The costs of war at sea – we are not even close to ready

The excellent and esteemed Cdr. Salamander lays it out short and bitter:

The U.S. Pacific fleet getting ready for battle during the Marshall Islands  Campaign, 1944. : r/navy

Earlier this week I had another of my conversations about what a war at sea will look like.

Not the wars at sea of living memory, where we never really faced a challenge at sea, but an actual contested environment.

We have not had to face that since WWII. The Royal Navy had a spot of bother for a few weeks in the 1980s, but that was only from the air from a much weaker opponent.

Politically and institutionally – not to mention industrially – the institutions of our nation and those of our allies are sleepwalking in to a systemic shock I am afraid they are not ready for.

Make no mistake, at some point another large war at sea will come. They always do. For every “long peace” there is a “large war.”

There will always be such a thing.

When the next war in the Pacific comes, it will be a naval and an air war, and the butcher’s bill will come shockingly fast, and in scale.

In WWII, by the time the USA joined the war of the Atlantic, the Royal Navy had pretty much caged the German navy inside the GIUK gap except for their submarines and what little long-range aviation they had left.

The big fight was in the Pacific. For every member of the Department of the Navy killed by enemy action in the Atlantic or Mediterranean Theaters, over five were killed in the Pacific and Asiatic Theater.

Using the numbers from the US Navy’s History and Heritage Command,

Remember, those are just the personnel killed by enemy action, not all causes, not injured, MIA or POW. Those aggregate totals are much larger.

David M. Kennedy has some similar numbers he summarized in The Atlantic at the end of the last century,

American war is incomplete without the sweep and strategic stakes of the war at sea, in which 104,985 American sailors and Marines were wounded, 56,683 were killed, and more than 500 U.S. naval vessels were sunk. Lest we forget.

War at sea in unforgiving.

Don’t just look at the personnel numbers. 500 U.S. naval vessels sunk. I have news for you, we have no way in 2024 to replace even a fraction of those numbers in under four years. We will have to fight with what we have, and try to force victory in the face of attrition without relief.

If you want to fight in the Western Pacific, you have to get there, stay there, and win that on ships. That has not changed. All else are supporting operations.

Ponder that and pray for peace – or at least demand action, now.

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It is not just a question of ships.  We do not have enough shipyards, not to say modern shipyards, to property service the fleet we have.  We have gone from fourteen to four in the last 60 years, and only one of those can property maintain modern technological ships.  Our ships are tired, constantly in need of maintenance they cannot get, even those which are serving long past their projected service lives.  Building a larger Navy will only make this worse.

We do not have enough personnel, not even enough to train and mentor competent, professional sailors, a process that takes years.  Current training and practice in the fleet is abysmal, as witnessed by the number and nature of preventable accidents besetting the Navy over the course of the last few years.  Minimalist approaches to manning and training coupled with social experiments pandering to the Cult of Woke Marxism have created a human disaster.

America has fallen far behind the technological capacity of our near peer competitors.  We are not the only people capable of pushing the technology envelope, and in fact we have fallen behind in some areas.  More, we no longer have the industrial capacity to produce what we need in sufficient numbers to meet the needs of the fleet.  Worse, we have entrusted vital aspects of production to foreigners, some of those with vested interests opposed to ours, making parts of our acquisition programs vulnerable to sabotage.

Of course there can be no adequate procurement without adequate budgeting.  This includes not only budget allocations by Congress, but strict supervision of how the funds budgeted are spent.  At the moment too little is provided by a short sighted Congress and too much wasted on Pentagon bloat and boondoggles.

Unless cleaned up messes only get worse.  It is time and past time to clean up the Navy.

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