Naval gazing into 2018
With the Surface Navy Association symposium underway, the start of 2018 has kicked off with a naval flare, both in the US and abroad, and many nations are now firmly fixed on enhancing their fleets.
Last year saw two incidents involving the US Navy’s USS McCain and USS Fitzgerald, the navy has gone on the record to say that these incidents were in fact preventable. The USN is now looking to learn from these harsh lessons and will start 2018 by trying to address some of the demands that come with a reduced fleet coupled with personnel working long hours.
Meanwhile, the plan for the USN going forward is looking to grow into to a 355-ship fleet from around 275 today. The Pentagon is set to release its FY19 budget request in February, it remains to be seen as to whether the navy will get what it wants.
Across the pond in the UK, the second Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carrier, the HMS Prince of Wales, touched water for the first time as its dry dock was flooded. The state of the UK’s Royal Navy remains a contentious issue and a recent criticism has come about as the MoD plans to sell HMS Ocean to Brazil not long after a recent, costly, refit of ‘Britain’s biggest warship’.
As the UK continues to work towards strengthening its fleet this week saw industry make another move on the UK Type 31 with Babcock and BMT announcing the Team 31 which now includes Thales, Ferguson Marine and Harland & Wolff shipyard. The team will bid for the UK’s Type 31e frigate project.
The MoD is hoping that the light frigate will eventually have export potential and it is continuing to work with BAE Systems on the export of the Type 26 global combat ship to potential customers including Canada and Australia. To date the UK has had little success in its naval export endeavours.
Finally, it has been noted that Chinese naval ambitions can no longer be ignored and the USN must face up to them
A recent report makes the case that the USN must address its weaknesses in the face of a China capable of destroying US ships and aircraft with its anti-access/area denial strategy.
In addition, it appears that China could be using foreign-held US debt to enhance its own capabilities. China will certainly be one to watch during 2018 as it continues to rapidly develop its defence capabilities.