The ship that can't. An artist's concept of the Navy's now-cancelled DDG-1000. Recent information revealed that the sealth "arsenal ship" would be woefully deficient in such core missions as area defense and defending against anti-ship missiles.
Over the past five years, the Air Force has done little to endear itself to members of Congress. From the tanker mess to a series of scandals involving high-ranking officials, the USAF has often found itself in the legislative dog house, and the subject of withering criticism from lawmakers.
To give you some idea of where the Air Force stands on The Hill, consider this quote from a senior Congressional staffer that made the rounds earlier this summer. Speaking with a reporter, the aide openly wondered if the scandal-ridden service would survive as an institution. The comment suggested that if the USAF continued on its present course, Congress might, at some point, decide to give the mess back to the Army.
From our perspective, such speculation is far-fetched, at best. Getting "rid" of an independent Air Force flies in the face of conventional wisdom (not to mention a century of aviation history), and besides, there's no indication that the U.S. Army wants to reclaim the junior service. While getting a bigger piece of the budget pie--and gaining direct control over the close air support mision--would be tempting, those gains would be more than offset by trying to "green" almost 300,000 airmen. Good luck with that one.
If it's any consolation to the Air Force, they may be getting some company in the Congressional woodshed. As reported by the media (and various defense blogs) two weeks ago, the Navy has elected to cancel its expensive DDG-1000 program. At an estimated $5 billion a copy, the "stealth" destroyer was almost as expensive as an aircraft carrier, and bigger than a World War II heavy cruiser.
When the cancellation was announced, the Navy attributed the decision to rising costs, and the availability of a proven alternative, say an upgraded Arleigh Burke class DDG. After spending upwards of $13 billion on the DDG-1000, the Navy decided to call it a day, and go with something a little more affordable.
But, there's a little more to this story that budgetary factors. In recent days, we've learned the real reason behind the USN's decision: the super-sophisticated destroyer cannot peform area air defense, or other, essential, blue water missions. Here's how a senior naval officer, Vice Admiral Barry McCullough, summarized the problem (H/T to Information Dissemination and the Danger Room):
The DDG-1000 program is developing a capable ship which meets the requirements for which it was designed. The DDG-1000, with its Dual Band Radar and sonar suite design are optimized for the littoral environment. However, in the current program of record, the DDG-1000 cannot perform area air defense; specifically, it cannot successfully employ the Standard Missile-2 (SM-2), SM-3 or SM-6, and is incapable of conducting Ballistic Missile Defense.
Admiral McCullough went on to say, in so many words, that the DDG-1000 is terrific at supporting littoral warfare--just don't ask the ship to support the air defense mission, or defend itself (or other ships) from sea-skimming missiles.
And, it gets better. For at least three years, various Navy officials have been telling Congress that DDG-1000 is not only equal to Burke-class vessels in those missions. So, you can make a compelling case that the USN has been lying to our elected representatives--and the American public--delivering what Galhran at Information Dissemination calls a "lunchbag of bulls--t" on the vessel's capabilities.
Move over, USAF, and make room in the doghouse for Vice Admiral McCullough and a bunch of his fellow flag officers. Repeatedly deceiving Congress is not exactly an enhancer for a career, a program, or a military service. Reverberations from the DDG-1000 decision are going to be felt for months to come.