So the last presidential debate became a history lesson of the Navy and horses and bayonets?
The Navy’s surface warfare ships consist of carriers, cruisers, destroyers and frigates. The last cruiser delivered to the Navy entered service before the start of the 21st century. Ironically, that cruiser, the USS Port Royal, was commissioned in Savannah. The first five ships in its class already have been decommissioned.
The last frigate entered service in 1989; no frigates are scheduled to be built over the next five years. Twenty-three frigates of the Perry class already have been taken out of service.
The pride of the Navy and its showcase pieces are the carriers. There are 11 carriers in the fleet, but in a month and a half, that number will be reduced to 10 as the Enterprise, the first nuclear-powered carrier and the longest warship ever built, will be retired after 51 years of service.
Unlike some of its predecessors, it won’t be turned into a floating museum or even a training ship. It will meet the fate that befell its most recent namesake, the carrier Enterprise that served in nearly every major campaign in the Pacific theater during World War II. That Enterprise, CV-6, was scrapped. The current Enterprise, CVN-65, is scheduled to be “recycled” in 2015, after its nuclear reactors are extracted and disposed.
By that time, the next two carriers, the Gerald R. Ford and the John F. Kennedy, are scheduled to enter service. The Gerald R. Ford is estimated to cost $13.5 billion to build and outfit.
The biggest leg of America’s nuclear triad is its ballistic missile submarine force. There are14 boats in the Trident II USS Ohio class. Another four have been converted to carrying ballistic nuclear missiles to carrying Tomahawk missiles.
No new ballistic missile sub has entered service since 1997.
The fleet of attack subs, designed to hunt and kill enemy subs, has been adapted to carry Tomahawk missiles, along with their torpedoes. Another six boats are under construction to join an arsenal of 52 attack subs.
The last battleship, the USS Missouri, was decommissioned in 1992. Only Operation Desert Storm held off the end for the last two battlewagons, the Missouri and the Wisconsin, for a year.
Back in the ’80s, there were plans drawn up for a 600-ship Navy. Today, the fleet of combat ships numbers less than 300.