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Navy’s long-term shipbuilding plan puts priority on carriers, submarines – Daily Press


The Navy’s new long-term shipbuilding plan — its first in three years — calls for maintaining the pace of Virginia-class submarine procurement and delivery at two a year.

The plan does not include hints from an earlier proposal that light aircraft carriers might allow a reduction in the number of the nuclear carriers built at Newport News Shipbuilding. Nor does it project the three-a-year Virginia-class submarine delivery that the Navy has at times suggested.

And most scenarios detailed in the plan leave the fleet short of its official goal of 355 ships, with the one high-growth option calling for 326 manned ships in the mid-2030s, and ultimately 363 manned ships in 2045.

“The once in a generation recapitalization of the Nation’s most survivable leg of the nuclear triad comes at the same time as the Navy modernizes for future threats, placing strain across the Navy’s budget,” the plan said, referring to the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines that are built in Newport News and Connecticut.

Newport News is building bow and stern modules, as well as the sail, for the first two Columbia subs under a $2.2 billion contract. It is slated to deliver the first stern module to Electric Boat later this year. Electric Boat is to deliver the first completed Columbia-class boat in fiscal year 2028.

The plan said the Columbia-class program is a top priority, as is maintaining the Navy’s advantage in submarines generally.

“Nuclear powered ship production, a unique capacity with little to no opportunity for commercial or dual use production, is provided by two private shipyards that are currently facilitized and certified to construct nuclear powered ships and will be at capacity for the next 15 years building Columbia-class SSBNs, Virginia-class SSNs, next generation SSNs, and Ford-class CVNs,” the plan said.

As a result, the Navy’s plan asks for additional funding to reduce the risk of production delays, provide stable work for more than 350 critical suppliers, and help hire and retain skilled shipbuilders.

For carriers, that means a jump from next year’s proposed $2.53 billion to more than $3 billion in fiscal year 2025, after a decline in 2024, with spending then rising to $3.12 billion in 2026 and $3.85 billion in 2027, reflecting early procurement of material and equipment for the carriers that will follow the Enterprise and Doris Miller, now under construction in the shipyard.

Virginia-class sub funding would rise from next year’s proposed $6.56 billion to $8.34 billion in 2024 as part of a five-year, $38.94 billion push to procure 10 of the submarines.

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The plan calls for delivery of one carrier — the John F. Kennedy — in fiscal year 2024, followed by Enterprise in 2028 and Doris Miller in 2032.

It is looking for delivery of one Virginia-class submarine in fiscal 2023, two each in 2024, 2025 and 2026, one in 2027, followed by three in 2029, one in 2030, two in 2031 and three in 2032, as the program shifts to Block VI boats.

Delivery of Columbia-class submarines will hit a one-a-year pace after fiscal year 2031.

The plan calls for decommissioning five cruisers, saying that these more-than-three-decade-old ships’ air defense mission is being assumed by the latest guided missile destroyers. It also calls for decommissioning four dock landing ships.

The Biden administration’s fiscal 2023 budget proposal, presented to Congress last month, reflects the work that went into the long term plan. Ultimately, the funding Congress approves will determine the pace of procurement and decommissioning of Navy ships.

In a joint statement, Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Westmoreland, ranking member of the House Seapower subcommittee and Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Alabama, ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee said the “plan reduces our ability to protect our aircraft carrier strike groups, reduces Navy’s ability to eliminate an enemy’s minefield, reduces the Marine Corps ability to conduct forcible entry missions and reduces almost 10% of our fleet’s ability to launch missiles.”

Dave Ress, 757-247-4535, dress@dailypress.com



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