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Does US Navy need 400 ships?

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  • Does US Navy need 400 ships?

    Moveover, 355-ship Navy: New report calls for an even larger fleet

    by David B. Larter
    26 October 2018
    Defense News

    The U.S. is woefully short of ships and even the Navy’s target goal of 355 ships is well short of what the country needs to prepare for two simultaneous major conflicts and maintain its rotational presence requirements with excess capacity for surge operations and combat casualties.

    That is the major finding of a new study from the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, an organization prominent in the Trump era because of its knack for influencing administration policy.

    The study calls for a force of 400 ships, 40 percent larger than today’s force, and an increase of about 12 percent over the Navy’s current 30-year shipbuilding plan. The plan would require another $4 to $6 billion annually in the shipbuilding budget to get to 400 ships by 2039, the study estimates.

    The study, conducted and written by Thomas Callender, a retired submarine officer and analyst at Heritage, acknowledges the difficulty of achieving a 400-ship fleet under budget constraints and with a limited industrial capacity in the U.S. But, Callender said, the study was based solely on current demands on the fleet, as well as the National Security Strategy and what Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has laid out in the National Defense Strategy.

    “My analysis was strictly based on requirements to fight and win two major regional conflicts as well as some additional stated requirements for certain ship classes,” Callender said. “I acknowledge that this will mean a significant increase in the Navy’s shipbuilding budget – about $4-6 billion above the Navy’s long-range shipbuilding plan.”

    The study calls for several big increases over the Navy’s current 30-year shipbuilding plan, including a 13th aircraft carrier, 19 new small surface combatants, seven new amphibious ships and a full 22 more combat logistics ships.

    The plan calls for only minor adjustments to the large surface combatant and attack submarine numbers.

    The big jump in small surface combatants is aimed at having enough ships to support a 13-carrier Navy, support 12 littoral combat ships configured as mine hunters, and have excess capacity to escort logistics ships.

    The increase of 22 combat logistics ships is driven by Navy concepts of operations that are moving to an increasingly distributed force that will require support for smaller elements of Navy ships such as far-flung surface action groups, for example.

    “While a 400-ship Navy is expensive to build, the nation needs a larger and more capable Navy to deter our adversaries and prevent war,” Callender said. “If our Navy is too small to deter great power adversaries such as China or Russia in the future, the cost for fight and hopefully win that war will greater exceed the monetary cost to build a 400-ship navy.

    “Additionally, the nation will see the loss of ships and sailors in numbers we have not seen since World War II. It is my hope that we find the national will to fund the 400-ship navy the nation needs and deter a great power conflict.”

    Neither Congress nor the Pentagon have a path to a 355-ship Navy

    by David B. Larter
    23 October 2017
    Defense News

    WASHINGTON — The great Navy buildup promised by U.S. President Donald Trump during his campaign is so far all talk and no action, and with progress on Capitol Hill stalled on almost all fronts, the Defense Department seems more likely to eat another round of sequester cuts than cut steel for a bunch of extra ships.

    The defense appropriations bill — the means by which Congress sends money to the military — is stalled in the Senate, and experts say it’s likely to stay there until there is progress on a deal that would address the spending caps imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act. And the dysfunction will almost certainly stymie any effort by the U.S. Navy to expand its fleet until Congress finds a way to resolve its internal conflicts or Defense Secretary Jim Mattis decides to strip funding from the other services to pay for a larger fleet.

    But if navalists and shipbuilders are waiting for that, it may be a long wait. Mattis has told Congress that he thinks the fleet needs to grow but that he isn’t going to rob the other services to do it. Any substantial increase in the size of the fleet is contingent on 3 to 5 percent annual budget growth, which would be impossible under the current Budget Control Act.

    On Capitol Hill, the prospect for some kind of “grand bargain,” one that would lift the spending caps and give the Defense Department the growth its looking for, is bleak, said Todd Harrison, a budget analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

    “I wouldn’t hold your breath for a grand deal,” Harrison said. “What usually comes is a kind of mini deal,” meaning an agreement that raises caps by a modest margin for a set period of time.

    Shy of a deal that raises the caps — similar to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 that locked in budget levels in 2016 and 2017 above the caps — the Navy and the rest of the DoD will either operate for the year under continuing resolutions that lock in 2017-level spending or will endure an across-the-board cut, evenly slashing spending on every program the Navy owns to meet the caps.

    That means that increased spending planned for programs such as the Ohio-replacement program — the new sea-based nuclear missile boats to replace those that are coming to the end of their life cycle — would start to face cuts. At the very least, the planned spending increases for the Ohio replacement would be smaller than budgeted for, which would kick the can down the road and force the Navy to draw from other programs under a more stable budget later, almost certainly cutting into money that could be used to grow the fleet.

    Navy leaders have consistently said the Ohio replacement is the No. 1 budgetary priority for the service, but the boats cost anywhere from $5 billion to $6 billion a pop, depending on how you slice it. That’s a big cut from the Navy’s roughly $16 billion annual shipbuilding budget, according to a Congressional Budget Office rolling average.

    On the plus side, however, the cuts won’t be as harsh as the 2013 budget sequestration that forced the Navy to cancel deployments and furlough shipyard workers to sneak in under its caps, said Bryan Clark, a former aide to then-Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert and an analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

    The sequestration caps increase every year under the Budget Control Act, so if whatever appropriations come out of Congress bust the caps, which they almost certainly will, the cuts will be less than the Navy planned for but probably more than a full-year continuing resolution, Clarke said.

    “Relative to a full-year continuing resolution, the budget is going to go up,” he said. “It will be less than they planned for, though, so programs that were expecting a big plus-up will need a reevaluation. Programs that weren’t changing won’t be as affected.”

    Under the current continuing resolution hashed out between Trump and the Democrats, the money runs out Dec. 8, meaning Congress needs to: reach a deal that raises the caps; extend the continuing resolution, forcing a tough budget vote in the middle of an election year; or shut down the government until lawmakers manage to do one of the first two options.

    A bigger fleet? Yeah, but …

    Aside from the congressional hurdles that must be overcome, Trump’s naval buildup aspirations must overcome a seeming lack of coherent vision of what a bigger Navy means or how it’s going to be paid for.

    In June, when asked where he sees the Navy’s fleet in 2025, Mattis said in a House Armed Services Committee hearing that it depends on whether the Budget Control Act would be repealed, adding that he is prioritizing fixing the existing fleet.

    “I would think it’s going to take a budget that’s probably up around 5 percent growth — real growth — in order to get towards where we want to go. Three percent growth will not suffice, I’ll tell you that. It’s going to be up over 5 percent.”

    Navy leaders have even seemed to put the brakes on their own stated goal of a 355-ship fleet. The new secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer, agrees the Navy needs to aim for 355 ships, but wants to understand what kind of ships and technologies the Navy will need in the future before putting lots of money toward the move.

    During his confirmation hearing, Spencer appeared to walk back the Navy’s goal of 355 ships, but later clarified he was first trying to understand how the fleet should look.

    “I totally agree, we need to grow the fleet for a bunch of reasons — presence, posture and delivery of force,” Spencer said in a Sept. 9 speech at the Navy Memorial. “But I can’t tell you I know what a ship looks like 15 years out.

    “So I wanted to make sure everyone understands where I was coming from. I wasn’t hedging a bet. We really do have to understand technology and get our hands around it when we start looking out forward.”

    The Navy’s top officer has also been focusing more on technology rather than the actual number of hulls, the kind of capability-over-capacity argument espoused by former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter that rankled former Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, who jealously guarded shipbuilding accounts.

    Richardson has spoken of increasing networking within the fleet to spread out the Navy’s sensors and information sharing to cover a larger swathe of the ocean without adding lots of traditional ships.

    In August, Richardson said that counting highly capable unmanned ships among the fleet would be a way to get closer to the 355-ship Navy, up from its current 278 ships, and said the Navy of the future would have to look different, according to The Associated Press.

    “I can guarantee that it’s not going to be building more of the same thing we have right now,” he said. “Because that will not be the Navy that the nation needs to secure itself and promote its prosperity.”

  • #2
    Navy of the Future: The Revolution & Evolution of Surface Combatants

    by Edward Lundquist
    26 October 2018
    Marine Link

    Following the drawdown at the end of the Cold War, the Navy finds itself trying to build up again. The expansion of Russian and Chinese naval power has changed the calculus.

    While there will always be a debate about the final number of ships to build, we can all agree on one thing: the Navy must get bigger and the demand signal is to start building now,” said Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson, in testimony before Congress regarding the sea service’s 2019 budget request. “The Navy (needs) a better fleet, more capability achieved through modernization, networking, agile operating concepts, and a talented force of sailors and civilians with officers of competence and character to lead them. And finally, the nation requires a ready fleet: more at-sea time, more flying, more maintenance and more weapons of increased lethality that go faster, farther and are more survivable.” A tall order indeed, with the main question remaining: From where will the money come?

    Designing, Building, Maintaining the Future Fleet
    For the U.S. Navy, designing and building the fleet of tomorrow has always been heavily influenced by the past and present. That goes for the technology on the ships to the industrial capacity to produce them. It takes years to build a ship from design to construction before entering the fleet, especially the first ship of a class. Making the design and build particularly challenging is the fact that a lot of technology changes from initial drawing to commissioning, particularly today with the acceleration of technology change. That’s why building tomorrow’s Navy will require a different approach. One critical point to always keep in mind: The industrial capacity to design, build, outfit and maintain a naval force is not a faucet that can simply be turned on and off.

    Commonality Matters
    The Navy is now planning for a large surface combatant and a small surface combatant, referred to as the frigate.
    “When we think about the distribution of our force, we need capacity, so we need some things to be big and some things to be small, and figuring out how we can balance capacity and cost and distribute those sensors and shooters most cost effectively within our force,” said Rear Adm. Ron Boxall, director for surface warfare on the OPNAV staff.

    The large surface combatant will take the DDG 51 Flight III combat system and place it on a larger hull, with the space, weight and power for mission growth. The frigate is also moving forward, with five industry teams under contract for conceptual work. “They’re working with our program offices to mature the system specification and the individual designs, inside the cost parameters that we’re looking for to make that small surface combatant a common, networked, surface platform to do both sensing and shooting, and common to the large surface combatant and our unmanned platform or platforms,” said Boxall. “We’re using a lot of government-furnished equipment (GFE) systems that we already know, so we’re not bringing a lot of uncertainty in.” While the frigate will leverage an existing design, the large combatant would require a new design with the appropriate size and power.

    Boxall said that unmanned systems are another way to distribute the force and build capacity. “We need things to be as small as they possibly can be, but big enough to do what they need to do.”
    “At the small surface combatant level, that force needs to have capacity at a cost, but it’s got to be able to sense and shoot and do command and control, and that just won’t have as big a sensor, it won’t have as much capacity to shoot, but it will still have that same common combat system,” Boxall said. “So that’s why commonality matters. It’ll have the same radar as the large surface combatant. And the same thing if you look at the unmanned platform, it might be a sensor, or shooter, or something in between – a command and control node, but not all of those things.”

    There has long been the desire to create a “common hull” that could be configured as needed. The benefits are obvious, with reduced design and fabrication costs and commonality for spares and training. But the promise has been elusive. There are so many tradeoffs, that the result is a compromise that is never optimal for any one mission.
    There are examples of system commonality that has saved money and allowed for more efficient use of manpower, training and support.

    • CGs and DDGs have similar sensors, guns, launchers and missiles.

    • The replacement for the Whidbey Island class of LSDs will be based on a lesser capable version of the San Antonio class of LPD. There will be advantages in commonality, and cost savings in design and construction by avoiding an entirely new design.

    • Italy and France have built their FREMM frigates with a common hull, but with general purpose and ASW variants. Likewise, Denmark’s frigates and flexible support ships are basically two variants of the same common hull, with one ship designed for multi-purpose missions and the other for ASW and AAW, using the same Terma C-Flex combat management system.

    There is commonality between the Lockheed Martin Aegis combat system on U.S. Navy guided missile cruisers and destroyers, and anti-air warfare ships of other allied navies, and the COMBATTS 21 system on the Freedom variant of LCS, which is based on Aegis. Likewise, the Independence variant of LCS uses Tacticos, a variant of the Thales Tacticos system found on many naval vessels. The total ship computing environment on Independence is similar to the one found on the Spearhead-class of expeditionary fast transports, both provided by General Dynamics Mission Systems.

    Modularity is another way to achieve commonality. Adaptive force packages, including systems and operators like the General Dynamics Knifefish or Kongsberg MK 18 mine countermeasures systems — can operate from LCS, or another platform, such as the EPF.

    Capability Evolution
    For several generations of U.S. Navy combatants, the subsequent classes of ships were adapted from previous classes and carried something new forward. But the ships were not entirely transformational.

    The Dealy (DE 1006) class was the first post war DE purpose-built for ASW. They were not highly capable, but they were followed by the Bronsteins. The Bronstein (DE 1037) class of escort ships had new sonar and ASW weapons, which was then installed on the Garcia (DE 1040) and still larger Knox (DE 1052) class of escorts. Everything on the 1037 was on the 1040, except the 1040 was more seaworthy. The Garcia class frigates had proven guns and ASW systems, but a new power plant, which was carried forward to the Brooke (FFG 1) class of guided missile escorts, but not subsequent ships. Like the Bronsteins, there wasn’t much margin for growth. The Knox and slightly modified Joseph Hewes (DE 1078) classes had much more room. The Spruance (DD 963) class destroyers had an updated weapon system from the earlier Forest Shermans, but with a larger hull and entirely new gas turbine propulsion system. The search radars and sonars weren’t new but the Mk 86 fire control system was new and the SPG-50 and SPQ-9 radars were a new leap. And the Spruance class had plenty of room, and allowance for more weight, along with great power excess, making it logical to use the Spruance platform for the Ticonderoga (CG 47) class guided missile cruiser and its revolutionary Aegis combat system.

    Oliver Hazard Perry (FFG 7) guided missile frigate was a 20-year “throwaway” ship with a small crew, with no margin for more capability or more people. It was designed for open ocean convoy escort duty, but not one FFG ever performed that mission. Like other frigates, with top speeds of less than 30 knots, the FFG 7s were speed limited in battle group operations. However, the fact that it had two helicopters and received a towed sonar system made it a valuable asset. And they became a valuable utility player in battle group operations. With a shallower draft than the DDG 51s, they could enter more ports than other combatants, and were better suited for detached assignments such as maritime interdiction operations than larger, more capable ships. They lasted 35 years instead of 20.

    The Ticonderoga (CG 47) class guided missile cruisers were built on the Spruance hull (the hull and engineering was almost identical). The first five CG-47s were decommissioned well before they reached their expected service life because they just couldn’t be affordably upgraded with the vertical launch system (VLS).

    The Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) class of guided missile destroyers essentially takes the CG 47 combat system and places it on a new hull. An effort to lower construction costs called for reducing the amount of steel required to build it. That made it compact, which reduced room to grow, and often made it difficult to perform maintenance in confined spaces. A later Flight II version was a little bigger, and the added helo hangar allowed an air detachment to be embarked. Now the Flight III version is underway, with a new sensor suite.
    There are many more examples of evolutionary development, such as converting World War II cruisers into missile ships, the development of the Stand missile family of surface ship weapons, and the introduction of nuclear power for surface combatants. And this article does not focus on the emerging technologies, such as directed energy weapons and unmanned system, which will certainly alter the trajectory of surface ship development.

    In most of these cases, there was innovation combined with something tried and true-revolution and evolution. That was not the case with the Zumwalt (DDG 1000) class DDGs, in which everything was new and different.

    New is Old
    Even the most modern warship is, in some ways, obsolete when it is commissioned. As the new DDG 1000 guided missile destroyers enter service we can appreciate all of the “new” technology that has gone into those ships. But the concept for those ships is not new.
    To understand the genesis, we need to go back to 1987, when Vice Adm. Joe Metcalf, the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Surface Warfare (OP-03) on the Navy staff stood up two study groups—the Ship Operational Characteristics Study (SOCS) and the Surface Combatant Force Requirement Study (SCFRS)—to examine the operational characteristics required of surface combatant and how many would be needed respectively.

    The SCFRS (pronounced “skiffers”) report assessed and validated the numbers, types and capabilities of surface combatants needed during the coming quarter century, while SOCS studied the required operational characteristics those ships would need to meet the forecast threat.

    The SOCS study took a fresh look at legal, institutional, operational and cultural factors that resulted in surface combatant designs, and the operational and maintenance practices that drove manpower requirements.
    One of the ideas to come out of these studies was the “arsenal ship,” which later morphed into the SC 21 (surface combatant for the 21st century), and then the DD 21 land attack destroyer. In 2001 DD 21 was cancelled but it was resurrected as DD(X). As the Navy would stop building the Arleigh Burke class of DDGs, the Navy could focus on DD(X), and a follow-on cruiser, CG(X). The contract for the first DDG 1000, now called the Zumwalt class, was signed on Valentine’s Day of 2008. It was to be the first of 32 ships. They would be optimized for strike warfare to support expeditionary strike groups. That number was pared to 24, then 12, then seven, then eventually just three. As with most new ship classes, the first ship took a long time to build, with General Dynamics Bath Iron Works investing heavily in creating a facility that could build these ships.

    USS Zumwalt today embodies the ideas first proposed in SOCS almost three decades ago. The ship has integrated electric propulsion (generating 78 MW of power); smooth topside spaces with embedded antennas; a high degree of automation and resilient electrical, communications and fire main distribution. Just as SOCS recommended, while Zumwalt has a bridge for conning, it is completely enclosed, and cameras and microphones provide sensory awareness for the watch team. The 80 vertical launch cells are located around the periphery of the ship for survivability. The two 6-inch guns retract into a stealth housing. It’s quiet and stealthy. It has the radar cross section of a fishing boat. Automation has reduced crew size from 300 on a 9,800 ton DDG 51 to 147 on a 15,800 ton DDG 1000.
    Was the investment in all that new technology worth it?

    If one looks at the three Zumwalt class ships as research and development platforms, then some very useful technology has come to fruition that will ultimately find its way into future naval ships. But it’s hard to look at the vision that began back in 1987, and pursued for so many years, and feel satisfaction that the vision has become a reality.
    About the same time as DD(X) was evolving into the DDG 1000 program, the concept of LCS was being introduced. The littoral combat ship was supposed to be a simple platform with lots of volume for interchangeable combat capability that could address the Combatant Commanders’ most significant asymmetric threats in the littoral. It was to a “truck,” that you loaded up as needed. Again, it took some time to get the first few ships into the fleet, but those teething pains are behind us, and both variants (the monohull being built by Lockheed Martin and the trimaran being built by Austal USA) are in serial production. 32 will be built, and there are already a significant number of them in the fleet.

    Lessons learned in developing DDG 100 and LCS will influence future generations of warships. But can we evolve and adapt fast enough to put the right ship in the right place tomorrow?

    Industrial Capacity
    With the current fleet size well below 300 ships, and a goal of 355, there is the issue of the industrial capacity to be able to build that many new ships. There is a dearth of domestic industrial capacity to design and build ships, and field them in a timely manner. There are only two yards building DDGs today, two building submarines, two building LCS, and one building carriers and one building amphibs. Presumably they could make adjustments and hire the workforce to dramatically step up production.
    But what about maintenance, modernization and repair?
    More ships means more maintenance. Any effort to grow the fleet will also include keeping useful ships around longer. A ship with a 30-year expected service life usually has a planned mid-life modernization to bring it up to date. An additional modernization availability could keep her for another decade or more. The Navy now plans to extend the service life of the entire class of DDGs to 45 years, which means more shipyard capacity is needed to accomplish those overhauls.

    The Optimized Fleet Response Plan (OFRP) was designed to align strike group deployments with maintenance availabilities training and workups and to provide predictability and stability for Sailors and families, not to mention the training commands and maintenance and repair yards.

    There are just a few players who have the pier space, cranes, dry docks and shops to handles U.S. Navy ships. There are some commercial yards that could start to take on Navy work, and there are some smaller companies that could bid on contracts and go to the bigger yards for the docking or other work that requires the serious infrastructure to accomplish. But like construction, this is not something light can be turned on with the flick of a switch.

    Very few yards have dry docks big enough for large naval vessels, and that includes Navy owned dry docks. There is discussion on procuring a new dry dock for the Navy. Most large dry docks today are built in China. A Navy dock would have to be made in America. But most U.S. yards don’t have the ability to build a large floating dry dock. And even if there is capacity, it must be closely scheduled far in advance to fully utilize the significant investment. And while the Navy has strived to execute the OFRP, in reality the maintenance is contracted piecemeal.

    Value of a Strong Industrial Base
    The U.S. Navy had experience at the end of WW II to be building one class of ship, and embarking on the next improved iteration before the previous design was complete. This was possible, in part, because there was sufficient industrial capacity to have multiple shipyards working at the same time.

    Fletcher (DD 445) class destroyer
    175 completed / 13 canceled / 11 yards

    Gearing (DD 710) class destroyer
    152 planned / 98 compl. / 54 canceled / 9 Yards

    Allen M. Sumner (DD 692) class destroyer
    70 planned / 58 built / 6 yards

    Charles F. Adams (DDG 2) class guided missile destroyer
    23 built for the USN, plus three for Australia and three for Germany / 6 yards

    Spruance (DD 963) class destroyer
    31 built / 1 yard

    Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) class guided missile destroyer
    68 so far / 82 planned / 2 yards



    • #3
      It would be nice to have another 30 attack boats SSN’s.


      • #4
        The first thing to determine are your requirements and then to validate them. The requiremnet stated in the first article is to "to prepare for two simultaneous major conflicts and maintain its rotational presence requirements with excess capacity for surge operations and combat casualties." Is that a valid requirement? Not sure I believe that it is. China is one obvious source for a major conflict. I do not believe that at this time Russia could post a large enough Naval threat to count as a major conflict and it doesn't really look like they are investing enough in their surface and sub fleet to pose a threat in the next 10-15 years. They have some nice new corvettes and frigates, but I do not recall hearing about anything bigger. They do have some nice new SS and SSNs, but their numbers are very low.

        So part of the requirement is reduced to 1.5 major conflicts, or even smaller. So cut the number of hulls.

        The next part of the requirement is to maintain its rotational presence. What are the requirements here? If you ask the various combatant commanders, they always want more. What do they need? I do rather like the way the Navy is playing with their deployment schedules. They are experimenting with doing away with the traditional 6 month deployment every 24 months or so. It will not be so easy to predict when a Carrier Strike Group will be in the neighborhood. From here determine the number of hulls that you need.

        Then, what can you afford? Always the big question. Finally, what do you actually buy? The Navy hasn't had the best track record with DDG1000 and the LCS platforms.