An Analysis of the Navy's Amphibious Warfare Ships for Deploying Marines Overseas

November 18, 2011

The Number of Amphibious Warfare Ships Falls Short of the Navy's Goal in 15 of the Next 30 Years

The Navy established a goal for a fleet of 33 amphibious ships in its 2012 30-year shipbuilding plan. Those ships are designed primarily to carry marines and their equipment into combat but also to perform other missions.

Under the current plan, between 2012 and 2041, the Navy will:

  • Purchase 20 amphibious ships at a cost of about $50 billion,
  • Retire 22 amphibious ships, and
  • Meet or exceed the 33-ship goal between 2017 and 2031 but fall below the goal the rest of the time.

At any given time:

  • About 30 percent of the total force of amphibious ships is deployed overseas conducting operations;
  • About 74 percent is "deployable"—that is, in good material condition and with the crew sufficiently trained to perform a variety of missions;
  • About 90 percent could be made available for an amphibious assault if the Navy had about three months to prepare.

Amphibious Force Meets Combatant Commanders' 2007 Request for Overseas Presence but Not Their 2010 "Unconstrained" Demand

In 2007, the combatant commanders requested nine ships for routine deployment. That request could be accommodated with the existing fleet.

Comparison of Navy's Unconstrained Demand, Constrained Demand, Deployable Ships, and Deployed Ships

By 2010, the combatant commanders asked for 18 ships. (The number increased because the combatant commanders were being asked about "unconstrained" demand—how many ships they wanted in the absence of any fiscal or force structure constraint.)

Meeting the request for 18 ships with the existing force would substantially increase deployment time and reduce time in ships' home ports.

Over a 27-month (117-week) operating cycle:

  • Deployment time would more than double—from 26 weeks to 62 weeks.
  • Time in home port would fall from 57 percent to 36 percent, well short of the Navy's goal of 50 percent.