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The Navy is planning to build significantly more warships over the next 30 years

In a 2012 photo, the Virginia-class attack submarine Pre-Commissioning Unit Minnesota (SSN 783) is christened at Newport News Shipbuilding. The Navy's newest 30-year shipbuilding plan calls for a stepped-up pace for building the Virginia class subs built by the Newport News Shipbuilding and General Dynamics Electric Boat team effort.

BILLY HO/U.S. NAVY

By DAVE RESS | The Daily Press | Published: December 11, 2020

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (Tribune News Service) — The Pentagon’s latest 30-year shipbuilding plan calls for more ships, and a lot more smaller ones, as well as a major move into unmanned vessels.

It also calls for a stepped-up pace for building the Virginia class attack submarines built by the Newport News Shipbuilding and General Dynamics Electric Boat team effort.

The plan, updated annually, would increase the fleet from 290 ships to 355 by the early 2030s. It calls for spending a total of $147 billion from fiscal year 2022 through fiscal year 2026, to build 82 ships. For fiscal years 2021-2015, it proposed $102 billion to build 44 ships.

The goal is “a larger fleet of both manned and unmanned vessels prepared to face greater challenges on, above, or under the sea,” said Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist.

The Department of Defense aims to get there by accelerating submarine construction, modernizing aircraft, extending the service life of cruisers, and increasing the number of destroyers, he added.

“Another key finding was the need to expand the U.S. industrial base to support new ship construction and modernization,” Norquist said.

The plan maintains the Navy’s aircraft carriers at 11 — but it says DoD “also recognizes the need for continued exploration of carrier evolution and expects to conduct an analysis of alternatives.”

Under the plan, the Navy would have 119 unmanned surface ships and 24 unmanned submarines by fiscal year 2045.

The plan would reduce the Navy’s current fleet of Landing Helicopter Dock vessels, like Norfolk-based USS Bataan and USS Kearsarge, as well as its Landing Helicopter Assault vessels, from 10 to 9.

But other amphibious assault ships, which are designed to carry Marines and other expeditionary troops to the shore, will increase, from 23 to 47.

The number of large surface warships would shrink from 91 to 74, while smaller warships such as frigates and littoral combat ships would increase from 30 to 66.

The nation’s attack submarines like the Virginia class boats would increase from 54 to 72, but ballistic missile submarines numbers would move from 14 to 12 as the new Columbia subs replace the older Ohio class. Newport News and Electric Boat also team up to build the Columbia class submarines.

The plan calls for delivery of a new carrier — built only at Newport News — every three to five years, beginning in 2024.

It calls for a total of $12 billion in fiscal 2022 through 2026 to work on nuclear carriers, including the Enterprise and Doris Miller, where construction slated to start in 2022 and 2026. That sum also includes advanced procurement of components and equipment for the next USS Gerald R. Ford class carrier after those two.

Over the same period, the plan calls for $45.9 billion to support a stepped-up pace of construction for Virginia class subs, increasing from two a year to three.

It calls for $30.3 billion over fiscal 2022 to 2026 for the Columbia class subs. The first boat would be slated for delivery in 2028, with one a year coming from 2031 to 2041.

Over 2022 to 2066, the plan sets $4.3 billion to build a total of 21 unmanned vessels.

dress@dailypress.com

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