In June 2018, the U.S. Naval Institute published my article, “Build a Green-Water Fleet.” The article names the types of vessels and computes their costs, emphasizing that the fleet must be designed to go in harm’s way in dangerous littoral waters against a variety of prospective enemies. The green-water fleet would take only a fraction of the Navy’s shipbuilding budget: because it comprises relatively small vessels, its 394 ships could be had for less than $2 billion in shipbuilding and conversion funds per year. By far the most costly component would be the eight CVLs, small carriers of 30 aircraft, including 20 short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) F-35Bs. They are priced at $3 billion each.1
The June essay also contends that because of the cost of building the next generation of nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarines, the blue-water fleet will have to shrink, although it does not specify in what way.2 To work up a new, smaller blue-water fleet within a realistic budget is a good deal harder than to describe the much less costly fleet designed to take the offensive to deny an enemy his own littoral waters.
1. The cost is based on “Operational Employment of a Light Aircraft Carrier” written by then-Lieutenant Frank Weisser and Tinya Coles-Cieply. Dated September 2009, this unclassified thesis is available electronically through the Naval Postgraduate School Knox Library.
2. The impending commitment to Columbia-class SSBN construction is estimated to be between $5.3 billion and $6.5 billion per year while the 15-year replacement program is being executed.
3. A study of the swift evolution of naval aviation that contrasts British and U.S. peacetime actions is Thomas C. Hone, Norman Friedman, and Mark D. Mandeles, American and British Aircraft Development, 1919–1941 (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1999).
4. Explored many years ago, the Arapaho concept was gold-plated with so many supporting containers its costly design was wisely rejected at a time when the United States was relatively rich in aircraft carriers. In the Falklands War, the British converted merchant ships such as the Atlantic Conveyor to bring heavy-lift VTOL aircraft to the South Atlantic.
5. Weisser and Coles-Cieply, “Operational Employment of a Light Aircraft Carrier.”
6. ADM John Richardson, USN, “A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority, Version 2.0,” December 2018, 9.