The U.S. military’s top sealift officials are worried that, in a war with Russia or China, the U.S. Navy might not have enough warships to escort vital supply convoys from the United States to war zones in Europe or Asia.
Those fears might be overblown. Regardless, the Navy is moving to acquire a new fleet of frigates whose missions include convoy-escort.
Mark Buzby, a retired rear admiral who now leads the Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration, has been vocal about what he claimed is a dangerous shortage of escorts. The Maritime Administration oversees America’s roughly 12,000 professional mariners, who crew — among other vessels — the 61 sealift and logistics ships belonging to Military Sealift Command.
“The Navy has been candid enough with Military Sealift Command and me that they will probably not have enough ships to escort us,” Buzby toldDefense News, a trade publication. “It’s: ‘You’re on your own; go fast, stay quiet,’” Buzby said.
Lacking military escorts, sealift ships would have to cross the Atlantic or Pacific alone during wartime. Buzby and Mewbourne reportedly have advised ships’ crews to turn off their electronics to avoid detection, sail as fast as possible to limit their time in danger zones and expect to suffer losses to enemy attack.
It’s clear Buzby is imagining a major conflict, such as was possible during the Cold War. For decades following World War II, the Pentagon planned to move, by sea to Europe, huge numbers of troops and large quantities of weapons and supplies. Between 1969 and 1993 NATO rehearsed this massive supply effort as part of the annual Reforger Exercise.