Pentagon: Chinese Navy to Expand to 400 Ships by 2025, Growth Focused on Surface Combatants

China is building more modern surface combatants and expanding its aircraft carrier and logistics force to grow its naval influence further from shore, according to the Pentagon’s annual report on Chinese military power. By 2025, the People’s Liberation Army Navy is expected to grow to 400 hulls, up from its fleet of 340, according to […]

People’s Liberation Army Navy aircraft carrier Shandong berths at a naval port in Sanya, China. PLAN Photo

China is building more modern surface combatants and expanding its aircraft carrier and logistics force to grow its naval influence further from shore, according to the Pentagon’s annual report on Chinese military power.

By 2025, the People’s Liberation Army Navy is expected to grow to 400 hulls, up from its fleet of 340, according to the Pentagon’s annual China military report estimates released on Tuesday.

“The PLAN is an increasingly modern and flexible force that has focused on replacing its previous generations of platforms that had limited capabilities in favor of larger, modern multi-role combatants,” reads the report.
“As of 2021, the PLAN is largely composed of modern multi-role platforms featuring advanced anti-ship, anti-air, and anti-submarine weapons and sensors.”

The report, which sums up Chinese military developments in 2021, pegs the growth to the PLAN adding more major surface combatants. The ship total dipped last year from 355 due to a transfer of more than 20 older corvettes to the China Coast Guard.

“At the close of 2021, the PLAN was building an aircraft carrier, a new batch of guided-missile destroyers (DDG), and a new batch of guided missile frigates (FFG),” reads the report.

The bulk of the surface expansion is contained in two programs, the 7,500-ton Luyang III guided-missile Type-52D destroyers and the larger 13,000-ton Type-55 Renhai-class guided-missile cruisers, according to the report.

Renhai-class cruiser

The Luyang III destroyers are built around a dual-band active electronically scanned array (AESA) air search radar and a 64-cell vertical launch system for multiple missiles similar to the Mk-41 VLS on U.S. surface ships.

The Renhais are much larger with a similar radar and 112 cell VLS cells “and can carry a large load out of weapons including [anti-ship cruise missiles], surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), torpedoes, and anti-submarine weapons along with likely [land-attack cruise missiles] and anti-ship ballistic missiles when those become operational,” according to the report.

As of May, the Chinese have five of the Renhai-class cruisers in commission, according to the South China Morning Post.

The newer classes of ships, with a variety of anti-surface and anti-air missiles, allow the PLAN better protection as its task groups venture farther from the protective umbrella of its shore-based air defense systems and mimic the basic construct of the American Aegis Combat System.

The emphasis on the platforms are anti-surface weapons, according to the report.
“The PLAN recognizes that long-range ASCMs require a robust, over-the-horizon (OTH) targeting capability to realize their full potential. To fill this capability gap, the PLA is investing in joint reconnaissance, surveillance, command, control, and communications systems at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels to provide high-fidelity targeting information to surface and subsurface launch platforms,” reads the report.

The PLAN is developing new submarines more slowly than it’s developing surface ships, “as it works to mature its force, integrate new technologies, and expand its shipyards,” reads the report.
“The PLAN currently operates six nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBN), six nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSN), and 44 diesel-powered/air-independent powered attack submarines (SS/SSP). The PLAN will likely maintain between 65 and 70 submarines through the 2020s, replacing older units with more capable units on a near one-to-one basis.”

The Pentagon speculated in the report that China is developing a nuclear guided-missile submarine that would field both anti-surface and land-attack cruise missiles, a new addition this year.

Type-093A Shang-class attack submarine

“By the mid-2020s, China will likely build the SHANG class (Type 093B) guided-missile nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSGN). This new SHANG class variant will enhance the PLAN’s anti-surface warfare capability and could provide a clandestine land-attack option if equipped with land-attack cruise missiles,” reads the report.

In terms of amphibious ships, the report highlighted not only the rapid development of the Yushen-class of big-deck amphibious warships, but also the increased use of civilian roll-on/roll-off car carriers that can go into service for military operations.

“This flexibility decreases the requirement to build additional PLAN amphibious ships to successfully assault Taiwan. This operational flexibility also provides operational and logistics units within the [PLAN Marine Corps] the training and proficiency to move between military and civilian vessels not just in a Taiwan scenario, but in any maritime environment where civilian transport vessels are available to the PLANMC and PLAN amphibious ships are not,” reads the report.

In late August, the PLAN held a major amphibious drill using civilian ferries to launch landing craft from sea, USNI News reported.

The PLAN has two operational aircraft carriers, Liaoning and Shandong, based on the Soviet Kuzenetzov, a short take-off but arrested recovery (STOBAR). Both carriers have been active in the Western Pacific. A third carrier, Fujian, will feature a catapult launch and arrested landing and is expected to be operational by 2024.

“This design will enable it to support additional fighter aircraft, fixed-wing early warning aircraft, and more rapid flight operations and thus extend the reach and effectiveness of its carrier-based strike aircraft,” reads the report.

The PLAN continues to refine its carrier aircraft – primarily the Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark, which is an unlicensed copy of the Russian Sukhoi Su-33 fighter.

A People’s Liberation Army Navy J-15 carrier fighter takes off from Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning (16) during a December 2021 deployment. PLAN Photo

“In addition to the standard J-15 fighter that currently operates from PLAN carriers, there is a catapult-capable J-15 variant in development,” reads the report.
“The aircraft is currently testing from land-based steam and electromagnetic catapults. A third J-15 variant, the J-15D, is a two-seat aircraft equipped with wingtip electronic support measures/electronic intelligence gathering pods as well as several conformal antennas. The aircraft is intended to fill a dedicated electronic attack role. China is also developing a carrier capable variant of the fifth-generation J-31 fighter.”

All told, the report concludes that the PLAN is working toward deploying an operational carrier battle group in the next several years beyond the first island chain that doesn’t need the shore-based defenses of the rest of the PLA.

“The PLAN’s ability to perform missions beyond the First Island Chain is modest but growing as it gains more experience operating in distant waters and acquires larger and more advanced platforms,” reads the report.

2022 Pentagon Report on Chinese Military Development

The following is the Nov. 29, 2022, Pentagon’s report to Congress, Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China. From the report The 2022 National Security Strategy identifies the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as the only competitor with the intent and, increasingly, the capacity to reshape the international order. The Department of […]

The following is the Nov. 29, 2022, Pentagon’s report to Congress, Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China.

From the report

The 2022 National Security Strategy identifies the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as the only competitor with the intent and, increasingly, the capacity to reshape the international order. The Department of Defense (DoD) annual report on military and security developments involving the PRC charts the current course of the PRC’s national, economic, and military strategy and offers Congress insight on the tenets of Beijing’s ambitions and intentions. The PRC’s strategy entails a determined effort to amass and harness all elements of its national power to place the PRC in a “leading position” in an enduring competition between systems. As expressed in the 2022 National Defense Strategy, the PRC presents the most consequential and systemic challenge to U.S. national security and the free and open international system.

In this decisive decade, it is important to understand the contours of the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) way of war, survey its current activities and capabilities, and assess its future military modernization goals. In 2021, the PRC increasingly turned to the PLA as an instrument of statecraft as it adopted more coercive and aggressive actions in the Indo-Pacific region. Having purportedly achieved its 2020 modernization goal, the PLA now sets its sights to 2027 with a goal to accelerate the integrated development of mechanization, informatization, and intelligentization of the PRC’s armed forces. If realized, this 2027 objective could give the PLA capabilities to be a more credible military tool for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to wield as it pursues Taiwan unification.

In addition to the development of the PLA’s conventional capabilities, the PRC has continued to accelerate the modernization, diversification, and expansion of its nuclear forces. The PRC has stated its ambition to strengthen its “strategic deterrent,” while being reluctant to discuss the PLA’s developing nuclear, space, and cyberspace capabilities, negatively impacting global strategic stability—an area of increasing global concern.

As the PRC seeks to achieve “national rejuvenation” by its centenary in 2049, this report highlights Beijing’s ambition to reform the prevailing international rules-based system. This objective requires an external environment supportive of the PRC’s strategic goals defined under the concept of a “community of common destiny,” led by Xi Jinping’s initiatives such as the Global Security Initiative and the Global Development Initiative.

This report illustrates how the CCP increasingly turns to the PLA in support of its global ambitions, and the importance of meeting the pacing challenge presented by the PRC’s increasingly capable military.

Report Scope: This report covers security and military developments involving the PRC until the end of 2021.

Download the document here.

Defense Primer: Naval Forces

The following is the Nov. 15, 2022, Congressional Research Service, Defense Primer: Naval Forces. From the report “Naval Forces” Refers to Both the Navy and Marine Corps Although the term naval forces is often used to refer specifically to Navy forces, it more properly refers to both Navy and Marine Corps forces, because both the […]

The following is the Nov. 15, 2022, Congressional Research Service, Defense Primer: Naval Forces.

From the report

“Naval Forces” Refers to Both the Navy and Marine Corps

Although the term naval forces is often used to refer specifically to Navy forces, it more properly refers to both Navy and Marine Corps forces, because both the Navy and Marine Corps are naval services. For further discussion, see CRS In Focus IF10484, Defense Primer: Department of the Navy, by Ronald O’Rourke. For a discussion of the Marine Corps that focuses on its organization as a ground-combat force, see CRS In Focus IF10571, Defense Primer: Organization of U.S. Ground Forces, by Barbara Salazar Torreon and Andrew Feickert.

U.S. Strategy and Naval Forces

U.S. naval forces give the United States the ability to convert the world’s oceans—a global commons that covers more than two-thirds of the planet’s surface—into a medium of maneuver and operations for projecting U.S. power ashore and otherwise defending U.S. interests around the world. The ability to use the world’s oceans in this manner—and to deny other countries the use of the world’s oceans for taking actions against U.S. interests—constitutes an immense asymmetric advantage for the United States.

As discussed elsewhere (see CRS In Focus IF10485, Defense Primer: Geography, Strategy, and U.S. Force Design, by Ronald O’Rourke), the size and composition of U.S. naval forces reflect the position of the United States as a Western Hemisphere power with a goal of preventing the emergence of regional hegemons (and otherwise defending and promoting U.S. interests) in Eurasia. As a result, the U.S. Navy includes significant numbers of aircraft carriers, nuclear-powered attack submarines, large surface combatants, large amphibious ships, and underway replenishment ships.

Navy Ship Types

The Navy’s ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) are dedicated to performing a singular mission of strategic nuclear deterrence. The Navy’s other ships, which are sometimes referred to as the Navy’s general-purpose ships, are generally multimission ships capable of performing a variety of missions other than strategic nuclear deterrence. The principal types of general-purpose ships in the Navy include attack submarines (SSNs); aircraft carriers (CVNs); large surface combatants, meaning cruisers (CGs) and destroyers (DDGs); small surface combatants, meaning frigates (FFGs), Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs), mine warfare (MIW) ships, and patrol craft (PCs); amphibious ships, whose primary function is to transport Marines and their equipment and supplies to distant operating areas and support Marine ship-to-shore movements and Marine operations ashore; combat logistics force (CLF) ships, which perform underway replenishment (UNREP) operations, meaning the at-sea resupply of combat ships; and other support ships of various types.

The Navy’s aircraft carriers embark multimission carrier air wings (CVWs) consisting of 60+ aircraft—mostly fixed-wing aircraft, plus a few helicopters. Each CVW typically includes 40 or more strike fighters that are capable of air-to-ground (strike) and air-to-air (fighter) combat operations.

Size of the Navy

The total number of ships in the Navy is a one-dimensional metric that leaves out many other important factors bearing on the Navy’s size and capabilities. Even so, observers often cite the total number of ships in the U.S. Navy as a convenient way of summarizing the Navy’s size and capabilities.

The quoted number of ships in the Navy reflects the battle force ships counting method, which is a set of rules for which ships count (or do not count) toward the quoted number of ships in the Navy. The battle force ships counting method was established in the early 1980s and has been modified by subsequent legislation. Essentially, it includes ships that are readily deployable overseas, and which contribute to the Navy’s overseas combat capability. The Naval History and Heritage Command maintains a database on numbers of ships in the Navy from 1886 to the present. (It is available here: https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/us-ship-force-levels.html.) Since this database extends back to 1886, it uses a different counting method that is more suitable for working with older historical data. This alternate counting method, however, produces, for the 1980s onwards, figures for the total size of the Navy that are different than the figures produced by the battle force ships counting method. For this reason, using figures from the NHHC database to quote the current size of the Navy can cause confusion.

Download the document here.

Defense Primer: U.S. Special Operation Forces

The following is the Nov. 21, 2022, Congressional Research Service, Defense Primer: Special Operation Forces. From the report Special Operations Forces (SOF) are those active duty and reserve component forces of the military services designated by the Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) and specifically selected, organized, trained, and equipped to conduct and support special operations. Special […]

The following is the Nov. 21, 2022, Congressional Research Service, Defense Primer: Special Operation Forces.

From the report

Special Operations Forces (SOF) are those active duty and reserve component forces of the military services designated by the Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) and specifically selected, organized, trained, and equipped to conduct and support special operations. Special operations frequently require unique modes of employment, tactics, techniques, procedures, and equipment. SOF often conducts special operations in hostile, politically, and/or diplomatically sensitive environments, and are characterized by one or more of the following: time-sensitivity, clandestine or covert nature, low visibility, work with or through indigenous forces, greater requirements for regional orientation and cultural expertise, and a high degree of risk. SOF’s core activities are:

  • Direct action
  • Special reconnaissance
  • Countering weapons of mass destruction
  • Counterterrorism
  • Unconventional warfare
  • Foreign internal defense
  • Security force assistance
  • Hostage rescue and recovery
  • Counterinsurgency
  • Foreign humanitarian assistance
  • Military information support operations
  • Civil affairs operations

Selection of SOF Operational Personnel

SOF operational personnel (often referred to as “operators”) undergo a rigorous screening and selection process characterized by a low selection rate. After selection, they receive mission-specific training to achieve proficiency in a variety of special operations skills. SOF operators tend to be experienced personnel and many maintain competency in more than one military specialty. Selected operators have regional, cultural, and linguistic expertise. Some SOF personnel require highly technical and advanced training for anticipated missions such as Military Freefall training, Combat Diver training, and Sniper training.

Command Structure and Components

In 1986, Congress, concerned about the status of SOF within overall U.S. defense planning and budgeting, passed legislation to strengthen special operations’ position within the defense community and to strengthen interoperability among the branches of U.S. SOF. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 1987 (P.L. 99-661), established an Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict (ASD (SOLIC)) and a new four-star command to prepare Special Operations Forces (SOF) to carry out assigned missions and, if directed by the President or SECDEF, to plan for and conduct special operations.

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict (ASD (SOLIC))

The ASD (SOLIC) is the principal civilian advisor to the SECDEF on special operations and low-intensity conflict matters. The ASD (SOLIC) has as their principal duty overall supervision (to include oversight of policy and resources) of special operations and low-intensity conflict activities. The ASD (SOLIC) falls under and reports to the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (USD (P)). Congress, wanting ASD (SOLIC) to exercise greater oversight of USSOCOM, enacted Section 922, FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 114-328) to facilitate and resource ASD (SOLIC)’s originally intended Service Secretary-like authorities.

U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM)

Activated on April 16, 1987, and headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, FL, USSOCOM is the unified Combatant Command (COCOM) responsible for organizing, training, and equipping all U.S. SOF units. Headquarters, USSOCOM consists of approximately 2,500 military and civilian personnel, and overall, the command has more than 70,000 personnel assigned to its headquarters, its service components, and sub-unified commands. The USSOCOM commander is a four-star general officer from any Service, who reports directly to the SECDEF. After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, USSOCOM’s responsibilities were expanded in the 2004 Unified Command Plan (UCP), assigning USSOCOM responsibility for coordinating the Department of Defense (DOD) plans against global terrorism and conducting global operations as directed. Since 2016, USSOCOM has also been assigned the roles coordinating authority over countering violent extremist operations (CVEO) and counter weapons of mass destruction (CWMD) operations.

Download the document here.

Report to Congress on Chinese Naval Modernization

The following is the Nov. 10, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities — Background and Issues for Congress. From the report China’s military modernization effort, including its naval modernization effort, is the top focus of U.S. defense planning and budgeting. China’s naval modernization effort has been underway for […]

The following is the Nov. 10, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities — Background and Issues for Congress.

From the report

China’s military modernization effort, including its naval modernization effort, is the top focus of U.S. defense planning and budgeting. China’s naval modernization effort has been underway for more than 25 years, since the early to mid-1990s, and has transformed China’s navy into a much more modern and capable force. China’s navy is a formidable military force within China’s near-seas region, and it is conducting a growing number of operations in the broader waters of the Western Pacific, the Indian Ocean, and waters around Europe.

China’s navy is, by far, the largest of any country in East Asia, and sometime between 2015 and 2020 it surpassed the U.S. Navy in numbers of battle force ships (meaning the types of ships that count toward the quoted size of the U.S. Navy). DOD states that China’s navy “is the largest navy in the world with a battle force of approximately 355 platforms, including major surface combatants, submarines, aircraft carriers, ocean-going amphibious ships, mine warfare ships, and fleet auxiliaries. This figure does not include 85 patrol combatants and craft that carry anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs). The… overall battle force [of China’s navy] is expected to grow to 420 ships by 2025 and 460 ships by 2030.” The U.S. Navy, by comparison, included 294 battle force ships at the end of FY2021, and the Navy’s FY2023 budget submission projects that the Navy will include 290 or 291 battle force ships by the end of FY2030. U.S. military officials and other observers are expressing concern or alarm regarding the pace of China’s naval shipbuilding effort and resulting trend lines regarding the relative sizes and capabilities of China’s navy and the U.S. Navy.

China’s naval modernization effort encompasses a wide array of ship, aircraft, weapon, and C4ISR (command and control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) acquisition programs, as well as improvements in logistics, doctrine, personnel quality, education and training, and exercises. China’s navy has currently has certain limitations and weaknesses, which it is working to overcome.

China’s military modernization effort, including its naval modernization effort, is assessed as being aimed at developing capabilities for, among other things, addressing the situation with Taiwan militarily, if need be; achieving a greater degree of control or domination over China’s near-seas region, particularly the South China Sea; defending China’s commercial sea lines of communication (SLOCs), particularly those linking China to the Persian Gulf; displacing U.S. influence in the Western Pacific; and asserting China’s status as the leading regional power and a major world power. Observers believe China wants its navy to be capable of acting as part of an anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) force—a force that can deter U.S. intervention in a conflict in China’s near-seas region over Taiwan or some other issue, or failing that, delay the arrival or reduce the effectiveness of intervening U.S. forces.

The U.S. Navy has taken a number of actions to counter China’s naval modernization effort. Among other things, the U.S. Navy has shifted a greater percentage of its fleet to the Pacific; assigned its most-capable new ships and aircraft to the Pacific; maintained or increased general presence operations, training and developmental exercises, and engagement and cooperation with allied and other navies in the Indo-Pacific; increased the planned future size of the Navy; initiated, increased, or accelerated numerous programs for developing new military technologies and acquiring new ships, aircraft, unmanned vehicles, and weapons; developed new operational concepts for countering Chinese maritime A2/AD forces; and signaled that the Navy in coming years will shift to a more-distributed fleet architecture that will feature a substantially greater use of unmanned vehicles. The issue for Congress is whether to approve, reject, or modify the Biden Administration’s proposed U.S. Navy plans, budgets, and programs for responding to China’s naval modernization effort.

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Navy Used 16-Year-Old Law Made to Boost Army Recruiting to Raise Enlistment Age for Sailors

The Navy will now allow men and women up to age 41 to enlist in the service, a new change in policy for which it has the Army to thank. Under the change, made by Navy Recruiting Command this month, the new maximum age for Navy recruits is 41, as long as the person enlisting […]

Recruits with the 64th Annual Recruit Cardinal Division stand at attention during a pass-in-review graduation ceremony inside Midway Ceremonial Drill Hall at Recruit Training Command, Nov. 4, 2022. US Navy Photo

The Navy will now allow men and women up to age 41 to enlist in the service, a new change in policy for which it has the Army to thank.

Under the change, made by Navy Recruiting Command this month, the new maximum age for Navy recruits is 41, as long as the person enlisting can report to training before their 42nd birthday, according to the new policy.

The service made the change to increase the potential enlistment pool, Cmdr. David Benham, a spokesperson for Navy Recruiting Command, said in an email.

“As we continue to navigate a challenging recruiting environment, raising the enlistment age allows us to widen the pool of potential recruits, creating opportunities for personnel who wish to serve, but were previously unable due to age,” Benham said in the email.
While the overall enlistment age is now two years older, certain positions in the Navy have their own age cutoffs, Benham said.

The Navy will now be the service with the oldest enlisted recruits –the service already accepted commissioned officer recruits until 42. The cutoff age for the Army is 39, although waivers will be accepted for people up to 45 years old. The Air Force and Space Force also accept enlisted recruits up to age 39, while the Marine Corps stops at 28 years old.

While the Navy will now have the oldest recruits, the Army was the first branch to up its age limit to 42.

Each service sets its age for accepting recruits, but the minimum and maximum ages for the military are set by Congress, which now does it through the National Defense Authorization Act.
Congress initially set the recruiting age limits in 1968, with men no younger than 17 years old and no older than 35 years old allowed to join the services, although they needed parental permission if younger than 18. Women were able to join if they were 18, but they needed parental permission if younger than 21, according to the Public Law 90-235 that added the age restrictions to the U.S. Code.

In 1974, Congress amended the U.S. Code to make age limits uniform between men and women, according to the Veterans Insurance Act of 1974.

In 2006, at the behest of the Army and the Pentagon, Congress changed the maximum age for enlisted recruits to 42 in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006.
The Army pushed for the age increase to 42, and in June 2005, the Pentagon filed paperwork with Congress asking to increase the maximum age for all branches, according to a 2005 report in the Chicago Tribune article.

The Pentagon asked for 42 to be the maximum age because it would bring enlisted age limits in line with those set for commissioned officers, according to the Tribune article. Joining the military at 42 would allow a person to serve 20 years before the mandatory retirement age of 62, although there are some exceptions.

The reason for increasing the age in 2006 is the same as the one 16 years later. Increasing the age limit increases the pool of eligible recruits.

By September 2006, there were some new recruits in the Army who were over 40, according to a Christian Science Monitor article. There were 11 recruits over 40, while there were 405 over 35.

The Army reverted its age limit back to 35 on April 1, 2011.

Report to Congress on Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding

The following is the Oct. 20, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress. From the report The current and planned size and composition of the Navy, the annual rate of Navy ship procurement, the prospective affordability of the Navy’s shipbuilding plans, and the capacity of the […]

The following is the Oct. 20, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress.

From the report

The current and planned size and composition of the Navy, the annual rate of Navy ship procurement, the prospective affordability of the Navy’s shipbuilding plans, and the capacity of the U.S. shipbuilding industry to execute the Navy’s shipbuilding plans have been oversight matters for the congressional defense committees for many years.

In December 2016, the Navy released a force-structure goal that calls for achieving and maintaining a fleet of 355 ships of certain types and numbers. The 355-ship goal was made U.S. policy by Section 1025 of the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 2810/P.L. 115-91 of December 12, 2017). The 355-ship goal predates the Trump and Biden Administrations’ national defense strategies and does not reflect the new fleet architecture (i.e., new mix of ships) that the Navy wants to shift toward in coming years. This new fleet architecture is to feature a smaller proportion of larger ships, a larger proportion of smaller ships, and a new third element of large unmanned vehicles (UVs). The Navy and the Department of Defense (DOD) have been working since 2019 to develop a successor for the 355-ship force-level goal that would reflect current national defense strategy and the new fleet architecture.

The Navy’s FY2023 30-year (FY2023-FY2052) shipbuilding plan, released on April 20, 2022, presents the results of three studies on possibilities for the Navy’s successor force-level goal. These studies call for a future Navy with 321 to 404 manned ships and 45 to 204 large UVs. A long-range Navy shipbuilding document that the Navy released on June 17, 2021, and which reflects some of these studies, outlined a future Navy that would include 321 to 372 manned ships and 77 to 140 large UVs. A congressionally mandated Battle Force Ship Assessment and Requirement (BFSAR) report that reportedly was provided to Congress in July 2022 reportedly calls for a Navy with 373 battle force ships.

The Navy’s proposed FY2023 budget requests $27.9 billion in shipbuilding funding for, among other things, the procurement of eight new ships, including two Virginia (SSN-774) class attack submarines, two Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) class destroyers, one Constellation (FFG-62) class frigate, one LPD-17 Flight II class amphibious ship, one John Lewis (TAO-205) class oiler, and one Navajo (TATS-6) class towing, salvage, and rescue ship. The Navy’s FY2023 budget submission shows a ninth ship—the amphibious assault ship LHA-9—as also being requested for procurement in FY2023. Consistent with both prior-year congressional authorization and appropriation action and Section 126 of the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) (H.R. 6395/P.L. 116-283 of January 1, 2021), CRS reports on Navy shipbuilding programs, including this report, treat LHA-9 as a ship that Congress procured (i.e., authorized and provided procurement—not advance procurement [AP]—funding for) in FY2021. Navy officials have described the listing of LHA-9 in the Navy’s FY2023 budget submission as a ship being requested for procurement in FY2023 as an oversight. The Navy’s proposed FY2023 budget also proposes retiring 24 ships, including 9 relatively young Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs).

The FY2023 30-year (FY2023-FY2052) shipbuilding plan released on April 20, 2022, includes three potential 30-year shipbuilding profiles and resulting 30-year force-level projections, referred to as Alternatives 1, 2, and 3. Alternatives 1 and 2 assume no real (i.e., above-inflation) growth in shipbuilding funding beyond the level to be attained over the five-year period FY2023-FY2027, while Alternative 3 assumes some amount of real growth in shipbuilding funds after FY2027. Under Alternative 1, the Navy would reach 300 manned ships in FY2035 and grow to 316 manned ships by FY2052. Under Alternative 2, the Navy would reach 300 manned ships in FY2035 and grow to 327 manned ships by FY2052. Under Alternative 3, the Navy would reach 300 manned ships in FY2033 and grow to 367 manned ships by FY2052.

Download the document here.

Report to Congress on Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding

The following is the Oct. 7, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress. From the report The current and planned size and composition of the Navy, the annual rate of Navy ship procurement, the prospective affordability of the Navy’s shipbuilding plans, and the capacity of the […]

The following is the Oct. 7, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress.

From the report

The current and planned size and composition of the Navy, the annual rate of Navy ship procurement, the prospective affordability of the Navy’s shipbuilding plans, and the capacity of the U.S. shipbuilding industry to execute the Navy’s shipbuilding plans have been oversight matters for the congressional defense committees for many years.

In December 2016, the Navy released a force-structure goal that calls for achieving and maintaining a fleet of 355 ships of certain types and numbers. The 355-ship goal was made U.S. policy by Section 1025 of the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 2810/P.L. 115- 91 of December 12, 2017). The 355-ship goal predates the Trump and Biden Administrations’ national defense strategies and does not reflect the new fleet architecture (i.e., new mix of ships) that the Navy wants to shift toward in coming years. This new fleet architecture is to feature a smaller proportion of larger ships, a larger proportion of smaller ships, and a new third element of large unmanned vehicles (UVs). The Navy and the Department of Defense (DOD) have been working since 2019 to develop a successor for the 355-ship force-level goal that would reflect current national defense strategy and the new fleet architecture.

The Navy’s FY2023 30-year (FY2023-FY2052) shipbuilding plan, released on April 20, 2022, presents the results of three studies on possibilities for the Navy’s successor force-level goal. These studies call for a future Navy with 321 to 404 manned ships and 45 to 204 large UVs. A long-range Navy shipbuilding document that the Navy released on June 17, 2021, and which reflects some of these studies, outlined a future Navy that would include 321 to 372 manned ships and 77 to 140 large UVs. A congressionally mandated Battle Force Ship Assessment and Requirement (BFSAR) report that reportedly was provided to Congress in July 2022 reportedly calls for a Navy with 373 battle force ships.

The Navy’s proposed FY2023 budget requests $27.9 billion in shipbuilding funding for, among other things, the procurement of eight new ships, including two Virginia (SSN-774) class attack submarines, two Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) class destroyers, one Constellation (FFG-62) class frigate, one LPD-17 Flight II class amphibious ship, one John Lewis (TAO-205) class oiler, and one Navajo (TATS-6) class towing, salvage, and rescue ship. The Navy’s FY2023 budget submission shows a ninth ship—the amphibious assault ship LHA-9—as also being requested for procurement in FY2023. Consistent with both prior-year congressional authorization and appropriation action and Section 126 of the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) (H.R. 6395/P.L. 116-283 of January 1, 2021), CRS reports on Navy shipbuilding programs, including this report, treat LHA-9 as a ship that Congress procured (i.e., authorized and provided procurement—not advance procurement [AP]—funding for) in FY2021. Navy officials have described the listing of LHA-9 in the Navy’s FY2023 budget submission as a ship being requested for procurement in FY2023 as an oversight. The Navy’s proposed FY2023 budget also proposes retiring 24 ships, including 9 relatively young Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs).

The FY2023 30-year (FY2023-FY2052) shipbuilding plan released on April 20, 2022, includes three potential 30-year shipbuilding profiles and resulting 30-year force-level projections, referred to as Alternatives 1, 2, and 3. Alternatives 1 and 2 assume no real (i.e., above-inflation) growth in shipbuilding funding beyond the level to be attained over the five-year period FY2023- FY2027, while Alternative 3 assumes some amount of real growth in shipbuilding funds after FY2027. Under Alternative 1, the Navy would reach 300 manned ships in FY2035 and grow to 316 manned ships by FY2052. Under Alternative 2, the Navy would reach 300 manned ships in FY2035 and grow to 327 manned ships by FY2052. Under Alternative 3, the Navy would reach 300 manned ships in FY2033 and grow to 367 manned ships by FY2052.

Download the document here.

GAO Report on U.S. Special Operations Forces

The following is the October Government Accountability Office report, Special Operation Forces: Better Data Necessary to Improve Oversight and Address Command and Control Challenges. From the report What GAO Found U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) has established a variety of command and control (C2) structures to manage its Special Operations Forces (SOF). In calendar year […]

The following is the October Government Accountability Office report, Special Operation Forces: Better Data Necessary to Improve Oversight and Address Command and Control Challenges.

From the report

What GAO Found

U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) has established a variety of command and control (C2) structures to manage its Special Operations Forces (SOF). In calendar year 2021, USSOCOM reported that it had 28 active SOF C2 structures, primarily in the Middle East (Central Command) and Africa (Africa Command). From calendar years 2018 through 2021, USSOCOM reported that it terminated or transitioned 57 SOF C2 structures.

USSOCOM has identified three challenges with its oversight of SOF C2 structures, including: (1) appropriately sizing or terminating; (2) maintaining SOF training and preparedness; and (3) staffing. USSOCOM has taken actions to address these challenges, including mission and organizational changes; reviews of SOF requirements; and improving management of deployments. While these are positive steps, it is too soon for GAO to determine whether these changes, and USSOCOM’s commitment to further improvements, are sufficient to address the challenges it faces with oversight of SOF C2 structures.

USSOCOM’s oversight of its C2 structures is hindered by limited data such as a lack of a standard terminology to define C2 structures and no requirement to have a centralized data collection mechanism for readily available and complete information. As such, there is not a consistent way to determine the composition of SOF C2 structures across the enterprise and maintain accountability of personnel assigned to SOF C2 structures. Additionally, the decentralized data collected by the SOF C2 structures themselves may not be maintained. By using a standard terminology and establishing a centralized data collection mechanism, DOD could improve transparency of its SOF C2 structures, which would further enhance oversight conducted by DOD and other entities, such as the Congress.

Download the document here.

Report to Congress on Navy Force Structure

The following is the Oct. 14, 2022, Congressional Research Service, Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress. From the report The current and planned size and composition of the Navy, the annual rate of Navy ship procurement, the prospective affordability of the Navy’s shipbuilding plans, and the capacity of the U.S. […]

The following is the Oct. 14, 2022, Congressional Research Service, Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress.

From the report

The current and planned size and composition of the Navy, the annual rate of Navy ship procurement, the prospective affordability of the Navy’s shipbuilding plans, and the capacity of the U.S. shipbuilding industry to execute the Navy’s shipbuilding plans have been oversight matters for the congressional defense committees for many years.

In December 2016, the Navy released a force-structure goal that calls for achieving and maintaining a fleet of 355 ships of certain types and numbers. The 355-ship goal was made U.S. policy by Section 1025 of the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 2810/P.L. 115-91 of December 12, 2017). The 355-ship goal predates the Trump and Biden Administrations’ national defense strategies and does not reflect the new fleet architecture (i.e., new mix of ships) that the Navy wants to shift toward in coming years. This new fleet architecture is to feature a smaller proportion of larger ships, a larger proportion of smaller ships, and a new third element of large unmanned vehicles (UVs). The Navy and the Department of Defense (DOD) have been working since 2019 to develop a successor for the 355-ship force-level goal that would reflect current national defense strategy and the new fleet architecture.

The Navy’s FY2023 30-year (FY2023-FY2052) shipbuilding plan, released on April 20, 2022, presents the results of three studies on possibilities for the Navy’s successor force-level goal. These studies call for a future Navy with 321 to 404 manned ships and 45 to 204 large UVs. A long-range Navy shipbuilding document that the Navy released on June 17, 2021, and which reflects some of these studies, outlined a future Navy that would include 321 to 372 manned ships and 77 to 140 large UVs. A congressionally mandated Battle Force Ship Assessment and Requirement (BFSAR) report that reportedly was provided to Congress in July 2022 reportedly calls for a Navy with 373 battle force ships.

The Navy’s proposed FY2023 budget requests $27.9 billion in shipbuilding funding for, among other things, the procurement of eight new ships, including two Virginia (SSN-774) class attack submarines, two Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) class destroyers, one Constellation (FFG-62) class frigate, one LPD-17 Flight II class amphibious ship, one John Lewis (TAO-205) class oiler, and one Navajo (TATS-6) class towing, salvage, and rescue ship. The Navy’s FY2023 budget submission shows a ninth ship—the amphibious assault ship LHA-9—as also being requested for procurement in FY2023. Consistent with both prior-year congressional authorization and appropriation action and Section 126 of the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) (H.R. 6395/P.L. 116-283 of January 1, 2021), CRS reports on Navy shipbuilding programs, including this report, treat LHA-9 as a ship that Congress procured (i.e., authorized and provided procurement—not advance procurement [AP]—funding for) in FY2021. Navy officials have described the listing of LHA-9 in the Navy’s FY2023 budget submission as a ship being requested for procurement in FY2023 as an oversight. The Navy’s proposed FY2023 budget also proposes retiring 24 ships, including 9 relatively young Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs).

The FY2023 30-year (FY2023-FY2052) shipbuilding plan released on April 20, 2022, includes three potential 30-year shipbuilding profiles and resulting 30-year force-level projections, referred to as Alternatives 1, 2, and 3. Alternatives 1 and 2 assume no real (i.e., above-inflation) growth in shipbuilding funding beyond the level to be attained over the five-year period FY2023-FY2027, while Alternative 3 assumes some amount of real growth in shipbuilding funds after FY2027. Under Alternative 1, the Navy would reach 300 manned ships in FY2035 and grow to 316 manned ships by FY2052. Under Alternative 2, the Navy would reach 300 manned ships in FY2035 and grow to 327 manned ships by FY2052. Under Alternative 3, the Navy would reach 300 manned ships in FY2033 and grow to 367 manned ships by FY2052.

Download the document here.