Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Navy Thinks Quick Fix Will Save Fleet

To increase the rapidly shrinking USN, the Navy leadership plans to keep old vessels around even longer. From National Defense Magazine:

The Navy has had a checkered history of decommissioning surface
ships well before the cruiser and destroyer hulls have attained their full
service life expectancy of 30 years and 35 years, respectively. The first
baseline Ticonderoga-class cruisers were taken out of service before they
reached 20 years because the Navy could not afford to modernize them. Likewise,
the entire Spruance-class destroyers were retired early. “There was a lot of
service life left in those ships,” says Vice Adm. Paul Sullivan, commander of
Naval Sea Systems Command.
Decommissioning ships years before their scheduled
service retirement means the Navy has been throwing away the millions of dollars
it invested in those hulls. Officials hope that by modernizing the current
surface fleet, they can sustain the ships through their full service lives and
meet the goal of a 313-ship fleet.

While I do think this is a better way to go that purchasing the budget-busting hi-tech wonders the Navy currently wants, like the DDG-1000 destroyers, it can only be a temporary solution at best. You must eventually have affordable alternatives to replace older ships, or you end up with block obsolescence as the Navy faced in the early 1970's. Then the fleet numbers declined dramatically as the old World War 2 warships were discarded, which already endured massive facelifts in the 50s and 60s to bring them into the jet and missile age. The fleet fell from a Vietnam War high of about 1000 ships in the late 1960's, to 450 by the end of the next decade.