Arlington LPD 24 100 percent unit erect

WASHINGTON: This town needs another lobbying organization like I need another hole in my head. But when everyone else has a “grass roots” group to help make their case to Congress, not having your own is a form of unilateral disarmament — an especially bad idea in a time of escalating budget wars. “Having a… Keep reading →

The $13 billion supercarrier USS Ford under construction in Newport News, Va.

CAPITOL HILL: It’s been a rough 48 hours for the US Navy. Yesterday, the Littoral Combat Ship was battered by House appropriators and questioned by a leaked report. Today it was the Senate Armed Service seapower subcommittee’s turn to grill the Navy about its aircraft carrier and submarine programs. While the automatic 10-year budget cuts known as sequestration played a major role… Keep reading →

With all the services reining in spending to cope with the current budget crisis, the second and third-order effects of cutbacks will ripple through the force for years. While the Army “has it worst” by the Pentagon comptroller’s own assessment, the most complicated impacts are on the Navy, whose carefully planned maintenance schedule is falling apart. The fleet has already had to halve its aircraft carrier presence in the Persian Gulf, but delayed and cancelled overhauls will ultimately mean fewer ships in service in the years to come.

Ships require a lot of maintenance to work to stay ready for action, and none more than nuclear aircraft carriers. In addition to the regular pierside pitstops every type of vessel has to make, Nimitz-class carriers need their reactors refueled and thoroughly overhauled halfway through their 50-year service life. This massive “Refueling and Complex Overhaul” (RCOH) can only be performed at one shipyard in the nation, Huntington Ingalls Newport News yard in Virginia, so the next carrier has to come in as soon as the previous one is done. But last month the Navy delayed the USS Abraham Lincoln‘s overhaul indefinitely for lack of funds. That will in turn delay the next carrier on the schedule, the George Washington, and so on down the line. Keep reading →

WASHINGTON: In a telling sign of the uncertain economic and spending climate in the defense world – faced with sequestration and the possibility of a year-long Continuing Resolution — at least three defense conferences have been cancelled in the last two months and defense companies continue to pare their participation in even the biggest shows, the air show in Paris and Farnborough.

Cancelation of the Military Health System Conference, set for Feb. 11-14, was announced in a memo signed by Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, and the three service surgeon generals. In past years, the conference has attracted 3,000 attendees and exhibitors. Keep reading →

With the the world’s first nuclear aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise, set to retire tomorrow after 50 straight years of Navy service, Huntington-Ingalls Industries — which owns the Newport News Shipyard where all Navy carriers are built — has put together an eye-catching graphic that sums up the big ship’s size and history (click here for the humongous full-size version).

The strategic downside of this stirring saga is that the Enterprise‘s high-tech replacement, the USS Gerald Ford, won’t be finished until 2015. That means the Navy will be short a carrier even as tensions rise simultaneously in the Gulf, with Iran, and in the Western Pacific, with China, spreading the fleet thin. Enterprise, we’re really going to miss you. Keep reading →

WASHINGTON: It’s not a Nobel Prize, but the Packard Award matters in the big-dollar world of defense procurement. Last week, utterly overshadowed by elections, the Department of Defense awarded the Packard to the Navy’s DDG-51 destroyer, the sleek grey mainstay of the fleet.

With 62 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers already in service, four under construction, and at least nine more in the Navy’s latest five-year plan, getting the DDG-51 right — at the right price — is critical to the Navy. The Packard Award recognized an innovative approach that saved an estimated $300 million over the three most recent ships — and which might help the Navy afford the next, far more challenging phase of the destroyer’s evolution. Keep reading →

WASHINGTON: This Saturday the Navy will christen its newest nuclear-powered submarine, the $2.6 billion USS Minnesota at the Newport News shipyard in Virginia. Countless movies have cemented the popular image of subs as stealthy underwater killers, stalking hapless surface vessels with periscope and torpedo. But today’s Navy is experimenting with launching robotic mini-subs and even unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from Virginia-class attack subs like the Minnesota.

In Navy tests of a mini-UAV called Switchblade, “you can launch it, you can control it, you can get video feed back to the submarine,” said Rear Adm. Barry Bruner, chief of the undersea warfare section (N97) on the Navy staff, at the recent Naval Submarine League symposium in suburban Washington. Future subs could also launch unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) to scout ahead stealthily beneath the surface. “It sure beats the heck out of looking out of a periscope at a range of maybe 10,000 to 15,000 yards on a good day,” Bruner said. “Now you’re talking 20 to 40 miles.” Keep reading →

A christening of a ship of the line is rare. When it happens, thoughts of how that ship might be used, where it might operate and how it might make new naval history are part of the excitement.

This was clearly evident at the Oct. 20 christening of the USS America, the fourth ship of that name, in Pascagoula, Miss. This ship is not only the lead ship in a new class but will integrate the newest aircraft of the Marine-Navy team aboard a single operational platform at sea. F-35 Bravos, Ospreys and CH-53Ks will fly from her in the years to come. The first ship will operate out of San Diego, sure to be part of the Pacific Century. Keep reading →

Tomorrow morning, at Manhattan’s Pier 88, the Navy will commission its newest destroyer, DDG-112. The USS Michael Murphy‘s namesake was uncompromisingly heroic, a Navy SEAL who died earning the Medal of Honor in Afghanistan. The ship itself, however, embodies a series of cost-conscious compromises that will keep the Navy sailing a 1980s design — albeit much upgraded –until at least 2072.

These destroyers are and will long remain the Navy’s mainstay. The Arleigh Burke class to which the Murphy belongs is built to carry the Aegis anti-aircraft system that defends the entire fleet, including the prized aircraft carriers. The Chief of Naval Operations himself, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, has explicitly said that the Navy is building the smaller, cheaper Littoral Combat Ships to take on supporting missions, so the fleet can free up destroyers to face the most dangerous and high-tech foes: submarines, long-range missiles, jet fighter-bombers, and more, all integrated into “anti-access” networks like those being developed by the Chinese. Updating the Arleigh Burkes to keep up with the threat will be a heroic effort. Keep reading →

The Navy will christen its newest amphibious warfare ship in Pascagoula, Miss. on Oct. 20th. The boldly-named, $3 billion America is a major departure from past designs — and, quietly, the Navy has decided not to build many more like it in the future.

The Chief of Naval Operations himself, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, has said that getting more amphibs in the fleet is his “biggest shipbuilding concern.” But the Navy is only building two vessels to the LHA-6 blueprint, America itself and LHA-7 Tripoli, for which shipbuilder Huntington-Ingalls recently received a fixed-price contract. Subsequent LHAs will revert to a more traditional design. Keep reading →

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