January 11, 2012 / 3:45 AM / 8 years ago

US Navy review of ship needs seen done in spring

WASHINGTON, Jan 11 (Reuters) - The U.S. Navy will complete a new force structure assessment this spring that will shed light on how many ships and other weapons the service needs, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert said at an industry trade show on Tuesday.

Greenert told the annual Surface Navy Association conference the Navy had about 285 ships in service at the moment and he was “very comfortable” with the Navy’s near-term outlook.

He said the assessment would show “what do we need for a ship inventory in the future” in light of a new military strategy released by the Pentagon last week that calls for a smaller U.S. military with a greater focus on Asia.

General Dynamics Corp, Huntington Ingalls Industries , Lockheed Martin Corp and other big Navy suppliers are keeping anxious watch on any clues about the Navy’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2013, which begins Oct. 1, and whether any key programs will be axed.

Greenert gave no specific programmatic details, but said the new military strategy put the Navy “on a good course, initially,” and the 2013 budget would show that “the value of the Navy is well recognized in the department.”

The Pentagon is expected to release some budget details in late January before the Obama administration delivers the fiscal 2013 budget proposal to Congress on Feb. 6.

The four-star admiral mapped out some areas of continued investment, including unmanned aerial and undersea vehicles, cyber warfare, and submarines, and said the Navy was keeping a close eye on its industrial base for ships, sensors and weapons.

He said he was comfortable with the current state of the industrial base, but said some makers of components for nuclear-powered ships were sole suppliers and needed large enough purchases to stay in business.

Greenert, who took over as the Navy’s top uniformed officer in September, told a packed audience that he made some changes to the Navy’s budget plan after visiting the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important shipping lane, which Iran last month threatened to shut off if new U.S. and EU sanctions over its nuclear program halted Iranian oil exports.

He said funds were added for more mine warfare equipment, counter-swarm, and anti-submarine warfare.

Other priorities for the Navy in coming years included work on a next-generation destroyer to replace the Arleigh-Burke DDG-51 destroyers, a ship that he said would need a common hull and modular systems.

He said the Navy continued to support the radar-evading Lockheed F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, but said that anti-access, area-denial environments, “stealth and platforms have a limit.”

He challenged industry to do a better job in delivering new ships to the Navy on time, and maintaining older ships to ensure they were ready for deployment when needed.

The Navy had made some progress in speeding new capabilities like the Northrop Grumman Corp unmanned helicopter to troops to use, but would be looking for other opportunities to get engineering design modules out the battlefield for testing.

He also underscored the Navy’s interest in development of an anti-torpedo torpedo and new electronic warfare capabilities.

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