Oren Lieberman, Ellie Kaufman and Brad Lendon – CNN May 12, 2022
The chief of the US Navy defended the service’s plans to scrap nine relatively new warships in the coming fiscal year even as the service tries to keep up with China’s growing fleet. Three of the littoral combat ships slated for decommissioning are less than three years old.
Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday told the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday that the anti-submarine ships could not perform their primary mission.
“I refuse to put an additional dollar against a system that would not be able to track a high-end submarine in today’s environment,” Gilday told the committee. He said the main reason for the early retirement was that the anti-submarine warfare system on the ships “did not work out technically.” The decommissioning of the ships would save the Navy approximately $391 million, according to the service’s proposed FY23 budget.
But that recoups only a fraction of the cost of the nine littoral combat ships, which totaled about $3.2 billion.
The USS Indianapolis, USS Billings and USS Wichita were all commissioned in 2019, which means the Navy plans on decommissioning ships that are only a fraction of the way into their expected service life. The Navy also plans to retire six other littoral combat ships, all of the single-hull Freedom-variant, as opposed to the trimaran Independence-variant. Both variants can achieve speeds of 40+ knots.
Under a 2016 Navy plan, the Freedom-class variants were all homeported Mayport, Florida, mainly for use in Atlantic Ocean operations. The Independence-class variants were homeported in San Diego, and designated for mainly Pacific operations.
The decision amounts to an embarrassing admission that some of the Navy’s newest ships are not fit for modern warfare.