Attack Subs

Navy Lays Out 30-Year Fleet Plan

A 30-year Naval force plan sent to Congress yesterday indicates that the US Navy plans to reduce the number of attack submarines in the fleet:

The plan, signed by Navy Secretary Gordon England, is described as an “interim report” on ship levels through fiscal 2035. England, in letters to Congress obtained by, said a “final detailed report” will be available this summer that will “more thoroughly address build rates with regard to important issues such as fiscal constraints, industrial base and Global War on Terrorism challenges.”

The Navy prepared two plans: one for a fleet of 325 ships, another for a smaller fleet of 260 ships. The range of numbers reflects the unknown outcome of new technologies, manning concepts and forward-basing requirements, Adm. Vern Clark, chief of naval operations, explained in congressional testimony last month.

The plan calls for from 41 to 45 attack subs, which is better than the low number of 37 some had suggested previously. This new number includes the four SSGN cruise missile subs currently undergoing conversion from ballistic missile boats. It’s not clear to me whether the 37 total cited earlier included these cruise missile boats or not, so this may or may not be a lesser reduction.

Currently, there are 54 attack subs in the Navy not including the SSGNs.

As I’ve said before, I’m concerned that the rush to fight asymmetrical wars is going to seriously undermine our capability to fight a serious conventional war, such as one against China. This reduced capability may encourage potential enemies to roll the dice over things like Taiwan when they wouldn’t have otherwise.

One thing in the plan I particularly like is the call for 63-82 Littoral Combat Ships by 2035. I wasn’t expecting there to be nearly so many. They should be very handy in both major war situations and brush/irregular war conflicts.


  1. I think it would be really interesting if they took at least one sub (probably an old ballistic missile sub) and mounted a Patriot or Standard Missile system on it. Secretly, if possible. Think of how useful that thing could be in a conventional war against someone with a large air force (e.g. China), especially for the world’s foremost submarine force. Your enemy is patrolling happily along their coast, defending their airspace, when a Patriot/Aegis radar appears just offshore and launches a barrage of missiles, taking out your BARCAP, and then disappears. Or perhaps it shows up just when your outbound strike aircraft are crossing the coast – when they least expect it, and can do almost nothing about it. I sure hope that those in power at least discuss crazy ideas like this. Especially since mating together two systems which work just fine by themselves is a lot less risky/expensive than developing new systems from scratch, and can be way more useful than its cost might suggest.

  2. I think that the new ships are lighter and using stealth technology like the swedish ‘Visby’ class.