Thursday, August 28, 2008

Force Structure Required to Execute the Maritime Strategy

I've been delayed a bit by real life in completing the assignment laid out by Galrahn at Information Dissemination, but now I can report some progress.
In my last post, I laid out the tasks required by the Maritime Strategy and the assumptions I would use in filling those tasks. The basic requirement is for two continuous forward deployed elements (WestPac and IO), continuous presence in partnership stations and other commitments, and the ability to win our nation's wars at sea while supporting efforts ashore.
For the forward deployed elements, I built CSGs and ESGs based on those we currently have, but reduced the slight excess in missile power found in some CSGs by adding a 5th-rate FFG of 32 cells in place of an extra DDG.

Based on my 2:1 assumption for continuous deployers, along with 85% operational availability, the force structure to support this commitment is 28.24 DDGs, 14.12 CGs, and 7.06 CVNs, SSNs, FFGs, LHDs, LPDs, and LSDs. (I'll deal with the fractional ships at the end of the analysis).

The next commitment I would address is the partnership stations, where we use various means of soft (and hard) power to influence events but don't need to be fighting battles. We still need some battle force missiles available in each of the regions, but nowhere near what the CSG or ESG require. I used existing commitments, along with some needs that I see, to define these six stations:

  • Standing NATO Maritime Groups 1 & 2. Currently filled by single DDGs, continue this commitment and add an LCS to each group.
  • Fourth Fleet. We currently deploy there ad hoc, with narrowly tailored missions. I believe we should have a more robust presence, and would pair an FFG with an LCS in the Caribbean, Atlantic, and Pacific. I would also provide an LSD with a load of four M80 Stiletto to support small-craft missions and potentially special operations.
  • East and West Africa. Each of these regions could benefit from the persistent presence of the US flag, but they don't need high-end battleships for the job. I would form a group for each region, including 1 FFG, 3 LCS, and 1 LSD/M80 unit as in Fourth Fleet.
  • Seventh Fleet. In addition to the deployed power of the ESG and CSG, we need the ability to interoperate with our partners in the region on a level close to their own in terms of ship size and capability. We also need more ships because the distances to be covered are just so big. A three-frigate group, with an LSD/M80 team, would give us the ability to show the flag in more places at once, without driving the carrier group all over the place to meet commitments.
The deployed force to cover these stations, as shown in the table, is 8 FFG, 11 LCS, 4 LSD, 12 M80 and 2 DDGs. Applying the same factors as above, we would need 28.24 FFG, 38.82 LCS, 14.12 LSD, and 56.47 M80.

The final piece of the puzzle is the power-projection and sea control force, which is basically the surge capability to fight a war if needed. I based this force structure on the assumption that it would fall in on the forward deployed force, adding five CSGs, an amphibious assault Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB), and a Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) in the follow-on echelon. The MEB lift analysis was a bit simplistic, based on rotary-wing aircraft spots for the LHD and AAV capacity for the LPD. I also assumed that the fixed-wing strike-fighters of the MEB would deploy with one of the five carriers, and that two SSGNs would be needed to bulk up the initial striking capacity of the force and support the special operators.
The MEF lift was also simplified a bit by using the capacity of Maritime Prepositioning Squadron ONE (MPSRON-1) as a starting point. That squadron has about 750k square feet of rolling stock, 2,800 containers, and 18 million gallons of JP-5. I assumed that a MEF would require about 3.5 times the lift needed for a MEB, then distributed that load across LMSRs (T-AKR), container ships (T-AK), and transport oilers (T-AOT). The oilers might just be the most important part of the operation, and would need to shuttle continuously into the theater to sustain the MEF unless some other arrangement could be made.

Overall, these three requirements add up to a fairly large fleet. I've added up the fractional ship requirements from above, then rounded up to the next integer to determine my total needs.

There are some gaps in this analysis. For example, I did not include replenishment ships for the fleet assets, and I did not include separate assets for the theater ballistic missile defense mission. These numbers are fairly consistent, in terms of total ships, with the US Navy's basic construct of today. The biggest changes:
  • the need for a new class of 5th-rate frigate, which could be met by one of the LCS multi-mission combatant designs
  • the need for significantly more amphibious lift - LSDs as motherships to M80-sized small craft
  • a lot fewer destroyers, which are currently filling the role of the 5th-rate
In my next post, I'll lay out a cut at the FYDP build plan to start moving toward this force structure. I don't believe it is achievable in the 5-year window we've targeted, but we could make some significant progress along the way.