The Weapons We Need

Check out this article by Robert Haddick in Foreign Policy. Stealth technology may now be in doubt because of more advanced radars and computers, and so the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert, favors larger ships and aircraft that can be adapted more easily because of their size. There is historical precedent for bigger weapons being easier to upgrade. The Royal Navy’s large Queen Elizabeth-class dreadnoughts were modernized between the world wars and remained first-class warships in the Second World War, but the smaller Royal Sovereign-class could not be refitted so easily, and were not as useful.

Make sure to take a look at the article itself by Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert mentioned in the Foreign Policy piece. Greenert makes some interesting points. He is also a supporter of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), which has been discussed at some length in previous posts on this site. I think that the idea of modularity is a very good one, but it is not a panacea. A weapon system, such as an aircraft, that can be employed in a wide variety of roles is fantastic, as long as it does well in all of those roles. A good example is the de Havilland Mosquito from the Second World War. The Mosquito turned out to be one of the best aircraft ever made, and was superb in all the missions given to it by the Royal Air Force.

A mediocre machine, by contrast, one that performed its multiple missions in only an acceptable fashion, would not be of much use, since what you really want is a warplane that is great in at least one area, such as dogfighting or dive bombing or reconnaissance. I think that the LCS, while fine in concept, may prove to be an all-around mediocre ship that does not stand out in any area. That is not a true cost-saving, since the Navy would have, in effect, purchased a sub-standard vessel that does not compare well with other, more narrowly-focused warships. The point made by Admiral Greenert is, however, well-taken. With the pace of technological change, every warplane, ship, or tank deployed by the U.S. armed forces must be capable of being upgraded over an extended period of time to keep it competitive.

 

Marc De Santis

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