The U.S. Navy is struggling to balance surging worldwide operations with a pressing need for more ships, more fighter jets and a wider range of shallow-water, dirty-war, sometimes-less-than-lethal force requirements — all in a bleak fiscal environment. There are encouraging signs that the American sea service is going to emerge from these tribulations healthy and ready for future challenges. But we’re not in the clear yet, and it’s worth considering the consequences if the U.S. fleet does slip into institutional and material free-fall. For a preview of the worst case, we need only glance at our cousins across the Atlantic.
As has been mentioned many times on this blog, the Royal Navy is a wreck. A decade of neglect has resulted in a fleet with too few ships — and ships that sail without key weapon systems and virtually no air cover. The latest bad news: the Royal Navy’s flagship, the small aircraft carrier Illustrious, sailed to the Middle East last month with just four Harrier ground-attack jets aboard, instead of the dozen or more she was designed to carry. Four jets!
“Because the U.K.’s Harrier force is so heavily committed at the moment to Afghanistan, we were unable to embark a full squadron,” Captain Steve Chick, the skipper, told Jane’s. But never fear, Chick advised: “With the numbers that we had, however, the Royal Navy was able to prove the ‘firing chain’” to visiting Omani officers. That’s “everything from logistics support from the U.K., to our accompanying auxiliaries, right through to actually launching the jets, providing the targeting information and delivering the munitions.”
That’s supposed to be comforting? Sure, we couldn’t fight a war or even defend ourselves properly, but we can show off to our guests!
Britons should be outraged. And afraid.
(Photo: via Flickr)