The Navy After Next Pt 1
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!