(See J. T. Manvel Jr. and D. Perin, pp. 42–47, May 2014 Proceedings)
(See M. C. Manazir, pp. 16–21, February 2014; S. C. Truver, p. 8, April 2014; and D. Dolan, p. 156, May 2014 Proceedings)
Commander Phillip E. Pournelle, U.S. Navy—Captain Manvel and Dr. Perin restate an accurate but increasingly irrelevant fact: Large aircraft carriers are far more “cost-effective in generating sorties for combat missions.” The Ford-class carrier is perhaps the ultimate expression of this fact, and it is its raison d’être, but according to the Navy’s own cost data it is almost twice as expensive as the Nimitz class. This perpetuates a dangerous trend in the design of our Fleet, making it smaller and concentrating our capabilities onto fewer and fewer platforms, making a brittle Fleet.
Sortie-generation rates are increasingly irrelevant in the face of modern technologies such as reloadable vertical-launch systems and railguns. Neither the Ford nor the Nimitz class can cost-effectively generate nearly the volume of fire of either of those systems installed on more numerous destroyers and submarines. These can outperform such carriers in volume of fire delivered in hours, days, weeks, or months. What is needed from carriers is not sortie generation but persistent scouting to direct the large salvoes coming from these platforms. Such scouting can best be done by unmanned aircraft like an X-47B with on-station times measured in hours, launched from smaller, less expensive, and more numerous aircraft carriers. Such a force would be far more survivable in both combat and budgetary environments.
Captain Bernard D. Cole, U.S. Navy (Retired)—The February and May issues included articles on the advantages of big-deck aircraft carriers. In February, Rear Admiral Manazir extolled the multimission capability of carriers, as well as their “asymmetric advantage” provided by a deck load of “up to 75 advanced aircraft.” His focus on justifying the size and cost of the Ford-class carriers was echoed in the May issue by Captain Manvel and Dr. Perin.
These authors cite the effectiveness of aircraft carriers during and after World War II. They fail to note, however, that no aircraft carrier has been at serious risk from an enemy since 1945. Neither poses the factor of placing a carrier costing an estimated $14.1 billion (not including aircraft) in the way of aircraft, surface ships, and submarines armed with cruise missiles each costing in the $1- to 2-million range. It is not a matter of sinking the carrier, of course, but merely taking out the “fewer aircraft elevators” that Captain Manvel and Dr. Perin ironically cite as a plus.
All three authors weaken their advocacy of supercarriers by citing the current and increasing capability of unmanned aerial vehicles. A 30,000-ton ship equipped with a couple hundred UAVs would make more monetary and operational sense than 10–11 behemoths that are so expensive and so few in number that they each represent, in and of themselves, a vital national-security interest. How does a President respond in kind to the loss of one of these, with her several thousand personnel at risk? With nuclear weapons? The harsh fact is that in warfare ships have to be expendable, to a degree, The Nimitz- and Ford-class carriers are not.
The supercarriers are everything the authors of these two and similar articles claim—floating air bases, but politically and operationally vulnerable in ways the authors choose not to address.
(See J. Murphy, p. 14, June 2014 Proceedings)
Rear Admiral William J. Holland Jr., U.S. Navy (Retired)—One hesitates to fault such a respected commentator as Senior Chief Murphy, whose track record of cogent and eminently practical essays reflecting attitudes and experiences at the deckplate level is probably without parallel. But in the June issue his indignation at the potential plan for banning tobacco sales in the exchange system has overridden his usual great common sense.
Such a plan is not out of the mainstream of social actions affecting all hands taken by the senior leadership over the past half-century. Starting with President Harry Truman’s edict to ban racial segregation and assignment, there has been a steady stream of top-down efforts to change the social mores of the service. Most of these in their time have been castigated in manners similar to Senior Chief Murphy’s indictment as “treating them like children.”
Admiral Elmo Zumwalt’s “Z-grams” attempted to modernize personnel practices that reflected a caste system. Admiral Thomas B. Hayward’s edicts declaring an end of any tolerance of drug use (“Not in My Navy”), issued in the face of contrary orders from the Carter administration, brought the rest of the Navy into line with the submarine force’s absolute rejection. Subsequent CNOs attacked obesity, driving under the influence, and repeated drinking problems, even though the officers’ clubs were doomed by the disapproval of alcohol indulgence.
Most amazing to this once two-packs-a-day submariner was the prohibition in the boats to smoking outside a single approved space, a machinery room. More recently, the prohibition of smoking throughout U.S. submarines is so foreign to the experience of yesteryear as to be unimaginable. But then so is an Ireland where smoking is not allowed in any pub.
Treating people like adults includes establishing rules for the promotion of good order and discipline and for creating a culture that enhances the health and welfare of all hands. Smoking is an unhealthful habit to be discouraged—witness the tobacco taxes.
Lieutenant Commander Mark Swinger, U.S. Navy—Senior Chief Murphy is right on when he says that our senior leaders need to treat our young sailors and Marines like the adults they are. Having deployed three times in the past three years as an aviator in two different aircraft carriers, I can say that ceasing the sale of tobacco on board ship is the least of our problems, as Senior Chief Murphy stated. Are there not enough limitations imposed already on our people that come with everyday life under way? Lack of adequate sleep, comfortable living quarters, reliable Internet (yes, it’s a big deal, especially to a younger generation), and the inability to grab a beer already add stress to the lives of our young enlisted personnel, so why add this to the list? If the real concern involves the health issues that come with smoking, then why are we encouraging everyone on board to hydrate on the sweltering flight deck but selling Monster and Red Bull by the case in the ship’s store?
If nine months is the new six months for deployment length, then we need to cut everyone as much slack as we can when it comes to morale, even if it means sneaking a smoke.
(See J. DiRenzo III and C. Doane, pp. 90–95, May 2014 Proceedings)
David Ammerman—I read with interest Dr. DiRenzo’s and Mr. Doane’s informative article analyzing the Coast Guard’s budget and missions, especially regarding aids to navigation. I was dismayed to learn that this mission is given little adequate support to accomplish, despite aids to navigation benefiting not only the Navy but the general maritime public as well. I was further surprised that the Coast Guard’s total budget of approximately $8 billion is substantially less than the cost of the U.S. Navy’s latest aircraft carrier, the Gerald R. Ford ($12 billion-plus). There is something wrong in all of this. I sincerely hope that this latest carrier does not run aground, run into a jetty, or hit obstructions with costly results because we haven’t given the Coast Guard up-to-date vessels, technology, and adequate manpower to successfully provide aids to navigation for a given U.S. port where the carrier might be headed in or out.
Congress should provide substantially more funding to replace aging vessels for this mission, upgrade buoys where necessary, and ensure safe ingress and egress for all vessels. I intend to write my representatives in Congress to address this issue. We need to maintain a successful balance of missions for the Coast Guard.
(See S. Kumar, pp. 96–104, May 2014 Proceedings)
Commander A. H. Robbins, U.S. Navy (Retired)—Now and then there’s an article that’s worth an entire year’s membership. Many thanks to Dr. Kumar for just such a piece. I was surprised, however, to find no mention of impending sea-route changes in the Arctic, and the potential opening of the Northwest Passage.
I was more surprised to read of the enormous impact of our sudden wealth of natural gas on both the shipbuilding and transportation industries—this despite the environmentalists’ and Obama administration’s active resistance to fracking. There’s been a lot in the news about global warming, but virtually nothing about efforts to decrease energy costs, increase use of clean fuels, or to create a booming economy.
For several years, business titan T. Boone Pickens has spearheaded the campaign to convert the nation’s commercial truck fleets to run on liquefied natural gas (LNG). For most of this time, natural gas has been only marginally cheaper than liquid fuels. Today, it is not only a cleaner-burning fuel, but a much cheaper non-imported fuel.
I wonder how expensive it would be to convert America’s commercial tugboat fleets to operate on either LNG or compressed natural gas. They could be refueled from the new LNG barges, at least until a few of the major ports establish their own natural-gas storage-and-distribution facilities. So could many of the DOD and Coast Guard harbor craft.
(See Z. Howitt, pp. 62–67, April 2014 Proceedings)
Electronic Technician Senior Chief Paul Morin, U.S. Navy Reserve (Retired)—Lieutenant Howitt’s piece continued the ongoing debate regarding a new frigate for the U.S. Navy and some possible solutions. If the Legend-class national-security cutter (NSC) is to form the basis of the Navy’s next frigate, two aspects are critical: It must be combat-relevant, and cost must be reduced to an extreme, with emphasis on the latter.
The centerpiece for Lieutenant Howitt’s sea-control frigate is a 16-cell tactical-length Mk-41 vertical-launch system (VLS) installed on the forecastle in place of the space reservation for the Mk-48 Mod 3 VLS. There is no room for it there. The Mk-48 only extends down to the main deck; the Mk-41 would extend through the second deck and into the third deck, causing cost-prohibitive alterations to the current design. The Mk-48 should be retained as well as the current Mk-110 57-mm gun, radar suite, and just about everything else to curb cost.
To be a relevant frigate the NSC design would need to possess a full AN/SQQ-89 antisubmarine-warfare (ASW) combat system. Once, the Navy was populated with substantial numbers of such equipped ships, but this is no longer the case. The Fleet faces a looming ASW deficit that an NSC frigate can fill. To incorporate the SQQ-89 into the NSC hull with minimum impact to the current design, the changes from stern to stem would be: The stern boat launch is replaced with an interior space for the multifunction towed-array sonar. This clears the fantail for a large space right in the middle of it to house the sonar-control room, including the Mk-116 antisubmarine fire-control system. The flight deck would be extended aft about 40 feet to completely cover the fantail. A 24-cell tactical-length Mk-41 able to accommodate the Evolved Seasparrow missile, the antisubmarine rocket, and the new long-range antiship missile could be located centerline at the forward-most part of the flight deck up against the aft end of the superstructure. The helo hangers could be extended aft about 30 feet to envelop the VLS.
A relevant NCS frigate would need to defend itself. An Mk-48 Mod 3 VLS could be installed, but each of the six RIM-7VL Seasparrow cells would be replaced with a quad pack of RIM-116 rolling air frame (RAM) missiles for a total of 24 RAMs. RAM is far more effective than the close-in weapon system (CIWS) for cruise-missile defense, so the CIWS should be eliminated, replaced by two MK-38 Mod 2 25-mm gun mounts atop the aft end of the helo hanger, port and starboard.
The aforementioned changes result in a frigate of adequate capability at a relatively low cost that could be built in numbers—exactly what the Navy needs in this time of fiscal austerity. To the greatest extent, existing designs and systems must be used. Lieutenant Howitt is right: It is time for a Sea-Control Frigate, one that is relevant and affordable.
(See D. C. Fuquea, pp. 22–28, March 2014; and S. Paschal, pp. 14–15, May 2014 Proceedings)
Chief Purser Terry Foskett, Cunard and Royal Caribbean Lines (Retired)—Colonel Fuquea is somewhat optimistic in his assessment of troop-sealift availability from the commercial sector. He opines, “A Royal Caribbean cruise ship could . . . deliver two battalions of Marines into theater faster than a Navy asset.” I am not clear as to how this Royal Caribbean ship would be manned. The average cruise ship is 98 percent crewed by non-U.S. citizens as is most of the cruise-ship industry. Sailing as a troop ship, a cruise ship could reduce crewing by 40 percent, as on board the QE2 when we sailed as a troop ship during the 1982 Falklands War. Agreed, there are 69,000 seafarers in the U.S. Merchant Marine manning some 465 ships over 1,000 gross register tonnage in 2007. However, how many would be available to crew a troop ship now, how many would be familiar with the sophisticated operation of a passenger ship, and how many of those would be willing to volunteer for hazardous duty? Many of those 465 ships are foreign-owned. In 2004 the U.S. Maritime Administration described the gap between sea-lift crewing needs and available unlicensed personnel as “reaching critical proportions, and the long-term outlook for sufficient personnel is also of serious concern.” Ten years later, the position has deteriorated further.
In the Falklands War troop-ship operation, STUFT (Ships Taken Up From Trade), most ships were U.K.-flagged and 90 percent of the crews were British nationals, unlike today. The U.S. government would have to rely on the largesse of the cruise-ship companies to allow their foreign-registered ships to be turned over for combat operations, unless the U.S. government had the power to requisition. Royal Caribbean ships are registered in the Bahamas. One last point: Virtually all cruise ship companies are registered outside the United States, even though their head offices are in the United States.
The hull number in the caption on page 80 of the April issue should read “CVN-70,” not “CVN-20.”
The caption on page 71 of the June issue should read “15,000 pounds,” not “150,000 pounds.”