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US Navy could convert civil ships into missile ships

According to the U.S. Naval Institute, the U.S. Navy could consider the conversion of merchant ships into missile ships as the solution to reach the goal of a 355-ship force (which reaches only 290 ships nowadays).

US Navy could convert civil ships into missile ships 925 001 Container ship (Picture source : Pinterest)

To get to 355, the Navy’s 2019 ship-building plan proposes an eventual composition of 12 aircraft carriers, 12 ballistic-missile submarines, 66 attack submarines, 104 large surface combatants, 52 small surface combatants, 38 amphibious warfare ships, and 71 combat logistics and support ships.

But this goal couldn't be reached in the next 30 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Therefore, the Navy has announced the extension of the service-life of some destroyers and attack submarines. Even with this countermeasure, the cost of the operation could reach up to $US 109 billion per year, until 2047, which the Navy can't afford to pay.

To cut this cost, the US Navy could have an alternative solution which would be to convert existing merchant hulls into missile-armed ships. Additional hulls are indeed needed to compete with near-peer opponents and converting civil ships into Vertical Launching System (VLS) missile-cell carriers could be the answer.

This solution would provide the Navy an increased VLS-cell-number metric, emphasizing fleet offensive and defensive capability. These container ships could contribute to the fight without requiring expensive sensor suites and increase the damage a strike group could inflict before closing to launch aircraft.

The nominal cost to acquire container or double-hulled tanker ships could be between $25 and $50 million per hull, depending on size and where they are constructed. And the cost to convert those ships into military ships should be modest.

These cheap missile ships are estimated being able to carry between 30 and 50 missiles. Then, converting 10 to 15 cargo ships would give the fleet between 300 and 750 missile cells.

To conclude, such new missile ships could provide a great fire power to support naval combat groups among the globe, at lower costs than traditional naval vessels. It could also help the US Navy competing with the Chinese Navy in the South China Sea.