President Donald Trump visited a Wisconsin shipyard Thursday to discuss the new U.S. Navy warship.
Trump rambled on. He complained about China. He directed veiled threats to Americans protesting police violence.
And he totally misrepresented the guided-missile frigate that Fincantieri Marinette’s Marinant Marinent shipyard is building for the Navy under a 10-ship contract for $ 5.5 billion that the sailing branch awarded in April.
“We started not to build in the Navy,” Trump said at the shipyard. “We have not built enough ships.”
That’s true. Under the administration of President George W. Bush, the Navy was reduced to a modern low of around 270 front-line warships.
President Barack Obama’s administration began to reverse the contraction of the fleet. Ray Mabus, Obama’s former secretary of the Navy, as one of his final acts in office, approved a plan to increase the fleet to 355 ships.
Trump in his first three years in office continued naval build-up. In early 2020, the Navy operated 295 frontline ships.
But in late 2019, the government’s shipbuilding plan collapsed. Under the command of Trump’s Secretary of the Navy, Thomas Modly, who resigned in April after verbally assaulting the crew of the aircraft carrier USS, affected by the virus. Theodore RooseveltThe shipping branch missed the early 2020 deadline to present its annual shipbuilding plan to Congress.
Meanwhile, Modly and Esper battled over the mix of ships the fleet should buy, the number of aircraft carriers it should maintain, and how many robotic ships it should acquire. In the summer of 2020, the U.S. Department of Defense pulled the Navy out of the planning process for the fleet’s shipbuilding, a remarkable condemnation of the service’s ability to manage itself.
It was in the midst of this bureaucratic chaos that Trump stood up Thursday before shipyard workers and television crews and celebrated the FFG (X) program, which the Navy launched under Obama and Mabus in 2014.
The idea was to build at least 20 smaller, cheaper warships to complement existing Navy ones. Arleigh burkeclass destroyers and Ticonderoga-class cruises and accelerate fleet expansion. Unlike light coastal combat ships, the new frigates would be heavily armed and strong enough to absorb shock.
“FX,” Trump reflected. “Is that good? FX Then you have the FFG (X). Yes that’s true. That’s pretty good. What does that mean, please? Could you please tell me? Does anyone know? FFG (X)? I think nobody You know it, but it’s fine. “
“Sounds good to me, but it’s going to be built right here in the heart of the United States, and you’re going to build it,” Trump continued. “And it will continue for a long time because there are up to 20 ships and it could be extended, and they are working on an extension at the moment and we will see, but just go. You’re going to build your hearts, so good luck on the show. “
“The massive deal is worth up to $ 5.5 billion,” said Trump. It is true. And Congress will need to add billions more to complete the ships.
“We will put the shipyard to work building some of the fastest, most advanced and most maneuverable combat ships anywhere in the ocean.” False. The 7,500-ton displacement FFG (X) is, in fact, slower than a 3,000-ton LCS and less sophisticated than a 9,500-ton Flight III. Burke It is, although cheaper.
“I heard that maneuverability is one of the big factors why he was chosen for the contract,” Trump said. That is also false.
“The other is your location in Wisconsin, if you want to know the truth,” Trump said, implying that political considerations (Wisconsin is a state of presidential change) illegally weighed on the choice of the Navy shipyard.
“I changed the designs,” said Trump, really riffing at that point. “I looked at him. I said, ‘That’s a terrible looking ship. Let’s make it beautiful. It will cost you the same and maybe less. Sometimes you can make it look great for less money. I said, ‘This is not an attractive boat. Let’s change the design of it. ‘”
In fact, Fincantieri’s FFG (X) design is based on the plans of the Italian company Fregata Europea Multimissione, or FREMM, a popular warship in the European navies. To change the design of the FFG (X), Trump would have needed to travel in the early 2000s and infiltrate naval design offices in Italy and France.
“And look what you’re doing, how beautiful it is,” Trump said of the FFG (X) design. “They gave me a beautiful model that is absolutely … it’s like a missile yacht, okay? It’s pretty. But You know, it’s true. You can build beautifully and sometimes it costs you less money, sometimes less money. “
Also false. While the Navy wants each new frigate to cost around $ 1 billion, the United States Congressional Research Service cut the numbers and, in a June report, warned that the Navy’s estimated cost is not realistic.
One billion dollars per ship “equates to a cost of approximately $ 127 million per thousand tons of travel at full load, a figure that is approximately 36 percent less than the cost per thousand tons of travel at full load of the Flight III[[[[Burke]; approximately 15 percent less than the cost per thousand tons of displacement at full load of the Freedom variant of the coastal combat ship that [Fincantieri] current constructions; and about 15 percent less than the cost per thousand tons of full-load displacement of the Coast Guard national security cutter. “
In other words, Trump’s “beautiful” frigate, launched by Obama, will not be cheaper because it is beautiful. And it will join a fleet that, under the Trump administration, has lost its ability to plan more than a few months into the future.