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ALEXANDRIA -- Good evening, Drifters

Well, we finally got it: The 30-year shipbuilding plan. Isn't it wonderful?

I'm not going to bore you again with the whole twisted, tortured tale of how this shipbuilding plan came to be. It's a long an winding road that dates back more than two years at this point. But it is worth recalling that this is really the product of a long-delayed force structure assessment, that turned into an "Integrated Naval Force Structure Assessment," which then in turn became the "Future Naval Force Study," which was ultimately turned into the 30-year shipbuilding plan.

We’ll dive in and see what's what in this plan. I will walk you through the main takeaways in a Streamlined Drift.

Let's do it.


The Plan for Now

As I intimated last week, let's not get too terribly excited about this plan or about the Defense Department's new-found love of seapower. We need to see what the next guy has to say first. The 355-ship plan was practically dead on arrival, if you'll recall, with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and his Navy Secretary Richard Spencer soft-pedaling it from the moment they crossed the threshold of the Pentagon.

By March of 2018, the Navy was already talking about a new force structure assessment, with the old one barely out of the cradle. In fact, the Navy has conducted no fewer than four force structure assessments in the past six years: 306 ships, 308 ships, 355 ships and now the magic number is 405 ships by the end of the plan.

Cool. Looking forward to the new FSA kicking up in 40 days.

Now, the Administration believes this FSA is different: assuming that there will be flat budgets and finds money elsewhere in the DoD Budget. It also does a classic military accounting trick: Betting on the come. It's betting that the reduced OCO budget from the drawdown of troops overseas. Now, both Biden and Trump have talked about the need to end overseas conflicts, so maybe that's not a bad assumption. But as we all know, starting a war is easier than getting out of one. But if their assumptions hold, here's what the plan would do:

  • Accelerate the Constellation-class frigate: The Navy is planning to add five more FFG(X) over its last 30-year shipbuilding plan and add a second shipyard for construction, for a total of 15 over the next five years. The FFG(X) has not even completed detailed design yet.
  • Fields new Light Amphibious Warships: The new LAW would start being procured one per year in FY22 and in FY23, then ramp up to three, with 10 in the FYDP. The requirements for LAW are as yet a mystery, but we know it is supposed to be able to beach itself and won't operate from the well decks of any of our enormous fleet of amphibious ships.
  • It continues EPF construction, even though it's not clear what the mission would be just yet. They have talked about making it a hospital ship and plan to convert one into an unmanned surface vessel to test the concept. In all, six are planned in the FYDP, none of which were planned for previously.
  • It adds three more Virginia-class attack subs over the FYDP for a total of 12, though it is unclear if Electric Boat would be able to ramp up to that effectively.
  • It also begins buying a next generation logistics ship, as well as the first Common Hull Auxiliary Multi-Mission Platform (CHAMP) in 2024.
  • It buys 21 large, medium unmanned surface vessels and extra-large unmanned undersea vehicles,
  • The plan will also procure two cable ships and 16 used Roll-On/Roll-Off ships for sealift, which has been the preferred solution to save procurement dollars, but it is likely to raise maintenance costs for a diverse set of platforms all for performing the same mission.

The FYDP will also see lots of ships start to leave the fleet, including the carrier Nimitz in 2025. But in FY22, we're going to see those 22 remaining cruisers leave service, starting with San Jacinto, Hue City, Anzio, Vela Gulf and Port Royal leaving that year. Another key departure in the FYDP? The Ohio in 2026 will go away, the lead boat of the Ohio class and the first of the Guided Missile Submarines.

Oh, and last but not least, the frigates Rodney M. Davis, Vandegrift and Ingraham are all destined for Davey Jones' Locker.

That's it, let's go the The Hotwash.

The Hotwash

Straight to links once again.

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David B. Larter was the naval warfare reporter for Defense News.

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