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Why Romney’s Right: Many Cheap Ships Safer Than Few Expensive Ones

With a smaller fleet, losing just one of our technological marvels is a crippling security blow and too much risk. Related: Horses and Bayonets

by
Bob Owens

Bio

October 23, 2012 - 8:33 am

We do have carrier strike groups, and we do have nuclear submarines.

Currently, we field eleven carrier strike groups, consisting of a super-carrier and its air wing, cruiser, a small squadron of destroyers or frigates, and one or two attack submarines lurking under the surface. Various supply ships also weave in an out of the group to keep them fed and (in the case of the non-nuclear-powered ships) fueled.

Carrier strike groups can perform many roles, and can do many things. They have, as the president notes, “capabilities.” These capabilities, however, do not include the ability to be in two or more places at once. Nor can a Navy as heavily invested in capital ships as we are manage to easily recover if a carrier strike group is significantly damaged or crippled.

Technology and firepower is part of a military’s balance, but we know very well that the number of ships and aircraft we are able to field, and field in various roles, is critical. While Obama mocks Romney for his dated military references, he refuses to grasp a military reality made readily apparent in World War II.

In World War II, the German war machine’s technological advantages far outstripped those of any other nation. They created the first cruise missiles (the V1), the first ICBM (the V2), the first assault rifle (STG-44), the first jet- and rocket-powered combat aircraft, and even the first “stealth” fighter-bomber almost 40 years before we could replicate it (though the war ended before the Ho 229 could enter combat).

One of the technological highlights of the German Army was the Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger Ausf.E, or what Allied tankers learned to fear simply as the Tiger tank.

The Tiger was a masterpiece of German engineering. It was complex, heavily armed, and heavily armored. The high velocity 8.8cm main gun could destroy any Allied tank on the Western Front with a single shot, and allied tank crews fielding medium Sherman tanks against the Tiger came to call their vehicles “Ronsons” after the cigarette lighter, because they “lit the first time, every time.” In a one-on-one battle, or even a two- or three-on-one battle, the Tiger almost always came out victorious.

Today, one working Tiger exists.

Despite the Tiger’s technological superiority and reliability, our mass-produced, under-armored, under-gunned M4 Shermans simply overwhelmed them with numbers. By war’s end, Germany had manufactured just 1,347 Tigers. We’d built more than 49,000 Shermans.

Our modern Air Force and Navy have not learned anything from World War II. We’ve sunk — pardon the term — literally trillions of dollars into the development of nuclear-armed, nuclear-powered carrier strike groups and ballistic missile submarines, but the loss of a single one would be an overwhelming blow from which it would take years to recover.

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