Most advanced economies in Europe and North America will see static or declining defense budgets over the next decade. For Navies, this means a slowdown and reduction in planned recapitalization efforts of fleet force structures. As older ships receive life extensions and fewer new ships join the fleet, pressure will grow for more maintenance and eventually – modernization.
In the near term, navies will focus more attention on concentrating maintenance expenditures for the most operationally valuable vessels. Disposal of older, more expensive and/or less capable platforms will increase.
Also expect to see continuing investments in “force multiplier” technologies that can help legacy navies stretch their declining platform force structures further. These would include aviation (manned and unmanned, ship and shore based), broad area sensor and over-watch systems, and unmanned surface and underwater vehicles.
The growing mismatch between maritime resources and commitments within many of the world’s navies will spur careful force structure planning. Above all, anticipate more focus on changing ship designs, equipment and concepts of operations to economize in leading naval cost drivers – fuel and personnel.
At the same time, the pace of naval technological change is accelerating – especially with respect to offensive threats posed by precision weapons. The maturation of directed energy in the naval domain will further expand a threat envelope already challenging enough with the latest generations of missiles, mines and torpedoes.
Therefore, as legacy navies economize with more refits and life extensions, the importance of upgrades to combat systems and weapons will surge to the forefront. The watch-word for the coming decade will be “New systems in older hulls,” as the best/only option to keep pace with new threats.
Each month I will be offering up ideas to stimulate change in our naval market. I welcome your comments, suggestions, and critiques. You can reach me at email@example.com, @GuyofAMI on Twitter, or on this Naval Futures website.