The Pentagon’s latest 30-year shipbuilding plans calls for more ships, and a lot more smaller ones, as well as a major move into unmanned vessels.
It also calls for a stepped-up pace for building the Virginia-class attack submarines built by the Newport News Shipbuilding and General Dynamics Electric Boat team effort.
The plan, updated annually, would increase the fleet from 290 ships to 355 by the early 2030s. It calls for spending a total of $147 billion from fiscal year 2022 through fiscal year 2026, to build 82 ships. For fiscal years 2021-2015, it proposed $102 billion to build 44 ships.
The goal is “a larger fleet of both manned and unmanned vessels prepared to face greater challenges on, above, or under the sea,” said Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist.
The Department of Defense aims to get there by accelerating submarine construction, modernizing aircraft, extending the service life of cruisers, and increasing the number of destroyers, he added.
“Another key finding was the need to expand the U.S. industrial base to support new ship construction and modernization,” Norquist said.
Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Norfolk, a Navy veteran who is a member of the House Armed Services committee, said the plan makes significant advances towards the goal of maintaining naval dominance and not ceding any advantage to China.
But, she added, “this plan should have been presented in 2017 and had the appropriate resources behind it to grow the industrial base required for this size fleet.”
She said she’s not confident about making a big investment in unmanned vessels before the technology and operational concepts are more fully developed.
“Whether this plan is the right mix of ships and submarines will have to be proven through wargaming and Congressional debate,” she said.
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