Donald Trump campaigned explicitly on the promise to grow the size of the United States Navy to 350 ships from its low of 271 ships in the fall of 2015 as part of his plan to broadly rebuild the nation’s military after years of strenuous operations and capacity decline. The last time the US Navy held 350 ships in its inventory was during the late 1990s, a decade that saw the maritime force shrink from 530 to 318 ships. It was an era of uni-polarity, expanding alliances, peace keeping, nation building and permissive maritime environments. Carriers launching airstrikes into the former Yugoslavia could nestle close to shore in the Adriatic, secure in the knowledge that no one was coming out to attack them. Older nuclear powered escort cruisers, which could keep up with the high-speed carriers without being concerned with running out of fuel, were retired, and then older variants of the anti-air defensive Ticonderoga class cruisers were decommissioned as well. An entire class of 31 anti-submarine Spruance class destroyers were mothballed well ahead of schedule then sunk as targets during training exercises. More recently all 51 of the nation’s convoy escort frigates left the fleet without replacement.
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