INCREASED NAVY DEMAND FOR UUVs PROVIDES HUNTING INGALLS AND SMALLER GULF COAST YARDS WITH NEW OPPORTUNITIES
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Blake Midnight/Released)
Our do nothing Congress has become more and more adamant that it will not financially support the 355 ship Navy. The U.S. NAVY will continue its ship purchasing plan but on a much slower basis assuring that by the time the 355th ship in this ship series is built, the first in the string of new acquisitions will be more than 20 years old. From the civilian ship yard industry's view point the good news is that the NAVY will still be buying big deck amphibious war ships and other large capital war ships but at a much slower pace than planned, unless and until the Democrats cease having such a tight hold on the purse strings.
The maritime threats against our sea-lines of communications and merchant shipping do not abate because Congress wants more money for social "freebie" programs. Our enemies continue to grow in strength, our allies continue to depend largely on us and, if the Dragon swims as far and as fast as its previous recent history would indicate our enemies are going to grow into "friendamies"and real enemies. In our opinion the 355 ship navy was never adequate for the protection of our sea-lines of communication, maritime commerce , or allies. The 355 ship concept was meant as a floor to US naval strength not a ceiling, but with the Democrats in charge of the House, it has become just that a ceiling , one they have no intention of reaching.
We don't expect the obstructionist actions of Congress to continue indefinitely. Majorities will change over time and then change again. At time budgets will be more favorable. We have always advocated for our most sophisticated war ships to be built as quickly as possible, but have noted that the duty to defend America can't be held hostage by a socialists Congress. Nor would we ever advocate anything that would eliminate civilian control over the military. What we propose is that we make maximum progress during periods of favorable Congressional attention and while being starved for funding for the big ship program that we try to immediately organize "constabulary forces", as often as possible around "Craft of Opportunity". A constabulary force is not one that we would expect to join the main fleet in a major operation. These would be smaller combat craft built with a small range but relatively high on scene endurance.
We have proposed a number of potential solutions to the foot dragging pace of Congressional approval. Most of our solutions have involved the formation of "constabulary forces" not built or intended for use outside a limited area of operations that we simply can't afford to abandon. For example the U.S. Sixth Fleet has some impressive war ships periodically assigned, but these are on loan from the Atlantic fleet. capable of transoceanic voyaging, and subject to the call wherever it may be required that we mass big warship fire power. The the only ship that actually belongs to the "Sixth Fleet" is a command and control (Flag ) ship. However, our allies like Italy, and Spain have easy access to the Mediterranean and more than enough support structure for a small but effective "constabulary force." Some of that force could be purpose built patrol craft, other hulls could be commercial off the shelf vessels, even used (craft of opportunity ). Offshore supply vessels now "retired" from servicing the U.S Offshore oil industry come with heavy compartmentalization, heavy sea keeping capabilities, a long low aft deck capable of holding containers or any variety of weaponry. Right now these vessels, some hardly used at all. are available for fire sale prices at Gulf Oil ports having been "stacked" based on low demand.
The on shore discoveries in the U.S. that have recently propelled us to the first rank of oil exporting nations are more advantageously priced than U.S. offshore oil. Demand has slowed and vessels of potential military utility are on sale for fire sale prices. But we can't expect theses market conditions to last. Like all markets the offshore service vessel market has its periodic ups and downs. When we have the opportunity we should buy, even if it only to designate them "Reserve Ships" and maintain them in minimal operational condition with mostly reserves crew here in the U.S. However, the goal should always be to get these little ships effectively armed manned, and into the Constabulary area of operations as soon as budgets allow. (SEE:AN IDEA FROM RUSSIA FOR BEEFING UP OUR SIXTH FLEET CHEAPLY AND EFFECTIVELY )
U.S. Offshore Supply Vessels (OSV) available in lengths 165' to 295'+
In our post linked to above we note how the Russians using net worked fire control struck effectively targets more than a thousand miles from their little fleet's land locked position.
Russian Buyan class Missile boat LOA 203 ft
OSVs can be quickly painted battle ship grey and their roomy aft decks fitted out for all sorts of weapons configuration. For example a 3 ship flotilla could contain one ship heavily configured for anti submarine warfare. One for anti Air and one for surface combat. All should have some surface combat capability. The lesson of the BISMARK we think is that a bunch of cheap platforms can gang up on the best platform and take it down if you are willing to take something of a beating before victory. These little flotillas could be permanently stationed and supported near the choke points that limit access to the Mediterranean such as the Straits of the Bosporus. If an enemy decides to sortie into the Mediterranean Just a small flotilla of these mini war ships would be a big deterrent.
Now the Navy has another idea that should be added to the mix of covering short falls with craft of opportunity organized into constabulary forces. This idea would add serious fire power and platform numbers to keep and enemy busy whether employed aboard our large capital warships or on a small flotilla of mini war ships, ENTER THE UNDER WATER UNMANNED VEHICLES. We like this idea as one of several , all of which should be being implemented as we write.
Ingalls ship yards has noticed the trend toward UUV construction and is embracing it as a potential new profit center and hedge against slowed large war ship construction. We say hurrah to Ingalls. Of course the construction of UUVs is going to involve some cutting edge science, and will come with a relatively high price tag per liner foot of vessel, and involvement with the Navy's complex acquisition system. All things that Ingalls has long experience in. However as we have noted before, within 75 miles of the big Gulf Coast Ingalls facility there are numerous smaller "Second tier yards" that service the "Jones Act Fleets " but have built patrol boats for the Navy. These highly financially stable yards are quite capable of building UUVs. They should get a piece of the action early on so as to develop production lines and be ready to pick up the pace should Congress again wake up and speed up production on the large war ships. Finally see: