I don’t often post on military technology issues, but I have a sense of impending doom because of the mentality I sense among western navies.
In other places, I have commented on the phenomenal blindness of navies to the threat of land based anti-ship missiles. It is the familiar reverse engineering: if an admiral acknowledged the threat, then he couldn’t place his ships in potentially hostile littoral areas, and would be moving towards a largely submarine navy. He doesn’t want to do this because his skill is operating surface ships that look so good. So he puts his telescope to his blind eye, though in Nelson’s case he was right to.
I have discussed this issue with US Navy admirals I had to dinner in 2000, with other serving naval officers in the US Navy, including a former Flag Officer on the USS Enterprise, and the Captain of an Arleigh Burke class destroyer. And I also comment on such issues in the UK conservative Daily Telegraph comment columns and am greeted with scorn by, I assume, serving Royal Navy officers. Every time I bring up the subject, it as if I have committed some terrible faux pas, and either the subject is rapidly changed or some formula that says anti-ship missiles are not all they are cracked up to be, with no real data behind it. Ironically the Royal Navy are calling one of its new aircraft carriers HMS Prince of Wales, after the battleship sunk by Japanese aircraft near Singapore in 1941. How sick is that?
I read some time back of US carrier deployment 100 miles off North Korea. I am not commenting here on the political strategy or wisdom of this, though it is questionable. Simply the military foolhardiness and potential for rapid escalation. North Korea has a variety of land based anti-ship missiles with ranges over 100 miles and there is no real defence against them.
I fear the world is about the see just how defenceless aircraft carriers are, at the loss of many young lives. We may be talking about hyper sonic, low radar signature, multiple guidance system, extreme terminal manouevre Sunburn missiles for the geeks among my readers, that could be launched in a swarm that would overwhelm any defence that there is and sink an aircraft carrier with catastrophic loss of life and reduction in the perceived strength of US military operations worldwide. Though North Korea may have slightly less formidable missiles.
Yes and serious escalation would result and such an attack is probably a million miles from being in North Korea’s interests, but if you think they are irrational (and they may be), do you really want to go there? How even more irrational is it for senior Naval officers to pretend the threat doesn’t exist; because if it did they couldn’t justify expensive surface ships and somehow submarines don’t have that strut about the deck quality?
China by the way, now has a ballistic anti-ship missile the DF-21D and while the navies of the world seem oblivious to the threat, I read foreign policy analyses that already assume the US Navy cannot operate around Taiwan in surface ships. For anyone who doubts this, ask yourself: China has massive financial and technical muscle. The US Pershing II ballistic missile had terminal guidance capability 25 years ago. Is there some reason the Chinese don’t have it now. And why would it not use it to counter the continuing presence in its waters of US ships. Imagine if the Chinese had four carrier battle groups 300 miles off New York or Norfolk, Virginia (major US naval base). Would not the US develop a counter?