How Many Ships Does the Navy Really Need?



The U.S. Navy’s fleet is one of the most impressive on the planet — but officials and strategists are desperate for even more ships to accomplish the service’s global mission. The future fleet that planners want has up to 500 ships and includes drone ships, corvettes, light carriers and other innovative platforms. Does the Navy really need all that, and, more importantly, can the Navy afford it? Bryan Clark of the Hudson Institute takes us behind the scenes on planning for future maritime warfare.

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Mentioned in this episode:

Active U.S. Navy Ships

The Navy’s 500-ship plan

Littoral Combat Ships

Carrier Gerald R. Ford

Unmanned Ships

Sea Mines

The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Left of Boom:

Hope Hodge Seck 0:00

Welcome back to Left of Boom. I’m your host, Military.com managing editor Hope Hodge Seck. Today we’re talking about ships. The Navy’s currently fleet of 296 battle force ships is nothing to sneeze at. And it has more than twice the amount of deck space on its 11th supercarriers than that of all the aircraft carriers of the rest of the world combined. Still, Navy planners and strategists are adamant that the Navy needs more ships. China is building its maritime strength at a prodigious pace, and global missions are leaving the U.S. Navy stretched thin and with little margin for maintenance and downtime. But is it truly realistic to grow the fleet to 355 ships or more? Or does the Navy need to adjust its expectations in light of tight resources and limited budget dollars? Today we’re talking with Brian Clark, Director of the Center for Defense Concepts and Technology at the Hudson Institute. He’s been on the ground floor of analysis for studies that have informed Navy fleet planning and budget requests, and he can help us cut through the noise when it comes to battle on the high seas. Brian Clark, welcome to the show.

Bryan Clark 1:14

Thank you very much. It’s great to be here.

Hope Hodge Seck 1:17

So when I picture planners deciding how many ships the Navy needs for projected future mission sets, sometimes I think of somebody doing math on a napkin and going carry the one, you know, add five, subtract three, but I’m sure the process is more scientific than that. Can you give kind of an insider’s idea of what it really looks like?

Bryan Clark 1:37

Well, it’s it is a lot of math, but it’s actually not that much more sophisticated than, you know, just adding numbers and carrying the one. But you know, you use spreadsheets and come up with essentially a way of thinking about the rotation rate of ships. So normally a ship, like let’s say, an aircraft carrier, it spends about seven to eight months of its 36-month cycle on deployment. And then you do the math to say, well, that’s about 19% of the ship’s lifetime is spent on deployment. And then you have to take into account the time to get wherever it’s deployed and the time to get back. And if you want to maintain a consistent presence of carriers in a particular location, that means you need to consider the fact that it takes you know two or three weeks for them to get there. two or three weeks for them to get home. And you end up eventually getting to the point where you need essentially, you know, to keep a carrier in one place in the ocean continuously, you need about five or six carriers. So that ends up driving the overall number to whatever that is based on the presence level. So the U.S. Navy likes to maintain two carriers deployed at any given time. One of those is based in Japan, it has an operational cycle that puts it underway 50% of the time, which is different than those based in the United States or CONUS. So that they have a 50% operational availability, the ones in CONUS are deployed about 19% of the time. You do the math, you end up with the need for about 11 carriers to be able to keep those two carriers continuously deployed. So it’s pretty straightforward math, you can incorporate some additional sophistication to say, well, for any given ship, it’s going to have a dry-docking availability every eight years, in which case, it’s gone for two years. So that’s a percentage of time that you have to sort of carve out, which means for the carrier, for example, yeah, 19% of the time it’s on deployment. But then if you add in the fact that it’s got a four-year refueling overhaul in its 50-year life cycle, that’s a couple more percent that you carve out of that 19. And then you’ve got a couple of drydocking availabilities, and that’s another percent so so you eventually get down to, you know, your average carrier has maybe 15% deployment time over its life cycle.

Hope Hodge Seck 3:48

And somehow we’re accomplishing the nation’s missions with a lot fewer ships now. And does that just come out ofm I guessm those down periods? What is the shortfall, the gaps that we’re seeing now?

Bryan Clark 4:04

So what we’re seeing is the Navy is doing a combination of forward deploying more ships, so those forward-deployed ships have this higher operational tempo this this greater operational availability, more like 50% rather than 20%. So that’s one way of doing it. So over the last 30 years, the Navy has increased the number of forward-deployed ships by about 20%. So there’s been a pretty dramatic increase in that, so it’s places like Japan, where we’ve increased the number of destroyers and amphibious ships, places like Rota, Spain, where we’ve put four and soon to put six destroyers where we did not have them, you know, 20 years ago, we’ve got a ship based in Greece, the Mount Whitney’s based in Greece, we’ve got a bunch of ships based in Bahrain. So moving warships overseas is one way that the Navy is compensated for the fact that the fleet has shrunk. The other way that they’ve done it is by getting more operational ability out of the ships they do have. So whereas the carriers try to keep pretty strictly to this 19% availability, and submarines have a pretty firm limit at 25%, conventional ships tend to get used a lot more. So they have a three-year operational cycle, they will deploy multiple times during that operational cycle and get a lot more operational availability than your average carrier. So the Navy is deploying the non-nuclear parts of the fleet more. And they base more of these ships overseas to compensate for the fact that the fleet shrank by about 15% over the last 30 years, and at the same time maintained about the same number of ships deployed on a given day, which is about 100 ships.

Hope Hodge Seck 5:36

So as you said, the fleet has shrunk. And yet, it seems over the last decade or so, interest in seapower has had a bit of a renaissance. I remember in 2012, during a debate, President Barack Obama compared ships to horses and bayonets, kind of scoffing at the idea that we needed to ramp up ship count or focus on ship count. And now that number has become a central defense talking point. So what from your perspective happened between then and now?

Bryan Clark 6:05

So a couple of things. One is there’s been a big readiness crisis in the military overall, that we’ve had, despite the fact that we’ve not really been fighting in a war, the deployment of the military has stayed at kind of a wartime pace, even after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ended. And they’re not going to the same places, obviously, they’re going to different places, a larger number of places, but the deployment, op-tempo of the military has stayed pretty much constant. Which for the Navy, in particular, is stressing because it’s very capital-intensive, every deployment requires a ship to leave. It’s not just sending some people overseas. And those ships require maintenance, it’s a very hostile environment being at sea. And so there’s been a big readiness problem in the Navy of of ships not being ready for that. With aircraft carriers, the aircraft carrier fleet has suffered some of that, the submarine fleet has suffered some of that. And so that readiness crisis has raised the question of, Do we have enough ships. The other thing with the Navy that’s maybe particular, and the Air Force has the same challenge, is that you really can only deploy in units of ships or airplanes. So you’ve got this, you want to have a deployed military, but that ship can only be in one place at a time, that airplane can only be in one place at a time. And the ship is much slower than the airplane, the idea of, its capability not capacity is harder to make that compensation or that exchange for the Navy. Because if I trade capacity of ships for some more capable ships, that’s reducing the number of locations that can be deployed at any given time. So you make a trade-off, then, in terms of your geographic dispersal. And in terms of your strategy, if you try to make that trade of capability for capacity.

Hope Hodge Seck 7:36

Yeah, you’re definitely kind of anticipating my line of questioning there. A cynical take would be that it’s pretty easy to focus on numbers and argue for a specific number of ships. And it’s harder to talk about changing capabilities and manned/unmanned mixes. And, you know, if you’ve got a Gerald R. Ford, it’s more capable than, you know, a CV or what have you. So you know, you answered some of that. But is it possible that the ships of today can actually do more than we give them credit for, even though they can’t be in two places at the same time?

Bryan Clark 8:12

Well, they certainly can. So they can do more than than the ships of 30 years ago, their sensors are more capable, they’re more survivable. So you don’t have to necessarily have as many ships to compensate for attrition or battle damage, right. So if the ship is more survivable, you might be able to get by with a smaller number of ships, they can cover a larger area, because they’ve got aircraft that might be able to have sensors that can go longer ranges, or their weapons can reach longer ranges. So maybe you don’t need as many ships because you can cover a larger area with that smaller number of ships. So there’s ways you can use capability to compensate for numbers to a degree. The challenge, though, is that for sensors, a ship is limited by the horizon generally, because its sensors can’t see over the horizon. Radars, electro-optical sensors, infrared sensors, the helicopters they carry are still kind of the same generation that emerged out of the Cold War, so they don’t have a long range. So they can’t really dramatically extend the range of the sensors on the ship. So ships can use sensors that are external to the ship, like space-based sensors, they can use airplanes that don’t belong to the ship. So you know, P-8 maritime patrol aircraft, or Air Force AWACS, they can use those sensors, and they can use their long-range weapons to attack over those longer distances. So that’s a way to, to compensate. But at the at the end of the day, there’s still a lot of ocean. And there’s still a lot of area to cover. And even if you’ve got an SM-6 that can go, you know a couple 100 miles instead of your previous missile, they can go you know only 50 or you’ve got a Romahawk they can go 1,000 miles, you know, you’ve still only got so many missiles on that ship and that ship, you can only do so many things at once, you know, so if you want to be able to simultaneously do anti-submarine warfare and strike warfare and surface warfare, it might not be realistic for that one ship to do all those missions simultaneously. So just because we pack more capability into the ship doesn’t mean that that ship is going to be able to compensate for what three ships could have done, even if those were less capable ships.

Hope Hodge Seck 10:07

So you mentioned battle damage. On a related note, I’ve covered the Marine Corps for many years, which has great nostalgia for the WWII days of amphibious landings and sometimes takes criticism for the fact that area denial technology might severely limit this as a mission set in the future. And it’s been a long time since the last real maritime battle. Do you think nostalgia and planning for the past comes into play in the Navy’s strategy for the future battlespace?

Bryan Clark 10:39

I think what it is, it’s not nostalgia as much as it is a level of comfort and confidence in the current platforms. So if we are looking to evolve the Navy from your force of a relatively small number of large ships to a larger force with a lot more smaller ships, that means transitioning away from the kinds of ships that today’s leaders are comfortable with, and they’ve had a lot of experience with, and that they know work. So the question is, well, I’ve got this destroyer today that I know works. And I’m, I’ve served on, my colleagues have served on, in some cases, sons and daughters have served. And now I’m going to give up some of those in the future to buy some new smaller ship, like a large unmanned surface vessel, or a frigate or an LCS. And those ships are not as comfortable with being able to do the mission, because they’d have fewer people on them, or no people they don’t have is quite as many weapons as my destroyer did back in the day. And so there’s this, confidence in being able to use the new thing to execute the mission. And I think what that misses, though, is that the mission is changing. So during the Cold War, we needed ships with lots of missiles, because it was likely to be an attrition kind of fight. In the early days of the competition with China, there was also this perception that it was going to be an attrition kind of fight. And we’re seeing from what China has been doing more recently, with gray zone warfare, or gray zone operations, that it’s much less likely to be a attrition fight than a fight at the lower end of escalation, where the ability to maintain a protracted competition or confrontation is going to be more important than your ability to deliver a lot of weapons in a short period of time. So those senior leaders who are comfortable with today’s big expensive ships are gonna have to get used to the idea that we need more smaller, less expensive ships, if we’re going to be able to sustain this competition, when the opponent is not going to give us the kind of fight that those original destroyers were built for.

Hope Hodge Seck 12:33

Very interesting. And from your point of view, how do you go about changing that mindset? What does it take?

Bryan Clark 12:40

Well, it takes, first of all, kind of rethinking the scenarios in which we’re likely to have military confrontations, because the kind of canonical scenarios that we’ve been planning for since basically the end of Cold War, you know, so around the 2000 timeframe, so North Korea invading South Korea, China invading Taiwan, Russia invading Latvia, for example, you know, those kind of scenarios drive you to a relatively short, intense conflict, where lots of weapons are going to get used in a short period of time, and it’s going to require your highly survivable platforms that are going to be able to duke it out at relatively short ranges. And so that’s just not, you know, the fight that we’re going to be able to necessarily win or deter. More importantly, so that fight is harder. But we’ve been building a force designed for that. But what happens if the scenario ends up being different? So it’s not the invasion of Latvia, but it’s the creeping aggression that they have against Ukraine carried out in the Baltic, in the case of Russia, or what if it’s not the China invasion of Taiwan with troops coming across the beach, but it’s instead a blockade of Taiwan accompanied with periodic bombardment of Taiwan’s outlying islands, that’s just protracted over a series of months, where they just don’t ever escalate to the point where the U.S. can come in with the big forces and start, attacking China. But we can’t afford to maintain a presence there to keep the peace for years on end. So those scenarios drive you to a totally new way of thinking about what the force should be designed around, the other force design principles. So that’s the starting point, is rethinking kind of reimagining what military confrontations in the future might look like. And then what the determinants of success are going to be, because success will be a lot less about how much firepower you can deliver in a short period of time, and more about how much can you create difficulties for your opponent. How much can you operate at low levels of escalation and counter their efforts like the Gabrielle Giffords did with the gas fields against the Chinese, you know, where the Malaysians were trying to do gas drilling, and the Chinese were trying to interfere and the Gabrielle Giffords, the LCS went in there and intervene and was able to defuse the situation. That’s going to be a lot more of the future than you know, the Chinese coming across the beach in Taiwan. So if you can’t compete at that level, you’ll eventually let the Chinese and the Russians in the North Koreans eventually get what they want, they’ll just do it without starting the big war we’ve been preparing for.

Hope Hodge Seck 15:06

So the LCS, the Littoral Combat ship, for anyone who’s not familiar, has taken a lot of hate. And some of it rightly so it’s, it’s had more problems than a ship as young as it should have. But has it been sort of unduly slandered? I mean, it sounds like you see a real role for the ship.

Bryan Clark 15:27

I mean, it’s got lots of mechanical design problems that could have been avoided. So the propulsion plant is not designed in a way that’s reliable and sustainable. So if the Navy had, instead of focusing on speed, had instead focused on what the missions are, what the ship is likely to really do, which is going to be maritime security, and maybe anti-submarine warfare, and certainly mine warfare, you know, those missions don’t drive you towards the characteristics that the ships are designed around. So speed, and agility, you know, those missions really require something that’s got endurance and reliability and low cost. So they can be maligned for the fact that they are designed for a set of parameters that are completely different than the ones you need for the missions that we’re probably going to use them in. But that aside, I think they’ve got a lot of utility, because they do give you this sort of low-end escalation tool that can be used in places like the South China Sea, or the East China Sea, or even, and it’s actually a relatively capable platform that can be employed in the Persian Gulf. We’re gonna have to deal with the fact that it’s got these reliability issues. So there’s going to have to be some effort to modify them to make them able to operate for an extended period of time without having to be repaired in a dry dock every year. So I think there’s opportunities with the LCS to use them in these ways that could be less stressing on the ship and less stress on the crew. Because the crew is small, to sort of adapt, you know, the the missions to the LCS rather than trying to build an LCS for a set of missions that you’re never going to really be able to achieve.

Hope Hodge Seck 16:58

The Navy for a few years, I think starting in 2016, or 2017, pitched a number in the range of 355 ships, and that was informed by multiple studies. And then in 2020, then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper proposed 500 ships, a dramatically larger number. What happened in the space of those three or so years to change that ask so dramatically?

Bryan Clark 17:24

So we were involved in both those studies, so 355 and the 500. The big change was the incorporation of unmanned vehicles or unmanned vessels into that number. So the 355 ships is based on the idea that you’re going to maintain a robust presence overseas, and that the force design of the Navy looks more or less like it does today, with the addition of more of these smaller combatants like frigates, but you’re going to keep the same number of larger combatants. So the big change though, was the idea in the more recent for structure analysis of rebalancing the surface fleet, in particular, to take away more of the large surface combatants, the destroyers and cruisers, and buying even more of these smaller surface combatants. So more frigates more, you know, corvettes, which is what we call the unmanned surface vehicle or the unmanned surface vehicle, which will probably end up being manned most of the time. So it’ll be more like a manned surface combatant, so more of those, which increases the number of surface ships and then adding in these unmanned surface vessels, the medium unmanned surface vessel, which there may be 100 of those eventually in the fleet, and then also the extra extra large unmanned undersea vessel, which the Navy is looking at 40 of those. So if you redo the numbers and think about the fact that you’re going to have more small surface combatants, and then more unmanned vehicles, more unmanned vessels, you get to 500. It’s still really about the same as that same for 355-ship Navy with a slightly smaller number of destroyers and cruisers, and a larger number of frigates and corvettes. And then you add in all these other unmanned vessels as well. So that’s how you get the 500.

Hope Hodge Seck 18:55

And these unmanned ships, vehicles vessels, how can they best be used in the fleet? And what do you see as the limitations of this new I guess you can call it a new technology.

Bryan Clark 19:07

So the key will be to employ them for things where their limitations are going to be not a problem, and that you can maximize the benefits that they have. So the benefits are, they can go into places where you may not want a crew to go because it’s a highly dangerous mission. Or they can do things where you kind of need a platform to be out there continuously, but to waste a multimission platform on that operation is not worth it. So if you want to do a sensing mission, you’re with a radar or a passive sensor from the surface, you can send a destroyer over there, which is how we do it today. But that means that destroyer is carrying with it all the people and the equipment to do every other mission that it does. So it’s doing this surveillance mission, but in reality, it’s also got all of it strike missiles all of its people all of a tenant submarine warfare systems, and all of its surface warfare systems, but it’s not using them. So to maximize the efficiency of the fleet, one of the ways you do that is you use unmanned vessels to do some of these missions that don’t require the full multi-mission package. So a medium unmanned surface vessel can go do that surveillance mission. It can do anti-submarine warfare by towing a towed array instead of having a submarine driving around, but that same towed array, and you can also have unmanned under extra large unmanned undersea vessel or vehicle, do some of these undersea surveillance missions as well, instead of having a submarine do it or mine-laying instead of a ship doing it. So there’s missions like surveillance, payload delivery, you know, where the unmanned vehicle can do a lot to alleviate some of the pressure on the manned platforms. They can also be used as weapons platforms, if they’re being controlled from an external source, you know, so the extra large unmanned undersea vessel could be a mine-layer, you know, if you just tell it where to go and regulate the mines, the large unmanned surface vessel can be a missile platform, with the capability to engage on remote from a destroyer or a frigate, you could also use them for this payload delivery mission when it’s controlled by another manned platform. Anti-submarine warfare is a great mission for unmanned vehicles because it’s slow. So you can keep a person in the loop. No anti-submarine warfare mission occurs in less than minutes. And usually, it’s hours. So it’s easy to keep people involved, an operator involved in the decision of you know, where to maneuver and whether to launch weapons or not. So using the medium unmanned surface vessel to tow a towed array, using a UAV to drop sonobuoys, and monitor sonobuoy fields, and then using unmanned vehicles to drop weapons on submarines. That’s a much more scalable way to deal with the submarine threat and less expensive than trying to use destroyers and submarines and manned aircraft to do that.

Hope Hodge Seck 19:53

And when we’re talking about the different sizes, you know, extra large down to medium or small, how do these compare with the size of the conventional destroyer or something?

Bryan Clark 21:52

So they’re, they’re always smaller. Even the large unmanned surface vessel that the Navy’s pursuing is about half the size of a frigate, or it’s less than half the size of a frigate. And it’s about two-thirds the size of an LCS. So they’re smaller, in general, and the medium unmanned surface vessel is about the size of a PC or Patrol Craft, that the Navy deploys today in Bahrain. They’re smaller, and they are more a single mission. And so one of the keys is that you go to this unmanned platform with the idea that I’m going to disaggregate the missions that I would normally have on a multi-mission ship, and put only two or three of them at the most on any one of these unmanned vessels. The unmanned vessel may have sensors, it may have your weapons to do anti-submarine warfare or strike warfare, and maybe it was not capable of any other missions. So that makes it you know, less useful as a Swiss Army knife. But it makes it much more useful as a specialized tool for situations where you can throw it at that mission, and it can do it at low cost and sustain that operation for a long time without having to swap people out. So there’s there’s benefits to this idea of disaggregating the functions of a ship onto a larger number of platforms. You can slightly reduce the number of manned platforms. But more importantly, you get the ability to scale the mission to deal with, you know, the threat without having to buy a large number of manned ships, that would be expensive.

Hope Hodge Seck 23:13

When we’re talking about the ships that the Navy wants and needs, the the most uncomfortable question is always a lot of resources. Obviously, the cost of building the fleet to 500 ships is, you know, tens of billions, easily, and it would take decades to get there. Then, of course, there’s the shipyards that may be overtaxed and tapped out by demand. Is there a straightforward solution for these problems?

Bryan Clark 23:40

Well, in the study we did last year at the Hudson Institute, which we did in concert with this future naval force structure study that Secretary Esper directed, we found that you could do this affordably. So we built a plan for a Navy that was about 480 ships, of which about 150 are unmanned, and those 480 ships were, you know, it does take, you know, 20 years to get, you know, pretty much close to those numbers. But you can do it within the shipbuilding budget of 2021, which essentially, this year’s shipbuilding budget plus inflation. So that profile of funding is sufficient to buy that size fleet. But you have to make some hard choices. The choices we had to make, we’re reducing the number of destroyers that we buy, reducing the number of attack submarines that we buy compared to what the Navy was doing, or planning to do, slowing down carrier production slightly from five years per hull to six years per hull, and then reducing slightly the number of amphibious ships that you buy. So the LPD production was slightly less than it is today, which is about annually, we slowed it down to about one every two years. So those choices that will allow us to stay within that budget profile of 2021 plus inflation, and then also buy these unmanned vessels which are kind of key to rebalancing the fleet. And then one of the big choices we made was we didn’t buy the large unmanned surface vehicle, we bought instead a corvette, which is a manned ship that’s about the same size and would do a lot of the same missions, but would have utility in peacetime to do security cooperation and maritime security, whereas the large unmanned surface vessel doesn’t have that much utility in peacetime. But those choices were relatively straightforward. The other big thing we found in that study was the operations and support costs actually end up being a bigger constraint on fleet size, then procurement. And I think that’s something the Navy is talking about, but is not highlighted is O&S costs, the cost to maintain and man that fleet are the things that actually constrain you more than their shipbuilding budget. And so building a fleet that you can afford to buy but not afford to own is probably not a good idea. And that’s how we’ve gotten in situation we’re in today, where we’ve bought a fleet, and then we’ve not adequately paid for its readiness. So we’ll have to make, you know, going forward, you have to make sure that you buy the fleet with an eye towards how much readiness money are you likely to have. And so that 480-ship fleet that we developed was also constrained by that limit of 2021 plus inflation in terms of operations and support costs.

Hope Hodge Seck 26:00

This is actually a great time to be discussing all this, as we’re now awaiting the White House budget request for Defense. The general consensus is that we’re going to see more constrained defense spending than we have in at least the last four years. What’s the best case scenario you see in terms of resourcing for Navy ships and the way forward and in the current reality?

Bryan Clark 26:22

So I think it’s likely as the Navy shipbuilding budget is going to look more like what it would have looked like if we had taken the 2021 budget and just extended it out into the future. So I think the the White House’s intent is not to cut the shipbuilding budget; it’s to keep the shipbuilding budget on the same trajectory it was on. So 2021 plus inflation, or maybe a little bit more than that. And what I think they’re going to do is make sure that they continue to fund this rebalancing of the fleet. So they’re going to fund the construction of these new large unmanned surface vessels, the frigates, the potential, you know, there’s a next-generation logistics ship, that’s a smaller logistics ship that was going to augment what we have today on the oilers and cargo ships, and then the light amphibious warship will be in there too. So, in the 2021, budget, those don’t get bought, those are all still in development. But at the 2022 budget, we’re gonna see, you know, about the same, you know, kind of profile we were in coming out of 2021, which will be eight or nine ships, you know, it’ll be about the same kind of, you know, two destroyers, two submarines, and ssbn, part of a carrier, and a part of an amphibious ship, and then couple, an oiler, and then maybe one of these light amphibious warships. So we’ll see how that goes. But it’s going to be just an extension of 2021. But then if you look into the FYDP, which they may not provide, over the next five years, you will see those rebalancing being emphasized towards a larger number of smaller ships.

Hope Hodge Seck 27:47

And that’s future years defense program, or the next five years, for anyone not not wise to the lingo. So you know, obviously, you make a strong case for continuing to push for this 500 ships with this unmanned complement. Do you have a prediction as far as the Navy and the Pentagon goes, as far as whether they will revise their ask up or down?

Bryan Clark 28:12

I anticipate that in that you won’t see any of that in the 2022 budget. Ithink the 2021 budget will simply just talk about what’s happening in the near term. And they won’t talk about the number they’re driving to, and they won’t talk about the 30-year shipbuilding plan, but what they will do in the 2023 budget is get into that and I anticipate that the new Navy fleet-size goal will be you know, somewhere in the between 355 and 500, I think will be in the 400s somewhere. But it will capture this idea that we are going to need to have, you know, dozens of medium unmanned surface vessels, dozens of extra large unmanned undersea vehicles, we will need to have, you know, more than probably the 20 frigates that are currently being planned. And then maybe some kind of, you know, some kind of small combatant, either they’ll USV or the corvette to be a missile carrier. Those I think will all be reflected in that shipbuilding plan, which drives up the number of ships that you get out of a comparable shipbuilding budget, from kind of the 355 we were driving towards. You get more ships, but of course, you’re trading the bigger ships for smaller ships. So I anticipate that numbers gonna end up being near the mid 400s somewhere.

Hope Hodge Seck 29:18

We’ve got some exciting times ahead. I will definitely be watching closely. And I’m so thrilled to have you on and get this insight into a question that has kept a lot of people up at night. So thank you so much for being on the show.

Bryan Clark 29:33

Thank you. I appreciate it, Hope. It’s great being with you.

Hope Hodge Seck 29:42

Thanks again for tuning in to Left of Boom. People have strong opinions about Navy ships, and I’d love to hear yours. Sound off at podcasts@military.com and tell me what you think about the future of American seapower, or anything else you have on your mind. Summer is upon us, but our future episode lineup is not about to quit. Make sure you’re subscribed to Left of Boom wherever you get your podcasts, so you’ll be notified when a new one drops. And remember that you can find all the news and information you need about your military community every day at Military.com.

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