Well, it's good to see politics being put ahead of the needs of the military(namely the USMC).
Oh...joy to the world.
U.S. Navy Could Lose Last Battleships
By CHRISTOPHER P. CAVAS
For the first time since the 1890s, the U.S. Navy soon could be without a battleship.
The Senate, in its version of the fiscal 2006 defense authorization bill, authorizes the Navy to dispose of the battleship Wisconsin and transfer it to the state of Virginia.
And a provision in the House version of the defense bill would transfer the battleship Iowa to the Port of Stockton, Calif.
Only two battleships remain in Navy custody: the Wisconsin, berthed at Nauticus maritime center in downtown Norfolk, Va., and the Iowa, moored in a mothball fleet at Suisun Bay, Calif. Per an agreement dating from the 1990s between the Navy and the Senate, the ships have been kept because their 16-inch guns can provide fire support for Marines on shore. The agreement mandates the Navy to keep the ships until an equal or greater fire support capability is operational.
But the Extended-Range Guided Munition (ERGM) intended to provide that new capability remains mired in developmental problems, and it’s not clear when — or even if — that weapon ever will be fielded.
Two other ships in the four-ship Iowa class, the Missouri and New Jersey are now museum ships in Hawaii and New Jersey, respectively.
The berthing of the Wisconsin at Nauticus and the opening of the ship as a tourist attraction has been heavily supported by the city of Norfolk. Although the Navy still owns the ship, it was moved to a berth at Nauticus in late 2000 and partially opened to the public in the spring of 2001.
Although a San Francisco-based group has been vying since 1996 to berth the Iowa in that city, a rival group from the inland city of Stockton has garnered political support in its effort to acquire the ship. A third group wants to bring the ship to the former Hunter’s Point Naval Shipyard in South San Francisco.
But Rep. Susan Davis, D-Calif., who represents a district in San Diego, expressed her opposition to the Stockton proposal in a letter appended to the House Armed Services Committee report on the defense bill.
The proposed bill, Davis said in her letter, “circumvents normal procedures” by transferring the ship directly to Stockton. Rather, Davis said, the bill should follow standard practice and allow the Secretary of the Navy to determine the best home for the Iowa.
The ships were designed in the late 1930s and built during World War II, where all four saw combat. After many years in mothballs, the four ships were reconditioned and reactivated during the 1980s Reagan-era buildup, then retired in the 1990s after the end of the Cold War. The Missouri and Wisconsin fought during the first Gulf War in 1991.
The United States is the last nation to retain its battleships. Britain scrapped its last battleship, the Vanguard in 1961, and France broke up the Richelieu, its last battleship, in 1970.
Well, it's good to see politics being put ahead of the needs of the military(namely the USMC).
Oh...joy to the world.
If they don't recommission it, they should sink. Good practice and analysis for future ships.
If we were in person i'd ***** slap you for even suggesting that.
Sink a BB? Out of the question!!! Those ships are GOLD now.
Originally Posted by smilingassassin
hate to get into this one after reading the Rick/Sniper exchange but........
They are old one trick ponies. And would need much money to be a worthwhile part of the fleet.
The park Service has stated that because of all the mods, them being kept as WW2 memorials, like Mo as the ship that VJ surrend docs were signed, isnt worth it.
Sink at least 1. We know the torp armor belt could be comprimised by a contact warhead longlance. Lets see what a Mk-48, Harpoons, JDAM, JSOW will do.
Then one side of the armored debate would have to shut up.
Actually, we don't really know that any existing conventional weapon could penetrate the armored belt. There is massive spacing between the various armored layers that provides almost as much protection as the actual armor plating itself.
And dammit gunbunny, stop with the blasphemous talk already.
PS: As currently configured, they're three trick ponies. ASUW, NGFS, and Strike. But i said that in the other thread already...
Originally Posted by M21Sniper
Thats why we need to sink one. Just like the America, see what it takes.
No Blasphemous talk. I'm one of the few that have seen these things in action. If we really wanted to bring back accurate NGF, it would be one of the old 8" Cruisers.
Even the Navy, after WW2 stated they were the most effective NGF platforms.
1 trick pony. But after reading the other thread where this was argued, lets just agree to disagree.
Well you won't be seeing any 8" gun cruisers coming back either, and let's face it...they're far less protected, slower, have shorter range, have a much lower ammunition capacity, and don't have a secondary battery of 20 5"/38 Guns like an Iowa does(let alone 9 16" rifles).
In my discussions at military.com and warships1 i have certainly discussed the Iowas at length with people who've served on them, and have had conversations with Dick Landgraff, who is probably the foremost BB expert in the world today, as well as reading most of the articles and technical documents he's released over the last several years wrt the Iowas. I also have had extensive conversations with Ted Yablonski, who is heavily involved in the USNSFA "BBBG" proposal. My discussions with the above named individuals(particularly the latter) have run into the most minute of detail on all sorts of subjects wrt the Iowas, their hull state, crew size, their potential scalability, their boilers, and their weapons systems.
As far as the numbers of tricks the Iowa pony can do, if you want to argue that the Iowas fit of 16 Harpoons or it's battery of 16" guns are not capable of ASUW or Strike, well, then i see no point in arguing with you anyway, because that's just not true.
What the Iowas do lack is any semblance of AAW or ASW capability, but they can certainly kill anything on the surface in a 23nm radius with their guns....regardless of the presence of the Harpoon system that was installed in the 80s. I have no reason, nor has anyone demonstrated any factual reason whatsoever, to believe that the Iowa's existing fit of 16 Harpoon missiles would not still be effective in the ASUW role either for that matter.
As far as 'sinking one to see what happens', there is absolutely ZERO useful reason to do so because no navy in the world has any ship that is even remotely close to as well protected, nor does any nation have any plans to build any such ship.
Last edited by Bill; 29 May 05, at 04:20.
No we won't be seeing 8" cruisers back, just saying they were better NGF ships. I also hope you don't think those 5/38s are worth anything. I doubt we don't have any ammo for them. And the turret mounts cannot handle a 5/54 upgrade. Worthless
We have plenty of harpoon firers, even the B-52 can carry 8. No need for more. And she would be a dumb shooter unless we upgrade her comm and electronics. I'm sure you don't think those early Burkes and the OHPs have the same gear they were built with. What version of fire control radar do the BBs have on them?
What type of ships do you plan to engage with the 16"? Nothing small or high speed I hope.
So what your saying is that since, According to the USNFSA, there is no powder for the 16s and most likely no rounds left, And no rounds left for the 5" guns, you want to bring back a 1500 man ship that shoots 16 harpoons. I'll even throw in the T-hawks
Even a flight 1 burke shoots that + all those other cells and capabilities,with only 380 sailors, as does 2 B-52s.
And USNFSA is the group that will throw a little HARP data in when it comes to range a 16" could achieve. Among other things. One of the reasons they have no real support. So I doubt they are lying about the Navy destroying/scrapping all the 16 ammo/powder. It doesn't help their cause.
The future of amphibious assault fire support is a B-52 dropping guided SDBs. You don't need big booms, just accurate ones. For the tough nuts Have Nape and 2000lb JDAMs.
In WW2 we needed mass on target because we lacked accuracy. Now we have accuracy.
Blow them up. I came from the arty community. We love to blow stuff up.
Last edited by Gun Grape; 29 May 05, at 05:22.
It really would be a good idea to bring back those 20cm guns the USN was testing back in the Cold War, since it probably isn't practical to haul those old BBs back out of retirement, and then go to the expense of maintaining their massive crews. And if what he said about there being no ammo left for the 5 inch guns left is true, then it's definately time to call it a night for the battleships. If they brought back the 8 inch gun designs they had in mind for the Strike Cruisers, and mounted them on existing or future cruiser designs, then they would probably be enough to substitute the massive destructive power of the B-1 and B-52s in the USAF. It's not like those planes can't fly far enough to reach any target.
First off, as of 1999, the USNs own internal reactivation estimates for BOTH Iowas was a mere 430 million dollars.
"No we won't be seeing 8" cruisers back, just saying they were better NGF ships."
I disagree with that conclusion at any rate(for the reasons already listed in a previous post).
"I also hope you don't think those 5/38s are worth anything. I doubt we don't have any ammo for them. And the turret mounts cannot handle a 5/54 upgrade. Worthless"
There's nothing inherently wrong with the 5"/38s. Are they as good as 5/54s or the newer 5/62s? No, obviously not....but there's nothing inherently wrong with them either. In fact, they're about as exhaustively combat proven as a system can be. As far as what stocks of ammunition are available for them, i really don't know off hand(Considering that up until about five years ago we had several 5/38 armed ships in the reserve fleet, i'd be pretty surprised if none was maintained).
However, the USNSFA BBG proposal calls for the replacement of the 5/38 twin turrets with 6x single 5/62 turrets(3ea port and starboard). The installation was reviewed by Dick Landgraff and according to him(at least), is feasible.
"We have plenty of harpoon firers, even the B-52 can carry 8. No need for more."
Actually, we're losing harpoon s******* at an increasingly rapid pace. The Sprucans and OHPs are being retired, and the IIA Burkes are not fitted with Harpoon.
The B-52H is no longer cleared for Harpoon either. The black boxes were removed in the late 90s.
"And she would be a dumb shooter unless we upgrade her comm and electronics. I'm sure you don't think those early Burkes and the OHPs have the same gear they were built with. What version of fire control radar do the BBs have on them?"
The Iowas fire control systems are current as of about 1990. So whatever Harpoon features a Tico CG had in 1990 is about the same thing an Iowa could do if reactivated with no new systems upgrades. IOW, functional, but not cutting edge.
Iowas radar systems:
SPS-49 Air Search Radar
SPS-67 Surface Search Radar
4 Mk37 Gun Fire Control
2 Mk38 Gun Direction
1 Mk40 Gun Director
1 SPQ-9 [BB-61]
"What type of ships do you plan to engage with the 16"? Nothing small or high speed I hope."
The guns on the Iowa were specifically designed to engage other fast battleships, and are radar aimed and corrected. 1 hit with a 16" round will (at least) mission kill 98% of the worlds modern military vessels.(The Iowas each have a 16" mag capacity in excess of 1300rds). If used in a sequential firing manner(as opposed to salvoing) the Iowa can put one 16" round downrange every 7 seconds until the magazines run dry or it's target is destroyed...and it only takes one hit to kill pretty much anything afloat.
Also, unlike a missile, a 16" shell cannot be intercepted by any existing defensive system, and cannot be jammed.
PS: The 16" guns of the Iowa are still the most accurate naval rifles ever fielded by the US Navy(capable of near 1 MOA fire with the 2700lb AP round).
"So what your saying is that since, According to the USNFSA, there is no powder for the 16s and most likely no rounds left, And no rounds left for the 5" guns, you want to bring back a 1500 man ship that shoots 16 harpoons."
There are still in excess of 5,000 of rounds of 16" munitions left in storage(that i know of for sure), and new powder bags can still be manufactured(or re-manufactured as per the late 80s) as needed. What there is a shortage of is suitable barrel liners(there are only 16 of them in storage). However, if deemed neccesary there is no reason that more could not be made, but the neccesary tooling would need to be 're-invented'. Also, if moderninzed and reactivated it is perfectly logical to assume that manning requirements would be greatly reduced(Just the replacement of the 5/38s with automated 5/62s would reduce the needed crewsize by several hundred men).
"I'll even throw in the T-hawks"
The TLAMs of current manufacture are all VLS only systems. It would be a fairly simple matter to re-program some for a horizontal launch position, but i wouldn't hold my breath waiting for that to happen.
A VLS system was designed and manufactured for installation on one of the Iowas in the late 80s, but again, was never fitted because they were already scheduled for retirement.
"Even a flight 1 burke shoots that + all those other cells and capabilities,with only 380 sailors, as does 2 B-52s."
A Burke will be mission killed by pretty well any modern AShM in use. Not so for an Iowa. Also, it is the large crewsize of the Iowa that gives it such excellent damage control capability.
B-52s cannot stay on station indefinitely providing fire as needed, and have a much higher cost per munition on target figure than even a battleship does. The operation of B-52s is also totally reliant on US in theater air supremacy, and the total local suppression of the enemies IADS. A B-52(or any other fixed wing platform) cannot match the response time of a gun based indirect fire system either.
"And USNFSA is the group that will throw a little HARP data in when it comes to range a 16" could achieve. Among other things. One of the reasons they have no real support. So I doubt they are lying about the Navy destroying/scrapping all the 16 ammo/powder. It doesn't help their cause."
The DARPA sabot rounds of the 1980s(which i assume you are referring to) were tested to about 90 nm. The only reason that they never entered production(and that several other already programmed Iowa upgrades were cancelled) is because the Iowas were already scheduled for retirement. As far as existing WWII era munitions for the 16" guns, all the accuracy problems that they experienced in the mid 80s were directly related to contaminated powder bags. That problem was corrected in the late 80s, and new powder bags were being re-manufactured up until the time they were retired. With good powder bags the 16" Mk7 guns of the Iowas are still capable of 85-90+% of their original accuracy with AP projectiles(which works out to just a bit over 1 MOA).
"The future of amphibious assault fire support is a B-52 dropping guided SDBs."
Care to show me ANY official USN or USMC documentation that espouses that theory?
USMC NGFS requirements don't even mention the B-52(probably because the B-52 is not a gun, nor surface based). However, USMC NGFS stated requirements DO stipulate a gun, and DO stipulate a sustainability and volume of fire that can only be achieved by a (fairly) large surface combatant. A B-52 also cannot match the neccesary time to action requirements of the USMC either.
Read them yourself if you don't believe me.
"You don't need big booms, just accurate ones. For the tough nuts Have Nape and 2000lb JDAMs."
Nape? As in Napalm?
The US no longer uses napalm(not that it would be worth a damn for penetrating hardened targets anyway), and honestly, a 16" AP round can penetrate far more rebar than even a BLU-109 deep penetrator can.(36 feet vs approx 20 feet).
"In WW2 we needed mass on target because we lacked accuracy. Now we have accuracy."
The USMC NGFS requirements specifically call for a high volume of naval gunfire.
Accuracy is great, but does not fulfill the mission needs of several types of support fires, such as....demonstration fires, saturation fires, and suppression fires.
"Blow them up. I came from the arty community. We love to blow stuff up."
Then you ought to know that when it comes to blowing stuff up in a timely fashion, nothing can match the responsiveness, accuracy, and sustainability of heavy caliber tube artillery systems.
Arty is king of the battlefield for a reason.
PS: The GAO report i linked to above is a pretty good read, and will at least point ya in the right direction as to what problems would be faced in reactivation. Note also that it states the USMC itself favors the immediate reactivation of two of the Iowas to make up for the glaring lack of existing USN NGFS capabilities.
Last edited by Bill; 30 May 05, at 11:06.
"It really would be a good idea to bring back those 20cm guns the USN was testing back in the Cold War,"
They caused stress induced cracks in the superstructure of the test ship.
" since it probably isn't practical to haul those old BBs back out of retirement, and then go to the expense of maintaining their massive crews."
The USMC it would seem, disagrees.
"And if what he said about there being no ammo left for the 5 inch guns left is true, then it's definately time to call it a night for the battleships."
If they ever did come back, the 5"/38s would be replaced with single 5/62 turrets.
"If they brought back the 8 inch gun designs they had in mind for the Strike Cruisers, and mounted them on existing or future cruiser designs, then they would probably be enough to substitute the massive destructive power of the B-1 and B-52s in the USAF."
The USN is currently developing a 6.1"(155mm) advanced gun system(AGS) for deployment on it's next generation of warships.
"It's not like those planes can't fly far enough to reach any target."
There just aren't enough of them, and the USAF selfishly(lol) seems to want to use them for their own needs. Imagine that.
PS: When compared to the brute firepower of a just a single Iowa BB, the entire B-52 fleet comes up lacking. One Iowa can put more weight of fire on a target area in 2 hours than the entire US B-52 bomber fleet can match in 24 hours.(Not that this is ever done, but it does give one an idea of the sheer destructive firepower of an Iowa class BB...even one that's 'obsolete').
Last edited by Bill; 30 May 05, at 10:21.
MAINTAINING TWO IOWA-CLASS BATTLESHIPS READY FOR ACTIVE SERVICE
Public Law 104-106, 110 Stat. 421 (Sec. 1011 FY 1996 Defense Authorization Act)
SEC. 1011. IOWA CLASS BATTLESHIPS. (a) RETURN TO NAVAL VESSEL REGISTER- The Secretary of the Navy shall list on the Naval Vessel Register, and maintain on such register, at least two of the Iowa class battleships that were stricken from the register in February 1995. (b) SELECTION OF SHIPS- The Secretary shall select for listing on the register under subsection (a) the Iowa class battleships that are in the best material condition. In determining which battleships are in the best material condition, the Secretary shall take into consideration the findings of the Board of Inspection and Survey of the Navy, the extent to which each battleship has been modernized during the last period of active service of the battleship and the military utility of each battleship after the modernization. (c) SUPPORT- The Secretary shall retain the existing logistical support necessary for support of at least two operational Iowa class battleships in active service, including technical manuals, repair and replacement parts, and ordnance. (d) REPLACEMENT CAPABILITY- The requirements of this section shall cease to be effective 60 days after the Secretary certifies in writing to the Committee on Armed Services of the Senate and the Committee on National Security of the House of Representatives that the Navy has within the fleet an operational surface fire support capability that equals or exceeds the fire support capability that the Iowa class battleships listed on the Naval Vessel Register pursuant to subsection (a) would, if in active service, be able to provide for Marine Corps amphibious assaults and operations ashore. (Emphasis added.)
From the Conference Report
“The Senate provision would recognize the fact that battleships could provide a surface fire support capability unmatched by any other Navy weapons system and that there is an ongoing concern to regarding the Department of the Navy’s apparent lack of commitment to provide for the surface fire support capability necessary for amphibious assaults. The ability of the Marine Corps and the Navy to conduct forcible entry by amphibious assault is an essential element of the Department of the Navy’s strategic concept for littoral warfare.
“The conferees believe that the Department of the Navy’s future years defense program, presented with the fiscal year 1996 budget, could not produce a replacement fire support capability comparable to the battleships until well into the next century. The conferees consider retention of the battleships in the fleet’s strategic reserve a prudent measure."
NOV. 2004 GAO Report Official USMC Position
"Marine Corps supports the strategic purpose of reactivating two battleships in accordance with the National Defense Authorization Act of 1996 and supports the Navy’s modernization efforts to deliver a sufficient NSFS capability that exceeds that of the Iowa class battleships"
Last edited by Bill; 30 May 05, at 11:49.
Save the battlewagons
Oliver North (back to web version) | Send
April 15, 2005
"There is no weapon system in the world that comes even close to the visible symbol of enormous power represented by the battleship." -- Retired Gen. P.X. Kelly, USMC
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Those words of the former Marine commandant resonate with me. In 1969, gunfire from the battleship USS New Jersey (BB-62) saved my rifle platoon in Vietnam. During her six months in-theater, the USS New Jersey's 16-inch guns were credited with saving more than 1,000 Marines' lives. The North Vietnamese so feared the ship that they cited her as a roadblock to the Paris peace talks. Our leaders, as they did so often in that war, made the wrong choice and sent her home. Now, 36 years later, Washington is poised to make another battleship blunder.
After the USS Iowa (BB-61) and USS Wisconsin, (BB-64) were taken out of active service in 1992, Congress passed Public Law 104-106, a 1996 measure requiring that our last two battleships be kept ready for reactivation. But today's Navy brass wants Congress to repeal the law, strike the ships from Naval Vessel Register -- the official list of available ships -- and donate them to museums.
The Navy, focusing on a new "strategic vision" called "sea basing," claims that the battleships' proven firepower is no longer necessary for Naval Surface Fire Support (NSFS) -- the kind of mission that saved my Marines three decades ago. Adm. Vernon Clark, the chief of naval operations, says that "Marines will be supported by combat air." That's great -- except when bad weather keeps the planes on deck instead of overhead. It also ignores the full range of support that is economically available from well-protected, highly mobile, gun and missile-firing battleships. This is not your grandfather's battlewagon.
In 1983, the USS New Jersey was the best support available to the Marines after their barracks were bombed in Beirut. During the "tanker war," in the mid-1980s, every time the USS Iowa steamed into the Persian Gulf, the Iranians ceased hostile action.
During Desert Storm, cruise missiles launched from both the USS Missouri (BB-63) and the USS Wisconsin attacked scores of targets deep inside Iraq; and an entire Iraqi Naval Infantry unit surrendered to one of the USS Wisconsin's unmanned aerial vehicles. Unlike any other naval vessel, battleships combine survivability, speed and immediate, heavy firepower.
The Navy claims that the "firepower problem" -- Marines call it "steel on target" -- will be solved by new, 5-inch Extended Range Guided Munitions (ERGM). Under development at great cost since 1996, the Government Accountability Office said in 2004 that the ERGM program is rife with cost overruns and that "its problems have led to test failures and delays."
In truth, the ERGM should have been scrubbed in March 2000, when the Marines told Congress that neither ERGM nor any other 5-inch round would meet Marines' lethality requirements. Worse still, a May 2001 internal Navy report admitted that ERGM won't meet Marines' volume of fire requirements, either. Both needs can easily be met by existing 16-inch guns on the battleships.
Navy planners insist that a new DD(X)-class of ships -- also still in development -- will surpass battleships' NSFS capabilities. But on April 1, 2003, Marine Commandant Gen. Michael Hagee testified that our nation's expeditionary forces "will remain at considerable risk" for want of NSFS until the DD(X) joins the fleet "in significant numbers." Since then, the Navy has reduced the DD(X) buy from 24 ships to five. This leaves Marines high and dry unless Iowa and Wisconsin are available for rapid reactivation.
Even if the Navy ordered more of the DD(X) class -- at $2 billion to $3.5 billion each -- these small, thin-skinned vessels are highly vulnerable to "sea skimmer" missiles. And a terrorist action, like the 2000 attack on the USS Cole -- which crippled the destroyer and killed 17 -- would do similar damage to a DD(X).
Naval officers admit that heavily armored battleships are practically impervious to such strikes, but claim that what the DD(X) lacks in armor it will make up in stealth and speed. To embattled Marines that just means their nearest naval gunfire support will be far out at sea and traveling at high speed -- neither of which contribute to accurate "steel on target" for troops fighting ashore.
Our Navy currently has no capability for providing the lethal, high-volume firepower that would be required if -- God forbid -- we should have to land Marines on the coasts of Iran or North Korea, or in defense of Taiwan. When the Marines assaulted Um Qasr at the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003, they had to rely on naval gunfire from an Australian frigate. The Navy's answer is to wait six years for the costly, unproven ERGM system and a half-dozen or fewer, yet-to-be-built DD(X) ships. But America's enemies may not wait that long. And America's taxpayers may not want to pay the price -- in blood or treasure. The DD(X)-ERGM experiments are estimated to cost between $12 billion and $16 billion.
It would take less than two years to reactivate the Iowa and Wisconsin. The battleships are 10 percent faster than the still-conceptual DD(X). They each bring to bear 12 5-inch and nine 16-inch guns -- capable, with new munitions, of firing accurately to nearly 100 miles. The two battleships can also carry nearly twice as many cruise missiles as all the DD(X) hulls combined. All that firepower is available for $2 billion -- the cost of one DD(X).
Sometimes, as I tell my grandchildren, older is better. In the case of the two battlewagons, older is not only superior, it's also a lot less expensive.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist and the founder and honorary chairman of Freedom Alliance.
A Solution for U.S. Foreign Antagonists: The Battleship Frederick Stakelbeck, Jr. - 4/20/2005
Over the past month, Oliver North and Jim Carey, both well-respected columnists and distinguished veterans, have made strong, well-reasoned arguments for the re-activation of two mothballed U.S. battleships to address potential global threats. In his insightful April article, "Save the Battlewagons," Oliver North credited the battleship USS New Jersey
(BB-62) with saving his life, the lives of his platoon, and over 1,000 fellow Marines in Vietnam.
But could these steel warriors from America's past rise up to meet new threats posed by an expansionist China; a communist Cuba; a leftist-led Venezuela; or a nuclear Iran? Are the remaining two Iowa-class battleships capable of securing the strategic Panama Canal, Straight of Gibraltar and Straight of Hormuz, as they did two decades earlier?
Opponents of battleship re-activation note that the dominance of carrier-based air power since WWII has made the once-mighty battleship a relic. They argue that advances in offensive weapons technology, naval manpower shortages, insufficient domestic shipyard capabilities, a lack of tooling facilities, and the cost prohibitive nature of re-activation in a time of federal budget shortfalls, dictate an end to the battleship.
However, many in Congress and the military believe dismissing the battleship is a bad idea. Veteran U.S. Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and John McCain (R-AZ), USMC Commandant Michael Hagee, and General Walt Bommer (USMC-Ret), have all questioned the Navy's ability to support Marine expeditionary forces without suitable sea-based fire support that only battleships can provide.
In the 1980's, President Reagan and then Secretary of the Navy John Lehman re-activated all four Iowa-class battleships at a total cost $1.7 billion. Both men believed that the ships not only provided a global presence to deter communist aggression, but also a lethal punch that remains unsurpassed even today.
The Iowa-class battleships have 9 16" guns that can throw a 2,700 pound projectile more than 20 miles inland; 32 Tomahawk ASM/LAM cruise missiles; 16 Harpoon ASM missiles; 12 Mk 28 5" 38 caliber guns; 4 Mk 15 20 mm Phalanx CIWS; and air/surface search radar. With a top speed of 33 knots, they are amazingly fast and carry an unbelievable amount of munitions. This exceptional combination of speed and power makes the Iowa-class battleship an awesome weapon.
With the ongoing China-Japan confrontation getting more explosive by the day, the always unpredictable China-Taiwan quarrel still simmering, and growing unrest in Latin America and the Middle East over perceived American hegemony, the need to support large Marine amphibious operations is rapidly becoming an important national security concern.
The China People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is increasing in size and expanding its technical competence in the area of amphibious operations. This is not for show. At some point in the very near future, China will use its amphibious forces in the South China Sea region. The most widely discussed target is Taiwan; however, Chinese amphibious forces could also systematically attack Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan or the Philippines to settle long-standing disputes over energy rights.
U.S. intelligence reports estimate China has already equipped and trained 15,000 amphibious troops for a coordinated landing on the shores of Taiwan. With a population of over 1 billion, a ballooning defense budget, and a long obsession with Taiwan independence, the number of Chinese amphibious troops prepared for battle is probably much larger.
With the threat of war in the Pacific a distinct possibility, it would be a mistake to dismiss the pivotal role that the two remaining battleships, the USS Iowa and USS Wisconsin, can play in a military conflict. Not even the stealthy, futuristic DD(X) class ship, the next generation of Navy ship, can provide the overwhelming firepower of an Iowa-class battleship. Moreover, the new generation of lightly armored
DD(X) ships will not be available until 2013. At a staggering $2-$3 billion dollars each, defense orders have already been slashed from 24 to 5 ships, making the Navy's job of enforcing U.S. foreign policy interests even more difficult.
So, what can the U.S. Navy do in the interim to meet emerging global threats? It would take less than two years to re-activate the USS Iowa and USS Wisconsin at the cost of one new DD(X) ship. The logical step would be to use the older Iowa-class battleships until new ships have been proven to be combat ready.
Future global conflicts will require large Marine amphibious landings, especially if China invades Taiwan and occupies the island before U.S. forces based in Guam and Japan can adequately respond. Battleships are well armored with a greater survivability rate than today's lightly armored Aegis frigates. Possible military engagements with China, Cuba, and Venezuela will require maximum volume and lethality on hardened targets at close range. This is what the battleship does best. Commenting on the psychological impact of the battleship on hostile forces, Captain Larry Seaquist of the USS Iowa noted,
"When we would sail the USS Iowa down the Strait of Hormuz [to protect oil tankers] during the Iran-Iraq War, all of southern Iran would go quiet."
The Battle of Okinawa, the largest amphibious invasion of the Pacific war, saw the battleships Tennessee, Maryland and West Virginia, all survivors of Pearl Harbor; fire an astounding 3,800 tons of shells at the island during the first 24 hours. During Desert Storm, the USS Missouri and USS Wisconsin rained hundreds of cruise missiles into Iraq and Kuwait in support of allied ground forces. Likewise, the USS New Jersey performed magnificently during the first Gulf War and Vietnam War. That type of firepower will be greatly needed in a battle with China in the Pacific or Cuba in the Gulf of Mexico.
Abandoning the battleship will only weaken the U.S. as its overseas commitments increase. Battleships are needed in the U.S. Navy arsenal more than ever today, since many of the ongoing disputes involve island nations such as Taiwan and Cuba. The demoralizing effect of 16" shells raining down for hours on a Chinese mechanized division or Cuban infantry division would be enormous - just ask the Germans at Normandy.
Is it possible that Chinese dictator Wen Jiabao, North Korean strongman Kim Jong Il, Venezuelan leftist Hugo Chavez, or Iran's terrorist-sponsor Mohammad Khatami could become the next Saddam Hussein, invading a helpless neighbor for economic and political gain? Let's hope not.
But in case any of these tyrants have thoughts of using military force to conquer or intimidate, the Iowa-class battleships can provide a quick and deadly response. They are a flexible, mobile and powerful platform by which U.S. foreign policy objectives and democracy can be promoted worldwide. Battleships continue to be an unmistakable sign of American commitment and strength.
It will take up to two years to prepare the USS Iowa and USS Wisconsin for active service. The U.S. Congress and U.S. Navy should start the re-activation process right now by implementing recommendations for capital improvements that have already been made.
For once the last two great battleships are converted into museums, they will be gone forever.
Frederick W. Stakelbeck, Jr. is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia
April 19, 2005
Navy of Tomorrow, Mired in Yesterday's Politics
By TIM WEINER
The Navy's new destroyer, the DD(X), is becoming so expensive that it may end up destroying itself. The Navy once wanted 24 of them. Now it thinks it can afford 5 - if that.
The price of the Navy's new ships, driven upward by old-school politics and the rusty machinery of American shipbuilding, may scuttle the Pentagon's plans for a 21st-century armada of high-technology aircraft carriers, destroyers and submarines.
Shipbuilding costs "have spiraled out of control," the Navy's top admiral, Vern Clark, told Congress last week, rising so high that "we can't build the Navy that we believe that we need in the 21st century."
The first two DD(X)'s are now supposed to total $6.3 billion, according to confidential budget documents, up $1.5 billion. A new aircraft carrier, the CVN-21, is estimated at $13.7 billion, up $2 billion. The new Virginia-class submarine now costs $2.5 billion each, up $400 million. All these increases have materialized in the last six months.
The Navy says it can make do with fewer big ships patrolling the oceans. It wants more fast boats and aircraft to fight offshore and upriver, a speedier force to counter terror. But Congress, seeking to sustain America's shipyards, wants as many big ships as possible.
Admiral Clark, who plans to retire later this year, says both strategies could be sunk by soaring costs.
Philip A. Dur, president of Northrop Grumman Ship Systems, the company primarily in charge of building the first DD(X) destroyer, defends the effort. "No question, the cost of the ship is an issue," Mr. Dur said, though its costs would be justified by state-of-the-art weaponry. Its sophisticated systems would require crews of as few as 125, one-third the size of today's destroyers, and stealth technology would make the 14,000-ton ship appear no larger than a fishing boat on an enemy's radar. But the $3.3 billion to build the first ship "is a big number," he said.
The number became big, fast, because it was kept small at first. John J. Young Jr., the assistant Navy secretary in charge of buying new weapons, said that until recently Navy officials had knowingly "underestimated the price" of the DD(X) destroyer program. "There's a motivation in this building to birth programs," he said, referring to Pentagon proposals to create big new weapons systems. "People tend to understate their costs."
Political haggling may also add to the price. The Navy wants a winner-take-all competition to build the destroyers. But Congress wants to give one to Northrop Grumman's shipyard in Mississippi, the next to General Dynamics' yard in Maine, to share the wealth and ensure more money for the yards.
The dispute drags on. The Navy says the two-shipyard approach will add $300 million or more to the cost of each DD(X). The Navy now hopes to build five DD(X) destroyers, one a year, at a total cost of $20.6 billion, including research and development. But those plans are shaky.
"There is doubt right now among people in the Navy and industry about whether a significant number of DD(X) will be procured," said Ronald O'Rourke, a Congressional Research Service analyst, who obtained the previously undisclosed cost figures for the new destroyers from the Navy.
Unless the costs are controlled, some in the Navy and the shipbuilding industry say, the better alternative may be to finish none of them and skip to the next-generation destroyer.(Take note, the DD-X already skipped past the 'first' next generation DDG, the DD-21)
"The bottom line," Admiral Clark told lawmakers, "is you can't have the Navy of your dreams with the mechanisms that we're using."
Military shipbuilding is a closed mechanism run by two contractors, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics. Only they can produce the ships the Navy needs.
Mr. Dur of Northrop Grumman calls military shipbuilding "a unique economy."
Unique it is. Between them, the two contracting giants own the six remaining yards that can build American warships, in Maine, Connecticut, Virginia, Mississippi, Louisiana and California. They receive unstinting support from members of Congress representing those states; in turn, the contractors support thousands of smaller suppliers that are often the sole sources for what they make.
Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics do not really compete in the traditional sense, officials say, but share the billions that Congress gives them to build ships, along with benefits like the power to put off paying federal taxes on the profits.
"I don't think we really have competition today," Admiral Clark told Congress. "I think we have apportionment. And I think all of the numbers are now clear that apportionment is costing us money."
The shipbuilding system's critics say it overlays aspects of 19th-century monopoly capitalism and 20th-century state socialism on top of 21st-century American politics.
"It's prehistoric," said Harlan K. Ullman, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a research group in Washington that focuses on national security issues. "It's an unbelievably regulated socialist industry, dominated by politics, not rational judgment. Because there is no competition, it's very difficult to get efficiencies. Admiral Clark is absolutely right. We cannot afford the ships we need because the system is so bloated. It's a monstrosity."
Mr. Dur of Northrop Grumman said that new ships' costs are going up because the number of ships the Navy wants is going down. Five years ago, the Navy foresaw a fleet as large as 375 warships. Now it says it may go as low as 260.
Mr. Dur said his company invested in equipment and people, expecting the Navy to buy ships at a steady rate. When the Navy's plans "change dramatically from year to year, the assumptions we make are radically altered," he said. "That generates extraordinary costs."
If Congress and the Navy would steadily spend more money buying more ships, he said, the costs for each ship would shrink.
Senator Jim Talent, Republican of Missouri and chairman of the Armed Services Seapower subcommittee, agreed. To smooth out the process, he said, at least $3 billion or $4 billion more a year should be spent on shipbuilders, and "if the costs still go up, then you can challenge them."
Michael W. Toner, executive vice president of General Dynamics Marine Systems, said "the country's ability to design and build naval warships" could be lost unless the Navy steadily builds more.
"Our fragility," he said, "is due largely to the instability of the Navy's shipbuilding plans."
But Mr. Young, the assistant Navy secretary in charge of buying weapons, does not buy that argument.
"The shipbuilders' complaints about stability are way overstated," he said. "If I gave you $30 and told you to eat lunch for a week, you'd find a way to do it. If I said, 'Eat lunch for a week and it costs whatever it costs,' things would come out different."
Shipbuilding executives "don't work as hard as they should to control costs," he said. "They don't work like an automaker facing competition from Japan."
The Navy now has 288 warships, the lowest number since before World War I. But comparing a modern aircraft carrier with an old dreadnought is meaningless. The Navy says military contractors and their advocates in Congress overstate the need to build more big ships. The advocates say the Navy underplays it to spend more on aircraft and sailors.
A top-level Pentagon panel, the Defense Acquisition Board, will decide the fate of the new destroyer on April 29. As of now, Mr. Young said, "we've mapped out a course that has, to everybody's anxiety, five DD(X)." Five and counting.
Last edited by Bill; 30 May 05, at 12:01.
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