The US Navy’s latest 30-year shipbuilding programme presented to Congress reveals a decrease in the average fleet size to 298 ships through to 2042. The drop from the previous 306-ship average is largely due to the early retirement of existing warships and a reduced future shipbuilding rate. Measures to extend the construction schedules of aircraft carriers from five to seven years and delays in building new Ballistic Missile submarines to replace the Ohio class by two years will reduce the average annual expenditure on new hulls to US$16.8 billion.
The detailed Long-Range Plan for Construction of Naval Vessels report also outlines plans for up to 33 Flight III DDG-51 class destroyers. These will feature a new Air Missile Defense Radar (AMDR) to supersede the Aegis system’s SPY-1 series of phased-array sensors. Procurement of a successor to the Arleigh Burke class will begin in 2031.
At the other end, plans to build replacements for the two command ships will not begin until 2032. By that time, USS Blue Ridge, flagship of the US Seventh Fleet, and USS Mount Whitney, flagship of the Sixth Fleet in the Med, will both be more than 60 years old.