Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Cutting Defense to Save It Part 2

We're still observing these articles by military writer and reformer William Lind. Today he focuses on weapons and strategy. Here are the weapons proposals:

In the U.S. Navy, keep the submarines. Submarines are today's
and tomorrow's capital ships, and geography dictates the United States must
remain a maritime power. Keep the big aircraft carriers, too, though there is
little need to build more of them. Carriers are big, empty boxes that can carry
many things besides aircraft. Mothball most of the cruisers and

Build lots of small, cheap ships useful for controlling
coastal and inland waters, and create strategically mobile and sustainable
"packages" of such ships. Being able to control waters around and within
stateless regions can be important in Fourth Generation war.

Fighter-bombers are largely useless in 4GW, where their main
role is to create collateral damage that benefits our enemies. Keep the air
transport squadrons and the A-10 Warthog close ground support aircraft, and move
them all to the Air National Guard, which flies and maintains aircraft as well
as or better than the regular U.S. Air Force at a fraction of the cost.Reduce
the regular U.S. Air Force to strategic nuclear forces and a training

Pretty much in agreement with all of the above, especially expanding the submarine fleet. Give almost any third rate country a decent sub and suddenly it becomes a world power. It is also the perfect stealth warship, unlike this. I also support a freeze on carrier production until we rebuild fleet numbers because no one else has so many or can do the things ours can do. Not even close.

We have to get serious about littoral warfare and new battleships aren't the answer. We need ships, as I often contend, that can chase pirates into their shallow water haunts. Galrahn has changed my mind on the littoral combat ship, though even it is better than using cruisers and destroyers for this role. Gunboats are the answer today for the unchallenged supremacy of the US Navy, just as they were during the Victorian Era when the British Royal Navy was all powerful.

Certainly we need cheap but good aircraft which can perform close air support, not just suddenly realize the importance of the A-10 with each new war, as if it was some novel thing. I wouldn't as yet discount the importance of the air superiority role, despite the fact that the West has been mostly unchallenged in the air since the Second World War. I do think that the new crop of super fighters, like Raptor, JSF, and Typhoon are over-hyped in their capabilities.

The real revolution is not stealth or supercruise, but the constant advancement of micro-electronics which can be fitted into guided missiles, making them astonishingly accurate. A late model F-16, F-15, F/A- 18 Super Hornet, or Swedish Gripens (plus unmanned aerial vehicles as they improve in capabilities) with their low cost and proven performance could likely hold their own against the new fighters when armed with such weaponry.