28 February 2008

What Is The U.S. Navy Building?

What warships does the U.S. Navy have in the works right now?

In rough order of design maturity:

1. There are 3 Arleigh Burke DDG-51 class destroyers under construction and 7 more are planned.

2. There is 1 Wasp class LHD-1 class amphibious assault ship under construction (November 2008 delivery planned) and no more are planned.

3. There are 3 Virginia SSN-774 class nuclear attack submarines under construction and 5 more are planned.

4. There is 1 Nimitz CVN-68 class aircraft carrier (with some transitional design elements) under construction (2008 or 2009 delivery) and no more are planned.

5. There are 3 San Antonio LPD-17 class amphibious ships under construction and 4 more are planned.

6. There are 2 Littoral Combat Ships (Freedom LCS-1 class) of different designs under construction and about 50 or more are planned. One design is expected to be chosen after the first two ships are built.

7. There are 2 Zumwalt DDG-1000 class destroyers of different designs under construction, and up to 5 more are planned. Any planned ships would be of a single chosen design, but it is unclear if any of the planned ship not currently under construction will ever be built, with the Navy quite likely to move on to a CG(X) design based upon the winner of the two DDG-1000 class designs.

8. There is 1 Ford CVN-21 class aircraft carrier in the early stages of construction (entering service in 2015) and 2 more are planned.

9. There is 1 LHA(R) (aka LHX) class amphibious assault ship in the detailed design/long lead time component construction phase and up to 10 more are planned with an anticipated entry into service date of 2013.

10. There are two designs for the next generation cruiser, i.e. CG(X) for the U.S. Navy (not competing models, but two designs which would both be purchased for different missions, one for carrier group escort similar to the DDG-1000 and the other a 25,000 ship designed for ballistic missile defense with nuclear power) under serious consideration at this time.

There ships are described here along with a description of the current fleet.

All of the ships not currently under construction, the LHA(R) and the CG(X) could be cancelled by the next President with relative ease as a part of an overall defense plan. The Ford could also be cancelled but at a much higher political cost.

What naval aircraft does the U.S. Navy have in the works right now?

The U.S. Navy is also developing the P-8 MMA patrol aircraft and two variants of the development stage F-35 fighter aircraft, the STVOL F-35B model and the F-35C carrier based model. The Navy continues to build F-18s for aircraft carriers. It is investigating both a drone helicopter (the RQ-8 Fire scout) and further out a fixed wing, carrier based combat drone.

These aircraft are described here along with a description of current naval aviation resources.

The P-8 MMA is at too advanced a stage to make cancelling it a sensible option for the next President.

The F-35C is still at an early enough stage that this variant could be cancelled by the next President in lieu of further development of the F-18 and additional purchases of the F-35B. The F-35B would be much harder to cancel as many international partners in the F-35 program want the F-35B variant to replace their existing Harrier AV-8B aircraft on their existing and planned aircraft carriers. The Marines also currently plan to purchase only the F-35B and neither the F-35A Air Force version or the F-35C carrier based version would be good substitutes for it.

The two drone models could also be cancelled at this point, although the RQ-8 in particular has important roles in many naval plans and is at an advanced stage of development.

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