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From USNI News: SECDEF Esper Calls for 500-Ship Fleet by 2045, With 3 SSNs a Year and Light Carriers Supplementing CVNs

By: Megan Eckstein

Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced a new future fleet plan for the Navy that would grow the attack submarine force, supplement nuclear-powered aircraft carriers with light carriers to achieve greater day-to-day presence, and invest heavily in small and unmanned ships for distributed operations.

Esper’s Battle Force 2045, which he rolled out during an online event today at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, lays out plans for achieving a fleet of 500 manned and unmanned ships by 2045, and a fleet of 355 traditional battle force ships by 2035 – all in a resource-constrained budget environment.

First, he said, the fleet would have a larger and more capable attack submarine fleet of 70 to 80 SSNs.

“If we do nothing else, the Navy must begin building three Virginia-class submarines a year as soon as possible,” he said in the event during his opening remarks. “If we do nothing else, we should invest in attack submarines,” he repeated later during a question-and-answer session.

Esper also called for refueling a total of seven Los Angeles-class SSNs, compared to the five or six the Navy had previously discussed, and invest heavily in the SSN(X) future submarine program….

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