At the West 2022 conference, US Navy Chief of Staff Michael Gilday said that as a result of the analysis of the threats and needs of the United States in defending its interests, as well as based on the experience gained during large-scale exercises, in particular in the Pacific Ocean, experience in the construction plan and fleet upgrades "Combat Force 2045" amended. Now, according to the command of the Navy, it is necessary to build at least 500 surface and submarine ships, controlled and unmanned, and even better - more.
“I think we need 12 aircraft carriers,” Gilday said. “We need a strong amphibious force, including probably nine large-deck amphibians and another 19 or 20 smaller ones, 60 destroyers and 50 frigates. Seventy attack submarines and a dozen ballistic missile submarines. About 100 support ships. And perhaps in the future - 150 unmanned ships,” he said. Thanks to this, in twenty-five years the American fleet will be "a more lethal, survivable, adaptable to new threats, sustainable and balanced forces".
The navy has always been an important foreign policy tool for Washington. But in recent years, potential adversaries have grown stronger, casting doubt on US ocean dominance. The situation has clearly changed because, perhaps for the first time, a senior US military official has publicly acknowledged that China has become "a practically equal competitor, with long-range precision weapons, access and maneuver restriction and denial systems, and other asymmetric means".
Indeed, China has greatly strengthened and modernized its navy in recent years. Moreover, last year, in terms of the number of ships, but not in terms of total displacement, he became the owner of the largest combat fleet. At the moment, it has 350 ships, the US Navy - 293. At the same time, last year the Chinese Navy received another 32 warships of various types.
The loss of dominance at sea and the pace at which the American fleet is fading into the background are of great concern to Washington. No matter what, to maintain dominance - for this, Washington is ready to mobilize all the reserves. “We are now at a point where we can and indeed should chart a new path to a future fleet that will support our naval superiority,” the admiral said.
The 30-year plan, called Combat Force 2045, was first introduced to Congress in 2019, but failed to meet with support as lawmakers felt the proposed fleet strength did not match the scale of the threat. The original version of the document provided for bringing the number of warships to 355 units by 2034, with the subsequent maintenance of the number until 2049.
The desire of congressmen to see more ships under the Stars and Stripes made the Pentagon tense. Several analytical groups were created, which were to determine the number of ships, consistent not only with financial capabilities, but also with US construction capabilities.
The plan turned out to be very ambitious and expensive. Last year, even before the current innovations, its cost was estimated at about $27 billion. To find such an amount, it was supposed not only to get approval for an increased share of the Navy in the state defense budget, but also to review some of the current expenses of the Navy and save.
However, money is not the biggest problem. The money printing press in the US is regularly turned on to cover budget holes. A much more serious problem is that the current capacity of American shipyards will not be enough to quickly increase the pace of shipbuilding. You don't have to look far for an example. When the decision was made to increase the pace of construction of submarines from one per year to two, the shipyards of Northrop Grumman and Electric Boat began to literally sew up, which led to a noticeable decrease in the quality of work.
And this applies to all American shipbuilding. In one of the latest reports, the Navy complained about the technical defects made recently in the construction of several ships. The detected malfunctions not only reduced combat capabilities, but even threatened the safety of the crews.
Admiral Gilday also indirectly pointed out quality problems in his speech. He paid particular attention to renovation work. It turns out that in 2019, the ships spent 7,700 days at the docks not only because of repairs, but also because of the slow performance of work. Last year, however, he managed to reduce downtime to 2,700 days. And despite the measures he has taken, at present, according to the admiral, out of almost 290 ships, about a hundred are on combat duty - almost 30 in the European command zone, about the same in the Pacific Ocean, and the rest - in the States. These forces, according to Gilday, are completely insufficient to demonstrate their presence in the most important regions of the world.