Adm. Jonathan Greenert, U.S. chief of naval operations, has been consistent and adamant about where the Navy needs to be in the future and what ships will help get the nation there.
“Our main function – it’s presence,” Greenert recently told students and faculty at the Naval War College.
That presence – that “mandate” - is global, he says. It is especially important at the chokepoints – or the “crossroads in Greenert parlance – where people, water and trade routes converge.
Unfortunately, as Greenert notes, most Navy bases are located far from those trading shipping valves.
“Our strategic laydown for the future,” he says, “[is] to put down as much forward as possible.”
But it could be pretty expensive – prohibitively so – to forward-station expensive destroyers, amphibious ships or the like around the planet, especially for counter-piracy or other coastal missions.
"There’s a new type of ship we’re bringing on,” Greenert says, that “more closely resonates [with those missions].”
Of course he’s talking about the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) and Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV).
Such thoughts are not new. But Greenert’s emphasis on the concepts is worth noting. This is what he’s choosing to sell at a host of venues and to an assortment of “customers.
He and the Navy are taking this stuff seriously. After all, this spring they sent LCS-1, the USS Freedom, to Singapore – one of the “crossroads” - for the ship’s first Western Pacific deployment as part of the nation’s "Pacific pivot."
The ship’s smaller size helps “connect with the allies” and its presence helps “assure the allies” of U.S. commitment to the regions they are sent to.
Never mind that some observers – regional defense analysts in Singapore for example – say LCS provides more prattle than practice when it comes to real military power. The Freedom put the U.S. in the news and on the map in an area where it needed to be, in a way it had not been before
LCS, Greenert acknowledges, “is not a destroyer.” The CNO was inaccurately reported as saying the ship is not a “combat ship,” but what he actually said was that the LCS is, as its name says, a Littoral Combat Ship.
As for the MLP, Greenert says instead of spending about $2.5 billion for an amphibious ship the Navy can spend a fraction of that for a new kind of ship that appears to be able to support an F-35B “as a lily pad, a shuttle,” with enough water, power and cooling systems to support Special Operations Forces.
With the JHSV, Greenert says, you have very fast catamaran with a gate that supports the weight of an Abrams tank and can shuttle 300 some troops and gear.
His message is clear: this is the new Navy. Get used to it.