Surface Forces: October 2, 2004

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The U.S. Navy has pretty much given up the long desired goal of a 375 warship fleet. Currently, there are 293 ships, and that number is expected to decline, in the next decade, to about 230, or as few as 200, ships. This will occur because older ships, built during the Cold War,  will be worn out and have to be retired, and new ships will not be built rapidly enough to replace them. The biggest cuts are in amphibious ships (expeditionary strike groups being cut from twelve to eight) and submarines (current force of 55 nuclear attack subs could fall to 37.) But surface ships will be feeling the cuts as well. Instead of building 24 of the new DD(X) destroyers, where will only be 13. Only 40 of the new littoral combat ships would be built, instead of 56. Building the original number of ships would cost between $16 billion and $19 billion. Building the lower numbers could cost between $12 billion and $14 billion. The navy wants to put the money saved, from building fewer ships and having fewer sailors, into new technology. Building modern warships is expensive, and the most expensive ships, the nuclear aircraft carriers, are first in line for replacement. Trying to maintain fleet size at close to 300 ships would cost about $20 billion more a year than the Congress appears willing to give the navy. The war on terror is mainly an Army and SOCOM (Special Operations Command) show, and thats where any extra money will likely go over the next decade.

 


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