JUST IN: Navy Must Look to Allies to Match China’s Shipbuilding Speed

By Yasmin Tadjdeh

Navy photo by MC3 Nathan Burke

To match the breakneck speed of China’s shipbuilding programs, the Navy will need to work more closely with allied nations to leverage some of their ship designs and reduce risk, said one service official Feb. 10.


If “you look at China and how they are manufacturing ships and the rate of manufacturing ships, we're going to have a hard time … to keep up at a pace,” said Tom Rivers, executive director for amphibious, auxiliary and sealift programs at Naval Sea System Command’s program executive office for ships.


Military officials have for years been sounding the alarm about China’s naval buildup, with the People’s Liberation Army Navy building a formidable fleet.


To combat China’s growth, the Navy must do a better job of leveraging the ship designs of allied nations and bringing them to the United States to be domestically produced, Rivers said during the National Defense Industrial Association’s annual Expeditionary Warfare Conference, which was held virtually.


“We need to look at some of the same type of ships that may be in common and see what we can leverage for speed purposes and for interoperability,” he said.


While Rivers said he didn't have any particular foreign vessel in mind, there are good designs around the globe that the Navy could potentially leverage.


“What I'm interested in doing is as we go forward with different programs, is seeing what is out there that we can leverage to reduce our risk in initial production,” he said. “I think we would definitely be … doing all the manufacturing domestically, and then we also obviously have requirements to Buy American, buy a lot of parts domestically.”


But “to have a design that can reduce our risk and the shipyard’s risk — I'm all for that,” he said.


One example of where the Navy has already done this is with the FFG-62 Constellation-class ship that is based on a design from Italy, Rivers said. In 2020 the service awarded the contract for the program to a team led by Fincantieri and Marinette Marine.


Rivers noted that he is interested in working with a number of allies, particularly in Europe and Japan. European nations, in particular, have unique ship designs, he added.


Meanwhile, a war with China would require the Navy to build up its fleet at a faster pace, Rivers said.


“The focus — when you look at potential fight with China — is kind of schedule driven,” he said. “How do we get the resources aligned to build the ships we need at the fastest pace possible?”


The Navy needs industry’s feedback to understand how shipyards can move faster and reduce production timelines, he said.


“Do our shipyards become more integrators of products than they are today? I don't know. That's why I'm … seeking your inputs,” he said. “I think schedule is the key item for us to be able to put the product we need out to the sailors [and] the Marines. … Anything you can do to help us get that under control — how we see the supply systems, how we feed the shipyards, how we build the ships, how do we get them to the fleet earlier and put that new technology in — is kind of key.”


Often because of the Navy’s build cycles, new technology can sometimes become obsolete quickly and needs to be refreshed, he said.


“How do we design our ships smartly to take that technology and insert it at the last minute so that we're delivering a great product to our sailors and Marines?” he said.

Topics: Navy News, Shipbuilding

Comments (6)

Re: JUST IN: Navy Must Look to Allies to Match China’s Shipbuilding Speed

Why are we building ships instead of anti-ship missiles? To install on the coasts of Taiwan, Philippines, Japan, and Alaska?

Міша at 12:09 PM
Re: JUST IN: Navy Must Look to Allies to Match China’s Shipbuilding Speed


Time to sit down with Allies and propose Standardization, Operation and Maintaining of Warships.

First: Categorize the Classes Of Ships needed.

Second: Select Standard Design for All.

Third: Set number of hulls to be built.

Fourth: Standardized Armament & Sensors.

Fifth: Rotate Crews from Allied Countries by Representing their Country by Flying their Flag.


Some countries may contribute more to produce more ships to have on hand but all allied nations would share in cost, training of crew and life cycle maintenance.

The key would be to built a fleet size to counter any threat big or small.

As a secondary proposal, all allies would have enough funds left in their budget to build and operate their own Paramilitary Naval Coast Guard Fleet.

Migel at 4:58 AM
Re: JUST IN: Navy Must Look to Allies to Match China’s Shipbuilding Speed

It's not just USA ship count, production, corruption, waste, and technological risk, but the fact that the US Navy can add more weapons systems that are proven to work to its existing ships to add more firepower and better armament dispersion for Distributed Lethality. There has been a lot of talk, but so far nothing has really materialized. A lot of it has to do with funding.

I found that a lot of times the US Navy is replacing instead of innovating or overmatching threats with newer, bigger, better, and more awesome systems. At times, the US Navy seems to be downgrading in firepower, such as replacing the Mark 38 25mm autocannon with .50cal M2s or the 76mm gun with the 57mm gun. That seems to be to save costs and cut down on the lack of spare parts, but the weapon's performance for LRPFs decreases.

Another issue is that there doesn't seem to be anything new to overmatch the enemy in terms of firepower and range. Our hypersonics are a fraction of the size of peer nation's hypersonics, and probably slower too.

That doesn't mean that the USA doesn't have the best Navy with the most experience in the world---it does---just that when it comes time for combat, one has to ponder on if the US Navy has the best "bang for the buck" or is saving too many bucks for softer bangs.

P at 7:33 PM
Re: JUST IN: Navy Must Look to Allies to Match China’s Shipbuilding Speed

If the USN wants to speed the design and construction of warships, they could do so by ceasing the traditional practice of imposing requirements changes from inception all the way through manufacture/construction, sometimes with gizmos, etc., that haven't been invented yet. And that doesn't count the lack of accountability for acquisition malfeasance: LCS is an outstanding example of blatant defrauding of the HoR's (and taxpayers). The designation of the class is fraudulent because the so-called "littoral combat ship", according to former CNO Adm Jonathan Greenert, was "never intended to venture into the littorals to engage in combat" (from an interview on Breaking Defense), which explains why both variants are built to commercial, as opposed to military standards, among more severe problems that have all but rendered the class useless to the USN (hence: the FFG-62 program). USS Ford, and the single-point-of-failure problem in EMALS.

Need I elaborate?

Despite $36B spent on failed program: no one in PEO LCS was held accountable for the programs near total failure - and a number of them were even promoted.

The DoD acquisition system crammed with waste, redundancy, and antiquated practices that are a colossal waste of money, time and resources - that when combined ensure the US taxpayers get the lousiest deal for defense dollar spent in the western hemisphere.

But the DoD and HoRs like the system the way it is: DoD acquisition officers love the cushy retirement jobs offered by the MIC, while the HoR's love the waste and redundancy, because it brings high-paying jobs to their districts, and all but guarantees donations to their campaign coffers.

If we start holding acquisition officers accountable, and we take on the tough job of extirpating the DoD acquisition process and replacing it with something similar to the British model - that would go a long way to save a lot of taxpayer dollars, while delivering a more effective military. And if we're not ripping the existing system apart, then DoD acquisition practices should be put under receivership, as the existing system is clearly broken.

PolicyWonk at 1:05 PM
Re: JUST IN: Navy Must Look to Allies to Match China’s Shipbuilding Speed

A lot of pointless fear over Soviet Era garbage. A lack of ships wouldn't be a problem at all if the USN did what China, Russia and allied Navies are doing and just build electric AIP drone subs.

RepublicanslovePutan&HateAmerica at 5:19 AM
Re: JUST IN: Navy Must Look to Allies to Match China’s Shipbuilding Speed

If we can have the super secret F-35 manufactured in Italy, why on earth can't we have SHIPS built overseas by our many allies? After China, SK and Japan manufacture the most ships each year, so the hulls should be made overseas and the outfitting completed in the US. The US simply does not have the ship building capacity to expand its fleet. Period.
As these foreign built ships would be BID, there would be huge cost savings too.
It is complete nonsense the US Navy does not do this. Are they being paid off to not do this?

Term Limits at 2:49 PM
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