Benefits from Halving the Carrier Fleet
We mentioned before of a proposal to reduce the number of large deck aircraft carriers in commission to ease the increasingly unbearable costs of such giant ships on our stretched-thin and shrinking Navy. With next year’s QDR it looks like we may end up with a 9 carrier fleet. For perspective, Lee Wahler sends this from Tim Colton on the mind-numbing price of keeping a single vessel in service:
The Navy has awarded a contract to NGSB Newport News for the Refueling Complex Overhaul, (RCOH), of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, (CVN 71). The contract is Cost Plus Incentive Fee, with a value of $2,429,828,879 and completion scheduled for February 2013. Read the DefenseLink announcement here. If you’re thinking “Is that all?”, remember that this project has already been funded by $65,292,403 on 16-Nov-06, $190,704,758 on 24-Oct-07 and $300,705,466 on 27-Oct-08, for a grand total of about $2,986 million. And in case you were wondering, the comparable number for the last RCOH of a CVN was $2,437 million, so the new project is only costing 22% more than the last time. That seems reasonable, doesn’t it? No? Oh and, by the way, the Theodore Roosevelt, which was delivered in 1986, only cost $1.2 billion in the first place: in today’s money, that’s just over $3 billion.
So every 20 years or so you pay for a second ship without getting one. At the cost of a 20-22 carrier Navy you only get 10-11 vessels, and a third of these are in drydock or overhaul most of the time. Nice. And lets not forget annual operating costs of $400 million, which means in the 40 year lifespan of a single carrier you could have purchased 50-60 new corvettes. So, with the immediate decommissioning of 5 supercarriers, recall this still leaves us with at least 5-6, the Navy saves $2 billion annually, enough for a Burke destroyer or Virginia class sub alone (though we could think of better uses). There is also much more gained such as:
- At least 25 warships released from escort duties, greatly easing our Navy’s “presence deficit“.
- Up to 300 warplanes which could be divided among the remaining carriers, ending any worry over a “fighter gap“.
- 25,000 crewmen and women would be available for duties elsewhere.
So with a single bold decision to reduce the number of budget draining, escort dependent flattops, you gain much more than you lose, especially considering the power of modern weapons from cruise missiles, Harrier jump jets, and UAVs, potentially every warship can become an aircraft carrier.