The US Navy is struggling to define its manufacturing schedule for naval surface units

Like many Western armed forces, the US Navy saw its format significantly erode during the 2000s and 2010s, and is today struggling to rebalance it with the actual production capacities of the American naval industry. Thus, the definitive format balancing the new Large Surface Combatant, which will replace the Ticonderoga cruisers then the first generation Arleigh Burkes destroyers, the A.Burkes Flight III destroyers, the new frigates of the FFG/X program, and the LCS, is still the subject of fierce discussion at the Pentagon, the White House, and on Capitol Hill.

Indeed, the US Navy has had to repeatedly postpone the replacement of the Ticonderoga anti-aircraft cruisers, which provide protection for aircraft carriers and large amphibious units. The Large Surface Combatant program, which is to take over, is still in the design phase, and it appears that construction of the first unit will not begin before 2025, which will bring the Ticonderoga to more than 40 years of intensive navigation. However, this type of vessel, capable of implementing a high-power (and therefore large-scale) radar, and a significant number of missiles of different types, is essential to current and future US naval strategy. Although the A.Burkes destroyers, in their latest Flight III standard, will still gain power, they cannot compete with the LSCs.

Ticonderoga cruiser Defense Analysis | Armed Forces Budgets and Defense Efforts | Military naval construction
Ticonderoga cruisers are reaching their age limit and must be replaced by the LSC program

At the same time, many at the Pentagon question the predominance of destroyers in the US Navy's high-seas arsenal. The FFG/X program will certainly allow to extend ASM performance American naval groups and Task Forces, but their reduced number (20 units), will not allow destroyers to be disengaged from medium-intensity missions, for which they are oversized. Finally, although some still strive to defend the LCS, the US Navy's confidence in these ships is very limited. While 14 ships are already in service, and operational pressure is immense on surface units, only one LCS is currently deployed overseas, in Singapore.

As we can see, the decisions are far from clear when it comes to the future format of the US Navy's surface fleet. Added to these operational questions are industrial problems, with significant efforts made by the Pentagon to strengthen the logistics fleet, replace the first Nimitz aircraft carriers, and expand the fleet of new generation nuclear submarines. But for now, between the end of the A.Burke Flight III program in 2022, and the start of the LSC program, the US Navy risks finding itself with a deficit of new large combat surface units for 6 to 7 years, period during which the only ships to enter service will be the FFG/X. The General Staff is therefore today evaluating the possibility of producing a new Batch of A.Burke, already the class of ship produced over the longest period in modern history, while attempting to begin the construction of the LSCs as soon as 2023.

FREMM Italy Defense Analysis | Armed Forces Budgets and Defense Efforts | Military naval construction
The FREMM of FIncantieri is one of the finalists of the FFG/X program

The obvious excitement of the US Navy in its planning is reinforced by the apparent great mastery of the rise in power of the Chinese Navy, which maintains a production plan of 2 Type 055 cruisers, 3 Type 052D destroyers, 4 Type 054A frigates/ B, and 6 Type 056 corvettes each year. At this rate, the People's Liberation Army Navy will have caught up in format with the US Navy in less than twenty yearss, an extremely short time on the scale of strategic naval planning.

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