Fact Vs. Fantasy Navy Shipbuilding
First the Fantasy, from Loren B. Thompson of the Lexington Institute, appearing before the House Armed Services Committee on January 20:
…Many of you have no doubt heard the hottest shipbuilding rumor spawned by the QDR process — that the number of
aircraft carriers will be cut from eleven to ten, or even nine. It is true that we are headed down to ten in 2013 because of the time-gap between when Enterprise retires and the first Ford-class carrier joins the fleet, but that is a temporary situation.
Although the Navy could meet current warfighting requirements with one or two less carriers, a permanent cut wouldn’t be prudent for two reasons…
— First, warfighting needs are likely to change in the future.
— Second, wartime attrition is likely to occur in the future.
So it makes little sense to cut the number of carriers to the absolute minimum currently required, and the Navy’s 2011 shipbuilding plan will call for maintaining eleven flattops through 2040.
Here are the facts, from Eric Labs, before the same committee, detailing The Long-Term Outlook for the U.S. Navy’s Fleet:
If the Navy receives the same amount of money for ship construction in the next 30 years that it has over the past three decades—an average of about $15 billion per year in 2009 dollars—it will not be able to execute its fiscal year 2009 plan to increase the fleet from 287 battle force ships to 313.1 As a result, the draft 2011 shipbuilding plan drastically reduces the number of ships the Navy would purchase over 30 years, leading to a much smaller fleet than either the one in the 2009 plan or today’s fleet.
The draft 2011 shipbuilding plan increases the Navy’s stated requirement for its fleet from 313 ships to 324, but the production schedule in the plan would buy only 222 ships, too few to meet the requirement.
I encourage readers to continue to pay close attention to the Navy Budget over the next few years, not the fantasy wishlist of the Admirals and their supporters in Washington. Mr Labs goes on to reveal ” carrying out the Navy’s 2009 plan to build and sustain a 313-ship fleet would cost far more than that: a total of about $800 billion (in 2009 dollars) over 30 years—or an average of almost $27 billion a year“.
In the extreme unlikelihood the Navy will even get the $27 billion to create the 313 ship Navy, it will still be a fleet of technically flawed vessels, that are overly engineered, stretched thin, with crews suffering almost constant deployments because of ongoing global challenges. Because of its small size, it will be one easily rattled by the most minor of threats, since there is little to no investment in small warships suitable for sea control, or defending large warships in shallow waters.