Home' Work Boat World : January 2017 Contents What will the Trump Presidency
mean for the US Navy?
With TREVOR HOLLINGSBEE
US President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign platform
included a high-profile pledge to revive American
A dedicated naval expansionist, Randy Forbes, is hot favourite
to land the key Secretary for the Navy job, and the US Navy
certainly looks set to benefit substantially from Trump’s ambitions.
According to reports from Washington, plans are underway to
increase the number of active US combatant vessels from 272 to
350, with Trump’s team believing that an increase in the number
of hulls in the water is essential to increase the maritime warfare
options available to the administration.
A number of the powerful, 9,800-tonne ‘Ticonderoga’ cruisers
are to be upgraded, and some currently in lay-up will be re-
activated. These ships feature the AEGIS combat system, Standard
air defence, and Harpoon anti-shipping missiles, and a vast range
of electronic sensors.
Also, a major tranche of additional, upgraded, ‘Arleigh Burke’
guided missile destroyers is set to be authorised, along with
additional Virginia-class nuclear-powered attack submarines.
Boosting the US Navy nuclear powered submarine flotilla,
which is currently scheduled to reduce from 52 hulls to 41 by
2029, at a time when the number of navies operating these
powerful vessels is slowly but inexorably rising, is reputedly a
priority for Trump’s team. The target is a commissioning rhythm
of three new boats per year.
Despite current high profile out-of-area activity by Russia’s sole
aircraft carrier, and Beijing’s recent boast that its own carrier has
achieved full operational status, Trump’s naval planners apparently
do not intend to expand the US Navy’s aircraft carrier inventory.
The planners are also giving less emphasis to the relatively small
littoral combat ships (LCS). Four such ships are currently based in
in the South China
Now, though, high-profile freedom of navigation operations
(FONOPS) by large, heavily armed deep-sea combatants, similar to
the recent operation by the destroyer ‘Decatur’ in the vicinity of
the Paracels, are likely to be the US Navy’s standard operating
pattern in the SCS.
It remains to be seen whether or not the programme to develop
a new class of frigate, based on the LCS, will remain intact.
“Civilian” special mission ships of the US Navy Military Sealift
command, which are particularly active in the SCS, and are widely
believed to carry out long term surveillance of Chinese submarine
operations, are also likely to receive renewed emphasis.
Trump’s team is assessing the ability of existing American
shipyards to cope with an increased tempo of warship
construction, w hich is likely to be a catalyst for job creation in
industrial areas which have suffered decades of decline. One
option reportedly being examined is the revival of the long-
defunct Philadelphia Navy Yard.
In order to man the service’s proposed additional operational
assets, US Navy working strength is to be boosted from 330,000
Asian seaways seem very likely to remain a major focus for US
Navy operations, as Washington is both very keen for the
international shipping community to retain uninhibited access to
areas which Beijing considers to be its own sovereign territory, and
worried that regional tensions over China’s proactive stance,
particularly in the SCS, could lead to serious conflict.
Washington’s new National Security Adviser, General Mike
Flynn, a hawkish former Director of America’s Defence Intelligence
Agency, is an enthusiastic supporter of the “Five Eyes” (US, Australia,
Britain, Canada and New Zealand) Anglophone intelligence-sharing
alliance. He is known to be very keen to get multiple nations to carry
out FONOPs the South China Sea, in order to add credibility to
Washington’s stance in the region. The Americans have reportedly
already requested a permanent Royal Australian Navy presence in
the sea. UK, which recently complied with a US request to deploy a
detachment of Typhoon fighter jets to South Korea, is another
possible participant in future naval operations in the South China
Sea. An apparent leak from UK diplomatic sources in early December
indicated that the new British aircraft carrier ‘Queen Elizabeth’ will
deploy to the SCS in 2020.
North Korea’s Navy making headway
New imagery tends to confirm that the order of battle of the
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Navy (DPRKN) is to be
boosted by the addition of at least four new escorts, of two
Between June 2014 and September 2016 a total of four new
escort ships, each approximately 80 metres in length, and all with
apparent stealth characteristics, were observed at the ports of Najin
Two of these ships feature 28-metre helipads, the other two, at
least one of which appears to be at an advanced stage of
construction, lack helicopter capability, but are heavily armed.
Their weapons fit includes a short range surface to air missile
system, 30 mm rotary cannon, torpedo launchers and the
Kamsung 3 anti-shipping cruise missile system.
These new assets suggest the North Koreans will be giving
greater priority to offshore operations, as they tentatively expand
their contacts with other nations. They are, though, just the latest
additions to a previously somewhat moribund fleet, which is now
reaping the benefit of indigenous shipbuilding and weapons
industries, developed to compensate for the international
sanctions, which have largely prevented Pyongyang from buying
modern weaponry “off the shelf”.
Recent years have seen the development of the ‘Nongo’ missile-
armed fast attack craft, and the ‘Sinpo’ ballistic-missile capable
diesel electric attack submarine. Also, at least one of the DPRKN’S
ageing pair of ‘Najin’ frigates has been extensively upgraded, and
fitted with Kh-35 anti-shipping missiles, and AK-630 -type close-in
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