Ships with the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group and John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group transit the Philippine Sea during dual carrier operations, Nov. 16, 2018.

The biggest US Navy shipbuilding project are delayed by years, according to a new report.The review was commissioned back in January amid concerns of programs falling behind schedule.The shipbuilding issues has Navy leaders concerned about maintaining an edge over great power rivals.

The US Navy’s biggest shipbuilding projects, from new submarines to a first-in-class guided-missile frigate, are delayed by one to three years, according to a new Navy report.

The delays aren’t helping to alleviate the concerns of Navy leaders worried about keeping up-to-pace with great power rivals, such as China, which is building new ships at astonishing rates.

According to the 45-day review, details of which were shared with Business Insider, multiple top programs have been delayed. At a glance, the delays range from at least a year to three years after the original contractual delivery dates.

These troubling delays have also resulted in Navy project “costs increasing commensurately as a result of these delays and continued elevated inflation,” Hon. Nick Guertin, the Navy acquisition executive, told reporters at a roundtable on Tuesday evening, a transcript of which was provided to BI.

The longest delays are for the coming Block IV Virginia-class submarines and Constellation-class guided missile frigate, which, based on current performances, won’t be delivered for at least another 36 months.

A chart from the Secretary of the Navy’s 45-day shipbuilding review.

Other concerning delays include the Navy’s first Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine, a top priority for the Department of Defense expected to be delivered 12 to 16 months after its original delivery date of October 2027.

That is a serious problem because the Navy’s obligated to have 10 ballistic missile submarines ready to deploy at all times, and retiring previous ships has created a dire situation where, if the lead Columbia sub is not delivered in 2027 and ready to patrol in 2031, the force won’t meet that requirement.

There’s also a major delay for the Navy’s next Ford-class aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise, as well. The third carrier in its class, the Enterprise isn’t expected to be delivered until 18-26 months after its original date. The Ford class has had a number of delays over the course of its development.

Guertin attributed many of the delays to “common issues from lingering COVID impacts across the national workforce and supply chain landscape with industry reticent to invest.”

He added that risk-reduction steps during COVID kept the impact “as minimal as possible.”

Newport News Shipbuilding workers and Navy sailors walk past the USS George Washington as it rests pier side Oct. 11, 2019.

The 45-day review was ordered by Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro back in January. At the time, Navy leadership was concerned with delays with the Virginia-class subs could bleed into the development timeline for the new Columbia-class subs, ultimately leading to major issues keeping the Navy’s submarine force ready.

Del Toro called for an “assessment of national and local causes of shipbuilding challenges, as well as recommended actions for achieving a healthier US shipbuilding industrial base that provides combat capabilities that our warfighters need, on a schedule that is relevant.”

That growing concern comes as China’s shipbuilding turns out not only more warships, but also increasingly capable ones.

Back in January, a report to Congress on China’s naval capabilities noted that its modernization effort has been underway since the early to mid-1990s, transforming its Navy into a formidable military force.

DoD has said that China’s navy “is the largest navy in the world with a battle force of over 370 platforms, including major surface combatants, submarines, ocean-going amphibious ships, mine warfare ships, aircraft carriers, and fleet auxiliaries.” Its overall battle force is expected to reach 395 by 2025 and 435 by 2030.

“You don’t have to be a Nobel Prize-winning mathematician to realize the number of Chinese ships is going to continue to outpace us,” said retired US Navy Adm. James Stavridis.

That severely overshadows the Navy’s current and expected numbers. Currently, the Navy has a fleet of nearly 300 ships. Plans call for adding between 282 and 340 by 2052, which would, looking at warship retirements, bring the fleet size to somewhere between 316 and 367, depending on the plan. The Navy has looked at using unmanned systems to augment the force, but there are questions as to whether or not that would be enough in a Pacific fight.

While US and Navy officials have expressed alarm over the pace of China’s shipbuilding, some have argued there’s a quality versus quantity difference between the two powers, and there is evidence to support that assessment. Nevertheless, China’s growing naval capacity has pushed DoD to prioritize increased development and faster delivery of its upcoming ships.

There are hang-ups though. The Navy review, Guertin said, “identified major initiatives to drive improvement that we plan to pursue.” This includes fixing issues with the workforce, material and supply chains, and contracts. Guertin also said the next step is assessing the Navy budget for shipbuilding and the costs of delays.

“Our Navy ships exist to strengthen American dominance and deliver warfighting capability by providing the tools our warfighters need to operate the world’s strongest navy. In order to provide these key warfighting tools, shipbuilding challenges must be addressed,” he said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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