I must have a prodigious quantity of mind; it takes me as much as a week sometimes to make it up.
The above is the U.S. Navy’s USS Zumwalt—the first of its newest class of destroyers. The Navy wanted 32, but at $5 billion a ship, is getting only three. THREE!
Can three do the job of 32? I doubt it.
The 15,000 ton Zumwalt is ultra high-tech and automated. Its features include:
- Cannons that fire rocket-propelled, GPS-guided rounds
- Stealth design that gives the 610-foot ship the radar signature of a small fishing vessel
- Computer intelligence capable of preparing the ship for battle and engaging enemy targets on its own
- A crew of just over 150—half of what would normally be required on a ship of this size. In a pinch, it can be manned by a crew of 40.
- A Total Ship Computing Environment, which allows it to be controlled from any of a couple dozen consoles around the ship. If the captain happens to be on the bow or the stern rather than up on the bridge when there’s an emergency, he can still take control of the ship.
The Navy seems to be going the same way as the Air Force where the cost per weapons system (whether it be a ship, aircraft, or armored vehicle) is escalating at such a rate that we are likely to have a hard time affording an adequate quantity.
Quality is a fine and necessary thing, but even the most technologically advanced ship cannot be in two places at once—and the Navy has global responsibilities (and ships deploy comparatively slowly). Ships are also disconcertingly vulnerable—particularly to missile strikes and mines—so redundancy would seem to essential. In fact, China’s development of ultra-high speed hypersonic missiles (6,000-9,000 miles per hour) raises fundamental questions about warship survivability.
Can you detect, track, and destroy something coming at you that fast—even with lasers?
The United States, Russia, China and India are all engaged in a hypersonic arms race.
It is possible to buy a civilian ship of size for several hundred million dollars. Could civilian ships be modified for naval use? The Navy is not my area of expertise, but it strikes me that $5 billion is a great deal for a single, vulnerable, warship. We could buy 20 (or more) customized civilian ships for the same money—and dedicate them to disaster relief,
Which option would be more likely to promote peace and the global interests of the U.S.?
By the way, it was Lenin—not Stalin—who commented: “Quantity has a quality of its own.” He was right.