Why does the U.S. Navy build such large surface warships? Would it not be more prudent and cost-effective to build large numbers of smaller ships, especially when antiship cruise missiles are so common worldwide?
These are reasonable questions—and there are reasonable answers, based on the missions of the U.S. Navy and the state of the art in ship design.
Why Such Large Combatants?
Numbers of ships matter, but it is capability that counts. U.S. Navy ships are kept forward deployed to deliver combat-credible, immediately employable warfighting capability—and the range of that capability is diverse and growing. Adding challenging new missions such as land attack and ballistic missile defense to traditional naval tasks makes it increasingly unlikely that a single-mission ship would have the right tools for the job when a force commander needs naval power.