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Addressing China challenge among objectives as US Navy outlines updated navigation plan

US Chief of Naval Operations Navigation Plan Update (NAVPLAN) 2022 was released Tuesday by Admiral Mike Gilday, Chief of US Naval Operations.

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New Delhi: Countering China, ensuring combat-credibility, and protecting freedom of navigation — these are some of the key aspects of the US Chief of Naval Operations Navigation Plan Update (NAVPLAN) 2022. 

The report was released Tuesday by Admiral Mike Gilday, Chief of US Naval Operations.

Reiterating that China is the central threat to the US Navy’s maritime dominance, the report says: “This is a critical decade. As global challengers rise to threaten US interests, America must maintain maritime dominance.”

China, it says, “is undermining international norms by staking illegal maritime claims, militarising geographic features in the South and East China Seas, and attempting to intimidate its neighbours out of their offshore resources”.

“This aggressive behaviour threatens US interests and destabilises the rules-based system,” it adds.

It further says that the NAVPLAN aims to enhance the US Navy’s combat readiness, develop capabilities to achieve lethal and persistent effects, and boost its capacity to “build a combat-credible, hybrid fleet”.

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China’s military capabilities

The report says China is “building all-domain military capabilities to challenge the United States”.

“Its aggressive behaviour is threatening US interests, undermining alliances and partnerships, and undercutting the rules-based system.”

NAVPLAN 2022 adds that the US Navy’s security environment is threatened due to the “erosion of credible military deterrence, particularly due to China’s rapidly increasing military capabilities”.

Referring to how China used its economic growth to strengthen and modernise its military, it adds: “China designs its force for one purpose: to reshape the security environment to its advantage by denying the United States military access to the western Pacific and beyond.”

China has tripled its naval fleet since 1990, enhanced its nuclear capacity and capability, and built a system of sophisticated sensors and long-range precision weapons to “hold US naval forces at risk”, the navigation plan points out.

Readiness, capability, & capacity

NAVPLAN 2022 lists certain measures to counter China, and ensure freedom of navigation.

To address the specific issue of combat readiness, the NAVPLAN prioritises cutting maintenance delays to zero, improving personnel performance at sea through more “robust recruitment and retention”, and using data to smoothen supply chains.

Measures to enhance the US Navy’s capabilities — central to the NAVPLAN 2022 — include pursuing “a fully-integrated combat capability that employs lethal and sustainable effects to defend naval forces against complex raid scenarios”.

The report also prioritises developing capabilities that would enable the US Navy to sustain naval operations in adversary zones.

Emphasising the need for the Navy to become a hybrid fleet, the plan says the force will “add to our current fleet a host of manned, unmanned and optionally-manned platforms operating under, on, and above the seas”.

“In the 2040s and beyond, we envision this hybrid fleet to require more than 350 manned ships, about 150 large unmanned surface and subsurface platforms, and approximately 3,000 aircraft,” it adds.

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)

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