Robert Novak has an editorial on the Navy's plan to decommission it's last two battleships, the Iowa and the Wisconsin. He's pitching a line for the Marine Corps, whose commandant General Mike Hagee told Congress two years ago that the loss of naval surface fire support would place his troops "at considerable risk."The Senate Arms Services Committee is considering a bill that would turn the two ships into museums. I was on a tour of the Wisconsin at Norfolk and I can tell you it's a hell of a ship. Very impressive, especially with the World War II veterans telling you stories on the tour about its history. What's interesting is Novak's story of an "anti-battleship bias" within the Navy, that the Navy somehow never liked the big ships since World War II and it's all a military-industrial complex plot to get funds for the next generation destroyer DD(X).[As Defense Tech guru David Axe noted a few weeks back, Navy vets are leading a campaign to put the two mothballed battleships back into service as alternatives to the $3-billion-per-copy new-jack destroyer, which is being touted as a fire-support platform but, according to the Naval Fire Support Association, will provide only a fraction of the firepower of the old BBs at far greater cost, and much later. -- ed.]Now I don't know the Navy well enough to see if this anti-battleship conspiracy story is true or not, and I'm hoping that someone from the Navy side can clarify this story. My observations within the Pentagon were that the Navy surface guys pretty much rule over their cousins in the Navy air, shore, and submarine fleet. It somehow seems strange to think that the Navy surface community would eschew these ships. This 2004 GAO report provides some more background. Seems that the last time the Navy used battleships was during the Persian Gulf War in 1991, then they made plans to mothball the ships. Congress intervened and told them to keep at least two ships on inactive duty while the Navy was to develop an alternative firepower solution by modifying the 5 inch guns on the destroyers. That hasn't happened yet.These battleships are old, they're expensive to maintain, and the industry doesn't support manufacture of the ammunition for the big guns. The Marine Corps does have air support and field artillery systems for fire support. I don't see the justification to keep battleships just so you have an option to fire on North Korean military structures, as Novak alludes. Maybe it's time for the big guns to go silent?-- Jason Sigger, crossposted at Armchair GeneralistTHERE'S MORE: Check out heavy-gunned debate going on over at Murdoc's place.
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