The details of the U.S. Navy’s fiscal year (FY) 2020 budget request released on March 12 explains its plan to build 12 new ships, procure two unmanned surface vessels, and retire the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) aircraft carrier.

The Navy is requesting $205.6 billion, an increase of 4.6 percent over the FY ’19 enacted budget. This includes $61.1 billion, or 30 percent of the budget for procurement. Navy procurement is down from $61.4 billion funded n FY ’19.

Launching of the Virginia-class attack submarine Minnesota at HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding division. (Photo: HII)

Crites said the Navy will release its 30-year shipbuilding plan next week, when it plans to release more detailed budget book numbers ahead of congressional hearings

Shipbuilding procurement totals $23.8 billion, with $22.2 billion of that spent on building 12 new ships.

This includes $2.6 billion for further funding of the two Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier buy, covering the future USS Enterprise (CVN-80) and CVN-81.

Rear Adm. Randy B. Crites, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Budget, told reporters on Tuesday that of the expected $4 billion in savings from buying two carriers at once, $2.4 billion is saved over the course of the future years defense program (FYDP).

The Navy also plans to buy three Virginia-class attack submarines (SSNs) for $10 billion and three Arleigh Burke-class DDG-51 Flight III guided-missile destroyers for $5 billion.

Two of the submarines will be Block V and feature the Virginia payload module (VPM), which includes four more payload tubes making the submarine able to carry 28 more Tomahawk cruise missiles, for a total of 40 per ship. These submarines are in the second year of a multi-year procurement funning from FY ‘19 – ’23.

Over the rest of this FYDP the Navy plans to buy two Virginia-class subs each year, although the FY ’19 30-year shipbuilding plan said the industrial base had the capacity to build a third Block V SSN in FY ’23 and ’24.

The destroyers are part of a multi-year procurement plan for 10 destroyers from FY ’18 – ’22, which includes potential options for additional ships.

The DDG FYDP plans differ from the FY ’19 request. Last year the Navy planned for two destroyers in FY 20, then three each year from FY ’21-’23 while the new request dropped one destroyer each in FY ’21 and ’22.

House Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee Chairman Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) applauded the third SSN.

“Today’s announcement is a welcome reversal from the Department of Defense which, just eight months ago, publicly opposed my efforts to increase fast attack submarine construction to three per year,” Courtney said in a statement Monday

Last year then-ranking member Courtney and then-chairman Rob Wittman (R-Va.), failed in an attempt to add an amendment to the House FY ’19 defense appropriations bill to add $1 billion for advanced procurement funding to prepare to build more than two Virginia-class submarines in FY ’22 and ’23 (Defense Daily, June 28, 2018).

“The Department’s decision today is welcome, albeit overdue, recognition that our submarine force is too small and heading in the wrong direction. It is critical that we increase submarine production this year to set our Navy on the right path to meeting the needs of our commanders around the world,” Courtney added.

The budget also funds detail design and construction for the first future guided-missile frigate, FFG(X), at $1.28 billion. The Navy expects to release a final request for proposals (RFP) in the fourth quarter of 2019 and award a contract in FY ‘20.

Other new ship procurements include $1 billion for two John Lewis-class T-AO-205 fleet replenishment oilers and $150 million for two T-ATS towing, salvage, and rescue ships.

The Navy is also requesting $447 million for two unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) funded via research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) accounts. The Navy plans to build two ship per year and ultimately produce 10 USVs over the FYDP.

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) transits the Atlantic Ocean in September 2018. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

While the service has not yet done much work to decide on the vessels’ requirement, capabilities, or cost, budget documents said “the program benefits from years of investment and full scale demonstration efforts in autonomy, endurance, command and control, payloads and testing.”

Navy budget documents cited the work of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV), office of Naval Research (ONR) Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MDUSV/Sea Hunter) + OSD Strategic Capabilities Office Ghost Fleet Overlord Large USV experimentation efforts.

Other big number ship requests included another $1.7 billion in advance procurement for Columbia-class SSBN development and construction work as well as $648 million for the first year of incremental funding for the mid-life Refueling and Complex Overhaul (RCOH) of the USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74). The RCOH will occur at carrier shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries’ [HII] facility in Newport News, Va.

The Navy confirmed its decision to cancel the RCOH of CVN-75, previously set to occur in FY 2024, to save money. Without this refueling, the ship is expected to retire in the later 2020s.

Crites told reporters the Navy expects to save $3.4 billion within this FYDP, another $2 billion in procurement-related savings outside the FYDP, and another $1 billion per year in operations and maintenance, “that’s the fully burdened cost associated with carrier and the associated air wing.”

He said the Navy made this decision partly to “send a signal that we’re serious about this, right, we’re focused on some of these future capabilities that we need to get and we need to get after today. We’re not in Kansas anymore and we have to get moving”

“I highlight the studies and the work that’s ongoing just because we need to prove to ourselves that we’re making a good decision here,” he added.