11 May 2022

Greatest Military in the World

It looks like the US Navy is at the altar of sophisticated surface combattants and aircraft at the expense of basic seagoing capabilities

So the nave has almost dedicated fireboats, only 2 hospital ships and 2 ocean tugs,  etc.

Instead, they are getting the (failed) Zumwalt class cruisers, and the (failed) Littoral Combat Ships, and the (failing F-35).

Logistics, repair, recovery, and firefighting should be core competencies of any navy, but there are commercial equivalents that can do the jobs, so there are no outsized profits, and hence no opportunity for flag officers to secure comfortable post-retirement sinecures:

Over the past few decades, the United States Navy has increasingly abandoned the unsexy working ships it once mastered and deployed around the world. Previously, the Navy had a large fleet of salvage tugs, but now they only have two, and only two Hospital Ships, two Submarine Tenders, [to be fair with a completely nuclear submarine force, there is no need for submarines to refuel at sea, and with a top speed "in excess of 25 knots" they can get to a base to rearm in a few days] and two Ocean Tugs. Some ship classes have been scrapped altogether including Fireboats or, as the Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro inaccurately called them in a letter to congress, “fire boats.”

In the letter, dated April 8th, the Navy responded to a congressional inquiry questioning why no fireboats are maintained in San Diego Harbor, home to hundreds of billions of dollars in warships and taxpayer infrastructure, along with vital shipyards. This letter came after maritime experts, including gCaptain, criticized the Navy for not having fireboats on hand to fight a fire aboard the large amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard (BHR) in 2020.

“Modern fireboats are impressive and so essential to protecting ships that Long Beach purchased them even though the next city north, Los Angeles, already had a state-of-the-art fireboat, and even though the construction cost for the two boats exceeded $50 million,” we wrote in July of last year. “Long Beach is not alone. Nearly every large commercial harbor worldwide now has state-of-the-art fireboats on duty, but the world’s largest US Naval Bases doesn’t own a single one.”


More troubling than the fireboat report itself is a pattern of disinformation the US Navy and Department Of Defense have provided Congress when it comes to working ships. In 2015 it told Congress that it had the capability to recover the VDR aboard the sunken American flagship El Faro, but it ended up taking them 10-months to locate and document the wreckage and retrieve the VDR, much longer than experts expected the audio tapes to survive at the bottom of the ocean. It has repeatedly underfunded both Military Sealift Command and MARAD sealift ships which has resulted in a rusting and broken supply ship fleet with massive capacity shortages. For years the Navy repeatedly pushed concerns about icebreaker unavailability off to the US Coast Guard until being forced to work on a joint icebreaker program. The Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin lied to Congress this year when he said after the Navy’s Red Hill Bunker facility leaked, poisoning civilians’ homes and even children, that lost fuel capacity could be “dispersed at sea.” He did this knowing full well that the United States Navy does not have enough tankers to meet current demand capacity, much less take over for major tank closures. They lied about the security concerns behind using a Chinese-built ship and foreign crews to recover the Navy’s most important fighter plane. They lied because they did not have the salvage ships (and possibly not the expertise) to recover it themselves and did not have the gumption to ask MARAD or our large fleet of American offshore support ships to help.

The US Navy has been playing games and dragging its feet with Congress for over a decade on Salvage ships to repalce the two remaining Safeguard class ships which are now 36 years old. Since 2010 the US Navy has told Congress it planned to buy eight special mission salvage ships in the new USNS Navy-class T-ATS. The latest budget published in March, however, only allocates money for one new T-ATS. One. One new working salvage ship to cover the entire 71 percent of the Earth’s surface that is water. One.

A US Navy Fireboat, or a USN hospital ship, needs to be staffed by Navy personnel , but they are commercial vessels, and do not generate the pork that members of Congress, or the level of corruption required by the Military-Industrial complex, so a foundational capability is removed to make space for military bling.


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