US Navy Changes Planning Targets To Respond To Chinese Threat

The end of President Trump's mandate was, as we know, chaotic to say the least. One area, among others, puzzled many observers, that of industrial planning and the US Navy format, marked by the late and disproportionate initiatives of the American administration. Thus, a few weeks before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, Donald Trump passed a law conferring very high format objectives on the US Navy, with 355 combat ships in 2030, and more than 500 buildings in 2045, even though no realistic planning had been able to be implemented on this subject during the 4-year term of office of the outgoing president. Obviously, this maneuver had almost no chance of surviving Joe Biden's nomination, since it assumed a very significant increase in the funds allocated to the US Navyas the Pentagon budget had already hit what many experts believed to be the ceiling to more than $ 700 billion per year.

In fact, the US Navy found itself, at the beginning of the year, in a very delicate situation, backed by unrealistic objectives and a constrained budget, even though a significant part of its fleet is now reaching its end of life. life, like the Ticonderoga cruisers and the destroyers Arleigh Burke Flight I, and that another part of its fleet, more modern, proves difficult to employ in the Pacific context, like the LCS. The pressure is all the stronger on the United States Navy as the Chinese fleet is experiencing very rapid growth, with an average of 7 cruisers and destroyers and at least 2 submarines delivered each year, and that it will receive by 2023 the first heavy aircraft carrier equipped with Type 003 catapults currently under construction. In addition, the technological ascendancy of the US Navy over that of the PLA tends to atrophy quickly, and it becomes more and more hazardous to bet on the inexperience of Chinese sailors as they train to a sustained pace, especially during many complex and extensive exercises of amphibious assault and anti-ship warfare on the high seas.

Construction of the Chinese Type 003 aircraft carrier in Shanghai is progressing rapidly, and the ship could be launched between the end of this year, and the middle of next year.

On the occasion of the hearings concerning the preparation of the 2022 Pentagon budget, the US Navy has submitted a new capability plan to the US Congress for the period up to 2050. The new document, both more realistic and more flexible than the plan proposed by Marc Esper, then Donald Trump's Defense Secretary last fall, also shows profound paradigm shifts for the US Navy vis-à-vis the post-Cold War era that is coming to an end. Thus, the final announced objective is established around a fleet which will be made up of 321 to 372 combat ships equipped with a crew, and from 77 to 140 surface ships and autonomous and robotic submarines. In detail, if the fleet of large aircraft carriers is preserved, with a high assumption of 11 ships as today, and a low assumption of 9 aircraft carriers as often mentioned, and that the heavy amphibious fleet remains in the same vein, with 8 to 9 assault helicopter carriers (and therefore a decrease in volume of 2 to 3 units of the 11 America-class LHAs planned) and 16 to 19 heavy assault ships, other elements saw their objectives of deeply changed volume.


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