Navy to Decommission 21 Ships Over Next Five Years, but Fleet Will Grow
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
ARLINGTON, Va. — The Navy plans to decommission or place out of service 21 ships between fiscal 2019 and 2023, but despite those losses and more ships aging out in future years, the fleet will grow steadily under the service’s 2019 30-Year Shipbuilding Plan, with a goal of a 355-ship fleet by the 2050s.
The 2019 “NNN [Navy the Nation Needs] shipbuilding plan puts the Navy on a path to 326 ships by [fiscal] 2023 and 355 ships by the early 2050s (NNN requirement for all ships except CVNs [aircraft carriers], which achieves 12 ships beyond 2060), assuming sufficient funding and execution of service life extensions,” the plan said. “It is a realistic plan that reflects the imperative to remain balanced across the NNN priorities in an era of unpredictable and restrictive funding levels.”
Over the next five years, the Navy will decommission 11 Los Angeles-class nuclear-powered submarines (SSNs) and three Avenger-class mine-countermeasures ships, and place out of service four Henry J. Kaiser-class fleet replenishment oilers (T-AOs) and three Powhatan-class fleet ocean tugs (T-ATFs).
The ships will be replaced by Virginia-class SSNs, Freedom- and Independence-class littoral combat ships (LCSs), John L. Lewis-class T-AOs, and new tow, rescue and salvage ships (T-ATS).
While the Navy will retire the 11 ships, the Navy’s battle force is on track to increase to 299 ships, up from the current 286. Scheduled for delivery in fiscal 2019 are two Virginia-class SSNs, two Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers (DDGs), four Freedom and Independence-class LCSs, one America-class amphibious assault ship (LHA), one Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport (T-EPF) and one Lewis B. Puller expeditionary sea base ship (T-ESB).
The Navy also is procuring 54 ships during 2019-2023, including the fourth Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier, the first Columbia-class nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarine (SSBN), 10 Virginia-class SSNs, 14 DDGs, the last LCS, six new guided-missile frigates, three LX(R) next-generation amphibious warfare ships, eight T-AOs, six T-ATFs, two T-ESBs and two next-generation ocean surveillance ships.
“The 2019 shipbuilding plan includes 11 more ships that its 2018 counterpart: four of which filled gaps to achieve the long-term profiles (steady growth) and an additional seven that were able to be added above the steady growth profiles (aggressive growth). All SLE [service-life extension] candidates meeting criteria were also funded, including six Ticonderoga-class cruisers, four mine countermeasures ships, and the first of potentially five Los Angeles-class attack submarines,” the plan said.
“Average ship construction funding across the FYDP [future-years defense plan], is $20 billion per year (fiscal 2018 constant dollars), which along with the funded SLEs provides firm near-term footing for moving forward. Beyond the FYDP, additional funding would be needed to sustain steady growth and to account for the serial production of the Columbia-class SSBN. Aggressive growth options would come after that. With a diligent approach to SLEs, strong industry response and additional resources, 355 ships could be attained by the 2030s.”