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Defensive Mindset: Whether we want to admit it °r not, an offensively capable Navy calls for a fu° mental change in our thinking and in the manner
. . U. S. Navy forces must be offensively capable. The geographic range of the Navy’s responsibilities is too broad, and its forces far too small, to adopt a defensive, reactive posture in a worldwide conflict with the Soviet Union. I can’t believe any Americans would want their navy to be one that is only reactive to Soviet initiative, that doesn’t have the capability to be sent wherever necessary, under whatever conditions, and to be able to survive and win that battle. We must fight on the terms which are most advantageous to us. This requires taking the war to the enemy's naval forces with the objective of achieving the earliest possible destruction of his capability to interfere with our use of sea areas essential for support of our own forces and allies. ”
—Admiral Thomas Hayward
The call for an offensive capability coincides with the realization that our Navy is far outnumbered by its principal adversary and will remain outnumbered into the next century. One-for-one attrition ratios in hostilities with the Soviet Union would spell defeat for the U. S. Navy. Success will unquestionably depend upon our ability to take the offensive. The game of hockey offers a lesson. Regardless of how skilled the goalie is, his team will never win a single game unless it can score goals.
But haven’t we always strived to develop an offensive capability? Isn’t power projection one of the primary missions of the Navy? Aren’t our aircraft carriers unsurpassed in the ability to take the battle to the enemy? And isn’t Harpoon an offensive weapon? The answer to each of these questions is, of course, yes. However, primarily because of our limited resources, we have been unable to project power ‘For footnotes, please turn to page 31.
by means other than the nucleus of the fleet—the 13 active aircraft carriers. Thus, it is absolutely essentia that we expand and diversify our offensive capability throughout the remainder of our naval forces.
The obvious solution is to spend more money- be sure, increased funding for additional AeglS' equipped cruisers, Los Angeles (SSN-688)-c}ass attac submarines, and other platforms and systems lS highly desirable. Unfortunately, regardless of the <fe sires of the Reagan administration in the area of °a tional security, the Navy is not likely to receive so ficient funding to achieve all the desired ends. Ach*1 tionally, the time required to authorize, develop, an build new weapon systems may also be insufficient' We need to do something with the forces we have now or will soon add to the inventory.
which we have operated for many years. One m*g ti argue that with our oft-repeated “forward strategy and the contemporary deployments of our carrier hat tie groups we already think and operate offensively' But closer examination of our present situa' clearly illuminates the problems that undermine efficacy of our already limited offensive capabihty The problem is that we have fostered a defens'v mind-set that pervades the entire Navy and threatej^ to hamstring us in the event of hostilities with 1 Soviet Union. We must subdue this defensive titude and begin to “think offensively” if we are be ready to fulfill the demands of the future.
It is significant that Admiral Hayward’s call f°r a increased offensive capability coincides with the ^ troduction into the fleet of the Harpoon missile- h-1 the first truly offensive weapon system for our surt forces (excluding the carrier and possibly the h-eSu‘ missile systems of the 1950s and 1960s) since 1 passing of the battleship shortly after World War
At the risk of sounding offensive, it wouldn’t hurt to remind friend and foe alike that we have a missile called the Harpoon, such as this one being hurled from the frigate Badger, that can hit its target ivith devastating accuracy from as far away as 50 miles and thus relieve our present almost total lependency on carriers to carry the fight to an enemy
weapons to deter war, not to be able to win a tacti1
nuclear war. The distinction is important.
battle group should protect the carrier. However, operating independently or in task groups without carrier, the defensive orientation of the men of an,
If we do not think offensively in regard to Harpoon, the result will be a reduction of the utility of the weapon system if and when deterrence fails and hostilities erupt. This may seem to be another way of saying we need to think “tactics.” To be sure, there is no question but that we need to develop tactics for the effective over-the-horizon employment of Harpoon. It is an example of our long-standing “procedure” of having a weapon system in the fleet without knowing how to use it. Alfred Thayer Mahan’s comment concerning tactics seems just as pertinent today as it was when he made it at the turn of the century:
“Changes in tactics have not only taken place after changes in weapons which necessarily is the case, but the interval between such changes has been unduly long. An improvement of weapons is due to the energy of one or two men, while changes in tactics have to overcome the inertia of a conservative class.”
What I am advocating goes beyond just tactical thinking; we must think offensively. We can no longer sit back and continuously defend against strikes by the enemy and then hope to destroy him when the opportunity presents itself. His capabilities and the attrition ratio problem mentioned above preclude this. We must take the fight to him.
For an example of the defensive mind-set, consider P-3 crews. Now, I am not taking potshots at a particular community, but I submit that there are many P-3 people who say that it would be foolish to risk a valuable antisubmarine aircraft by tasking it with a dangerous antiship mission using Harpoon. We need to overcome that sort of attitude. Offensive operations will inevitably involve a relative increase of risk compared with our traditional defensive orientation. But the risk is necessary. Someone once criticized the greatest offensive weapon in football, the forward pass, by saying, “When you throw a pass, only three things can happen, and two of them are bad.” This sort of attitude loses football games. A similar attitude regarding offensive capabilities in naval warfare can result in much more severe consequences.
Deterrence Orientation: The fundamental purpose of this nation’s military forces is deterrence. Our national interests, objectives, strategy, and force structure all reflect this basic tenet. Deterrence is not limited to strategic nuclear warfare; it includes the entire spectrum of possible hostilities. No one can rationally argue for America to attempt to achieve a first-strike capability with strategic nuclear arms or to attain a conventional force capable of invading the Soviet Union or its Warsaw Pact allies. Our game is deterrence. We exist to prevent war. However, the question we need to ask ourselves is whether we have allowed our orientation toward prevention, which is undeniably flavored with a defensive posture (second strike), to eclipse the need to enhance our offensive capabilities across the spectrum of naval warfare?
It is widely recognized that for our armed forces to be successful in deterring military action by an adversary, our forces must be perceived by that adversary as a capable and credible fighting force. The Soviet Union believes in a military policy that is designed to win wars, and offensive capability is an important element of its entire military structure- The problem is that our deterrence orientation, albeit the proper and correct purpose of our military forces, has dominated our thinking for so long that we have developed a set of mental lenses that filters out the unpalatable possibilities of what we must do if deterrence fails. Consider, for example, tactical nucleat weapons. We procure and deploy tactical nucleat
danger is that this defensive mind-set will be Per
ceived by our potential adversary as a weakening our ability to wage war and, therefore, our ability to deter war will be concomitantly weakened. The ol adage is still pertinent: “He who would prevent waf must be ready to wage it.”
Protect the Carrier: The sole purpose of our surface ships and submarines operating in direct supp°rt the carrier battle groups is to protect the carrier. Re gardless of the rhetoric we read in operation ordefS and hear at commissioning and predeployrnen speeches, all of the ships in the battle group save °ne cannot help but develop a reactive (defensive) at titude. The tactics of the battle group, which a^e totally predicated upon the concept of defense in dep ’ and a majority of the weapon systems depl°ye aboard the ships (e.g., Terrier and basic point fense missile systems, gun mounts, etc.) foster a^ nurture a defensive mind-set. Of course, with t carrier air wing’s overwhelming offensive striking power, it is certainly reasonable that the ships surface ship will be a hindrance in combat. We nee
to turn that orientation around—not only in our » face ships but also in the crews of our submarines afl patrol aircraft.
Rules of Engagement: It is unanimously accep1 that prior to the outbreak of hostilities the
ntext of the ‘‘battle of the first salvo,
1 P .
i n c •
giv °Vlet milit:ary thinking, our rules of engagement pj e t^le Soviet Navy a tremendous advantage. The ■ S. Navy can ill afford to be forced to absorb a tak *Ve’ coorclinated attack prior to being able to offensive
,tles an<l look toward offensive operations after the
with an eye toward increased leniency. The ,n such a move are obvious, but the present terrn °1Ve the Soviet Navy the advantage it needs in tjle * °f carrying out a decisive, devastating attack in lrst action of a war.
Wlt^ a foreign navy. Our specific rules of engage-
rnent> although classified and dependent on the gn F
0rnrnanders and individual commanding officers a.ic . to think defensively prior to taking offensive ct*on. Moreover, our present rules put us in a very *3a atable situation in that the enemy can start the ar at a time and place of his choosing. Within the
se need to review our rules. A possible initial ti 1 ls t0 familiarize naval personnel with them and ^fith°SS'^e constra‘nts that they may place upon us. eff ,f’reater knowledge, our commanders can more ,^ectively (and possibly with less frustration) operate
,stressful situations prior to the outbreak of hos- olitir ^
. re satisfied. In addition, the rules must be re- Vlewed r>sks rule;
a<-tical Nuclear Weapons: As blasphemous and as it may sound at first blush, it is rey necessary for us to think offensively regard- tactical nuclear weapons. I hasten to point out, er> that thinking offensively is not synonymous ning a preemptive attack. Rather, it concerns the proper and effective tactical employment of those weapons if the nuclear threshold is broken. Of course, there are highly classified plans addressing targets (primarily strategic) and employment, but for the most part the simple deployment of the weapons has been considered adequate in terms of supporting deterrence. Unfortunately, this practice is no longer adequate.
The Soviet Navy’s attitude toward tactical nuclear weapons gives us the first clue that the U. S. Navy had better improve its capability in this area. It is clear by any scale of measurement that the Soviets want to avoid war (especially nuclear war) with the United States if at all possible. However, given their basic “immutable” premise of the inevitability of a continuing East-West, or socialist-capitalist, struggle for predominance, the Soviet Union has deployed the largest and most fearsome military force in the history of the world to wage war (if necessary) against the “imperialistic” forces of the United States. Looking specifically at the Soviet Navy’s declaratory doctrine concerning tactical nuclear weapons, it appears that the Soviets have almost dispassionately studied and prepared for nuclear war. Quoting from a recent comprehensive analysis of Soviet literature: “The net impression is that they had come to grips with the prospect [of tactical nuclear war] and have worked out their concepts to the minutest tactical
sponding decrease in commitments or areas of c°nr
the United States to be the world’s policeman an1
detail.”1 Admittedly, the Soviet literature is ambiguous concerning the important subjects of first use of nuclear weapons, preemption, thresholds, and escalation, but the important point is that they view nuclear war as possible and are preparing for it. Their doctrine is not without teeth either. All of their deployed “Echo,” “Juliett,” and “Charlie”-class submarines and their land-based naval aircraft, the “Badger” and “Backfire” bombers, are generally credited with the capability of employing nucleararmed missiles against U. S. naval forces.
There is widespread agreement that we in the United States must attempt to view military forces, deterrence, and the international environment through the “lenses” or perceptions of the Soviets. One important step in this regard is to recognize that they do not view deterrence and/or nuclear war as we do. A recent book published by the Center for Advanced International Studies of the University of Miami entitled The Role of Nuclear Forces in Current Soviet Strategy states: “Soviet military writings and military posture do not specifically distinguish between deterrence and war-fighting nuclear capabilities or postures, but appear to view them as one and the same.”2 Thus, if our policy of deterrence is to succeed, that policy, however it may be articulated, must be supported by a force capable of waging war at all levels of conflict.
It would be difficult to dispute the statement that the U. S. Navy is not prepared to fight a tactical nuclear war at sea. The weapons themselves are antiquated, with the last tactical nuclear weapon being developed for the Navy more than 16 years ago. Moreover, the Soviet Navy states its willingness and readiness to use nuclear weapons at sea if necessary, but the U. S. Navy does not have an adequate doctrine for employment. We also do not conduct adequate training. Of course, we expend a tremendous amount of time, effort, and money in order to properly store, transport, safeguard, and perform maintenance on nuclear weapons. Also, during refresher training or while conducting an operational readiness evaluation, we conduct defensive nuclear- biological-chemical training. However, offensive tactical employment training is conspicuously not performed. Within the context of a “come as you are war,” we must prepare now for that war, because we will not be allowed the luxury of preparation time after hostilities commence. As Captain Linton F. Brooks writes: “The war we don’t prepare for is the one we are most likely to have to fight, and the consequences of attempting to fight a naval nuclear war without having thought about it in advance are frightening to contemplate.”3
This is not a call for preemptive thinking or a saber-rattling policy. It is a rational approach to adapt to changing realities of the U. S.-U.S.S.R- re' lationship within the consistent state of flux of the global environment. As unsettling as the thought of using nuclear weapons may be, it has become absolutely necessary to think about and plan for their employment in order to support our goal of deterrence.
Supplementing the Carrier: Our national authorities annually state that the U. S. Navy is “marginally superior” to the naval forces of the Soviet Union, y the U. S. Navy is still marginally superior, the es sence of our superiority indubitably rests upon the firepower provided by our carriers. But is the aircra t carrier enough? I do not propose to examine the questions of the super-carrier versus the mini-carriet or the high-low mix; that ground has been covere before and the results remain ambiguous. I do, ho"'' ever, think it would be beneficial to take a look at our present attitudes concerning carrier battle group5 within the context of the CNO’s call for a more offen' sively capable Navy.
First of all, we have to accept the fact that we wi have only 13 active aircraft carriers throughout the remainder of this century. The consistent decline 1 the number of U. S. aircraft carriers from 25 in 19 has coincided with a steady decline in the quantit>eS of other U. S. naval ships, both combatants and sup port vessels. Unfortunately, this reduction in number of ships has not been matched by a corte cern. The Nixon Doctrine recognized the inabibO1 dictated a reduced foreign military presence calh0^ for increased military contributions on the part °f allies. However, as far as the Navy is concern^ ’ there were few appreciable changes; our comm*1 ments remained the same and our allies did not ta up the slack. In fact, under the Carter administrat1(Jn the Navy’s commitments actually increased not on; quantitatively but geographically as well. We inde ^ now have a two-ocean Navy with a three-ocean c°1(1 mitment. One other factor should be mentione here. The organization of the Rapid Deploy01^ Force (RDF) is a response to the perceived need 0 the United States to be able to rapidly deploy lTl1^ tary forces anywhere in the world that they may v needed. The emphasis is on rapid. Given the instao ity of many Third World countries which are of vlt^ importance to the United States in terms of fe sources, control of sea-lanes, and other polRR0
• • . . pQf
military considerations, the conception is proper-
. 'ty to respond flexibly to unforeseen contingen- les Would be greatly enhanced.
Another concern I have with our almost total de- uence upon the carriers is a corollary to the dis- USs'°n above concerning nuclear weapons at sea. The So *erS afe n0t inv*nc't>le. Consider, for example, the Vlet Union’s view toward the carriers in terms of a
tJle Navy to properly support this policy, we must lversify our offensive capability in ships other than [he carriers. The Navy simply cannot categorically guarantee that an aircraft carrier can be provided ^herever and whenever desired. Of course, a carrier aftle group can be deployed to almost any location °u the globe. The problem is one of time and uumber. The Navy needs ships and submarines of all |ypes armed with offensive weapon systems such as arpoon and Tomahawk to enable it to bring offen- SlVe Power to bear as quickly as possible in support of an order to deploy the RDF. Thus, we need to separate some of our surface ships and submarines from e carriers and form non-carrier task groups. Mini- 013 ly> this action complicates the Soviets’ targeting Ptoblem. Consider the Mediterranean. We now rriaintain one carrier battle group there. If there were separate task group comprised of cruisers, destroyers, frigates, and submarines and capable of em- ,e y*ng Harpoon and LAMPS, our adversary’s prob- 01 *s markedly compounded. Additionally,
The possibilities of destroying them under cur- re°t conditions in connection with the existence of nuclear missile weapons, missile-carrying aviation, nuclear submarines, and guided-missile ships have C°nsiderably increased in comparison with past ^ars despite the increased power of their own de- nses and their combat escort forces. Modern naval missile carrying aviation armed with nuclear j^'ssiles can employ its weaponry while beyond the ^mits of the carrier force air defense. Whereas eretofore dozens of aircraft were needed to destroy a Hrge warship with bombs and torpedoes, today Several missile-carrying aircraft and one nuclear Qj^’ssile are sufficient.”  
\tVCn today’s force structure and tactics, if the Soviet if used nuclear weapons against our carriers, and tjj y were successful in rendering them impotent, Can, remainder of our naval forces would be in- be e of achieving the missions that our Navy has ^ assigned. This is not to say that the Soviets teautomatically be successful in such an at- sivePt- The point is that we must enhance our offen- ^■apability in ships other than the carriers, pj e must do so by accelerating the deployment of °°n throughout the fleet, and we must continue
to aggressively pursue the development of over-the- horizon (OTH) targeting doctrine and employment tactics for the missile. We must push for the sea- launched version of Tomahawk, for there are voices indicating that the Navy will not receive it in any meaningful quantities. The obvious utility and efficacy of that weapon system employed aboard ships and submarines in a variety of scenarios using both conventional and nuclear warheads must not be obscured by political and budgetary considerations.
Conclusions: This essay is not meant to encourage a jingoistic policy of needless and dangerous saber rattling. Rather, it is an attempt to point out the legitimate need to question some time-honored practices and policies that have become very entrenched in our thinking. As we approach the end of the 20th century, we can expect increasing complexity, uncertainty, scarce resources, difficult choices, risks, and potential for conflict. Our putative enemy has forced us into a situation in which we have no choice but to improve the capabilities of our armed forces. The CNO is absolutely correct in calling for an increase in the offensive capability of the U. S. Navy. The steps recommended in this essay, some small and of limited significance in isolation, others obviously far- reaching with difficulties and risks involved, need to be addressed by all members of the naval establishment. A call to think offensively is not a rhetorical, meaningless cry. When taken in the context of the threat and the trends in the systemic environment, it is not only substantive but unequivocally necessary as well.
Lieutenant Commander Parker was commissioned via the regular NROTC program, being graduated in 1970 from Auburn University with a degree in electrical engineering. His sea tours include service in the Bulwark (MSO-425), Forrest Sherman (DD-931), Paul (FF-1080), and the staff of Commander Cruiser-Destroyer Group 12. He was honored as the nation's outstanding NROTC instructor in 1977-1978 while at Miami (Ohio) University, where he also earned a master’s degree in international relations. He is now a student at the Naval War College and slated to become executive officer of the destroyer Mooshrugger (DD-980).
‘The BDM Corporation, The Soviet Navy Declaratory Doctrine for Theater Nuclear Warfare (Washington, D.C.: Defense Nuclear Agency, 1977), p. 12.
Leon Goure, Foy D. Kohler, and Moose L. Harvey, The Role of Nuclear Forces in Current Soviet Strategy (University of Miami, Center for Advanced International Studies, 1974), p. 47.
Captain Linton F. Brooks, USN, “Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Forgotten Facet of Naval Warfare,” Proceedings, January 1980, p. 30.
BDM Corporation, op. cit., p. 28.