Magazine article National Defense

Naval Transformation Gets Boost from War on Terror

Magazine article National Defense

Naval Transformation Gets Boost from War on Terror

Article excerpt

Efforts by the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps to transform into organizations better prepared to fight wars of the 21st century may have gotten a badly needed push from the war on terrorism.

Before 9/11, transformation had been widely discussed in general terms. But the conflict in Afghanistan helped turn transformation from rhetoric to reality.

In landlocked Afghanistan, Navy and Marine units were forced to fight far from the sea, often under harsh, primitive conditions. They adapted quickly, developing creative strategies and combining space-age technologies with ancient tactics in innovative ways to defeat the enemy, according to officials from the two services.

Meanwhile, Congress approved an increase in defense spending by $37.5 billion to $355.1 billion for fiscal year 2003, the largest hike since the Cold War.

The appropriation includes significant plus ups for development of advanced ships, aircraft and other equipment that "present impressive technological leaps in warfighting capability" for the Navy and Marines, according to Chief of Naval Operations Vein Clark. Among its provisions are:

* $733 million for the Navy's next-generation surface combatant, DD(X), and its related family of ships.

* $404 million to continue conversion of four Cold War-em Trident submarines to enable them to fire conventional cruise missiles, rather than nuclear ballistics.

* $3.5 billion for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which includes Navy and Marine Corps variants that can operate from aircraft carriers or can take and land vertically, like helicopters.

* $1.6 billion for the MV-22 tiltrotor Osprey, which is designed to take off and land like a helicopter and fly like a fixed-wing transport.

* $42 million to accelerate development of development of a Navy variant of the Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle.

The drive to transform the military services began to pick up momentum during the past presidential election campaign, when Bush promised "to challenge the status quo and envision a new architecture of American defense for decades to come."

Change is needed, he said in words that seem now eerily prophetic, because "we may not have months to transport massive divisions to waiting bases or build new infrastructure on site. Our forces in the next century must be agile, lethal, readily deployable and require a minimum of logistical support. We must be able to project our power over long distances, in days or weeks rather than months."

After the election, however, change came slowly, despite a great deal of talk, noted Gen. Michael J. Williams, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps. "For those of us inside the Beltway, the word 'transformation' became an overused term," he told a recent symposium in Arlington, Va., sponsored by the U.S. Naval Institute and the Marine Corps Association.

An Unexpected Challenge

Then, suddenly, in September 2001, the services were forced to transform their operations to meet an unexpected challenge.

"Somebody launched the first successful attack on the continental United States since the War of 1812," said retired Marine Maj. Gen. Tom Wilkerson, a homeland security consultant.

In reply, U.S. forces had to mount a massive counterattack, within weeks, against enemies located halfway around the world, deep in Central Asia.

During Operation Enduring Freedom, Navy and Marine aircraft and ground units had to travel more than 400 miles inland from the Arabian Sea to reach their targets in Afghanistan.

U.S. advisors to Northern Alliance forces rode into batde on horseback, using handheld globalpositioning systems to call in strikes against al Qaeda and Taliban positions.

"This ... shows that a revolution in military affairs is about more than building new high-tech weapons, though that is certainly part of it," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told an audience at National Defense University in Washington, D. …

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