United States Navywhich previously favored smaller, faster warships to chase down pirates, has made a swift turn to Russia and China, so many of those newly built ships could be retired.
The Navy wants to decommission nine Freedom-class littoral combat ships, warships that cost about $4.5 billion to build.
The Navy alleges in its budget proposal that the initiative would free up $50 million per ship annually for other priorities, but it would also reduce the size of the fleet—which has already surpassed China in absolute numbers—something that could cause members to of Congress resist.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday defended the proposal that emphasizes long-range weapons and modern warships, while shedding other ships ill-equipped to deal with current threats.
“We need a force that is ready, capable, and lethal, more than we need a force that is larger, but less ready, less lethal, and less capable,” he said Monday at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space symposium in Maryland.
In all, the Navy wants to retire 24 ships, including five cruisers and a pair of Los Angeles-class submarines, as part of the cost-cutting needed to maintain the existing fleet and build modern warships. Those cuts exceed the nine proposed ships to be built.
Most of them are older vessels, while the littoral combat ships are relatively recent. The oldest of them is 10 years old.
The littoral combat ship program was announced after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The ships exceed 50 mph (80 km/h), fast enough to chase pirates, and are highly maneuverable, even in shallow water, thanks to the use of steerable water jets instead of propellers.
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