US Navy to add 46 ships in five years, but 355 ships won’t come for a long time

Ships from the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group conduct a strait transit exercise. The Navy will grow rapidly over the next five years, according to Navy officials. (MC3 Michael Chen/Navy) The Navy will grow by more than 40 ships over the next five years, the Navy’s Budget director said Monday. But while the fleet will grow rapidly in the near term, the gains will sputter out shortly thereafter.

While the shipbuilding budget request saw a relatively modest increase in the service’s 2019 submission over the previous year, service-life extension programs, a bevy of new destroyers and littoral combat ships will push the Navy’s numbers higher rapidly to 326 ships in 2023. That’s a jump of 46 ships over just the next five years from today’s count of 280.

But from there the pace of growth will slow significantly, adding the final 30 ships of the Navy’s goal over the next quarter century. The Navy will not reach the goal of 355 ships until the 2050s, said Rear Adm. Brian Luther, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for budget.

The Navy’s new 30-year shipbuilding plan gets to President Obama’s goal of 308 ships by 2020, a year faster than the previous administration’s goal of 2021, and then moves up to 326 ships by the end of the five year future-year defense planning projections, and building 10 more ships than Obama was planning for during the same timeframe.

The service will also buoy their numbers through service-life extensions on six of the older cruisers, meaning that in total, the service will have modernized 17 of its 22 cruisers past their 35-year service life. The Navy is currently upgrading its newest 11 cruisers through a phased modernization plan.

It is unclear which cruisers will be modernized, and how it will affect the planned retirement of those cruisers starting in 2020 , though the shipbuilding plan doesn’t show any large surface combatants retiring until 2024.

The Navy’s end strength will also increase over the next five years, adding nearly 17,000 sailors, an approached that Luthor said was disciplined to not add ships or equipment without the needed sailors to support them.

“I think the number we identified matches the ownership costs that we identified,” Luther said in his rollout of the Navy’s FY19 budget. “So we grow in lead of some of the equipment because we have to train people ahead of when the ship arrives. It was a disciplined approach to ensure we didn’t procure a ship without people, we didn’t procure a ship without armament, we didn’t procure a ship without armament. So it’s a very balanced and disciplined approach. The Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Oklahoma City (SSN 723) returns to Guam after a five-week operational tasking on March 4, 2013. (MC1 Jeffrey Jay Price/Navy) The Navy’s 326 ships in 2023 will mark a high point under the current plan, but a slew of ship retirements starting in 2024 will start to drag down the numbers again. Those losses are driven by the final Los Angeles-class […]