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New Force Structure Assessment calls for 355 ship Navy

Written by Nick Blenkey
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Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus

DECEMBER 17, 2016 — During his election campaign, President-elect Donald J. Trump said his vision was to “rebuild the U.S. Navy toward a goal of 350 ships, as the bipartisan National Defense Panel has recommended.”

That was music to the ears of American shipbuilders. Now, it seems the Navy, would like five more ships than the President-Elect’s 350.

Yesterday, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced the results of the Navy’s 2016 Force Structure Assessment (FSA), a year-long effort which began in January that was conducted to evaluate long-term defense security requirements for future naval forces.

The 2016 FSA recommends a 355-ship fleet including 12 carriers, 104 large surface combatants, 52 small surface combatants, 38 amphibious ships, and 66 submarines. The assessment will be one input to the Navy’s FY-2018 30-year shipbuilding plan.

The update reflects changes in the strategic environment since the last update in 2014. Future updates will continue to take into account changes in the environment, defense guidance and technology.

The 2016 FSA was not constrained by budget control act funding levels.

Secretary Mabus said yesterday that current proposed Navy budget is seen as a bridge to this larger Navy, with shipbuilding on an upward glide slope towards 308 ships.

Navy leadership is confident that, if funded, the 355 ship plan is executable, as each ship class called for in the FSA has an active shipbuilding line already up and running.

The following table shows the results of the 2016 FSA – an objective force of 355 ships – and the changes from the 2014 FSA update.


According to the FSA executive summary:

  • A minimum of 12 Aircraft Carriers are required to meet the increased warfighting response requirements of the Defense Planning Guidance Defeat/Deny force sizing direction.
  • 104 Large Surface Combatants deliver increased air defense and expeditionary BMD capacity and provide escorts for the additional Aircraft Carrier.
  • 52 Small Surface Combatants are required to meet Defeat/Deny challenges and support ongoing Counter Terrorism, Counter Illicit Trafficking, and Theater Security Cooperation/Building Partnerships efforts.
  • 66 Attack Submarines provide the global presence required to support national tasking and prompt warfighting response.
  • The additional logistic ships support the additional Aircraft Carrier and Large Surface Combatants.
  • Six Expeditionary Support Bases provide persistent and flexible capabilities for Counter Terrorism and Counter Illicit Trafficking efforts.
  • The Command and Support inventory is mostly driven by platform specific studies of presence and warfighting requirements for the unique missions of these ships. The rise to 23 represents two additional surveillance ships.
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