The U.S. Navy's Super Simple Plan To Grow To A 355-Ship Fleet
However, the price, Moore said, was that the Navy consumed the service life of its surface combatant fleet. “Eventually, it caught up to us,” Moore said. “We spent the better part of the last probably eight to nine years digging ourselves out of that hole.” Building the fleet out to 355 ships over the coming years will require the Navy to draw upon its experiences in those years. As Moore explained, the fleet will have to grow—at least in part—by extending the service lives of existing cruisers, destroyers and amphibious assault ships. “We’re taking a pretty close look at what would it take to get them out another five, another 10 years,” Moore said. “The reality is that for a steel hull—if you do the maintenance—you can get the service life out much longer.” The Navy will look at extending the lives of its entire Arleigh Burke-class destroyer fleet and those Ticonderoga-class cruisers that have the vertical launch system installed, Moore said. Though in the case of the cruisers, a complicating factor is that those vessels have aluminum rather than steel superstructures—which might limit what is possible in terms of life extensions for those ships. And while the Navy has never extended the life of a surface combatant out so far, the service has experience in maintaining ships in service for far longer. “We routinely take aircraft carriers out to 50 years,” Moore said. “We know how to do this.” Keeping older Ticonderoga-class cruisers and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers in service for an additional ten years could take a decade off the time needed to create a 355-ship Navy. “We can probably accelerate that to get to 355 by about 10 to 15 years with a relatively small investment over about a 30 years period,” Moore said. “So we’re going to take a very close look at that.” For future surface combatants, Moore said that the Navy can no longer afford to build ships with a planned service life of 25 years— instead ships should be designed with a planned lifespan of at least 40 years. Those future ships would have to be designed and built with the space, weight and power allowances to grow over the course of four plus decades. “I think that’s going to be part of our strategy going forward,” Moore said.