The U.S. Navy will probably have to cut about 25 aircraft and several ships from its planned purchases in the coming year if deep federal spending cuts remain in place, a top service official said Sept. 5.
The affected aircraft in fiscal year 2014 will likely include helicopters, F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and P-8A maritime patrol aircraft, said Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations. The Navy also could lose such vessels as a Littoral Combat Ship and an Afloat Forward Staging Base, as well as advance procurement for a Virginia-class submarine.
The Navy would also have to scale back maintenance of existing aircraft and ships, meaning fewer of those assets would be available for deployment, according to Greenert, who spoke at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. The reductions would leave the Navy with an imposing five-year maintenance backlog.
The Navy was able to minimize the impact of an $11-billion decrease in FY 2013 by using unspent money from previous years, the admiral explained. But such leftover cash will not be available in FY 2014, when the Navy expects to take a $14-billion budget hit unless a politically divided Congress and the White House can agree to restore funding.
Despite the fiscal constraints, Greenert said he will try to protect certain new systems that he sees as key to sustaining the Navy’s technological edge. Those systems include the SSBN(X), which would replace the aging fleet of Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines; the Electromagnetic Railgun, which will fire projectiles using electricity instead of chemical propellants; and an experimental laser gun that the Navy plans to deploy on a ship next summer in the Persian Gulf.
He was also bullish on the future of unmanned systems under development, including the long-range Triton surveillance aircraft, carrier-based aircraft and underwater vehicles.
“We’ve got a lot of great potential out there, and it’s starting to become quite tangible,” he said of unmanned systems.