Modern warships (V) - land attack

I don't care about naval land attack capabilities.

Land attack by the sea is not about deterrence or defence. 

NATO powers could use naval cruise missiles, but hardly anything of interest should be farther than 500 km from friendly territories, and thus there's no reason why we couldn't use land-based missiles instead. If need be, we could use air-launched cruise missiles, even dropped from transport aircraft.

Cruise missile diplomacy is a violation of the Charter of the United Nations article 1,  the North Atlantic Treaty article 1, Briand-Kellogg Pact article 1 and Revised General Act for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes that are in effect and thus have the force of law in all countries that ratified them (or had their legal predecessor ratify them).
Small wars are a waste of resources and almost all of them are also violations of the aforementioned international treaties.

Substantial naval cruise missile land attack capabilities are important only to despicable acts; cruise missile diplomacy, offensive small wars and strategic surprise attacks.

Naval cruise and (conventional) ballistic missiles of greater than 500 km range should be banned in my opinion. There's no legitimate justification for their existence. Nuclear-tipped ICBMs and SLBMs should be handled differently, as part of nuclear disarmament or move towards minimal deterrence regimes.

The only land attack mission of a navy that may be worthwhile and legitimate is to raid pirate havens, for that's how competent navies deal with pirates. See Pompey the Great. Pompey and his fleet wiped piracy off the Med in weeks (after months of preparations), primarily by going after their bases. The current crop of navies pretends that patrolling against pirates (=job creation scheme) is the way to go. No, it's not. You do intelligence, then you raid the pirate haven, blow up all boats, blow up the leader's villa and return home. This requires no more than some infantry (whether marines or regular infantry doesn't matter), some offboard motor-driven RIBHs (rigid hull "inflatable" boats)  and a small chartered cargo ship.

A reconquest of islands occupied by an aggressor should be avoidable by using embargos and blockades against the aggressor instead.

No warship needs to be set up for land attack.

A little land attack capability may be for free as AShM and guns may shoot at land targets as well, but that should have no priority.



  1. Re:Pompey and pirates.

    Interestingly, from what I've read, although it was a relatively quick campaign, it involved besieging and surrender then subsequent resettlement of some 20,000 Mediterranean pirates. Not quite the raid, blow up boats and return home strategy.

    And actually a fair bit of job creation...

    Otherwise, like the point that there is no need for land strike in deterrence. Could it be seen as a strategic big stick form of deterrence? Much like nuclear weapons as you mentioned.

    1. A target so far away that you cannot strike it with land-based air power is a target that doesn't need (or in case of nuclear munitions: cannot really) be defended against. Any such conventional target doesn't need be deterred against.

      There are scenarios where very distant powers begin a war and would seek to throw punches to 'win' that war. I doubt this would work and I don't see a single such scenario that looks realistic.
      An Argentinian coup de main against the Falklands might come close, but I suppose that would best be addressed with economic sanctions by the UN until the occupied territory is given up. That approach should be used against all illegal occupations of inhabited territories. There's even a never-used workaround against UNSC veto power IIRC, but the approach is likely still impractical against some nuclear powers.

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    1. The amount of buillshit in your comment would require a tenfold as long post to properly cover, so let's just use bulletpoints:
      - illegal
      - bad ally
      - negligible compared to Saudi bombing campaign
      - newspeak (what you describe is "retribution")
      - irrelevant (thousands of miles away from home)
      - inefficient/pointless
      - I don't care

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    3. The USN wasn't even sure the missiles had targeted the USN ship AFTER the cruise missile attack.

      You are entitled to your own opinion, not to your own facts. "Self defense" is a defined term, and it's not met at all. The simple fact that the ship was capable of 30 kts and the cruise missile attack happened hours after the initial missile launches suffices to clarify that there was no self-defence on part of the USN.

    4. Well, Smitty, I don't care how long you've been a reader and commenter. Your next (blocked) comment was an attempt to lie straight at me and I don't appreciate that at all.

      You were NOT writing about shooting at missiles in self defence as you claimed in the blocked comment.

      You started this comment thread by writing about the 2016 cruise missile strike AND you wrote "to fire on rebels after they fired". You didn't even mention the SM-2 and ESSM missiles expended before I clarified that attacking land targets the day after was no self defense.

  3. The reason we can't use land-based missiles to their fullest extent is the INF treaty which frowns on GLCMs and tactical missiles with ranges within a certain bracket, regardless of payload. However, even if we could, we wouldn't because those in power want platforms to man and command, not weapon systems. Although the INF treaty was only signed by the US and Russia, other European countries chose to abide by it and destroyed their potentially INF voilating systems.

    1. SRBMs have enough range. European air power wouldn't be of much effect in an air-land war beyond the range of SRBMs either.

      The bigger issue is that there's a limited quantity of suitable targets in Eastern Europe within SRBM range.

  4. Blow up pirate boats and inevitably some NGO will find definite proof that you actually destroyed the boats of innocent fishermen who are now starving. And it may even be true, because boats are boats. Pay off or otherwise incentivize locals to deal with the problem and you're now performing neo-colonialism and supporting brutal dictators/warlords. The fact that we did and do engange in these things, for reasons far worse, gives further credence to that point of view.

  5. Both the Geneva convention and the Law of Armed conflict allow for reprisals and retaliation.

    There are plenty of peer reviewed legal pieces on this topic. You may want to sit down with a military lawyer as you cannot cite one passage without taken the totality of the law into consideration. Even then, there are always dissenting opinions.


  6. Sorry, but you're wrong. Your focus on defense and convoying is not only the most inefficient way to fight a naval war, but it will also ultimately result in a defeat against anything but a third world country. You don't win a fight by blocking and dodging but by taking down the attacker - that means offensive land attack weapons.

    1. Sorry, you're wrong. Air power can attack ports and mine ports much more efficiently than frigates and destroyers. So the claims in this blog post stand even under the assumption that convoys are inefficient in peer wars.

    2. Air power can attack and mine ports provided:
      A. You have airbases within range.
      B. You have large aircraft carriers.

      Most of the world's nations do not have those luxuries and even if you do, land attack missiles are still a useful tool for attacking heavily defended locations where you don't want to risk aircraft.

    3. There's absolutely no reason why the extremely costly VLS spaces should be used to store a quantity of land attack cruise missiles that a single sortie of an unmodified transport aircraft can deliver from a safe 2,000 km distance to the target.

      Moreover, there's little reason to believe that land attack cruise missiles - a tool of 40 years of age - would be survivable against something like the defences of Murmansk without much EW support by combat aircraft.

      So again - there's no point in naval land attack cruise missiles and thus no point in support of such missiles on warships.

      I understand it's thoroughly conventional to think of destroyers as cruise missile lobbers, frequently to be used in small wars and cruise missile diplomacy. That's what the USN did for decades. Yet that doesn't mean that there's a good justification for it.

      You did not yet provide a counter to my case against land attack capabilities for warships.

    4. Your case, as I now understand it, is that all wars should be purely defensive affairs (tactically as well as strategically) and occur within 500km of the homeland. If that is accurate, then continuing this discussion is pointless as I fundamentally disagree with every aspect of that position.

  7. Just found your blog. I like it. I don't agree with all your thoughts but they are supplied with reasoned arguments. That is unusual in this day and age.

    There is a tactical reason the U.S. puts 900NM cruise missiles on their ships. That reason isn't to blow up third world nations (we would probably agree that using them as such is ignorant at best.)

    We see two developments in the west WRT cruise missiles, 1. Placing anti-ship targeting back on them thus giving them back the original first day of battle purpose and developing a 1000 mile air launched cruise missile thus giving aircraft a new first day of battle purpose.

    The first is because C2 is better than it was in the 80's. The second is more about economics and capacity than what you suggest here.

    The legal (UN) and emotional arguments (despicable) can be said about any weapon due to it's use. Changing capabilities unilaterally, whether conventional or nuclear, is more about losing wars than it is about failing to act in a moral or legal way. Those are two separate and valid concerns, but treating them as the same argument and solution will actually lead to more war, not less.