Do we need a surface navy (again)
The other day I got a call from 3JJJ who had Googled the blog and found this post, arguing that we don’t really need a surface navy
Pygmalion . I had a brief debate with a former naval officer and now academic, who pointed to our operations in the Persian gulf region as evidence that we need traditional naval capabilities. To my mind, this is highly problematic, as the ships we have sent there have never had to deal with any significant military opposition. (The Iraqi Navy was wiped out by air and missile attack at the time of the First Gulf War).
The emergence of piracy in the waters off Somalia provides some more striking data. The biggest single argument for a surface navy is that it is needed to defend merchant shipping. But, despite a handful of successes, the navies of the world’s great powers have been largely ineffectual in dealing with the piracy problem.
The problem is that it isn’t remotely cost-effective to deploy, say, an Arleigh Burke destroyer like the USS Bainbridge (cost $1 billion, crew nearly 300) as a platform for marksmen to deal with pirates using speedboats working from shore or launched from trawlers, which otherwise pose as innocent fishing vessels. What you need for this kind of job is patrol boats with a base somewhere in the region  (our Armidale class has a range of 5000km, so there are plenty of options).
To strengthen my tentative conclusions from last time, there’s a strong case for breaking the Navy up into three components
(1) The submarine force (currently in a disastrous state due to lack of crews, which may in turn be attributed to the higher status of the surface combat fleet).
(2) A Coast Guard based on the Armidale class patrol boats, which could also contribute to international efforts like anti-piracy campaigns and sanctions enforcement
(3) A sea transport service for the army, under army control. This would have the purpose of delivering troops and equipment to places like Timor and the Solomons, and overcoming any resistance en route or at the landing point.
There’s simply no need for destroyers, frigates and cruisers unless, like the US, you want them to escort aircraft carriers as part of an attempt to project military power to all parts of the world (and even for the US, the case is much more questionable than is often supposed).
fn1. Not to mention lawyers and diplomats to work out rules under which captured pirates can be dealt with. At the moment most are released, for lack of evidence and/or jurisdiction.