On the morning of December 7, 1941, the USS Arizona, with 13.5 inches of armor at her waterline, 18 inches of armor on her turrets, and watertight compartments throughout her hull, was one of the most survivable ships in the world, that today continues to rest upon the bottom of Pearl Harbor with over a thousand honored dead still onboard. The USS Cole, equipped with the Aegis defense system, represented a $1.3 billion dollar investment in survivability in today’s dollars. She was designed to defend herself and other ships around her against the latest in air, surface and subsurface threats. Yet on October 12, 2000, a small motorboat filled with explosives nearly sank the ship as she refueled in Yemen.
There is no such thing as invulnerability. Many defense investments are misplaced, but near the top of the list are the billions spent chasing the illusion that ships can take a hit in a modern, hypersonic warfare environment and keep fighting. DOD must face the unpleasant reality that we will never build an indestructible ship.
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