Navy caps five-year shipbuilding plan at 300 ships

Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter sent a copy of the plan to House Armed Services Committee chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) on Wednesday. Details of the plan were first posted by AOL Defense. 

Within that 300-ship fleet, the Navy will field a total of 66 submarines. Of those boats, 48 will be nuclear-powered attack submarines, including new Virginia-class boat.  

The rest of the fleet will be a mix of ballistic and cruise missile subs, including the new nuclear-armed Ohio-class replacement submarine, dubbed the SSBN-X. 

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Navy leaders also plan to have 11 aircraft carriers and 32 amphibious landing ships in the overall fleet. Those vessels will be supported by 145 large and small multi-mission warships, such as the Littoral Combat Ship. 

Other various Navy supply and support ships will round out the projected fleet, the report states. 

The Navy plans to spend an average of $15.1 billion per year over the five year plan to build up to the 300-ship force.

Outside of the five-year plan, spending will jump to $19.5 billion a year to pay for recapitalization of the Navy's ballistic missile submarines, according to the report. 

Navy cost estimates for its long-term, 30-year shipbuilding plan average out to $16.8 billion, it adds. 

The current five-year plan falls in line with the White House's new national security strategy released in February. That plan has U.S. forces shifting their focus from the Middle East to the Asia-Pacifc region. 

Navy leaders warned that any change to that strategy could throw the shipbuilding plan off course. 

Service leaders are also hanging the plan on the fact it will be able to secure the funding increases from lawmakers to support spending uptick for the submarine recapitalization plan. 

The Navy will also need to ensure its current fleet of warships "particularly large surface combatants" are not retired early by Congress.

Ensuring firm cost control measures over the Navy's big-ticket shipbuilding programs -- from the Ford-class aircraft carriers to the Ohio-class replacement subs -- will also be a key requirement to keep the plan on track. 

"If any of these assumptions prove to be faulty, future shipbuilding plans will include fewer ships and battle force inventory levels will change, inevitably falling below 300 ships," according to Navy officials. 

A new service-wide force structure review being led by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert could also affect how many ships end up being in the fleet. 

However, a top admiral told lawmakers last Thursday that the Navy's long-term budget plan for ships will fall short of requirements set by commanders.

The Navy needs at least 500 warships to meet the base requirements of military commanders around the world, Vice Admiral William Burke told members of the House Armed Services readiness subpanel.

That was the minimum number of hulls the Navy needed to support combat operations worldwide, he said.