20 July 2006

A Navy On Borrowed Time: Ours

I'm not the only one who thinks that it is only a matter of time before the U.S. Navy is ripped to shreds with missiles.

One event that shocked [Marine Lt. Gen. Paul] Van Riper occurred in 2002 when he was asked, as he had been before, to play the commander of an enemy Red Force in a huge $250 million three-week war game titled Millennium Challenge 2002. It was widely advertised as the best kind of such exercises -- a free-play unscripted test of some of the Pentagon's and Rumsfeld's fondest ideas and theories. . . .

In the computer-controlled game, a flotilla of Navy warships and Marine amphibious warfare ships steamed into the Persian Gulf for what Van Riper assumed would be a pre-emptive strike against the country he was defending.

Van Riper resolved to strike first and unconventionally using fast patrol boats and converted pleasure boats fitted with ship-to-ship missiles as well as first generation shore-launched anti-ship cruise missiles. He packed small boats and small propeller aircraft with explosives for one mass wave of suicide attacks against the Blue fleet. Last, the general shut down all radio traffic and sent commands by motorcycle messengers, beyond the reach of the code-breakers.

At the appointed hour he sent hundreds of missiles screaming into the fleet, and dozens of kamikaze boats and planes plunging into the Navy ships in a simultaneous sneak attack that overwhelmed the Navy's much-vaunted defenses based on its Aegis cruisers and their radar controlled Gatling guns.

When the figurative smoke cleared it was found that the Red Forces had sunk 16 Navy ships, including an aircraft carrier. Thousands of Marines and sailors were dead.

Do we need another Pearl Harbor class disaster to shake up military thinking? The point of virtual simulations is to identify vulnerabilities and change our force so that they don't recur. It isn't at all obvious that we've taken that step.

We have a Navy perfectly designed during the Reagan Administration to kick the butt of the World War II Japanese Imperial Navy. We've spent hundreds of billions of dollars to buy it. But, the big picture rethink of that massive expense hasn't happened. With the exception of the Littoral Combat Ship program and the catamaran based high speed logistics ships that the Army and the Navy are experimenting with, the Navy hasn't fundamentally rethought a strategy designed to deal with the War in the Pacific.

Hat Tip to Daily Kos diarist London Yank.

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