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Dreaming of the 313-Ship Navy Pt 1

September 28, 2009


The Navy will never reach the long-cherished goal of 313 ships unless it changes its shipbuilding priorities, to be blunt. Metaphorically speaking about procurement, it is still shopping at Tiffany’s while the world goes to Walmart. Despite all reality, however GovExec reveals how the Top admiral affirms commitment to 313-ship fleet:

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead said he expects the future fleet will have at least 313 ships, the number of ships in the service’s most recent plan.

“As an operator, the 313-ship fleet is what I see as the floor of what we need,” he told an audience at the National Press Club during a Government Executive leadership breakfast on Tuesday.

That’s the fantasy, here is the truth of the matter:

At 283 ships, the service has the smallest fleet since 1916. While the array of capabilities in the fleet is critical, so too is the number of platforms. A ship only can be in one place at one time, and with global responsibilities increasing, the Navy has been forced to deploy an ever-growing percentage of its ships at any given time to meet security requirements.

Under current budget projections, the Navy cannot build and maintain a 313-ship fleet without a substantial infusion of procurement funds or a dramatic reduction in shipbuilding costs. A recent paper by naval expert Ronald O’Rourke at the Congressional Research Service concluded the Navy would have to build more than 12 ships every year during the next 18 years at an estimated annual cost of $23 billion to $25 billion. Yet during the past 17 years, the Navy has built an average of 5.4 ships annually, and its annual shipbuilding budget is now about $11 billion.

Note the key points I have underlined. The reality is the money just isn’t there to buy everything the USN wants to build, what I call the 5 Battleships of supercarriers, Aegis cruisers,  Aegis destroyers, nuclear attack submarines, and large amphibious ships. The Navy might defend their need for such voluminous and individually powerful warships as each performing a specific and necessary function within the fleet. In argument, it should be noted that each also are constructed for the power projection role and often duplicates the other’s roles. There is very little difference in the role and armament of the Aegis cruisers and destroyers, and thanks to land attack cruise missiles, can do long-range surface aerial attack like the large deck carriers, as can the attack submarines so armed. In  wartime, the Marine helicopter carriers can forget their role as amphibious ships and carry 20+ Harrier jump jets in the close air support role like the larger flattops, as happened in both Gulf Wars. Also, the conventional dock landing ships are never used in the beach assault role as they are constructed, but as glorified troop and cargo transports, something our sealift vessels can do faster and at less cost.

The USN currently has enough supercarriers (10) Marine light carriers (10), and Aegis missiles ships (80) to last us for a few decades without replacement. The only warships currently under construction with any real purpose are the Virginia class submarines, to guard against China, Russia, and unexpected peer threats. As Vigilis at Molten Eagle reminds us “Our submarines are VITAL to national defense and intelligence gathering, these days. No combatant ship has a higher deployment rate than our subs.” Also some type of littoral combat ship to contend with the myriad smaller threats such as pirates and smugglers, and to replace the still essential but over-aged Perry class frigates. Yet, with the Virginia’s at over $2 billion each, and the LCS Freedom and Independence breaching $700 million, we think there can be and must be  low cost and effective alternatives which should be considered for future construction even for these.

We close with the following excellent commentary from a sometimes rival blog at Information Dissemination, while resiting the urge to say “I told you so”:

The Navy is reducing the total budget $31.7 billion over five years through 2015, an average of $6.34 billion annually, by deferring or canceling weapons programs by $7 billion and cutting the shipbuilding account by $18 billion (an annual average of $3.6 billion). In other words, when it came time to reduce the Navy budget, shipbuilding took over 55% of the cuts! The shipbuilding budget only makes up 10% of the entire Navy budget at around $13 billion annually, but takes more than half the total cut? WTF? With priorities like that, it is legitimate to ask whether the Navy is a sea service, or a government jobs program. Congressman, next time any Admiral says 313 ships under oath, keep in mind the Admiral is knowingly being dishonest to your face.

I rest my case (until tommorrow).

35 Comments leave one →
  1. October 8, 2014 10:22 am

    Hi friends, fastidious paragraph and nice arguments commented here, I am truly enjoying by these.

  2. Joe K. permalink
    September 29, 2009 2:54 pm

    Mike: But how much would it cost? And why scrap everything without recycling?

  3. Chuck Hill permalink
    September 29, 2009 2:33 pm

    In WWII, at Guadalcanal, 35,000 ton standard displacement battleships were LCS.

  4. Scott B. permalink
    September 29, 2009 2:27 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “not that of a Blue Water warship like our buddy Scott often proposes”

    1) What makes you think I am trying to propose a *Blue Water* pure-player as a low-end warship ?

    2) Likewise, why would a low-end warship need to be *some type* of littoral combat ship, as you suggested yesterday in this very thread (I haven’t seen any answer to this question so far) ?

  5. Scott B. permalink
    September 29, 2009 2:19 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “Chuck I believe I will stick with the 1500 tons, a little more, a little less.”

    At the risk of repeating what I said back in July 2009 :

    The Danish Navy have been operating 1,000-ton corvettes for about 30 years, with their Niels Juel class comprising 3 units, which displace 1,100 tons (standard) / 1,320 tons (fully loaded).

    Back in 1991, the Danes sent one of these corvettes in the Gulf, OLFERT FISCHER (F-355).

    This is how Dr. Friedman summarized this operational deployment during a recent conference on Naval Strategy in Sweden (emphasis added) :

    “Sustained operations involve, first of all, endurance. That means not only the paper endurance of a ship, which depends on her fuel load and her stores capacity, but also the endurance of her crew.

    For example, after the Royal Danish Navy participated in the 1991 Gulf War, it concluded that its ships were too small. The crews grew stale too quickly. Hence the much larger ships the Danes are now placing in service, which they associate with the new world of expeditionary operations.

    What are these larger ships the Danes are now placing in service : they are the Ivar Huitfeldt class frigate, a derivative of the ABSALON.

    Real-life example of a Navy that came to the conclusion that the solution was to THINK BIG, not small.

  6. Scott B. permalink
    September 29, 2009 2:04 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “For instance, I am convinced that Scott’s way, of plenty endurance, plenty weapons stock, plenty fuel, are what is wrong with modern warship design where you have vessels that are more floating cargo ships than warships.”

    At the risk of re-quoting Dr. Friedman’s 1999 paper entitled New Technology and Medium Navies :

    “One interesting question remains. Is there any point in buying smaller ships, say, of frigate displacement? They may not be much cheaper to run (wavemaking resistance falls with length, so the larger ship may not require much more power for cruising speed), they may not have significantly smaller crews, and they may actually be noisier (and worse sonar platforms). They may require less manpower, but creative approaches to ship operation and maintenance (as in DD 21) may well shrink that advantage dramatically. Their main advantage may be political: those buying the ships may imagine they are a better deal. They will be wrong. The larger ships are likely to be far more capable, not too much more expensive to run, and much easier both to fit out and to modernize.


    There is also a role for patrol craft. They are far less expensive, both to buy and to operate, than frigates or larger surface combatants. It is important to understand why. It is not that they are so small, but rather that they carry so little in the way of weaponry and command/control. Ship steel is cheap; it might well be argued that under many circumstances it would not be too much more expensive to build a larger patrol vessel with much the same armament and equipment on board. Such a vessel might be a much better sea-keeper, and that might make a substantial difference to her crew’s efficiency. It is certainly possible to envisage a fleet of patrol craft large enough so that they would be worth converting to frigates in an emergency.

    More quotes from Dr Friedman’s paper posted last week in this thread

  7. Mike Burleson permalink*
    September 29, 2009 1:14 pm

    Joe, I wanted to say something clever like “scrap the lot”, but that wouldn’t be exactly my idea. I think anything over 20 years old should go to the scrap heap like the Los Angeles class, the Perry’s, the Ticos, the Enterprise, the first 3 Nimitz’s. The older amphibs you could keep as motherships. Probably mothball some of the mostly new Burkes, but keep at least half in service for now. Keep all the Virginia’s and Seawolfs, eventually replacing them with a smaller nuke subs of about 3000 tons plus AIP subs. 5 newer Nimitz’s in service until they end their lifespan, mothball the rest, and cancel the Fords. You’d still have the world’s most powerful carrier arm, along with 10 Marine Carriers for at least 2 more decades, but I’ve a feeling we won’t need them as much as we think. Did I leave anything out?

  8. Chuck Hill permalink
    September 29, 2009 1:08 pm

    Maybe its time to do a little prototyping.

    Perhaps we should see what we can do with 2,000 tons and 4,000 tons.

    or perhaps we should try design to fixed price.

    Have a competition for a $250M ship and another for a $500M ship.

  9. Mike Burleson permalink*
    September 29, 2009 12:58 pm

    Chuck I believe I will stick with the 1500 tons, a little more, a little less. But get pass the 2000 and you eventually end up with something like the LCS. If you keep the tonnage down, then the designers can focus on weaponry, instead of being distracted by unnecessary add-ons that increase weight and cost.

    For instance, I am convinced that Scott’s way, of plenty endurance, plenty weapons stock, plenty fuel, are what is wrong with modern warship design where you have vessels that are more floating cargo ships than warships. And the Navy excuses it away that the ships can stay at sea longer without resupply. But again it all falls back to the LCS example, of a ship so heavily capable but no earthy good. It can’t fight anything its size and you can’t afford enough of them. Just look at the weaponry on those old Gearing DD’s from the world war and notice the difference. And the lessons we cling to today aren’t from war experience but peacetime sailing. Not very reliable.

    But placing a cap on tonnage and you go back to basics. Battle experience might see the ships rise to the 2500 tons you mentioned, but we have to start somewhere, and I think about 1500 tons max is safe enough.

  10. Joe K. permalink
    September 29, 2009 12:49 pm

    Mike: You missed part of my question.

    How do you expect to deal with the stocks of billion-dollar warships that no longer have use after you convert to the 400-ship Navy?

    Do you sell them to other countries, do you just mothball them and let them rust, do you spend the money to gut and strip each of them?


  11. Chuck Hill permalink
    September 29, 2009 11:09 am

    It’s just that now displacement is usually quoted as full load. WWII displacements that many people relate to are are “standard” which may be considerably less than full load, and light even less.

    Think if you used 1500 tons full load as your reference point, you would have less resistance, although I think the sweet spot is more like 2,500 tons.

    Note the River class OPVs are 1700 tons full load and they are slower than you would like on a Corvette, have minimal armament and no hanger for the helicopter.

  12. Mike Burleson permalink*
    September 29, 2009 8:19 am

    Chuck-certainly light, and I wouldn’t want the full load to be too much over the 1500 mark. Funny you should mention the Hunts since these inspired me as well. From the war experience it was found the 800 ton Flower corvette was adequate for a coastal patrol ships, but 1200 tons was better.

    A fast attack craft of less than 1000 tons isn’t going to do it, because as we learned in the Gulf Wars, such vessels are very vulnerable to countermeasures such as helicopters. So an adequate corvette must have a good AA and anti-surface armament. Around 1000 tons or more would also give it good seakeeping and durability, not that of a Blue Water warship like our buddy Scott often proposes, but remember the environment these craft will operate in and you’ll be fine.

    Another reason for the smaller size, is to keep costs low and numbers high. Overseas corvettes of the size and type I mentioned average from $100 million each to $300 million, so you can afford a whole squadron compared to what the USN pays for one of its destroyers. Many OPVs, which I liken to a low-end corvette and good enough for stopping smugglers and pirates, are priced at $50 million and sometimes less.

    The 1000 tons-light corvette is a back to basics approach that is the antidote for our stretched thin fleet, shipyards closing for lack of work, and the seemingly unstoppable rise in ships costs and weights.

  13. Scott B. permalink
    September 29, 2009 8:00 am

    Mike Burleson said : “Now they are used as glorified OPVs, which is why I insisted earlier that if built to the original design, of a spartan vessel of around 1000 tons, it would have been perfect for this role.”

    Do you remember the brief passage from DK Brown’s Future British Surface Fleet I quoted in the previous blog entry you’re referring to ?

    It’s the second paragraph in the section appropriately entitled ‘Unstable Designs’, page 69 (bold emphasis is mine) :

    “The original concept for the Duke class (Type 23 frigate) was for a small ship which could tow a sonar array and provide a landing deck for a helicopter, but with no hangar and virtually no armament, cost some £65 million.

    The ship envisaged was too expensive to be expensive to be expendable, and yet was unable to defend itself. The whole concept was therefore philosophically ‘unstable’, and had to shrink to a cost level at which its loss could be accepted, or grow to a cost of over £100 million in order to allow for some defensive armament.”

  14. Matt permalink
    September 28, 2009 9:14 pm

    Solomon – I really don’t think there’s any true operational requirement for 313 ships. It was likley a pure TLAR (That Looks About Right) based on an assumption that we’d be able to field 55 relatively inexpensive LCS by 2020 to build up our numbers.

    On a related note, I think there needs to be more Congressional hearings on how exactly LCS got as fouled up as it has. LCS is a textbook example of poorly definied requirements, lack of analysis, and gross mismanagement.

    The only reason I can imagine that it’s survived is that the last three CNO’s (all of whom coincidentally are ship-drivers) have thought that a 45-knot PT boat would be really sexy. Hopefully they’ll get a naval aviator in there soon to inject a little objectivity and common sense!

  15. Chuck Hill permalink
    September 28, 2009 8:42 pm


    I still have a problem with your “1000 ton” corvette. Is it possible we are talking about different kinds of displacement? Are you referring to light or standard displacement rather than full load? 1,000 tons full load is just too small to combine endurance, seakeeping, and reasonable speed in a conventional hull. When you start looking at something of WWII DE (or British Hunt class) size, with a speed of at least 24 knots, it starts to make sense, but even they were 1600-1800 tons full load and the best of the WWII escort vessels were a little larger.

  16. Mike Burleson permalink*
    September 28, 2009 6:36 pm

    Joe, for a 200-300 ship force in which your craft are priced in the millions instead of billions, I’d say there are lots of savings to be had. We could start with the $1/2 billion annual upkeep to keep one CVN in commission.

    Scott, the Duke is certainly something in between–not a Burke battleships but far from a corvette or OPV. The Duke, like the Perry frigates are of these “indispensable warships” the navies can’t seem to find replacements for, so they keep them around long past their prime and use them in roles not originally envisioned in their design. For instance, the Type 23 frigates were originally meant as ASW escorts to fight high-performance Soviet subs. Now they are used as glorified OPVs, which is why I insisted earlier that if built to the original design, of a spartan vessel of around 1000 tons, it would have been perfect for this role.

    Now recall also the USN probably did the correct thing in taking off the heavy armament of the remaining Perry’s, the Standard missile launcher, especially considering the low tech role the frigates would perform. But now they are basically over-sized corvettes like the Dukes. Read this description of how the Navy looks on these essential but aging warships. From Destroyer

    Today, still valued for their helicopter-delivered ASW capabilities, durability and seakeeping, with new-found margin for growth and no near-term prospect of being replaced, it appears these remaining Perrys will operate with the US Navy through the 2010s.

    ASW, durability, seakeeping? Note they didn’t mention Aegis ABM ability, or a long flight decks, or VLS systems, ect but just the basics which you might expect from a warship and the kind of operation our fighting fleets have been involved in of late.

    Forgive my long-windeness, but to answer your question Scott “New Cruiser”, as with all older frigates until we find something more economical.

  17. Anonymous permalink
    September 28, 2009 6:28 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “As we see ongoing in the Carib with Iron Duke, not every problem of seapower requires a hammer.”

    Over the last few years the WIGS deployment has been undertaken by RFA’s with small RN/RM party onboard. But that is due to the fact that we were short of frigates and destroyers not because their Lordships thought an escort was too much.

    As I have said before here the UK can’t afford simpler ships. They would become the fleet standard. Deployments like WIGS (or whatever they call it now) keep young sailors in the service and more importantly provide the ship with an extended training opportunity. They might not be stalking Russian SSNs trough GIUK but the crew are learning to work together, learning to fight their ship.

    I would like to see more thought given to fitting out future classes of escorts with additional weaponry (eg extra 30mm mounts) and decent ship boats to conduct these sort of ops. I could even see perhaps some advantage to ferrying out two or three vessels similar to the Australian Armidale boats to work in concert.

    OPVs are meant for patrolling your own waters. Scattering them around the globe may actually harm security. They could be easy targets. And then you would have to send the heavy units. I am proponent of the hull in the water, of presence. But you have to ask if yourself what war or how much the US the world would be with the simple ships lurking off every coast. If there is a need for specialised shipping to tackle piracy perhaps the situation has got that bad that heavy units are needed.

    Lastly amphibs have to be big. To do anything useful ashore you need a battalion at least. That means a lot of kit even for light infantry.

    Thanks for providing food thought. This is a super web site.

  18. Joe K. permalink
    September 28, 2009 5:41 pm

    “I would see us fall to 100 battleforce capable ships, meaning large carriers, Aegis ships, nuclear attack submarines, and large amphibs. I think this is safe given the enormous ability of individual battleships and lack of almost any peer threat. Savings here should go in toward 200-400 small littoral vessels, motherships, conventional submarines, HSV catamarans, whatever we can buy to decrease the presence deficit the Navy admits it is suffering from, probably has for decades, plus easing the deployments of US sailors.”

    You do realize that in order for you to actually attain this type of Navy you have to spend money both to buy and build the types of vessels you stated and then spend the money to decommission, mothball, or gut existing warships, right? Where’s that money going to come from?

  19. Scott B. permalink
    September 28, 2009 5:27 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “As we see ongoing in the Carib with Iron Duke, not every problem of seapower requires a hammer.”

    Which begs an important question : where do frigates fit in your revised categories ?

    IOW, is HMS Iron Duke (F234) a *battleship* or a *cruiser* ?

  20. Heretic permalink
    September 28, 2009 5:27 pm

    If you’re dealing with short range, defensive, deployments you need to have 3 vessels to maintain a constant presence (on-station, replenishing, training). When dealing with long range, forward posture, deployments you wind up needing 4 vessels to maintain a constant presence (on-station, in transit, replenishing, training). Yes, this is “back of the napkin” analysis for peacetime rotations, but it basically gives you a 4-3 posture as far as “how many do we need” when dealing with local vs global operations and crew rotations.

    Mike, our friend, David Axe, once had a pair of really fun posts about Build Your Own Air Force and Build Your Own Navy. They were really good “so you think you can program the future” kinds of exercises for trying to decide how to allocate our defense dollars (not to mention revealing delusions of infinite resources). I asked David (by email) earlier this year to do a rerun of the Build Your Own challenges, once we got some defense budget numbers for this year … but sadly he’s never gotten back around to doing it. Think you can dig up “ballpark” prices for various ship classes so we can all run some “napkin math” on what kind of USN we can come up with, simply by reallocating defense dollars in different ways … and “building” different fleets?

  21. September 28, 2009 5:16 pm

    Stars and Stripes is reporting that the Japanese want US Fighter planes off the Island…wants to stop refueling our ships and wants to reexamine the nuclear prohibition as it relates to US Ships operating in its waters. Littoral warfare might have to take a back seat to blue water operations if we lose those bases and have to deploy from Guam.

  22. Scott B. permalink
    September 28, 2009 5:14 pm

    Here is how the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency defines the littoral zone :

    “The littoral zone is defined as the Coastal sea areas and that portion of the land which is susceptible to influence or support from the sea. The extent of littoral zone can vary widely depending on the customer, but generally it extends from the shoreline to the 200 meter depth contour out into the water and from the shoreline inland to the first major line of communication. Other, broader definitions of the littoral zone would have the zone extend from 25 nautical miles seaward to 25 nautical miles inland.

    The littoral Zone is divided into three parts; the nearshore, foreshore and backshore zones. The nearshore is the region between the low water line (sounding datum) and the offshore region; the foreshore is the region from the low water line to the high water line; and the backshore is the region of the littoral zone beyond the high water line.”

    I’ll ask the question again : what’s the need for a littoral combat ship ?

  23. Scott B. permalink
    September 28, 2009 5:12 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “Also some type of littoral combat ship to contend with the myriad smaller threats such as pirates and smugglers, and to replace the still essential but over-aged Perry class frigates.”

    Why does it have to be *some type* of littoral combat ship ?

  24. Byron permalink
    September 28, 2009 5:10 pm

    Mike, the Cole had a hole blown in her because of bad intelligence and a crappy ROE. Royal Oak because the British were criminally negligent in their over-confidence, and the U-boat wasn’t told that they couldn’t get in. Three years later, did the same stunt work at Pearl Harbor?

    This thing about SSKs? Do you have any clue how short leggeg(on battery)and how short of air those things are? Even the AIPs can only stay down so long. If I was a country like Indonesia, I’d buy a bunch of AIPs, because of the geographical constraints to potential adversaries, and my supply lines would also be short. SSKs for a nation that has to drive a sub 3,000 miles to get in-theater? Please. No SSK will ever match the capabilities of the SSN. Not evah.

  25. Mike Burleson permalink*
    September 28, 2009 3:35 pm

    Solomon, I recall the battleship HMS Royal Oak attacked in harbor in 1939, sunk by torpedoes from a shallow water submarine with the loss of 800 hands. More recently was the USS Cole, hit by a suicide boat with 16 dead and out of commission for a year. So, the battleships aren’t immune to sinking, no vessel is. In wartime there are loses, and very often the larger the ship the bigger the target.

    Shallow water craft for the shallow waters, Blue Water ships for the deep ocean. It’s a formula that has worked throughout history of war at sea. The Navy might think it is economizing for making “swiss army knife” ships, apparently able to handle Blue and Green water functions, but instead it is setting itself up for a fall.

  26. September 28, 2009 1:00 pm

    How intimidated would you feel on a small ship with a 25mm gun as its most powerful weapon if insurgent warfare hit the water? Surface and below water mines, boat borne improvised explosive devices, suicide swimmers…the list goes on. I don’t think its a matter of battle ships not operating in littoral waters I think the real question is “Why does the Navy feel a need to get in that close?” If sorting civilian aircraft from attacking ones is going to be difficult imagine what happens when identifying naval vessels in some of the waters in Asia? Its going to be a bloody mess. I think the littorals are a nail that requires a hammer.

  27. Mike Burleson permalink*
    September 28, 2009 12:52 pm

    “The idea is not to have SSN go into these shallow water zones”

    I still see a need for battle force ships, but as Distiller points out here, they don’t need to be in such waters teaming with numerous threats, including some old ones like naval mines. i would see us use a “lighter footprint” as we have on land, so at sea. Forward deploy your small ships, back them with auxiliary warships and SSK’s. Your battleships would be back in port, training, refitting, only called out for the worse crisis or during time of war. This is much more economical, less a strain on ships and sailors, and less intimidating. As the saying goes, “if the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”.

    As we see ongoing in the Carib with Iron Duke, not every problem of seapower requires a hammer.

  28. Distiller permalink
    September 28, 2009 10:53 am


    the number of SSKs assumes three patrols with four/five boats each, permanently stationed in the WestPac (cutting lengthy transfers) to patrol the shallow water zones of the East China Sea (4), South China Sea incl Gulf of Thailand (5) and the Andman Sea – Strait of Mallaca – Java Sea (5). The 15th boat is for training. That number is already low, but takes into account that the Sundas and the developing Chinese SLOC thru the Indian Ocean are better covered by SSN, and that Japan, Korea and Singapore have substantial SSK capabilities of their own. The idea is not to have SSN go into these shallow water zones in the 90 minute flight range of the Chinese aerial forces (esp the South China Sea).

    Another ops area of interest could be the Persian Gulf, but the Iranian naval capability wouldn’t justify an own boat, as the job could be done airborne and by UxV.

    The 48 frigates are a not an exact number, but result what is needed to cover the six or seven usual patrol areas (Indian Ocean and littorals, African Eastcoast, the Med and littorals, the openening up Arctic Ocean, the WestPac incl the Sundas) with six (+/-) ships each, plus have a certain number of ships as escorts for amphib and CS/CSS ships when they enter a theatre with some threat potential. And also a few for training and as reserve.

  29. September 28, 2009 10:49 am

    It does make one wonder about the presence deficit that was talked about awhile ago. Is showing the flag via a nations warships as important today as it was in years past? If it is and soft diplomacy is actually considered a form of war now, then a 3-400 ship Navy makes sense…both militarily and diplomatically. If not and the Navy is purely an instrument of war (I don’t believe that..just sayin) then it could be argued that a much smaller fleet is adequate. I just don’t know. I’ll leave that to you and the other big brains. I must say that even if you only account for all the disaster relief missions that the Navy’s undertaken in the past couple of years you can make the case for the bigger fleet but again I’ll leave that for you and other theorist to hammer out.

  30. Mike Burleson permalink*
    September 28, 2009 10:11 am

    Solomon is making a very good point. How many ships do we need, and are we factoring in every problem including how much money we have to spend for new ships, which is the main point of today’s post? Some argue that the British Royal Navy in the Falklands could have been better if it had large deck aircraft carriers and better armed and armored escorts, but I would contend it had the best fleet available for the amount of money it had to spend, almost a perfect balance of naval air, surface, submarine and amphibious ships. Again not perfect in every single function as the USN tries to be, having a drastically shrinking fleet for its troubles, but a good balance of all capabilities.

    Don’t try to tie me down to exact numbers either, but I would see us fall to 100 battleforce capable ships, meaning large carriers, Aegis ships, nuclear attack submarines, and large amphibs. I think this is safe given the enormous ability of individual battleships and lack of almost any peer threat. Savings here should go in toward 200-400 small littoral vessels, motherships, conventional submarines, HSV catamarans, whatever we can buy to decrease the presence deficit the Navy admits it is suffering from, probably has for decades, plus easing the deployments of US sailors.

    The 400 number comes from recent Navy statements saying they need 400 ships to adequately patrol the Gulf of Aden from pirates. I think this is an inflated number and that less than 200 plus naval air from UAVs, P-3s, ect would enhance our presence plus give you 100-200 other craft for worldwide patrolling. In wartime plentiful small craft is essential because of attrition.

    Thats the best I can do Solomon. Hardly scientific I know, but I think it is a much more cost-effective and balanced fleet than the 313 the Navy proposes, with even their modest number being unrealistic considering their obsession with buying only large warships and the money they have to spend.

  31. September 28, 2009 9:49 am

    Distiller…but where did you get the number for SSK subs? How did you arrive at 48 frigates/patrol ships? Are your numbers based on patrol patterns, presence activity or wartime necessity? That’s my whole point here. How are we coming up with these numbers!

  32. September 28, 2009 8:59 am

    Thanks Mike. That’s the question we need to answer first then. Before a fight begins for the 313 ship navy, the justification for it needs to be established. I can make a case for 12 carriers…but a skeptic can make a case for 8. Lastly I might ask does the 300 ship Navy still make sense if we’re going to change our metrics concerning war planning. If 2 regional wars is out the window then A WHOLE lot of adjustments need to be made. The enlarged Army and Marine Corps goes out the window. Carrier Air wings get chopped…you get the idea.

  33. Distiller permalink
    September 28, 2009 8:57 am

    Lots of options to come close to the “300” number:

    1000 strategic warheads, based e.g. on 21 SSBN a 12 SLBM a 4 MaRV, with 1 SSN for wide-area escort each

    18 SSN for the hunter-killer job

    15 SSK for shallow waters

    12+1 Battle Groups with 1 CVN, 4 Surface Escorts, 2 SSN each

    12+1 Amphib Assault Groups with 1 LHD, 2 LPD, 2 NFS ships each

    48 Medium Patrol & Escort Frigates

    = 279

    PLUS about 300 larger CS/CSS, Littoral & Riverine, Army Watercraft, SOCOM, Coast Guard vessels, strategic sensor platforms, that are usually not talked about, but should be included in any force level debate.

    Money is not the problem. It’s political indifference and incompetence that leaves the Forces directionless and open to institutional masturbation.

  34. Mike Burleson permalink*
    September 28, 2009 8:22 am

    Very good question Solomon. I do recall it started a 375 ships earlier this decade, then started shrinking. There were similar thoughts about the 600 ship navy of the 1980s, wondering how the service got to this particular figure.

  35. September 28, 2009 7:00 am

    This whole discussion is becoming curious to me. Where exactly did the precise figure of 313 ships come from? What capabilities do we gain by having 313 ships vs 250? How do you decide what the force mix of ships should be? I understand how the Gator Navy is to be configured because it has metrics behind it to support a certain number. What are the metrics that give us a need for 12 carriers? 100 subs? If anyone can answer that for me, I’d appreciate it.

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