Eyeing China, Pentagon plans larger, 'more lethal' navy
In this file photo taken on January 14, 2020 US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper speaks during a press conference with Japan's Minister of Defense Taro Kono at the Pentagon in Washington, DC. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper announced September 16, 2020 an ambitious plan to expand the US Navy with a range of unmanned and autonomous ships, submarines and aircraft to confront the growing maritime challenge from China.

Eyeing China, Pentagon plans larger, 'more lethal' navy

(Agence France-Presse) - September 17, 2020 - 7:37am

WASHINGTON, United States — US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper announced Wednesday an ambitious plan to expand the US Navy with a range of unmanned and autonomous ships, submarines and aircraft to confront the growing maritime challenge from China.

The Pentagon chief said a sweeping review of US naval power dubbed "Future Forward" had laid out a "game-changer" plan that would expand the US sea fleet to more than 355 ships, from the current 293. 

The plan, which requires adding tens of billions of dollars to the US Navy's budget between now and 2045, is aimed at maintaining superiority over Chinese naval forces, seen as the primary threat to the United States.

"The future fleet will be more balanced in its ability to deliver lethal effects from the air, from the sea, and from under the sea," Esper said in a speech at the Rand Corp. in California.

The expansion will add "more and smaller" surface ships; more submarines; surface and subsurface vessels that are optionally manned, unmanned and autonomous; and a broad range of unmanned carrier-based aircraft. 

The plan is for a fleet of ships more able to survive a high-intensity conflict, to project US power and presence, and to deliver precision strikes at very long distances, he said.

An example, Esper added, is a new guided missile frigate program, producing ships with "increased lethality, survivability, capability and capacity to conduct distributed warfare."

He also said trials were underway on the Sea Hunter, a 132-feet (40 meters) trimaran drone that can autonomously survey the seas for rival submarines for more than two months at a time.

"These efforts are the next step in realizing our future fleet, one in which unmanned systems perform a variety of warfighting functions, from delivering lethal fire and laying mines, to conducting resupply or surveilling the enemy," Esper said.

"This will be a major shift in how we will conduct naval warfare in the years and decades to come."

Chinese navy larger

Esper reiterated that China is the top US security threat and that the Indo-Pacific region is the "priority theater" for the US military.

"Not only is this region important because it is a hub of global trade and commerce, it is also the epicenter of great power competition with China," he said.

A Pentagon report on the People's Liberation Army released early this month said that Beijing has the world's largest naval fleet with 350 ships and submarines.

Still, Esper stressed, the Chinese navy lags in strength and capability.

"Even if we stopped building new ships, it would take the PRC years to match our capability on the high seas."

Esper said reaching the goal of 355 ships means the navy will have to grab a larger percent of the Pentagon budget, but also that the United States has to put more resources into expanding and modernizing shipyards, where China has a clear advantage. 

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: April 15, 2021 - 12:11pm

The US decision to disinvite China from upcoming maritime exercises in the Pacific is "non-constructive," China's Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi says.

"We find that a very non-constructive move," Wang says at a press conference with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after the two met in Washington.

"It's also a decision taken lightly and is unhelpful to mutual understanding between China and the US." — Agence France-Presse

April 15, 2021 - 12:11pm

US climate envoy John Kerry met with his Chinese counterparts in Shanghai on Thursday, in the first visit to China by an official from a Biden administration seeking to re-establish America's leadership on the environment.

The trip is seen as a chance to put aside high political tensions — following a heated initial meeting last month between diplomats in the US — and focus on areas of potential climate collaboration.

The two sides clashed in Alaska over accusations about China's policies in Hong Kong and its treatment of Uyghurs in the northwestern Xinjiang region, criticisms China rejects as interference in its domestic affairs. —  AFP

March 23, 2021 - 8:19am

The US Treasury Department placed sanctions Monday on two senior Chinese officials for what it called "serious human rights abuses" against Uighurs and other minorities in the country's Xinjiang region.

"Chinese authorities will continue to face consequences as long as atrocities occur in Xinjiang," said Andrea Gacki, the Treasury official overseeing the sanctions program.

The sanctions targeted Wang Junzheng, the secretary of the Chinese Communist Party committee of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), and Chen Mingguo, director of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau. —  AFP

March 20, 2021 - 10:30am

State news agency Xinhua reports that top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi said the first talks between Beijing and US President Joe Biden's administration were "candid, constructive and helpful," but warned that differences remain.

The two days of talks between the world's top two economies, held in Alaska on Thursday and Friday, began in acrimony, with both delegations launching broadsides over human rights and geopolitical ambitions. — AFP

March 19, 2021 - 8:57am

The United States accuses Chinese diplomatic leaders of "grandstanding," with a focus on "public theatrics and dramatics over substance" Thursday at the opening of the first high-level meeting between Washington and Beijing since US President Joe Biden's election.

A senior US official criticizes Beijing as having "arrived intent on grandstanding, focused on public theatrics and dramatics over substance" at the Alaska summit.

The official says this was made clear by the top Chinese Communist Party diplomat Yang Jiechi "promptly violating protocol" with a long opening statement instead of a previously agreed upon short two-minute speech. —  AFP

March 19, 2021 - 7:12am

The United States does not want conflict with China but welcomes tough competition with its strategic rival, President Joe Biden's national security advisor says Thursday in Alaska at the opening of a meeting with top Chinese diplomats. 

"We do not seek conflict, but we welcome stiff competition. And we will always stand up for our principles for our people, and for our friends," Jake Sullivan warns in Anchorage. —  AFP

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