USN Killing Small Ships, Again
not the act of a learning institution
I love our Navy, as I know almost everyone here does. As such, I try as hard as I can to be optimistic - not by experience - but by hope.
We were granted by previous generations an advantage at sea not seen since the Royal Navy after the final fall of Napoleon. All today's leaders had to do was not screw it up.
Since the victory in the Cold War - it was a victory - we seemed to have lost our way. Just look at the series of new major surface combatant failures of the last quarter century.
Officially and unofficially, we've tried to admit our mistakes - we've even had "blue ribbon" commissions and reports outlining them and calling for corrections. It is one thing to admit your mistakes, it is another to take actions not to repeat them.
Can we agree on a few things?
1. As we covered in the first year of this blog back in 2004/5, we made a huge mistake by getting rid of our riverine forces in the 1990s. The capability shortfall clear as day as our ground forces clawed their way up the Tigris and Euphrates rivers with almost not waterside help. We also clawed back the Cyclone PCs from the USCG as we rediscovered the utility of smaller ships - not just riverine.
2. We know we have a problem with leadership at sea. We have people showing up at CDR Command not having an opportunity to learn with at LT or LCDR command ... or even a pure XO tour before taking command. The lack of opportunity to command at the LT and LCDR level is part of that problem.
3. LCS is, for a ship the size of a WWII destroyer, an underperformer. The issues and challenges are well known here.
I could list more, but I'll let you fight out the details in comments.
At the Surface Navy Association 2021 (SNA 2021) Virtual Symposium, Naval News asked RADM Paul Schlise, USN, Director, Surface Warfare (N96), whether the U.S. Navy intends to replace the aging Patrol Coastal boats. The direct answer is, “No.”
Sixteen PCs were originally planned for and two were canceled, resulting in a total of fourteen boats. The lead ship, PC-1 USS Cyclone, was transferred to the Philippine Navy in March 2004. The oldest active-duty U.S. Navy Patrol Coastal boat, PC-3 USS Hurricane, commissioned in 1993, is 28 years old and is still in service today. The newest Cyclone-class PC, PC-14 USS Tornado, commissioned in 2000, and also in service, is now 21 years old. With an estimated service life of 30 years, the thirteen Patrol Coastal boats are nearing the end of their intended service life.
RADM Paul Schlise said that the roles of the PCs will be replaced by the Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) and the smaller U.S. Coast Guard boats. Schlise described the Coast Guard boats as platforms that work in both peace and wartime and having great capabilities that can make up for the retirement of the Patrol Coastals.
This is a pitiful answer. This is the wrong decision. What more can one say?
We do not learn.
There is a lot more in Peter Ong's story. Give it a full read.