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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Whither the U.S. Navy?

Well, someone had to get the debate started and Vice Adm. John Morgan is as good as anyone, as set out in - U.S. Navy Strategy Chief Floats New Force Options; Officials Deny Interest:
“Adm. Roughead has created a tone with the senior staff in which he encourages us to provide him thought pieces, and this brief was nothing more than an e-mail sent to the CNO by one of his senior staff to let him know that it was out there,” said Rear Adm. Frank Thorp, the Navy’s chief spokesman.
Each of the notional fleets increases amphibious ships but cuts submarines, while one increases the number of aircraft carriers. Two of the options would dramatically increase the number of small corvettes, patrol craft and riverine forces.
The briefing assumes the Navy’s ship construction budgets will remain constant at about $12.5 billion annually over the coming three decades for a total of $377 billion. But that $12.5 billion figure, sources said, is below the roughly $15 billion annual shipbuilding budget that the service has previously said it would achieve over the coming years, which is critical to the execution of the current 30-year plan.
Each of the options assume the following unit costs: nuclear-powered aircraft carriers at $5 billion, big-deck amphibious helicopter carriers of either LHA or LHD classes at $2.5 billion, amphibious ships of LSD or LPD classes at $1 billion, cruisers and destroyers at $1 billion, corvettes of the LCS class at $500 million, patrol craft at $100 million, riverine squadrons at $100 million, submarines at $2.5 billion, and auxiliaries at $500 million.
• Major combat operations. A force of 263 ships, smaller than the 313-ship fleet that Roughead has said he wants, tailored for battle against a peer competitor. This fleet would be composed of 12 aircraft carriers, 13 big-deck amphibious helicopter carriers, 26 amphibious ships, 81 cruisers and destroyers, 54 corvettes, 21 auxiliaries and 56 submarines including attack, ballistic and cruise missiles boats.
• Shaping force. A fleet of 534 ships, mostly corvettes and patrol boats better suited to littoral, maritime security and partnership operations. This force would be composed of six aircraft carriers, 24 big-deck amphibious helicopter carriers, 48 amphibious ships, 48 cruisers and destroyers, 161 corvettes, 200 patrol craft, 30 riverine squadrons, 15 auxiliaries, and 32 submarines of all classes.
• Balanced force. A fleet of 474 ships able to conduct operations from high-end battle to low-end counterterrorism and maritime security. This force would be composed of nine aircraft carriers, 23 big-deck amphibious helicopter carriers, 46 amphibious ships, 57 cruisers and destroyers, 132 corvettes, 160 patrol craft, 20 riverine squadrons, 15 auxiliaries and 32 submarines of all classes.
“Several of proposed ship force levels in these three plans are significantly different from what the Navy has been proposing under the current 313-ship plan,” said Ron O’Rourke, a naval analyst at the Congressional Research Service. “The 534- and 474-ship proposals are the most substantially different ship force-structure plans from DoD to come to light since the alternative fleet architecture proposed by the Office of Force Transformation (OFT) in a report submitted to Congress in 2005.”
Galrahn has thoughts, as do Salamander and Steeljaw Scribe.

Hmmm. Where's the most likely threat? A "peer competitor?" Not likely within the next 30 years.

Coastal warfare and littoral operations? Small ship operations off hostile shores and in choke points? Delivering and sustaining the Army and Marines in combat?

Sustainment of the fleet -there's the rub- with but 15 auxiliaries? All Military Sealift Command? Heck , there are now 14 fleet oilers in MSC's inventory today, along with 4 AOEs.

UPDATE: Lex weighs in. Not too surprisingly, he sees a shortage of carriers...

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