Procurement: May 15, 2005

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The U.S. Navy is suffering sticker shock at the shipbuilders. The next generation of aircraft carriers are going to cost over $10 billion each, which is three billion more than the last batch. The next generation of escort ships for the carriers, the DD(X), will cost over $1.5 billion each. This is the main reason the effort to build the navy up to a force of 300-350 ships wont happen unless the mix of ships changes. The LCS (Littoral Combat Ship) costs only $250 million each, and costs only $14 million a year to operate. It costs $20 million a year for the DD(X). The navy doesnt want to lose any more carriers, but the force has already shrunk from fifteen to twelve (since the 1990s), and may go down to ten before the end of the decade. 

The American carriers are unique, no other nation has anything like them. Every other nation with carriers uses smaller ones that carry less than half the combat aircraft U.S. carriers haul. In fact, the majority of carrier aircraft in the world are American. The ability of American carriers to move quickly across the worlds oceans provides irreplaceable combat power. This was seen in Afghanistan, when the quick elimination of the Taliban government would not have been possible without those carriers. But a carrier task force costs nearly $20 billion to build new, and some $300 million a year to operate. 

Another option the navy is talking about is cutting back on its fleet of amphibious ships. This has the marines in an uproar. The new amphibious ships, which are actually small carriers, cost over a billion dollars each, but make it possible for the marines to be first on the scene for a crises. Problem is, this capability has not been needed much. Someone apparently took a close look at past experience with the amphibious force and decided that lots of cuts could be tolerated.

While the lightweight (under 3,000 tons) LCS is popular, and a cheap way to get ship numbers up, the carrier force still have a huge fan club, and an impressive track record. Trouble is, the navy cant afford to stop building everything else in order to maintain the carrier force.

 


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