David Axe has an interesting blog post up entitled How to Sink an Entire Navy on the War is Boring Blog.  It is a short read but full of information, and from it, a few things stand out to me:

Professor Jim Holmes at the Naval War College likes to say that Seapower
is a conscious political choice.  Great Britain has chosen to devote an
increasingly smaller share of its wealth to its Navy while devoting an
increasing share of its wealth to domestic programs.  A similar
situation exists in the United States.  While we begin from a position
of great Naval strength, the trajectory is clear.  The U.K. has been
able to make the defense decisions that it does because it enjoys a
close relationship with a powerful nation sharing its language, its
culture, a democratic tradition, and a similar view of law.  There is no
analogous power for the United States as we begin our naval decline. 
We are on our own.

Next, Axe lays out for us what the present Royal Navy looks like,
including   "…two helicopter carriers, five other amphibious assault
ships, six
destroyers, 13 frigates, seven attack submarines and four
ballistic-missile submarines."  Later he informs us that "…British
officials are fast to highlight the new and improved ships planned for
coming years, especially the two Queen Elizabeth-class
aircraft carriers and their F-35B stealth fighters, slated to enter
service starting in 2018 to replace the current helicopter carriers." 
What Axe does for us here is to succinctly lay out the RN's "Fleet
Design", and low and behold, what does it look like?  Why a mini-U.S.
Navy!  That's right; the RN has high end carrier based aircraft (or
will), aircraft carriers, nuclear attack submarines, ballistic missile
submarines, amphibious shipping, and surface combatants; or as some
navalists like to say, they have a "balanced fleet" .  Like much of
Europe (and now the United States), the "choose capability over
capacity" mantra has been swallowed hook, line and sinker in the UK.  I
think deeply engrained in the minds of defense planners in the UK
(particularly naval force planners) is the sense that if  they just keep
the basic architecture of a great fleet together, someday fortunes will
change and they can simply add capacity to a vital, balanced fleet
architecture.  In the meantime, considerable national treasure is spent
on capabilities of dubious strategic value, and the fleet shrinks
dramatically, reducing the UK's ability to actually BE a global navy
capable of tending to its vast, far-flung interests.  I realize that it
may sound odd coming from an unabashed supporter of US aircraft
carriers, but it is difficult to reconcile the UK building two 60,000
ton aircraft carriers with Joint Strike Fighters while its escort fleet
consists of 19 ships.  Adding insult to injury is the strategically
questionable decision to replace its aging ballistic missile submarine
force.  The UK is wasting billions of pounds clinging to notions of
prestige and tradition, notions that may be out of synch with true
strategic needs.

Finally, the resource driven decline of both the RN and the USN
demonstrate need to align strategy and force structure.  If the United
States wishes to remain a global superpower and prevent the rise of a
regional hegemon elsewhere, it must allocate sufficient resources to the
goal or change the goal and the force structure.  And if the RN wishes
to be globally influential, it must cease to choose strategic options
that limit its ability to do so. 

Leave a Reply