The Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) sails in formation ahead of the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD 24) as the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) simulates a strait transit.

Fleet Weak: Navy’s shipbuilding plan could lose a war in the Pacific

The Navy’s 30-year shipbuilding plan reveals a broader fight within the Defense Department. The issue is not simply strategic, but operational and force-structural — how to transform the Navy to ensure it can deter and defeat China in a large-scale Indo-Pacific war. As in World War II, a vital issue is the role of heavy amphibious assault ships in the Navy’s strategy.

The Sea Services should grasp the role large amphibious warships will play in a Pacific war. The Navy’s shipbuilding plan should reflect this and include a significant amphibious element to ensure its ability to fight and win in the western Pacific.

The Navy’s current plan is — to understate it — out of touch with strategic reality.

At minimum, the battle force will shrink from its level of just under 300 ships to 280 ships by 2027. The Navy then presents three alternative force structures, each with a “transition” period that expands the fleet to slightly under 300 ships. Under the most ambitious plan, the Navy will then reach 355 ships by 2043; under the other two plans, it will cap out in the mid-320s.

Numbers alone do not tell the whole story. The Navy’s current scheme, under all three of its plans, will include at least 31 amphibious warships by 2032. This nominally aligns with the requirements the Marine Corps has outlined — a force of at least 31 amphibious warships—versus the Navy’s desired 25 amphibious warships.

Two facts must be grasped — the role of amphibious warships in Indo-Pacific strategy and operational planning, and the sort of warships the Sea Services require.

Read the full article at The Hill.

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