US Navy: 'Hollow' force or 'the best in the world'?
An LCS underway. The modern warships are a key part of the Obama's vision for the Navy's near future.
May 29th, 2012
02:35 AM ET

US Navy: 'Hollow' force or 'the best in the world'?

By Larry Shaughnessy

One of the many issues likely to be batted around during this year's presidential election is the status of the U.S. Navy.

Several times on the campaign trail, Gov. Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, has criticized the Obama administration's handling of the Navy.

"Do you realize our Navy is now smaller than any time since 1917?" Romney said during a campaign rally in South Carolina last January.

A few days later at a debate in Tampa, he said, "Under this president, under prior presidents, we keep shrinking our Navy."

And last October, while speaking at the the Citadel, he said, "I will reverse the hollowing of our Navy and announce an initiative to increase the ship-building rate."

But President Barack Obama's defense secretary said Wednesday, "We have, without question, the strongest Navy in the world."

So who is right? Well, in some ways, both are.

No other Navy in the world has more than two aircraft carriers. The United States has 11. It is one of the few navies that regularly patrols all the oceans of the world. Other navies may have more warships, but many of them are built to operate very close to home and there's little capability to venture to other regions of the world. So Panetta's right about the United States having the strongest navy.

But Romney was also right to say the navy is shrinking, considering the long term. Since World War Two ended, the U.S. Navy has been shrinking. But as of this year, the Navy is not "smaller than any time since 1917" as Romney said. With 285 commissioned surface warships, it's actually grown slowly since the second term of the George W. Bush administration when the number dipped to 278.

But it's unlikely that Obama will crow much about that growth. The number of ships will actually decline over the next few years before new ones are added, bringing the number to 300 ships in 2019.

Why the decrease? The Obama administration plans to decommission about nine older warships. "The Navy ... will retire lower-priority cruisers that have not been upgraded with ballistic missile defense capability or that require significant maintenance," Panetta said in January.

It should be noted here that the House has approved a budget that keeps the DoD from mothballing most of those cruisers. The Senate has not voted on its version of a defense budget for FY 2013, which is already more than half over.

But even if the Administration mothballs cruisers and a few other older ships, the Navy is building a new aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald Ford (which will replace the soon-to-retire USS Enterprise) plus dozens of destroyers and littoral combat ships (agile ships designed to operate close to shore) that will be include all the latest warship technology.

"The Navy is protecting our highest-priority and most flexible ships, such as the Arleigh-Burke destroyers and the littoral combat ships," Panetta said.

So while some people argue about the number of warships, the Navy looks at it a different way. "It's about numbers and also about capability," said Navy public affairs officer Cmdr. Tamara Lawrence. "What a destroyer could do 25 years ago is not what it can do now. Our ships continue to get better."

Robert Work, the under secretary of the Navy, said just last week in a speech at the Cato Institute, "You take a look at the ships we're building ... every single one of them are the best in the world. ... I'm telling you right now, the surface Navy has a very, very bright future."

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      July 18, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Reply
  57. bre

    how many of those comitioned ships are in non active status? At least one is a 200 yr old wooden frigate.................
    -USN vet

    July 17, 2012 at 7:03 am | Reply
  58. Secret Lacrosse Society

    I always think of Spinal Tap when I here that the US Navy has eleven aircraft carriers.

    "Ours go to eleven."

    July 15, 2012 at 2:07 am | Reply
  59. swabby

    With many of the hi-tek parts made in china, who knows what the outcome will be in a show-down

    July 11, 2012 at 7:56 pm | Reply
    • Emigdio Alvarez

      probably a tie, but then again, China only has 1 carrier, and even that was a russian carrier from the late 80's.

      July 12, 2012 at 7:05 pm | Reply
    • J G

      Most of the high-tech parts on our military vessels are not made in China. In fact, a DFARS (DOD procurement regulation) provisions prohibits the use of Chinese made goods on defense products. That doesn't mean some contractors don't violate those provisions either intentionally or accidentally, but you're not going to find a large amount of Chinese made goods on those ships.

      July 18, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Reply
  60. scott

    our Navy is the best. it is true that the fleet has less ships but the size of the ships, and subs ,is alot bigger.......A destroyer now is the size of an older generation cruiser...the capabilty of our ships vs. older generation. or other Navies is unbelievable....Just think of 1 modern sub or aircraft carrier in WWII..I believe they made a movie about that.......Our ships are better than any other navy .Our crews are the "best of the best"...that goes for all the other services also...If we wanted to we could take on and defeat all other nations armed forces......easily...just not 50 times over...maybe only easy my countrymen for we can sleep soundly

    July 11, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Reply
    • skeptikal

      No doubt US armed forces are the best money can buy – however execution is questionable – consider Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan. As a surgeon might say: the operation was a success but the patient died.

      July 18, 2012 at 1:07 am | Reply
    • steve

      Guys your navy is awesome you shouldn't even have to have this discussion! Try being in our shoes we Brits have lost almost all of our capabilities since the second world war our fleet has been hollowed out so badly its depressing, from nearly 900 ships in 1945 we are left with just 39 major fighting ships. on the bright side I reckon ship for ship, man for man the royal navy is doing its best keeping right up there with you's. We can only dream of having a navy like yours again maybe now that the US are shifting focus from the west to the east our government will do more to pick up the slack?

      October 4, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Reply
      • XBoilerTech


        I had the honor of sailing with many of her Majesty's Ships and Sailors from 1982 to 1995 while serving in the US Navy. Thanks for the memories and your Navy is and always will be respected.

        XBoilerTech USN

        November 1, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
  61. Cuervo Jones

    guess they havent heard about our new navy rail guns. the ships wont even have to carry powder soon.

    July 11, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Reply
  62. Westsacvoice

    Nobody ever talks about spending money on the diplomatic core or foreign service. Perhaps we should look at this like any problem and find the root cause rather than deal with the symptoms.

    Why do we need to have a navy much more capable than is required to defend US territory? Certainly, any naval attack on the US can be dealt with with air power and surface to sea missiles.

    Why do we need to be the navy for another country? Certainly English, French, and German navies alone can provide support.

    I don't want my tax dollars protecting other citizens who are certainly capable of spending their own tax dollars to build up their navies. It is only in recent history where the US navy surpassed all the navies I mentioned above. America kicked British ass and gained independence even when the British navy dominated the world.

    Let's get better diplomats to settle things without a single shot and save us billions of dollars. Let other countries deal with their own defense.

    June 21, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Reply
    • Rick

      You apparantly dont live i nthe real world. you havent got a clue do you?

      July 12, 2012 at 9:31 am | Reply
      • Eric

        The reason for a Navy is to project power abroad. "You're dead if you come attack us" doesn't matter if they simply attack other interests that aren't the homeland.

        July 15, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
  63. Michael Hobart

    Simply counting numbers of ships is meaningless when one considers their changing capabilities and missions. A comparison between ships in World War I and now is ludicrous beyond belief. We clearly have the largest and most capable carrier force in the world. Note also that we count only large strike carriers in that class while those of some other navies are closer to our Wasp class amphibious assault ships. That is ships which can carry helicopters, AV-8B Harriers if necessary, OV-22 Ospreys... It we add that to the mix, then we magically have an additional 8 carriers.

    We spend approximately as much on defense as the rest of the world combined. Some Republicans, including presumptive nominee Mitt Romney, want to increase this spending to even higher levels while cutting taxes (revenues). This is fantasy-land economics.

    The Republicans also seem to want to start several more wars (though there is also an isolationist wing of the Republican Party that wants to pull back everything to our own borders... sheesh).

    June 21, 2012 at 10:43 am | Reply
  64. Russ dyer

    The LCS class ships are junk, and expensive junk at that. The Singapore navy formidable class frigates have small crew, better weapons and radars and are cheaper.
    It amazes me why countries wont buy each others ships if they are better and cheaper. Brittain should have bought ddg51 destroyers instead of the type 45's . America should buy the Sinapore Formidible class frigates instead of the paper LCS ships. The French and Germans have great small ship designs, why reinvent the wheel?

    June 19, 2012 at 10:26 am | Reply
    • Rick from LA


      June 19, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Reply
      • Dave h.

        Noy pride..... Jobs in Congresional Districts. Better to build junk in Michiagn, Wisconson,Main and Mississippi, than world-class warships from Norway, Singapore, Germany and Sweden..

        June 19, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • Michael Hobart

      It will be a while before the LCS ships are truly ready for deployment and they are designed so that they cannot really engage in combat against anything of any significant size (even their own). They are supposed to have very small crew sizes and would have great trouble dealing with casualties or battle damage. The idea that if they encounter trouble they can simply sail back to a repair base assumes that they in workable condition to make that voyage and that their is a repair facility not far away. This truly defines them as Littoral – near the coast. There are major flawed assumptions involved in specifying their mission, their features, and their staggering costs.

      June 21, 2012 at 10:52 am | Reply
    • GhostCoyote

      It's also not wise to depend on the quality control of foreign governments

      June 22, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Reply
    • MyManDarwin

      Russ Dyer: I will take the high road and assume you know a little about the Navy and how it operates. But let me explain why we build our Navy's ships here instead of buying "off the shelf".

      By designing and building our Navy's ships, we have control, and moreover, the only knowledge of the internal systems, counter measures, survivability, and lay out of our ships. Yes, we sell our old ships to foreign navies thus giving up those design details but that is with older technology that Jane's has probably already put out in one of its books.

      With the newer technologies, we do not want foreign powers knowing where to hit us to cause the most damage. In today's naval combat enviroment, one or two pin point attacks in certain areas of ships can render the entire ship useless. If we bought ships from Singapore, every country that we went up against would know exactly where to hit it to knock it out. Not so with our internal designs. Buying pre-made ships is just not good policy, especially when the government we bought the ship from would have no qualms about also selling one to our enemies.

      Trust me...I am currently serving in the Navy and have been for 18 plus years. The more the enemy has to guess where to hit the ship to stop it, the more success we have.

      July 13, 2012 at 9:18 am | Reply
      • 26 Year Navy Vet

        Dude, we build them here because the Teamsters (and just about ever member of Congress) would throw a fit if we didn't. It's 100% about American jobs.

        July 16, 2012 at 1:36 am |
    • J G

      U.S. jobs. U.S. contractors.

      July 18, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Reply
  65. plz

    maybe with mitt romneys genius economic plan he can re-employ all the teachers and firefighters he is going to fire and send them to the US navy! Im sure if romney can get newt in as the VP they can decommission the intreped off chelsea piers and fly it to the moon to estyablish a moon base on 25 cent a gallon gas! You better do some more research, from more sources, if you think voting for romney is aligned with your economic interests.

    June 13, 2012 at 4:26 am | Reply
    • Patrick

      The Intrepid is already decommissioned. And don't worry, with 23 million unemployed or under-employed there cwill be lost of potential recruits for the expended USN once Romney becomes president!

      November 2, 2012 at 9:25 am | Reply
  66. mike

    I met a former submariner who had a funny bumper sticker on his car. It read there are 2 types of ships....Submarines and Targets.

    June 7, 2012 at 12:04 am | Reply
    • stinky


      June 19, 2012 at 11:07 am | Reply
  67. DarkerEvil

    We don't need a "600 ship" navy or even a 300 ship navy. Did 15 carrier battle groups and other legacy assets prevent 9/11 or sink the Iraq navy in 2003 or execute a “Midway” style battle against al qaeda in Afghanistan? Maybe we can cross the Iranian navies “T” in one more Surigao Strait surface action to keep the gulf open and keep the pick up trucks drivin’ and the nascar races circling.

    Nope, not needed; but what is interesting is that Pres. Obama is using the Seals and other special operation units along with unmanned aircraft to perform the kind of asymmetrical warfare that we were so afraid would be used against our Cold War era thinking generals and military assets.

    Pres. Obama’s strategy seems to be a working model of what Donald Rumsfeld had in mind but couldn’t actually implement back during the previous administration. Aircraft carries and other relics are TARGETS good for costly “showing the flag” operations but way more expensive than a flag pole and useless when the missiles and torpedoes start flyin’ in the South China Sea. Submarines, UCAV’s, satellites, SEALS and a few good marine’s to round up the stunned survivors are all this navy needs, going forward.

    “Wade into the enemy……”

    June 5, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Reply
    • Patrick

      Perhaps you would like to explain how those submarines, SEALS, UCAVs and Marines would stop an Iranian blockade of the Strait of Hormuz or stop a PRC invasion of Taiwan or support a counter-attack against Nortn Korean aggression on the Korean peninsular. And yes, you are right, US carriers did not destroy the Iraqi Navy in 2003- because the US carrier force had already destroyed. The Iraqi Navy in Operation Desert Storm (with the help of the Royal Navy).Thanks USS Roosevelt, Midway, Ranger and America. And of course it was US carrier aviation and major surface ships that destroyed the Iranian Navy in 1988 . Thank you USS Enterprise. And it was aircraft from USS Midway and USS Constellation that escorted US convoys during Operation Ernest Will. And it was USS Enterprise and USS Carl Vinson that made the US overthrow of the Taliban possible in 2001- without this carriers all the US special forces would have accomplished nothing. And it was USS America, Coral Sea and Saratoga that took on Libya's navy in 1996- the SEALs and submarines couldn't do a damn thing. And it was USS Independence that supplied airpower for the innovation of Grenda- saving the butts of the drowning SEALs and Delta Force units under siege. Just because the US is fighting a low intensity drone intensive war today, does not mean that is the war of tomorrow. And unlike special forces, which can be mobilized and trained within a year or so, a carrier takes 6 years to build and carrier operations can never be relearnt once forgotten. Wise up. Read some history.

      June 5, 2012 at 9:56 pm | Reply
      • Patrick

        Apologies for grammar and typos. Damn iPad !

        June 5, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
      • Subsafe

        You do realize that the submarine force will be the best poised asset to accomplish all of the situations you threw out there right? The easy one to point out is the China/Taiwan issue. If China were to launch an invasion, no surface ship could safely operate between China and Taiwan due to ASUW and Anti Air Missiles. The CVN and its battle group would be relegated to sit outside the playground and desperately try to support with Anti-Ship Missiles and a few F-18 for Strike/ASUW (if they still carry ASUW munitions). Counter that with the capabilities of the submarine force able to operate in those close in water ways virtually undetected and very capable at taking out "Targets" aka surface ships with near impunity. I may be biased, but it is easy to see the value of a true stealth weapon.

        June 14, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
      • Jonathan

        I agree 100%. We don't need a massive navy. We need a focused, agile navy. Surface ships are vulnerable to anti-ship missiles and submarines. Especially aircraft carriers. Indeed we have the ability to shoot down incoming missiles but it's not 100% of course. Naval warfare isn't who has the most ships and biggest guns anymore as a plane can destroy a ship from tens of miles away 50,000 ft. in the air. Let alone all the anti-ship missiles our cruisers carry now. People are still stuck in the past. Romney speaking as if he has any clue as to naval operations and/or doctrine. "Smallest size since 1917..." Uhm, no it's not the smallest size since 1917 as stated in the article. Let alone how irrelevant it is as no other navy in the world can come close to our projection capabilities, training, experience and doctrine.

        June 16, 2012 at 11:42 am |
      • Barry PO1st Class ST3

        1 clarification Patrick we didn't need our ases saved in Grenada.

        June 18, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
      • Rick from LA

        It sounds like you do not grasp the full capabilities of our navy. The firepower of one of our new destroyers is greater then a WWII battleship. Don't laugh, but looking at the specs of the new DDG-1000, it's missile payload has the potential to sink the entire Iranian navy from the Arabian Sea. Now that is scary.

        What the past presidents and this one is doing is making the Navy more cost effective. If a new ship of the line has twice the combat capabilitiew, they will decomison 3 legacy vessels, but only buy 2 of the new vessels. Though in the ednd we have have fewer ships, we have more overall capability.

        June 19, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
      • To Rick from LA


        To reply to your comments about one DDG-1000 having the singular fire power to eliminate an entire surface fleet, you will be surprised to know that the DDG-1000 actually was designed without anti-ship missiles in store... and get this... as well as not designed without either medium range anti-air defense missiles or the ABM SM-3 missile in store!

        The $3+ billion DDG-1000 will yes, need an Arleigh Burke Class Destroyer as escort for anti-surface protection and anti-air/Bomber protection!

        Oops... kinda forgot something in the design there.

        June 20, 2012 at 12:58 am |
      • NAV.ARCH

        Not to mention the fact that the DDG 1000's are very unstable in anything other than flat seas. They can't even make a high speed tight radius turn without capsizing as of right now. I still can't believe they haven't resolved the stability issues and are moving forward with the production of the first vessels. Then throw in the fact that, as of right now, it won't be able to fire those new rail guns with out risk of capsizing and you've got one "capable" vessel.

        July 12, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • Phil

      @DarkerEvil...spoken like a true DUMBOcrap !!

      June 13, 2012 at 11:54 am | Reply
  68. Geoff K

    USN is definitely trending towards 'hollow', in a fairly rapid fashion given the type of high-price acquisitions in the pipeline (along w/ assets soon to retire) and future budget consolidation.

    An interesting cost-effective and asymmetrical capability stopgap though would be to study feasibility of converting very cheap ($185m) JHSV multi-mission fast lift ships - pre-deployed - into 'VLS' missile-barges supporting the Burke class once in a theater of operation. 1-2 Burke would just have to show up in theater and they would instantly be double force-multiplied upon arrival, including double the ASW helo asset! Add 4x 30mm remote guns on the corners (plus naval-hellfire) for enhanced 'anti-swarm' surface force protection. I'd also advocate reconsidering and evaluating a Naval ATACMS system for VLS. And why stop there? Modify NATACMS for air launch delivery from Super Hornets! Contemplate 600km standoff range for attacking soft ground-targets to supplement JASSM-ER in hard penetrating role!

    For example only, such concepts would arguably provide substantial cost-effective force-multiplying capability and deterrence during indefinite austere budget environments.

    June 2, 2012 at 1:23 am | Reply
  69. David

    Within the next decade the United States navy will start to put railguns on their battleships that can launch 40-lb. bullets at Mach 7. I'm pretty sure their military strength isn't "hollowing" anytime soon.

    May 31, 2012 at 5:30 am | Reply
    • Patrick

      Since the USN has no battleships, I don't know how they will fit them with rail guns. My guess is that rail guns will become just another expensive technological failure, using up resources that could go into ship-building. Another silly diversion like trying to use lasers to down ICBMs (YAL-1).

      May 31, 2012 at 11:05 am | Reply
      • Thinker...

        Railguns actually have alot of potential. Yes they are currently unfeasable, but then again so were guided missiles or jet engines. Are raiguns gauranteed to work out? No. If they do however, they will provide long range stiking power that does not require a million dollar missile. Also, as we do not know what the true weight, power, and recoil requirements of an effective naval railgun would be, you can't say only a BB could mount them.

        They will likely require a nuclear powerplant though, so they probably couldn't just be retrofitted onto existing hulls easily.

        June 8, 2012 at 7:48 am |
  70. SayanIndia

    Progressive developments in Land Attack Cruise Missiles (LACM) like Tomahawk and Unmanned Aerial Combat Vehicles (UACV) will enable United States Navy (USN) retain a significant punch in tactical scenarios besides shouldering the responsibility of survivable nuclear deterrence (in Ohio Class ballistic missile armed nuclear powered submarines) in foreseeable future.

    The disturbing arena will be the aircraft carrier based aviation with the projected combat persistence (weapon load) of F-35 Lightning II remaining disturbingly low in stealth mode. A carrier based version of F-22A Raptor seems to be the only viable solution complementing the present force of F/A-18E/F Super Hornets.


    May 30, 2012 at 7:49 am | Reply
  71. VAVeteran

    and still no approved FY 2013 military budget and the year is half over...? Gentlemen-

    May 30, 2012 at 3:43 am | Reply
  72. woof211

    im not 100% sure but i think the US armed forces have some unbelievable technologies but there is no reason to field them to the battlefield. I know it sounds crazy but were not going to spend money on all the fantansic weapons we developed to be used on a under equipped enemy. Unless they start shooting helicopters and planes out of the sky for example. The combined strength of the navy and airforce is the strongest power the world has ever known. While I'm typing this. there are putting space based weapon assests in space. this should increase the power of both services by ten fold. i dont like the idea of weaponizing space but lets face it. all the joint chiefs agree that the next major war will be fought with new space based platforms. they dont talk about it much in the US but any PME talks about JV 2020. Thats the US miliatry goal date of official power projection. I dont know where terrosism plays in all this but JV 2020 is directed towards China and Russia. If you build new warships? What is the cost benefit? Maybe we need to build more UAV's. How bout a carrier a 3rd of its size (not a mechanic, i know there would be a lot of electronics) and make A UAV carrier. You can fit more UAVs than F-18's. My idea sounds crazy but it can work. i think the navy already started on theses programs in the 70's and 80's

    May 29, 2012 at 7:48 pm | Reply
    • Gadflie

      Space based weapons? Sorry kid but we don't have any. Nor are we likely to deploy any. They are too damned inefficient and too damned expensive. Where are you getting your information from? Robert Heinlein?

      May 30, 2012 at 1:01 am | Reply
      • woof211

        I never heard of that name before. Ive been working with satellites most of my life. Its the biggest weakness we have. Thats my opinion. A lot of 4-Star Generals and Admirals think so too as the US achilles heel. Without that, the US Military would be very limited in response time. I worked for US Space Command for Air Force and Army. There are a dozen or so publications from the US miltary alone on space-based weapons. It can be from communications, survellance, laser-based weapons, satellites smashing into other satellites. I know because they are looking for operators, engineers and technicians. Very few can get a secuirty clearance and very few understand how all these systems work at all. Its a small community but there always openings for jobs. Beleive me, most of these jobs are boring. Plus it been getting a lot cheaper to build satellites and their associated equipment. The problem is not getting the satellites in space but the the associated ground equipment to use the satellite platforms. The Army, Air Force and Navy have dished out a few billion dollars already in a micro satellite. They are many different ways to launch them. from a plane, ocean boat, ground (traditional way). The new satellite modems they are using now in Afgahnistan got some crazy applications. I prettty sure navy ships will be lauching these as part of thier weapon systems in the future. The US controls all the oceans. We have for the last 6-7 decades. Space is the final link for the US Military power projection. We always need a Navy but is the cost worth to build more ships. WW2 is over. Nobody can come close to the Navy today and probably for the next 50 years. We are way ahead of everybody. Excluding China and Russia. North Korea is the only country who would give the United States in South Korea a massive black eye and round house kick to the head for the first 24 hours with conventinal arms. How many US Navy ships we need to counter that threat? Our Allies, South Korea and Japan have big navies too. Use the money the smart way. Being big doesnt make you strong unless you want to occupy a country but thats a different topic. I would love some input on this. Keep it civil.

        May 30, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • Sean

      A dozen publications means next to nothing. Not to mention there is no country or private firm on earth that has a developed means of launching satellites from planes. Navy ships cannot launch them either. We can barely put a powerful enough laser on a plane much less a satellite. And to say that there aren't too many people that understand the mechanics of such systems is dumb. The average physics professor at any university would understand the concept. And lastly... neither China nor Russia have a navy comparable to that of the US. Like the article said, there are 11 carriers in the US navy, China has one used for training missions and the Russians have none. And North Korea is a joke. While US companies are sending capsules to the International Space Station, North Korea can't even get their government funded rocket out of the atmosphere. Just saying.

      July 11, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Reply
      • JWS

        I would like to correct one misconception; Orbital Sciences Corporation does launch the Pegasus rocket from a modified L1011, to carry smaller satellite payloads to orbit. There are also companies which specialize in ocean launches of satellite bearing rockets.

        July 13, 2012 at 12:26 am |
  73. ski

    let's go back to 1979, Midway, underway for a two week ORI Operation returns 13 months later ... it's been going on for a lot longer than most of you realize.

    May 29, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Reply
  74. AlexShch

    Interesting that the article compares views of two politicians, Obama (or Leon Panetta et al ) vs. Romney, who nevertheless have something in common: they judge things by the first impressions and external appearances without having any analysis.

    Lets see what we can learn from the past...

    Before and during WW2 battleships were considered the most formidable naval force. And the most powerful of them, battleship Yamato never had chance to fire its major guns onto a target of its own kind. Instead it was sunk by areal attack. The fate of most refined British battleships, Repulse and Renown, was also not so glorious: they had seen some battles, but were sunk from the air and were quite helpless to defend themselves. In all cases the planes sinking them were launched from a carrier about 1/3 of the size of battleship. So for the next 60+ years carriers rule and battleships out.

    However, the expectation that carriers would rule forever is also false. Did not we hear reports about Chinese tests of ballistic missile capable of striking a moving target a couple years ago? May be carriers also becoming sitting ducks as the battleships earlier?

    May 29, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Reply
    • Mister Jones

      Perhaps. But I really wouldn't worry about the Chinese. At all. First off, when was the last time they saw combat? Vietnam in the late 70's? And when have you EVER heard of anything being better because it was made in China? Ever. Things are cheaper there. Period. And cheaper has never meant better since the dawn of economics. The Chinese military is only good for opressing the Chinese and Tibetan people. Do not delude yourself otherwise. Especially not on the pretense that it is in any way, shape or form a threat to our Navy, now, or in your children's children's lifetime.

      May 29, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Reply
      • AlexShch

        There are two potential threats against a carrier group: (1) a swarm of low-cost, slow-flying, easy-to-intercept silkworm-type cruise missiles simultaneously launched in such numbers than all comprehensible missile defenses are saturated and cannot intercept all of with them; and (2) conversely, something high-tech, capable to penetrate defenses as a single (or few units).

        In open sea safety of a carrier group against threat (1) is guaranteed by maintaining a sufficient exclusion zone - basically not letting any hostile/unidentified ship or aircraft come sufficiently close to it. This would not work in constricted areas where proximity to the coast is not avoidable and there is no way to know what are the threats hiding on land. For this reason, I think that an operation a'la Yugoslavia 1999 or Libya 2011, but against China is not a good idea. Similarly, Black Sea (remember Georgia–Osetia War of 2008?) is potentially a kill-box for the Navy: too small basin surrounded by mountain ridges ti hide all kind of threats.

        Also with the departure of F-14 (with no equivalent replacement) maintaining exclusion perimeter is more problematic, if the threat is from land-based planes flying faster than F-18 (in fact, there are plenty of types fluing faster than 18).

        The second proposition, (2), appears to be on a longer term, but it looks like it is emerging out of dark.

        The main point is that continuing on with building another carrier - perhaps a more refined version of the old one - is actually waste of money. One has to answer first what is the point? For operation like enforcing democracy in Libya or elsewhere in Africa an existing one can do a adequate job, and, in fact, is excessively sophisticated. On the other hand, a hypothetical operation of enforcing democracy in China (or protecting Taiwan from reunification) does not seem to be feasible any way. Yet the decision making process boils down to just lobbying of ideals like "Let's build yet another one just to keep factories going and Americans employed!" (and, of course, politician saying so elected). Lack of concept. Lack of strategy.

        May 29, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
      • Mister Jones

        I still do not see how you view the Chinese military as any sort of viable threat to the carrier navy in this or the immediate future. Until shown otherwise, I will assume that the CIWS and RAM systems will suffice against your option 1), and option 2) is fictional and not even theoretical yet.

        Yes, I mourn the mothballing of the F-14 as well, but just because the J-8 interceptor is faster than an F-18, does not make it a better aircraft, nor does it make it's operator a better pilot. The last I heard about one of these aircraft was that it's hot dog pilot crashed into a P-3 Orion and was killed.

        My point is that the Chinese military may be vast in number. But low on experience and tested hardware. True, the aircraft carrier that has ruled the seas for the past 50+ years may be getting phased out, but our Navy is most likely not going to face a soverign threat like the dreadnaughts of old did. That is why it is getting smaller, and going for ships like the Freedom and aircraft like the Osprey. Versatility trumps speed.

        May 29, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
      • CharlieSeattle

        good point, I have commented for years that there is NO DEFENCE against a mas launch od Sunburn missiles.

        June 7, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
      • Rick from LA

        Do not underestimate the power of the Chinese. Pride goweth before the fall.

        June 19, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • ground pounder

      A couple points from my non expert perspective:

      The value of a carrier is power projection. Whereas a battleship could launch rounds about sixteen miles, the carrier can launch aircraft which in turn deliver ordnance out to a range of I think 1200 miles for the superhornet, depending on the weight it's bearing.

      Different than keeping deep blue water sea lanes open, the national security objectives of defeating radical extremism and deterring aggression require more shallow brown water boats capable of going in and out of littorals. Here, quantity matters.

      So, one may argue the right force mix, but less is less. Paraphrasing Admiral Mullen's parting words, our debt is our greatest national security issue. We no longer can afford to respond or buy means by which to respond.

      May 29, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Reply
      • AlexShch

        "...our debt is our greatest national security issue" - yes, absolutely true, but this is just a one thing. Another greatest national security issue is being fat and overweight, exposing himself to the elevated risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Did not you notice that an average Republican in Congress is about 10 pound "bugger" than an average Democrat?

        May 29, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  75. Thor

    ...if one could carry a woman on board in lieu of BAQ and VHA, the Navy would save a lot of $ and the sailors would be MUCH happier! "Show a leg!" would be a standard call from the pipe again!

    May 29, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Reply
  76. NN

    Romney doesn't know the first thing about military power of any kind, all he knows is how to rob and steal and run companies into the ground while he collects a big fat profit payoff and plays with insider trading. That this slickster con artist is even given the time of day goes to show the sorry state of American politics. Romney is in no way, shape or form even remotely qualified to be President. Gauging the power of the USN by the simplest gross statistic of sheer number of ships is the height of ignorance.

    May 29, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Reply
    • Patrick

      If Romeny is not qualified to be President, why would a failed "community organizer" possibly be qualified? Numbers of ships is in fact a very good determiner of whether the Navy is a hollow force or not. The FACT is that even the best ship on the planet can only be in one place at a time. A very poor warship in a trouble spot, is surely better than one in port or thousands of miles away. The USN has realistically only 10 deployable carriers, 22 cruisers, 60 destroyers and about 54 attack subs. The OHP frigates are useless since their missile launchers were removed and the LCS in their current state are quite useless. Normally one third of ships are deployed or deployable, the rest are in re-fitting or training. So that means the US has three carriers, 7 cruisers, 20 destroyers and 18 attack subs it can deploy.Those ships has to be divided between 5 fleets. Assuming the 7th and 3rd fleets in the Pacific have 2 of those carriers, 14 of the escorts and 9 of the subs, that is not exactly going to dominate a Chinese fleet of 1 carrier and some 50-60 escorts and 40-50 attack submarines (as the PRC is likely to be an aggressor in any future conflict, it will ensure most of its ships are fully available for any conflict, so the one third rule may not apply to them)! Nor will the 5th Fleet be able to dominate Iran with one carrier and perhaps 5 escorts if Iran tries to shut down the Strait of Hormuz- one US carrier only deploys 42 F/A-18 Hornets thanks to a lack of naval fighters. Pitted against against Iran's 40 F-14 Tomcats and about a hundred F-4 Phantoms, Mig-29s and F-5s the USN will not face a cake-walk (at least in the Gulf the USN should be able to choose the timing of combat action so may be able to muster a bigger force). Yes, the USN is a hollow force so Romney is right- the USN is in crisis and future ship-building plans building one attack submarine and 2 destroyers per year are going to make it much worse and the attempt by the USN to make the numbers look better by building large numbers of useless LCS ships is fooling nobody!.

      May 29, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Reply
      • NN

        By your reasoning there will never be a fleet large enough to handle every possible contingency, it is strictly one dimensional thinking and lacks elements of time, forewarning, pre-positioning of warfighting assets, and cooperation with other components of our air-land-sea triad. Doubling the current size would result in only a modest advantage according to that ridiculous scenario. The US can't afford the Navy it has now. It is a hollow force only when judged against the unrealistic expectations of people who don't know what they're talking about, such as Romney. You do understand that naval warfare has come a long ways since the John Wayne days, that it is just one component of the air-land-sea triad, and that no one is counting on the Navy to shuttle gazillions of tonnage over long distances under heavy escort with an outrageously large force built to take the hit of heavy attrition. Throwing a bunch of static numbers at the problem is not going to fix anything, you're just going to have to think smarter- and this mainly because the resources to support a behemoth navy are just not there.

        May 29, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
      • Patrick

        Perhaps you should engage less in the fantasy of pulling some rabbit out of the hat like the magic tiad that will save the day, and start to think about realistic scanarios and what the current fleet numbers tell us about the US' ability to prevail. BTW it is noteworthy that the professional literature is already saying that the Air-Sea concept is a failure so don't lay any bets on that. In a Pacific scario, if the USAF will have any role to play in any combat involving China, so will the PLAAAF, and they have far more fighters available in Asia than the USAF with their 44 old FY-80 F-15Cs in Okinawa (18th FW) and the Marines forward deployed 12 Hornets. Yes, of course the US can hold off engaging with a PRC invasion of Taiwan (for example) while the USN and USAF deploy additional forces, but by the time they arrive (assuming Japan allows the US to use their airbases) the fighting would be over. In some wars you have to come with what you got, or don't bother showing up. And currently the USN does not have much to show up with. I said above that the navy can deploy about a third of its ships- the fact is that much of those being deployed are in dire need of over-haul, their radars and sonars often don't work, CIWS units, gun mounts and engines are frequently inoperative or working below optimal levels and sailors are being worn out. That is why the ridiculous concept of crew change outs was devised. This is still on going even after being proven a failure. Insofar as lack of funds for a bigger Navy, the fact is that the US spend a pittance on ship-building (I'd be surprised if it is US20billion for new build ships out of a budget of over USD500 billion). A strong fleet is affordable, and with a proper mix (ie carriers, cruisers, destroyers, frigates, SSNs, MSCs), would be able to handle any scenario without the need for time (and space) to build up reinforcements. Start with getting rid of the civilians in the DOD- they currently out number the uniformed personnel. Then cut down on fantasy projects, like laser guns, LCS and their modules and EMALS, and focus on proven technologies- this wil allow a reduction of R&D (IIRC more is spent on R&D then on ship-building). Also, the Army needs to be reduced in size and the savings put into the airforce and navy. Lastly, the Federal Government needs to get back to what it was created to do- regulate inter-state commerce, defend the nation and engage in diplomacy- and stop being a wealth re-distribution and welfare machine. Let the states handle that (the Federal Govt spends over a trillion on hundreds of food aid programs!) as well as all the entitlement programs. The states can devise far more innovative and cost effective welfare and entitlement programs (with private sector involvement) than the slow, stupid federal government could ever manage. That should save billions which could be spent on the navy. Now this may not be seen by you as the best way to spend money because you prefer to feed the hungry (obese) poor, give medical attention to Illegal aliens and disability payments to the healthy but lazy, but that is a choice- you choose a hollow Navy over a strong Navy because that is not your priority. But then don't go and pretend it is anything but a hollow Navy and claim that Romney is an idiot for stating that the emporer is naked when the old git is prancing around waving his naked pink ass at the world!

        May 29, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
      • NN

        If the Navy's track record thus far is building maintenance and reliability nightmares, why on earth would you ask them to build more of the same? And the cost of the surface navy goes far beyond the initial build, there are extremely complicated and expensive systems to install, and large numbers of operators and technicians to train at equal expense, and very expensive operations support and upgrades. You're just going to have to accept the reality that it is impossible for the US to police the world with the Navy, especially a very high tech world with ever evolving threats designed to destroy surface ships.

        May 29, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
  77. RetiredVet

    I'm just glad that I'm now retired from the Navy (1991 – 2011), the last two years of my career were the worst, three back to back deployments, the last one being extended to 9 months and the "new Navy" political bullshit.
    I saw the hollowing out of the Navy while I was still serving, it is a repeat in history after the Vietnam War. Glad I'm retired.

    May 29, 2012 at 11:40 am | Reply
  78. Dan

    "The Senate has not voted on its version of a defense budget for FY 2013, which is already more than half over."

    Thats not accurate. The FY13 budget does not start until October 1, 2012. We are in FY12 budget. Does anyone proof this web based material for accuracy? If you post inaccurate information it calls the entire article into question.

    May 29, 2012 at 11:13 am | Reply
  79. Nicholas Murphy

    The US Navy would be a lot bigger if it didn't routinely 'trash' ships with useful life left in them (e.g. the Los Angeles class SSNs and the Spruance DDs) while spending billions upon billions on lots of new ones. The service's balance between conserving the force and and making snew investment is not good. .

    May 29, 2012 at 10:33 am | Reply
    • Richp

      More than a few of our boomers were decommissioned as a result of the SALT treaty. My last boat, the Will Rogers, was a victim of this. commissioned in 66 decommissioned in 91. Some of the of them were turned into spec ops boats. Technical advancements are not limited to aircraft and armored vehicles, ships and boats on the other hand are not so easy to upgrade especially nuke powered ones.

      May 29, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Reply
    • Rick from LA

      You have to consider our enemies advancements when determinng the capability of old vessels. What may be unbeatable today will be obsolete tomorrow. I would love for the Iowa class to be upgraded with 21st century tech, but those new DDG1000 on the other hand come with everything you need in a much smaller and easier to maintain package.

      June 19, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Reply
  80. Derp

    The Navy has issues... Everyone's deployments are getting extended and the periods between deployments are shrinking. There are West Coast based groups that are getting back to back 9 month deployments with only a 6 week window between them. This is not good for the crew or the actual ships.

    Something is wrong with the Navy right now and it needs to be fixed. If mroe ships is what it takes to fix it, then we need more ships.

    May 29, 2012 at 4:01 am | Reply
    • XBoilerTech

      What you have just described had started in 1995 when I left the Navy. I can only imagine the strain on our sailors and their family's.

      May 29, 2012 at 8:59 am | Reply
    • Paul

      Yes, something IS wrong with all of our forces! The country has turned from a Department of DEFENSE into a Department of OFFENSE. We don't have enough soldiers, sailors or airmen to fight a few post-stone age cave dwellers, let alone anything like a modern military. Perhaps if we were to quit "projecting power" all over the globe, we could learn to get along with the majority of other countries rather than trying to rule over them.

      May 29, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Reply
      • TryoninCnada

        Have you seen "Under Siege?" It's a real eye-opener on the sheer intimidating POWER these massive vessels project. Just seeing one off your coast is enough to make most countries think twice about crossing the US. Ship of State!

        June 23, 2012 at 2:20 am |
      • Soldier in Afghanistan

        @Paul. Remember Paul it used to be called the War Department. In this make believe world where Iran, North Korea, and China decide to get along with everyone we still would have worry about Terrorists, and not being a global force would allow organizations like Al Qaedia to take over entire militaries. Is it better to be proactive or reactive...if your answer is reactive than you will never succeed in life.

        July 16, 2012 at 8:38 am |
    • Rick from LA

      how replacing the crew instead of the ships. In other words. When the ship set sails for a 9 month deployment after 6 weeks in habor, it sets sail with different crew. That would give the original crew 10.5 months to prepare for the next deployment.

      June 19, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Reply
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