600-ship Navy

600-ship Navy

The recommissioning ceremony for USS New Jersey; President Ronald Reagan attended and gave the ship's orders

The 600-Ship Navy was a strategic plan of the United States Navy during the 1980s to rebuild its fleet after cutbacks that followed the end of the Vietnam War. The plan, which originated with Republican leaders, was an important campaign plank of Ronald Reagan in the 1980 presidential election, who advocated a larger military and strategic confrontation with the Soviet Union.

The program included:

The idea was supported by John F. Lehman, who became Reagan's Secretary of the Navy, and Caspar Weinberger, Reagan's Secretary of Defense.

Contents

  • Background 1
  • Reagan plan 2
  • Ships and weapons systems deployed during the plan era 3
  • Build-Up by Year 4
  • End of the plan 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9

Background

The idea behind the 600-ship Navy can be traced back to the Vietnam War. During the war, the armed services rapidly expanded to meet the demands placed on them.

With the end of the Vietnam War, the American government reduced military spending. By 1978 Admiral James L. Holloway III concluded that the Navy had a very slim margin over its Soviet counterpart. The Soviet Union, which had been supporting North Vietnam, began staging their naval vessels from former US ports in South Vietnam. Building on this gain, Soviet vessels began to sail in all seven seas with increased vigor and even ventured into the Gulf of Mexico.[1] Soviet forces also stepped up infantry, armor and air force deployments in Eastern Europe.

Finally, in 1979, the takeover of a US embassy in the Iran hostage crisis, and the failure of a rescue mission in Operation Eagle Claw, heightened the sense that American military power was becoming more limited.

Reagan plan

It was against this backdrop in 1980 that the United States began an election year. Ronald Reagan, a Republican, ran the presidential race on a platform that included improving the armed services, which appealed to then-current American concerns regarding Soviet military power. He continued this in 1984, releasing a campaign commercial, A bear in the woods, which played on the use of the bear as a national symbol of Russia, asked the rhetorical question, "Isn't it smart to be as strong as the bear?"

Under the programs put forth by Reagan, the overseas strategic retaliation arm was strengthened and the development of new weaponry like the B-1B bomber, the Bradley fighting vehicle, and the Abrams tank was completed and they were put into production.

Lehman attempted to "front-load" the program, by committing the Navy to the building program, but in the end the funds were not available and it fell short.[2]

Ships and weapons systems deployed during the plan era

The Navy saw the largest benefit of the rebuilding. Under the Reagan Administration, the first of the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines was completed. This class was the largest submarine ever built in the US. The ship carried 24 Trident I nuclear-capable missiles, each one with a 4,000-mile (6,400 km) range. Construction of the Nimitz class of supercarriers and Los Angeles-class attack submarines was dramatically stepped up. The revolutionary new Aegis combat system was installed on the up-and-coming Ticonderoga-class ships, production of which was also stepped up. Several aircraft carriers were put through Service Life Extension Programs (SLEPs) aimed at keeping them in service longer. The Iowa-class battleships, built in the 1940s, were all recommissioned and refitted with RGM-84 Harpoon, BGM-109 Tomahawk, and Phalanx CIWS system capabilities, plus their armor plating would be more resilient against anti-ship missiles. The first Harpoons, Tomahawks, and AGM-88 HARM missiles all debuted on the navy's ships. Naval aviation was stepped up with the introduction of the F/A-18 Hornet, along with improved versions of the EA-6 Prowler electronic countermeasure aircraft, the A-6 Intruder, and the F-14 Tomcat. In addition, the nation's strategic retaliatory arm was strengthened with advanced B-1B bombers and deploying Pershing II theater missiles to Europe. The initiative also included deployment of sophisticated Abrams main battle tanks and Bradley armored fighting vehicles.

Build-Up by Year

Aircraft Carriers
Class of Ships Image 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990
Nimitz-class aircraft carrier 2 2 3 3 3 3 4 4 4 5 5
USS Enterprise (CVN-65) 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Kitty Hawk-class aircraft carrier 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4
Forrestal-class aircraft carrier 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4
Midway-class aircraft carrier 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2
Essex-class aircraft carrier 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Total Ships 14 14 15 15 15 15 16 16 16 17 17
Battleships
Class of Ships Image 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990
Iowa-class battleship 0 0 0 1 2 2 3 3 3 4 4
Total Ships 0 0 0 1 2 2 3 3 3 4 4
Cruisers
Class of Ships Image 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990
Ticonderoga-class cruiser 0 0 0 1 2 3 5 9 11 15 16
Virginia-class cruiser 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4
California-class cruiser 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2
USS Truxtun (CGN-35) 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Belknap-class cruiser 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9
Leahy-class cruiser 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9
Long Beach-class cruiser 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Total Ships 26 26 26 27 28 29 31 35 37 41 42
Destroyers
Class of Ships Image 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990
Kidd-class destroyer 0 3 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4
Spruance-class destroyer 30 30 30 31 31 31 31 31 31 31 31
Charles F. Adams-class destroyer 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 20 10
Farragut-class destroyer (1958) 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 8 7
Forrest Sherman-class destroyer 18 18 7 1 1 1 1 1 0 0 0
Gearing-class destroyer 14 7 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total Ships 95 91 76 69 69 69 69 69 68 63 52
Frigates
Class of Ships Image 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990
Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate 8 17 26 37 45 50 52 54 54 55 55
Knox-class frigate 46 46 46 46 46 46 46 46 46 46 46
Brooke-class frigate 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 1 0 0
Garcia-class frigate 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 5 1 0
Bronstein-class frigate 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2
Total Ships 73 82 91 102 110 115 117 119 108 104 103
Years 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990
Total Major Combatants Active 208 213 208 214 224 230 236 242 232 229 218
Amphibious Assault Ship
Class of Ships Image 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990
Wasp-class amphibious assault ship 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1
Tarawa-class amphibious assault ship 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5
Iwo Jima-class amphibious assault ship 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7
Total Ships 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 13 13
Dock Landing Ship
Class of Ships Image 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990
Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 3 3 4 5
Anchorage-class dock landing ship 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5
Thomaston-class dock landing ship 8 8 8 6 4 3 3 3 3 1 0
Casa Grande-class dock landing ship 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 0
Total Ships 14 14 14 12 10 10 11 12 12 10 10
Amphibious transport dock
Class of Ships Image 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990
Austin-class amphibious transport dock 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12
Raleigh-class amphibious transport dock 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3
Total Ships 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15
Amphibious cargo ship
Class of Ships Image 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990
Charleston-class amphibious cargo ship 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5
USS Tulare (AKA-112) 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0
Total Ships 6 6 6 6 6 6 5 5 5 5 5
Tank landing ship
Class of Ships Image 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990
Newport-class tank landing ship 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20
General Frank S. Besson-class 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 4 4 4
Total Ships 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 22 24 24 24
Years 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990
Total Amphibious Active 67 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60

Attack Submarines

Class of Ships Image 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990
Los Angeles-class submarine 10 16 20 25 29 33 35 37 39 42 44
Sturgeon-class submarine 37 37 37 37 37 37 37 37 37 37 37
Permit-class submarine 13 13 13 13 13 13 13 13 12 10 8
Skipjack-class submarine 5 5 5 5 5 5 4 4 3 3 0
Barbel-class submarine 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 2 1 0
Skate-class submarine 4 4 4 4 3 3 2 2 1 0 0
USS Seawolf (SSN-575) 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0
USS Darter (SS-576) 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 0
Tang-class submarine 3 3 3 2 2 2 1 0 0 0 0
Total Subs 77 83 87 91 94 98 96 97 95 94 89

Ballistic missile submarines

Class of Ships Image 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990
Ohio-class submarine 0 1 2 3 5 6 8 8 9 10 11
Benjamin Franklin-class submarine 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12
James Madison-class submarine 10 10 10 10 10 10 9 9 9 8 8
Lafayette-class submarine 9 9 9 9 9 9 8 8 8 6 3
Ethan Allen-class submarine 5 5 5 3 3 2 2 2 2 2 2
George Washington-class submarine 5 4 3 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total Subs 41 41 41 39 40 39 39 39 40 38 36
Years 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990
Total Submarines Active 118 124 128 130 134 137 135 136 135 132 125

End of the plan

Eventually political pressure to reduce the national budget deficit resulted in Congress reversing itself and passing a series of declining defense budgets beginning in 1986. Weinberger clashed with Congress over the cuts, resigning in late 1987, and was succeeded by Frank Carlucci.[3] Lehman's successor as Navy Secretary, Jim Webb, remained a fierce proponent of the expanded fleet, and disagreed with Carlucci over how to cut the Navy budget in line with other services. Webb resigned rather than endorse Carlucci's cut of 16 frigates.[4] As revealed in The Reagan Diaries, Reagan reflected about Webb's resignation on 22 February 1988: "Present Sec. Webb resigned over budget cuts. I don't think Navy was sorry to see him go."

Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s and the lack of a perceived threat against the United States, several of the Reagan Administration's policies and plans, such as the "600-ship Navy", were scaled back or abandoned. US bases across Europe and North America were slowly decommissioned and closed, others were mothballed through the Base Realignment and Closure process. In the Navy, this resulted in the retirement of several older carriers, the decommissioning of all four of the Iowa-class battleships and the cancellation of the remaining Seawolf-class submarines.

See also

References

  • Holland, W. J. (2000). The Navy.  
  1. ^ "Soviet Naval Vessels Found in Gulf of Mexico".  
  2. ^ Spinney, Chuck (6 December 2012). "Business As Usual Inside Obama's Pentagon".  
  3. ^ Church, George J. (20 June 1988). "Bringing The Pentagon to Heel".  (subscription required)
  4. ^ "The Navy: The Secretary Jumps Ship".  (subscription required)

Further reading

  • NSC-NSDD-32: U.S. National Security Strategy - The White House - May 20, 1982 - archive listings
  • Congressional Budget Office:
    • Building a 600-Ship Navy: Costs, Timing, and Alternative Approaches - March 1982
    • Manpower for a 600-Ship Navy: Costs and Policy Alternatives - August 1983
  • GlobalSecurity.org
    • Ship Building 1981-89 - Reagan, Ronald
  • Naval Historical Center:
    • The U.S. Navy in the Cold War Era, 1945-1991
    • NWP 1 - Strategic Concepts of the Navy - February 1987
  • Naval War College:
    • John B. Hattendorf. "The Evolution of the U.S. Navy's Maritime Strategy, 1977-1986" Naval War College Newport Paper 19 (2004), ISBN 1-884733-32-8 - Available in PDF forat here and here
  • United States Naval Institute:
    • Lieutenant General Bernard E. Trainor, U.S. Marine Corps (Retired). "Triumph in Strategic Thinking". United States Naval Institute Proceedings Vol. 134, No. 2 (February 2008) p. 40 - 42
    • Norman Friedman. "The Navy, the Cold War - and Now" United States Naval Institute Proceedings Vol. 133, No. 10 (October 2007) p. 58 - 62

External links

  • U.S. Naval Strategy During the Cold War from the Dean Peter Krogh Foreign Affairs Digital Archives
  • Building a 600 Ship Navy: The Congressional Budget Office Report