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The Navy After Next Pt 1

September 21, 2009

Borrowing an idea from David Axe, who recently wrote about The Air Force After Next, we present our thoughts on what the The Navy after the next Navy might look like as far as ship composition. First we give you a preview of how the Current Navy is composed, which with 286 deployable vessels is the smallest it’s been in a century:

  • 11 Nuclear aircraft carriers (CVN)-shrinking in number and aging. Quality of aircraft and size of airwing has declined since the Cold War, range is much less, risking the carriers to inshore threats, ASW defenses declined greatly in the same period. Lack of a peer threat and precision guided munitions have given them at least a temporary lease on life.
  • 80+ cruisers/destroyers all Aegis and missile firing of little difference in size and capability. Cruiser force aging with no replacement in sight. Probably displaced by Arleigh Burke destroyers, the most important class of surface warships since the Essex aircraft carriers of WW 2.
  • 55 nuclear attack submarines. Extremely powerful in itself, though the bulk still made up of 45 Los Angeles’ design from the 1970s. Virginia class in slow production expected to speed up to 2 annually. Also 4 converted SSBN to SSGN in the arsenal role with 150 Tomahawk cruise missiles.
  • 14 Ohio class Ballistic Missile Submarines from the 1980s. Aging, no replacement decided upon.
  • 30 amphibious ships including 10 powerful helicopter carriers which also carry V/STOL strike jets. The Gator Navy is mostly modern, but like the fleet itself, as small as its ever been.

For Tomorrow’s Navy, we leap ahead to a time period ranging from about 2015-2030, when the first advanced ships will come into service in numbers, and likely when these classes will start to play out. First is the Navy’s version, (not including older vessels likely still in commission) then my own:

  • 10 Ford class aircraft carriers (built, building or planned)
  • 3 Zumwalt class super-destroyers
  • 4 America class assault carriers
  • 10 San Antonio class landing ships
  • 30 Virginia class attack submarines
  • 55 Freedom class littoral combat ships
  • 19 (?) CGX cruisers
  • Further orders of an advanced Burke destroyer (?)

Considering the Navy shipbuilding budget only at $13 billion annually, and with each of the above vessels save for the LCS easily surpassing the billion dollar mark many times over, not surprisingly experts have derided this plan as “fantasy“. In the unlikelihood this modest fleet is constructed, it is still one heavily geared toward conventional conflict and expeditionary warfare, stretched thin and of little relevance in conducting COIN warfare at sea, or big enough to protect the sea-lanes in a global conflict. In contrast, here is my more affordable, and I think more relevant fleet for modern threats:

  • CVN Carrier strength would be halved. Marine assault carriers converted to attack role. 15 ships.
  • The Ticonderoga class cruisers would be retired without replacement, as would early model Burke’s. CGX canceled.
  • Virginia production would continue, joined by a new class of small AIP submarines to replace Los Angeles class. Number increases to 90-100.
  • LCS would be canceled to be replaced by 200 corvette/OPV vessels from 1000-1500 tons each. From off-the shelf designs already in production.
  • Entire large ship amphibious force to be replace by high speed catamarans, sea lift vessels, auxiliary warships. San Antonio’s canceled. Older amphibs would shift to mothership duties for new Influence Squadrons or sold to friendly powers.
  • COIN/Sea Control force would outnumber Blue Water force at least 3-1, and would grow to 400-500 ships rather than shrink, as likely under the Navy’s plan.
  • Aircraft carriers would no longer be forward deployed, but their place taken by TLAM firing ships, as well as new Influence Squadrons, the latter which emphasizes littoral warfare such as guarding against smugglers, pirates, and the occasional rogue dictator.
  • The wartime role of the Influence Squadron would be the escorting of convoys nears to shore, guarding ports, clearing mines, acting as picket vessels for larger warships against suicide boats, ect.
  • The Big Ships would stay near-to-home in peacetime, training and refitting, to be brought out only during war and extreme crisis.

Tomorrow-What the US Navy will look like in 2050.

Within the comments, feel free to add your own Navy After Next. In fact I encourage it!

13 Comments leave one →
  1. Brian permalink
    October 8, 2009 2:10 am

    (5) Ford Class aircraft carriers
    (5) main battle ships
    nuclear resistant
    latest composite armor
    16 16 inch guns
    new lines of 16 inch shells, assisted, and sabot
    similar to zumwalt gun but BIG
    guided, assisted 16 inch AA shells
    able to defend itself in a forign port
    small flight deck that can launch small
    observation/ radar target planes, UAVs
    (50) zumwalt destroyers
    (50) attack subs
    (50) B747s
    carry 75 cruise missles each
    reserve force based in US
    (200) corvettes

  2. John Tuttle permalink
    September 22, 2009 5:03 pm

    I would simply not build the Gerald Fords. The Nimitz would be phased out be cheaper carriers that displace about 30,000 tons and due to their cost they could be bought in bigger numbers. These would be most similar to an enlarged Cavour class that is being introduced to the Italian navy. However, most of the naval air fleet would be focused on ships similar to the Spanish Juan Carlos, since modern naval air power is most effective in supporting ground troops and ships like the Juan Carlos are designed to deploy ground troops. Large cruisers like the Ticonderoga would not be replaced, instead destroyers would replace their role. Corvettes would make up the rest of the surface fleet and would be suited for a wide range of missions, from air defense to Harpoon missile carriers. These would also replace most destroyers and frigates. Finally, I would keep nuclear submarines only for SSBNs and replace majority of the SSNs with aip-submarines like the Type 212 U-boat.

  3. Anonymous permalink
    September 22, 2009 2:17 pm

    “Anonymous said : “And why aren’t US destroyers fitted with nets to stop unfriendlys getting close.”

    Thank you I hadn’t thought of that!!!

  4. Scott B. permalink
    September 22, 2009 11:52 am

    Anonymous said : “And why aren’t US destroyers fitted with nets to stop unfriendlys getting close.”

    Check this.

  5. Scott B. permalink
    September 22, 2009 7:27 am

    Mike Burleson said : “You don’t need high endurance to patrol littoral waters. Thats what made the LCS into a gold-plate frigate,”

    High endurance is certainly not what made the LCS a gold-plated (war)ship. As a matter of fact, one of the existing designs, LockMart’s LCS-1, doesn’t even meet the threshold requirement in terms of range.

  6. Scott B. permalink
    September 22, 2009 7:25 am

    Mike Burleson said : “some of which like the Israeli Sa’ar are as capable as larger missile frigates.”

    The Sa’ar 5 are nowhere near as capable as a frigate.

    The Sa’ar 5 are probably the most overrated (war)ships on the internet (at least until INS Hanit got hit off Lebanon).

  7. Anonymous permalink
    September 22, 2009 6:33 am

    “You don’t need high endurance to patrol littoral waters. ”

    Yes but they are not you waters your influence ships will be patrolling.

    OPVs are at the beginning of the naval spectrum. They are the point where civil power ends and military power begins. The next step down here in the UK HM customs cutters and police launches and civil fisheries protection vessels (as they have in (around?) Scotland. The waters you want to patrol belong to other some state or worse are disputed. I wouldn’t want to patrol off Somalia in a River Class she would be as vulnerable perhaps more vulnerable than a frigate sized vessel. Though as I have said here before twice the tonnage doesn’t mean twice the length.

    A couple of things to think about,
    1) You need a helicopter or two.
    2) You need a large gun to influence those a shore and in other vessels. (Though perhaps a shore after very short while that influence will where off.)
    3) You need to be self-deploying to cut down costs. As I have said before you don’t mean small you mean less complicated (with which I agree.)
    4) A larger hull allows you to carry better ship’s boats.
    5) A larger hull will allow you to mount more smaller weapons (everything from .5 up to 57mm) to deter against swarm tactics (this arcs back to late 19th century battleship vs torpedo boat.) (And why aren’t US destroyers fitted with nets to stop unfriendlys getting close.)
    6) Larger hull is a better sensor platform.

    You can play about with hypothetical arrangements for hours. I have been wondering about merchant type hulls with 57mm’s fitted en echelon at the 2 deck level.

    The River Class are nice ships. What I like is their bridges are huge (mainly because they double to some extent for ops) and then you visit a Type 22 and the bridges are like a spare bedroom

    Keep up the good work.

  8. Mike Burleson permalink*
    September 21, 2009 7:30 pm

    You don’t need high endurance to patrol littoral waters. Thats what made the LCS into a gold-plate frigate, easily swarmed by much smaller craft. OPVs are also good sea-keepers, and the RN uses them in the stormy North and South Atlantic.

    I also included corvettes on the list, some of which like the Israeli Sa’ar are as capable as larger missile frigates.

  9. Anonymous permalink
    September 21, 2009 3:35 pm

    Don’t you think 200 OPV is too much?

    What about 48 modern ships similar to the Hamilton Class? High endurance, nice big gun etc. etc.

    OPV are all about patrolling your own waters.

  10. Mike Burleson permalink*
    September 21, 2009 12:58 pm

    Campbell-The end of the seapower age? It could be the land powers might dominate the sea with missiles, as pondered recently by the Naval War College article. It seems very practical and not unthinkable.

    Check out tomorrow for my 2050 predictions where I discuss this subject more. If we have a real war at sea anytime soon, everything here will likely occur much sooner!

    Undergrad-The Burkes seem a logical future CG, at least affordable for the Navy, but I have read about a nuclear powered CG on a San Antonio hull. Can anyone doubt this will price at $10 billion each?

  11. Mark permalink
    September 21, 2009 10:20 am

    So according to the Navy what new ships should we see by 2050?
    Ford Class carrier
    America Class

    At some point they plan sub replacements, right?

    I like seeing new ship classes, so I’m curious how many more I’ll see in my lifetime. I know things will change in 40 years, but what else is on the official plan?

  12. UndergradProgressive permalink
    September 21, 2009 9:51 am

    Depending how serious they are about the CG(X), maybe a larger Burke derivative will become our Ticonderoga replacement.

  13. September 21, 2009 8:56 am

    ok Mike, I’ll bite; with a somewhat less optimistic take:

    We LOSE 20% of all classes of surface/subsurface vessels due to attrition against a near-peer competitor by 2030……..

    We are forced to reserve another 20% for close in defense of U.S. coasts instead of “projection”.

    Our shipbuilding capacity is reduced by 20% via economic/resource troubles.

    In any event, fuel costs 300% of current prices.

    Now what?

    (‘n hey……think we aughta have at least SOME Naval airships up by then….say, five good sized ships tasked to BMD with Airborne Laser maybe….)

    just sayin.

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