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If we don’t want to get blown off the chessboard, our strategy for conventional warfare must be built around our queens—aircraft carrier battle groups—and it must include such bishops as this Tomahawk-firing Spru- ance-class destroyer. Only then can we confidently tell the Soviet Union’s military chessmasters, “Your move.”
knights, and bishops if the numbers of queens were need' sarily limited. By comparing the naval strategist to the chess player, it becomes evident that the U. S. Navy lS denying itself additional pieces on the board while strug' gling to obtain limited numbers of queens. Is this wise. Although queens are essential, if castles, knights, a° bishops can be placed on the board at comparatively 1°^ cost, should we not reinforce our strategy with them als°-
Strategy can be defensive in both chess and war, but the best defense employs the offensive. According to Karl von Clausewitz, offensive counterattack is “the flashing sword of vengeance.” A navy’s mobility is one of its prime advantages, and maneuver is a key to strategic and tactical success. In the global arena, single ships do not win battles; groups of ships, organized and trained to defend themselves and take the offensive, are the probable victors in maritime conflict. The royal pieces on the chessboard of naval strategy are therefore a navy’s offensive maneuver groups (OMGs).
In nuclear warfare, the nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) is the queen of the U. S. Navy’s chessboard. In conventional warfare, and in the transition to levels of nuclear conflict, the aircraft carrier battle group (CVBG), powerful, mobile, and composed of ships organized to fight together, is the queen.
Any chess player would enjoy playing on a board filled with queens; but he would never deny himself castles,
The Strategy: Every player must be well versed in stra1 egy to be successful, whether the strategy is derived fr°^ Bobby Fisher or Alfred Thayer Mahan. Mahan’s basiL premise for naval strategy is to determine the true ob)®2 tive and then the point or points upon which a navy sho*1 be concentrated. This follows Clausewitz’s dictum to key forces concentrated. OMGs are the basic fighting unit ot navy; a naval leader must address their positioning and uS in selecting optimum concentrations of force. ^
The true objective of naval strategy is to serve nati°n._ strategy. Most writers on naval strategy agree that this best accomplished by either controlling or destroying
enemy fleet so it cannot use the seas to support
national objectives or armies on land. More modern
ers, observing the increasing capability of long naval weapons to directly influence the outcome of a on land, have said that a navy’s true objective is to in' ence the war on land directly by attacking with the m°
In either case, whether a navy seeks to control of ^ stroy the enemy fleet or to attack land forces, it must able to sustain and defend itself at sea. A navy must a have enough OMGs to achieve the strategic concentra11
the survivability of carriers, cruisers, and destroyers; ^ part of the sea for any purpose without air superiority-
addition, to attack an enemy’s fleet or land bases, a 1
of force needed to guarantee victory. Furthermore, this concentration of force must extend throughout a global arena. If U. S. queens are concentrated in sequential operations because of lack of numbers to attack in parallel, and enemy bishops, knights, and castles are winning without opposition in other areas, a war could take a wrong turn.
Queens: The SSBNs operate covertly in the open ocean. Their primary mission is to deter nuclear war by the threat of their nuclear weapons and their ability to remain hidden and avoid enemy attack. In a nuclear war, they could:
► Conduct nuclear attacks against strategic targets
► Conduct nuclear attacks against tactical targets
► Hold their weapons as a deterrent to further enemy escalation or as part of a war termination strategy
In conventional war and in the initial phases of a nuclear conflict, the CVBG could:
► Conduct offensive aircraft strikes
► Exercise local sea control
► Provide an air superiority umbrella to units of the fleet A CVBG contains a large-deck aircraft carrier, an air
wing, one or two antiair warfare cruisers, several multipurpose destroyers, and three or four antisubmarine ships (usually frigates). Occasionally, but not always, a nuclear- powered attack submarine operates in direct support of the CVBG.
Groups of ships other than those including an aircraft carrier are not, by the U. S. Navy’s definition, battle groups. Such groups are called task groups. The narrow definition of the term “battle group” results primarily
from the U. S. Navy’s focus on defining the aircraft carrier as the only ship capable of taking the to the enemy. This parallels the older definition of a c tal ship. tjy
The aircraft carrier is a powerful ship that has rec£n <■ been labeled “dinosaur” or “sitting duck.” Question5
5 . an56
with every defense budget. But a navy cannot control <
must have long-range, standoff weapons or suffer unacCeptable losses early in a conflict. To date, the only way to achieve air superiority and long-range strike is with high- Performance aircraft. The aircraft carrier is the only way ° take such aircraft to sea and is thus the centerpiece for ”e CVBG, the queen on the chessboard of naval strategy.
The large aircraft carrier is worth her high cost for her aeterrent and war-fighting capabilities. Certainly, any ship ls vulnerable to an enemy attack, could that enemy mass en°ugh resources against that ship. Of course, an enemy Jttust pay elsewhere if he masses his forces to take on a CVBG.
The U. S. Navy’s 15 large carrier force will be realized pP°n completion of the two carriers under construction. ) nVen w'^ 15 carriers, the Navy does not have enough I "IGs to pursue a strategy of parallel operations in a ® °bal arena. For of these 15 carriers, four would be in °Verhaul, five in home port, and six deployed in the °Ceans and two major seas (Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, ac*fic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, and Caribbean Sea)— .at means less than two carriers for each major opera- l0ltal area. If a conflict escalated, at least four of the five Carriers in home port probably would deploy. It is widely ^cognized that a two-carrier battle force is necessary to ^°nduct sustained operations in a high-threat area. Thus, 1(h ten carriers deployed, the U. S. Navy could operate 1Ve OMGs in high-threat areas for a limited time.
\ Tive are not enough. The problem can be alleviated,
naval advances. The amphibious groups of today, however, lack credibility as OMGs because of their minimum capability to defend themselves. Typically, an amphibious group will consist of a helicopter assault ship (LHA or LPH), one or two dock landing ships (LSDs or LPDs), and several tank landing ships (LSTs). These ships are equipped with only the most basic point defense systems for antiair and antisurface defense. They have no systems to defend against submarine attack. Employment of Marine AV-8B Harriers and Cobra helicopters in the antiair and antisurface role helps, but this conflicts with their amphibious warfare mission.
Typically, no combatant ships are assigned to the amphibious task group. On occasion, a few ships not assigned to a CVBG will be assigned to participate in an amphibious exercise as a screen. Chances are these ships know little about defending the most vulnerable of naval operations, an amphibious assault. On less frequent occasions, a CVBG will be assigned to support an amphibious operation, but the aircraft carrier and her air wing are usually not a part of the amphibious task group.
Knights: Knights are the advance cavalry of the chessboard. Their ability to move in a way unavailable to other pieces is most valuable. They can strike quickly and escape unharmed. Attack submarines are the Navy’s knights. They are the most survivable offensive weapons of the Navy. In a high-level conflict with a capable
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afo 6Ver' OMGs can be built, organized, and trained |Cniu|'d ships other than the queens. Bring out the castles, §hts, and bishops.
cheas,^es: Castles are important offensive pieces on the p]asb°ard. They are usually kept in reserve until the fe^Jer has cleared the opponent’s other royal pieces and is aJto proceed to checkmate. The Navy’s castles are its the \ 'ous groups- They are ready to move in and land Marine forces needed to take and hold ground after
“flings / June 1984
To get all our playing pieces on the board, we need to form offensive maneuver groups around our castles (amphibious groups consisting of amphibious assault ships, amphibious transport docks, and tank landing ships), knights (attack submarines like the USS Lapon [SSN-661]), and bishops (non-aircraft carrier surface combatants such as the USS Ticonderoga [CG-47]).
ward deployed OMGs. In the initial phases of a war Soviets will probably not overcommit forces to inter*
enemy, attack submarines will be the advance force of the Navy. They will remove enemy submarines from areas where the CVBGs must go to carry out their mission.
Unlike surface ships, modem submarines do not often operate in groups. Surface ship groups provide defensive capability and offensive volume. Submarines achieve defensive capability through covert operations that are not conducive to operating in groups. For advance antisurface and antisubmarine operations, single submarines are effective OMGs in most cases. For land-attack missions using the long-range Tomahawk missile, a single submarine does not have a sufficient volume of offensive missiles to constitute an OMG. For this mission, groups of submarines would be inefficient. Submarines with long- range cruise missiles should be integrated with other types of OMGs to provide advance, covert strikes against crucial command and control targets and air defense sites to weaken the enemy’s ability to strike other ships of the OMG. As part of a surface ship OMG, submarine missiles will be backed by the high-volume missile fire from cruisers and destroyers, and the repetitive strikes from carrier aircraft.
Bishops: Bishops have the long-range striking power of a queen but with less versatility. They are often used to strike at long range before the queen is risked. They are also used early in an encounter to engage the opponent’s advance forces. The Navy’s bishops are non-aircraft carrier surface combatants, organized into new types of OMGs.
Such new OMGs would require either more ships, or the removal of some ships from the existing CVBG structure. The 600-ship navy will provide additional ships with which to build new types of OMGs. Moreover, the types of ships being constructed (Ticonderoga-class cruisers, Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, and Spruance-class destroyers with the vertical launcher update) have offensive and defensive capabilities that allow the ships to operate independent of the CVBG.
In developing more OMGs, the CVBGs cannot, of course, be stripped of escorts. Each aircraft carrier will continue to require a powerful defending force. However, from an overall strategy and tactical viewpoint, additional numbers of OMGs at the expense of some individual OMG defense may provide higher payoff. Distribution of OMGs, not individual ships, is the essence of a strategy of distributed offensive power. More OMGs are necessary to carry out such a strategy.
To determine the nature of these new OMGs and their mission, we must examine the opposition’s strategy.
Their Strategy: The Soviet naval strategy to be countered is geared to strike in depth using massed attack and surprise—to attack enemy shore installations with aircraft and ballistic missiles, probably at a nuclear level. They probably will be unconcerned with U. S. forces at sea as long as such forces do not threaten the homeland or interfere with Soviet capabilities on land. The Soviets will seek to deter the use of CVBGs through threatened escalation, while striking at the forces that sustain the CVBGs—land bases and logistic ships.
If the conflict escalates immediately to a nuclear level we must seek to:
► Deny the Soviets the first salvo
► Attack Soviet air, submarine, and missile bases and forces at the earliest opportunity, using missiles and aircraft with tactical nuclear weapons
► Attack key Soviet land targets with nuclear weapons that will achieve war objectives while attempting to control further escalation
► Be prepared to operate at sea in spite of disruption o shore-based support
► Defend logistic ships
► Be prepared to recover from the destruction of shore- based support and support the fleet
► Confuse Soviet targeting of forces at sea
Any naval strategy should include plans for engage' ments at nonnuclear levels of conflict. In such a case, Soviet Union presents a naval opponent with primarily ® defensive posture. The Soviet Union is a massive lan power with powerful naval defenses. Soviet naval aircra* range many hundreds of miles beyond its shores and can attack ships with cruise missiles. Surface ships with cruise missiles will likely position themselves in several deiea sive echelons surrounding the Soviet Union and will & supported by attack submarines. Surface ships with antiair and antisubmarine capabilities will also be used to protec Soviet SSBNs in bastion areas.
The Soviets will make every attempt to target and da stray U. S. Navy OMGs capable of nuclear strike ' CVBGs and ballistic missile submarines—during a c° ventional war. These OMGs will be attacked with increaS ing frequency as they approach the Soviet homeland- ^ yond the Soviet layered defenses, Soviet nuclear-powere attack submarines and perhaps some missile-equipped suf face ships will attack the logistic lifelines that support f°
ing sea lines of communication for merchant ships- will follow if the war is prolonged. However, attacks logistic ships bringing fuel and ammunition to the CVp will be intense beyond the traditional defensive In a conventional war, U. S. strategy should seek ^
► Deter the Soviets from escalating to nuclear levels
► Negate Soviet nuclear capabilities in case of escala 1
► Defend U. S. nuclear-capable OMGs and position tne
to deter escalation j
► Attack and destroy Soviet air, submarine, and °a
bases and forces with conventional weapon OM<Js achieve sea control . j
► Attack key political land targets with convent# weapons that will support war objectives while contro* escalation
► Defend logistic ships and bases . ^1
In executing either the nuclear weapon or convent!
weapon strategy, the primary problem for the U. Sis how to ensure survival of sufficient numbers of O*” . e while operating within the land-based air envelope o Soviet Union. g(l-
Land targets are critically important; however, sea
c its CVBGs too quickly or too easily. To conserve Th two additional types of OMGs can be developed.
first is a surface strike group (SSG), which can con- af]Ct ac*Vance strikes against enemy land bases and forces fj j^t within the envelope of Soviet land-based air without lng an aircraft carrier, but still can use aircraft carrier
0 remains a prerequisite, and a prudent commander does ■.1 risk a few scarce OMGs against land-based air in any , of war while an enemy fleet-in-being exists. The rVlet fleet-in-being is their submarine force and the long- missile ships of their surface forces. If the U. S. t avy lost its OMGs to Soviet land-based air while at- 0 Opting to conduct strikes, the Soviet Navy could stand e„ to sea and exercise true sea control, causing disastrous ecfs on U. S. and allied interests.
[j 1 is unlikely, therefore, that in a war with the Soviet rj^°n> nuclear or conventional, the U. S. Navy would
...PPort. The second is a hunter-killer group (HUKG), h can conduct offensive antisubmarine and antisur- y^e ship operations against Soviet units that operate be- }0 . the land-based air coverage against U. S. SSBNs, ^S'stic ships, and transiting amphibious units. These uPs are the bishops of U. S. naval strategy.
The Surface Strike Group: The SSG is the queen’s bishop. It should be built around cruise missile-capable ships, initially employing the Tomahawk in its variants— nuclear land attack, conventional land attack, and antiship. These weapons have ranges from 600 to 1,500 nautical miles, depending on the payload. In the 1990s, tactical ballistic missiles likely will become technologically feasible, and SSGs will then employ both cruise and ballistic tactical missiles at much longer ranges.
The USS New Jersey (BB-62) deployed in the summer of 1983 with the first operational Tomahawk missiles. Three more Tomahawk-armed battleships are scheduled to be operational within the next three years. Soon to join the fleet will be Spruance-class destroyers and Virginia-class cruisers backfitted with Tomahawk. Later, ships with ver-
tical launchers, such as Ticonderoga-class cruisers and the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, will make surface ships high-volume missile carriers. (Los Angeles-class nuclear attack submarines will be fitted with both torpedo tube- launched Tomahawks and vertical launchers, providing a covert strike capability, albeit in a low-volume platform.)
The SSGs can initially be formed around the four recommissioned /own-class battleships, and additional SSGs can be composed of Tomahawk-equipped cruisers and destroyers. The missions of the SSG would be to:
► Position for strikes against political or command and control targets at lower levels of conflict
► Position for strikes against air and submarine bases and antiair defense sites preceding a CVBG air strike in higher levels of conflict
► Conduct long-range missile strikes against land targets using high-speed, silent approaches, with CVBGs operating to the rear to provide air superiority coverage
SSG must be able to mount a sound defense. Though a SSG would at times operate under the air superiority umbrella of a CVBG, it should also be able to defend itself against anything but a massed air attack. The SSG needs improvement in long-range surveillance and long-range antiair warfare.
Long-range surveillance needs can be fulfilled initially and partially by using land-based air assets. For the future, a vertical or short takeoff and landing (V/STOL) surveillance and targeting aircraft, organic to the group, is both feasible and necessary. For long-range antiair warfare, Leahy- and Belknap-class cruisers with the new, long' range Standard SM-2 missile modification have a signifi' cant capability. These cruisers, along with Ticonderogos’ should be assigned as SSG antiair warfare ships.
For the future, the optimum SSG ship would combine vertical missile launchers (with a high-volume, multi-ca" pable missile load) and a V/STOL aircraft capability using subsonic aircraft for surveillance, targeting, and US*1 fighter/attack missions. The high-performance, air supe‘'‘ ority aircraft needed in war at sea would be provided w the CVBGs.
► Conduct sea control operations, protecting the flanks of CVBGs and defending sea lines of communication
► Contain enemy forces outside of concentrated land- based air, such as in Vietnam, North Korea, the mid-Atlantic, and areas of the Third World
► Conduct operations to close critical straits or choke points
► Protect amphibious forces and defend seaward approaches to landing areas
► Conduct mine warfare operations
To be a fully credible offensive maneuver group, the
The Hunter-Killer Group: The HUKG is the kiug
bishop. It should be built around several Spruance-c_ destroyers with their outstanding antisubmarine warf^
( A CW/) <in/i onticnrf'ioQ / A CT T\U\ 1 ■. *
(ASW) and antisurface warfare (ASUW) capabilities
HUKG should total four to six ships and include at one guided missile ship for antiair warfare protect*0 ^ Other capabilities that should be included are towed Pa^f ive sonar array, variable depth sonar, a maximum nU°!, 3 of helicopters (LAMPS I/LAMPS III), at least two helicopters with dipping sonars (or, later, the dipP1 v
sonar version of LAMPS III) embarked on the SprU‘
class destroyers, an outboard electronic support meas1
The SSG, however, can be formed and used effects > now. All the pieces are in place: the need, the weap°nS' and the ships.
small carrier” advocates, who support carriers
suite, and an enhanced intelligence collection capability.
Long-range maritime patrol P-3 aircraft would operate r°utinely with the HUKG. A nuclear attack submarine c°uld also operate in support of the HUKG, thus optimizes the hunt for enemy submarines and ships using air, SUrface, and submarine assets.
Many new ASW and ASUW platforms and equipment currently are coming into the fleet. The HUKG would Provide a focal point for learning how to best use these usabilities. With a specialized HUKG that works and trains together and the synergistic effect of bringing new equipment together, the capability of the ASW aircraft carrier-centered HUKG of the 1950s and 1960s can be aPproached and perhaps exceeded without the expense of a carrier.
. The missions of the HUKG would be to:
* Conduct large area, open-ocean tracking and hold-down Operations against potential enemy submarine and surface ^uips at lower levels of conflict
* Conduct large area, open-ocean ASW and ASUW oper- atl°ns against enemy submarines and surface ships operat- *n§ beyond the range of enemy land-based air
, Protect U. S. SSBN operating areas against Soviet forces
Conduct sea control operations, sweeping ahead or •unking CVBGs and SSGs as advance OMGs in an offen- SlVe posture (taking advantage of the CVBG air superiority umbrella when possible)
. Operate in support of amphibious task groups ^ Protect logistic shipping supporting the CVBG and SSG Operate in defense of overseas land bases Like the SSG, the HUKG can be formed with assets that e*'st today. Again, all the pieces are in place.
Strategy in Check: The strategy to put royal pieces— jostles, knights, and bishops—other than the queen on the , urd is held in check by both a political battle between ,e 0. S. Navy and Congress over the acquisition of more •Urcraft carriers, and an intra-Navy power struggle among e Navy’s “unions.”
Large-deck aircraft carriers are needed to provide air uperiority at sea. The U. S. national strategy of a forward eployed defense makes a 15-carrier active fleet a neces- y> because land-based aircraft cannot be available in all eus where U. S. interests must be defended. Aircraft •tyers also provide a dynamic strike capability with both cLar and conventional weapons.
, ty strong group of congressional critics of large carriers as evolved. They can be categorized as having three
Sut believe they can be smaller, less costly, and more >erous
^ ue “surface ship vulnerability” skeptics who question e value of building any large surface ships in the face of ^ bem smart weapons
be “cheaper-simpler” advocates who believe that any c, aP°n employing high technology can be replaced by Uhl ^Cr’ s'mPler weapons that are easier to use and afford- e >n more quantity
The bureaucratic effect of these critics has caused naval leaders to “circle the wagons” in defense of the aircraft carrier. Some have come to fear that acknowledgment of any naval unit other than the CVBG as having offensive capability will result in Congress saying, “Aha, . . .since you can do the job with that other unit, you don’t need any more carriers.”
The plain fact is we must have the queens, the CVBGs, but we must also have the castles, knights, and bishops. There is no cheap way of having a powerful navy capable of supporting national strategy. There is, however, a way to diversify and improve the U. S. Navy’s offense as the Navy is expanded to 600 ships. We can increase the numbers and types of OMGs.
Within the Navy, there has always been an ongoing power struggle among aviation officers, submarine officers, and surface warfare officers. It is important to understand that, in the Navy, he who owns the offense, controls the Navy. Today, the offense is controlled by the submariners (at the nuclear warfare level) with the SSBNs and by the aviators (at the conventional warfare level) with the CVBGs. Ships of the surface warfare force have since the 1950s been designed for and used in defensive missions associated with the CVBGs. There is a natural tendency among the aviation and submarine institutions to view with apprehension any proposals that use surface ships in different, more offensive missions. But surface ships have the offensive capability. They should not be denied a chance to use it simply because of political obstacles.
Checkmating the Soviet Navy: The U. S. Navy must overcome these obstacles to a more diversified and more capable offensive force. The Soviet strategy demands it. The technology is here. The ships and weapon systems are at sea. The only things missing are simple changes in attitudes and organizations.
The U. S. Navy should uncircle the wagons and adopt an active offensive in educating Congress and other skeptics on the need for carriers and new OMGs, not carriers or new OMGs. A defensive posture works no better in Congress than at sea.
The struggle among factions within the Navy is healthy. We should always encourage strong proponents of varying means to pursue the Navy’s missions. If the CVBGs and SSBNs are as good and as valuable as they seem to be, they will not be injured by the competition of SSGs and HUKGs. Rather, their capabilities will be augmented and enhanced.
To checkmate the Soviet Navy, queens are not enough. Let’s put all the pieces on the board.
Captain Powers holds degrees from the Naval Academy, Naval Postgraduate School, George Washington University, and Catholic University. He has served in four destroyers and was CO of the USS Claude V. Ricketts (DDG-5). Tours ashore have included U. S. Naval Forces, Vietnam, Naval Ordnance Systems Command, The National War College, the staff of the Chief of Naval Operations (OP-354), military assistant to the Defense Science Board, and special assistant to the Director, RDT&E (OP-098X). Captain Powers is currently commander. Destroyer Squadron 17. He was awarded First Honorable Mention in the 1983 General Prize Essay Contest.
>ngs / June 1984