While not a militarist, I point to the Arleigh Burke class of guided missile destroyers, the world’s most advanced destroyer class, whose motto is, “If it flies, it dies.” The US Navy calls it “a total weapons system, from detection to kill.” It can search, track and direct fire simultaneously at more than 100 targets. Its multi-mission capacity includes land, water surface, air and underwater intercepts against all known foes and current systems. Built in Mississippi and Maine, its Aegis combat system makes the Arleigh Burke destroyers the world’s most advanced ships by two generations. Its various technologies are in high demand by our naval allies.
The center of many debates, Defense, for most of the public, is a mystery. The political sirens avoid the specifics of US advanced weapon systems like the Aegis or tests of electronic infantry weaponry that can shoot and hit targets around corners. It sounds like comic book fantasy, but is described openly in Defense newsletters, in interviews by government and private officials.
Arleigh Burke class destroyers caught my eye when I met an Ex-O (Executive Officer, 2nd in command!) who was a young woman, confident and trained to meet any challenge. Invited to visit the yet-to-be commissioned ship, I stood at the bridge, its computerized displays dark. I was within easy reach of dials and switches that could defend against simultaneous attacks by air, land and sea. Whether the threat be ships, submarines, aircraft or land-based missiles, the bridge officer issues commands launching the ship’s loaded-in nuclear warheads, rockets and torpedoes. Columnists and politicians speak of “decline,” and politicians warn of cuts, and create partisan fights. I think it is a blatantly unfair description of our readiness, and our technology.
The real military decline is in citizen participation. We have a volunteer military that privatizes war into a profession; the military is now a public enterprise rather than a public service. We thank those who serve, but the rest of us avoid the military’s experience of dangerous, underpaid public duty. Its fiscal pain is in private, no-bid contracting that produces shoddy, incomplete, dangerous work, and massive waste (and profits!) through cost overruns. The human costs of revolving deployments of three, four and five tours in combat, more than seen by any modern combat troops, destroys the members of our uniformed services as much as the acts of our enemies.
Women in uniform are still more likely to be assaulted than see combat; suicide rates are way too high. The nation and the military—and certainly the families—would welcome a decline in these statistics!
But what are we getting or giving up in the debate over the strength and readiness of our national defense? An example is the Arleigh Burke destroyers, ships with the best pair of eyes and coordination on the seas. Continue reading Take a Look At the Arleigh Burke Destroyers: The Best of Class