US Navy revises force needs with eye to more attack submarines

(From USNI News)

By Megan Eckstein

The Navy will reexamine the assumptions behind its 308-ship requirement, as the operational landscape has changed drastically since the previous Force Structure Assessment (FSA).

The Virginia-class attack submarine North Dakota (SSN-784) is rolled out of an indoor shipyard facility at General Dynamics Electric Boat in Groton, Conn., in Sept. 2013. US Navy photo.

The Virginia-class attack submarine North Dakota (SSN-784) is rolled out of an indoor shipyard facility at General Dynamics Electric Boat in Groton, Conn., in Sept. 2013. US Navy photo.

The Navy released a new FSA in 2012 and amended it in 2014, but Navy leadership and combatant commanders have expressed concern in the past week that previous assumptions about how many surface ships and submarines are needed to counter global threats are proving inapplicable to today’s world. For example, the Navy has a standing requirement for 48 attack submarines, but combatant commanders say they are only receiving about 62 percent of the subs they need to meet growing threats in Asia and Europe.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said Friday at a Brookings Institution event that the 48-sub requirement is based off of analysis from 2006.

“Last time we did that (FSA) we really didn’t have to account for a resurgent Russia, we really didn’t have to account for (the Islamic State), so we’re starting again,” he said. “The strategic landscape has changed sufficiently that we have to constantly reassess.”

Last year the surface navy community expressed concern that a growing missile threat, particularly from China, would require an increase in the large surface combatant fleet above the stated requirement of 88. This year, the focus in congressional hearings and Washington-based events has been on the attack submarine fleet.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said at the Brookings event that the Navy would reach its 308-ship requirement by 2021 and that budget decisions being made now would affect the shape and size of the fleet in the years beyond that. Mabus more than doubled shipbuilding in his seven years as secretary compared to the previous seven-year period, and several classes are in serial production today – but with a projected shortfall in the attack submarine fleet, an ongoing shortfall in the amphibious ship fleet, ever-growing demand for ballistic missile defense-capable cruisers and destroyers, and the need for smaller ships to conduct partnership-building activities, the shipbuilding budget has been strained to keep up. Read more



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