Romney’s Big Plans for U.S. Navy

Republican Mitt Romney’s campaign has steered clear of providing too many specifics when it comes to how he would govern as president.

Defense has been no exception. While Romney and other campaign officials have pledged to raise the number of ships built per year from nine to “approximately 15,” aimed at a fleet of about 350 ships, specifics on how they would add more than 60 ships, and what types, have been vague.

But in an exclusive interview, a top Romney defense adviser provided some details on the ambitious plans for the Navy.

John Lehman, President Ronald Reagan’s 600-ship-era Navy secretary and one of the architects of Romney’s plans for the military, sat down with Defense News on Oct. 4.

Among the new details he revealed: Plans to create an 11th carrier air wing, one for each aircraft carrier. F/A-18 Super Hornet strike fighter production would continue beyond 2014. The amphibious fleet would be built up to the Marine Corps’ requirement of 39 ships. An entirely new, battle-group-deployable frigate would be procured, along with a ballistic missile defense ship.

The campaign has pledged to build more submarines and destroyers, and production of the littoral combat ship (LCS) would continue. Exact numbers of ships and aircraft continue to be reviewed, and Lehman made it clear the program continues to be evaluated and fleshed out.

Excerpts from the interview, edited for space and clarity:

Q. What is your projected fleet size?
A. 350 is the plan of record. This is what the governor is currently campaigning on — 15 ships per year, 350 ships in 10 years.

Q. What would you be adding?
A. First, we’d continue the littoral combat ship, and we’d begin a battle group-deployable frigate program that would replace the FFG 7s [frigates]. And we would increase the numbers per year of the destroyers, and we would go for a missile defense ship that is optimized using an existing hull form, for the new Air Missile Defense Radar (AMDR), which really won’t fit in the existing Arleigh Burke class.

We would also include getting up to the accepted requirement for Marine amphibious lift, so there’d be an increase in amphibious ships. The exact mix as between the different types, whether we go all for the LSD [landing ship dock replacement] versus the LHA+ [new assault ship] or some other mix, that hasn’t been fully fleshed out yet. But there will be an increase in amphibs.

Q. Would your missile defense ship be based on the DDG 1000 design?
A. There’s also the LPD 17 hull design [used on San Antonio-class amphibious ships]. I didn’t say missile defense destroyer, I said missile defense ship, because to have the kind of power aperture needed for the new radar, there is always a conflict between a deployable battle group ship and a missile defense ship. The latter is in elevated [readiness condition], tied to a specific area. It can’t deploy with the battle group.

To make it affordable, you have to have a hull that’s not a brand-new ship, so it really comes down to between a DDG 1000 and an LPD 17. Both hulls and power capability are quite suitable for the missile defense ship. The basic hull and volume in the LPD 17 can take both the larger missiles and the radar, so the optimal power plant is not the one that’s in it. It would probably be a diesel-based, maybe [combined diesel and gas turbine], or something like that. But that hasn’t been detailed.

Q. There’s no current Navy requirement for a fleet frigate.
A. The LCS has many useful roles, but one of them is not deploying with the battle groups. It doesn’t have the range. What is needed is a replacement for the FFG 7. There’s a clear need because the LCS is not able to fill the roles originally envisioned for it. It has some real uses, but one of them is not as a fleet deployer, not as a battle group deployer.

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Article courtesy of Defense News.

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