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US lawmakers urge navy officials to refurbish warships and better utilise existing force assets

Members of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) cautioned US Navy (USN) officials during public discussions this month against retiring warships too early and pushed the service to find ways to modernise the existing fleet structure.

HASC members warned USN officials against investing too much in unmanned systems at the expense of effectively maintaining the existing force of aircraft carriers and guided-missile cruisers or upgrading the carrier-embarked air wings.

Of particular concern were the vertical-launch-system (VLS) cells that could be lost due to decommissioned cruisers as the USN sought to develop unmanned vessels to shoulder some of the VLS burden.

The navy has sought to decommission older cruisers with less-advanced Aegis Combat Systems for years, only to be thwarted often by Congress.

“We do not need to decommission 10 cruisers overnight because those VLS cells are not going to be replaced immediately by autonomous ships,” US Representative Elaine Luria (D-Virginia), HASC vice chairman, said on 18 March during a Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) online naval discussion.

“We have those ships today,” she noted. “What is the investment to extend their lives for an additional 10 years? We can’t decommission them faster than we can build replacements.”

Pointing out that the recently released Pentagon’s 2045 Battleforce plan relies heavily on a future unmanned force, as does the USN unofficial shipbuilding plan, Luria said, “We need to build more ships more quickly, operate the ships we have as efficiently as we can, and we do not need to divest of platforms that still have some operational life left.”

Calling attention to a “rumour” about a plan that is “not well thought out” and doesn’t “really hold water” to eliminate the planned refuelling for the carrier USS Harry S Truman

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