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Navy Accelerates Big Deck Amphibious Ship Build to Counter China

A Warrior Maven Exclusive Conversation with Industry Experts: David Forster, Chairman, Amphibious Warship Industrial Base Coalition & Rick Giannini, Chairman, Aircraft Carrier Industrial Base Coalition

By Kris Osborn - Warrior Maven

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven

Hello and welcome to the Center for Military Modernization, Warrior Maven, very significant conversation today in a changing global threat environment. We are joined by two representatives of industrial base coalition's one for the amphibious warfare ship based coalition, as well as one for the aircraft carriers who have a specific expertise with construction and development of aircraft carriers and amphibious assault ships. 

So let's make sure to welcome Captain Dave Forster, who is actually a former Navy captain, who was manager for the integrated combat system on the USS Zumwalt the well known famous stealthy destroyer program, and a former surface warfare officer. And then Mr. Rick Giannini, who's in charge of the aircraft carrier industrial base coalition. He is also the CEO of the Milwaukee Valve Company. So both of these experts have a deep knowledge of Navy needs. And of course, the Navy's situation. Thanks for both of you. Joining us today. Glad to be here. 

USS Zumwalt

The future USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) is underway for the first time conducting at-sea tests and trials in the Atlantic Ocean Dec. 7, 2015. The multimission ship will provide independent forward presence and deterrence, support special operations forces, and operate as an integral part of joint and combined expeditionary forces. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of General Dynamics Bath Iron Works/Released)

500-Ship Navy

If I recall, Admiral Gilday, the CNO of the Navy specifically is now calling for a 500-ship navy. That has long been on the radar as a point of discussion among decision makers and advocates for a larger Navy and the growing threat environment. So should this be the case, and there is a continued expansion of shipbuilding? I'd love to get each of your thoughts on the pace and capabilities of the industrial base to accommodate that. We can start with Amphibs and then go to carriers. 

Captain, Dave Foster 

Okay, great. So we believe in support the arrow the CMOS, stated need for 500 ships that the industrial base is well suited to be able to support that we believe with, with what actually Secretary Gertz did as part of the pandemic, which was in essence stabilizing the workforce by pushing acquisition pushing contracts. He maintained that that industrial base, such that they're able to stand up and to begin to execute. 

Kris Osborn Very interesting and on the carrier front. Mr. Giannini 

Chairman, Rick Giannini 

Yes, carrier subgroup. We are. Milwaukee Valve is part of all vessels, we service all of them as a ACIBC. I'm chairman of just aircraft carriers. Entire industrial base is excited to hear the 500 ship Navy we fully believe that predictable and stable funding which has come from the two ship eyes for our carriers, along with the block buys for subs have been a major part of the ability of the industrial base to get their jobs done. And look forward to building more. 

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven

Roger that important perspective. Now let's talk initially about amphibious assault ships the America class extremely significant. On Track, there's the third one with the well deck. Now under construction, the first two are essentially operational. The USS America has deployed with as many as 13 or so F-35s on board. 

So it's the introduction of fifth generation airpower in conjunction with essentially a new generation of amphibious warfare technology. Is this program on pace? And is there any thinking about potentially accelerating it, despite the fact that it's already on pretty solid track? 

Captain, David Forster 

Well, we believe with the addition of the additional ship in the President's budget for 23, that does help to stabilize the program, as it as it needs to be. And it keeps the build cycle on a repetition center that really does allow us to stabilize the workforce and allow us to get efficient with respect to the costs contain the costs. As we know, inflationary price pressures today in the market can create a lot of risk in the pricings of ships, spot prices on supplies as well as labor. 

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So the idea of putting three and a half year centers will allow us to be able to impart some hedge strategies to try and contain all that. But furthermore, to your point, you know, with the F 35 is on board with the ability to deliver Ship to Shore connectors without catch with Marines. I mean, the mission The stated mission of these ships is such a, there's so very capable to be able to handle almost any need that the nation has. 

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven

Roger that and in fact, the America classes you know far better than myself, I'm sure are specifically engineered to accommodate the F-35. Modifications were made to the America so that the nonskid I believe it's called in the heat of a vertical takeoff and landing of the F-35b could be accommodated. So this is extremely significant. I heard not long ago, I believe it was the surface naval association of a senior leader of expeditionary warfare for the Navy. 

It's a follow up for Amphibs talk about manned unmanned teaming we all see Federation and the rapid uptake of unmanned systems, or amphibious warfare and the Navy writ large. I believe one leader said specifically that these big deck Amphibs could focus to some extent as motherships coordinating massive fleets of unmanned systems. That's a key element of amphibious warfare strategy given distributed maritime operations and the need to be dispersed. What is your sense of the industrial base its capacity to absorb this the advent of large numbers of amphibs and unmanned systems. 

Chairman, Rick Giannini

I believe we believe that the industrial base can was can upset additional ships in the build cycle, perhaps to aggressively reduce some of that build time, which again, creates headspace and time in order to accept additional ships. We look forward to trying to travel down that path and see if this executable. 

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven

Indeed very important question given the strategic shift and adjustment to the threat landscape, Mr. Giannini carriers for class so significant, what is your sense of how that is progressing? In terms of an industrial base? There's obviously the midlife refueling as well. What is your sense of the pace of development? Are the Fords on track? Could they be accelerated? 

Chairman, Rick Giannini

They they are on track, the Ford carrier, as you know, has 23 of the most advanced new systems on that ship. First, have a class in the end CVN 78, just paraphrasing Secnav, he says absolutely ready to fight. So I would say we're on track with 78. When we get to 79. It is scheduled for delivery in 2024. 

EMALS

Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) will first be fitted onboard the USS Gerald R. Ford

On track, the EMALS system will be up this year, February for approximately 83% Complete at this point. And when you talk about CBN, 80 and 81, the enterprise and Doris Miller, those were bought under block buy, which has dramatically reduced the cost according to the Navy by $4 billion. 

I could speak specifically about the block buy and the funds that were received in terms of advanced procurement funds gap money, it allowed us to put many valves on that ship by buying them all up front, lowering the cost and reducing the lead time saving the Navy money. 

So I think we're ready and looking forward to building on four years centers over eight years, with more AP funds so that more suppliers like Milwaukee Valve could benefit from the savings which will be passed on to the taxpayers. 

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven

So thanks for staying with us and embracing a handful of questions. And thank you so much for your time

Kris Osborn is the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President, Center for Military Modernization