Monday, March 9, 2015

Combat Fleet Count Update

Here is the periodic update on the combat fleet size.  The Navy claims the fleet is growing and is well on its way to 300+ but what are the actual numbers?  Well, previous updates have shown that the combat fleet size is steadily decreasing.

To refresh your memory, the combat fleet is composed of carriers, cruisers, destroyers, frigates, submarines, and amphibious ships (CVN, DDG, CG, FFG, SSN, SSBN, SSGN, LHA, LHD, LPD, and LSD).  Vessels like the JHSV, MCM, PC, hospital ships, LCS (we’ll count them if and when they ever get any combat capability), tugs, salvage ships, and ships whose designation starts with “T” or “A” are not counted as part of the combat fleet.

Here are the updated numbers.

1980  392
1985  421
1990  405
1995  283
2000  243
2005  220
2010  225
2012  210
2014  205
2015  201

You can check the fleet size for yourself at .

The combat fleet count continues to decrease and it will only get worse.  All the remaining frigates will retire this year and the Navy is still attempting to retire or idle half the Aegis cruiser force.

Despite this evidence, the Navy still claims to be on track for a 300+ ship fleet. 

I’ll close this post with the same statement I closed the previous Combat Fleet Count update posts:

Compare the Navy’s trend to China’s and ponder the implications for yourself.

I’ll continue to update this from time to time.


  1. What is your criteria for including or excluding a ship from the "combat fleet"?

    According to the SECNAV, "Battle force ships are commissioned United States Ship (USS) warships capable of contributing to combat operations, or a United States Naval Ship that contributes directly to Navy warfighting or support missions and shall be maintained in the Naval Vessel Register. "

    So by this definition CLF ships, PCs, MIW ships and LCS's all count.

    1. Unless you're looking to argue for the sake of argument, it's patently clear why I've focused on the ships that I have. Nonetheless, I'll spell it out for you one time and one time only.

      Every ship, RHIB, barge, floating drydock and canoe in the Navy contributes to the overall ability of the fleet to fight. However, a fleet has a core of ships that are intended to be the heart of its combat capability. Those are the ships that launch offensive strikes and conduct active defensive operations. Those are the ships that carry the brunt of combat. None of the ships that I've excluded will carry the brunt of combat. The need for a powerful core of combat ships is self-evident. Tracking the growth, or decline, of that group is vital especially given an Administration and Navy leadership that is attempting to disguise a significant decrease in combat capability by counting non-combat ships.

      As a side note, Congress included in their laws, language expressly forbidding the Navy from counting those non-combat ships as part of the combat fleet. Apparently, they could see the obvious ploy on the part of Navy leadership as well as I could.

      The core of the Navy's combat capability is shrinking rapidly.

      If you, personally, wish to count non-combat ships, be my guest. You'll probably sleep better at night, comforted by a higher ship count.

      I won't be commenting further on this. It's too obvious and you're well aware of it. You're just trying to tweak me for some reason. Moving on ...

    2. agreed. the idea of putting Marines or Special Ops personnel on a logistics ship and suddenly declare it part of the combat fleet is utter non-sense. additionally while we can play silly with those type numbers and talk about distributed firepower then we must do the same with Chinese numbers. the results will remain stark. we're behind and falling further.

      the talk about a "global fleet" and adding allies to the mix is curious. we have no indication that they will be with us for everyfight and those numbers will fluctuate wildly depending on who's involved.

      we're in trouble.

    3. I'm just asking for an objective definition. Can you state in a few sentences a revised definition that matches your thinking?

      PCs apparently aren't part of the "heart of its combat capability" but would PCs carrying anti-ship cruise missiles count? What qualifies a ship to be part of this "core of ships"?

      Including logistics units in the "battleforce fleet" does give you an overall measure of the sustainability of the battleforce. In many cases these ships are as, if not more, important than Burkes or SSNs to our warfighting capability.

      Personally, I don't look at one number to judge our Navy. I think it's kinda foolish to focus so much on it. However the numbers are trending down, however you count them. That's what is important, and worrisome.

    4. I think we are all in agreement that the downward trend in numbers is worrisome...I think the CNO was attempting to screen out some of the "background noise" that makes getting a solid count on the fleet difficult. What I'm specifically referring to is the propensity for the Navy to change what ships are counted over time towards its fleet strength. And while I agree that it would be foolish to look at numbers only, I do believe that overall combatant numbers need to be factored in to any evaluation of the fleet's capabilities, based on the direct correlation that number will have for OPTEMPO and the second-order maintenance and readiness concerns that derive from it.

    5. I think the point is the trend line, and I don't think it matters too much you define "battle force fleet," as long as you do it consistently. If you include service force ships the number gets bigger, but it also gets bigger, and by generally larger increments, for the other years. That's the message. The trend line is bad, no matter how you define it.

  2. The RAND Corporation study titled “A Macroscopic Examination of the Trends in U.S. Naval Ship Costs Over the Past Several Decades” noted that since the end of the Second World War, ship costs have increased 7-11% on top of inflation adjustments. This trend is the result of economy based factors (i.e. labor and material costs, ect), and customer factors including “survivability, habitability, working conditions both on board and in constructing ships, and environmental regulations surrounding the construction and operation of ships.” Uncertainty in production numbers was also cited. Similar cost factors affected the Royal Navy, and aircraft production.

    When faced with what was believed to be an exigent threat during WWII, the American public was willing to spend 40% of every dollar created; during the height of the cold war it was 12-15%. The CBO projects 2.8% by 2024.

    If ship costs continue to outstrip inflation, and defense spending continues to decline compared to GDP, or overall government spending – fleet size must decline.

    V/R TA

    1. TA, you're exactly right. This post and the trend in numbers is important to us so that we know where we're headed. Whether we think the trend is a good one or not is a matter for opinion but the trend itself is clear. HOWEVER, the Navy is attempting to hide the trend by counting non-combat ships. They would have us believe that tomorrow's 300 ship fleet is the same as todays (ignoring that we don't have a 300 ship fleet - I'm speaking conceptually). It's not. Tomorrow's 300 ship fleet will be significantly lacking in high end combat power. The Navy would have us count 52 LCS, a dozen Cyclone patrol boats, a dozen Avenger MCM vessels, hospital ships, etc. so that we don't recognize the decline in combat numbers and power. Well, I recognize the decline and I'm pointing it out as clearly as I can to all of you.

      If we choose to spend less the result is that the fleet shrinks, so be it. But, to try to hide the result in administrative reclassification games is deception and needs to be called out.

  3. My comment on the left hand/right hand thread is probably more appropriate here (if only I had known CNO was going to post this, LOL). As of 5 March, our entire forward presence of major air-capable ships consists of one carrier (in Arabian/Persian Gulf) and two LHA/LHDs (one in WestPac, other near Bab el Mandeb) deployed, plus one LHA/LHD on local ops, and one carrier in home port of Yokosuka.

    That's it. That's not much. With the expectation of future declines noted above, will we be able to have any presence at all?

    1. My concern is not the total number of ships in the fleet but what we do with them. Constantly sending CVN's around the world as presence eventually loses any real meaning. If instead we changed our goal to having a two carrier fleet capable of deploying anywhere in the world on 1-week notice and then used that sparingly it would send a real message when it actually went out.

      Instead we are wearing down our fleet by constantly sending it around the world to show the flag while the fleet is literally rusting out from under us. We have amphibs that have an enourmous back log of maintenance and they could not be maintenanced because they were on an anti-piracy patrol or were conducting an exercise in the Phillipines.

      We need to put maintenance first, training second and presence third. Otherwise we are going to watch a $2,000,000,000 ship slip under the waves because the CIWS has been broke for the last 6 months and the $100,000 to fix it was instead spent on fuel cutting squares off of somalia.

    2. USMC,

      Good and valid points. Particularly like your maintenance first, training second, and presence third. On the other hand, it was always my experience, and pretty common among other officers whenever the subject came up, that ships generally came back from deployments in better shape with respect to all three than they were before they left. Something about actually having to DO something that sharpens the sword quite a bit.

      We probably have too many commitments, and the ones that amount to little more than cutting squares off Somalia should probably be among the first to go. The other thing is that a lot of the "presence" commitments can be covered in many cases by ships at the low end of my high/low mix or the peace/end of the war/peace mix that CNO has discussed as a conceptual alternative. We need ships doing pirate patrol in the IO. Those ships don't need to be Burkes. Something as bare bones as a French Floreal can handle that job just fine. Doing that frees up money to train and maintain.

      The real problem I see is too many bosses and not enough worker bees. McKinsey did a study (I can't link it because I can't find it online any more, but I have a copy and could shoot it to anyone who gives me an email address) looking at military expenditures in the OECD (developed) countries. The results are a bit staggering, no matter what methodological questions could be asked (and I have some, just reading the study). The average developed country spends 14% of its military budget on combat, 23% on combat support, and 63% on admin/overhead. That's bad enough, but the US, by comparison, spends 9% on combat, 14% on combat support, and a whopping 77% on admin/overhead. And this is with us fighting two wars during the time frame of the study. A lot of that maintenance and training are not getting done because the people who would have to do it are driving desks around the Pentagon (or elsewhere in DC or other non-operational jobs) and the money to spend it is going instead to keep a lot of non-operational activities going. Do the math, if we got the overhead down to the level of the rest of OECD, we could knock $100 billion off the defense budget (or knock of part of that and have part of that to spend on maintenance and training). And of course, it's those non-operational admin types who give us things like the LCS and the Zumwalt and the F35 and whatnot, because they have to do something to justify their existence and they are too out of touch with operations to know what is really needed. Cut the Pentagon staff in half and cut payments to contractors in half and I think you'd see a tremendous addition by subtraction effect.

      Back to your point, we probably have been over-deployed at times in the past. If anything, I think we are under-deployed now, particularly for a nation that is regarded as leader of the free world. And I don't think the ships sitting back in port are getting much done with training of maintenance, in addition to demonstrating zero presence.

    3. There is value in presence.

      Whether one believes the value is worth the cost is another thing..

    4. USMC, I agree with you to a point. There is a value and benefit to actually going out an operating in the areas you expect to fight in. Ocean is not universal, nor is air. Thermoclines, salinity, density, underwater topography, storms, dust clouds, rain, ambient temperature, etc. are all subtle factors that need to be experienced to acquire proficiency in. There is also the benefit of first hand observance of unfriendly aircraft and ships, intercepts, signals intercepts, unfriendly radio and electromagnetic operating patterns, radar signature observations, etc. And, of course, there is always the practical aspects of ship handling in storms, dust clouds, etc. So, there is a benefit to being out and about. That said, I do agree with you that we have far too many useless taskings that simply prolong deployments for no good reason.

      Unfortunately, the current trend of reduced deployments and aviation stand downs is not resulting in enhanced training or maintenance. The ships and aircraft are simply sitting idle. That may mitigate wear and tear but it's not enhancing readiness.

      So, I completely agree with prioritizing maintenance and training and reducing deployments to do so but I also see a benefit to deployments that goes beyond the immediate mission.

  4. Anyone want to crunch numbers? Retire one CVN with air wing and you can keep four subs and ten surface combatants. This is overdue to balance the fleet, and will help your tally.

    1. Be careful not to crunch numbers in a vacuum. We could retire all our carriers and air wings and gain lots of subs and surface ships but is that a good thing relative to the missions we anticipate?

      Do we need more carriers or more surface ships? Or both? Or fewer of both? We need to evaluate force structure and numbers in the context of a comprehensive military strategy. Sadly, we have no such thing so everyone tends to play number games that have to linkage to real world needs.

      So, crunch away but do so with an eye on needs!

    2. Somewhere I saw a suggested balanced approach starting with 10-ship increments of 1 carrier, 2 cruisers, 3 submarines, and 4 destroyers. If you need 12 carrier task groups to keep 3 deployable, that would get you to a base force of 120 ships that would cover the forward presence and power projection roles. I've been intrigued by a kind of sea control battle cruiser concept. Borrowing from the Soviets, something around 35,000 tons combining a Kirov-style front end with some big guns (8" Mk-71s?) added to heavy-duty missiles, with a Kiev-style flight deck that could handle a few STOVL and a lot of unmanned aircraft. Build 8 more blocks of 10 ships with one of those and with a Japanese Hyuga for one of the cruisers, and you could keep 2 task groups deployed in the sea control and maritime security roles. That gets you to 200 ships--12 carriers, 8 battlecruisers, 40 cruisers (including 8 Hyugas), 60 SSN (probably operate 1-2 with each surface task group and the rest independently), and 80 destroyers. I'd do some high/low mixing, probably 6 Fords and 6 70-80,000 ton carriers, a mix of Virginias and smaller subs like French Barracudas, and the destroyers split between Burkes and something like Spanish F105s, Norwegian Nansens, Danish Huitfeldt/Absalons, and French/Italian Horizons/FREMMs. Add 15-20 subs to fill the SSBN/SSGN roles for the deterrence mission. For amphibs I would go away from putting all the eggs in the LHA/LHD basket and try dispersing across a larger number (40-50) of smaller ships (Spanish Juan Carlos/Australian Canberra LHA, which give you STOVL capability, UK Albion LPD, Dutch de Witt LSD, French Mistral/Korean Dokdo LPH, and some LSTs, maybe take the Newport design, put a real LST bow on it, and do what the Aussies did with Kanimbla/Manoora topside) to cover the power projection and humanitarian/disaster assistance roles). Add 30 UNREP ships, 30 mine warfare ships, and 30 corvette/patrol units to fight in the littorals, and you're at 360. Tweak up or down from there. Probably take $18 billion a year shipbuilding budget to support that. Cut personnel costs by moving active duty slots to reserves and chopping non-operational staffs and defense contractors with a meat cleaver, not a scalpel. Cut procurement costs elsewhere by using the same high/low approach. It's a starting point.

    3. CDR, the flip side of a balanced force is that it is optimized for nothing. As I've repeatedly stated, we must build or force for whatever strategic uses we foresee. Consider a war with China. We might opt for an aggressive, heavy hitting, deep penetration strategy or we might opt for a standoff, "blockade" approach. The forces required for each approach are radically different. We need to establish a strategy and build our force for it.

      I'm not advocating any particular strategy, at the moment, just pointing out the need for a strategy, whatever it is.

      Perhaps your balanced force would meet the needs of a given strategy - perhaps not. It's impossible to say without a strategy to measure your force against. Thus, I can neither criticize nor support your proposed force. I merely note that it is unlikely to be optimal.

      That said, the reality is that we lack a strategy and in the absence thereof, a balanced force of some kind that we hope meets most of our needs is the best the we can do.

    4. CNO, I agree that it makes no sense to be doing anything without a strategy, and right now we don't have one. One big problem is that one of the missions needs to be a confrontation with a peer nation and another needs to be asymmetric warfare against a rogue nations terror group, and those two missions are very dissimilar.

      All I'm trying to do there is say this is what could be done with an eye toward the six "core capabilities" that I have seen put forward:

      1. Forward presence
      2. Deterrence
      3. Sea control
      4. Maritime security
      5. Power projection, and
      6. Humanitarian/disaster relief

      I really don't know what the heck anybody is thinking at the top. Anything said for public consumption is a bunch of meaningless platitudes. It really makes me want to throw up.

      Looking back at what I wrote above, I realize that I'd probably want to include about 20 conventional/AIP SSKs and I was probably light on mine warfare and UNREP ships, so we would probably be pushing 400 ships. I've put the data into one of Smitty's spreadsheet templates, and we can get there on about $18 billion a year if we do enough low end stuff instead of all cutting edge state of the art technology. And we can free that much up from current levels if we cut manpower costs by 1) moving a significant number of billets to reserve slots and 2) gutting non-operational staffs and related civilian contractors. Assets that float or fly are far more important than desks.

      I don't know, maybe we should start a thread on just what SHOULD be the mission(s) of the navy. Until then, at least this is one idea.

    5. CNO,

      We shouldn't go too far optimizing a force for a particular strategy. Strategies can change rapidly, but the force can't. A force "optimal" for one strategy may be inappropriate for another.

      IMHO, we should have a generalist force, that can handle a wide variety of strategies and situations. We can optimize a bit in certain areas, but have to weigh this against any loss in flexibility.

    6. Smitty, you and I have a fundamental difference about the nature and longevity of a strategy. I have no problem looking at the next 30 years (the life cycle of a ship) and clearly identifying our potential enemies and how I want to deal with them. That won't change significantly. China is not suddenly going to completely turn in a different direction. NKorea is going to be the same NK that it's been for the last 50 years. Iran is not going to suddenly adopt peaceful ways nor is it going to suddenly become a major superpower (nuclear weapons aside).

      What might change suddenly are the small, third world countries where overthrows, terrorism, and what not can spring up overnight but those are minor subsets from a military capacity perspective.

      So, with a firm handle on our 30 year strategy, I can easily foresee the type of operations and force structure we'll need.

      This type of "gaming" of the geopolitical landscape and subsequent military strategy and resulting force structure requires a bit of considered thought but it really isn't rocket science. If you're afraid to commit to a moderately specialized force structure then you're not realistically reading the landscape.

    7. CDR Chip,

      I'm curious to see what you came up with for your force model. Post it online?

      $18 billion/year for SCN would be a major shift. For that amount, the Navy could afford their "dream fleet" (e.g. 12 Fords, 50 VPM'd Virginias, 12 SSBN(X)s, 70 Flt III Burkes, 52 LCS/FF, 33 Amphibs).

    8. CNO,

      I think we can develop long term, peacetime strategies, but developing wartime strategies is tremendously situation-dependent. i.e. "No plan survives contact with the enemy."

      We can't even identify wartime strategic goals without understanding the situation. About the best we can do is wargame various potential scenarios to see if we can generate some overall strategic guidance.

      For example, I doubt we had a strategy to retake Kuwait from Iraq before Iraq invaded. I doubt we have a strategy to invade China to replace the Chinese regime.

      Strategies start with strategic goals.

      IMHO, our peacetime strategic goal with respect to China, goes something like this,

      "Manage the peaceful rise of China within the framework of international laws and norms, and encourage the spread of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law."

      Our strategy for accomplishing this is to,

      1) Maintain a robust forward presence (Level 2 - Assured Defense on the Rubel Scale) to deter aggression and maintain international laws and norms.

      2) Build allied capacity in the region through training, technology exchange, economic assistance, and military sales.

      3) Foster direct political, economic and military ties with China to reduce the likelihood of misunderstandings, and encourage them to see things "our way".

      4) Sell Brand USA (e.g. our values, our ideals, our way of life) in China and around the world.

      What kinds of naval specialization could we do with regards to this strategy?

    9. You're confusing operations with strategy. Operations are subject to change and operational plans don't survive contact but strategy is constant. Strategy is the overriding goal and methodology. In WWII/Pacific, our strategy was to roll back the Japanese gains by island hopping across the Pacific, to boil it down to a single sentence. The individual operations changed frequently in response to enemy actions and our own successes and failures but our strategy never changed.

      That said, your proffered strategy is geopolitical one not a military one. Setting aside any opinion on the wisdom of that strategy, we have ten times the military force required to carry it out - mainly because it isn't a military strategy. All your strategy calls for militarily is a bit of forward presence and your strategy strongly suggests that there is no possibility of conflict since there are no "red lines" built into it and not even any points of potential conflict. What will you do if, despite your geopolitical strategy, war with China actually occurs? What will be your strategic goal then and how will you achieve it, militarily? That's the strategy we're talking about. That's the strategy that will determine our force structure.

    10. Strategy is hardly constant. It depends on goals, which change and are situation-dependent.

      Our strategy in WWII/Pacific was dependent on the Japanese making those gains in the first place. Had the Japanese not taken those islands, we would have needed a different strategy. In other words, our strategy was dependent on Japanese actions.

      My strategy was geopolitical, for sure. That has to be the starting point. The geopolitical strategy feeds military strategy. Deterrence through forward presence, building allied capacity, and fostering military/political ties are the goals of a military strategy.

      An "Assured Defense" forward presence vs China is a considerable forward presence. It has to be enough to defend protected allies to the point where the cost of aggression greatly outweighs the perceived gains, in Chinese eyes. Arguably, we don't have that level of presence there right now.

      The strategic goal of a war with China depends on the Chinese actions and circumstances of the conflict. It may be putative punishment to express our displeasure. It may be to roll back Chinese gains. It may be to contain further aggression. It may be all out, "us or them".

      Without knowing the goals, it's impossible to determine a strategy. An "us or them" strategy and force model will be FAR different than a putative punishment strategy and force model.

      We can guess at some goals, we can wargame out scenarios. These can feed military strategy and force structure, but we won't know what our goals are in an actual war until we know the circumstances.

    11. Smitty,

      Don't know how to post all the details here, but here's a summary. It's a high/low mix approach.
      Carriers-12, 6 Fords and 6 in the QEII/Kitty Hawk 70-80,000 ton range, I have them all nukes but could consider going conventional on the smaller ones
      Subs-110, 30 Virginias rather than 50, augmented by 30 smaller SSNs, like French Barracuda or DARPA Tango Bravo, 14 SSBN and 6 SSGN plus 30 AIP like Scorpene or Type 214
      Sea control/battlecruisers (new idea)--8 with big guns and big missiles forward and a flight deck that could handle 10 STOVL and a lot of UAV
      Cruisers--40, 12 enlarged Burkes that would operate with the carriers, 8 Hyugas that would operate with the sea control groups, 10 ABM, and 10 gun cruisers (combination Des Moines and arsenal ship) that would operate with the phib groups.
      Destroyers/Escorts-80, mix of Burkes at the high end and adapted cheaper European designs at the low end (Horizon, Daring, FREMM, F105, Nansen, Huitfeldt, Absalon); we get ships cheaper and allies get their ship buys lengthened which saves them money to fully equip instead of building for but not with; I'm anticipating that US shipyards would build under license
      Amphibs-50, get away from the huge LHA/LHD concept and spread around with more and smaller ships with wider range of capabilities, 10 Juan Carlos/Canberra LHA/LHD, 10 UK Albion LPD, 10 Mistral/Dokdo LPH, 10 de Witt LSD, and 10 real LST, I'm thinking take the Newports, go back to an LST bow, and modify the topside the way the Aussies did with Kanimbla/Manoora
      With that we'd have 300 warships in 6 CVN battle groups, 6 CV(X) battle groups, 8 sea control groups that would operate in open ocean away from most land based air and focus on ASW and maritime security, and 10 amphib groups. Now add 30 dedicated mine warfare ships, 30 frigates to bolster the screening for the battle groups, and 40 UNREP ships to keep it all going. The frigates, sweeps, and non-nuke subs would be set up as surge ships and manned with part active, part reserve crews
      Running them through your model I come out at just under $18 billion a year. I figure offset the increase with manpower cost savings by converting active duty slots to reserve slots and by cutting non-operating staffs and contractors in half, and also by cutting the aircraft acquisition budget by substituting cheaper options for at least half the F35 buys. My total acquisition costs including aircraft is about $28 billion a year. I saw a total of $32 billion for ships ($15 billion) and aircraft ($17 billion) but that included Marine aircraft. If $4 billion a year takes care of Marine aircraft, then the numbers fit as is and the personnel changes can be used to reduce overall spending.

    12. CDR Chip,

      Interesting. Lots of different types of task forces. Lots of ship types. Not necessarily bad, but we've seen how hard and expensive it is to get one new ship class through development and into production. OTOH, perhaps the additional design work would improve the design side of our shipbuilding industry.

      I'm concerned about the sea control/battlecrusier idea. The larger and more expensive the ship is, the less likely we'll want to put it close to shore for NGFS. So I would split the role of NGFS warship and cruiser/VTOL carriers, but just MHO. Maybe put the guns on the lower end frigates or even amphibs.

      For Amphibs, do we need five different classes of ship? What roles do you see that are different between an LHA/LHD and an LPH, for example?

      Can you share the link to your spreadsheet? Just have to go in the top right corner of the Google Sheet and click Share. In the dialog select "Anyone can view", and hit Copy Link. Then paste the link into this thread.

    13. Smitty,

      Good points, I'll try to share some of my thinking in response.

      The varied ship types come about because
      1. I'm trying to do the high/low thing at every level and
      2. I think it's tactically and strategically useful to be able to bring different weapons and sensors into play. If the enemy jams your high end radar, maybe your low end sees you through. Consider the RN "Type 64" or 42/22 combination in the Falklands, and
      3. With the lack of specificity of goals, I’m trying to build a balanced fleet that could respond in as many directions as possible, so more flexibility helps there.

      And you go to war with the military you have, not the one you want, so you might as well cover as many bases as you can.

      As far as getting new ship classes into production, I’m pretty much taking off the shelf designs for my models. The one thing I would do is that a lot of the new European ships are being built to a lesser damage control standard, and I would want to up them all to naval standard. Again looking back at Falklands, of the RN ships built to military specs, 4 were hit and none sunk, while of the RN/RFA ships built to lesser DC standards, 12 were hit and 5 sunk. I’ve assumed about a 10% bump in cost for doing that. The one thing that would be absolutely critical to success of this approach is that we pretty much have to tie the hands of our design people to some kind of “design to cost” methodology with severe limitations on changes to existing designs. If Norway can build a Nansen with Aegis cheaper than we can build an LCS, there’s something way wrong with our procurement policy. Remember, another thing I’m doing is cutting non-operational staffs and contractors drastically, so my hope would be that the design people don’t have the budget or manpower to screw it up too badly.

      The sea control elements would spend most of their time well out at sea, out of range of most land-based aircraft. They’d focus on maritime security and ASW, kind of reminiscent of the old HUK groups, and that’s obviously an area where we need help. Pirate patrol in the IO would be a mission where they could work well, particularly considering the number of helos the Hyuga could put up. The battle cruiser would have indigenous air essentially equivalent to what Hermes or Illustrious mounted in the Falklands, and that should be pretty good against anything that could get that far out to sea. Also, my amphib concept dispenses with the LHA/LHD as too big, so these become my backup carriers. Any shore bombardment would definitely be a secondary mission, and they’d use cruise missiles for primary land attack. It’s just that they have to have some kind of gun, so it might as well be a big one, since we don’t really have any of those anywhere else in the fleet, except the Des Moines/arsenal ship, which would be the primary shore bombardment platform. Where I could see the battle cruiser doing some inshore work is in a situation like the Falklands where they could get close enough to do considerable damage without standing into harm’s way. The RN was doing sore bombardment with 4.5 inchers, and only Glamorgan took a hit. The battle cruiser would be able to hit the same targets from a considerably further out, and safer, location—as would the gun cruiser.

      Part II to come

    14. Part II

      As an old gator navy sailor, I really don’t like the concentration of everything in one or two big hulls. One torpedo or cruise missile wipes out your whole Marine landing force. So I’m really more wanting five different ships than five different types. But once you’re using five ships, you might as well have five different types to give you more different capabilities. And we can get virtually the same total lift from five dispersed ships at a substantially lower acquisition cost. As CNO has noted, it’s really hard to replace the unique things than an LST can do, which is why every other navy that tries to mount any amphib capability starts with LST’s and works up to the LSD or LPD or LHA. One thing five ships can do, that one big one can’t, is to be in five different places at once. This would have been a very useful capability to have had on 9/11/2012, when we could have had an LSD or LPD or LST with a company of embarked Marines standing off Benghazi (and others in the squadron doing the same off Alexandria and Tripoli and Tunis and Beirut). Instead we had one LHA west of Gibraltar and one east on Ba el Mandeb, and no gators in between.

      I’ve used a lot of Falklands examples here. I think we have to be prepared to fight a peer or near-peer, but I think the engagement we are more likely actually to fight is something closer to Falklands where we are clearly the stronger overall power, but we have to fight them in their home arena. So I think a lot of those lessons are relevant to us. I don't claim to have all the answers, just one idea that I'd like to get other thoughts about.

      I’ll try to paste the spreadsheet.

    15. Smitty,

      Try this link:

    16. Looking back at this in light of some new information, I may be light on the aircraft cost side. I need to update that part of it with more realistic numbers. But again, I'm looking at the same thing there, going high/low with some cheaper alternatives, and that should still generate some significant savings on that side.

      I changed the format a bit, to show how ships would be employed in task groups and to show how manning would be impacted by reserve concept. The combat power numbers come from James Dunnigan's book, and from a web site he used to maintain, with estimates based on similar ships for the classes that he didn't cover. It's still a work in progress, probably always will be.

    17. CDR Chip,

      My big worry about so many types is just getting procurement through Congress. You'd have to first justify needs based on studies and simulation, then hold competitive bids for each type. Then there's the inevitable NIH syndrome.

      Most of the foreign designs will need considerable rework to conform to NVRs and use approved components.

      I think several of the designs have significant capability overlap (e.g. Sanchsen, Daring, Huidtfedt in the AAW frigate category, Meko CLS, Victory and Visby in the corvette category). Keeping up with upgrades to all of the different combat systems would be very expensive.

      I like the Dunnigan combat values. I'll have to retrofit that to my spreadsheet.

      I did something similar with allocating ships to notional task forces, just on a separate worksheet.

      See tab 2. (Beware: I tinker around with these on occasion, so sometimes the numbers don't add up across sheets)

      I have also been tinkering with the Influence Squadron idea. I call them Maritime Security and Assistance Squadrons (MSAS). They are less expensive platforms that can be home ported abroad and can perform partnership, tripwire/Streetfighter, security, HA/DR, limited deterrence, and training. They would look more like armed patrol vessels than warships, to reduce the political impact on the host countries. However, they still could be used for the types of paint-rubbing diplomacy being practiced by the Chinese "coast guard".

    18. Smitty,

      I probably wasn't entirely clear, I was more looking at what might be possible than necessarily advocating all the different classes. If my approach were actually applied, I would expect a fewer number of classes, pick the best ones and go with them. The ones with overlap, probably end up with only one of the group.

      I think I noted, Dunnigan hasn't updated his values for a lot of new ships. I wish they were updated, I really think it's a good way to evaluate. Even if the values aren't perfect, at least they give a good idea. I tried to make some reasonable estimates where Dunnigan has not evaluated, or where I'm coming up with a new ship concept.

  5. Good article on the size of the Navy ... We ask a lot of them and the smaller they get, the harder it gets and the longer and more frequent deployment become; not sustainable.


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