Navy must look to allies to match China’s shipbuilding speed


JUST IN: Navy must look to allies to match China’s shipbuilding speed

Navy photo by MC3 Nathan Burke

To keep up with 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, a service official said Feb. 10.

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

For years, military officials have been sounding the alarm over China’s beefing up navy, 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 ship designs from allied nations and bringing them to the United States to be produced locally, Rivers said at the annual expeditionary warfare conference. of the National Defense Industrial Association, which was held virtually.

“We need to look at some of the same types of ships that can be shared and see what we can leverage for speed and interoperability,” he said.

Although Rivers said he doesn’t have a foreign vessel in mind, there are good designs in the world that the navy could potentially exploit.

“What interests me is seeing what’s out there that we can leverage to reduce our risk in initial production,” he said. “I think we would definitely … do 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 that of the shipyard – I totally agree,” he said.

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

Rivers noted that he was 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 force the navy to build up its fleet at a faster pace, Rivers said.

“The focus – when you look at a potential fight with China – is kind of on the timing,” he said. “How do we align resources to build the ships we need at the fastest rate possible?”

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

“Are our shipyards becoming more product integrators than they are today? I do not know. This is why I… solicit your contributions,” he said. “I think timing is the key to getting the product we need to sailors. [and] the Marines. … Anything you can do to help us get this under control – how do we see supply systems, how do we power shipyards, how do we build ships, how do we get them to the fleet sooner and put this new technology in place – is kind of key.

Often due to Navy build cycles, new technologies can sometimes become obsolete quickly and need to be refreshed, he said.

“How do we smartly design our ships to take this technology and insert it at the last minute to deliver a great product to our Sailors and Marines?” he said.


Topics: Navy News, Shipbuilding

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