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,https://www.defensenews.com/naval/2020/03/07/destroyers-left-behind-us-navy-cancels-plans-to-extend-service-lives-of-its-workhorse-ddgs/