Esper Calls for 500-Ship Navy to Counter China

(Source: National Defense Magazine; posted Oct. 6, 2020)

The U.S. Navy will need more than 500 ships in its fleet to ensure maritime superiority over China in coming decades, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said Oct. 6.

That conclusion is based on the long-awaited Future Naval Force Study led by Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist, which was recently delivered to Esper.

“The Chinese Communist Party … intends to complete the modernization of its armed forces by 2035 and to field a world-class military by 2049,” Esper said during remarks at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington, D.C. “At that time, Beijing wants to achieve parity with the United States Navy, if not exceed our capabilities in certain areas and to offset our overmatch in several others.”

The recently completed Pentagon naval force study assessed a range of future fleet options designed to maintain U.S. overmatch in an era of great power competition long into the future, he said. The Navy, Marine Corps, Joint Staff, the office of the secretary of defense, as well as outside advisors helped conduct a “comprehensive, cost constrained and threat-informed assessment” aligned with the National Defense Strategy, he said. Esper dubbed his vision for the future fleet “Battle Force 2045.”

The study group examined several force options using modeling and wargaming to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each combination of ships against different future mission scenarios.

“Battle Force 2045 calls for a more balanced Navy of over 500 manned and unmanned ships,” Esper said. “Further, we will reach 355 traditional battle force ships prior to 2035 — the time at which the [People’s Republic of China] aims to fully modernize its military. And most importantly, we now have a credible path to reaching 355-plus [manned] ships in an era of fiscal constraint.” (end of excerpt)

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(EDITOR’S NOTE: Given that several reports have found that the US Navy is unable to even reach the previous goal of 355 ships even if its budget is increased by tens of billions of dollars, the 500-ship navy proposed by Esper seems little more than an electioneering stunt.)


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