Will U.S. Navy Drop Fleet Plan?

The U.S. Navy had hoped to grow its fleet from 285 to 313 vessels. Is it planning to drop that approach?

With looming defense cuts of at least $450 billion over 10 years, the U.S. military is reconsidering long-standing modernization schemes. For the U.S. Navy, that means potentially abandoning a six-year-old plan that envisioned growing today’s fleet of 285 major warships to at least 313 ships.

But Navy leaders claimed the reduction will not degrade the sailing branch’s ability to influence world events and deter rivals. At roughly 3 million tons displacement combined, today’s Navy is by far the largest in the world, exceeding the tonnage of the next dozen navies, combined. The Navy maintains around 2/3 of its forces in the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions.

Adm. Mark Ferguson, the Navy’s second-ranking officer, signaled a possible shift away from the 313-ship plan in a recent speech. He said a new shipbuilding plan could take three years to finalize.

Following up on Ferguson’s comments, Navy Undersecretary Robert Work said that even a slightly smaller fleet would still contain a preponderance of large, sophisticated warships capable of worldwide operations. “We [will] span the globe,” Work said, according to AOL Defense reporter Carlo Munoz.

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Historically, the Navy has trimmed its overall force structure by eliminating the smallest and least-capable ships, Work added. Today, the United States’ smallest warships are the 3,000-ton Littoral Combat Ships, 24 of which have been ordered. Many analysts now expect the Navy to scale back its plan to purchase 55 LCSs.