Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Navy Rescinds Ship Service Life Extensions

As we previously noted and discussed, in July of 2018 the Navy arbitrarily extended the design service life of most ship classes by ten years or so (see, “Ship Service Life Extensions”).  The Burke class was extended from 35-40 years (an utterly unrealistic target to begin with, given the Navy’s failure to provide proper maintenance and tendency to early retire ships) to 45-50 years!  I chuckle as I type this but such is the nature of the Navy’s delusions.

Of course, we roundly mocked this flight of pure fantasy.  Given the Navy’s repeated disregard for maintenance and near 100% record of early retirements, arbitrarily extending service lives with no concomitant plan to improve and fund maintenance was obviously just a fictitious ploy to make some plan or admiral look good on paper.  We knew it would never actually happen.

Reality has now reared its head and the Navy is rescinding the service life extensions as a cost savings measure.(1)  Everyone outside the Navy knew it wasn’t going to happen and now the Navy has officially admitted it.  This is why you come to this blog.  You were informed in no uncertain terms two years ago that the Navy’s service life extension plan was pure fantasy and would never happen.  This is just simple confirmation.  If the Navy would just read this blog they could save themselves a lot of effort and embarrassment.  But, I digress …

So, what does this do to the Navy’s plan to grow to a 355 ship fleet?  Do I really need to lay it out for you?

I’ll simply note that the Navy is furiously retiring ships early (Aegis cruisers, the first four LCS, Los Angeles subs, and so on) while claiming to want to build the fleet.  Extending the service lives of Burke destroyers could have aided in that endeavor if their maintenance was properly funded.  Instead, as they always do, the Navy has opted for new hulls over maintained hulls – anything for a new hull even if it’s a useless LCS, an experimental unmanned vessel, a non-functional Ford, or a non-functional Zumwalt.

Do you recall how vital the Burke modernization effort supposedly was?  This will remind you,

The decision to ax the service life extensions for the Arleigh Burke class comes after years of assurances from Navy leaders that the destroyers would be modernized with an eye to growing the fleet over the coming decades. (1)

In its FY20 30-year shipbuilding plan, the Navy said extending the lives of the Arleigh Burkes was an imperative to growing the fleet to a battle force of 355 ships. Instead, the cancellation of the service life extensions means that between 2026 and 2034, the Navy is slated to lose 27 destroyers from its battle force. (1)

The Navy changes its mind more frequently than a girl with multiple prom proposals. 

In testimony that year, Merz [then Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfare Systems Vice Adm. Bill Merz] said ballistic missile defense [BMD] was the biggest requirement driving the retention of the DDGs to 45 years. (1)

I guess BMD wasn’t really that important, after all?

So, the Navy is set to lose 27 Burkes between 2026-2034.  And we’re going to replace them with … small and medium displacement unmanned surface vessels????  China doesn’t have to build a bigger, stronger navy than us – they just have to wait while we dismantle our navy for them!


(1)Defense News website, “Destroyers Left Behind”, David B. Larter, 7-Mar-2020,


  1. It seems like the USN has three planning departments that don't talk to each other much:

    The shipbuilding planners, who are driven by (a) fashion and (b) the imperative to give the shipbuilders as much money as possible, without worrying what they get for it.

    The strategy planners, who seem to learn their trade from reading technothrillers and watching action movies, and have learned from them that the US always wins, and what matters is to do it with style.

    The personnel planners, who are convinced that they need to offer a lifestyle that competes with advertisers' imagery of what it's like to be a modern young person, and aren't aware of the realities.

    You then have people talking to the press and Congress who are betting briefed by all of these planning departments, and are confused by them. They also don't listen to their briefings very well, but they are sure that what matters is to say something that pleases the people they're talking to.

    Does that fit the Nay's behaviour?

    1. The problem is no one is planning on how to actually win a war, and what it needs to do that.

    2. "The problem is no one is planning on how to actually win a war, and what it needs to do that."

      As you say, the Navy isn't doing it so it falls to you! What victory conditions set your requirements and how would you suggest meeting those requirements?

  2. Maybe USN uses that new math they teach nowadays....subtract 27 from 300 and you get 355!!! See, it's easy.

    Looks to me like not only top USN leadership is incompetent but completely bought by industry, no other way to explain this level of stupidity.

    1. Nah, the Navy is doing a superb job,
      our mission on this blog is to figure out what that
      job is. It isn't Navy in the Mahanian understanding of the term, so whats is the USN up to ?

    2. "It isn't Navy in the Mahanian understanding of the term, so whats is the USN up to ?"

      I don't know whether you're being sarcastic but, regardless, you bring up a point that's bothered me from the start. Navy leadership makes absolutely, astoundingly bad decisions on a regular basis but I find this baffling. These are not inherently stupid people. You don't graduate from the Naval Academy unless you're pretty intelligent. So what happens between being a smart Academy graduate and an absolutely idiotic Navy leader?

      Sure, we like to attribute it to being bought off by big defense firms dangling sweet retirement jobs and that likely is a factor but these people are at least moderately patriotic and combined with their intelligence, they should be capable of making reasonable decisions. Despite this, even the non-defense industry related decisions (like manning, ship design concepts, maintenance, etc.) which shouldn't be affected by retirement concerns, are routinely bungled. Why? How?

      How does a group of Navy leaders, smart and semi-patriotic, get together and make the worst possible decisions on a regular basis? I can't believe they list all the options and then consciously choose the worst one. What happens? I have no idea. I can observe their actions (all bad) and predict their future choices (all bad) but I can't explain it and this bothers me. I'm supposed to be able to analyze and explain but this proclivity for bad decisions from smart, motivated people leaves me baffled.

    3. The Naval Academy teaches them the Navy Way of doing things. Most of their problems seem to be in figuring out how the changes in technology and society should change the Navy Way.

      They often seem to be guessing, or clinging to fashions that they've heard about. Do they actually need a broader base of education and experience, outside the "defense community"?

    4. CNO, I was using a bit of sarcasm to make the point,
      that what you see as bad decisions, rate as reasonable to best of a bad set of choices decisions to the USN.

      John D.
      I think the Navy needs a lot more realistic testing from the tactical to operational level. Seems the Navy is planning in a open feed back loop, no one really knows how all these systems are going to interact with each other.

    5. I always wondered if it were possible there to be a special track for top leaders where they have to leave DoD for a few years to see how it's done outside DoD. Maybe just too much group think and stuck with looking at military specific topics, go to private sector in a field you dont know. Would help breaking up the sceloris. Just a thought.

    6. I would imagine that the Navy uses thinking by analogy versus thinking by first principles so they don't have any idea what they could pay for various products and add features that do not make the product better.
      Most people use thinking by analogy and it works just fine, but when you fail as often as the US Navy maybe a little more rigor in thought is needed.
      Analogy thinking- The Nimitz aircraft carriers cost $8.5 billion and the Ford will have a 30 percent greater sortie rate so $11 billion sounds about right. When it cost $15 billion, that was to be expected with the first ship.
      First principle thinking- Ship to support X number of aircraft requires. Structural material to construct ship.-- Steel- 100,000 tonnes x $1,000 per ton =$100,000,000, Copper X tonnes , paint x gallons, Labor to turn raw materials into product, etc. You look at what is used to make the product at a basic (first principle) level and work at trying to reduce the cost of turning the raw materials into the finished product. If raw materials used to construct Ford cost $1,300,000,000(estimated number- no clue what it is for sure), the design and engineering teams are tasked to use the least amount of resources (material, labor, time etc) to convert the materials into the product. First principle design may call for larger plates so there are less welds, a corrosion resistant alloy that does not need painting, or forgo steel because the strength needed can be supplied by some other material at less cost while meeting all the design objectives for an aircraft carrier capable of supporting X number aircraft.
      Thinking by analogy in the Navy is doomed to produce more failure because no one is identifying the CONOPS (first principle).

  3. The newest word has the LSC coming in 2026-ish... But it certainly wont be in the numbers needed to replace the Burkes. Along with the slashed FltIII and FFG procurement, it seems as if theres no actual support for growing the fleet, to 355 or any other number... The life extension was a farfetched plan to begin with, and historically its got no precedent. Not sure whats going on recently, but it seems as if the Navy is all over the place, and is bumbling, rudderless, with no clear plans in place...

    1. 355 was always BS. US just doesnt have the spare production to increase that much over current rates PLUS added the years of deferred maintenance and crumbling yards and docks...forget it. It's all window dressing, what's really happening is MAJOR REDUCTION of the fleet, replacing DDG that have some value with small FFX or smaller USV isnt increasing warfighting capability, it's just making the numbers however USN can. Pathetic.

  4. It's amazing the waste that the US military is willing to tolerate.
    In most countries this kind of thing would be a national scandal. It would end careers.
    It almost feels like the US military is a racket to shake down Congress for money.

    1. It is very easy for the military leadership and Congress to tolerate when the military suppliers are funding their retirement plans.

    2. I sometimes think the US is just too rich.
      You can only tolerate this kind of madness if you have too much money.

    3. Short of taking up arms against the government, what are we supposed to do to fix it? Most of the people making the decisions aren't elected, and anyone that we do elect becomes corrupted almost over night.

  5. "It would end careers."

    Or, as we call it in the US: promotions!

  6. Related to this, it seems the Ford class may get cut at four. Im fine with that, as I think they are inherently fragile, and should be followed on with more Nimitzes. What scares me is Secretaries that are impressed with the L-platform "carriers", and think they are worthwhile...

  7. Yeap, never saw this one coming:"...Despite funding shortfalls, Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly recently said that the Navy should really be planning for a 390-ship fleet, based on its unreleased Integrated Force Structure Assessment. Sec. Modly then went farther, saying, "the number is like 435 with unmanned in there."

    Sure, let's go 435, number is bigger than puny 355, right?!?

    REALISTICALLY, it'll be 350 unmanned USV (useless and untried) with 100 manned warships, manly FFXs (untried), few remaining LCSs (useless), remaining run to death dog tired Burkes DDGs and 8 CVs, maybe less, some 25+ or so SSN? Oh yeah, China is freaking out when they hear about this USN plan!!!


  8. Wow,wow,wow, Im no navy historian or expert, just avid reader of military books and US Army experience BUT this sounds wrong somehow:

    "...Towards the end of this year, Modly said, “Ford will become the primary training carrier for recertifying air wings as well as the student pilots from Pensacola, Florida. Pilot students will be coming over to do their stuff off Jacksonville, Florida, for that. It’s going to be very busy and contributing to readiness across the fleet.”

    I don't think Ive ever read or recall stories where the newest baddest USN carrier.....becomes your training carrier?!?!? Has that happened in the past when the newest carrier becomes a training carrier, isn't that the job of OLD RETIRING carriers in the past? Hopefully this is just temporary BUT sure seems weird to me....


    1. Remember that Ford was delivered incomplete which is the Navy's way of bypassing Congressional budget limits, so they're still completing physical construction. Also, the weapon elevators aren't scheduled to be working until 2021-22 (the Navy hopes!) and the combat system has yet to be completely installed and tested. EMALS and AAG have not been debugged and made workable yet. Shock tests are supposed to be performed in the next year or so. And the list goes on. So, the ship can't deploy. It sounds like they'll use the carrier qual job to help complete, test, and debug the ship. There's nothing else the ship is capable of doing.

    2. Agree wholeheartedly. So now, even the lie to cover the lie of "deployment" in 2022 is a lie!!! It's sad and I hate saying it but the only way US military to get fixed, is to get our asses kicked hard. We are beyond mere small changes, this is deep rooted crap that only defeat can change.

  9. It seems the Navy just cut Super Hornet production, in the midst of a fighter shortfall, to fund the future fighter program. Thatd be fine too, the the program was actually "accelerated" and mandated a flying prototype in 2 years or so... But itll probably be more like 10 yrs to first flight, and combat capable in numbers about the time the last Nimitz gets its SLEP... (or when Fords are actually functional)...

  10. Do not worry the all powerful all everything Lcs and Zumealt classes will be restarted to make up for the retirement of the Burkes

  11. LSC program replacement for Tico & Burke

    In 2018 CNO Adm Richardson called for LSC contract award in 2023 with delivery ASAP, Richardson retired Aug 2019.

    March 2019 program start year slipped to 2025

    Only four months later, August 2019, pushed back to 2026 or later "Program Executive Officer for Ships Rear Adm. Bill Galinis told USNI News today that the Navy is now looking at 2026 or possibly later to begin the Large Surface Combatant."

    Confirmation LSC now kicked into the long grass, USNI news, Rear Adm. Gene Black OPNAV N96/Surface Warfare at SNA 2020, LSC program start now planned for late 20's "as part of a new lower-risk approach", if holds expect first LSC IOC 2035/6?

    1. The LSC problem, at the moment, is that the Navy has absolutely no idea what they want from the LSC. I've seen concept suggestions ranging from a 'family of vessels' instead of single ships to giant size cruisers to just an enlarged Burke and all kinds of other ideas. The Navy is utterly lost about the concept so much of the delay is due to the lack of clear concept of what they want. They know they want something but they don't know what. It's a pretty pathetic showing from our supposed professional warriors.

    2. The LCS has ruined the letters L, C and S for acronyms involving naval vessels. The LSC should be immediately renamed.
      Contenders for the new program name?
      DUHs - Destroyer Universal Humanitarian ship - for the navy that wants to do everything.
      F***s - Fast Universal Combat Killer ship - It's Fast! Wait that's the LCS.
      A**HATs - Advanced Surface Ship Humanitarian Assault Target ship. -For the navy that wants to do everything and be a good target for adversaries.
      CRABS- Cruiser-Radically Advanced Battle System. It's advanced and a system.
      DRABS- Destroyer- Radically Advanced Battle System. See CRABS but a destroyer!


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