Thursday, April 16, 2009

Do We Have The Right Navy For The Job?

The siege involving an American container ship captain held by Somali pirates came to a successful end when Navy Seal snipers positioned on the fantail of a destroyer took out three of the hostage takers and a fourth was taken into custody.

Bloody good show, but was the USS Bainbridge (photo, left) the appropriate ship for the job and does the Navy have the kind of fleet necessary for 21st century challenges, which include the kind of asymmetrical warfare we are seeing in the Gulf of Aden?

The answer is both yes and no, but in my view -- and that of the far more knowledgeable Fester at Newshoggers -- mostly the latter.

As Fester notes, the Bainbridge was adequate for the task, but it was:
"[B]asically the equivalent of having a SWAT van riding the beat with 10 cops in full body armor and equipped with sub-machine guns playing cards until they chase after a pick-pocket. The appropriate use of resources in that analogy would be the beat cop should be the guy chasing after the pick-pocket while calling for potential assistance from SWAT."
Trouble is, the destroyers more suitable for the job have been retired as the Navy grapples with having to perform several tasks that are sometimes at odds with each other because of the ship size and level of firepower needed. The result is that:
"The US has made a decision that an expeditionary navy that can assert sea control in most areas is in support of vital national interests. I agree with that concept although I will quibble with execution and procurement. From this assumption of interests, the procurement strategy will produce large and expensive ships that are over-gunned for most non-expeditionary warfare needs."
Read the rest here. And here for my own musings on why another service branch -- the Air Force -- has outlived its usefulness and it's time to clip its wings.

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