2019 World Naval Operational News Highlights

The ten most significant naval news stories / trends / themes this year included:

  • Iranian attacks on oil tankers, oil refineries, and unmanned aerial vehicles in the Persian Gulf as Western sanctions continue to harm the Iranian economy. Can the US continue to stay the course and resist retaliation?

  • The steady increase in the size of the Israeli Navy and the increasing recognition within Israel of its importance in protecting its shipping lanes, littorals, ports, energy reserves and deterrence capability. Will it receive the increasing portion of the defense budget that it deserves in the future?

  • The debut of Chinese containerized anti-ship cruise missiles that could turn their commerical fleet into warships and the commercial ports they control around the world into missile bases. How does this change the world-wide balance of naval power?

  • China’s creative experiments at undersea replenishment using commercial ships to resupply its warships. When will the US Navy undertake similar experiments to help compensate for the small size and vulnerability of its logistics force? Amateurs talk tactics, generals (and admirals!) talk logistics…

  • China’s firing of anti-ship ballistic missiles from its island bases in the South China Sea. As their militarization of the South China Sea progresses, where will they build their next sand castle?

  • The year of the flattop. The US Marine Corps gained increased experience in operating its F-35Bs in large numbers from its amphibious assault ships (“Lightning Carrier” concept), the Royal Navy gained increased experience in operating its F-35Bs from its aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth and commissioned its second carrier HMS Prince of Wales, and the Chinese Navy commissioned its second aircraft carrier Shandong and its first amphibious assault ship Type 075. When will the US Navy take significant steps towards extending the range of its carrier air wing, besides buying a token number of MQ-25 tankers?

  • The chaotic leadership at the US Department of Defense in general with multiple Secretaries of Defense this year, and in the US Navy in specific with the resignations of the nominee for the Chief of Naval Operations and the Secretary of the Navy. What negative effect is this having on the Department of the Navy?

  • The declaration of what the future of the Marines is by the new US Marine Corps Commandant: Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations, and their rapid progress towards defining it, wargaming it and starting to determine how they need to change their force structure to be able to implement it. Will the US Congress approve the changes in US Marine Corps structure necessary to accomplish it?

  • As part of its definition of Distributed Maritime Operations, the US Navy is taking its first concrete steps towards building unmanned surface vehicles. Can the US Navy articulate its plan clearly to the US Congress so they will approve the budget for it? Was asking the US Congress to retire early a carrier (USS Truman) with 25 years of life left on it the right way for the Navy to try to fund its future?

  • All the hype about hypersonic weapons. Will 2020 be the year that we see these weapons tested and deployed within a coherent concept of operations?