Littorals are increasingly dangerous to naval forces. The proliferation of sophisticated shore- and ship-launched antiship missiles, asymmetric tactics such as the fast-boat swarm, and sophisticated anti-access/area denial technologies, makes these areas more difficult to penetrate and dominate. Though few groups or nations can challenge or threaten the U.S. Navy on or below blue water, the risks presented today to our manned warships by the green and brown waters of the world are neither negligible nor cheap to mitigate.
With increased global piracy, smuggling, more capable insurgent and terrorist organizations, and our gaze once again shifting to the Pacific, the United States has rightly recognized the importance of littoral warfare, addressing that with new hardware and tactics. It is my contention, however, that our design and procurement vis-à-vis the littorals is flawed and requires rethinking. It is apparent that current designs—either those in the pipeline or currently joining the Fleet—are force dividers, unable to properly defend themselves from the range of littoral threats. Keeping these mission-specific (modular) vessels safe will require more-capable ships to be taken from other operations, although they’ll remain vulnerable as they steam away from escorts and into the littorals.