With China rising, its time to dust off old concepts that make sense.
The Arsenal Ship is one of those. No need for me to point out the pluses, New Wars Blog did that long ago...
Plans were for the Arsenal Ship to enter service by 2001, which would have been just in time for the opening of the War on Terror after 9/11. Can you imagine the Taliban's reaction when a warship with up to 1000 cruise missiles appeared in the Indian Ocean, all aimed to strike their corrupt regime? Likely they would have given us Osama Bin Laden's head on a silver platter! Not to mention the oft-sanctions defying Saddam Hussein, who knew from experience the power of such new age weapons against his Cold War era air defense system.We've had in service Tomahawk cruise missiles with a 1500 plus range. We could probably increase that to almost 2000 miles today. With the Arsenal Ship we're looking at launch cells, a few close in weapon systems....nothing too fancy. Targeting information can come from other sources and we can expect a couple of Burke's to be around to provide protection.
Besides an immense missile-firing platform, other unique extras in the design included:
Very small crew-Only 50 were deemed necessary to operate the 500-800 foot craft. Compare this to 300 on much smaller destroyer, or 6000 needed to crew a Nimitz class aircraft carrier.
Low cost-The initial version cost about $450 million, or about the price of the tiny new littoral combat ship. The huge weapons payload would have added to the cost, but still come in far less than the $6-$8 billion price tag of a heavy carrier.
Water armor-Plans were for the ship to have ballast tanks similar to a submarine, which could be filled to provide a low profile in enemy waters. An added benefit to this, as proved in the Tanker War of the 1980's, is that such a vessel providing its own buoyancy would be extremely difficult to sink.
A Digitized Warship-She could have been operated by remote control, with her weapons systems tied into to other Aegis Ships or AWACS aircraft, and aimed accordingly. She would have been an integral part of the US Ballistic Missile Defense program.
In 1996, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jeremy Boorda committed suicide. Boorda was the chief proponent of the radical new design, and with him went the hopes for fielding the Arsenal Ship. Admittedly, in a time of Clinton defense slashing and without a clear enemy at sea due to the end of the Cold War, such an untried vessel stood little chance. Still, I can't help but imagine the carrier admirals breathing a collective sigh of relief with the fall of this latest threat to their dominance of the defense budget.
So basically all we need is a big hull to stuff alot of missiles into.
But think about this.
China has completed the foundation of their anti-access complex. The F-35 isn't going to have the range necessary to reach targets of interest even if its stealth works perfectly and the USAF will never have enough stealth bombers to handle the job either.
I said all that to say this.
The Arsenal Ship has gone from a nice to have...to a must have. Having Burke Destroyers carrying land attack cruise missiles is a waste and not very smart. Those vertical launch cells need to be filled with anti-air missiles.
Two Arsenal Ships for each coast, carrying 1000 missiles each should cover all but "total war" contingencies and if that time does come then putting together an Arsenal Ship Squadron with 4,000 plus missiles aboard should chill the bones of our adversaries.
Its 2015 and the Arsenal Ship's time has arrived.
UPDATE: I've been monitoring the conversation in the comments section and I have one question. Are you guys smoking crack!!!!! I'm talking about dealing with a big war with China. I'm talking about needing every available launch cell on a Burke dedicated to anti-air missiles to deal with the swarm of incoming, long range, high speed anti-ship missiles that we can expect from an ALL AXIS ATTACK!!!! I'm talking about being able to engage the launchers at distance without having to risk an aircrew to get at them. The Arsenal ship is the answer. Additionally its time to put our ballistic missile subs back into their main role. To take a few boats and turn them into cruise missile boats is at best a half measure....a very expensive one at that. THE ARSENAL SHIP doesn't have to be state of the art. It can be a container ship and I've even seen proposals for an ARSENAL BARGE which would be TOWED to theater! THINK ABOUT THE THREAT...THE HIGHEST POSSIBLE THREAT WITH THE MOST DANGEROUS SCENARIO! If you can defeat that then beating up primitives in the Middle East will be easy.