US Rep's Take on Navy's Plan: Taxpayers Owed an Apology

Navy intends to decommission some of its newest warships
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 8, 2022 7:40 AM CDT
Navy's Plan: Decommission Some Pretty New Warships
The USS Detroit, a Freedom-class of littoral combat ship, arrives Friday, Oct. 14, 2016, in Detroit. The Navy that once wanted smaller, speedy warships to chase down pirates has made a speedy pivot to Russia and China and many of those ships, like the USS Detroit, could be retired.   (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

The Navy that once wanted smaller, speedy warships to chase down pirates has made a speedy pivot to Russia and China—and many of those recently built ships could be retired. The US Navy wants to decommission nine ships in the Freedom-class of littoral combat ships—warships that cost about $4.5 billion altogether to build. The Navy contends in its budget proposal that the move would free up $50 million per ship annually for other priorities. But it would also reduce the size of the fleet that’s already surpassed by China in sheer numbers, something that could cause members of Congress to balk, reports the AP.

Adm. Mike Gilday, chief of naval operations, defended the proposal that emphasizes long-range weapons and modern warships, while shedding other ships ill equipped to face current threats. "We need a ready, capable, lethal force more than we need a bigger force that’s less ready, less lethal, and less capable," he said Monday at the Navy League's Sea-Air-Space symposium in Maryland. All told, the Navy wants to scrap 24 ships, including five cruisers and a pair of Los Angeles-class submarines, as part of its cost-cutting needed to maintain the existing fleet and build modern warships. It proposes nine ships be built.

Most of them are older vessels. However, the Freedom-class littoral combat ships that are targeted are young. The oldest of them is 10 years old. The Navy envisioned fast, highly maneuverable warships capable of operating in near-shore, littoral waters when it announced the program a few months after Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The ships can top 50mph—fast enough to chase down pirates—and utilize steerable waterjets instead of conventional propellers. But the fastest ship can’t outrun missiles, and firing up those marine turbines for an extra burst of speed turned the ships into gas guzzlers, analysts said. Early versions also were criticized as too lightly armed and armored to survive combat.

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Democratic US Rep. Elaine Luria of Virginia—who happens to be a Navy veteran—was more blunt, tweeting that it "sucks" to be decommissioning so many ships, especially newer ones. "The Navy owes a public apology to American taxpayers for wasting tens of billions of dollars on ships they now say serve no purpose,” she said. Some detractors proclaimed littoral combat ships to be the Navy’s "Little Crappy Ship," but that’s not fair, said defense analyst Loren Thompson. "It’s not a little crappy ship. It does what it was supposed to do. What it was supposed to do isn’t enough for the kind of threats that we face today," said Thompson, from the Lexington Institute.

(More Navy stories.)

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