A Floating Fortress Would Bolster America’s Naval Power by William Lloyd Stearman – Wall Street Journal
The U.S. Navy has a fleetwide deficiency that renders two essential naval operations impossible. Because Americans ships are vulnerable to antiship missiles, Navy doctrine bars them from sailing within 100 miles of a hostile shore. This prevents the Navy from a visible show of force and from mounting an amphibious assault against a well-defended position.
Why does the U.S. need these capabilities? Because the main peacetime mission of the Navy is diplomatic and political, and that sometimes requires a show of force in dangerous regions. Sailing a carrier task force over 100 miles away from a hostile country doesn’t send much of a message to the adversary.
Several decades have passed since the Marines launched a major assault on a coastal position. Yet the ability to bring them near the shore safely—and then to provide continuous support—remains essential. As Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said several years ago, when the U.S. loses “the ability to forcibly enter another’s terrain, we’ve surrendered our influence in a world where that surrender won’t play well.”
Fortunately, there is a solution. The Navy should transform a supertanker into a highly armed, virtually unsinkable warship—known as a “expeditionary ship.” Noted naval architect Kenneth S. Brower came up with the concept, which Mr. Mattis supported as a Marine general.
Such a ship would displace as much as 125,000 tons and would measure 1,075 feet long. Its top speed would be at least 18 knots. It would also have four separate propulsion units to compensate for possible damage to propellers and rudders and to improve maneuverability…