Empire’s Navy Wants 530 Ships, but Has No Strategy on What to Build

"The United States could instead expand its inventory of A2/AD weapons and encourage its allies in Asia to do the same"

The Pentagon is set to propose a new plan for 530 ships, and it defies operational reality, ignores the devastation that COVID-19 and economic depression will bring to the U.S. economy, and seeks to demonstrate power through mass tonnage rather than clear strategic foresight. As the constrained reality of American naval forces is ignored, Washington is also failing to learn lessons from the past that can help shape the needs of a future force.  

When the Spanish Armada sailed from Spain in 1588 with 130 ships, hopes were high that the raw number of vessels would break England and subject the country to Spanish domination. That did not work out so well. Popular history tells us that the Armada broke apart in a storm, but reality is much crueler. The Spanish were outmaneuvered by the English who countered with raiding tactics that left the Armada wrecked off the coast with most of its munitions unspent.  

The Department of Defense will meet the same fate if the United States continues to build out its military based on raw numbers of ships with no clear strategy for employing them 

Current efforts flow from the concept of a 355-ship Navy, a legislatively mandated ship building target. Even this plan is fanciful, with top brass admitting the United States has no plan or ability to fund so many ships, let alone a clear strategic design for how to use such a massive fleet to defend the homeland and deter our adversaries 

The aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt is about to deploy again this year after a contentious time afloat during which thousands of troops caught COVID-19. This rapid turnaround will put a great deal of stress on the crew and their families on top of the challenges associated with the global pandemic and looming economic disasterThe United States has never solved the issue of the Jones Act and its outsized impact on maintenance and the supply chain, limiting the ability of the U.S. to spend what it should to build and maintain a fighting forceExisting problems with the Navy’s training and ship maintenance will only get worse if the service strives for 530 ships above all else.  

Further pain is in store for the Navy due to the foreseeable budget cuts and a realignment of strategic priorities that will come with a new administration or even just a COVID-19 economyIf both impact the defense budget at the same time, it will be nearly impossible to maintain the fleet at its current size and operational tempo, let alone 530 ships.  

The counterargument, of course, is that new fleet targets include an increase in unmanned ships. Yet this is hardly a new development. The 355-ship target was also going to include a mix of manned and unmanned ships. Moreover, the focus on fleet size ignores other more pressing questions. How will a larger fleet handle command and control between manned and unmanned ships? What will be the balance of unmanned versus manned forces? How will the Navy integrate this force with the other branches of the U.S. military? These important questions remain unanswered, yet the United States charges ahead with fleet size goals that have little connection to reality.   

What exactly will the United States do with a substantially larger fleet? Answering this basic question seems to be the last concern of policymakers. China’s growing naval power appears to be the rationale, yet there are other options available for countering the Chinese navy. If the United States is truly concerned about China, then it should reduce its naval presence in other areas and stop trying to be a global coast guard, a task that has already spread the fleet thin.   

The United States does not have to match the Chinese navy in terms of numbers of ships to check their power. The Chinese military’s anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities provide a blueprint for asymmetrically countering naval might. The United States could instead expand its inventory of A2/AD weapons and encourage its allies in Asia to do the same. [But that would be a defensive strategy rather than an imperial one.] During the Cold War, America developed precise anti-tank weapons rather than try to match the Soviets in numbers of tanks. A similar logic should drive how the United States reacts to China’s maritime power.   

There is a clear trend in U.S. force design: go big and then go home and get bigger. Thus, to match the Navy’s ambitions, the Air Force is now demanding a 386-squadron force. What will the Army do? There is a cold hard reality coming to the Pentagon. Rampant military spending based first on fighting “forever wars” and then on the “return to great power competition” is empty without a clear strategic vision.  

The U.S. military has many challenges to meet in the future, including social relations, restoring public trust after the mistakes of the 2020 protest counterreaction, and ensuring the basic safety of its troops even within domestic bases. Focusing on a mythical fleet size target with little concern for how this will be achieved and what the strategic goals are will only ensure that the U.S. Navy, like the Spanish Armada, ends up as a tale of folly and woe.  

Source: The American Conservative

  1. Common Sense says

    ..Croatia is one of the best ship building nations in the world,with literally centuries of experience in building naval/ merchant marine ships! The United States should take a look at this maritime nation for some of its naval contracts!?

  2. cechas vodobenikov says

    I suspect now w covid unemployment the US navy will recruit many laid off burger flippers from Macdonalds

    1. itchyvet says

      Was not too long ago, the Pentagon decided that anyone who had been infected with Covid 19 was excused from doing military service. Funny thing though, no mention was made of military personnel that had been infected and recovered. Were these folks to be discharged ?? Recently we also read, anyone who had been infected also displayed severe mental incapacity as a result. So with both these revelations, clearly there will be a decreasing pool of recruits becoming available for the U.S. Forces. Therefore the question arises, who is going to man these ships ???????

  3. ke4ram says

    “ignores the devastation that COVID-19 and economic depression will bring to the U.S. economy,…”

    Covid 19 isn’t doing jack diddly. It’s the wannabee tyrant politicians and the multitudes of face diaper wearing idiots causing the economic destruction. And it is deserved. May these idiots rest in hell for their willful ignorance.

    And as the Navy goes woke, it can’t even maintain the ships they have. Hell, it has a most difficult time avoiding hitting other traffic in the area. The US military better pray to the God they hate that it never has to go up against a real military.

  4. thomas malthaus says


    The Zircon hypersonic missile reportedly attains Mach 8 in test.

    1. disqus_3BrONUAJno says

      And the Pentagon has absolutely nothing that can track it, let alone stop it.
      It is just a matter of time before one of our billion dollar warships becomes a new coral reef.

  5. Raptar Driver says

    America the republic has become irrelevant. We are an empire now governed by Psychopaths.

  6. thomas malthaus says
  7. Séamus Ó Néill says

    Assuming the US survives as a unitary entity, assuming it survives at all and that’s a mighty conjecture, the next few years will see its control of the reserve currency, its control of world oil and its control international banking, slip permanently from its grasp, will see it having to pay its way like every other nation, will see it having to obey international laws and treaties etc etc. It will be a greatly dimished power, certainly nowhere near a superpower, and if it can afford its navy etc it will be completely defensive and solely based around the US. Israel, as it said it would, destroyed America, bit by bit, war by war…..its just finishing off its dirty work now, trying to lure the US into WW111 and its cherished dream/nightmare of armageddon and the annihilation of most of mankind…..America believed and encouraged its inane bullshit about being a chosen people and followed the satanic Pied Piper to its own destruction.

    1. disqus_3BrONUAJno says

      The US hasn’t survived as a unitary entity, requiring governmental domestic terrorism to make brothers kill brothers in record numbers because part of the country seceded to avoid being predated by the other part.
      Until the MICIMATT loses its control over the stock market, warfare will be the business of the government, even if it is internecine.

  8. disqus_3BrONUAJno says

    Maybe they should learn from the attack on the USS Cole and buy a fleet of bass boats from Cabelas.

    1. ke4ram says

      The fatso’s, women and other flotsam could not keep the motors running and are too out of shape to use the oars.

      1. disqus_3BrONUAJno says

        With the Pentgon’s budget, they would be as expendable as American service members. Bass boats don’t have oars.
        The attack on the USS Cole was a suicide mission, so the condition and function of the sailors would be very short term and simple enough for any sportsman to carry out.

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