21 September 2010

‘Tipping’ the Future Fleet

Capt. George Galdorisi, U.S. Navy (Retired), Antonio Siordia, and Scott C. Truver, ‘Tipping’ the Future Fleet,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, Vol. 136, No. 10 (October 2010).

The course ahead for the Navy of the mid-21st century is still uncharted. The strategic alternative it chooses now will chart that course, for better or worse.

In late 2009 Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral Gary Roughead asked the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA) to evaluate the characteristics of a globally influential navy and address the “tipping point” at which the U.S. Navy would cease to be globally influential. While CNA suggested that a Navy of fewer ships than today’s Fleet of roughly 285 hulls could still generate a modicum of global maritime dominance, the potential is great for tomorrow’s Fleet to be the “Royal Navy” of the mid-21st century unless current trends are reversed. What could a future U.S. Navy of, say, only 140 warships do?

“The Navy at a Tipping Point: Maritime Dominance at Stake” study has sparked a spirited debate within the Navy, Department of Defense, Congress, think-tanks, and numerous blogs regarding CNA’s five alternative futures for the Navy and the nation. But even as the conversations wax and wane, prevailing trend lines and dynamics will result in one of these futures (or an extrapolation thereof) for the Navy, almost by default. Indeed, the momentum pointing toward a most likely alternative future is powerful, and without dramatic changes, one of the five already looks to be the Navy we will have in 2025 and beyond––but only if the resources for it are forthcoming. …

There are troubling area-denial concerns, too. In March 2010 testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Admiral Robert Willard, Commander, U.S. Pacific Command, stated unequivocally that China is “developing and testing a conventional antiship ballistic missile [ASBM] based on the DF-21/CSS-5 MRBM designed specifically to target aircraft carriers.” Introspection by a group of Chinese scholars in a series of articles published in state newspapers suggested that China’s confidence in its economic development was turning into “national arrogance.”

Andrew Erickson, at the Naval War College, points to growing Chinese hubris in describing “an unexplained cartoon animation at the end of a lengthy 29 November 2009 program on ASBMs broadcast on China Central Television Channel 7 [China’s official military channel], a [U.S.] sailor falsely assumes that his carrier’s Aegis defense systems can destroy an incoming ASBM as effectively as a cruise missile, with disastrous results.” …

Click here to see a video explaining the Chinese ASBM animation, as well as the latest sources and analysis on Chinese ASBM development.

A concise, recent analysis of Chinese development of ASBMs and related ‘anti-access’ capabilities, may be found here.