While the Navy moves forward with this year’s plans to fund the construction of several ships, its plan to maintain a 355-ship fleet could look quite different from initial expectations.
A report issued last month by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) stated that lawmakers will have to address how the Navy’s Integrated Naval Force Structure Assessment (INFSA) – essentially, its blueprint for the future – will change going forward.
As it stands, the budget now calls for construction of a Ford-class aircraft carrier, three Virginia Class attack submarines, three DDG-51 Aegis-class destroyers, one FFG(X) frigate, two oilers and two towing, salvage and rescue ships.
Navy officials told CRS that a “once-in-a-generation change” in fleet architecture could point to a shift toward smaller and unmanned vessels to operate both on and under the surface. The proportion of larger platforms like aircraft carriers would drop accordingly. The Navy likely will issue its new INFSA sometime this spring.
“Such a change … could alter, perhaps substantially, the mix of ships to be procured for the Navy and the distribution of Navy shipbuilding work among the nation’s shipyards,” the CRS report stated.
Navy projections indicate the service would build an average of roughly 10 ships per year through 2049, setting a faster pace than projected for the 355-vessel fleet.
Besides the types of ships and effects on shipyard work, the CRS report also stated that Congress would have to pay close attention to the “degree to which the results of the INFSAS will not become clear until the Navy submits its proposed … 2022 [or] 2023 [budgets]. Additionally, lawmakers will have to make decisions regarding how affordable the Navy’s plans would be.