Words By Tim North, USN Ret.
According to the U.S. Navy's latest sailing fleet plan, America's Navy will be at its most vulnerable in the year 2028. Could this lull in strength open up America to attacks from other world powers or wealthy terrorist groups looking for a weakness? Of course, we're making an assumption here that an invasion of our country by a hostile power would be made easier with a weaker Navy.
At present, the U.S. Navy is unmatched in size and power worldwide, possessing 288 combat vessels. However, both Russia and China are set on improving their naval strength. According to officials, Washington intends to increase the naval fleet to an average of 306 warships through the 2040s. This is to be done by keeping the existing ships longer and constructing new ships simultaneously. However, this anomaly to the resounding strength of the U.S. Navy is a result of the decommissioning four warships that are past their prime at a faster rate than new warships can be built. If these plans are carried out, the Navy's size will be at a low, one that will not be seen any time in the foreseeable future.
However, if an attacker is smart, they would realize that a Navy’s size is less important than strength and strike, especially in 2028 when the U.S. submarine fleet will be at a low. U.S. Navy nuclear-powered attack subs are unarguably America's most powerful weapon when it comes to technologically advanced warfare. With the ability to sink several attack ships from great distances, as well as use cruise missiles to destroy ground targets before they silently disappear into the depths of the ocean, the loss of a submarine will greatly impact the strength of the Navy overall.
In the 1990s and 2000s Washington did not increase the size of the submarine fleet, whereas previously four new underwater attack subs were built annually. In 2012, Congress finally realized the potential strength and power they were overlooking and approved money to build two ships per year. Due to the lull in submarine building during the 90s and 2000s, the Los Angeles class boats that were constructed in the 80s and 90s will be set for decommission before the Virginia class boats have caught up in numbers to replace them, creating a low in 2028 when the Navy will possess only 41 attack submarines which is 17 less than we have currently. Additionally, for every three subs, only one is at sea and combat ready at any given time. In this capacity, the decrease will result in approximately five fewer nuclear boats positioned and ready to attack our enemies.
Plans to keep America's Navy supplied with the ships it needs to continue its dominating strength will prove to be quite costly. There are skeptics in the Congressional Budget Office who feel this endeavor might be difficult to fund. The estimated annual cost, according the Congressional Budget Office, is an average of $20.7 billion spanning from 2015 to 2044. That is a 32% increase in annual funding the Navy has received in the past three decades. To further complicate matters, the 2015 Obama budget increases the spending on US Air Force nuclear weapon systems by nearly 6 percent, or $445 million. This includes a $100 million increase for the "life extension" of the B61 nuclear gravity bomb, a Cold War-era weapon stationed mostly around Europe that many arms experts call outdated and unnecessary. These defense funds compete with the Navy’s budget leading to some high level meetings in D.C. on what should be prioritized for national security.
Original Article published on I09 by Mark Strauss
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