- 1st Lt. Mark Vetere/U.S. Navy
- US Navy top brass recently realized that the US Navy is not ready for its next major war, but have started to train to take on big naval powers like Russia and China.
- The US Navy has mainly focused on fighting insurgencies and small forces that aren’t well equipped, but Russia and China have become aggressive and have weapons that can beat back US aircraft carriers.
- As a response, the US trained an aircraft carrier strike group on live-fire exercises and anti-submarine warfare to keep it in shape to take on major foes.
Academics and former US Navy top brass recently came to a dark realization – the US Navy is not ready for its next major war.
From the proliferation of “carrier killer” ballistic missiles, to supersonic, long-range anti-ship missiles aboard Russian and Chinese ships, the US Navy finds itself outgunned after decades of focusing on fighting non-peer foes and tackling insurgencies, rather than well-equipped forces.
But when the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier left San Diego in October, it took on a new kind of training mission geared towards countering the threat of big navies like Russia’s and China’s, the US Naval Institute reports.
What exactly makes fighting a near-peer different than simply launching airstrikes against undefended ground targets in Iraq and Syria? Missile defense, for one.
US Navy Capt. Joe Cahill told the Naval Institute that his crew fired 14 live missiles before the deployment, and had only participated in one live missile shot ever before. Cahill is the commanding officer of the USS Bunker Hill, a Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser that sails in the Roosevelt’s carrier strike group.
- Information Specialist 1st Class Steven Martel/US Navy
“Every one of our teammates knows that the missile exercise that we executed was specifically designed to mirror potential areas where we would have to employ our weapons system in that manner when we were on deployment,” Cahill told the US Naval Institute.
“We went and executed that against real targets with real missiles, and quite simply, we won. So from a practice standpoint, they saw it. So there’s a level of, in their hearts, it’s no longer, hey, trust us, this will work. They heard the missile go whoosh, they saw it go boom.”
Previously, a lack of hands-on experience with firing missiles aboard ships had been identified as a major weakness of the US Navy.
The underwater threat
- Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images
Another aspect of high-end naval warfighting is facing the threat of submarines, something US ships haven’t seriously dealt with in decades.
“Managing the submarine threat is the means to the end – strike. If you destroyed all enemy submarines and lost no friendly units but were unable to execute the mission assigned,” then you’ve still lost, US Pacific Fleet Command’s Adm. Scott Swift wrote in the Naval Institute’s March 2018 issue of its monthly publication, “Proceedings.”
The Navy had US submarines play the role of the bad guy and tested out a range of new tactics to address the high-end threat.
One winning tactic that seemed to emerge was an aggressive, forward US Navy presence with ships and aircraft pushing the limit and going over the horizon to bring the heat to the adversary force.
“We did some long-range strikes out there – at one point we had a wall of 14 fighters, each with two Harpoons apiece, going way beyond the horizon and striking against potential surface adversaries. That, I don’t think that’s been done in recent history, we were in the middle of nowhere and then we had to recover these aircraft, all of them, after this long-range strike,” Capt. Carlos Sardiello, commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, told the Naval Institute.
In the end, the US Navy has a long way to go in preparing for the next big fight against a near peer, naval analysts tell Business Insider.
But as Russia and China become more assertive abroad, and the US’s power to dictate terms to military powers around the world comes into question, the US Navy appears to have responded with a practical step to bridge the gap and stay ahead of the enemy.