Continuing to make the rounds hyping his planned major military spending increase, President Trump today delivered a speech on the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford, talking about a plan for a substantial buildup in the number of ships in the Navy.
During the speech, Trump lamented the Navy is the “smallest” since World War One, which is only true in physical ship numbers, since of course naval warfare is wildly different a century on. In his promise of expansions, he declared his intention for the US to have a “12 carrier fleet.”
At present, the US has 10 active duty aircraft carriers, and that doesn’t include the Gerald R. Ford itself, which is built and will be commissioned later this year. A 12th carrier, the USS John F. Kennedy, is already under construction, which suggests that President Trump’s 12 carrier fleet goal would just require him to wait for already ordered ships to be finished.
Any additional ship construction could cut deeply into that $54 billion, as the Gerald R. Ford cost roughly $13 billion itself, and other ships would presumably be Ford-class ships of similar cost.
Trump insisted the carriers were essential for “taking the war to America’s enemies.” A focus on building aircraft carriers, however, would conflict with the Navy’s more recent focus on getting a larger number of boats in the water by making smaller ships of limited value. The Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) program, which aimed to build a series of riverine boats to get the number of US boats in the water up, has been roundly criticized for cost overruns, and the tendency of the boats to sink or break down.