Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Navy's Underwater Bridge

Quoting my favorite naval strategist, Sir Julian Corbett was enough to get my attention. Galrahn at Information Dissemination talks of the need for change in the future fleet, and channels my thoughts from "An All Submarine Navy":

To meet future challenges, we believe the Navy should add a
new dimension to its future fleet studies. We observe that on the advice of
Julian Corbett, the US Navy should disconnect traditional function from
traditional classification in its future fleet designs, and only by doing so
will the balance between the strategic peacemaker and warfighter requirements be
achieved in the future fleet while at the same time, potentially expanding
tactical capabilities...

The emerging future submarine force is very different than the
submarine force of the cold war. Today's active duty submarine force offers the
Navy 574 VLS cells specific to a cruise missile deep strike capability. A future
fleet projected to include all 4 SSGNs, and perhaps 48 SSNs with VLS will
feature close to 1200 cells for cruise missiles. From a tactical perspective, a
true stealth platform like a submarine can conduct launches of land attack
cruise missiles much closer to the enemy coast, allowing it much greater range,
and can do so against a minor power with limited sea denial tactical capability,
or a major powers with an advanced anti-access / area denial capability that
would keep surface ships far back from the engagement line.

The idea would be to build large numbers of cheap and expendable surface craft, like patrol boats and fast catamarans to show the flag and chase Al Qaeda pirates(rather than the large, pricey, built-for-another-war super destroyers and cruisers we currently use in this role). Then the sea control duties would fall to the stealthy and virtually invulnerable attack boats, which are now armed with long-range precision weapons placing them out of range of most of the battle fleet's ASW defenses.