Friday, November 20 2015
The U.S. military is beginning to experiment with asymmetric offensive warfare. Asymmetric warfare isn’t new. Think about how Native Americans fought and how the Minutemen attacked the British—think also about WWII PT boats. (They called themselves the Mosquito Fleet. The Japanese called them “Devil Boats.”)
The eye on offense may be due to the defenses the Navy is developing to counter asymmetric threats, such as Iran’s large fleet of small boats, which could overwhelm U.S. Navy formations. The U.S. Army is experimenting with modified swarm strategies to attack large army units with a sizeable number of small two- or three-man teams. The Navy is also experimenting with groups of radio-controlled small boats to attack or defend against an enemy. In these cases, asymmetric means using swarm tactics to overwhelm an enemy’s defenses.
With the navy’s current “bigger is better” thinking, costs are skyrocketing and build times are getting too long. (The USS Zumwalt, a $3.5 billion contract, was awarded in 2008. The ship was laid down in 2011, launched in 2013, and won’t be commissioned until 2016.)
For decades, the Navy thought in terms of blue-water set-piece fleet combat, which wasn’t much different from how the Navy thought about battleships before WWII. Naval planners realized that blue-water conflict isn’t the only game in town and developed the littoral class of ships to fight in shallow green waters. The logical next step is swarm tactics.
Enter the Mark VI Patrol Boat program. It’s about time. What do you think?
Note: In both my novels, The Marathon Watch and Vows to the Fallen, my characters explored the value of green-water tactics and the wisdom—or lack thereof—in relying on blue-water fleet doctrine.