16 February, 2008

Too damn close

The Russian bomber who recently buzzed the USS Nimitz is common knowledge. Word is that the F-18s checked to determine if the bombers were armed, and then escorted them out of the area without firing a shot. This, if true, is exactly what the people who staged the provocation were counting on. This policy meant that a potential enemy was able to test American defenses and response times without consequence. This also meant that the policy was not to assume the worst, but to trust the survival of one of America's most valuable naval vessels to the eyes of a few (one?) persons who determined whether or not the bomber was a threat. This response is wrong on so many levels that I don't know where to begin.
It's bad enough that the carriers are vulnerable. This is unconscionable.


Jeremy said...

What would the proper response have been?

Daniel McIntosh said...

In the immediate circumstances, I'd (1) make it clear the area around the carriers is a restricted zone, where the use of deadly force is authorized, (2) intercept, warn, and accompany aircraft out of the zone, and if necessary (3) shoot them down.

I'd even maintain a similar policy for stray airliners, although I'd let them get closer before firing. We've already seen the kind of damage a hijacked jet can do.

As for rubber boats buzzing the ships, in port or out, I'd first try nonlethal means (sonic weapons, if available) and then, if necessary, remember the USS Cole and open fire.

Carriers are too valuable.

In the long run, because the carriers are so valuable, I'd like to move away from our dependence on them. There's been some interesting work done on submersible carriers. These may not be as useful if you want to show the flag, but I'd trade that for greater survivability any day.