In his July 2012 USNI Proceedings article “Payloads over Platforms: Charting a New Course,” then Chief of Naval Operation Admiral Greenert wrote, “We need to move from ‘luxury-car’ platforms—with their built-in capabilities—toward dependable ‘trucks’ that can handle a changing payload selection. “Sea trucks” is the perfect way in which to picture arming the smaller ship force. There already exist large numbers of “bolt on” modular weapons systems and sensor packages that could allow a squadron of such ships to present a challenge to any potential foe, ranging from anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles to various form of autonomous vehicles with many mission capabilities. The addition of helicopters to the mix adds both a counter-surface and ASW capability; the same is true for drones. A lightweight modular force means that a small squadron could form a formidable presence at a relatively low cost.
The United State must have the available number of assets for regional presence or surge operations. In major operations and power projection this means strike groups of major combatants. But the navy also needs smaller, more affordable vessels for low-intensity operations. These smaller ships can be built early in the new administration to meet that maritime security gap. Immediate construction on low-end vessels would also provide a gateway to training a broader, skilled workforce when contracts are in place for eventual larger combatants.
Claude Berube teaches at the U.S. Naval Academy and has worked on Capitol Hill. He deployed with Expeditionary Strike Group Five to the Persian Gulf in 2004-05.. The views expressed are his and not those of the Naval Academy. Twitter @cgberube
Mark Tempest is a retired Navy Reserve Captain (Surface Warfare) and maritime lawyer who writes the blog eaglespeak.us Twitter @lawofsea
Image: U.S. Navy