Future of the US Navy lies in small, deadly and fast drone ships and submarines

This post was published in Defence24. The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.


WARSAW, (BM) – Not 355, but probably even more than 500 ships are to be counted by the future US Navy, which will be built by 2045. At least such assumptions were adopted in two of the three studies commissioned by the Department of Defense, which the American portal Defense News reached.

This is confirmed by the statements of Defense Secretary Marek Esper, who spoke about changes to plans for the U.S. Navy and increasing the size of this formation.

To determine the final shape of the U.S. The Navy has not yet arrived around 2045. The final conclusions of the Future Naval Force Study are expected to appear later this year. As part of it, four entities were asked to create their vision of an “ideal” fleet: the Secretary of Defense advisory body, the Cost Assessment & Program Evaluation [CAPE], the U.S. Navy and the Hudson Institute.

These fleets were then to play war games, and the conclusions from them will be reflected in the final report and recommendations. On their basis, the U.S. budget is to be applied for. Navy for fiscal year 2022.

Defense News has reached out to two future US Navy projects, and they are quite similar overall. On this basis, it can be assumed that the final study report will not differ from them either. So what will the future US Navy be like?


The two “ideal fleets” are different in size and are expected to be between 480 and 534 vessels. In each of these cases, however, it is a huge quantitative increase compared to the planned expansion of the fleet by 2030, assuming the number of 355 units. Of this, by the middle of the fourth decade of this century, Americans would have between 316 and 358 manned ships backed by unmanned aerial vehicles.

Aircraft carriers and helicopters

Both disclosed plans assume a reduction in the number of American supercarriers from 11 to 9, which is to be synonymous with the possibility of maintaining eight ships of this class at the same time [statistically one will always be on a fuel exchange from the nuclear rector combined with a thorough modernization, others on call, or less or more ready to go to sea].

At the same time, according to CAPE is to maintain the number of 10 large docks that are also landing helicopters, although the Hudson Institute recommends here rather abandoning five such units and replacing them with four additional light aircraft carriers. The latter are nothing new anyway. U.S. The Navy currently has two units in line – USS America and USS Tripoli – which were built on the basis of a landing helicopter design [improved Wasp type], but were completed without a landing dock and with reduced medical facilities.

The space saved was used to expand the hangars and warehouses needed for air operations. It is probably about finding four units created in this way – capable of carrying relatively numerous [a squadron that is half of what supercarriers carry] short take-off and vertical landing F-35B aircraft.

Landing fleet and logistics

The recommendation is to reduce the number of large landing ships from the current 23 to 15-19. In return, both centers recommend building 20-26 light landing ships. The increase in the number of units enabling landing to meet the needs of the capture of the islands and the creation of missile bases there by the U.S. Marine Corps, for which the latter formation is already preparing. These bases will also have to be supplied, which will be accompanied by an increased number of U.S. logistics units. Navy. 19 or 30 [depending on the vision] “small logistic ships” are to be built.

The number of tankers in the fleet would also increase – to 21 or even 31 from the current 17. Increase from 33 to 52 units [Hudson Institute], or remain at the same level [CAPE] would have the number of command and support ships, which also include large units freight, fast expeditionary transporters, expedition transhipment docks and mobile maritime bases.

Surface combat ships

The current number of large surface combat units would in principle be retained. While there are 89 of them today [Ticonderoga-class cruisers and Arleigh Burhe-class destroyers], CAPE sees in the future their number slightly reduced [from 80 to 90 units], but reinforced with 65-87 large “optionally manned” or even unmanned corvettes – this is the biggest novelty when it comes to the planned new classes of surface ships. The naval combat fleet would be supplemented by 56 to 70 small surface ships, which is an increase in the assumptions compared to 2016 [52 units].

The submarine fleet

A slight increase would be recorded by the US fleet of strike ships, which so far were planned to serve 66 ships [the actual state is 57 ships today]. These units are to receive support in the form of 40 to 60 unmanned large underwater vehicles, which would fulfill the most dangerous and tedious tasks, freeing the ships to carry out other activities.


Costs Finally, the basic question should be asked – how much will it all cost and whether Americans can afford it at all, especially in the times of the anticipated crisis. U.S. plans The Navy, with an annual budget of $ 207 billion, assuming stable financing and the replacement of vessels over the years, is realistic. Maintaining more ships will also be possible, thanks to the fact that the new larger fleet will not employ more sailors. Unmanned ships will contribute to this, but also “optionally manned” [which could eventually become unmanned].

Many smaller units are to have low crew needs. At the same time, these units are to have high capabilities, thanks to the use of innovative solutions, not only in terms of digitization and network-centric ability, but also the use of new types of alloys, precision armaments, and – the Department of Defense mentions this in particular – vertical aircraft new generation take-off and landing. Probably it will also be about combat drones capable of supporting fighters and bombers, which can be launched from the decks of relatively small vessels [possibly even corvettes].

Withdrawal of at least some of the large and easily destructible targets, especially aircraft carriers, and replacing them with more numerous and easier to deploy smaller units operating as one large network, which will also include patrolling aircraft, including numerous UAVs, will certainly allow avoiding large losses caused by the impact of weapons of mass destruction, the use of which may be committed by a potential enemy. And this is what all signs indicate, including plans for the composition of the future fleet – the People’s Republic of China will be.


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