The Wall Street Journal’s recent front page article, Navy’s Ship of the Future Faces Rough Budgetary Seas on the littoral combat ship (LCS) was a useful summary of this experimental vessel’s many problems. However, it is foolish to deny the growing importance of warfare in the world’s littorals.
Naval warfare is unlikely soon to revert to its pre-contemporary form in which powerful fleets seek to destroy or contest one another for decisive command of the seas. The future of naval combat will—as it has from the Trojan War to the U.S.‘s World War II island-hopping campaign—largely consist of conflict over areas close to land from which power can be projected ashore, choke points assured, amphibious force applied, and economic or territorial claims asserted. The Journal article’s sharpest point was Vice-Admiral Richard Hunt’s remark that “the jury is still out until we experiment.“ Experimentation is exactly what is needed today, just as it was between the two World Wars when the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps developed the ideas of aircraft carrier warfare, island-seizing campaigns in the Pacific, and the details of conducting opposed landings all of which were essential to our ultimate victory.
Today’s defense budget woes are alarming enough in their drawn-out corrosion of the U.S. military. To end the experimentation that operating the LCS in the world’s oceans offers will eliminate the chance that fresh thinking and new designs could moderate our impecuniousness.