The seascape is “moving forward at a particular pace and if we’re going to remain competitive we’d better pick up that pace and match it at least,” Adm. John Richardson told reporters in Singapore.
“Global powers” like China and Russia have been “maturing in every dimension of power” and “at some point you turn to the sea to expand and continue to prosper,” he said. At the end of April, China launched its first domestically-produced aircraft carrier.
“We need to be building a navy that is not only larger – all of the studies that have taken place over the past year or so pretty much agree with that – but it’s also got to be better,” Richardson said. “It’s not just about numbers, platforms, it’s also about what those platforms can do and then again how they all work together.”
The “Future Navy” white paper to be released on Wednesday is expected to provide more detail on how much bigger the force needs to be and how it intends to get “better.”
After decades of relatively quiet naval developments, the US Navy needs to prepare for a new “era of maritime competition,” the navy officer argued. US President Donald Trump has called for a 350-ship navy fleet, a target that would require the Navy to build and commission 78 new warships in addition to covering basic maintenance and repairs for the current fleet of 272 ships.
The cost of acquiring, constructing and commissioning that many ships seems somewhat daunting: though it is the first of its class, the USS Gerald Ford has come in at least 20 percent over budget at a price of $12.9 billion, not to mention years late.
For its part, the Russian Navy has improved and modernized its surface ships and submarine battalions, RT reports. And the fleet is growing, too. The Russian Navy plans “to receive 40 ships and vessels, including the Adm. Gorshkov and Adm. Makarov frigates,” Russian Naval Commander-in-Chief Vladimir Korolev said in April.
“We’re seeing [the Russians] have more advanced weapons systems, missile systems that can attack land at long ranges,” Adm. Mark Ferguson told CNN last year. “We’re also seeing their operating proficiency is getting better as they ranger further from home waters,” he said, adding that the US “cannot maintain 100 percent awareness of Russian sub activity.”