US Navy Secretary said on February 21 that China’s Navy has considerable advantages over the US Navy, including a larger fleet and greater shipbuilding capacity, underscoring the urgent need to modernize the US fleet.
Speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, Carlos Del Toro emphasized that Beijing continuously tries to breach the maritime sovereignty and economic security of other countries in the South China Sea and elsewhere.
He continued to say that China has a larger fleet now and is deploying it worldwide. Thus, Washington must upgrade the US fleet in response, Toro noted.
“We do need a larger Navy; we do need more ships in the future, more modern ships in the future, in particular, that can meet that threat,” he added.
The Navy Secretary stated that China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy, which currently has roughly 340 ships, might field up to 400 ships in the upcoming years. On the other hand, the US Navy currently operates less than 300 ships.
The US Navy’s Navigation Plan 2022, published last summer, states that the Pentagon wants 350 manned ships by 2045, which is still far less than China’s expected fleet.
However, the US Congressional Budget Office stated in a November report that the US fleet is anticipated to shrink as older ships are decommissioned.
The warning by the US Navy Secretary is being issued when senior US government figures have already voiced their fears about China’s potential invasion of Taiwan by 2027.
Many experts fear the American navy may lag due to China’s rapid naval expansion.
The Department of Defense previously highlighted that the cruisers, destroyers, and corvettes being built by China would considerably improve the PLAN’s air defense, anti-ship, and anti-submarine capabilities.
The US Navy has continuously attempted to modernize using ground-breaking designs and technologies. But it lagged partly due to its efforts to combine various cutting-edge and unproven ship technologies.
For instance, the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) was designed to enable the USN to combat near unfriendly shores. The LCS, however, faced several problems. It has several defensive weaknesses, lacks firepower, and frequently experiences mechanical failures.
China Has Greater Shipbuilding Capabilities
Del Toro asserted that US Navy shipyards fall short of Chinese ones in terms of production. He also mentioned that China has 13 shipyards, some of which have greater capacity than all the shipyards in the United States.
“That presents a real threat,” he claimed. Del Toro did not provide a breakdown of these shipyards, but according to Chinese and Western accounts, China has six major and two minor shipyards that produce naval warships.
On the other hand, the US is believed to have seven shipyards to build large, deep-draft ships for the US Navy and coast guard.
But no matter how many shipyards there are, they all require manpower. According to Del Toro, China has an edge in this area mainly due to the absence of labor-related limitations, laws, and economic pressures on the US.
According to a November report from the US Congressional Research Service, the US Navy has taken many measures to close the gap with China, including relocating more of its fleet to the Pacific and deploying newer, more advanced ships in Pacific activities.
Del Toro added that the US Navy has a more advanced, capable, and lethal navy than China because the US has better shipbuilders. Del Toro believed that US military personnel are also better on their feet.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy has not yet reached parity despite having more ships than the US Navy. However, in a protracted fight, it is relatively less technologically advanced than the US.
That being said, Beijing can produce ships faster than any other nation, allowing it to quickly build up its force or replace any lost naval units, just like the US did during World War II.