Navy, Congress Eye Buying Carriers in Blocks of Two, Folding in Submarine Material Purchase
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
WASHINGTON — The Navy and Congress are actively looking at building aircraft carriers in sets of two to reduce acquisition costs and grow the fleet to 12 carriers, as well as considering including purchases of submarine materials with them to achieve cost reductions over three programs.
“We’re going to try to buy carriers in blocks of two,” Vice Adm. David C. Johnson, principal military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition, said March 22 at a Defense Programs Conference sponsored by McAleese and Associates.
In the Navy’s 2016 Force Structure Assessment, the number of carriers needed by the Navy was set at 12, two more than the current 10, a number which that climb to 11 this year with the commissioning of Gerald R. Ford, the lead ship of a new class planned to begin sea trials this spring.
Affording the fleet growth to 355 ships, including the carriers, is a challenge acknowledged by Congress.
“We have to get the glide path to 355 [ships] right,” Rep. Robert J. Wittman, R-Va., chairman of the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee, said at the conference. “We cannot afford anything less. If we don’t, we create additional challenges going forward.”
Wittman said the subcommittee “will come back at this to purchase two [carriers] at a time.”
Johnson also said that it would be advantageous to include in the buys the procurement of materials for the Columbia-class ballistic-missile submarine and the Virginia-class attack submarine to achieve economies of scale over all three nuclear-powered ship programs.
The Navy has been looking at procuring the next ships of the Gerald R. Ford class in a two-stage strategy, buying two hulls in advance to save material procurement costs and then installing combat systems on the ships when the latest systems are available closer to the commissioning date.
Wittman said Congress needs to look at “incrementally funding ships,” while acknowledging, “I know the appropriators don’t like that.”