While the Navy can’t afford to buy every weapon needed to counter every threat, rotary-wing aviation offers a significant return-on-investment. Commander Ben Reynolds argues that to achieve this potential, the service must focus helicopter tactics on the sea-control missions of antiship, antisubmarine, and mine warfare. In particular, our carrier and expeditionary strike groups are vulnerable from small boats, and defense against these inexpensive threats is a prime example of where improved tactics can make a difference.
The landing of the X-47B unmanned aerial vehicle aboard the USS George H. W. Bush (CVN-77) in July generated a lot of buzz, but it was more than just a technological achievement. It also heralded the addition of autonomous drones to the aircraft carrier’s arsenal. Defense scholar Daniel Goure says that drones and the capabilities they bring to the fight against adversaries on the high seas might also help protect the carriers from those closer to home who would reduce their numbers.
Fleet size and composition is always a popular topic in Proceedings , and our pages have featured several articles in recent months advancing different shipbuilding plans or debating whether vessels such as the littoral combat ship can fulfill its assigned missions. But Captain Robert C. Rubel, Dean of the Center for Naval Warfare Studies at the Naval War College, warns against getting too caught up in arguments over ship characteristics while ignoring the bigger picture. He attempts to bring strategic logic to the discussion “in the hope that it will provide insights that will inform force design, including ship and weapon characteristics, organization, and personnel management.” Professor Rubel outlines what the future might hold for the Navy as it deals with various threats around the world. The key, he says, might be to adopt the concept of strength in numbers and build small ships to form multiple flotillas that could navigate closer to shore and in tight bodies of water better than their larger brethren in the Fleet.
To complement Captain Rubel’s thoughts, retired Admiral John Harvey, Captain Wayne Hughes, and Captain Jeffrey Kline team with active-duty Lieutenant Zachary Schwartz to spotlight exactly what those “influence flotillas” might look like and how they would work with littoral combat ships and other assets. With change on the way, such ideas could play heavily in tomorrow’s Navy.