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Author: TriSec    Date: 04/13/2021 10:56:00

Good Morning.

A couple of different directions to go this morning.

We'll start at the same place most of us do every morning - checking the latest Covid updates. For the military, it's becoming more of an issue than for us out here, as nearly everything the military does is in a team environment with close contact.

As a result of social distancing, isolation, and quarantines, training across the board has been suffering. Accidents are increasing, and some lawmakers are starting to question the long-term impacts of the pandemic on overall force readiness.

Military efforts to halt the spread of the COVID-19 have now been cited in at least two investigations into fatal accidents, and leaders in Washington say they're concerned about the pandemic's long-term effects on safety and readiness.

The global pandemic has wreaked havoc on military training over the last year. From temporarily halting the influx of new recruits at boot camp to canceling large-scale international exercises once troops arrived in-country, all the military services have had to grapple with constantly changing circumstances during the world's biggest health crisis in a generation.

The military was quick to put restrictions into place to help limit the spread of COVID-19, which has infected nearly 180,000 troops and killed 24. But now, some of those restrictions, including pre-deployment quarantine periods and the curbing of in-person training requirements, have been cited as factors leading to a pair of separate accidents that killed 10 troops.

One airman was killed in a vehicle rollover in Kuwait in September after the Air Force lifted an in-person tactical vehicle course requirement for deploying Security Forces personnel, an investigation into his death found. Eight Marines and one sailor were killed two months earlier when their amphibious assault vehicle filled with water and sank near California. Pandemic restrictions affected the Marine AAV platoon's ability to train with their vehicles, officials found.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle say they are worried the military is only beginning to see how the pandemic has negatively affected training, readiness and, ultimately, safety.

"Over the past year, nearly 200 Navy ships have suffered outbreaks, which in some cases disrupted training and operations," Rep. Mike Rogers, an Alabama Republican and ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a February hearing. "Across the services, hundreds of training exercises have been canceled, curtailed or altered; this is especially problematic for our service members overseas who rely on international exercises to maintain proficiency."

Of course, you can't fight wars on Zoom...so the struggle continues within our forces. It may be interesting to ponder that I bet somewhere in a deep bunker, somebody must be thinking about how to fight wars with computers. But then we'd end up like Eminiar VII, wouldn't we. [obscure Star Trek reference.]

But speaking of war, remember the Pentagon is always planning the next one, and that plan always includes the weapons from the last one. It's my way of thinking that this is usually an excuse to complain that things are obsolete, and it's time to replace them, thus perpetuating the cycle.

A type of ship called the "Ticonderoga Class" is supposedly reaching that stage of obsolescence. I've actually been aboard one, the USS Bunker Hill, which was comissioned right here in Boston Harbor in 1986. That's not terribly old for a ship, and the last of them was launched as recently as 1994.

WASHINGTON — In the 12 years since the Pentagon canceled the next-generation cruiser, the question seemed to have no good answer: How is the Navy going to replace its 22 Ticonderoga-class cruisers, the air defense ships that each pack 122 vertical-launching missile cells?

The ideas varied from cheap arsenal ships designed to pack scores of missile cells capable of remote firing, to a larger version of the Arleigh Burke able to support more than its current 96 more missile tubes, to today’s push for an unmanned surface vessel that can act as an adjunct missile magazine accompanying the fleet and that can be rotated out as it expends its payloads.

But each of those solutions has encountered problems, and all the while the cruisers keep getting older, more worn and closer to the day when maintenance costs outweigh the vessels’ benefits.

As it gears up for its 2022 budget battle, the Navy has signaled it is time to move on and phase out the cruisers to make room for the next-generation Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, even if it means shrinking the fleet in the near term. The Flight III doesn’t solve the Navy’s missile problem, but it does have enough space onboard (it’s about 400 tons heavier than its Flight IIA counterparts) to house the air warfare command role that currently belongs to the cruisers.

Experts and observers who spoke to Defense News think it’s time for the Navy to cut its losses on cruisers but said the loss of the vertical launching system, or VLS, tubes is a significant concern, especially given the missile and anti-air threat in Indo-Pacific region.

The Navy had planned to keep 11 cruisers in the fleet for as long as possible to pair with the 11 aircraft carriers, but now the service is looking at phasing in the Flight III DDG as an alternative. A one-for-one swap of 11 destroyer for 11 cruisers is a net loss of more than 300 VLS cells.

But for the Navy, it is a matter of where its money is best spent. After years of battling Congress over the fate of its largest surface combatant, the Navy looks poised to fight for accelerating their decommissioning. The settlement with Congress created the current cruiser modernization program, but the Navy is again looking to change course.

I dug around a little bit, and an "average unit cost" is listed as $28m. It's not noted if that's daily, weekly, monthly, or annual, but there's 22 of these ships at that cost, so it all adds up.

Here's a bold idea - instead of replacing them, let's just mothball them. Except for a few small actions associated with our current wars, these ships have never been used in combat for their intended purposes. That seems to indicate to me as a layman that we don't actually need them. That "average unit cost" totals the sum of $616,000,000. I'm sure some good could be done in other parts of the economy with 600 million, don't you?


3 comments (Latest Comment: 04/13/2021 15:42:15 by livingonli)
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