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313 ships are reference point, fleet plan says

Feb. 2, 2010 - 05:43PM   |   Last Updated: Feb. 2, 2010 - 05:43PM  |  
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The Navy's new 30-year fleet plan demotes the previous goal of a 313-ship fleet to a mere "point of departure" for developing a new fleet. The service estimates it can buy the ships in the plan for an average of "no more than $15.9 billion per year" in 2010 dollars.

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The Navy's new 30-year fleet plan demotes the previous goal of a 313-ship fleet to a mere "point of departure" for developing a new fleet. The service estimates it can buy the ships in the plan for an average of "no more than $15.9 billion per year" in 2010 dollars.

And for the first time, the Pentagon submitted to Congress a 30-year aviation plan for the Air Force and Navy.

The Navy is required by Congress to annually prepare a 30-year shipbuilding plan. Last year's plan was held in abeyance at the direction of Defense Secretary Robert Gates a move that angered some lawmakers. The new plan was sent to the Hill on Monday to accompany the president's fiscal 2011 budget.

In the updated plan's near-term period, the Navy plans to "significantly ramp up" production of ships such as the Littoral Combat Ship and the Joint High Speed Vessel to "support persistent presence, maritime security, irregular warfare, joint sealift, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and partnership building missions." A total of 66 LCS ships is now forecast to be bought over the 30-year period, including 17 replacements for ships reaching the end of their service life.

Highlights of the plan include:

Increasing the number of Navy-operated Joint High Speed Vessel ships to 23 and expanding their mission range.

Canceling plans to build two new joint command ships and instead extend the two 1970s-era ships through 2029.

Standardizing the combat logistics force to two basic auxiliary ship types: T-AKE dry cargo ammunition ships and new T-AO(X) double-hulled fleet oilers.

Replacing the Maritime Prepositioning Force (Future) squadron to support high-end, forcible-entry operations with three enhanced Maritime Prepositioning Squadrons, each consisting of a T-AKE, a new Mobile Landing Platform and a Large Medium-Speed Roll-on/Roll-off ship transferred from the Army.

The plan, as expected, holds the number of aircraft carriers to 11 ships until dropping to 10 after 2040; reaffirms the 2008 decision to end the DDG 1000 destroyer program at three ships and last fall's choice to select a single design for the Littoral Combat Ship program; confirms the plan to continue development of a new Advanced Missile Defense Radar to install on DDG 51-class destroyers (scheduled with the ships to be ordered in 2016); and maintain an amphibious landing force of "approximately 33 ships."

The plan is divided into thirds: a near-term from 2011 to 2020 "based on a very good understanding of requirements, costs and capabilities"; a mid-term from 2021 to 2030 featuring ships "yet to be informed by either concrete threat analyses of formal analysts of alternatives"; and a far-term from 2031 to 2040 based on decisions and assumptions "certain to change over the next two decades."

The new plan does not plan for a replacement for the four SSGN cruise-missile and special-mission submarines converted from the ballistic missile mission. A 12-ship replacement program for the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines is to be funded from 2019 through 2033, but the requirement for the new sub is expected in the forthcoming Nuclear Posture Review expected to be sent to Congress in early March.

The Navy acknowledges that the 33-ship amphibious fleet "represents the limit of acceptable risk" in meeting the requirement to deliver two Marine Expeditionary Brigades in a forcible entry operation, despite the Corps' desire for 38 ships.

And while the total number of LCS ships to be bought jumps to 66, the rate of construction significantly drops. Gone are previous years where six or five ships were to be purchased; instead, the new plan buys four per year from 2013 to 2015, three a year from 2016 to 2019, and two or one per year thereafter through 2040.

Combined Aviation Plan

The combined Air Force-Navy aviation plan sheds new light on the Pentagon's expectations for fielding a new fleet of long-range bombers.

One 10-year outlook chart shows a column of zeros for aircraft purchases along a row titled "bomber."

"Although the department is spending considerable sums on modernizing legacy air mobility and long range strike platforms, there will be no new procurement of aircraft in these categories during FY 2011-2020," the plan says. "The picture will change in the 2020s, when the priority will likely shift to buying long-range strike and strategic lift aircraft."

Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that the 2011 budget calls for spending $1.9 billion between 2011 and 2015 to develop a next-generation bomber.

The plan goes on to use similar language as defense brass in recent week, stressing the Air Force and Pentagon are busily studying requirements for a new bomber -- but making no firm commitments.

"Although the characteristics of the next long-range strike aircraft have not yet been determined, one option under consideration is a survivable, penetrating aircraft with better stealth capabilities than current aircraft have, possibly incorporating advanced sensors of the type previously reserved for ISR aircraft," according to the report. "Range and payload requirements for a successor system are still under investigation."

The aviation plan projects the military's manned fighter inventory will decline "by 10 percent" between 2010 and 2020. Over the same span, the plan forecasts the number of multirole unmanned aircraft in the fleet "will quadruple."

The plan envisions a combined fighter and attack aircraft fleet composed of 3,264 planes in 2011. The fleet would shrink to 2,929 by 2020, with a low point of 2,883 in 2018.

The multi-role unmanned aerial vehicle fleet would grow from 72 in 2011 to 223 in 2015. That growth would continue, with a 476-plane inventory envisioned for 2020.

For intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft, the plan projects the 580-plane fleet of 2011 will shrink to 527 aircraft in 2015, before growing to 542 airframes by the end of the span.

The military's airlift inventory is described as "robust and stable." The plan forecasts remarkable stability for strategic lift aircraft, starting at 313 jets in fiscal 2011, then holding steady at 312 through fiscal 2020. Tanker aircraft and intra-theater air lifter inventories also are projected to remain relatively the same. The 549-ship fleet of tankers in 2011 is expected to dip to a low of 531 in 2018 and 2019 before growing to 538 flying gas stations in 2020. The 2011 inventory of 536 intra-theater cargo planes drops to a low of 509 planes in 2016, rising to 538 in 2020.

The document forecasts "3 percent average annual real growth" for DoD aviation programs between 2011 and 2020.

"Total aviation investments will amount to $268 billion across the period," the plan states. "In terms of annual funding levels, expenditures will rise from about $22 billion in FY 2011 to about $29 billion in FY 2020." from reader">William Matthews contributed to this report.

Related reading">30-year shipbuilding plan">30-year aviation plan

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