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USN offers three paths forward for future fleet

28th April 2022 - 16:09 GMT | by Harry Lye in London


The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) transits the Gulf of Alaska as part of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group. (Photo: USN)

At the high end, the USN’s plans could deliver a fleet of 367 vessels by 2032; however, the lowest alternative would only provide a fleet of 316 ships and submarines.

The USN has released a long-awaited 30-year shipbuilding plan, detailing three possible alternative pipelines for its future fleet — but only one would deliver the much-discussed 355-ship navy.

In the plan, the USN lays out three alternative procurement profiles over the next 30 years, with the range of options detailing a battle force inventory of 316 vessels on the low end and 367 at the high end by 2052.

Also included in the plan is a middle-of-the-road option that would deliver a fleet of 327 ships and submarines by 2052.

Republican lawmakers have decried the plan, with Representative Mike Gallagher describing it as ‘unserious’.

Representatives Rob Wittman and Mike Rogers also voiced concern about the plan, saying the Biden Administration’s 30-year plan reduces the US ability to protect its carrier strike groups and eliminate ‘an enemy’s minefield’.

The plan would also result in a 10% reduction in the USN's ability to launch missiles, they added.

All three plans stay the same for the Future Years Defense Plan (FYDP) from 2023 to 2027 but they begin to diverge in a transition period from 2028 to 2032.

Between 2023 to 2027, under the FYDP, the USN plans to procure 42 ships and retire 77 to deliver a fleet of 280 vessels by 2027.

The three alternative plans would grow the fleet to different levels based on different spending profiles and industrial capability.

Only the third alternative plan would deliver the USN’s much-targeted fleet of 355 vessels by 2025, hitting that number in 2043 and rising to 367 ships and submarines by 2052.

All three of the USN scenarios would see a fleet of ten aircraft carriers in service in 2052 but they differ in numbers for submarines, small surface combatants, large surface combatants and amphibious warfare ships.

One option would see the US operate a fleet of 73 large surface combatants by 2052, another would deliver a fleet of 67 and a third would result in a fleet of 82 ships.

Of the 77 ships to be retired under the 2023-2027 FYDP, the first year will see the most significant cull in part due to the removal of nine Freedom-variant Littoral Combat Ships.

In 2023, the USN also plans to retire a further five Ticonderoga-class cruisers, four amphibious warships and other vessels to reach a total of 24 platforms.

Under President Joe Biden’s 2023 US DoD budget request, the USN plans to eliminate the LCS anti-submarine warfare mission due to technical challenges and the upcoming entry into service of the Constellation-class frigate.

One of the LCS to be removed in 2023, USS St Louis (LCS 19) was only commissioned in 2020, meaning it will have served for three years, 22 short of its planned 25-year service life.

Of the remaining LCSs, six Freedom-variant ships will be dedicated to the surface warfare mission, and the 15 Independence-class LCSs will be devoted to mine countermeasure operations.

The USN document says that decommissioning the LCS vessels allows for ‘investments in higher priority capability and capacity'.

Under the FYDP, the US will also begin retiring Nimitz-class aircraft carriers, beginning with USS Nimitz at the end of its 50-year service life in 2025. Following Nimitz, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower will be removed from service in 2027.

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