A whole age of warfare sank with the Moskva

The military we have—an army built around tanks, a navy built around ships, and an air force built around planes, all of which are technologically advanced and astronomically expensive—is platform-centric. So far, in Ukraine, the signature land weapon hasn’t been a tank, but an anti-tank missile: the Javelin. The signature air weapon hasn’t been an aircraft, but an anti-air missile: the Stinger. And as the sinking of the Moskva showed, the signature maritime weapon hasn’t been a ship, but an anti-ship missile: the Neptune.

Berger believes a new age of war is upon us. In “Force Design 2030,” he puts the following sentence in bold: “We must acknowledge the impacts of proliferated precision long-range fires, mines, and other smart weapons, and seek innovative ways to overcome these threat capabilities.” The weapons General Berger refers to include the same family of anti-platform weapons Ukrainians are using to incinerate Russian tanks, shoot down Russian helicopters, and sink Russian warships. The successes against a platform-centric Russian Goliath by an anti-platform-centric Ukrainian David have elicited cheers in the West, but what we are witnessing in Ukraine may well be a prelude to the besting of our own American Goliath.

Like its Russian counterpart, the American military has long been built around platforms. To pivot away from a platform-centric view of warfare is both a cultural challenge—what does it mean to be a fighter pilot without a jet, a tanker without a tank, or a sailor without a ship?—and a resource challenge. It asks the U.S. military, as well as the U.S. defense industry, to divest itself of legacy capabilities like, for example, a $13 billion Ford-class aircraft carrier, in order to invest in new, potentially less profitable technologies like, say, $6,000 Switchblade drones that can kill tanks.