For the past 50 years, the Navy’s carrier battle groups have operated with relative impunity because of their long-range strike capability, superior sensors, and preeminent defensive support. However, the age of offensive naval power is at hand. Modern technological advances have created a world in which offensive firepower can outpace, overwhelm, and outmaneuver sensors and defensive measures.
Over the past decade, advances in drones, long-range and hypersonic missiles, and directed-energy weapons have significantly increased risk for U.S. Navy units and decreased the effectiveness of current defensive capabilities. In the short-term, these threats will prove difficult—if not impossible—to counter with existing systems and doctrine. To mitigate this increased risk, the Navy must respond by adopting and incorporating this offensive weaponry and other new technologies into its warfighting doctrine.
1. The cruiser Hermes should not be confused with the British light carrier Hermes, which was commissioned in 1924. David Wragg, Carrier Combat (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1997), 6.
2. Wragg, Carrier Combat, 6. Claude Grahame-White and Harry Harper, Aircraft in the Great War: A Record and Study (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1915), 157.
3. Millard S. Firebaugh, ed., Naval Engineering and American Sea Power (Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt, 2000), 137.
4. Emily O. Goldman, The Diffusion of Military Technology and Ideas (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003), 280–81.
5. Adam N. Stulberg, Michael D. Salamone, and Austin G. Long, Managing Defense Transformation (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2007), 101–2.
6. Paul Fontenoy, Aircraft Carriers: An Illustrated History of Their Impact (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2006), 38. Firebaugh, Naval Engineering, 132.
7. Fontenoy, Aircraft Carriers, 38.
8. Firebaugh, Naval Engineering, 133–34. The vessel did make minor improvements but at the time of commissioning, it was still small, slow, and had rudimentary takeoff and launch capabilities.
9. George W. Baer, One Hundred Years of Sea Power: The U.S. Navy, 1890–1990 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1993), 141. Nathan Miller, The U.S. Navy: A History, 3rd ed. (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1997), 200–1.
10. Congressional Testimony of Josephus Daniels, 6 March 1920, House of Representatives Committee on Naval Affairs, 2,245.
11. CAPT L. M. Overstreet, USN, “Naval Strategy as Affected by Aircraft and Battleships,” Outlook (1923): 130.
12. Congressional Testimony of Josephus Daniels. See also Congressional Testimony of William Moffett, 30 January 1928, House of Representatives Committee on Naval Affairs.
13. Lisle A. Rose, Power at Sea (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2007), 178.
14. Paul Beaver, The British Aircraft Carrier (Wellingborough, UK: Patrick Stephens, 1984), 20–21.
15. Rose, Power at Sea, 178.
16. Robert G. Albion, Makers of Naval Policy 1798–1947 (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1980), 374–75.
17. Robert W. Love Jr., History of the U.S. Navy, 1775–1941 (Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1992), 550–51. This political support came in handy to fight off one last attempt by Brigadier General William “Billy” Mitchell to consolidate air power into an independent service. Moffett argued to President Calvin Coolidge’s Morrow Commission that, despite some duplication between the Navy and War Departments, interservice competition would drive innovation. In 1925, the Morrow Commission decided the issue once and for all—the Navy would retain control over naval aviation.
18. Congressional Testimony of William Moffett, 30 January 1928.
19. Baer, One Hundred Years of Sea Power, 141.
20. Terry C. Pierce, Warfighting and Disruptive Technologies (New York: Frank Cass, 2004), 127.
21. Congressional Testimony of William Moffett, 30 January 1928, 1,025–26.
22. Pierce, Warfighting and Disruptive Technologies, 124.
23. Pierce, 124.
24. Norman Polmar, Aircraft Carriers: A History of Carrier Aviation and its Influence on World Events (Washington, DC: Potomac, 2006), 49. Commander Eugene Wilson, Reeves’ chief of staff, noted that the officers on board the Langley doubted that more than 12 aircraft could be embarked safely.
25. Polmar, Aircraft Carriers, 49.
26. Fontenoy, Aircraft Carriers, 39.
27. Firebaugh, Naval Engineering, 134
28. Rose, Power at Sea, 187.
29. Rose, 187.
30. Polmar, Aircraft Carriers, 55–56.
31. Rose, Power at Sea, 187.
32. Polmar, Aircraft Carriers, 56.
33. Love, History of the U.S. Navy, 590. The death of Rear Admiral Moffett in an airship crash was a great loss for BuAer and the entire Navy. However, his successor, Rear Admiral Ernest J. King, was a similarly dynamic figure.
34. Goldman, The Diffusion of Military Technology and Ideas, 281.
35. Stulberg et al., Managing Defense Transformation, 111.