The US Navy is expected to ask the leadership in congress and at the Pentagon to support in increase in the overall fleet size beyond the current 309-ship plan. Such a move would be preceded by a formal analysis, something a Navy official confirmed to Scout.com would happen "within the next year." That means we won't officially be hearing about the analysis until the 2018 defense budget.
"I've directed that we open – recommission – we restart a study. We take a look at – you know, what are the current warfighting demands – the current demands – the missions that we are tasked to achieve, take into account the updated threat environment and look forward to delivering that new force structure assessment," Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson told lawmakers.
According to Scout.com, Richardson cited a number of potential threats to the Navy's operations as the reason for a force structure reassessment.
"The last time we did [a force structure reassessment] for the whole force was in 2012, and we refreshed it in 2014. But – you know, back then, we did not have a resurgent Russia, we did not have ISIL (ISIS) to contend with. The Chinese challenge was a – in a much different place."
Currently, the Navy's plan calls for a 309-ship plan by 2022 – 12 aircraft carriers, 97 large surface combatants (cruisers and destroyers), 37 small surface combatants (the littoral combat ship), 48 attack submarines, four guided-missile subs, 14 ballistic missile subs, 34 amphibious assault ships, 29 logistics ships, and 34 support ships.
But the Navy is playing the long game. While it might have an ample array of large surface combatants and subs for the next several years, the sub force will drop to just 41 boats by 2029 while the surface fleet will go down to 82 ships by 2045, Scout.com reports. That, along with the threats pointed out by Richardson, are the reason behind the push for a bigger fleet.