The looming hit to the shipbuilding budget from the Navy’s plan to build 12 new nuclear ballistic missile submarines resulted in the cancellation of a fourth flight of Arleigh Burke destroyers (DDG-51) as well as the controversial plan to layup 11 Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruisers (CG-47), the navy’s chief shipbuilder told a congressional panel in a recent hearing on cruiser and destroyer modification.
The shifts in the Navy’s large surface combatants come as the $100 billion bill for the 12 new boomers begin to take up more and more of the Navy’s shipbuilding budget — leaving less and less for other shipbuilding programs.
From 2021 to 2035, the service’s estimated shipbuilding budget will rise to about $24 billion a year at the peak of the Ohio replacement program, almost double the service’s traditional yearly outlays.
One of the largest future problems for the surface forces is how to coordinate the air defense of the carrier strike group — a role built into the aging Ticonderogas and not a native function of existing Arleigh Burkes.
“We need an air defense commander with deploying battle groups,” Sean Stackley, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development & Acquisition (RDA), told the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces in a Thursday hearing.
“11 carriers, 11 carrier battle groups, 11 air defense commanders.”
Now, the air defense commander is the skipper of accompanying cruiser. The ship’s combat information center (CIC) has room for consoles and a staff of three to four for the carrier protection role.
“Our cruisers are commanded by a captain with a more senior staff on the ship and more individuals dedicated to the planning and execution of the air defense mission for the carrier strike group,” Rear Adm. Thomas Rowden, the outgoing director of surface warfare (N96) for the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV) told the panel.
“That’s really how we drive that requirement for the cruisers and the air defense commander on the ship.”
Until the current budget, the follow-on to the air defense commander role was to be filled with a new flight of Arleigh Burke that would be built to fill the air defense commander role, Stackley said.
“We need to recapitalize those [cruisers] with a future ship class, either an upgrade to a DDG-51 — a Flight IV type of ship — or a cruiser,” Sean Stackley, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development & Acquisition (RDA), told the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces in a Thursday hearing.
“We do not have the ability to do that during the period of construction of the Ohio replacement.”
Including an air defense commander capability on the upcoming Flight III version of the Arleigh Burke is unlikely given the limited margin remaining in the ship once the planned Air and Missile Defense Radar is installed, USNI News understands.
Absent a Flight IV and the next future surface combatant not due to start construction until 2028, the Navy wants to keep the cruisers that it has.
In February, the Navy proposed to layup half of its cruiser force in in a cost savings plan that would preserve the air defense component of the carrier strike group (CSG) and reduce manpower and operations and maintenance cost of the total 22 ship force to the tune of $4.7 billion.
The 11 ships would all go in layup by Fiscal Year 2016 and would come out of layup one at a time, receive a modernization upgrade to extend the cruisers into the 2040s and likewise the cruiser air defense commander role.
The plan has met resistance in Congress. Last month the House Appropriations Committee limited instructed the Navy to sideline no more than two Ticonderogas a year starting in Fiscal Year 2016 and have no more than six in lay up at any one given time.