R.I.P. Tom Clancy. Tom was one of my major literary influences, and I was once honored with the sobriquet “the Tom Clancy of sci-fi.” I’ve always loved his work. It’s sad that we won’t see any more of it, but that’s the way of all things on the mortal coil.
Moving along, this came in over the transom from one of my Wild Bunch buddies – Why America Needs Aircraft Carriers. Excerpt:
The Navy’s aircraft carrier programs are once again at the vortex of intense scrutiny and debate, fueled by strategic ambiguity, questions about spending billions of dollars for a single ship during a period of painfully tight budgets, and uncertainty whether advanced technologies and systems will deliver the “goods.” As well, carrier critics point to supposed warfighting vulnerabilities to potential adversaries’ anti-access/area-denial strategies, tactics and weapons as reasons to change the Navy’s course.
The critics are short-sighted. Indeed, as long we need to protect vital U.S. interests, citizens and friends in critical world regions from the sea, the nation’s naval forces will project national power in support of national strategy and policy. Because of this, regional commanders continue to ask the question every admiral loves to quote: “where are the carriers?”
And why do admirals ask that? Because aircraft carriers are how you project power. You can’t do it with submarines; they can’t defend passively, they sink ships and launch missiles to blow things up. You can’t do it with light ships, frigates and destroyers – they are primarily single-mission platforms. Projecting power calls for capital ships and has done so since the Spanish Armada. Before WW2 that meant battleships. WW2 changed that, and since 1945 the aircraft carrier has been the ship that ruled the seas, and carriers are something America does bigger, better and more – than anyone.
And yes – that’s exactly how things should stay. The safety and security of major sea lanes are protected by those carriers, and many a would-be Third World upstart has decided to cool his heels once an American President parked a nuclear carrier task force off his shores.
The story concludes:
However, one inexplicable aspect of the “carriers are vulnerable!” argument, particularly versus the Chinese DF-21 ballistic missile threat, is that while the carrier’s vulnerability is trumpeted, there is little mention of the fact that every ship suffers from similar, if not greater, vulnerabilities – particularly ships built to commercial standards and simply painted haze-gray. This includes platforms on the various lists of options if the Navy were to stop building carriers. It also ignores enhanced passive and active systems––e.g., the cruise- and ballistic-missile defenses provided by the Navy’s Aegis cruisers and destroyers––that are designed to defeat tomorrow’s threats. Finally, to put the entire vulnerability issue in context, land bases, which never move, are much more vulnerable to attack than are mobile naval forces at sea.
So, it’s déjà vu all over again. The more things change the more they stay the same.
That’s always the case, isn’t it?