The Navy has cancelled planned ballistic missile defense (BMD) upgrades for five Burke class destroyers due to budget constraints (1). The ships will not receive the Baseline 9 Aegis combat system upgrades. The cuts in modernization funding will save around $500M over five years.
The cuts also impact the ship's networking and target data sharing capabilities.
"Additionally — without the Baseline 9 upgrade — the ships will not be wired into the Navy’s emerging Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA (pronounced: nifk-kah)) that would allow destroyers to download targeting information from assets outside of the range of their SPY-1D radars to attack air and BMD threats with the Raytheon Standard Missile 6 (SM-6)."
Well, that’s very unfortunate that we can’t afford those upgrades but as CNO Greenert said,
"When asked about the reductions following a House appropriations hearing on Thursday, Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Jonathan Greenert told USNI News the cuts were a result of hard fiscal choices and reflected the service’s priorities."
Well, CNO Greenert is right. When you have a limited budget, you have to make hard choices based on your priorities and … wait … let me go back to that cost number … $500M ?!! … to get 5 BMD and network capable Burkes? … $500M – isn’t that the cost of a single LCS? So, CNO Greenert is telling us that the Navy’s priorities are that they would rather have an LCS than five BMD/network capable Burkes? Does that make sense to you?! I’ve said all along that Greenert is completely focused on low end and peacetime activities at the expense of warfighting and readiness and this just proves it.
I recently posted that, for reasons totally obscure to me, the Navy considers the LCS untouchable and this yet another example. The Navy would rather pass on five BMD/network capable Burkes than give up one LCS.
However, according to the article,
"Currently, the Navy’s number one priority is the $100 billion design and construction effort for a new nuclear ballistic missile submarine to replace the aging Ohio-class boomers (SSB)."
I'm not sure if the Navy's internal top priority really is the replacement SSBN. As I’ve pointed out, the LCS looks to be the Navy’s top priority. Still, it demonstrates the domino effect that occurs when a program, the SSBN replacement, in this case, is so expensive that it not only limits itself but cripples other programs. The F-35, for example, is gutting the Marines and Air Force by forcing those services to cancel other badly needed programs to pay for the F-35. Similarly, the SSBN has long been predicted to gut Navy shipbuilding, operating, and maintenance funding and now we're seeing the first concrete results.
We’ll continue to watch the SSBN funding play out but I predict that we’re going to see many more examples of early retirements, deferred maintenance, cancelled upgrades, and truncated shipbuilding to pay for the SSBN unless the Navy can get the funding shifted to a higher DoD level (of course, that just means that every service will have its budget cut a bit more to pay for the SSBN – there are no free lunches). This is further evidence that the Navy’s 30 year shipbuilding plan is pure fantasy. Many future ships will have to be cancelled to pay for the SSBN.
Seriously, how do you defend prioritizing the LCS over five Burke BMD/network upgrades? Every time I think the Navy has hit rock bottom in decision making they dig a trench and lower the bar a bit more.
(1) USNI, "Navy Again Reduces Scope of Destroyer Modernization, 5 Ships Won’t Receive Any Ballistic Missile Defense Upgrades", Sam LaGrone,