“Shipbuilding and The Navy Of Tomorrow” –Marine Link

Huntington Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss. Photo: Derek Fountain/Huntington Ingalls Industries

As reported in Marine Link, observer Craig Hooper sees a bust then boom cycle ahead for the shipbuilding industry.

As he frequently does, he has some kind words for the Coast Guard, lauding its success in capacity building with our partner maritime security organizations.

“… the U.S. Coast Guard embraced international collaboration. America’s underfunded and overtaxed maritime law enforcers focused on really working with partners, making significant investments in communications and coordination capabilities. Today, as more and more countries build up their maritime capabilities, those partners are getting to the point where their vessels, if cued to a target by the U.S. Coast Guard, can manage vessel interdictions on their own. The stats are impressive; the Coast Guard Commandant, Admiral Karl Schultz, suggested that, in 2020, 50-60 percent of narcotics interdictions now involve some contribution from partner nations, and that a partner nation handles the interdiction “end game” somewhere between 20-40 percent of the time. The idea, of course, is that as other countries develop their own shipbuilding capabilities, those countries would then assume responsibility for larger portions of the maritime security portfolio, freeing the United States to focus on developing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms, coordination-oriented assets and tools for heavy strike.”

There are a couple of paragraphs that the Coast Guard should really take to heart.

“Should China avoid war while continuing to employ their vast national fleet in a controlled but provocative fashion, American shipbuilders can expect rising demand for coastal defense, patrol and other presence-oriented tools necessary for maintaining positive control of America’s vast, 4.3 million square mile Exclusive Economic Zone. The Coast Guard’s 25-ship Heritage class Offshore Patrol Cutter and 64-hull Sentinel class Fast Response Cutter program offer a good start, but more investment will be needed. By and large, new patrol-oriented vessels will primarily engage grey zone intruders via small-boat boarding teams, but they may also require the longer-term flexibility to accept sensors, missiles and other tools necessary to support antisubmarine warfare or other higher-end warfighting requirements (emphasis applied–Chuck).

“As China continues to explore the Arctic, Antarctica and consider other opportunities to either seize unclaimed global real-estate or take lightly-held areas, high latitude operations will continue to grow in importance. Unless America can help like-minded partners muster sufficient numbers of battle-ready polar-ready icebreakers, logistic ships and Coast Guard vessels, the vast Antarctic continent risks becoming China’s next target for territorial expansion.”

The ability to add weapons and sensors is sensible insurance against an uncertain future, and the cautionary note about China’s designs on Antarctica is one I fully endorse.

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