If we ever have another major conventional naval war, as appears increasingly likely, the Navy is going to need a lot more ships, including a lot more missile shooters. Defense News reports the Navy is considering how to add additional capability. The Navy is even considering putting missiles on cargo ships. As Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA, Cdr. USN, ret.) pointed out, a number of cruisers equipped with MK41 VLS are being retired. The 22 remaining cruisers each have 122 Mk41 vertical launch cells as well as two 5″/62 Mk45 Mod4 guns.
Five of the cruisers have been approved for decommissioning in the 2022 budget. It is likely the remaining 17 will follow in the next few years.
I suggest that some of these VLS sets be stored and earmarked as mobilization assets for possible future installation on the National Security Cutters (NSC) should the need arise. Studies have shown that the NSCs could accept up to 16 Mk41 VLS. These VLS might be recycled to the new Constellation (FFG-62) class too, but since the planned 20 ships will only use 640 VLS, it would only require seven cruisers to donate enough VLS to arm both 20 FFG and 11 National Security Cutters.
It should not be too difficult to integrate the Mk41 VLS on the National Security Cutters since their combat systems use Aegis software.
In addition, it might be wise to earmark the cruisers 5″/62 Mk45/Mod4 guns for possible upgrades for both National Security and Offshore Patrol Cutters as well.
The Navy’s entire Naval Gun Fire Support (NGFS) capability is about 114 Mk45 5″ guns on 22 cruisers with two guns each and about 70 DDGs with only one gun. By the time the cruisers are gone, we may have perhaps 80 DDGs. That means the loss of about 30% of the current capability. Equipping the 36 NSCs and OPCs with 5″/62 Mod4 guns from the retiring cruisers could entirely replace the lost capability and importantly provide it in ships that are not likely to be deployed out of position to provide NGFS because they are needed elsewhere to provide AAW protection.
To ensure we can make these changes quickly when needed, it might be prudent to equip at least one ship of each class as a prototype for future upgrades. Upgrading one ship of each class would probably cost less than one FFG and would provide a template for future upgrades if necessary. The OPC prototype might attempt something like I described here.
Since this is preparation for war, the prototypes and storage of the weapons could come from the Navy’s budget.