New Format–USNI News Fleet and Marine Tracker: July 11, 2022

The latest “USNI News Fleet and Marine Tracker” includes additional summary information that is more informative.

Ships Underway

Total Battle Force Deployed Underway
298
(USS 241, USNS 57)
110
(USS 73, USNS 37)
 60
(44 Deployed, 16 Local )

Ships Deployed by Fleet

2nd Fleet 3rd Fleet 4th Fleet 5th Fleet 6th Fleet 7th Fleet Total
0 11 2 13 26 58 110

For the last several weeks, information about how many ships were deployed and how many underway was missing entirely.

I had been following how many ships were deployed to 4th Fleet because in most cases those ships were assisting in drug interdiction, but recently that information was not listed. That is back. Two ships are deployed to 4th Fleet which was typical of earlier information.

From prior information, I had concluded that US Navy ships were deployed about a third of the time and underway about a quarter of the time. That is far less underway time than I believe is typical for Coast Guard cutters. We frequently hear that US Navy ships are overworked. I would not dispute that, but it does seem that underway time is not the reason they are overworked. New information included in this latest “Fleet and Marine Tracker” gives even clearer insight into how much time US Navy’s commissioned ships spend deployed and underway. For the first time there is a breakdown of ship type as either USS or USNS.

USNS ships are only 19.1% of the “Battle Force.” but they are 33.6% of the ships deployed. 64.9% of USNS ships are deployed.

Commissioned ships (USS) are 80.9% of the “Battle Force,” but only 66.4% of those deployed. Less than a third, 30.3% of commissioned ships, are deployed.

Only 20.1% of the “Battle Force” was underway. We don’t have a USS/USNS breakdown for ships underway. If we assume the 44 ships deployed and underway was in the same proportion as those simply deployed, then there were probably 29 USS ships deployed and underway. While unlikely, the 16 ships underway locally might all be USS ships, so at most 45 USS ships, 18.7% of commissioned ships might have been underway.

If the Navy wants to reduce the workload on their sailors, they probably cannot do it by reducing deployments and underway time. My own experience was that we got a lot more done while underway than while inport.

There is a second observation that is particularly important for war planning. The USNS fleet is strained to support current deployment levels. If we have a near peer conflict in the Western Pacific, we would probably want to approximately double the number of commissioned ships deployed to about 60% with about 50% of commissioned ships actually continuously underway, almost three times what we are seeing now.

Those ships will need underway replenishment.

That means that both, we need to substantially increase the number of support ships, just to fully use the combatants we already have, and that the support ships we do have are precious and need to be protected. The Coast Guard may have a role in providing at least some of that protection.