I remember so clearly learning about the World Wars in history class, and how each of them brought about “revolutions” to the old paradigm of how to fight a war. It occurs to me that these paradigms are being set and broken every day, up to and including the present day, but more on that in a minute.
One of the things that stuck with me was the fact that the “old school” officers in the armed forces tended to reject the paradigm shifts, while the young turks were off re-writing the ways wars were fought and won.
At the beginning of WWI, wars had been fought in trenches and fixed, reinforced emplacements for over 60 years. The American Civil war brought about he first birth of trench warfare in the American experience, and throughout WWI, the paradigm of setting up fixed emplacements, and fighting and dying over 50 feet between these emplacements, ruled the day.
Also apparent was the overwhelming superiority of the iron battleships of the day. The “superweapons” of their time, they were judged by metrics of how many tons they displaced, and how big the bore on their guns were, and they were literally invincible.
WWII changed both paradigms, and quite violently so for those that hadn’t gotten the lesson. At the close of WWI, the French had developed the “Maginot Line”, a system of hardened, fixed fortifications that was designed to prevent any future German attack from entering France. They slept peacefully behind it’s bristling façade for nearly two decades, with the confidence that it was unbreachable. They hadn’t gotten the memo that fixed fortifications are a monument to the stupidity of men, in the words of Patton, and were beyond shocked when the Maginot Line was taken out of play, not by a stunning defeat, but because the Germans changed the paradigm, and instead of squaring off against fixed fortifications at the time and place of their opponent’s choosing, they simply drove their mechanized military machine right around it without Maginot even firing a shot.
The paradigm of the battleship was rocked to it’s core sometime around the same time, as it became clear that big, lumbering battleships were nothing more than big, lumbering targets for attacks from the air as torpedo and dive bombers proved time and again during the war. Their massive guns became useless against a swarm of mosquitoes, each of which had the power to single-handedly send the massive floating fortification to the bottom of the ocean.
Both of these paradigm shifts were missed by key people at key times at the beginning of the war, and the result was catastrophic to those unprepared. The British, for instance, felt secure with their massive battleship “Hood” and several others. They were proven wrong. The Japanese loved their battle ships, but many of them never even fired a shot in anger before they were sunk by lowly torpedo bombers.
The new paradigm shift has occurred, and many are not ready to accept it. It hasn’t been tested in real battle yet, but the simulations all show the same thing – surface naval fleets have become a thing of the past. They’ve become an anachronism just like fixed fortifications and battle ships. Our aircraft carriers are massive, lumbering targets just waiting to be taken out by a new technology that can be had for a price comparable to the purchase of a new Mercedes Benz.
Research the “Millenium 2002” war games that were had in the Persian Gulf in 2002. I won’t belabor the details because I will assume that you are going to follow the link and read for yourself. I will simply summarize the salient points, which are:
A fleet of Cessna aircraft and small pleasure boats, converted to carry silkworm cruise missiles, managed to destroy 16 out of 24 ships in the US task force on day two of the two-week war games, including a Nimitz Class aircraft carrier, the largest warship on earth, in one massive, coordinated strike on the fleet. The estimated US Navy personnel losses was over 20,000 men and women.
Just so you know, the silkworm is the SCUD of cruise missiles. It sucks. It is cheaply bought, and easily obtained, and to convert a pleasure craft to carry one is about as easy as a bit of welding and wiring. If such rudimentary weapon could do such a thing, what about the most recent cruise missile developed by the Russians, designed to travel mach 3 and to not even be detectable by our missile defense systems before it has already struck the ship? What about the fact that the Russians specifically state that they developed the missile mainly to export it?
If that isn’t enough to convince you, then what about the Falkland Islands fiasco? How many crappy mirage fighters flown out of shitty Argentinian air bases does it take to sink a British warship (or three or four)? Apparently, just one. Oh, and the brits didn’t even know he was there because the exocet missile was deployed far outside of radar range.
Moms – don’t let your babys grow up to be in the Navy, unless it is to be a submariner. There are two kinds of naval vessels now that this new paradigm shift has occurred – submarines, and targets.