....it's not like that ever gets controversial. ;)
The future of the surface fleet is DD-X or as it is now known DD-1000. This successor to the Arleigh Burkes, Ticonderogas and , yes, even the mighty battleships, is shaping up to be an impressive design indeed.
With 2x 155mm long range artillery pieces capable of hitting targets 60-100 miles away, an advanced vertical launch system with over 100 missiles, extremely advanced radars, hull plating thicker than some icebreakers, a super advanced stealth design that will make it invisible to any radar operators who don't look out a porthole in its general direction, 2 of the superb Bofors dual purpose auto-cannons, a multi-mission deck aft for cargo, assault craft, unmaned vehicles, or special equipment, a helicopter deck capable of simultaneously landing 2 choppers, electric transmission, space and weight reservations to replace 1 or both of the big guns with railguns at a future date, and sufficent automation to cut the crew in half compared to an Arleigh Burke class DDG, it is certainly an impressive ship.
It also impresses in the wrong sort of way. It is so expensive that Congress has cut it back to only 2 test bed ships and they might get the ax as well!
Some of this expense is actually the radar and several other systems that are paid for out of the DDX budget but are to be used by several new surface combatants (eg:The radar is slated for the new carriers and future cruisers, several other systems for the LCS , and virtually ALL new surface ships will use the integrated power system...this is one reason the LCS is in budget) and thus not as bad as it seems, but with a unit cost approaching that of a carrier there is little hope that the ship can be built in sufficient numbers to do its job.
With just 2 DD-ex in prospect it is tempting to consider reactivation of the 2 remaining Iowa class Battleships on the grounds that we'd be no worse off numberswise, and reactivation of the BBs would likely be cheaper.
Of course it is not as simple as that.
The battleships are fast, beautiful, tough and have a fair amount of firepower. They are also old, with parts we can't make any more, require a 1500 man SKELETON crew, 5 times that of a destroyer, in their current configuration they carry only 32 Tomahawks 16 harpoons and no airdefence missiles meaning they'd require at least 1 and likely 2 destroyers as escorts. Now there WERE plans that were drawn up to provide them with 128+ vertical launch tubes but that requires a lot of yard time and expense, the turrets are very labor intensive and the 2700 pound shells are manipulated in part by hand, they require a huge amount of skill to operate and most of that skill is now dead (a lack of skilled personnel rather than a gay sailor was the likely cause of the Iowa explosion....half of the turret crews had just been transferred to the newly re-commissioned Wisconsin just before the catastrophe). These are not insurmountable but unless the guns range can be extended they are largely dead weight in all but a few rare situations.
This too is possibly fixable with limited expense. In the late '80s a 13 inch sabot round was designed that was intended to reach 100 miles and an 11 inch shell was designed that had an even longer range. The 13 inch shell was test fired to 40-50 miles before the program was cancelled with the BBs deactivation and it is unclear if it was completely developed or how challenging modern guidance systems would be to install. IF this is off the shelf tech then and IF the 70 year old boilers can be kept fed with spares and the cost of the VLS installation is within reason and IF the turret crews can be trained (possibly on Missouri)And if the other two can be cannibalized for the spare parts we cant make any more then it makes sense to re-activate them....like NOW. But this is a short term solution at best, limited (only 2 ships with maybe a decade left in them) that cost 5-6 times as much in personnel as a cruiser with the same number of missile tubes. These here are a LOT of big of "Ifs". This state of affairs is particularly galling because had they been kept in service, and particularly if fully modernized, the Iowas would be potentially useful indeed.
Some idea of what was contemplated can be seen below....
No..wait why is that THERE!?
I spend all day formatting this and the missile picture is in the wrong place.
Ignore the rocket for now, just scroll down....
There, that's it. The picture is blurry but it is of the Martin Marietta model for the planned "Phase2 modernization" of the Iowas in the late 80s. The VLS nest between the 2 'ski-jumps' contains 320 missile tubes! YIKES! There is no provision for Standard AAA Missiles , but the ship could have been fitted with VLS seasparrows and would now have the excellent ESSM with 4 per missile tube. 2-300 Tomahawks + missiles for air defense and possibly ASROCs for submarines. Oh, and that flight deck....it was supposed to carry 12 Harriers too! This would be most useful. :)
The twin 'ski-jump' arraingement is interesting. The ship was intended to carry out flight ops while shorebombardment was going on. Depending on which side the guns were trained, the Harriers would use...the other side. The hull could take the big structure because, being made of the regular hull plating, it's weight was compensated for by the removal of the turret with its 17.5 inch armor. Which gives an idea of just how heavy those turrets are. I assume the planes would have used the 16 inch magazine for ordinance. Given the long range contemplated for the guns (100+ miles?) the Harriers might have been intended in part as spotters as well as air defense and CAS for the Marines...or perhaps the naval architects were just frothing Starblazers fans...whatever the rationale, this stark-raving-cuckoo-for cocca-puffs paragon of naval coolness got cancelled.
Sorry for the digression but I've wanted to post on those 2 picture for a while. :)
So, due to poor planning we now have the current situation, what do we do now?
There was a proposal a decade ago, that was stillborn.
In the mid 90's, CNO Admiral Boorda championed the Arsenal Ship. This was a simple design intended to basically be a freighter with missiles that would be fire and controlled remotely from other ships, it was intended to carry 500+ missiles thereby greatly increasing the effective warload of a task force. The initial naval studies concluded that the ship as contemplated (with only point defenses) would be too hard to escort and would end up being a liability.
Boorda committed suicide in 1996 after being accused of wearing medals he was unauthorized to, and although exonerated posthumouthsly, all further development of the arsenal ship stopped without his pressure.
The idea of the arsenal ship as originally conceived is flawed, but some of the ideas are not.
First size has little to do with cost. Steel is not the driving force of a warship its electronics are.
Take a midsize container ship like the Maunawili. This 30,000 ton vessel is extremely expensive by container ship standards. It is built for the Hawaii run and must comply with Hawaiian environmental laws, it is VERY robustly built with thick shell plating approaching that of some Scandinavian (ice strengthened) vessels and a multi-layered hull 6 feet thick. It cost 100 million dollars and has 21 crew.
A 9,000 ton Arleigh Burke costs right at 400 million. If you took all the electronics off the 'Burke....heck just drop the Burke into the Manunawillies hold you'd have a vessel over 4 times a big with the same guidance and Electronics suite, and only costing 1/3rd more but with the ability to carry a container ship full of missiles. We're not talking hundreds, we're talking a thousand or more!
This ship would still be fairly survivable, big size is survivability and the containership in question already has a multilayer hull which is a good defense against shaped charges. The radars could be spread out to avoid 1 hit taking them all out or perhaps supplemented with a cheap array like the superb British Sampson.
The missile tubes would carry a mix of Tomahawks, Standard, Quadpacked ESSM, ASROCs and (scroll back up) ATACMs missiles.
The ATACMS has a bigger warhead than a 16 inch shell, is off the shelf, cheaper than a Tomahawk and has improved versions being designed. This vessel is a perfectly capable replacement for a Battleship, and 10DDGs would have a crew about the same size as a DDG and be only about 30 percent more expensive. Instead of 88 DDGs build up to 56 of them name them after states and territories. Start their numbering at BB65.
What am I missing?
Update: Fixed links.
Update2: Murdoclanche! Welcome Murdoc-Online Readers! :)
If you have any idea what I'm missing comment, I'd LOVE to know.