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Flash point: Fleet size

Sep. 30, 2013 - 07:43AM   |  
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Flash points

Five areas where the fleet could be in trouble:
China: A rising adversary
Budget cuts: Beltway battles do damage
Fleet size: Running the numbers
Industry: Can the yards do the job?
Risk aversion: Are leaders encouraged to play it too safe?
Have your say: We’ve asked the experts, now have your say — is the fleet getting weaker? Send your thoughts to
and they could appear in an upcoming issue.


Why it’s hurting the Navy: Over the past three decades, budget cuts and drawdowns have halved the fleet, which hasn’t faced a potent blue-water competitor since the fall of the Soviet Union. But China’s rise may change that, proponents argue. In a naval battle, where only one missile hit can take a warship out of action, there is a value in having more warships encapsulated in the adage, “Quantity has a quality all its own.”

Key stat: Strategists believe the primary advantage the Reagan-era Navy has over today’s is 47 more attack submarines, capable of hunting and sinking an adversary’s fleet.

Counterpoint: Today’s Navy places a premium on striking power with cruise missiles and precision bombs. And besides, there is no potential adversary within two decades of rivaling the U.S. Navy’s control of the sea. That’s because the U.S. Navy’s silent service boasts 55 nuclear-propelled attack boats.

Key quote: The U.S. fleet “is more powerful than any single Navy in the world,” said former Navy Undersecretary Bob Work. “And if it came down to a navy-on-navy fight, it would not be a fair fight because we have 50 nuclear attack submarines and we would sweep the sea of a navy.”

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