Friday, May 02, 2008

Whining about Aircraft Carriers

Updated and Bumped. See below.

Peter Brookes at the NY Post is fearful we soon won't have enough flattops to deal with the threats of the 21st Century as the USN cuts back. Considering our steadily shrinking fleet, I believe we have far too many of these budget busters. Here's Brookes:

CHECK this: After cutting the number of active air craft carriers
from 12 to 11 last year, the Navy is now requesting Congress' permission to go
down from 11 flattops to 10 for the years 2012 to 2015.
It gets worse.
Maintenance required on nuclear-powered carriers means one ship is always in
overhaul in the yards - so we'd actually only have nine carriers available for
those years. And some fear that the drop to a 10-carrier force would wind up
being permanent.
Look: Carriers are vital to our defense needs - the Navy
deployed a second carrier this week to Iran's vicinity as what Defense Secretary
Robert Gates called a "reminder." Scanning all the potential flashpoints around
the world, it's not at all clear that we have enough flattops to meet current -
and potential - wartime needs now.

My own view is carriers are hurting, not helping our defense needs. Because they are so expensive, the newest Ford Class costing from $8-$11 billion each, plus hundreds of millions for annual upkeep not to mention many billions more for planes and escort ships, the rest of the fleet suffers accordingly. We are currently down to 279 warships with no end to this decline in sight realistically.

Another reason that they are hurting our security is their high visibility. Each new deployment is followed closely by potential antagonists in this new Information Age. Rather than being a "reminder" to Iran, who is used to such ship movements, they seem to increase tensions where ever they go. A submarine armed with long-range cruise missiles would be more of a potential threat to Tehran because the Mad Mullahs would never know when the invisible attack boats would rain down fire and vengeance upon them.

I know some of you will say that the submarine can't do close air support, only a carrier can. If the Army and Marines control the land, and the Air Force still has bombers, why do we need these increasingly vulnerable battleships to support the troops? They are quite handy, but who can afford them anymore?

Finally, this oft repeated description of the flattops irks me no end:

Carriers are also handy tools of (gunboat) diplomacy.

No, REAL GUNBOATS , small craft which can cruise into shallow waters where pirates tread are tools of gunboat diplomacy, not these "4.5 acres of floating, sovereign US territory ".

Update-From the LA Times "U.S. missile strike in Somalia kills 6". The $400,000 Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired from a USN submarine against an Al Qaeda terrorist base, and validates the above argument.

Thanks to Galrahn for the tip.