Is it actually possible that, as you read this, the United States Navy has only one supercarrier battle group at sea? Read on - and be amazed.Look no farther than these two news items, both from today's Sunday Times of London, to see the effect of two decades of shrinkage in the size of the United States Navy and the retreat of the Royal Navy from the high seas:
- For the first time in two centuries, British businessmen and others have formed a private navy to protect shipping off the pirate-ridden coast of Somali on the Horn of Africa. A millionaire businessman has formed a company called Typhoon to furnish escort and protection, including troops, along the shipping lanes which world navies have proved inadequate to police. The first convoy of ships is projected for March or April.
The re-emergence of what used to called "privateers" (Sir Francis Drake is the most famous example from history) is the latest sign of outsourcing or abandonment of traditional military functions by Western nations whose militaries have contracted to pinpoint-size in the wake of the growth of the modern welfare state. Private security and private armies -- again, once known to history as "mercenaries," are another aspect of this trend.
- Meanwhile, news came that the Russian Navy has deployed ships, marines, combat vehicles and equipment just off the coast of Syria. Five landing ships are accompanied by military vessels.
The Russian Defense Ministry says it's just a routine exercise off Latakia, where the Russians have maintained a military port (recently visited by the Iranian Navy) since Soviet times. Israelis sources, however, tell the Jerusalem Post the Russian military is there to deter a Western humanitarian intervention against the embattled regime of Bashar al-Assad.
The Assads, and Syria, have been clients of Russia and the old Soviet Union since the 1970's.
Now, where are the U.S. Navy's supercarrier battle groups?
As of January 2, 2013, gonavy.jp - a source, with StratFor, which we rely on here, was showing no U.S. supercarrier battle groups in or near the Mediterranean. Last year, with the retirement of "the Big E", the USS Enterprise, the U.S. supercarrier force shrank to ten battle groups. According to the same source, four of America's ten remaining supercarriers are actually in various types of extended rehabitation, upgrading and maintenance, so they're not available for sea duty.
One carrier battle groups is currently on station in the Arabian Sea. According to gonavy.jp, that supercarrier, the USS John C. Stennis, appears to be the only one presently at sea. The USS George Washington is home-ported in Yokohama, Japan.
One supercarrier battle group on station in the Arabian Sea, another docked in Yokohama. The other eight U.S. supercarrier battle groups are either off-line (four) or dockside in the U.S. (four).
Any chance the re-appearance of private navies on the world's high seas will affect the current risk posed by "sequester" to the U.S. military budget and persuade the Obama Administration to re-consider its announced plans to further shrink an American Navy already now half the size it was at the end of the First Gulf War in 1991?