WASHINGTON – The Navy must adapt to stay ahead of rapidly improving anti-ship weapons that could one day keep an American fleet from sailing to the aid of an ally, the top commander of U.S. surface warships said Tuesday.
That means “if it floats, it fights,” according to the Navy’s new “Surface Force Strategy,” which was released Tuesday.The new strategy relies on “distributed lethality,” in which the fleet will network each ship in a way that any one of them could engage a threat by detecting or directing responses, or having the needed weapons for a fight. It’s a strategy designed to move away from battle plans with aircraft carriers and big-deck amphibious ships as the hubs of sea-based military responses.
The strategy seeks to make the Navy less reliant on carriers, as potential rivals’ anti-ship technologies improve. It’s structured to force another navy to monitor more American ships, taking some attention away from U.S. carriers.“The world has changed and so must we,” said Vice Adm. Thomas Rowden, the top commander of the Navy’s surface fleet. “As time passes, it appears that China’s maritime ambitions are more than just regional. They have continued to upgrade both their Navy and their sea denial capability.”Russia also has made similar strides in modernizing its fleet, said Rowden, who spoke Tuesday at the Navy Surface Association annual conference in Washington, D.C.The Navy has 274 warships ready for deployment. Under President-elect Donald Trump’s administration, the fleet could increase to 355 ships, according to the shipbuilding plan the service released in December. The previous shipbuilding plan had the Navy increasing the fleet to 308 ships.Rowden said the number of ships is part of the new strategy that includes increased firepower for each ship. The Navy plans to modify and improve the missiles in its inventor and acquire upgraded missiles to strike other ships, aircraft and submarines, he said.