The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, once was comprised of Western European nations who were still recovering from the devastation of the Second World War, and in the aftermath of that conflict were staring at the looming colossus of a Soviet Union with both the means and desire to dominate all of Europe.

The eastward expansion of NATO in the last decade and a half has greatly increased the dichotomy between western European member nations and those within the “near abroad” of the very entity NATO was formed to hedge, Russia. These new member nations have very different political and social traditions than do the 1949 founding members. Most have spent fewer than fifty years of modern Western history out of the grips of either Imperial Russia or the Soviet Union.

These new members, and their neighbors who have petitioned for membership to NATO (Georgia, Ukraine), have a decidedly more fearful and less conciliatory tone with Russia than do the western European members. Problem is, with the exception of Poland and possibly Ukraine, none have more than trifling military capability, and remain fragile economically.

With rumblings from Putin regarding the restoration to Russia of the power and influence of his beloved Soviet Union, the NATO members in the “near abroad” are counting heavily on Article 5 of the NATO agreement (…”an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all…”) in the event of Russian aggression.

The unfortunate fact of today’s NATO is that the will and means to uphold Article 5 is almost entirely lacking. And, like Czechoslovakia in 1938, any eastern NATO ally will likely, in the event of aggression, get little by way of assistance from its western European neighbors other than expressions of regret and rationalization of inaction in the face of a bullying and expansionist foe.

The Georgia crisis of the late-summer of 2008 provided a glimpse of the monumental problems that exist in NATO as a vehicle for collective security against a resurgent and restive Russia. Germany, heavily dependent on Russian oil and gas, saw Chancellor Merkel dash off to St Petersburg to meet with Medvedev to reassure him of Germany’s non-interference with Russian plans in Georgia.

More disturbing (and harder to fix) than the conciliatory tone of western members toward Russia because of economic and energy dependence is the overall withering of any military capability on the part of any NATO member except the United States and the UK. Increasingly since the end of the Cold War in 1991, the nations which comprise NATO have contributed less and less to the maintenance of security, and have more and more expected the United States to provide what they refuse to, even toward their own defense. US coaxing and cajoling by several administrations for increased participation have been universally greeted with empty promises, further defense reductions, and thinly-concealed resentment.

The ISAF Model of NATO capability

Though the above assertion may be considered debatable by the European NATO membership (though I couldn’t imagine how), there is a real-time case study that makes the point far more eloquently than assertions here. In Afghanistan, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has approximately 64,000 troops in country. Of those, more than 30,000 are US Army and Marine forces (likely to increase significantly), and almost 10,000 are Brits.

This 40,000 provided by just two of the 28 contributing NATO members represents nearly 2/3 of all troop strength and nearly all of ISAF’s combat power. The contingents for the remaining 26 countries have proven to be ill-prepared, unmotivated, poorly-conditioned, and generally of dubious value, despite what may officially be trumpeted from Brussels. Sadly, this includes the once-respected Bundeswehr, which has become an embarrassment to German traditions of military excellence.

Not that we shouldn’t have (or didn’t) see this coming. In the last decade, NATO’s record in the Balkans was just as dismal. Why, these nations ask, should they contribute to a common defense when the United States provides for them? Besides, NATO’s common defense has ceased to be common. Ceased, at least until its members end up again under the thumb of a totalitarian state that used those differences and disagreements among an alliance’s members to split, intimidate, and then subjugate those nations for which it has an appetite.

Whither, then, NATO? If the organization is inept and incapable of action outside of Europe, and fractious and vacillating within and among the continent, what benefit is there to perpetuating what has become, as one author labeled it, “more a political honor society than a meaningful security organization”?

Perhaps it is time to dissolve NATO, though exactly what can be cobbled together in its place is unclear. The United States also cannot abandon Europe, tempting at times as that can be. This question may become one of the largest of the next decade for US foreign policy, and by proxy, US National Security and National Military Strategy.

Lessons from NATO for the “Thousand-Ship Navy”

There are other lessons to draw from NATO and its shortcomings. The first and largest lesson is once again the failure of collective security. The Thousand Ship Navy concept, one of Admiral Mullen’s pillars of the Global Maritime Partnership, is heavily reliant upon such a collective security. But, no such “fleet-in-being” exists. Nor does a true network of “partner nations” who will contribute more than they will demand. The line between maritime security as defined by “reducing transnational crime, WMD proliferation, terrorism, and human trafficking” and maritime security against nations with blue and brown-water threats who support, condone, and profit from such activities is by no means clear, if it exists at all.

Extrapolating the Afghanistan ISAF model to the world’s oceans, the “thousand-ship navy” would consist of some five hundred US Navy warships, and nearly 200 units of the Royal Navy. Of course, neither service comes close to those numbers. Neither have plans to do so. Both navies, in fact, are shrinking. The US Navy, committed worldwide, is struggling to maintain its level of 280-odd ships, while the Royal Navy has fewer than 100 vessels in commission. Though many will point to those numbers and claim that the Thousand Ship Navy concept is not entirely one of warships, we have had several recent lessons regarding the value and necessity of “presence”. This, in its true form, requires warship hulls.

The NATO model needs to be an object lesson and reality check to the concept of building our Global Maritime Strategy on the idea that “partner nations” are to be counted upon to ante up when the need arises. That the need will be commonly perceived at all by those partners is a dubious concept.

If NATO’s time has passed, the time for the concept of the Thousand Ship Navy never was.

Posted by UltimaRatioReg in Foreign Policy, Marine Corps, Maritime Security, Navy

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  • SwitchBlade

    While you state that “The United States also cannot abandon Europe,…” we can stop doing NATO’s job IN Europe. We should have never gotten involved in the Balkans, but we did. What we should do now is give Europe a 30 day notice that we will pull out – and then do so! If is such a crises that foreign troops have to be stationed there, let the European countries figure it out.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    Agreed, but at this juncture the only alternative is to let the Russians establish hegemony by swallowing her western neighbors. A sticky wicket, to be sure.

    The track record of Europe “figuring it out” since 1814 is rather abysmal.

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    To me maintaining logistic assets and sufficient combat arms troops for their defense in Europe, as appropriate for our long term strategy for Al Queda extinction and jihadii control, makes sense.

    Other than that, deterrance sufficient to keep the germans and russians inside their current borders and not a corporal’s guard more.

    The 1000 ship navy will get lip service until the incumbent CJCS retires and then vanish like a soap bubble…deservedly.

    But what do I know…(rhetorical question…dammit).

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Rhetorical. Whew. Byron was putting together a list…..

  • In the words of the great Steve Stiletto, the 1,000 Ship Navy (nee Global Maritime Partnership) is a “never was has been.

    NATO culminated in DEC 07, everything else you see is just the fighting retreat.

    This is not the template we need to ensure the maritime security for our taxpayer’s concerns.

    You correctly tie in the ISAF lessons into what to expect with the T.S.N./G.M.P. I think that SECDEF Gates knows this.

    NATO is a multi-level alliance.
    – There are those that do the heavy lifting and actually can contribute something for the fight: USA, CAN, GBR.
    – There are those who do what they can with the military they have and their small populations will allow: NLD, NOR, DNK, EST, LTU.
    – There are those who are trying to do more, but just don’t quite know how to do it for political, institutional, and economic reasons: POL, ROU, POR.
    – There are those who would do more, but they are just too poor. LTV, BUL.
    – There are those who could do more heavy lifting, but they lack the political will and leadership to do so: DEU, ESP, ITA.
    – There are those who could do more heavy lifting, but being that they are not fighting each other, they would rather just contribute enough to argue for more GOFO positions in the alliance: GRC, TUR.
    – There are those who want to just do enough to justify their flag outside of HQ ISAF: BEL, CZK, SLV, HUN, CRO, ALB, LUX, SLK.

    By the end of 2010, NLD and CAN will fall into DEU/ESP/ITA club WRT AFG as after doing an outstanding stand-up job for years, they have just had enough. That will lead to the USA and GBR doing most of the heavy lifting. Sure, you will have DNK and EST with us, but with populations of ~5.5 million for one and ~1.3 mil for the other — they can only do so much. FRA has gotten better, and DEU could if it would stop sucking its thumb, but after CAN and NLD go – the Alliance will be for all intents and purposes spent for significant force contributions that are not native English speakers.

    That is the ground truth. Anyone that still holds misty-eyed thoughts about NATO should once again listen to Gen. Craddock’s speech here.

    As for where to go for NATO — well, it has been measured in AFG and found wanting. Keep it as a POL/MIL organization which it is best at (bureaucratic argument and multi-national exercise planning) which should do fine to keep in a caretaker status in case it might be needed at sometime in the future.

    We should continue to withdraw our forces from Europe to the bare minimum to maintain a shared base or two for logistic and training reasons. No major combat formations full time. Europe/NATO is weak because they have grown used to having Uncle Sam foot most of the bill for her defense and most of the bleeding.

    I was reminded of this while driving (right-hand drive, standard shift there, natch) through the UK earlier this year listening to the BBC. The topic was about replacing their Trident nuclear deterrent. Two callers in a row boiled it down to, let’s see if I remember that woman correctly, “It is too expensive to keep, and after all we simply do not need them. If for some reason we do, we are a member of NATO for a reason and the Alliance will cover all the nuclear deterrence we need.”

    Yep, you can read “USA” when “the Alliance” is mentioned – because she wasn’t trusting the crown to FRA.

    Ditto our forces in South Korea. Same Japan. Bring them home. FDNF is great there Navy – but we are knocking on 2010. There is no reason the world’s largest debtor nation should be subsidizing free standing, First World nation’s defense like this. We should stand side-by-side with our friends – not pulling their rickshaw.

    We have a tradition of building a force with global reach. We know how to build heavy lift to take us where we need to be if needed.

    1,000 ship naval mirage? No. A Navy with global reach, yes.

  • International Security is a pipe dream, as is the 1000 ship Navy as currently devised. The faltering Western nations might be willing to get along, but the rising Asian powers want to go their own way.

    Significant increases in Western forces structures is equally fleeting with the type of exquisite warships the RN and USN insist they need for modern threats. Under this mindset, they will be LUCKY if fleet sizes remain the same in the next decade, but decreases are more likely even if the economy improves.

    Over at the New Wars blog, we have devised a formula which could be the answer to falling fleet numbers, giant warships which are harder to build, harder to afford, and are replaced in fewer and fewer numbers with each new class. While it is true these magnificent monuments to the West’s technical prowess are more powerful for each passing generation, somehow we have failed to devise a way for them to magically duplicate themselves and be everywhere at once.

    Barring a magical alternative, we conclude that using this basic formula will build up fleet numbers closer to the seemingly unreachable 1000 ship Navy: “common platforms+smart bombs”. In other words, light and easy to build warships, bought off the shelf would be married to the new sensors and precision weapons devised at the end of the Cold War, used to great success by our land forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. The formula works for all the services.

    By building very small and common or spartan platforms of corvette size or less, the Navy could deploy many of the new weapons to sea, plus add stealth attributes without busting their budget and shrinking their numbers. Monoliths such as the DDG-1000 is everything that is wrong with USN procurement, since its huge and budget-draining bulk will most likely be used against an impoverished Third World adversary, as we now use our 10,000 ton Burke battleships to contend with.

    Since the Navy is probably right that their giant exquisite warships are now so much more capable, we shouldn’t need as many of them, as we certainly don’t need supercarriers and Aegis warships to fight terrorists in speed boats and handle drug smugglers. So the battleships should be reduced greatly in numbers, up to 2/3 in the USN, with their forward presence replaced by cheaper, and easier to build in quantity corvettes, offshore patrol vessels, and even conventional submarines.

    Vessels of around 800-1500 tons are nothing new in modern sea warfare, as such craft 100 years ago were considered destroyers and meant to sail with the battle fleet. We are only calling for such spartan craft to be used in the littoral warfare, which the Navy is currently insisting its Blue Water assets can handle. In reality they are still fighting the last war against the Soviets, but with modern weapons, their shrinking number of giant ships are so much redundancy, especially in the face of thousands of small threats, much like the US Battlefleet at Pearl Harbor in 1941.

    It would also be a fleet better fit to fight. As proved in land wars recently and throughout history, it is easier for an irregular force to transform itself to fight conventional battles, than it is for a conventional minded military to conduct COIN warfare. Think Israel versus Hezbollah 2006, and the US Army in Iraq from 2003-2006.

    Summing up, to restore practically and affordabilty to warship construction, the Navy must return to building smaller ships which are more useful in littoral waters, and can carry much of the same weaponry as the larger vessels, like cruise missiles and new unmanned vehicles, at far less expense. Keep a silver bullet of battleforce ships for now, but they should be an exception not the rule of our strategy, used only in the most dire circumstances.

  • NWC_Student

    The Navy’s procurement woes are reminiscent of a past time. The birth of Naval Aviation in the early 1900’s proved that the battleship and dreadnought era was over. Unfortunately it took a significant effort, which included wasting millions of dollars on what we now know as obsolete platforms. It required forward thinking senior leaders, and energetic young officers to prove that Naval Aviation was becoming a panacea to surface strength. Pearl Harbor, WWII and its significant naval engagements proved that the center of gravity was the carrier fleet.

    Perhaps we are in a similar age now? Traditional platforms, while still valuble do not hold as much influence on today’s maritime battlefield? It is important to remember that even on the ocean, technology is merely a ‘victory enabler’ but not a ‘victory ensurer’. Therefore, a traditional platform like the aircraft carrier is still vital, but nothing can be substituted for actual physical presence and right now a 278 ship U.S. Navy is not adequate, and even the 313-ship Navy called for by ADM Roughead is likely under the number of pure effectiveness.

    I am not sure of the answer, but perhaps Mr. Burleson is correct? Are the massive platforms, built in small numbers obsolete?

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    While the (very) small boys have an important role in a balanced fleet, “littoral” is a (previously) obscure geographic term misapplied. Smaller vessels are useful in littoral (the earlier usage would have been “protected”) waters, they are NOT per se “more useful”. This is reasonably obvious to any modestly serious student of the Guadalcanal, Mediterranean, or cross (English) channel campaigns of WWII, not to mention Oldendorf’s trap.

    Out of control cost escalation in oceangoing ships IS a major problem, largely due to lack of supervision and discipline in the design, contracting, and shipbuilding arenas. While the sins of major project management are far beyond the scope of a single post, the tendency to try to fill the inside straight by “transformation” leads to gambles which don’t pay off and desperation, which generates a steady stream of overpriced change orders to prop up a flawed design long enough to maintain reputation, and/or career (or post career) promotion and pay in too many cases. Promoting the worst offenders will not ameliorate a problem, just call me old fashioned, out of date, lacking in vision and breadth of mind.

    The strategy of evolutionary design, seaworthy construction, design forethought concerning maintenence requirements and rugged, reliable systems no more complex than absolutely required for effective performance to required specs has been abandoned. The concommitent ballooning prices due to the forces discussed above have been exacerbated by ill conceived schemes to seek secondary objectives such as eye appealing habitability features, or manning reductions below any reasonable maintenence or damage control standard.

    Disciplined, iron fisted cost control to keep out the gold plating is required and, sadly, pretty much missing in action.
    As is the concept of spartan, seaworthy, combat ready, lethal design for all the classes of ships required to form a fleet capable of maintaining sea control (“paging fleet auxiliaries, all fleet auxiliaries please report for immediate deployment…”).

    All of which is equally as applicable to the gimmicky missile corvettes we are building at ridiculous ruinous cost as to the unarmored missile antiaircraft cruisers we now call destroyers.

    Enthusiasm for the virtues of small warships (and they are manifold) is all very well. Abandoning the requirement of a balanced fleet for a gunboat navy is not a good idea.

    As Dolly Madison could have explained to anyone.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    Great analysis and much that is unimpeachable good sense. Where do you see a very real and necessary BMD mission fitting in? Last I heard, the plan was to have 80+ of these platforms.


  • Byron

    URR, that would be 80 that can perform the BMD mission AND the AAA and ASuW missions.

    And Mike, the real question when you design a ship, is what will it’s offensive/defensive requirements be? For any reasonable vessel going in harms way today, that means at least some sort of AAA, such as Sea Ram and CIWS, plus the so-far untested NLOS missiles of dubious impact. To make all that stuff work, you need not only the engines for propulsion, but also generation for the following: crew quarters and galley; the AC plants to keep all that sensitive electronics cool and dry (if they get hot and wet, they don’t work); enough electicity to power the sensors and satellite transcievers; enough to provide back up power (excess to needs in combat, in case of damage to one of the generators).

    Now, unless you’re talking about an optically guided missile (which limits you to the horizon, depending on the height of the mast mount), you’re already talking about the +2000 tons range.

    Personally, if my son-in-law goes to see on a ship, I want him on one that can fight and defend itself, and also to maintain the damage control efforts.

    PT boats and gun boats never worked far away from the LAND bases like the Channel and the Slot.

    And to you the Burke might be a battleship; to me, she’s a damn fine up-gunned destroyer, just like the Fletchers were in WW2.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    That’s a roger. 80+ multi-mission warships, not purpose-built BMD platforms.

    Some excellent debate/commentary here. The challenge, of course, is to have adequate capabilities across the spectrum. The large, complex capital warships are far from obsolete, but rather a necessary component of the overall mix. (As was the battleship in the 1940s… imagine NGF missions without them for ANY major Pacific landing!)

    I would love to see what New Wars comes up with for end-strength and mix proposals for a global-reach USN. And don’t forget the amphibs, as power projection/access/entry challenges will remain.

    As for the Thousand Ship Navy, I hope it does disappear like a soap bubble. But such silly notions, especially if they are touted as money-savers, have a way of lingering. Of course, there were those who held onto the League of Nations with white knuckles throughout the 1930s, until the gunfire of a German battleship in the Westerplatte loosened their grips.

  • ” Where do you see a very real and necessary BMD mission fitting in?”

    BMD is a very complicated subject and so far the Navy has been doing it far better than anyone else. But if you think about it, here is a very costly solution to a low tech-asymmetrical problem. It is much like our current naval strategy centered around the aircraft carrier. Some tin pot dictator invades a nearby country, we send the world’s most powerful, high tech, and expensive fleets ever to contend with it. Trying to have an arms race with a Third World country means we lose, because they don’t mind starving their citizens and their tactics are infinitely cheaper than ours, but often equally effective.

    Just because the Navy can do something I am not sure we should.

    “the real question when you design a ship, is what will it’s offensive/defensive requirements be?”

    We are not talking about PT boats here as a future surface combatant alternative for the USN and others, or even the smaller FAC’s very popular in the 1960s-1980s but discredited in the Gulf Wars. You would need a ships with balanced capabilities offensive and defensive, with a heavy AA armament. The small boat’s prime antagonist the helicopter is so easy to shoot down as seen in all wars since its inception. So you would need a ship built with this threat in mind, and the Israeli Saar 5 is a favorite.

    Also at the blog we were discussing the UAE Baynunah class, built by the UK and at 660 tons is more heavily armed than the LCS Freedom! And drastically cheaper. The problem with LCS is you had a ship geared for shallow water littoral operations, with Blue Water attributes added on later. Was this to satisfy the Big Ship navy who traditionally scorn small ships? But these are the same people giving us steadily shrinking force structures, out of control ship costs, vessels greatly delayed in entering service, and riddled with construction faults when they do.

    We must start thinking outside the box, trying things we don’t normally like or we die.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    RE: BMD

    “here is a very costly solution to a low tech-asymmetrical problem.”

    Mike, there is a considerable number of people who see that quite differently, as ICBM and TBM threats mature. Asymmetric it is, but hardly low-tech. Rogue nations or non-state actors with such a capability have the potential for unprecedented mischief, damage, and loss of life among the US and her allies. This includes US Navy surface groups at sea, by the way. The traditional role of the CSG escort and “cruiser” missions are still with us, though the means of execution have changed with technology. IMHO.

    I am not sure going small across the board will get us the global reach we will need, in blue water or brown. Perhaps, the “smaller” warships one might envision would be somewhere between the 1,300 ton Saars (some built by NGSB, by the way) and the 9,000 (ish?) ton Arleigh Burkes. How about a 3-4,000 ton heavily-armed, rugged, fast destroyer?

    Not so jammed full of expensive toys, reasonable cost, capable of surviving considerable damage AND CONTINUING THE FIGHT…

    Such a class of vessels, built in sufficient numbers to meet the requirements for warship hulls to provide “presence”, would go great lengths toward avoiding your very astute point regarding gold-plated queens being sent to take rooks on the other side of the board.

    I would also submit that this is NOT thinking outside the box. It was “thinking outside the box”, a euphemism for ignoring fundamental truths (either through genuflecting to technology or trying to work around budgetary limitations) that got us where we are with this whole problem/issue.

    I would say that we need to get back to those fundamentals, understanding that there are missions that certain classes of ships are better suited to perform. This at times obviates the need for hundreds of millions in weapons and radar systems for warships not expected to fill such roles, whether the contractors like it or not. Not every class of vessel needs every capability.

    The silliness of “reducing operational costs” caused the US Navy to decommission valuable and effective units by the bushel basket in the last couple of decades. Those costs have been replaced manifold by the requirements to build super-expensive replacements in tiny numbers that cannot possibly give the Fleet Commanders the density of ships and operational flexibility they once had.

    There is a need for large surface and subsurface combatants. CGs. DDGs. CVNs. SSBNs. SSNs. There is also a need for FFGs. But there is also a need for a smaller, true destroyer that can perform its mission effectively without risking a large chunk of the empire’s fortune fighting a fight against smaller and less capable enemies. That’s why it was called “gunboat diplomacy”. “Dreadnought diplomacy” (hey, I invented that!) was reserved for rival navies posing a high-intensity threat to control of the sea. Both were and are vital. Time to build a Navy to accomplish both.

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    “Time to build a Navy to accomplish both.” I agree, save for two words.

    Make that “rebuild”. Then the Navy would once again have a “balanced fleet”, once the fleet auxiliaries are back on line.

    The other non-tivial error should read a “large chunk of the REPUBLIC’s fortune”. Don’t have an empire, don’t want one.

    As for the rest of the post, you were completely correct.

    Nicely done, Marine. Besides, if I didn’t pick a nit or two, you would think I wasn’t paying attention.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Thanks, Grampa!

    Yes, I used “empire” intentionally tongue in cheek. Hearkening to the heyday of the Royal Navy.

    “Balance” was a difficult concept for the RN to struggle with in the naval building race with Wilhelm’s Germany. Had the Brits begun building modern cruisers a bit earlier, how might that have changed the outcome of shadowing Goeben and Breslau in the opening days of the war, or the willy-nilly chase of Adm. von Spee’s Sudseegeschwader?

    Or, what if one or two dreadnoughts of the Grand Fleet had been sliced into a squadron of modern scout cruisers that might have held onto the High Seas Fleet and gotten Jellicoe to the battle two hours sooner, while still daylight?

  • Part of the reason I am against any type of medium sized destroyer/ frigate design, is because such vessels have increased in cost as to be little different from the gold-plate 10,000 ton Burke ships we already build. With the 3000 ton LCS, underarmed as it is with a “patrol boat armament” now at 3/4 of a billion $$$, what would it be with adequate weaponry added on? Likely very near the price at about $1.5 billion the latest Burke superships are coming in. The Navy’s answer is typical “build more Burke’s”, but this ship is too large for littoral operations, though it is very vulnerable to asymmetrical threats in such waters, recalling the USS Cole.

    So we ask for corvettes of around 1500 tons or less, more capable than the vulnerable FAC’s in the last quarter of the 20th century, and the smallest type ship able to carry an adequate defense/offensive armament. At the most, they cost $500 million, more typically $300 million, so you could get a whole squadron of such vessels for the price of one supership. You could also fill out your numbers with even lower end corvettes like OPV’s which price at around $50 million or so, more than adequate for the type of anti-narcotics, anti-piracy role the USN now uses its most expensive ships such as the Burke’s, plus even the giant Marine aircraft carriers for.

    High speed vessels already in production and priced at less than $200 million, can speed in and out of littorals waters, offloading cargo, and hopefully soon, the Marines themselves, as such craft seem ideal for amphibious warfare. Their hybrid abilities would do away with the need of giant and costly amphibious motherships like the San Antonio’s, technically troubled vessels which we can’t afford in the numbers we need.

    The Navy has so many choices where it can go into the future, and increase numbers. Yet it seems stuck on this battlefleet, conventional war concept. The chances for such conflict is always possible but hardly imminent, while small threats that mount worldwide are ignored or downplayed. With the power of modern weapons, the Navy could safely reduced its number of carriers, cruisers, destroyers, submarines, and amphibious fleets, and beef up its presence worldwide with smaller, cheaper, but equally capable corvettes, auxiliary warships, ect.

    Sadly, not only are we preparing to fight the last war at sea, we are also designing our fleet around last century budgets. Inevitable change is coming here is well, and if the enemy doesn’t take down our shrinking force of giant peacekeeping platforms, not built to fight but deter war, then the bean-counters in Congress and the White House certainly will.

  • Byron

    I’d like to see the offensive/defensive loadout for your corvette, along with the power plant, electrical generation capability, fuel range at best speed (minimum top speed should be 30 knots @ minimum range of 1500 miles). Tell me how this corvette will stand up against the asymetrical offenses of various threats such as anti-ship missiles, current state of enemy tracking radars for both sea and shore based threats. Also tell us the manning on this corvette, including room for damage control parties.

    Also compare/contrast capability/cost against 1 Burke guided missile destroyer, i.e., how many corvettes will it take to equal Burke’s capabilities.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    I am not willing to decide that a vital capability is out of reach because of, as Grampa says “lack of supervision and discipline in the design, contracting, and shipbuilding arenas” that leads to “a steady stream of overpriced change orders to prop up a flawed design”. Fix that. Yes, the Cold War is over, or so we think. (Putin may disagree, by the way.) But that doesn’t mean certain fundamentals of sea power extant for many centuries suddenly vanish.

    Our enemies are building combat units and other technologies for the purpose of regional blue and brown-water domination. We must be ready to counter those capabilities in the areas in which we have vital interests or allies. There are also rogue nations and non-state actors that have the ability to fight asymmetrically at sea. Or over it. We must be ready for that, too. I would submit that ALL US Navy vessels are vulnerable to the type of attack that struck USS Cole. It is much more a question of training and readiness posture (and what one has permission to do for readiness measures) than a question of weapons systems or hull forms.

    I also don’t buy that you can have corvettes and auxiliaries that are “equally capable” with CGs and CVNs, or amphibs. Such is an illusion. Balance. Balance. Balance. Need them all. Control costs, evaluate threats, match units to task and mission. Hardly thinking outside the box.

    Our senior civilian and military leadership need to have the courage to tell our government what can be and cannot be done with current constraints. Trying to jam cuts in capability down the throats of the Officers and Sailors by using double-speak weasel phrases like “right-sizing” and “lean six-sigma” to plaster over the holes just doesn’t cut it and never has.

  • UltimaRatioReg-I thought I was making your argument here for a need of a bigger fleet. Is just more money the only answer for us to get where we want, or can the naval builders give us designs which are reasonably priced and still effective? Small warships have been important parts of our global naval strategy throughout its history, that is until here lately when we are so dominant we forgot how we got where we are. It was the small ships which defeated the U-boats in 2 World Wars, something the Big Ships played little part in, though they did play their part.

    My idea for corvettes is they can do the shallow water operations as good as the large exquisite warship we now send in such waters. Every type of ship we have plays a part in the naval strategy. There is no warship which can “be all and do all”. In other words, there are no perfect warships.

    The best type of ship to fight small ships is another small ship. The best craft to send into the shallow waters is a shallow water craft. It is all about environment, practicality and numbers. More boots on the ground, more planes in the air, more hulls in the water. The all high tech force works counter to these essential rules of warfare.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    You have, as I mentioned above, some unimpeachable good sense in your arguments. More small vessels, with a cost that we can bear for sufficient density. But when you intimate that other types that perform higher-end missions are perhaps obsolete (as I understood some of your comments to do), then I disagree with that.

    As in land warfare, maintenance across the spectrum is a necessity. Scrapping the entire US Army and Marine Corps and re-sculpting both as large counterinsurgency forces, as some advocate strongly, leaves the HIC portion of the spectrum to the bad guys. Lose a high-intensity fight, and the world changes quickly and for the worse.

    Same rules apply for procurement, too, that we find in the shipbuilding morass. A gazillion-dollar artillery system that can shoot, move, and communicate all on its own, procured in very small numbers, does not answer the mail for fire support requirements against even a middling enemy. In the air, very high-cost airframes that cannot be fielded in the numbers required are a liability and not an advantage.

    Your ideas and thoughts on more smaller hulls have merit. But it is a case of “this AND that”. They have their place, but not as major combatants, or amphibs, or in any other capital ship role.

    What we can afford, I strongly suspect, is far more than we have been getting. That is a direct result of the problems Grampa pointed out. Gotta fix that first. Time to bring back BuShips?

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Anyway, back to draining the swamp….

    Whatever the answer is for the US Navy, it sure as he** isn’t counting on the same allies on the worlds oceans to provide precisely what they have abjectly either refused or been unable to provide on land or in the air.