US Navy intends to decommission some of its new warships | News, Sports, Jobs


The USS Detroit, a Freedom-class littoral combat ship, arrives in Detroit in 2016. The navy that once wanted smaller, faster warships to hunt pirates quickly pivoted to Russia and China and many of those ships, like the USS Detroit, could be retired. The Navy wants to decommission nine Freedom-class warships, warships that cost about $4.5 billion to build. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The Navy that once wanted smaller, faster warships to hunt pirates has made a quick pivot to Russia and China — and many of those newly built ships could be retired.

The US Navy wants to decommission nine Freedom-class littoral combat ships – warships that cost an estimated $4.5 billion to build.

The Navy argues in its budget proposal that the move would free up $50 million per ship per year for other priorities. But it would also reduce the size of the fleet already outnumbered by China, which could set members of Congress back.

Adm. Mike Gilday, chief of naval operations, defended the proposal which emphasizes long-range weapons and modern warships, while getting rid of other ships that are ill-equipped to deal with current threats.

“We need a ready, able and lethal force more than a larger force that is less ready, less lethal and less capable,” he added. he said Monday at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Symposium in Maryland.

In total, the navy wants to scrap 24 ships, including five cruisers and a pair of Los Angeles-class submarines, as part of the cost-cutting needed to maintain the existing fleet and build modern warships. These cuts exceed the nine ships proposed to be built.

Most of them are older ships. However, the targeted littoral combat ships are young. The oldest of them is 10 years old.

The Navy envisioned fast, highly maneuverable warships capable of operating in near-shore littoral waters when it announced the program months after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. fast enough to drive pirates away – and used steerable water jets instead of conventional propellers.

The ships were meant to be made versatile with plug-and-play mission modules for surface combat, minesweeping operations, or anti-submarine warfare. But those mission modules were plagued with problems and the anti-submarine capability was canceled in the new budget.

And what about that speed? The fastest ship can’t outrun missiles, and turning on those sea turbines for extra speed has turned ships into gas guzzlers, analysts said. Early versions were also criticized as being too lightly armed and armored to survive combat.

The Freedom-class fast ships proposed for decommissioning feature a traditional steel hull. This entire class of ships suffers from a lack of propulsion that will lead to costly repairs. The Navy proposes to retain a second variant, the aluminum Independence class.

US Senate Armed Services Chairman Jim Inhofe said the program had been plagued with problems from the start, and that “Moving forward, the Navy must avoid similar acquisition disasters.”

U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Virginia, was more blunt, tweeting that he “sucks” decommission so many ships, especially newer ones.

“The Navy owes the American taxpayers a public apology for wasting tens of billions of dollars on ships they now say are useless,” she says.

Some detractors proclaimed that littoral combat ships were the ships of the Navy “Stupid Little Boat” but that’s not fair, defense analyst Loren Thompson said.

“It’s not a shitty little boat. It does what it was supposed to do. What it was meant to do is not enough for the kind of threats we face today,” said Thompson, of the Lexington Institute.

In naval defense, threats have shifted rapidly from the Cold War to the war on terror to today’s great power competition in which Russia and China are asserting themselves, he said.

Ultimately, the Navy could make do with fewer Freedom-class ships for maritime security and smaller surface combat operations, said Bryan Clark, a defense analyst at the Hudson Institute.

Congress must approve the Navy’s proposal to decommission the ships before their expected lifespan.

The House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday questioned Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, about the proposal.

US Representative Rob Wittman, R-Virginia, suggested the ship cuts were “grossly irresponsible” when the US Navy grew from 318 ships to 297, while the Chinese fleet grew from 210 to 360 ships over the past two decades.

Milley said it was important to focus on the Navy’s capabilities rather than the size of its fleet.

“I would favor capabilities rather than just numbers,” he said.

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