only going to be 3 of them in service.


    • Chemechie

      Yup, it is the same displacement, though dimensions, armament, and other characteristics are vastly different.

      It doesn’t matter how good your ship is, if you only build 3 of them there is no physical way they can be in more than 3 places at once!

  • Jack Withrow

    Let’s see the Navy got rid of all the FFG’s and are going to call that abortion of a ship, the LCS, a frigate. The Zumwalt as near as I can tell is the Navy’s version of the F-35, a white elephant. They are taking the well decks out of a major class of the Amphib’s. But yet all is well in Squid Land. Oh how I wish Jimmy Carter was president again, even he had more sense than to let happen what is happening now.

    • Tom Kratman

      To be fair – not that Jiminy Peanut, America’s worst ex-President, really deserves fairness – much or most of the “Reagan build up” was really the “Carter build up.”

    • Jack Withrow

      What was the pre-WW II term? Benevolent Neglect? Carter had that down to a science. I can’t really think of a term that describes what is going on now all across DoD. It’s not neglect, it is something much worse.

    • Tom Kratman

      Towards the end of his term, though, he was pushing defense in a big way. I suspect it was, more than anything, personal pique that the Russians held him in contempt and that they and the Iranians had humiliated him, rather than any sense that the country actually needed more defense.

    • Ming the Merciless

      I think he just wanted to negate the political issue of being soft on the Soviets so he could win in 1980, and then it would have been back to business as usual, i.e., appeasement and the hollow military.

    • Tom Kratman

      Doubt he was that realistic, but I’m pretty certain he was that personally petty and vindictive

    • Ming the Merciless

      No. Under Saint Jimmah it was mainly research and development, but Reagan significantly increased the defense budget in order to put actual equipment in the field. It is not a given that this would have happened if Jimmah had been re-elected.

      More importantly, Reagan believed in defeating the Soviets and Jimmah did not. Reagan put a strategy into place to achieve that and Jimmah would not have. The buildup that started under Jimmah served no real purpose because it was irrelevant to the futile and defeatist strategy of “détente”. The buildup under Reagan, on the other hand, supported the strategy of victory.

    • Tom Kratman

      That’s not how the budgeting process works, actually.

    • Ming the Merciless

      If you look at DOD budget data it is broken out by personnel, O&M, procurement, RDT&E, etc. A higher percentage of the Carter budgets was devoted to personnel and O&M than in the Reagan budgets; a lower percentage of the Carter budgets was devoted to procurement than the Reagan budgets. And of course the Carter budgets were lower in absolute terms than the Reagan budgets. Look at things like the F-117 and the B-2. They were only science projects under Carter, and were actually made operational under Reagan. If Carter had gotten a second term, it is extremely doubtful that the 1981-85 defense buildup would have occurred and that the same numbers and types of weapons would have been procured.

    • Tom Kratman

      Okay, now go back and look at when procurement items come out of the budget. It is usually not at the microinstant congress authorizes the expenditure. This is one of those cases where timing matters.

    • Ming the Merciless

      The items that Reagan procured were not created from scratch starting in January 1981. But Reagan accelerated their development and procurement, and procured them in far greater quantities than Carter would have.

    • Tom Kratman
    • Ming the Merciless

      Um… OK… it says that Carter “recognized the need to rebuild the nation’s armed forces”. It does not say that Carter actually rebuilt the nation’s armed forces. (Unsaid is who let them get run down so they needed rebuilding.) Reagan did the actual rebuilding. It also says Carter “proposed a five-year expansion of the defense budget”. Whether or not Carter, if re-elected, would actually have carried out that expansion is unknown. What is definitely known is that Reagan not only carried out such an expansion, but carried out an expansion that significantly exceeded any that Carter proposed, even in his most “realistic” anti-Soviet moments.

      Reagan was evidently in a gracious mood in 1986, but that doesn’t alter the actual fact that the military was weaker in 1980 than it was in 1977, and that Reagan turned that around.

      Short version:
      Carter talked
      Reagan acted

    • James

      Nah they are keeping the well decks in the rest of the America class amphib carriers.

    • Rick Randall

      Yeah — see my comment above.

      Since the Marine Corps didn’t realign and reorg the landing force to one that took advantage of the LHA 6 design, and insisted on one that nearly maximized the LHA 6′s weaknesses solely in order to keep the TO&E identical among PHIBRONs, they reverted back to the well deck design for later hulls.

    • Rick Randall

      There were (and are) valid arguments for the LHA 6 design. (I was on the Combat Systems IPT and Topside IPT, as the acting DSEM on both for a while, came aboard long after the well deck decision was made).

      The *problem* was that, when they modified the ship to make it air-centric (basically, the Marines wanted a CVL, and this was the only way they could sneak it past Congress), they DID NOT modify the infantry battalion at the same time, or work up the PHIBRON to offset the loss of heavy landing capacity.

      The Marines were so insistent on their, “Every Marine unit of the same basic type must be the same!” they overlooked the fact that Marines have traditionally made FINE light infantry units, and the air-centric emphasis meant that the landing force on the LHA *could* be successfully done as a light infantry/air assault force for forced entry, allowing them to seize an actual airport or port to use as an airhead/beachhead for follow on forces with heavies (obviously, a port is better).

      But the Eighth & I refusal to admit that not every infantry battalion has to be identical meant they were stuck with the same force mix as if they had the well deck capacity, with no realistic way to move it to shore in a timely fashion. Back of the envelope calculations, using publically available data on credible threat weapons’ ranges of systems old enough to be “cash & carry” and able to be successfully employed by Arabs (with technical support contracted, or seconded, from the supplier), was three days to land the landing force, because of the large number of single lift vehicles that could ONLY be moved by -53′s.

  • Daric Wade

    “I was reminded that one lesson that officers of other navies learn at the Naval War College is that there is zero chance they will ever defeat the United States in battle — so why even try? This situation is a tremendously positive development for the world, but it also means there is no reason to increase the Navy’s budget, nor for Congress to fret about how many ships we have.”
    This moonbrain’s assumption is predicated on our position of strength. If he and others like him continue to think that 3 overpriced, undergunned destroyers and ten capable but vulnerable aircraft carriers equates to a position of strength, then eventually there’ll come a time when officers of other navies feel rather ballsy indeed.

    • Tom Kratman

      Not only that; they learn no such thing.

    • Daric Wade

      Also true. I’m sure that if that was the universal lesson that we invited foreign officers to come to America to learn, none of them would show up.

    • Ming the Merciless

      How many Russian and Chinese officers have learned that at Newport?
      Oh, none, they don’t attend.

  • Harry_the_Horrible

    Is it possible that carriers are just obsolete?

    CVNs seem good for projecting power against folks who don’t have real fleets or powerful air forces, but, between AIP subs, hypersonic anti-ship missiles and anti-ship ballistic missiles, they may no long be survivable against first-line foes. Add to that a complete miss-fire with the F-35, even their future striking power might be compromised.

    We might need go to heavier into subs, but I don’t think we will have be allowed to go back to un-restricted submarine warfare, so even that might not work.

    As for the Sapphir sinking the TR, the USN has been known to play around with the RoEs, (deliberately) lose badly, then use the results to claim that they need more money.

    • Tom Kratman

      Not obsolete yet, no. Oh, like anything, their day is coming, but it still isn’t here.

    • Harry_the_Horrible

      I have been thinking that the Navy might need some sort of containerized “arsenal ship” to replace some their carriers. It needs to be easy to load and quick to unload. It should also be easy to replace if it is sunk. Being able to launch a few hundred cruise missiles (and maybe a few of our own ballistic missiles…) in a matter of minutes might be an effective replacement for some of a CVN’s capacity.
      Another possibility would be some sort of “sea-control” drone support ship, designed to launch and recover drones. Not sure that is really different from a CV ,though. It would just be smaller and more expendable.
      If I were the USN, one thing I would be working on would be anti-sub drones; long loiter times, with low operator fatigue would be a real boon here!
      The thing that frightens me most about our carriers, is that we are not taking asset protection seriously. I don’t want to think what losing a CVN would do our morale.

    • Allston

      That first could be a good use for re-purposing the mothballed Battleships.

    • KenWats

      I’m less concerned about morale after losing a ship (I’d like to think our guys would want to hit em back)- what would it do to “national will” both in terms of the US public and the US government?

    • Tom Kratman

      Nothing good, clearly enough. And, given that democracy does not permit unpleasant truths anymore, nor strong emotions except of the PC kind, I am sure the government would do everything possible to disengage the people.

    • Harry_the_Horrible

      What “national will?”
      Apparently we have achieved a state where we have the national will of a bowl of overcooked spaghetti.

    • KenWats

      I look at it as (somewhat) cyclical. We certainly had national will to steamroll a third world country shortly after 9/11. If we lost a CVN in a US port (ie Pearl Harbor II: Chinese Boogaloo), I could envision a similar reaction. If we were “bullying” the Chinese from “reuiniting with their Taiwanese brothers” and lost a CVN in the process, I could envision a very different one.

    • Harry_the_Horrible

      We didn’t have the “national will” to thoroughly kick their sorry asses, shoot their leaders and install on our own bastard who would run things properly (from our perspective).
      Instead we got into idiotic RoEs and delusions of nation-building.

    • KenWats

      Maybe in retrospect it’s not “cyclical” but rather circling the drain?

    • Rick Randall

      The logistics on cruise missiles versus good, long legged strike aircraft simply doesn’t work.

      You can’t AFFORD enough cruise missiles to replace carrier air wings.

      The problem right now, is we have a shitty airwing, thanks to the “Peace Dividend” being interpreted as “Let’s retire good aircraft, with nothing to replace them with, but far less capable aircraft!”, and no plans to actually improve the short comings.

    • Harry_the_Horrible

      It would be interesting to see a comparison of the price of a sortie vs. a cruise missile.

    • Rick Randall

      I wish I had the links handy, but the numbers have been run, repeatedly. There are numerous professional articles recently.published on this precise subject.

      Cruise missiles aren’t even close. For one, you’re basically throwing away the aircraft with each warhead. Admittedly, individually cheaper aircraft, but it adds up. Especially since, if you have different flavors of cruise missile on the same ship (mission, warhead, sensors, range, etc.), each one is mated to its very own aircraft.

      Then there is production times. You would like if you knew how fast we could shoot through our *entire* inventory of cruise missiles, and how long it would take to replace them. Strike aircraft have more versatility in ordnance, and frankly, bombs – even smart bombs – can have their production rapidly ramoed up to surge levels higher and faster than cruise missiles.

      This doesn’t mean that cruise missile are useless. Merely, just as there are some targets not worth risking a pilot on, there are many targets not worth the cost of a cruise missile. And for a sustained attack campaign, it’s not merely expensive and unfeasible to do it with cruise missiles, it is *impossible* to sustain the “sortie rate”.

      Cruise missiles are for extremely high value or extremely high risk targets.

    • Harry_the_Horrible


  • Lawrence F. Greenwood

    I knew a guy who got out of the navy a few years back and he seemed absolutely certain that if push came to shove in the Pacific that by the end of the month there wouldn’t be a carrier left in the Pacific or Indian Ocean’s. They would be either withdrawn or sunk and the entire war there would be fought with smaller ships and submarines and that to make up for losses due to the navy’s already smaller numbers then they need they would reactivate older mothballed and museum ships for service again. At the time I could only laugh, then I read things about number of ships being cut or how were building ships with no clear purpose other than being ‘multirole’ or ‘littoral’ and have begun to believe him a bit.

  • John Clark

    As ex-enlisted scum of the Nuclear navy I have no fancy degree from Canoe U, I’ve been to Newport once, but only saw the War College from the Verranzano bridge. The question should be is the Navy big enough for the commitments we’ve already got. Already the drawdown in the SSN fleet, exacerbated by the loss of the Miami, and delays on the new 3rd flight Virginias is putting ship’s and crews in a hard place. I can’t speak for the skimmers, but subfleet is already stretched awfully damn thin.

    • Justin$Man

      see this guy can speak from experience

    • Tom Kratman

      I’m beginning to suspect that we have here a stupid and ignorant social justice warrior, sowing dissension and ignorance because, after all, that’s what stupid and ignorant SJWs _do_.

    • John Clark

      I only know my little part of the world man. Furthermore I didn’t drive, I was back aft pushing.

    • cjleete

      I would say no. And I also say that it is past time for congress and the Navy to get together and take a good hard look at current strategic doctrine.

    • John Clark

      42 is the magic number, less than 42 SSN’s and we can’t meet our various requirements without curtailing refits and extending deployments. Furthermore, start burning out crews and wave goodbye to the E-6′s and O-3′s that would make Chiefs and Department Heads. I did my 10 years and nothing, no amount of bonus money would have gotten me to go back to sea for a second tour.

    • Rick Randall

      Somewhat like carrier groups.
      Less than 13 carrier groups, including escorts and air wings, and we cannot maintain our commitments and have anything that can handle a fast arising situation without abandoning one or more standing commitments. And less than about 20 combatants in the escort group (which can be mostly frigates, frankly, with a couple of cruisers, a handful of destroyers, and an SSN or two) simply *cannot* create a large enough bubble around the carrier.

  • cjleete

    The LCS class ships are the nautical Gama Goats, the Zumwalts will be the new Vaasa.

  • Hale Cullom

    Awhile back I was reading about some of the Second World War losses and damage to US carriers in 1942 suffered as a result of attacks of Japanese submarines (thinking of Yorktown [CV5]; Wasp [CV7] and damage to Saratoga [CV3] (two occasions) and the near torpedoing of Hornet [CV8]).

    Study by the navy later cited the lack of sufficient destroyers as one of the primary causes — the rapid changes of course necessary during air operations adversely affected anti-submarine protection efforts. Typically, at that period, each carrier group was accompanied by 4-7 destroyers, and there simply weren’t enough cans to cover all points of the compass when you had a sudden course or speed change and the destroyers had to race to change positions (that affected the usefulness of the sonar and other tracking gear). This was particularly important in the loss of Wasp. Later in the war, more destroyers became available, and the covering groups were increased to 10-12 destroyers.

  • Grumpy Guy

    It’s more true than when the phrase was coined, and more true every year.

    There are two kinds of ships: submarines, and targets.

    The carriers cannot be risked in forward areas unless the submarine threat can be neutralized first.

    Our own submarine force has suffered its own ‘death of a thousand cuts’ since we got our bright and shiny Peace Dividend.

    To defend Taiwan today would probably mean considerable US naval casualties, with the attendant risk of escalation to nuclear options. Current naval shipbuilding “plans” are laughable and ensure that the strategic balance will only get worse for the U.S.

    • Tom Kratman

      Not necessarily the way to look at it. Oh, sure, I’d no more want to put our CVs between Taiwan and the mainland than put them in the Black Sea to succor Ukraine. But China is a trading power, without a helluva lot of home pumped oil, can be hurt on her flanks without ever putting a carrier in position to be hurt.

    • Rick Randall

      Yup. AA/AD (Anti Access/Area Denial) will work even better against the PLAN than it will the USN, with exponentially more severe effects on China’s economy, productivity, and even ability to feed or heat their people.

    • Tom Kratman

      There’s another factor there worth considering; the Chinese are not stupid; they know their own history, to a point, and they know that it at least _looks_ like we are surrounding them with enemies. Of course, a lot of those enemies they made themselves, but people rarely see their own flaws and mistakes. The upshot of this is not that we should back off from them, but that they think they have reasons to be fearful, and we should be fearful that they think they have reasons.

  • Duffy

    Hmmm Last time I counted, we had 7 Hulls just laying around with plenty of armor and 9 16″ sticks each. “But they could be detroyed so easily these days” No, no easier, and possibly far harder, than a Nuke Carrier. “But Nukes”, well yeah,Nukes change everything, that is why make it clear Nukes begat Nukes. They are a hell of lot more resistant to anything short of of Nukes than anything afloat today, and can be upgraded with all kinds of advanced defensive weapons and electronic suites. In a Task force with or supported by Carriers, or even Amphib Assault ships, and appropriate escorts, fa moreuited to Littorial opeartios than a Nimitz class carrier. Still does not solve your escort issues. Not to replace carriers, but to complement them.

    • Tom Kratman

      There are some other issues with putting the BBs back in harness, I gather, things like hull fatigue, the need to drill through watertight bulkheads to run new wiring, because bluetooth doesn’t quite cut it, and the expense of making parts one off for _everything_.

    • James

      You know I still think it would be worth it.

    • Tom Kratman

      The best I can say is _maybe_.

    • Duffy

      Yes the issue of one off parts is a considerable problem…..that might be solved with the 3D printer technology. Hull fatigue is one I cannot comment on in any way. The wiring issue might be less of a problem now than 15 yeasr ago, I think even the 1930′s technology required conduits for wiring, and could be utilized with fiber optics. But, literally, they do not make em that way any more, and the standard Navel SSM is not going to cut it against even the N.Carolina or South Dakota class. As far as one off parts, what is going to happen soon with the three Zumwalts? I know, pipedream…but one with 9 16″ Guns each and a foot of steel armor. There are worse dreams floating around.

    • Tom Kratman

      Some newsie asked the skipper of one of the Iowa Class what he’d do if an Exocet struck his ship. He was probably expecting, in his vast, incalculable ignorance, some hemming and hawing and justification for this old fashioned thing. The Captain answered, quite properly, “Send a sailor out with the broom to sweep the residue from the missile overboard.”

    • Duffy

      When I was a kid I read a Juvenile History of the Pacific war at see. One paragraph was of a heavily laden Japanese Kamikazi Bomber making it through the AA Screen and striking the USS Indiana right at the water line……..The Indiana kept going with the hull barely scratched. That impressed the snot out of me. It is not just the idea of a Battleship, but the Iowas, and only to a slightly lesser extent the North Carolina and the South Dakota classes, were literally that much better that they pretty much outclassed anything that came before them. Which reminds me, the issue of the Zumwalts being as large as they are, I distinctly remember that the later WWII heavy Cruisers were bigger and faster than most of the pre war Battleships, food for thought. But I can’t help but thinking the Navy may well have a missed the boat when it let the Perry class Frigates go into breakers without a replacement. I can;t help but think that that in the next 5 years they are going to be pushing for lots of smaller but more heavily armed and cheaper Frigates and Destroyers.

    • Tom Kratman

      Sally and Daisy Mae were effectively pocket battleships, but they were exceptions. Most cruisers were much smaller than BBs.

    • Harry_the_Horrible

      And re-paint!

    • Tom Kratman

      Well, yeah, of _course_ you would need to touch up the paint.

    • Iron Spartan

      3D printers are quite slow. 5 axis machining on the other hand can spit out one off parts quite quickly and out of a much wider range of materials. A single factory dedicated to retrofitting and upkeep of the BBs would run $50 Mil to $100 Mil and fixes the one off problem.

      From what I know about the steel grades used in the hulls of the BB’s, fatigue would be less of an issue than one might think. UT or EC inspection would show if repairs are needed, and modern technologies could be adapted to make repairs.

      Control runs could use the same conduit that currently exists. Pull the existing and replace with modern cabling. More than 300% current carrying capacity over WWII wiring for the same gauge of wire. Fiber optics require almost no space in existing conduit and since they add no heat are not considered in the total capacity of a conduit

    • gaige

      Forgive me, but what the Hell is “5-axis machining?”

    • Iron Spartan

      Modern CNC Machining. Parts or tooling can move in at least 5 axises at the same time.

    • Tom Kratman

      One wonders sometimes why BATF hasn’t moved to license those, because they can come quite small and do pretty much whatever you want.

    • Neil

      Oh, it’s been looked at. Thus far, the economists have successfully convinced BATF that they’d cause a Depression if they tried it.

    • John Clark

      Why they went away? In a word. manning. Note what crew sizes are doing class by class.

  • Luis Cedeno

    Paper sea-lion

  • Iron Spartan

    I read once that at the peak of our Naval power the US Navy could conceivably take on every other navy in the world at the same time and come out on top. Now it sounds like our Navy, much like the Air Force, has adopted a mentality of Style Over Substance.

    How do we stack up, not just in tonnage but in potential throw weight? From what I am taking away from here is that a potential first strike could cripple us in any theater. As the US no longer has any stomach for casualties, losing a straight up engagement means we our navy becomes little more than an extension of the coast guard.

    • Tom Kratman

      I just made this comment on FB to someone, that I think works here, too:

      A snapshot doesn’t necessarily work either. Think more along the lines of, “7 year led time for even a known, tried and tested design, so what we go to war with we need _now_,” versus “As long as it’s quiet enough to get close to the US CVN, who cares if the crew survives, if we can put them out en masse 3 years from giving the order to start building.”

    • Iron Spartan

      Same person. Just trying to get traffic both places

    • Tom Kratman

      Ah. Well, in “throw weight” we can always go to nukes and outclass anybody we want to, but we don’t want to go to nukes.

    • Iron Spartan

      I’m a old Grunt as well, but I also have some expertise in automation and advanced manufacturing.

      If survivability and long term durability are not issues, drop the 3 year estimate to 1. If my only goal is to take out a capital ship and am given free range to use any COTS tech I want, call it 6 months until the first system is operational and likely far cheaper than someone might think.

    • Tom Kratman

      Yep. Seems to me some hack sci fi writer explored this issue a, don’t tell me who; It’ll come to me…

    • PavePusher


    • James

      Hell Look at some of the threats.


      Each carries 8 anti ship missiles. They have 83 at present. If they got just 50 of them after a CSG then thats 400 missiles.

      Thats one ship class.


      Hell a ton of stuff that when used in those narrow straights…
      Basically the same small cheap east to produce shit that was shown to be a killer back in the early 2000′s.

    • Pugmak

      The 1 year replacement plan is worthless anyway.

      With the dominance of the rabid, thumb sucking, intellectually inbred, enemy loving left in our media and such, we have about 3 weeks before the “war fatigue” drums start getting pounded and maybe 6 months before the “we win by losing” strategies start getting rolled out.

    • John Clark

      God knows you could get a Shia to drive a Kaiten. We already know what happens when you put a boat full of explosives alongside a DDG. I’d say lead time on that is pretty damn short.

  • gaige

    Are there any downloadable or browser games that let you design modern warships?

    I’d like to see what a modern battleship would look like…

  • Mitch

    As a total civilian it sounds like we need more small ships, more training, development of better combat training simulations for the navy and should I say it a congress and executive branch that actually do there damn job.

    • Tom Kratman

      Define “small.” There’s a point at which small means “not really suitable, as having too little endurance at sea, for global deployments.”

    • Rick Randall

      Such as LCS, which has less at sea endurance than a Coast Guard cuter…

  • James Young

    The March 2015 issue of Proceedings is chock full of articles expounding on this point. I’m sorry, but at some point (and hopefully before we find out if a DF-21 really can do all the things the Chinese claim) there needs to be a national conversation about naval strategy. From that, we should then have an idea what force structure we need. Oh, and it’s well past time to stop letting our “allies” freeload on our protection of the commons. You want the USN to show up, you better be able to add something to the plate yourself.

  • sconzey

    Without a doubt the mix of ships is wrong and the value-for-money is abysmal, but how many carrier groups does the US need? I’ve heard Tom suggest 15, which I guess means 5 groups available for deployment at any one time. Is this a minimum-for-continental-defence or is this a minimum-for-force-projection-and-world-domination ?

    • Tom Kratman

      Not 15, 12-13, leaving 4 deployed and a schedule that might allow one more to surge. Basically, that’s Atlantic, Med, Indian, West Pac (not in the sense of necessarily being there, but being close enough to move into range). Fortunately, the new locks to the Pan Canal will allow passage to Nimitz and Ford Class CVNs, or I might have to say more than 15.

  • Pugmak

    I may be wrong, it’s been known to happen, but…

    The way I see it, the navy we have at the beginning of a conflict that involves fleet vs fleet action, is the only navy we’re going to have for the duration of that war.

    If a nation or group of nations step up hard enough to put their ships against our ships, then it should be expected that ICBMs are also gonna be falling around and about at least in a limited exchange.

    No one’s gonna risk a fleet in an action unless they’re going for the full shebang.

    And, its’ been my experience that nothing what-so-ever invites attack like a display of weakness. The only way possible to keep the full shebang off the table is to make it absolutely clear and completely unambiguous that there’s no hope in hell of winning against us at any level of warfare.

    Of course, we as a nation and a people have been so horribly corroded in our understanding of actual, real world cause and effect by our domestic enemy that we display nothing but weakness anymore.

    • Tom Kratman

      That’s not necessarily the right equation, either. Note that between the second Vinson Act or 1938 and the Vinson-Walsh Act or 1940, most or maybe all of the capital ships we fought the Pacific War with were already ordered before Pearl Harbor. That’s one of the big reason the Japanese attacked us; I suspect, that they could see our hostility and could see the opportunity to mee us on anything like equal terms slipping away.

      Wars very rarely start completely out of the blue. Even Germany’s attack on Poland, in 1939, wasn’t really a surprise to many, except perhaps as to timing. So there is often, rather, usually, time to build up more force.

      What’s key is having a large enough force to buy time and not lose every advantage of position, that is also big enough in personnel to support a major expansion, to have the industrial capability to support and expansion, and to have the dimplomatic and intelligence wherewithal to know when you have to start expanding.

      Is there risk in that? Yes, but you have to accept the rislk in lieu of the certainty of bankruptcy if you try to have everything that might be needed, all the time.

      In any case, as a wise man (Bacon) once said:

      “Walled towns, stored arsenals and armories, goodly races of horse, chariots of war, elephants, ordnance, artillery, and the like—all this is but a sheep in a lion’s skin, except the breed and disposition of the people be stout and warlike.”

      That’s the part that worries me the most.

    • Pugmak

      I fully and completely agree with your “That’s the part that worries me most.” part.

      The rest? Not so sure. The signs and indicators are out and about and loudly proudly waving for attention. The threats are there in abundance for any and all to see. The warnings are being given on a constant basis.

      The key to the timing, imo, is our steadily growing and openly displayed weakness. And currently, as well as for the foreseeable future (taking into account the utter craven knee crawling proclivities of the GOP), we’re a people that love to publicly wallow in our weakness.

    • Tom Kratman

      Next monday.

  • enlightdark

    Some additional issues I’ve seen brought up elsewhere, not sure if you’re going to get into them later.

    Assume for a moment that the congress opens the purse strings, and that the various defense contractors that design warships come up with something that actually works.
    we might lose the ability to make more than a couple ships at a time, because shipyards are closing all over the place, and the highly skilled manual labor necessary to make the parts is getting harder to find.
    I’m sure that lack of facilities and labor can be overcome, but the money it will take to hire more people, train them and reopen dormant facilities is money that would otherwise go to building the ships themselves.

    A massive ship building program a la WW2 would be ridiculously easy to sabotage 4GW style. Given a willingness to die, how hard would it be to severely disrupt the Philly naval yard’s electricity? I’m certain that there are dozens of ways to slow or temporarily stop any rearming of the USN, and that any kind of significant delay could make a big difference.

    A WW2 sailor was dealing with a much less complicated ship, weapons system, & enemy systems and the navy was willing to take casualties rather than thoroughly test for every possible contingency. So, training could be relatively short, and losses were easily replaced.
    Today, the ships’ systems, weapons systems, and enemy are lots, lots more complicated, and require more time to become marginally competent. Today we are both culturally less able to take casualties, and can afford to replace them less, both in terms of training time, and the cost of training.

    Does anyone else remember that one time doobie brother, Jeff Baxter, was able to sink the entire Persian Gulf fleet? If I can read about it, I guarantee so can the Iranians and the Chinese.

    The navy has not realistically looked at the global strategic situation, and it is focused on making p.c. brownie points rather than realistically evaluating it’s capabilities, missions, and weaknesses. At the present moment I doubt there’s anybody over the rank of naval captain who seriously thinks about these things.

    The Army and the Marines have at least had the crucible of combat to potentially weed out foolish, ineffective, or outdated ideas. One may or may not believe that they have learned anything from the last 14 years of war, but they have at least been to war.

    The Navy, and the Air Force have not had to questions any of their assumptions and as a a result are institutionally complacent, unprepared, wasteful and overconfident.
    The difference for the US is that the Army and Marines may or may not learn lessons from ground combat in the ME, and it affects life at home very little.
    If the US navy is defeated, it means a minimum, of worldwide economic depression, and worst case, invasion and occupation of the US.

    The stakes are simply too high for the navy to act as it has.

Be Sociable, Share!