Monday, July 29, 2013


It is interesting to watch as the U.S. Navy, still struggling to transform itself and remain relevant in the 21st century appears to be repeating all of the errors made by the Great Powers at the turn of the 20th century. England, France and Germany knew that modern battlefield weapons made doctrine and tactics of the 19th century obsolete. They all had observers on both sides throughout the American Civil War and those observers were quick to note that unprotected men in the open were dead meat when engaged by massed rifle fire and cannons. This didn't keep either side from continuing the practice of open field charges but they really tapered off after awhile if not due to the leaders accepting the increasing range and lethality of the weapons than because they were running out of men.

All this was known to the belligerents of the Great War and yet they fought as if the Civil War had never happened nor the Boer War. The leadership refused to accept that tactics and doctrine had to change to encompass the changes imposed by the new tools of war.

At sea the changes in the tools had driven many changes in the doctrine and tactics as the admirals exploited every technological advantage they could find to make their ships more lethal at longer ranges using bigger guns, better powders, torpedoes, alternative fuel sources and propulsion plants. Everything they did was designed to make it easier to sink enemy ships and make their ships more survivable.

The USN today is clutching itself and wrapping its virtue in the cloth of fiscal prudence and making a strong case for saving money by reducing crew size and eliminating all those payroll padders known as sailors. There's plenty of money for staffs and higher staffs and diversity officers and technical know-how types along the waterfronts but the need for manpower at sea has found all the admirals reach consensus and declare that they don't want so much of it anymore. It's a fake of course, just as man-made global warming is a fake bit of consensus. The ships may not have racks and space for more than 70 men but that just forced the admiralty to have a whole second set of 70 men trained to rotate and swap places with the crews. Each ship has 2 or more crews and a vast shore establishment to do the work in port of the missing sailors not present in ship's company.

The new designs also seem to shed any concern over survivability. The ships are one step from disaster in every possible way. There might be only 1 sailor aboard who is trained and skilled to make repairs to the high tech widgets and that alone makes that sailor essential. There's a lot of high tech widgets on these things. None of them seem to be purposed to kill enemy ships at a distance. Nor do they seem to be required to stave off weapons attacking the ship nor for sensors designed to detect, track and classify submarines, enemy aircraft and missiles or kinetic energy weapons of any kind. There's no armor either. The high tech gizmos seem to be found in the engine rooms in the propulsion systems, the electrical systems, water making systems, the degaussing systems, the air conditioning systems. Each of these systems is also mostly a one-off. If it fails there is no backup.

In the olden days of the last century if a warship lost power in one engine room it had a second engine room that could keep the ship moving through the water. If one generator failed there was another. If it lost water making aft it still could make water forward. If it lost a weapon system it had redundant weapons. Ditto sensors and all the rest of that because it was designed and built with the acceptance that it would steam into harm's way and both give and take combat damage. Only the redundant survived. You wouldn't know it today since the bean counters have eliminated redundancy as much as possible in order to save cost, weight and manpower.

It seems a stupid and dangerous assumption to keep repeating but one the admiralty keeps repeating of the little warships that, "nobody would waste a missile or torpedo attacking one."

CO of USS INDEPENDENCE (Gold Crew) talking recently in port
 It speaks volumes when the Commanding Officer of America's newest warship feels that he must carry a radio on his belt at all times.


Buck said...

MY SN2 was recently posted to DeeSee in some acquisition capacity. He's a former CHENG (on MASON, a DDG, and MONTEREY) and has certain POVs that mirror what you wrote here. I'm steeling myself for the horror stories that are sure to follow.

HMS Defiant said...

I honestly didn't mind being on a relatively unarmed warship in a warzone but these ships were designed as combatants to replace combatants getting long in the tooth. They cannot do any of their missions at all after 5 years in commission. That's beyond sad. That's a crime.