Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced an expansion of the United States Navy to make it « more lethal » and confront China’s expansionism in the Pacific.
The Pentagon chief said a comprehensive review of US naval power is underway to expand its fleet to more than 355 ships from the current 293.
The plan, dubbed « Future Forward, » will require tens of billions of dollars from the Navy’s budget through 2045 and aims for supremacy in the seas against China; which is considered the main threat to the United States.
« The future fleet will be more balanced in its ability to produce lethal effects from the air, above the sea and below the sea, » Esper said in a speech in California.
That expansion will incorporate « more and fewer » surface ships, more submarines and surface vessels, and more autonomous and unmanned submarines and ships. Unmanned aircraft carriers will also be incorporated.
The Pentagon is betting on having a fleet better suited to high-intensity conflicts, projecting the power and presence of the United States, and carrying out precise attacks from long distances.
« This will be a huge change in the way we will undertake naval warfare in the coming years and decades, » he said.
Esper reiterated that China is the main threat to the United States and that the Indo-Pacific region is a « priority theater » for the US armed forces.
« The region does not only matter because it is a hub of world trade but it is also the epicenter of power competition with China, » he said.
A Pentagon report on the Chinese navy noted this month that Beijing has the world’s largest naval force with 350 ships and submarines. However, Esper said, the Chinese have less strength and capacity.
« Even if we stopped manufacturing new ships, it would take years for the Chinese navy to match our capacity on the high seas, » he said.
Esper said that achieving the objective of having 355 ships will imply a great budgetary effort but simultaneously the United States will allocate resources to expand and modify its shipyards; an area of the shipbuilding industry in which China is leading.