The cruise-missile carrying, stealthy submarine may very well become the ship of the future, says Rep. Ike Skelton, the influential chair of the House Armed Services Committee. Determined to see the Navy battle fleet grow to 313 ships (today’s fleet is 286 ships), and mindful of shipbuilding costs, he thinks building larger numbers of smaller, perhaps even diesel-electric, submarines, instead of large capital ships, might be the answer.
The nature of warfare has changed, Skelton said. World War I was the era of the Dreadnought. World War II was the era of the aircraft carrier. In the future strategic era, one where enemy battle networks are ever more capable, the stealthy submarine may reign supreme. Small, stealthy submarines have utility in both high-end, large scale wars and low-end, guerrilla conflicts, he said, speaking to reporters in Washington this morning.
“Numbers make a difference, presence makes a big difference… just an American ship in the area makes a big difference.” Skelton is so adamant about naval forward presence that he said just “put sails” on any ship and get it out there.
The Navy says they want 313 ships, but the budget they sent to the Hill doesn’t get there, so Skelton’s committee is examining ways to increase ship numbers. Slowing the Navy’s retirement of legacy ships is one option. “A lot of these ships are able to carry on for another three, four or five years,” Skelton said. He’s also willing to shift money from other parts of the defense budget into shipbuilding to “buy another ship or two.”
– Greg Grant