The Navy released a new fleet plan that calls for 355 ships, outlining a massive increase in the size of its high-end large surface combatant and attack submarine fleets but a modest increase in its planned amphibious ship fleet, according to a Dec. 14 summary of the assessment.
The plan mainly calls for adding more destroyers and attack submarines.
The findings of the latest Force Structure Assessment adds 47 ships to the Navy’s battle force over the 308-ship figure from a 2014 FSA.
The service determined the 355 total was the “minimum force structure to comply with [Pentagon] strategic guidance” and was not “the “desired” force size the Navy would pursue if resources were not a constraint, read the summary.
“Rather, this is the level that balances an acceptable level of warfighting risk to our equipment and personnel against available resources and achieves a force size that can reasonably achieve success,” according to the summary, which notes it would take a 653-ship force to meet all global requirements with minimal risk.
The new total comes as Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Defense Secretary Ash Carter have engaged in a public spat over the direction of the Navy’s shipbuilding program, and as the Trump administration prepares to take office and potentially begin moving towards its stated goal of building a 350-ship Navy.
The new plan calls for adding one additional aircraft carrier to the Navy’s force structure, bringing the service total to 12.
The Navy now intends to build to a force of 66 attack submarines, up from about 50 SSNs today and stated requirement for 48, to “provide the global presence required to support national tasking and prompt warfighting response.”
Based on the combatant commanders’ testimony, it would take a fleet of at least 80 SSNs to fill all their requests, which would be unfeasible for the submarine shipbuilding industry – which consists of two yards, General Dynamics’ Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls’ Newport News Shipbuilding – given the start of construction activities for the new Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine replacement program.
The new FSA calls for 38 amphibious ships, which is up from today’s requirement of 34 and today’s actual fleet of 31 ships, but not nearly as large an increase as many in the Navy and Marine Corps had hoped for.