An HH-60H Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the Dragonslayers of Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron (HS) 11 flies above aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65), the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Enterprise is completing its final scheduled deployment to the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman)

Update:

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and others have expressed concern that our overall military capabilities are declining and, in particular, that our Navy is smaller than it has been since 1917.

In order to allay those concerns, we’ll be publishing from time to time information coming straight from the highest levels of our Department of Defense, including from Navy Secretary Mabus and from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that confirm that our military remain the most powerful in the world and are continuously improving upon those capabilities.

For example, the Department of Defense has just announced that it will christen its newest attack submarine Minnesota, Saturday, Oct. 27, during a ceremony at Newport News Shipbuilding, in Newport News, Va.

Minnesota will provide the Navy with the capabilities required to maintain the nation’s undersea supremacy well into the 21st century. She will have improved stealth, sophisticated surveillance capabilities and special warfare enhancements that will enable her to meet the Navy’s multi-mission requirements, according to the Department of Defense.

Designated SSN 783, Minnesota is built to excel in anti-submarine warfare; anti-ship warfare; strike warfare; special operations; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; irregular warfare; and mine warfare missions.

Capable of operating in both the world’s shallow littoral regions and deep waters, Minnesota will directly enable five of the six Navy maritime strategy core capabilities – sea control, power projection, forward presence, maritime security, and deterrence.

The 7,800-ton Minnesota carries a crew of approximately 134 officers and enlisted personnel who will operate the 377-foot long, 34-foot beam vessel, which will be able to dive to depths of greater than 800 feet and operate at speeds in excess of 25 knots submerged. Minnesota is designed with a nuclear reactor plant that will not require refueling during the planned life of the ship – reducing lifecycle costs while increasing underway time.

Read more here

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Original Post:

During the third and final presidential debate and in response to Romney’s comments on alleged military cuts and to Romney’s contention that the U.S. Navy today has fewer ships than it did in 1917, Obama informed Romney — making the point that our powerful, modern weapons systems cannot be compared, in numbers or capabilities, to our weapons of yore — that “We also have fewer horses and bayonets,” and that “We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them…”

It is not the first time that Romney has made such erroneous and nonsensical claims.

During the Jan. 16, 2012, Republican presidential debate, Romney said:

The most extraordinary thing that’s happened with this military authorization is the president is planning on cutting $1 trillion out of military spending…Our Navy is smaller than it’s been since 1917. Our Air Force is smaller and older than any time since 1947. We are cutting our number of troops. We are not giving the veterans the care they deserve. We simply cannot continue to cut our Department of Defense budget if we are going to remain the hope of the Earth. And I will fight to make sure America retains military superiority.

While Romney makes several claims here, Politifact focused on two of Romney’s claims, one of them his claim that “Our Navy is smaller than it’s been since 1917” and concludes:

This is a great example of a politician using more or less accurate statistics to make a meaningless claim. Judging by the numbers alone, Romney was close to accurate. In recent years, the number of Navy and Air Force assets has sunk to levels not seen in decades, although the number of ships has risen slightly under Obama.

However, a wide range of experts told us it’s wrong to assume that a decline in the number of ships or aircraft automatically means a weaker military. Quite the contrary: The United States is the world’s unquestioned military leader today, not just because of the number of ships and aircraft in its arsenal but also because each is stocked with top-of-the-line technology and highly trained personnel.

Thanks to the development of everything from nuclear weapons to drones, comparing today’s military to that of 60 to 100 years ago presents an egregious comparison of apples and oranges. Today’s military and political leaders face real challenges in determining the right mix of assets to deal with current and future threats, but Romney’s glib suggestion that today’s military posture is in any way similar to that of its predecessors in 1917 or 1947 is preposterous.

In addition, Romney appears to be using the statistic as a critique of the current administration, while experts tell us that both draw-downs and buildups of military equipment occur over long periods of time and can’t be pegged to one president. Put it all together and you have a statement that, despite being close to accurate in its numbers, uses those numbers in service of a ridiculous point. Pants on Fire. (emphasis mine)

Politifact also quotes an expert saying that it “doesn’t pass ‘the giggle test'”

Almost prophetically, Politifact noted nine months ago:

Still, most experts we spoke to felt that Romney’s critique was misguided. Knight went so far as to offer this reply:

“If Mr. Romney wants a truly stark example of diminished military capability, he should compare today’s horse cavalry to that in 1917, or even 1941 when there were still 15 active horse-cavalry regiments in the Army. Today there has been total disarmament of horse cavalry,’ he might say, ‘leaving our nation defenseless in this regard.’ His chosen comparisons are almost as absurd.”

Just to put naval matters and history into perspective, the first photo below shows a young pilot, 24-year-old Eugene B. Ely making the world’s first successful aircraft landing on a ship, the cruiser USS Pennsylvania, in San Francisco Bay, on January 18, 1911.

Below, the Nimitz class USS George H. W. Bush (CVN 77), the newest of the 10 largest aircraft carriers in the world.

The USS George H. W. Bush has the following “characteristics”:

Propulsion: Two nuclear reactors, four shafts.

Length: 1,092 feet (332.85 meters).

Beam: 134 feet (40.84 meters); Flight Deck Width: 252 feet (76.8 meters).

Displacement: Approximately 97,000 tons (87,996.9 metric tons) full load.

Speed: 30+ knots (34.5+ miles per hour).

Crew: Ship’s Company: 3,000-3,200, air wing: 1,500, other: 500.

Armament: Multiple NATO Sea Sparrow, Phalanx CIWS, and Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) mounts.

Aircraft: Approximately 60+.

Federation of American Scientists:

A carrier with its complement of 50 strike aircraft can deliver more than 150 strikes a day against littoral targets, the prime responsibility of the US Navy. However, should the need arise, relatively long range targets can be attacked. A carrier normally stocks over 4,000 bombs. The Navy plans to upgrade the current tactical airwing from F/A-18Cs and F-14s to a combination of F/A-18C/E/Fs to an all F/A-18E/F airwing and, ultimately, an airwing composed of both F/A-18E/F and a Navy version of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).

Quite a difference from 1916, or even 1960.

And what do the naval shipbuilders have to say?

According to the Washington Post, “it seemed to hardly make a ripple” in the Navy-heavy region of Hampton Roads:

In more than a dozen interviews, shipbuilders and Navy families — Republicans and Democrats alike — mostly said Obama was just stating the obvious: Numbers aren’t the whole story when it comes to naval power.

“Some of the things we put out in the water can do what two ships used to do,” said Arthur Fladger, 55, a nuclear refueler at Newport News Shipbuilding.

Ernie Smith, a 32-year-old engineer at the same shipyard, said, “A modern ballistic submarine, you can shoot a nuclear missile halfway around the world.”

CODA:

Also read, “How Strong Is the American Navy?

Dorian de Wind, Military Affairs Columnist
Sort by:   newest | oldest
dduck
Guest
dduck
3 years 11 months ago

” Navy officials presented a plan to Congress back in March projecting that the size of the Naval fleet could increase to 300 ships by 2019. That’s the amount that Mabus said the Navy needs to meet its defense needs.

dduck
Guest
dduck
3 years 11 months ago

The conclusion is the last “quoted” sentence by the Sec. of The Navy.

zephyr
Guest
zephyr
3 years 11 months ago

The stats on the Nimitz class aircraft carriers are astounding. I can’t imagine any foreign military in their right mind wanting to tangle with one of those.

Rambie
Guest
Rambie
3 years 11 months ago

Maybe that’s why they haven’t Zephyr.

EEllis
Guest
EEllis
3 years 11 months ago
I don’t see any problem with the Navy getting 18 more ships by 2019. Well they are not talking rowboats, it takes quite a few years to build never mind design and approve new ships. The Navy should reach peak numbers of surface warfare ships at 91 in 2020. After that they will go into a steep decline reaching about 50 by 2050 and yes that includes new production. But lets face it its not the number of ships, it’s the number of jobs for those ships and how and what ships are needed for those jobs. People are ignoring… Read more »
slamfu
Guest
slamfu
3 years 11 months ago
How can we possibly need to expand our military? I’m sure the Sec of Navy, indeed that of all Sec of Navies everywhere, have said they need more ships. But our list right now is at wartime levels when we aren’t anywhere near a fight with another industrialized nation anytime soon. This idea we have to maintain a fighting force on par with what we had during WWII is just absurd, and obviously what this SecNavy was using as his yardstick. There is just simply no way we need that with the level of actual, not GOP imagined, military threats… Read more »
dduck
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dduck
3 years 11 months ago

ALL, I’ll go with the Sec. on this one, and as EE explains these take a long time to build. The latest ships like the U.S.S New York are needed to replace older types more suitable for the Soviet era. Now we need the type for regional type wars.
And, of course, Secs ask and ask as do all heads of government programs including civilian governmental agencies.

SteveK
Guest
SteveK
3 years 11 months ago

When Republicans were really representatives of “the people” not sellouts to big business one Republican exposed what so many here are trying to cover up again.

With his military and political experience I think his perspective has more value than the perspective of the current crop of ‘so called’ representatives of the American People.

From the National Archives – Eisenhower’s “Military-Industrial Complex” Speech Origins and Significance

dduck has every right to look to EEllis for military logistics and planning… I like Ike.

Rcoutme
Guest
Rcoutme
3 years 11 months ago
Mr. Romney’s claim not only does not pass the truth test, it also compares numbers that are so egregiously different that historians must cringe when they hear the claims. To wit: 1) What is the current tonnage of the fleet? (not that this would matter much more than total numbers of ships, but let’s consider that today’s carriers are much larger than the battleships of WWII). 2) How many opposing ships could our navy likely destroy in a knock-down, drag-out fight? This one actually gets closer to the real mark. I would not mind having just four or five ships… Read more »
dduck
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dduck
3 years 11 months ago

RC, Look just because the Sec., Mabus, is a Rep and was appointed by Bush, doesn’t mean he is wrong in his assessment of ship needs to “meet defense needs”.

slamfu
Guest
slamfu
3 years 11 months ago
Yes he is Dduck. Seriously, there comes a point when even a layman can tell someone is full of it. There is NO MILITARY that can come close to ours in a tactical engagement. Nor even in a strategic one. Not even close. If the SecNavy says we need more ships , than he is using some bizarre metric that doesn’t exist in the world today to justify it. Like, we need to be able to lock down all major ports in every ocean at the same time, or be able to simultaneously blockade SE Asia and all of Africa.… Read more »
Rcoutme
Guest
Rcoutme
3 years 11 months ago
Well, I, for one, would actually like to see the U.S. Navy bring back the PT boats. Piracy has reared its ugly head once again. We could (and maybe should?) take a fairly small fraction of the navy and assign them to patrol boats that go hunting the hunters. Of course, that would not be to the GOP’s liking since that would involve individual initiative (on the part of field-grade officers), less expense (PT boats are pretty cheap), and reassessment of our needs. Of course, a PT boat does not count as a ship (boats are smaller). Then again, the… Read more »
dduck
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dduck
3 years 11 months ago

RC, A few committed drones would be cheaper and faster.

SteveK
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SteveK
3 years 11 months ago
Dorian has pointed out there are 282 active duty ships as of April 2012; 18 now under construction; and, 36 in the planning stage bringing the total 336. Great article Dorian, thanks. As 18 are under construction the “300 ships by 2019″ is assured but even with this overkill some, with absolutely no military planning or logistics experience, think we need more. For years the Republicans have been pushing military programs / military spending that the joint chief’s of staff say are not necessary and they want us to think it’s for our defense when in reality it’s payback to… Read more »
zephyr
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zephyr
3 years 11 months ago

Hah! Right after reading EE and dd comments my mind went to the Eisenhower speech, and voila! There it was! We need to revisit his concerns, not disimss them. People are incredibly slow to grasp this.

EEllis
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EEllis
3 years 11 months ago
Of course there is more than one problem with some viewpoints.Like the fact that the LCS don’t work and are a huge part of our future navy. Yep that’s right the military screwed the pooch and developed another weapon system by committee and it’s a flop right now. They have made 2, one each of 2 competing designs, and they are almost useless. They were supposed to be able to take on “modular” payload packages for various tasks but unfortunately they haven’t been able to produce the modules. So they have 2 types of ships because the couldn’t make up… Read more »
ordinarysparrow
Guest
ordinarysparrow
3 years 11 months ago

thanks Dorian… this is most interesting and informative…

Am amazed at this technology…

” Minnesota is designed with a nuclear reactor plant that will not require refueling during the planned life of the ship….”

ShannonLeee
Guest
ShannonLeee
3 years 11 months ago
We will not need aircraft carriers in the future….eventually, our drones will be more powerful and effective than our fighter jets and bombers. We will have millions of drones constantly in the air all over the world… in the distant future they will all be self-sustainable (until then, we will have drones that refuel drones). Sea power will not be terribly important in a world of mutual mass destruction and robot attack machines. Terminator anyone? As for the Navy…like everyone, when you ask them what they want, you get a wish list a mile long. This is why blindly listening… Read more »
Rcoutme
Guest
Rcoutme
3 years 11 months ago

dduck: a few committed drones would be cheaper, but hardly faster. The point of having patrol boats is that the commanders could then make the judgment calls on whether or not they are actually dealing with pirates. They could also possibly catch some of them w/o killing them (thus giving the possibility of determining who hired them). The more we leave decisions up to machines, the more we bring on the nightmare envisioned by many science fiction writers.

EEllis
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EEllis
3 years 11 months ago

This is why blindly listening to our military leaders is not smart. We elect smart people to listen to our military leaders and figure out what is a want and what is a need.

..when the question came up in debate Obama made a mocking comment in response to a admittedly weak comment from Mitt about the strength of our Navy. Obama never said squat about it. Do we have enough? Are they the right ships? What might the changing roles be? Nope nothing like that just ignoring the whole question for a quick quip.

EEllis
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EEllis
3 years 11 months ago
There is so much more amazing technology, versatility,flexibility, interoperabilty, force projection, etc., etc. in store for our military weapons systems that just brute “counting” ships airplanes, tanks, horses, bayonets, whatever, and arriving at conclusions about our future military capabilities is just very naive. I would agree but then isn’t that what some are just doing? You listed all the ships scheduled to be built without listing those retiring and without any indication of the combat effectiveness of any unit. Right now the LCS are just passenger ships because the Navy hasn’t any “modules” that give them any firepower. These changeable… Read more »
SteveK
Guest
SteveK
3 years 11 months ago

The “the sky is falling” mindset regarding military spending was manufactured and sponsored by the military industrial complex.

Their sycophants (and other paranoids), in spite of all the available information to the contrary, will not be swayed, they will continue to be obstructionists of a much needed reform.

They will also continue to claim our budget crisis is “all the Democrats fault.” :)

dduck
Guest
dduck
3 years 11 months ago

EE is correct: “No one here was asking the military what they need. We are discussing that when the question came up in debate Obama made a mocking comment in response to a admittedly weak comment from Mitt about the strength of our Navy. Obama never said squat about it. Do we have enough? Are they the right ships? What might the changing roles be? Nope nothing like that just ignoring the whole question for a quick quip.”

SteveK
Guest
SteveK
3 years 11 months ago

It’s positions and points of view that are being “insulted” not individuals.

The increase is trying to stifle disagreement with the “they’re attacking me personally” strawman increases proportionate to the increase in provably wrong and/or misleading partisan points of view.

Would somebody please call a whambulance.

dduck
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dduck
3 years 11 months ago

I’ll come back when the personal insulting ends.

dduck
Guest
dduck
3 years 11 months ago

And what dduck was that roro?

ShannonLeee
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ShannonLeee
3 years 11 months ago

EE I think Obama gave enough info considering the constraints of the debate.

And I was more referring to a comment about what the navy stated they wanted as evidence that the Obama admin is weakening our navy.

SteveK
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SteveK
3 years 11 months ago

According to the U.S. Navy three (3) ships are to be decommissioned in fiscal 2012 and, according to the Navy Times, eleven (11) ships will be decommissioned in fiscal 2013.

EEllis
Guest
EEllis
3 years 11 months ago
Heck, one of our nuclear submarines packs more firepower, more force projection, etc. than all those LCS/JHSV on the shopping list. That’s great and is important but it can only be in one location at a time and often would be like using a bazooka when you need a flyswatter. EE I think Obama gave enough info considering the constraints of the debate. He made fun of Romney and told America not to worry because we have planes and submarines now. Mind you that’s past and done and I’m not trying to lay the problems at his feet, the Navy… Read more »
dduck
Guest
dduck
3 years 11 months ago

EE, yes that would have been a civilized, rational reply, but you see O wanted to make Mitt look uneducated and small, and it worked. Good head butt for O.

EEllis
Guest
EEllis
3 years 10 months ago
yes that would have been a civilized, rational reply, but you see O wanted to make Mitt look uneducated and small, and it worked. Good head butt for O. Great but later when the chuckles have died down some folks think about it more Obamas partisans need to understand that however funny they may have found the comment it left the door open for people to wonder if business, or how well, is being taken care of. Forget about those passenger ships (LCS) and even the somewhat more combat capable JHSV. OK the LCS is short for Littoral Combat Ship,… Read more »
dduck
Guest
dduck
3 years 10 months ago

FYI: “A smaller fleet is also more stressed. The usual model for ship rotations—one-third deployed, one-third preparing for deployment, and one-third in overhaul—has given way to a reality in which 40% of the fleet is deployed and another 19% is underway for training operations. As one Naval friend with recent command experience tells us, “we are crushing our sailors.”

A smaller fleet is also more vulnerable for the simple reason that the loss of even a single ship removes a proportionately larger share of total capability.”

WSJ Editorial: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203630604578074840878757714.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

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