It’s Good To Have A Navy

Not sure how you can justify this, given the cost-benefit analysis, but then search and rescue often seems like a disproportionate expenditure of resources.  I’m sure by now you could build 10 Boeing 777’s for the cost of searching for MH370.

At least this time we save a baby.  Nice going.

It surprises me that the US Navy is still operating any Perry class frigates.  I was on the reserve crew of one of them, out of Philadelphia when I was in law school.  Engineering wise, they were like half a Spruance.  Much cheaper to operate, I suppose, so they were kept around a lot longer. 

The Spruances were all gone years ago.  Most sunk as targets.  Like this:

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That’s the Hayler, the last one built.  The only Spruance still afloat is the Paul F. Foster, which is used as some kind of unmanned, experimental robot ship.  They don’t keep me informed anymore, so I can’t be more specific.

If memory serves Spruances were about $400 million a copy, and that was in the 1970’s when most of them were built.  They seemed ridiculously expensive for destroyers, which were kind of regarded by high up Navy brass as throwaway ships, at least historically.  The expense was justified because they were “modular” in construction and could be easily upgraded with new weapons systems, sensors and whatnot, which would keep them relevant and in service well into the 21st century.

Most of them didn’t make it past 2003.

Even so, a lot of that went on throughout their service life.  Upgrading, I mean.  Seemed like we were getting new systems every time we pulled into port toward the latter part of my active service.

I think to a large extent they were the Navy’s computer revolution pioneer ships, and ultimately casualties of that same computer revolution.  What little facility I have with computers I owe to my time on a Spruance class destroyer.  But even I could see, even at the time, that the dozens of refrigerator-size cabinets full of digital processing hardware that were built in to the 1970’s design were hopelessly outmoded a few years later.  By the turn of the century a typical civilian desktop computer was probably more processor-capable.

Sometimes the whole project just seems a waste to me.  A huge waste of billions of dollars.  Other times that doesn’t seem fair.  Having access to billions of dollars to build a Navy doesn’t make anyone clarivoyant.  You make the best decision you can about deploying resources and hope for the best.  Most of the time you’re not entirely correct, but you’ve probably done better than doing nothing, which I suppose is not an option if you might have to go to war to defend yourself.

In any case, we and our Spruances won the cold war, or so I am told.  It’s another of those things I am conflicted about now, although I wasn’t then.  Whether that’s because of maturity and wisdom or being addled by years of practicing law, well, I don’t know.

Maybe someone will interview that baby in a few years and ask her what she thinks of the United States Navy.

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