Navy’s Force Design 2045 Plans for 373 Ship Fleet, 150 Unmanned Vessels

The latest plan to design a future force calls for a fleet of 373 manned ships, buttressed by about 150 unmanned surface and underwater vehicles by 2045, according to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday’s update to his Navigation Plan for the Navy. “In the 2040s and beyond, we envision this hybrid fleet to […]

USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) sails alongside amphibious assault carrier USS Tripoli (LHA-7) during a photo exercise for Valiant Shield 2022 on June 12, 2022. US Navy Photo

The latest plan to design a future force calls for a fleet of 373 manned ships, buttressed by about 150 unmanned surface and underwater vehicles by 2045, according to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday’s update to his Navigation Plan for the Navy.

“In the 2040s and beyond, we envision this hybrid fleet to require more than 350 manned ships, about 150 large unmanned surface and subsurface platforms, and approximately 3,000 aircraft,” reads the NAVPLAN obtained by USNI News.
“Strategic competition with China is both a current and long-term challenge. Focusing our force design on 2045 will inform the most consequential decisions and investments the Navy needs to make in the critical decade ahead.”

Last week, USNI News reported the service had delivered a classified force structure assessment to Congress that factored in the combatant commander requirements and a more detailed threat assessment – particularly in the Western Pacific. The NAVPLAN factors in the latest National Defense Strategy idea of “integrated deterrence,” partnering the Defense Department with other government agencies to compete with China and keep a military advantage over Russia as well as the emerging Joint Warfare Concept linking the services together in a conflict.

The NAVPLAN defines the overarching threats as the declining value of military deterrence, aggressive actions from the Chinese and Russians in contrast to international law and the speed of technological change.

Under that thought process, the 2045 fleet promotes ships with the flexibility to host higher-power weapon systems and sensors that can be quickly upgraded as technology changes.

“We will build future platforms with modernization in mind—hardware upgradeable and software updateable at the speed of innovation,” reads the report.
“We must build adequate space, weight, and power into our large long-life capital investments to support evolving sensors and weapons systems.”

The notional 2045 Navy calls for:

  • 12 Columbia-class ballistic missile nuclear submarines
  • 12 Aircraft carriers
  • 66 Submarines split between fast attack and large diameter payload boats
  • 96 Large surface combatants like the Arleigh Burke class destroyer and the emerging DDG(X) next-generation destroyer
  • 56 Constellation-class guided-missile frigates
  • 31 Large amphibious ships
  • 18 Light amphibious warships to support to Marine Littoral Regiments
  • 82 Combat logistics ships and auxiliaries
  • 150 large surface and subsurface unmanned vessels that will act as sensors and as auxiliary magazines to the manned fleet

USS Spruance (DDG-111) arrives at Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka (CFAY) for a scheduled port visit as part of the Abraham Lincoln Strike Group on May 21, 2022. US Navy Photo

In aviation, the plan calls for a mix of 1,300 5th generation carrier aircraft with a family of Next Generation Air Dominance fighters and unmanned aerial vehicles, 900 “anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare, to include helicopters and maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft” and 750 support aircraft.

The totals are a further tweak to the roughly 500-ship total Gilday said the service needed to meet its requirements during remarks at the WEST 2022 conference, co-hosted by AFCEA and the U.S. Naval Institute earlier this year. The round number is also largely in line with the Trump administration’s fleet plan then-Secretary of Defense Mark Esper issued late in 2020.

In line with a larger Defense Department drive, the Navy is crafting a concept of operations to conquer the vast distances in the Western Pacific with a network of sensors and shooters to find and attack targets. The Navy’s emerging Distributed Maritime Operations concept was refined last year during the Large Scale Exercise 2021. The idea for DMO is to have a fleet commander with direct operational control over several formations like a carrier strike groups and amphibious ready groups to mass their power together over thousands of miles.

To keep the pace and cost of new ships to the fleet, the report doubles down on the Fiscal Year 2023 budget goals of cutting existing ships in the fleet, including aging Ticonderoga -class cruisers and relatively young Littoral Combat Ships. Removing both classes of ships from the fleet have been contentious in Congress, with legislators form both parties seeking to block the early retirements.

“The Navy must set a sustainable trajectory now to ensure we remain the combat-credible maritime force our nation needs in the future,” reads the report.
“Retiring legacy platforms that cannot stay relevant in contested seas—and investing in the capabilities we need for the future—is essential for our national security.”

Senate, Navy Pushing for Bath Iron Works, Ingalls DDG(X) Destroyer Team Up

The push to develop the Navy’s next-generation destroyer will be a team effort between General Dynamics Bath Iron Works and HII’s Ingalls Shipbuilding if the Navy and the Senate Armed Services Committee have their way. Instead of competing for the primary contract to build DDG(X), the service wants the two yards to take a page from […]

Notional Navy DDG(X) hull design. PEO Ships Image

The push to develop the Navy’s next-generation destroyer will be a team effort between General Dynamics Bath Iron Works and HII’s Ingalls Shipbuilding if the Navy and the Senate Armed Services Committee have their way.

Instead of competing for the primary contract to build DDG(X), the service wants the two yards to take a page from the teaming agreement between General Dynamics Electric Boat and HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding to design and construct the Columbia-class nuclear ballistic missile, several legislative and service officials told USNI News this week.

On Monday, the Senate Armed Services released its Fiscal Year 2023 authorization bill, which includes language that directs the Navy to pursue the teaming agreement for DDG(X) without naming Ingalls and Bath. But the Navy wants the arrangement for those two shipyards, USNI News understands.

Citing a string of problems with the Navy’s surface ship programs over the last 20 years, the bill’s report language directs the Navy to adopt a similar teaming plan to the submarine yards.

“The committee notes that many recent Navy shipbuilding programs, including the DDG-1000 and Littoral Combat Ship programs, experienced significant cost increases, program delays, and reliability issues due to flaws in the earliest acquisition strategies,” according to the report language paired with the bill that was filed on Monday.

“Accordingly, the committee believes it is critical that the Navy work closely with industry to ensure appropriate design and technical maturity in developing lead ship acquisition strategies. The committee further believes that the DDG(X) acquisition strategy should be modeled on and leverage the best practices of the Columbia-class Integrated Product and Process Development (IPPD) contract, with integrated lines of effort in design, technology maturation, and construction.”

For Columbia, the IPPD construct centers on a digital design tool that allows both yards and the Navy to work from the same set of plans simultaneously to increase the design efficiency and identify production problems ahead of fabrication. While in the submarine teaming agreement Newport News and Electric Boat build different sections of the same boat, in the DDG(X) arrangement, each yard would build a complete warship, USNI News understands.

The advantage would alleviate the growing pains of bringing a second yard in to build the same design after an original award, since all the yards would craft their fabrication plans at the same time. However, the arrangement would limit the work to the two yards and prevent a wider competition for other shipyards beyond Ingalls and Bath, USNI News understands. Some legislators are skeptical of the lack of a wider contest, Hill sources have told USNI News.

The House did not include a similar provision in its version of the NDAA that was approved earlier this month.

The next-generation destroyer is set to follow the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer and Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser, an effort the Navy has attempted since the 2000s.

At the time, the Burkes and Ticos were going to be superseded by the Zumwalt-class guided-missile destroyer and a massive 20,000-ton next-generation cruiser called CG(X). CG(X) was canceled for cost and the Zumwalts were trimmed to just three as part of the Fiscal Year 2010 defense budget.

Since then, the Navy has restarted the Burke line between Ingalls and Bath and adapted the hull to accommodate what would become the AN/SPY-6 air and missile radar in the Flight III configuration. Cementing a strategy for a Burke successor has been elusive.

The most recent strategy, unveiled in January, would take the combat system from the Flight III and the integrated propulsion system from the Zumwalts to create a combination that would be designed to field hypersonic missiles and high-powered directed energy weapons, Navy officials said at the time.

“When we upgraded the Flight III … we took up all of the service life allowance on that platform. All of the space, weight and power has all been allocated. There is not enough room on that ship to put a new combat capability that takes more power or a larger footprint within the ship,” deputy DDG(X) program manager Katherine Connelly said at the time.

“The first ship will focus on a new hull form and a new integrated power system. We will use the proven combat system from the Flight III ship so we are designing the ship with the flexibility and the margins to accommodate the future of the Navy and the needs for where we’re going.”

New Navy Fleet Study Calls for 373 Ship Battle Force, Details are Classified

THE PENTAGON – The Navy quietly slipped a new, classified assessment on the number of ships the service needs to meet its missions around the world to Congress earlier this month. The report calls for a battle force of 373 ships – 75 more than in the current fleet. Dubbed the Battle Force Ship Assessment […]

Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham (DDG-109), left, conducts a replenishment-at-sea with Supply-class fast combat support ship USNS Supply (T-AOE-6), in the Ionian Sea on May 6, 2022. US Navy Photo

THE PENTAGON – The Navy quietly slipped a new, classified assessment on the number of ships the service needs to meet its missions around the world to Congress earlier this month. The report calls for a battle force of 373 ships – 75 more than in the current fleet.

Dubbed the Battle Force Ship Assessment and Requirement, the Fiscal Year 2021 defense authorization bill called for the Navy to generate the report and deliver it directly to Congress.

“The Navy’s Battle Force Ship Assessment and Requirement (BFSAR) report determined that a battle force of 373 ships is required to meet future campaigning and warfighting demands. The report is classified and was submitted to Congress,” reads a statement from the service provided to USNI News.

Outside of the fleet total, the service did not provide an unclassified summary of the force structure. In prior years, the FSA has included an unclassified summary of the the required quantities for each type of battleforce ship in the fleet.

The new report is the latest in a long string of force structure reviews since 2016 as the service and big Pentagon have wrestled with the composition of the future fleet.

The requirement in the bill was designed to have the report bypass the Office of the Secretary of Defense and go directly to Congress, several legislative sources have told USNI News. OSD took a more active role in crafting the Navy’s force structure under former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and senior leadership has continued to be involved in the force structure process.

In February, the Navy rolled out a long-range shipbuilding plan that laid out three different versions of a battle force into 2052, depending on the number of resources the service is allocated. The first option would yield an inventory of 316 ships by FY 2052, the second would yield 327 ships by FY 2052 and the third would yield 367 ships.

Chief of Naval Operations Mike Gilday speaking on Jan. 11, 2022 from his office in the Pentagon. US Navy Photo

Those would be buttressed by emerging unmanned platforms that would extend the range of the Navy’s sensors and deepen magazines beyond its manned ships and submarines.

With those additions, the fleet could grow to 500 hulls or more, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said ahead of the long-range ship rollout in remarks during the WEST 2022 conference, co-hosted by AFCEA and the U.S. Naval Institute.

The most recent review follows the latest revision of the National Defense Strategy, which refines the Pentagon’s approach to countering China in the Pacific and Russia in Europe. Much of the detail of the updated NDS is classified, with the Office of the Secretary of Defense releasing a scant two-page summary of the overall goals.

The force structure will go through more tweaks before another revision is released later this year.

“The Navy is expected to complete a second BFSAR later this year, which will reflect new analytic work, changes to force design, and the impacts of the 2022 National Defense Strategy released in March on future Navy battle force structure,” reads the Navy statement.

HASC Adopts Amendment for $37B Boost to Defense Topline, Restores 5 Littoral Combat Ships

The House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday approved an amendment that would authorize a $37 billion increase to the annual policy bill’s topline and save five Littoral Combat Ships from decommissioning. The amendment, proposed by Reps. Jared Golden (D-Maine) and Elaine Luria (D-Va.), would authorize $1.2 billion for the Navy to buy another Arleigh Burke-class […]

The Freedom-variant littoral combat ship USS Sioux City (LCS 11), front, transits the Tyrrhenian Sea alongside the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) on May 16, 2022. US Navy Photo

The House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday approved an amendment that would authorize a $37 billion increase to the annual policy bill’s topline and save five Littoral Combat Ships from decommissioning.

The amendment, proposed by Reps. Jared Golden (D-Maine) and Elaine Luria (D-Va.), would authorize $1.2 billion for the Navy to buy another Arleigh Burke-class destroyer and allow the service to use incremental funding for the purchase. It would also authorize $923.8 million for another Constellation-class frigate, $746 million for another T-AO-205 John Lewis-class oiler and $695 million for two Expeditionary Medical Ships. These ships would be in addition to the eight battleforce ships the panel’s mark already authorizes to meet the Navy’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget request.

The HASC’s markup of the FY 2023 policy bill is ongoing as of this posting.

Golden’s and Luria’s amendment also authorizes $660 million for eight F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, despite Navy efforts to end the Boeing fighter line. It authorizes $400 million for the Navy to buy two more E-2D Advanced Hawkeyes, $446.2 million for three Navy C-130s, $252.9 for two more Marine Corps KC-130Js, $250 million for two more Marine Corps CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift helicopters and $212 million for two V-22 Ospreys.

The amendment also authorizes $318 million in funding to save five of the nine Littoral Combat Ships the Navy sought to decommission in its FY 2023 proposal and another $59 million to save two Expeditionary Transfer Docks. The HASC chairman’s mark notably did not stop the Navy from retiring any of the LCSs.

The potential decommissioning of the Littoral Combat Ships has been a prominent discussion topic throughout debate of the FY 2023 defense spending and policy bills. The Navy’s budget proposal sought to decommission a total of 24 ships in FY 2023, including nine Freedom-class LCSs.

Luria’s and Goldman’s amendment follows the same moves by the Senate Armed Services Committee and the House Appropriations defense subcommittee. SASC in its mark of the defense policy bill saved five of the nine LCSs up for decommissioning, as did HAC-D in its mark of the annual defense spending bill.

But some lawmakers opposed saving the LCSs from early decommissioning. During Wednesday’s markup of the HASC chairman’s mark of the FY 2023 policy bill, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) displayed a chart labeling the LCSs as “Leaking Cracked Ships,” as she spoke in opposition to keeping the ships in the fleet.

“We all know what lemon cars are. We have a fleet of lemon LCS ships. We have spent billions of dollars on this fleet when they have no capability to help us deal with [what] our largest threat is, which is that of China and Russia. The only winners have been the contractors on which the Navy relies for sustaining these ships,” Speier said.

Freedom-variant littoral combat ship USS Milwaukee (LCS-5) departs Naval Station Guantanamo, Jan. 3, 2022. US Navy Photo

“The Freedom-class has been plagued by reliability issues from the start, with numerous power and engine failures, including 10 out of the 11 deployments that the [Government Accountability Office] examined. They’ve got problems with the gears that are faulty. I mean, it goes on and on,” she added.

Listing off problems various Freedom-class hulls have faced, Speier called the ships “a sunk cost” and argued the Navy should not spend millions to keep them in the fleet because they are prone to breaking down.

The Freedom-class ships have faced two significant problems: a class-wide issue with the combining gear that marries the gas turbines to its diesel engines and an inability to field the anti-submarine warfare package for the LCS Mission Module. The Navy earlier this year said it would scrap the ASW package for the LCS due to issues fielding Raytheon’s AN/SQS-62 variable depth sonar (VDS) on the Freedom hull.

HASC Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) similarly spoke in opposition to Golden’s and Luria’s amendment, but praised the package for going after inflation and modernization. The chairman reiterated his argument that the quality of platforms matters more than the quantity of platforms.

“However one feels about the LCS, there have been some arguments that have been made that I just find deeply troubling. One is, ‘well we already bought them, so why would we decommission them?’ Good money after bad is about as cliché as it gets. But it is really important at this point … we have to pay to operate these things,” Smith said.

“And they consistently break down and they consistently have incredibly high maintenance costs,” he added. “So we’re paying money and we’re not getting much in the way of capability. We can save that money, spend it on other things that actually are capable.”

Prior to the amendment’s passage, Smith said he planned to introduce an amendment about the five LCSs on the House floor so the entire chamber could debate the topic.

The Navy’s effort to decommission the LCSs has been fraught, with some lawmakers criticizing plans to retire relatively young ships that have not reached the end of their service lives.

Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.), the ranking member of the HASC seapower and projection forces subcommittee, told USNI News in an interview this week that while he does not support getting rid of a large number of the LCSs because the class has faced some problems, he thinks the Navy should evaluate potential Foreign Military Sales and how partners or allies could use the ships.

“I do think that those ships have utility both for our Navy and our service branches, but also in ways that could really build United States strategic relationships with other nations,” Wittman said.

Should the U.S. transfer or sell the ships to other countries, Wittman argued there should be a military-to-military relationship between the U.S. and those nations so the U.S. Navy could train those sailors to both use the ships and exercise with them.

“I want to make sure too that we exhaust every possibility for us in our military,” he said.

Wittman pointed to the potential for the U.S. Marine Corps to use the LCS to move Marines around and for the U.S. Coast Guard to use them to perform counter-drug operations in U.S. Southern Command. He said the Coast Guard likely wants more National Security Cutters and the LCS could fulfill that mission set.

“This would be a great opportunity for the Coast Guard to be able to take a ship that has the capability I think that they would need – can move quickly, has the ability to deploy an 11-meter [rigid-hull inflatable boat]. Those are things that fit right within the Coast Guard mission,” Wittman said.

“And the same for the Marines. I mean, the ability to move Marines back and forth – to do tactical support – this ship has some ability to do tactical support for Marines ashore. I think all those things are missions that would fit easily with LCS without any major modifications to it,” he continued. “So I think we need to exhaust all of those possibilities as we go down this road, and then if all of those are exhausted, then we can talk about [Foreign Military Sales]. But FMS does have to be part of the conversation.”

During May testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday floated the potential to transfer the LCSs to other countries.

The House Appropriations defense subcommittee in its draft of the FY 2023 spending bill called for a report analyzing other uses for the LCSs and specifically said the Navy could decommission four of the hulls that it could then assess for transfers to other countries.

Meanwhile, the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday marked up and passed its defense spending bill, which met the Biden administration’s request and allotted $762 billion in defense spending.

USS Fort Worth (LCS-3) pier-side at Naval Station San Diego, Calif., on Feb. 15, 2022

Rep. John Rutherford (R-Fla.), a member of HAC whose district includes Naval Station Mayport – where the Freedom-class LCSs are based, – proposed and then withdrew an amendment that would have saved all nine LCSs from decommissioning.

“It is complete financial malpractice, Madam chair, to scrap any of these ships that have barely begun their service life. They’ve barely begun,” he said.

“The average years of service is less than four years, four years. That’s less than one quarter of their expected 25-year lifecycle. Taxpayers have already spent $4.5 billion on building out the LCS class. It is just wasteful to throw away these decades of investment,” Rutherford added.

Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), who chairs the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, said Wednesday that she has spoken with the Navy about its proposal for the LCSs.

“The first round of discussions I had with the Navy were very unsatisfactory. And they’re coming around to see the seriousness of us making sure that the taxpayers dollars that have been invested are at a minimum repurposed in a way that helps with our national security,” she said during the markup.

While House appropriators followed the Biden administration’s request, Senate authorizers last week authorized a $45 billion increase to the defense topline.

“I think this $37 billion is a start. I applaud the Senate for their addition of $45 billion,” Luria said Wednesday during the HASC markup.
“I know we have slightly different priorities and throughout this process I hope we will end up with an agreement somewhere north of this $37 [billion]. But I think adding this to the budget at least for me makes this NDAA acceptable in its overall topline.”

HASC on Wednesday also approved a separate amendment proposed by Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) to authorize $45 million in research and development funding for the low-yield Sea-Launched Cruise Missile. The Biden administration sought to cancel the program in the FY 2023 budget proposal, but Congressional authorizers have sought to approve research and development funding for the program. SASC similarly authorized research and development funding for SLCM in its draft of the policy bill.

HASC Chairman’s Mark Says Navy Can Shed 9 Littoral Combat Ships, Saves 4 Amphibs         

The House Armed Services Committee chairman’s mark would allow the Navy to retire its nine Littoral Combat Ships as scheduled, USNI News understands. A draft of the bill, obtained by USNI News, does not prevent the Navy from decommissioning the Freedom-class LCSs the service asked to retire in its Fiscal Year 2023 budget request. The […]

The nine in-commission Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ships the Navy is proposing to decommission as part of the FY 2023 budget. US Navy Photos

The House Armed Services Committee chairman’s mark would allow the Navy to retire its nine Littoral Combat Ships as scheduled, USNI News understands.

A draft of the bill, obtained by USNI News, does not prevent the Navy from decommissioning the Freedom-class LCSs the service asked to retire in its Fiscal Year 2023 budget request.

The subject of the LCS decommissionings quickly became a hot-button issue among lawmakers, including some who criticized the Navy’s plans to retire almost new ships from service. The youngest LCS on the decommission list entered service in August 2020.

HASC is slated to mark up Chairman Adam Smith’s (D-Wash.) draft of the bill next Wednesday, when members could offer amendments that would alter the Navy’s plans for the LCSs.

The HASC chairman’s mark differs from both the Senate Armed Services Committee’s mark of its policy bill and the House Appropriations defense subcommittee’s mark of the FY 2023 defense spending bill. Draft legislation from both panels would mandate the service keep five LCSs, but would allow the Navy to retire four.

The Navy’s budget proposal asked to decommission USS Fort Worth (LCS-3), USS Milwaukee (LCS-5), USS Detroit (LCS-7), USS Little Rock (LCS-9), USS Sioux City (LCS-11), USS Wichita (LCS-13), USS Billings (LCS-15), USS Indianapolis (LCS-17) and USS St. Louis (LCS-19). It’s unclear which ships each panel would require the Navy keep and which the service could retire.

A Marine assigned to the amphibious dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall (LSD-44) stands on a beach on Swedish island Gotland during exercise BALTOPS 22. Rob Kunzig Photo via US 6th Fleet

Like the HASC seapower and projection forces subcommittee’s mark, the HASC chairman’s mark met the Navy’s request for the shipbuilding account and authorized eight battleforce ships: two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, two Virginia-class attack boats, one Constellation-class frigate, one San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock, one T-AO-205 John Lewis-class oiler and one T-ATS 6 Navajo-class towing, salvage and rescue ship.

The chairman’s mark also followed the seapower panel’s mark in saving one Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser and four Whidbey Island-class dock landing ships from decommissioning. The cruiser, USS Vicksburg (CG-69), is nearly finished with a modernization overhaul that would give the ship more years of service life. The LSDs the Navy asked to retire, but would need to keep should the chairman’s mark become law, are USS Germantown (LSD-42), USS Gunston Hall (LSD-44), USS Tortuga (LSD-46) and USS Ashland (LSD-48).

The chairman’s mark would also prevent the Navy from deactivating its land-based EA-18G Growler squadrons and placing electronic attack aircraft into storage. In the FY 2023 budget submission, the Navy said it wanted to deactivate five squadrons, or a total of 25 Growlers, from service. The draft legislation would mandate the Navy have a minimum of 158 Growlers in its inventory. “[N]ot less than 126 aircraft shall be coded as primary mission aircraft inventory,” according to the text of the draft legislation. The Navy has 156 active Growlers in service.

An EA-18G Growler assigned to the “Lancers” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 131 takes off from the runway at Misawa Air Base on Aug. 5, 2020. VAQ-131 is an expeditionary squadron deployed to Naval Air Facility Misawa supporting security and stability in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations. US Navy photo.

Under the chairman’s mark of the bill, the Navy secretary could remove a Growler from service “on a case-by-case basis” if it’s not financially feasible to fix the aircraft or keep it active.

The Senate Armed Services Committee in its mark of the defense authorization bill also prevented the Navy from divesting of the expeditionary Growlers. According to a committee summary, the legislation would mandate the “transfer of EA-18Gs in expeditionary electronic attack squadrons to the Navy Reserve Air Forces; designation of one or more units from the Air National Guard or Air Force Reserve to join with the Navy Reserve to establish joint service expeditionary, land-based electronic attack; and a report on the plan of the Secretaries of the Navy and Air Force to implement this plan.”

SASC voted its version of the defense policy bill out of committee on Thursday. The full HASC committee will mark up the chairman’s draft of the authorization bill next week. The House Appropriations defense subcommittee passed the draft of its defense spending bill this week and the full House Appropriations Committee will mark up the legislation next week.

Senate Defense Authorization Bill Halts Half of Navy’s Planned Ship Retirements

Senate authorizers want to stop the Navy from retiring half the ships it planned to decommission next year, according to a summary of the bill. The Senate Armed Services Committee’s Fiscal Year 2023 defense authorization bill would halt the Navy’s plans to retire 12 ships, half of the 24 the service proposed decommissioning in its […]

Dry dock flooding begins for the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Vicksburg (CG-69) departure from BAE Systems Ship Repair dry dock pier on June 10, 2021. US Navy Photo

Senate authorizers want to stop the Navy from retiring half the ships it planned to decommission next year, according to a summary of the bill.

The Senate Armed Services Committee’s Fiscal Year 2023 defense authorization bill would halt the Navy’s plans to retire 12 ships, half of the 24 the service proposed decommissioning in its budget request.

Should the upper chamber’s bill become law, the Navy would need to keep four Dock Landing Ships, five Littoral Combat Ships, two Expeditionary Transfer Docks and one Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser.

The cruiser the Navy would need to keep in service is USS Vicksburg (CG-69), which is nearly finished with a modernization overhaul at BAE Systems Ship Repair in Norfolk, Va. The four LSDs are USS Germantown (LSD-42), USS Gunston Hall (LSD-44), USS Tortuga (LSD-46) and USS Ashland (LSD-48), while the two ESDs are USNS Montford Point (ESD-1) and USNS John Glenn (LSD-2). It’s unclear which five LCSs the committee is saving in its bill. The Navy asked to decommission nine LCSs in the FY 2023 budget request.

Asked why the panel is preventing the Navy from retiring some of the ships, committee staff said the vessels still have years of service life left. Staff also noted that the committee included a requirement for 31 amphibious ships, meaning the service would need to keep the LSDs. The LCSs are young ships, and the cruiser’s modernization overhaul is almost complete and would give it more years of service life, according to staff.

The bill follows a similar provision in the House Appropriations defense subcommittee’s legislation, which would also mandate the Navy keep five LCSs and allow the service to retire four. Meanwhile, the House Armed Services Committee seapower and projection forces subcommittee’s mark of its policy bill would require the Navy keep Vicksburg and the four Whidbey Island-class amphibs.

The SASC bill, which the committee approved on Thursday, increased the defense topline by $45 billion, about half of which will go toward inflation, according to committee staff.

The panel met the Navy’s request for ship procurement by authorizing eight battleforce ships: two Virginia-class attack boats, two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, one Constellation-class frigate, one San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock, one T-AO-205 John Lewis-class oiler and one T-ATS 6 Navajo-class towing, salvage and rescue ship.

Cutaway image of a nuclear tipped Tomahawk cruise missile

The SASC notably included research and development funding for the Sea-Launched Cruise Missile, which has become a controversial pursuit over the last year. The Biden administration in the FY 2023 budget proposal chose to cancel SLCM. SASC committee staff pointed to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley’s, U.S. Strategic Command chief Adm. Chas Richard’s, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Chris Grady’s support for developing SLCM in justifying why the panel included the research and development funding for the program.

Some House Democrats have voiced opposition to the program. House appropriators did not allot any funding for SLCM in their defense spending bill, unveiled earlier this week. The House Appropriations defense subcommittee passed the bill on Wednesday and it awaits markup from the full House Appropriations Committee.

On the aviation side, SASC largely met the Navy’s request – authorizing 15 F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, 13 F-35Cs, and five E-2D Advanced Hawkeyes. The service authorized 12 CH-53K King Stallions for the Marine Corps, an increase of 2 aircraft from the Navy’s request for 10. HAC-D similarly allotted funding for 12 CH-53Ks.

Now that the authorization bill has passed through SASC, it will head to the Senate floor.

“This forward-looking NDAA invests in people, platforms, and infrastructure. It authorizes increased funding for our national defense and sets policies to equip, supply, and train U.S. forces now and in the future. It provides for military families while strengthening America’s industrial base and the workers who contribute to our national security,” SASC Chairman Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said in a statement. “This year’s markup provides our troops and Defense Department civilians with a well-deserved 4.6 percent pay raise, as well as new tools and reforms to protect the health and well-being of our servicemembers and their families.”

Baltic States Need More NATO Forces to Deter a Russian Invasion, Says Estonian Official

Despite the Kremlin’s heavy losses in invading Ukraine, the Russians are “going to come back stronger” in a year or so to threaten the Baltics, Estonian Ministry of Defence Permanent Secretary said on Thursday. Speaking at a Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment event, Kusti Salm said that even given Moscow’s rising number of casualties, […]

U.S. Marines with 2d Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion attached to Task Group 61/2.4, speak to a UH-1Y crew chief with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 264 before boarding near Saaremaa, Estonia, May 22, 2022. US Marine Corps Photo

Despite the Kremlin’s heavy losses in invading Ukraine, the Russians are “going to come back stronger” in a year or so to threaten the Baltics, Estonian Ministry of Defence Permanent Secretary said on Thursday.

Speaking at a Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment event, Kusti Salm said that even given Moscow’s rising number of casualties, destruction of armored forces and depletion of precision-guided weapons, the Kremlin can still mass fires as it is showing in fighting in eastern and southern Ukraine.

He called NATO’s “trip-wire” strategy and even its “forward presence” in limited numbers obsolete in light of Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.

Because the Baltic nations are on Russian borders and small, they could be quickly overwhelmed in a full-scale Russian invasion.

“Deterrence by denial,” Salm said Wednesday, cannot be achieved by a battalion of NATO troops in his country or any other Baltic member of the alliance. He called it “a joke” that “the second largest nuclear nation would be deterred by a battalion.” The presence “has to be at the divisional level” to “be able to project power across the Russian border.”

Force structure on NATO’s eastern and southern flanks is expected to be high on the agenda at the alliance’s summit meeting later this month in Madrid.

In the first quarter of 2022, Salm added that Estonia has seen the need to “punch above [its] weight” and has been spending about 3 percent of its gross domestic product on defense. Among the systems he mentioned were anti-ship, anti-tank and anti-armor. At the same time, it has doubled its territorial defense force to 20,000 and is training and equipping it to defend against invasion.

The CSBA report on Baltic deterrence calls for the three nations to raise defense spending to 3 percent.

Salm said that the attitude of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania toward Moscow now is “if you want to fight one Baltic state, you’ll fight all the Baltic states and NATO.”

He added later, “There is no stepping back” from Estonia’s building up its defenses and NATO’s need to remain unified. “We feel that the notion is there: ‘Let’s get it done’” when it comes to assisting Ukraine and raising the alliance’s capabilities.

Chris Bassler, one of the authors of the CSBA report on Baltic deterrence, said some of the larger powers inside NATO need to be asking “what are the front line states asking for” to deter Russia from turning on them.

He added that with so many weapons like Javelins, Stingers and sophisticated drones going to Ukraine, the United States could not be the single supplier of systems to the alliance, but all members needed to rebuild their stocks and lay aside prepositioned equipment for follow-on forces.

USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) in port in Tallinn, Estonia, on May 27, 2022. US Navy Photo

The report, prepared before Finland and Sweden applied for NATO membership, states, “While full integration of the national defense plans is likely not an attainable goal, the Baltic states should start by focusing on further coordination of regional investments in [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance], air and missile defense, and longer-range fires capabilities.” By doing this, they could reduce costs and increase interoperability with other alliance members.

Looking at continuing gaps in command and control among NATO forces, especially for forces that rotate between host nations, Jan van Tol, another author, said basic questions like “who’s going to be where” and when need to be addressed. Another important question is whether alliance forces now rotating in the Baltic should be permanently stationed there, he added. The report calls for doubling the number of NATO forces in the three Baltic nations, he added

CSBA also recommended rotating F-35 Lightning II Strike Fighters to the Baltics to better coordinate air defense and policing. Bassler said the F-35s provide “instant interoperability.”

Van Tol said that maritime defenses were not addressed in detail because the report was finished before Finland and Sweden applied for membership. A lesson the Baltics could learn from Ukraine is the value of anti-ship missiles. Ukraine’s use of these missiles has made Russian ship captains feel more threatened after the sinking of RTS Moskva (121) and has been a factor in fighting there.

He added another lesson for the Baltics would also include “mines are a poor man’s weapon” in naval defenses.

House Appropriators Want Navy to Save 5 Littoral Combat Ships From Decommissioning

House appropriators want the Navy to keep five Littoral Combat Ships but will allow the service to decommission four, according to text of the Fiscal Year 2023 defense spending bill. The legislation, released today by the House Appropriations Committee, would complicate the Navy’s plans to decommission nine Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ships next year. The bill […]

The nine in-commission Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ships the Navy is proposing to decommission as part of the FY 2023 budget. US Navy Photos

House appropriators want the Navy to keep five Littoral Combat Ships but will allow the service to decommission four, according to text of the Fiscal Year 2023 defense spending bill.
The legislation, released today by the House Appropriations Committee, would complicate the Navy’s plans to decommission nine Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ships next year.

The bill “directs a report on alternate uses of these vessels, such as missions in the [U.S. Southern Command] and [U.S. Africa Command] areas of responsibility; and permits the decommissioning of four ships, which would also allow the Navy and the Defense Security Cooperation Agency to explore the possibility of transferring them to partner nations,” according to a summary from the committee.

Seeking to defend the Navy’s push to decommission the LCSs, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday last month proposed to lawmakers that the service evaluate transferring the ships to countries in South America.

The effort to retire the Freedom variant ships follows two major issues that have affected the class: a problem with the combining gear that marries the gas turbines to the diesel engines and the Navy’s struggle to field the anti-submarine warfare package for the LCS Mission Module on the Freedom hull. Earlier this year the Navy said it would axe the ASW mission for the LCS.

House appropriators largely met the Biden administration’s request, allotting $762 billion in defense spending.

The lower chamber’s bill would allot $27.8 billion for the Navy to buy the eight ships it asked for in the FY 2023 request, including two Virginia-class attack submarines, two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, one Constellation-class frigate, one San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock, one T-AO-205 John Lewis-class oiler and one T-ATS 6 Navajo-class towing, salvage and rescue ships.

The House Appropriations Committee’s summary of the legislation noted the panel did not include any research and development funding for the low-yield Sea-Launched Cruise Missile, a program that has become controversial in the last year. Some Republican lawmakers have voiced support for the program, known as SLCM, as have Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Christopher Grady and U.S. Strategic Command chief Adm. Chas Richard. But House Democrats, including House Armed Services Committee chairman Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) have voiced opposition to the program’s development.

As for aircraft procurement, House appropriators allotted funding for the Navy to buy the five MQ-9A Reapers the Marine Corps sought and 12 CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift helicopters. The Navy asked for 10 CH-53Ks for the Marine Corps in its budget submission. It also appropriates money for five E-2D Advanced Hawkeyes, meeting the Navy’s request.

It’s unclear where HASC will come down on the LCS decommissionings. The HASC seapower and projection forces subcommittee punted the issue to the chairman’s mark, which the committee will release next week. But some HASC lawmakers have criticized the Navy’s proposal, noting the LCSs have years of service life left.

The Navy’s FY 2023 budget request sought to decommission a total of 24 ships, including the 9 LCSs, but met swift criticism in Congress.

The HASC seapower and projection forces subcommittee’s mark of the defense policy bill would mandate the Navy keep four Whidbey Island-class dock landing ships – USS Germantown (LSD-42), USS Gunston Hall (LSD-44), USS Tortuga (LSD-46) and USS Ashland (LSD-48) – and Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Vicksburg (CG-69), which is nearing the end of a modernization overhaul. All five ships were on the Navy’s FY 2023 decommission list.

Keel Laid For Nuclear Ballistic Missile Submarine District of Columbia

After inspecting the engraved plate with her welded initials, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) declared the keel laid for the future USS District of Columbia (SSBN-826). The ceremony marks the ceremonial construction start of the first in a new class of ballistic missile submarine that’s expected to commission in 2027. “Though this is not the […]

Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) approves the welding of her initials onto a metal plate at a ceremony at the General Dynamics Electric Boat Facility at Quonset Point, Rhode Island, on June 4, 2022. EB Photo

After inspecting the engraved plate with her welded initials, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) declared the keel laid for the future USS District of Columbia (SSBN-826).

The ceremony marks the ceremonial construction start of the first in a new class of ballistic missile submarine that’s expected to commission in 2027.

“Though this is not the first time a U.S. Navy vessel has been named Columbia, this is the first time that the name has been used to specifically commemorate the District of Columbia. The Columbia class will be the largest, most capable and most advanced submarine produced by our nation,” Norton said in her remarks during the ceremony.

Norton added the district is home to about 30,000 veterans now and almost 200,000 D.C. residents have served in the armed forces since World War I.

District of Columbia ship insignia

It was appropriate, “the Navy would be recognizing the people of the District of Columbia,” she said.
“It is fitting that it recognizes what will become the 51st state.”

Building the 12 boomers in the District of Columbia-class has been the Navy’s top priority for the last decade. Preliminary design work on the 520-foot long, 20,000-ton ballistic missile submarine started in 2007. The class will replace the Ohio class ballistic missile submarines as the nation’s number one strategic deterrent starting with District of Columbia’s first patrol in 2031.

The Columba class will carry “70 percent of America’s deployed nuclear arsenal,” Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro said at the ceremony at Electric Boat’s Quonset Point facility in Rhode Island. He added the ballistic missile submarines are “the smartest investment we can make” to secure the American public,

The D.C.-class will bring to the Navy “unmatched stealth, advanced weapons systems” and a complex electric propulsion system, Adm. Daryl Caudle, a career submariner and commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, said

Welder Maria Betance-Pizarro welds the initials of the sponsor of the future U.S. Navy ballistic missile submarine District of Columbia, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), onto a metal plate at a ceremony at the Electric Boat facility in Quonset Point, Rhode Island, on June 4, 2022. EB Photo

Electric Boat president Kevin Graney added, District of Columbia is expected to “serve well into the 2080s” and will never have to return to a shipyard for nuclear refueling.

In March, USNI News reported the $110 billion Columbia program and the Virginia Payload Module hull module are refining modular techniques EB developed to build the early Virginia-class submarines to maximize the efficiency of assembling the complex hulls under a timeline with razor-thin margins.

Also like the Virginia-class, Electric Boat is pairing with Newport News Shipbuilding in the submarines’ construction. Jennifer Boykin, president of HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding, said the work “raised the bar on size and scope” of submarine’s modular construction. The bow and stern modules for District of Columbia will be transported by a specially-built ocean-going barge from Virginia to Electric Boat’s facility at North Kingstown, R.I.

Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) addresses at a ceremony at the General Dynamics Electric Boat Facility at Quonset Point, Rhode Island, on June 4, 2022. EB Photo

In 2016, then Navy Secretary of the Navy announced the first in the new class of boomers would be called Columbia after D.C., reported USNI News at the time.

On Friday, Del Toro announced the boat would officially add “District of” to the name in order to avoid an overlap in names with the existing USS Columbia (SSN-771). The Los Angeles class attack boat , named for cities in South Carolina, Illinois and Missouri, was also built at Electric Boat and commissioned in 1995. The current Columbia was originally set to leave the fleet before District of Columbia was to commission but is set to see a service life extension, USNI News understands.

While the name Columbia for a U.S. ships and aircraft is not new – at least eight U.S. ships, a Space Shuttle and the Apollo 11 command module have all shared the name – it will be the first time the name has been used to commemorate the U.S. capital.

“The District of Columbia is rich with naval history. The Washington Navy Yard is our oldest shore facility… Marines like Montford Point Marine Herman Darden and Brigadier General Anthony Henderson and sailors like Yeoman Charlotte Louise Berry Winters and Medal of Honor Recipient First Class Fireman John Rush were born and raised in D.C.,” Del Toro said.
“This is why I prefer to call D.C., not just our nation’s capital, but instead, our naval capital.”

U.S. Warships Now in the Baltic Ahead of BALTOPS as Sweden, Finland Move Through NATO Membership Process

At least three U.S. warships are operating in the Baltic Sea ahead of two weeks of international drills in the region, according to U.S. 6th Fleet. Big deck amphibious warship USS Kearsarge (LHD-3), amphib USS Gunston Hall (LSD-44), guided-missile destroyer USS Gravely (DDG-107) and command ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC-20) are operating in the Baltic […]

USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) in port in Tallinn, Estonia, on May 27, 2022. US Navy Photo

At least three U.S. warships are operating in the Baltic Sea ahead of two weeks of international drills in the region, according to U.S. 6th Fleet.

Big deck amphibious warship USS Kearsarge (LHD-3), amphib USS Gunston Hall (LSD-44), guided-missile destroyer USS Gravely (DDG-107) and command ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC-20) are operating in the Baltic Sea ahead of the BALTOPS 22 exercise series, USNI News has learned.

Gunston Hall and Gravely made a port call in Helsinki, Finland on Friday.

“Prior to their port visit, Gunston Hall and Gravely conducted extensive operations with Allies and Partners in the Baltic Sea, including a series of maneuvering exercises with the Finnish and Swedish navies,” reads a statement from 6th Fleet.

Last week, Kearsarge and elements of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit drilled in the Estonian-led Siil – Estonian for hedgehog – exercise around the island of Saaremaa, the city of Pärnu on Estonia’s western coast and the town of Võru, about 15 miles from the Russian border.

“The exercise scenario will consist of an amphibious landing followed by a multi-day force on force exercise, as well as the execution of a vertical assault raid,” reads a Navy release about the Estonian-led exercise.

Since the late February invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the U.S. has surged ships to Europe.

Guided-missile destroyer USS Gravely (DDG-107) and the Whidbey Island-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall (LSD-44) sail in formation behind the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) during a maneuvering exercise with the Finnish and Swedish navies in the Baltic Sea on May 17, 2022. US Navy Photo

The drills with the Baltic nations come ahead of the NATO-led BALTOPS 22 exercise, which will be hosted in Sweden this year.

In addition to the U.S., countries in the exercise include Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

“Over 45 ships, more than 75 aircraft, and approximately 7,000 personnel will participate in BALTOPS 22,” reads a NATO release.
The exercise will include “amphibious operations, gunnery, anti-submarine, and air defense exercises, as well as mine clearance operations, explosive ordnance disposal, unmanned underwater vehicles, and medical response.”

The U.S. contingent for BALTOPS will include Kearsarge, Gunston Hall and the Rota, Spain-based guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG-78), Navy officials told USNI News on Tuesday.

The 51st iteration of the exercise comes as long-time participants Sweden and Finland have started the process to join NATO amidst Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Swedish officials, in particular, have made calls for the U.S. to operate more in the Baltic, a move that Navy and Marine Corps leaders have endorsed, reported USNI News.

“I look forward to the prospect of Sweden and Finland joining NATO and I foresee a day when we’re actually increasing our maritime operations in the Baltic Sea,” Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro told the House Appropriations defense subcommittee earlier in May.

While the majority of the 30-nation alliance supports the entrance of the two Nordic countries, Turkey continues to raise objections over both Sweden’s and Finland’s protection of what Ankara calls terrorist organizations, including the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and the halting of arms exports.

On Tuesday, Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Turkey would not allow Finland and Sweden to join unless Helsinki and Stockholm agree to “halt their support for the PKK and other groups, bar them from organizing any events on their territory, extradite those sought by Turkey on terrorism charges, support Ankara’s military and counter-terrorism operations, and lift all arms exports restrictions,” according to Reuters.