By Mark Tempest
Carriers started off as fleet auxiliaries a century ago, scouting and screening for the battle line, before taking their place as the chief repository of U.S. Navy striking power during World War II. The CVN could trace the same trajectory followed by the battleships—from capital ship, to expensive fleet auxiliary, and into eventual obsolescence and retirement.
Why is he thinking this way?
This is a milieu populated not just by adversary cruisers and destroyers, but
Old “Silkworm” Anti-Ship Missiles
by missile-toting subs and fast patrol craft. This is also an age of land-based sea power. Extended-range fire support has come a long way since the days of Corbett and Mahan, when a fort’s guns could clear enemy vessels out of a few miles of offshore waters, and that was it. Tactical aircraft flying from airfields ashore, batteries of antiship cruise missiles, and even an exotic antiship ballistic missile are among the weaponry with which U.S. Navy defenders must now contend. This latter-day, hybrid land/sea flotilla menaces not just CVNs but all surface forces that venture within its range.
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Actually, it is a return to the old days, when Lord Nelson’s adage “A ship’s a fool to fight a fort” was the wisdom of the day.
Anti-access weapons and capability have just added to their range, as land-based powers seek to convert their “near seas” into safe, controlled space.
What does it mean if Professor Holmes is right?
I would suggest starting with building up the submarine fleet. A slew of diesel/AIP boats would be good (in theory, cheaper than nukes). Or something different – submersible missile hydrofoil ships? Break out the old Tom Swift books and see if anything makes sense.
I should also note that one of the original arguments for something like the Littoral Combat Ship was that it was an inexpensive asset that could be put in harm’s way . . . to keep the sea lanes open among other things.
The U.S. Navy needs to be very careful to the avoid the hammer/nail approach to problem solving.
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