Is Austal’s proposal realistic? We need to know the trade-offs, said Bryan Clark, a former top aide to the Chief of Naval Operations, who’d prefer a new, heavier frigate designed from the start to handle VLS. If you have to fit everything in the small hull of an LCS, Clark told me, adding VLS could require taking out too many other systems. Particularly at risk is kit for anti-submarine warfare, an increasingly important mission as the Chinese and Russian sub fleets grow in size and sophistication. Austal says their VLS-equipped frigate can still hunt subs just fine, but they do acknowledge it can carry fewer helicopters and drones than the original LCS, which could impact ASW and many other missions.
Ross Babbage, a nonresident senior fellow at the Center for Strategic Budgetary Assessments, a Washington-based think tank that focuses on the military, said the move may be “military signaling” by the United States.
In a December strategy report, Ross Babbage, senior fellow at U.S. think tank Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, explained: “In effect, Beijing is pressuring regional countries into an arrangement that mirrors the contract struck with its own people: economic benefits in exchange for political compliance, with a big stick lurking in the background threatening retaliation for aberrant behavior. … Significant damage is being done to U.S. and allied credibility. In the absence of major changes in allied policy, much of Southeast Asia will likely shift into Beijing’s orbit.”
Hal Brands, a professor at the School of Advanced International Studies, says that may reflect a shift in which of his competing advisers Trump is listening to.
“So if you’re trying to block cave entrances or collapse rudimentary tunnel complexes, you might use the MOAB,” said Mark Gunzinger, a former B-52 pilot and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. “If you’re trying to penetrate a very hardened, very deep structure, you might want something to penetrate into the target or to a deep enough depth that you cause damage inside. “You have to select the kind of weapon you want to use,” he said. “It’s not always a bigger blast.”
In fact, long-range anti-ship missiles, such as the DF-21D, have engendered some measure of debate about the future of carriers; a recent think-tank, Navy study (Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment) recently found that smaller, faster and more agile carriers may need to be engineered for the future in response to guided missiles able to travel as far as 900 nautical miles.