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The US Navy could be bigger, stronger and more lethal in just five years

Naval experts’ plan focuses more on modernising ships rather than expanding fleets

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 June, 2017, 2:27pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 June, 2017, 2:44pm

By Alex Lockie

In the face of a resurgent Russian and Chinese navy modernisation, the US Navy is scrambling to plus up from 272 ships to a fleet of 355 and meet pressing demands all around the globe.

But the US has already strained its industrial base for building ships, and additional ships just can’t be built fast enough to meet the growing gaps.

Instead, naval experts at the American Enterprise Institute have put together a plan to reorganise and modernise the US Navy to meet future challenges within five years, as Defence News first reported.

“We can’t just grow the Navy, that’s not the solution that’s going to meet all the demands we have,” said John Miller, a retired vice admiral who led the development of the “improved Navy,” or iNavy plan, in an interview with Defence News.

“We really don’t have the money to do that and we don’t have the industrial capacity to just build a bigger Navy in a very short amount of time,” Miller said.

So without expanding the Navy by a single ship Miller and the AEI devised a plan that relies mainly on increasing forward basing, modernising existing ships, and increasing each ship’s lethality.

Miller and company would like to see more ships based in Europe, with submarines in Scotland and an amphibious readiness group with an attached Marine expeditionary unit in Sicily. The report also demands bringing all 22 existing Ticonderoga-class cruisers up to the Aegis Baseline 9 system, the best floating radar system in the world today.

Miller suggest taking ships usually used for logistics, like San Antonio-class landing platform/dock ships, and having them refitted with vertical launchers to fire cruise missiles.

Also crucial to the program would be fully implementing the Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air network, that allows sharing of targeting information, so a missile launched from one platform can be guided to a target by another.

Essentially, the US Navy as envisioned by the AEI would be better positioned to take on the Navy’s most likely challengers. Increasing its presence in Europe would allow US Navy ships to quickly jaunt off to the Middle East, the Baltics, or even Africa. 

“The more forward-deployed we are the more ready we are and the more capable we are of responding to crisis,” Miller told Defence News. “We need to be more forward-deployed than we are today. You have to have the numbers of ships and aircraft and you have to have sufficient lethality and be properly networked.”

The plan put forth by the AEI responds to the fact US forces in Europe and the Mediterranean shrank after the Cold War, but with threats coming back to the surface in seas around the globe, today’s Navy can still respond with strength.

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