The Pentagon plans to seriously thin out the Navy. The US Navy command has published a list of ships that will be withdrawn from the fleet in 2022. These are over two dozen pennants. At the same time, Washington is not abandoning the idea of the Big Fleet.
The list was approved by the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral Michael Gildy but the document has yet to be agreed by the Congressmen. The document shows the direction the US Navy will develop and the problems it is facing. About 22 ships of various purposes and displacement, both relatively young and old, are in the list.
A surprising entry is the three littoral combat ships (Littoral Combat Ship, LCS) of the Freedom class – Fort Worth, Detroit and Little Rock, which were handed over to the fleet in 2012, 2016 and 2017, respectively. These 3 ships suffered the same type of breakdown of the power plant, after which they could not continue to move on their own. The latest incident occurred with LCS Detroit in October 2020 off the coast of South America. The engines suddenly died out, and a tug towed the ship back to the base. There are ten Freedom-class LCSs with the USN, and seven more are under construction. The Pentagon rightly fears that the similar malfunctions on the three ships is not a coincidence, but a significant design defect in the entire series. In January 2021, deliveries of new LCS were suspended pending clarification of the exact cause of the malfunction. The three problem ships will be sent to the reserve out of harm’s way.
The same fate awaits the Independence-class ship LCS Coronado. In August 2016, she returned from the central Pacific to Hawaii because of a propulsion failure. Since then, she practically did not go to sea. According to experts, the withdrawal of four LCS from the fleet could put an end to the entire program of pennants of this class. Tinkering with the design issues is too expensive, even for the United States.
In addition, the lion’s share of the Navy’s budget is directed to the development and construction of promising FFG (X) missile frigates, which duplicate the functions of the LCS.
Upgrading the Ticonderoga-class missile cruisers will be even more cumbersome. According to the CNO plan, seven ships of this class out of 22 available – San Jacinto, Lake Champlain, Monterey, Hue City, Anzio, Vella Gulf and Port Royal – will be sent to the reserve. They are close to their 35-year service life limit, and the admirals are very concerned about their technical condition.
Vice Admiral Jim Kilby, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, said keeping seven ships afloat costs the budget more than $1.3 billion annually. And the modernization of Hue City and Anzio alone will require another one and a half billion.
The remaining 15 ships will soon be transferred to the reserve. In Washington, they discussed the possibility of extending the service life of the cruisers to 52 years. On some pennants they were going to patch up cracks in the hull, on others – to update the on-board electronics and fix the power plant. However, not everyone believes the ships are good enough for a modern war at sea.
The cruisers were built with little provisions of modernization of weapons systems. The fifty-year-old Ticonderoga with weapons of half a century old cannot perform combat missions as efficiently as the current ships.
The Americans have already found a replacement for the cruisers. By 2023, the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer of the new Flight III series, Jack Lucas, will enter service. Ships of this type in terms of combat capabilities are quite consistent with the cruisers of the 1980-1990s. Yes, they are inferior in terms of the power of a rocket salvo, but their maintenance is much cheaper. In addition, there will be enough space to accommodate the command posts of the Air Force and Air Defense, which are now on the cruisers.
Also, five Cyclone-class patrol boats – Tempest, Typhoon, Squall, Firebolt and Whirlwind – will be withdrawn from the fleet. They have been serving since the 1990s and are already outdated. The fate of the boats sent to the reserve will be decided later – either for scrap or sold abroad. Thus, only five Cyclones will remain in the US Navy. However, they are not much younger and will also retire soon. The Pentagon said that it will transfer their functions to promising unmanned boats.
The largest pennant to be withdrawn from the fleet in 2022 is the 16,000-tonne landing dock Whidbey Island, the lead ship of the project of the same name. Commissioned 36 years ago, she went on her last long-distance campaign in July 2016. She took part in the Sea Breeze international naval exercises in the Black Sea. The Navy will keep seven ships of this type, the youngest of which is 29 years old.
The submarine fleet will also suffer cuts. Two multipurpose Los Angeles-class cruise missile nuclear submarines – Providence and Oklahoma City, which have served since 1985 and 1988, respectively, will be sent for scrap. The age of the other 26 submarines of the project is also approaching the age limit. They are to be replaced by fourth-generation multipurpose nuclear submarines Virginia in the modern Block IV modification. The lead “four” – Vermont – was handed over to the fleet in April 2020.