Gates: We Ignore Threats to Our Navy at Our Peril
Robert Gates is worried that our fleet is in danger, conveniently ignoring the fact that if things keep on keeping on, there won’t be much of a fleet left to threaten.
“We cannot allow more ships to go the way of the DDG-1000, where since its inception the projected buy has dwindled from 32 to three as costs per ship have more than doubled,” Gates said.
If he means no more outrageous plans for outrageous ships at outrageous prices, then, yes, we cannot allow more ships to go that way.
A commenter pointed out that USS Enterprise (CVN 65) costs about $500 million per year to operate. One popular number for the cost of the DD(X) ships is $3,300 million. So by not building one, the Big ‘E’ could operate for an extra six and half years, and that’s not counting operating costs of the destroyer. So call it seven years.
What will help the Navy more over a seven-year period? One carrier or one destroyer?
A different commenter pointed this out:
10 supercarriers still is infinite times the amount of supercarriers that other nations have.
That’s correct, but my worry about 10 carriers not being enough isn’t based on having to deal with enemy carriers. If we had a potential enemy with a few serious flat-tops, we’d need a 20-carrier fleet. My wish for a dozen carriers is based on no significant surface threats to the fleet.
1 carr[ier] for every sea, plus 3 extra ones for where trouble is.
Here’s a mix of current and potential situations that should be keeping people awake at night:
- Afghanistan continues to require more attention and will for the next several years at least.
- North Korea seems pretty intent on continuing the jackassery of the past couple decades.
- So what if as our troops withdraw from Iraq, things start go go south? Or the Iraq region gets dicey due to Syria or Iran?
- Seeing the fact that we don’t have enough fleet for everything on the wish list, China decides to take advantage of things and decides to start a rumble.
Which “where the trouble is” gets the “3 extra” carriers?
Sure, that’s a nearly-worst-case scenario, but isn’t that what the military is for?
A lot of the justification for cutting back the carrier fleet seems to be the success of the JDAM. It’s tough to argue with this, as one plane with bombs that don’t miss can potentially do the work of a squadron. But this thinking assumes two things:
- Future strike needs will continue to be pin-prick one-bomb needs.
- No one will disrupt GPS.
Those are two pretty major assumptions.
Meanwhile: Push for fewer F/A-18s could widen fighter gap
The so-called “strike fighter gap” may grow under Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ new cost-cutting budget.
Gates proposed a cut in the number of F/A-18 jets the Navy will buy next year, a move that could add to the fighter shortage looming as many of the older Hornets begin to wear out.
Gates said April 6 that the Navy will buy 31 “F/A-18s” in fiscal 2010. A Navy official said that includes F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets as well as EA-18G Growlers, which use the same Boeing-made airframe but are outfitted for electronic warfare…
Last year, Navy officials estimated the fighter gap would reach 125 jets for the Navy and Marine Corps starting in 2016 and extend for several years.
More recent projections are looking at a 150-200 plane shortfall.
We’re probably looking at a “Why keep eleven carriers? We don’t even have enough planes for ten.” scenario.
A recent proposal to stretch Hornet A-D life to 8,600 hours from 8,000 will add about two years of life to each plane at a cost of $500,000.