Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Navy’

US Navy plane with 11 aboard crashes into Pacific; 8 found

November 22, 2017

The Associated Press

None

TOKYO (AP) — A plane carrying 11 crew and passengers crashed into the Pacific Ocean on Wednesday while on the way to the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, the Navy said.

Eight of the people on board have been found, Japan’s defense minister told reporters, but it was unclear whether they were alive. The Defense Ministry said it had no information on their condition.

The Navy’s Japan-based 7th Fleet said in a statement that a search and rescue operation was launched from the carrier.

“Personnel recovery is underway and their condition will be evaluated by USS Ronald Reagan medical staff,” the statement said.

The C-2 “Greyhound” aircraft crashed into the Pacific about 150 kilometers (90 miles) northwest of Okinotorishima, a Japanese atoll, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said, according to a ministry spokesman.

The Navy said the ship was operating in the Philippine Sea, which is east of the Philippines, when the crash occurred at 2:45 p.m. Japan time. The names of the crew and passengers are being withheld pending next of kin notification.

The cause of the crash was not immediately clear, the Navy said.

The plane was taking part in an ongoing joint U.S.-Japan naval exercise in waters surrounding Okinawa from Nov. 16-26. The Navy called it the “premier training event” between the two navies, designed to increase defensive readiness and interoperability in air and sea operations.

The 7th Fleet has had two fatal accidents in Asian waters this year, leaving 17 sailors dead and prompting the removal of eight top Navy officers from their posts, including the 7th Fleet commander.

The USS John S. McCain and an oil tanker collided near Singapore in August, leaving 10 U.S. sailors dead. Seven sailors died in June when the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship collided off Japan.

The Navy has concluded that the collisions were avoidable and resulted from widespread failures by the crews and commanders, who didn’t quickly recognize and respond to unfolding emergencies. A Navy report recommended numerous changes to address the problems, ranging from improved training to increasing sleep and stress management for sailors.

Advertisements

US warship collides with Japanese tug boat, latest mishap for the Navy’s 7th Fleet

November 19, 2017

Image may contain: sky, ocean, outdoor and water

The Associated Press  FILE – In this Aug. 8, 2016, file photo, the guided missile destroyer USS Benfold arrives at port in Qingdao, China. According to the U.S. Navy 7th Fleet, a Japanese tug boat lost propulsion and drifted into the USS Benfold during a towing exercise in Sagami Bay on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Borg Wong, File)

A U.S. warship collided with a Japanese commercial tug boat in Japan’s Sagami Bay on Saturday, marking the fifth time this year that a ship in the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet in the Pacific has been involved in a crash.

The Japanese tug boat lost propulsion and drifted into the USS Benfold during a towing exercise. The U.S. guided-missile destroyer sustained minimal damage, and there were no reported injuries on either vessel, according to a press release from the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet.

The USS Benfold, which is awaiting a full damage assessment, remains at sea under its own power. The incident will be investigated, the 7th Fleet said.

Here’s a look at previous crashes involving U.S. Navy warships in 2017, including two deadly collisions that left 17 sailors dead:

Jan. 31: The USS Antietam runs aground off coast of Japan

The USS Antietam ran aground off the coast of Japan on Jan. 31, damaging its propellers and spilling oil into the water.

The guided-missile destroyer grounded near the U.S. Naval base in Yokosuka, Japan, after anchoring out in high winds, the Navy Times reported.

PHOTO: The U.S. Navys guided missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG-54) is seen docked at a port in Manila, March 14, 2016.
Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images
The U.S. Navy’s guided missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG-54) is seen docked at a port in Manila, March 14, 2016.

The crew noticed the ship was dragging its anchor before getting it back underway, according to the Navy Times, adding that the crew then felt the ship shudder and lose pitch control of its propellers.

About 1,100 gallons of oil were dumped into the Tokyo Bay, the Navy Times reported. No one was injured.

A Navy investigation revealed that the former Capt. Joseph Carrian of the USS Antietam was “ultimately responsible” for the ship’s running aground, causing an estimated $4.2 million in damage, according to Stars and Stripes.

May 9: The USS Lake Champlain collides with South Korean fishing boat

The USS Lake Champlain, also a guided-missile cruiser, collided with a South Korean fishing boat in the Sea of Japan May 9.

The warship was engaged in routine training when it collided with the 9.8-ton fishing boat off South Korea’s east coast, according to The Associated Press.

PHOTO: An F/A-18E Super Hornet lands on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson and the USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) (L) and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108), May 3, 2017, in the western Pacific Ocean.
Sean M. Castellano/U.S. Navy via Getty Images
An F/A-18E Super Hornet lands on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson and the USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) (L) and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108), May 3, 2017, in the western Pacific Ocean.more +

No one was injured in the incident.

The warship tried to alert the fishing boat before the collision but it was too late.

June 17: The USS Fitzgerald collides with a Philippine container ship

Seven U.S. sailors were killed when the USS Fitzgerald collided with Philippine-flagged container ship in the middle of the night off the coast of Yokosuuka, Japan, June 17.

The destroyer was operating about 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka when it collided with the ACX Crystal. Most of the Fitzgerald’s 300 crew members on board would have been asleep at the time, The Associated Press reported.

The Fitzgerald sustained damage on its starboard side and experienced flooding in some spaces as a result of the collision, according to the Navy.

PHOTO: The USS Fitzgerald sits in Dry Dock 4 at Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan to continue repairs and assess damage sustained from its June 17, 2017 collision with a merchant vessel.
U.S. Navy via Getty Images
The USS Fitzgerald sits in Dry Dock 4 at Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan to continue repairs and assess damage sustained from its June 17, 2017 collision with a merchant vessel.

All seven sailors who died were initially missing after the collision and found in the flooded quarters after the destroyer returned to port, a Navy official told ABC News. Those quarters flooded within 90 seconds of the collision.

The area is often busy with sea traffic, with as many as 400 ships passing through it every day, according to Japan’s coast guard.

The Navy last week relieved the USS Fitzgerald’s commanding officer, executive officer and senior enlisted sailor for alleged mistakes that led to the deadly crash.

Aug. 21: The USS John S. McCain collides with a merchant ship

Ten U.S. sailors were killed when the USS John S. McCain, named after the father and grandfather of Vietnam war hero Sen. John S. McCain III, R-Ariz., collided with commercial vessel Alnic MC in waters east of Singapore on Aug. 21, according to the Navy.

The collision occurred east of the Strait of Malacca around 6:24 a.m. Japan Standard Time. The guided-missile destroyer was on its way for a routine port visit in Singapore, the Navy said in a statement.

“It was one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world,” said Steve Ganyard, an ABC News contributor, retired Marine colonel and a former deputy assistant secretary of state.

“One-third of all maritime shipping goes through here,” Ganyard said. “So there were probably extenuating circumstances but no doubt, as we saw in the Fitzgerald, there was probably human error involved, as well.”

PHOTO: Tugboats from Singapore assist the USS John S. McCain as it steers towards Changi Naval Base in Singapore, after a collision with a merchant ship, Aug. 21, 2017. <p itemprop=
Joshua Fulton/AFP/Getty Images
Tugboats from Singapore assist the USS John S. McCain as it steers towards Changi Naval Base in Singapore, after a collision with a merchant ship, Aug. 21, 2017.more +

The warship suffered significant damage to the hull, causing flooding in nearby departments, including the crew berthing, machinery and communications rooms, the Navy said.

“This leaves a real gap in the Pacific fleet’s capabilities at a time when tensions with North Korea are high,” Ganyard said.

All 10 sailors who died were initially missing and their remains were later found inside sealed compartments of the warship’s damaged hull. Another five sailors sustained non-life-threatening injuries, the Navy said.

The crew consisted of 23 officers, 24 petty officers and 291 sailors, according to the Navy’s website. Its home port is in Yokosuka, Japan.

ABC News’ Lucien Bruggeman and Elizabeth McLaughlin contributed to this report.

http://abcnews.go.com/US/us-warship-collides-japanese-tug-boat-latest-mishap/story?id=51242298

US-S Korea launch major war drills as N Korea looks on

November 11, 2017

Al Jazeera

USS Ronald Reagan, a nuclear-powered super-carrier, is part of the exercises off the Korean Peninsula [File: Kyodo news agency via Reuters]
USS Ronald Reagan, a nuclear-powered super-carrier, is part of the exercises off the Korean Peninsula [File: Kyodo news agency via Reuters]

The US and South Korea launched military manoeuvres involving three American aircraft carrier strike groups on Saturday in a massive show of force that drew the anger of rival North Korea.

The war exercises off the tense Korean Peninsula aim to strengthen the alliance’s policy of “extended deterrence” against Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile threats, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

© US NAVY/AFP

The USS Ronald Reagan, USS Nimitz, and USS Theodore Roosevelt converged in the region for the four-day manoeuvres, also involving 11 American Aegis vessels and seven South Korean warships, including three destroyers.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency described the exercises as an “unprecedented show of force” off the peninsula. The last time such a convergence of military power occurred was in 2007 in waters off the US territory of Guam.

The military drills come as tensions remain sky-high as US President Donald Trump visits the region with the nuclear threat from North Korea dominating discussions.

OPINION

Don’t expect war with North Korea to be gentlemanly

Alexander Gillespie
by Alexander Gillespie

Speaking at the APEC summit in Da Nang, Vietnam, on Friday, Trump again called out North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and urged countries to “stand united” against the “greater and greater danger” posed by Pyongyang.

“The future of this region and its beautiful people must not be held hostage to a dictator’s twisted fantasies of violent conquest and nuclear blackmail,” said Trump, referring to Kim.

North Korea’s foreign ministry issued a statement via the official Korean Central News Agency on Saturday describing Trump’s trip as “a warmonger’s visit for confrontation”.

“It is also nothing but a business trip by a warmonger to enrich the monopolies of the US defence industry by milking the moneybags from its subordinate ‘allies’,” it added.

Pyongyang detonated its sixth and most powerful nuclear bomb in September after months of ballistic missile tests that riled Washington and its allies Japan and South Korea. The North says it needs nuclear weapons as a deterrent to prevent “invasion and plunder” by the US.

“The DPRK’s possession of nuclear weapons was a righteous and inevitable choice to defend our national sovereignty and dignity and our people’s rights to existence and development from increased nuclear threats and blackmail by the US and its hostile moves,” the foreign ministry statement said, using the acronym of the country’s official name, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Analysts say its only a matter of time before the North will gain the ability to fire a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the United States.

Washington has said it will never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea.

North Korea: Are we on the brink of war?
 http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/11/korea-launch-major-war-drills-korea-171111083452971.html

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS

7 US aircraft carriers are at sea for the first time in years — here’s what they’re doing

November 11, 2017

For the first time in years, seven of the US Navy’s 11 nuclear aircraft carriers are at sea simultaneously, according to US Naval Institute News.

The USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), USS Nimitz (CVN 68), and USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) are in the Western Pacific on operational deployments. They have full air wings and carrier escorts.

The USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) are in the Eastern Pacific, while the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) and the brand-new USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) are in the Atlantic. Those four carriers are on training missions or doing workups before deployments.

All the carriers — including the ones converging on the Western Pacific — are on planned operations amid President Donald Trump’s 12-day trip to Asia.

Here’s what each carrier is up to.

View As: One Page Slides

 

The USS Ronald Reagan just finished a three-day drill in the Sea of Japan with a Japanese destroyer and two Indian warships.

The USS Ronald Reagan just finished a three-day drill in the Sea of Japan with a Japanese destroyer and two Indian warships.

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.Dylan McCord/US Navy

Source: Reuters

The USS Nimitz, the lead ship in the Nimitz class, visited Sri Lanka in October — the first time a US aircraft carrier had visited the dock Colombo over 30 years.

Source: USNI News

The USS Theodore Roosevelt visited the US territory of Guam on October 31, the first time the carrier has ever done so.

The USS Theodore Roosevelt visited the US territory of Guam on October 31, the first time the carrier has ever done so.

Screenshot/Twitter via @PacificCommand

Three months earlier, the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un threatened to launch missiles near the island. More recently, China reportedly practiced bombing runs targeting Guam with H-6K “Badger” bombers.

The USS Carl Vinson recently conducted training exercises off the coast of Southern California and is now doing a planned sustainment exercise and flight tests with the F-35C Lightning II fighter.

Source: Times of San DiegoUSNI News

The USS John C. Stennis had been at the Kitsap-Bremerton naval base in Washington state for repairs but left port last week for the Eastern Pacific.

Source: USNI News

The USS Abraham Lincoln finished its four-year midlife refueling and complex overhaul in May and is now going through qualifications.

Source: USNI News

The USS Gerald R. Ford, the first of the US Navy’s Gerald R. Ford class of aircraft carriers, is the largest and most advanced ship in the US fleet. It was commissioned in July and is undergoing trials and exercises before it fully joins the fleet.

The USS Gerald R. Ford, the first of the US Navy's Gerald R. Ford class of aircraft carriers, is the largest and most advanced ship in the US fleet. It was commissioned in July and is undergoing trials and exercises before it fully joins the fleet.

An F/A-18F Super Hornet flies over the USS Gerald R. Ford in July.United States Navy

The Ford is the Navy’s most sophisticated carrier — though it was built without urinals.

Three US carriers lead naval drill aimed at N. Korea

November 11, 2017

SEOUL (AFP) – 

South Korean warships joined three US aircraft carriers Saturday in an unusually strong display of naval force aimed at North Korea, whose nuclear ambitions have been a focus of US President Donald Trump’s ongoing tour of Asia.

The four-day joint exercise in the western Pacific involves three flattops — USS Ronald Reagan, USS Nimitz and USS Theodore Roosevelt — and seven South Korean warships including three destroyers, Seoul’s defence ministry said.

It is the first such triple-carrier drill in the region for a decade.

Top to bottom: USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71), USS Nimitz (CVN-68), USNI News Image

“The exercise is aimed at enhancing deterrence against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats and showing off preparedness to fend off any provocative acts by the North,” a ministry spokesman said.

Nuclear-armed North Korea regularly denounces such military drills as rehearsals for invasion and sometimes conducts its own military manoeuvres or missile tests in response.

The US warships will carry out air defence drills, sea surveillance, defensive air combat training and other training operations, the US Navy said.

The exercises come on the heels of Trump’s visits to Seoul and Beijing this week, which were dominated by the question of how to counter Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons threat.

At a summit in Seoul Tuesday, Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-In agreed to increase the deployment of US military assets around the Korean peninsula to step up pressure on the North.

Trump also warned North Korea not to underestimate the United States in a speech to the South Korean parliament on Wednesday, while offering leader Kim Jong-Un a better future if he gives up his nuclear ambitions.

He said Friday the Asia-Pacific region was being held hostage by the “twisted fantasies” of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, as he called on countries to stand united against Pyongyang.

Trump has embarked on a tour of Asia this week trying to rally regional support for curbing North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme, warning that time is running out over the crisis.

“The future of this region and its beautiful people must not be held hostage to a dictator’s twisted fantasies of violent conquest and nuclear blackmail,” he said during a speech in Vietnam at the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.

During talks in Beijing Thursday, Trump urged Chinese leader Xi Jinping to work hard and act fast to help resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis, warning that “time is quickly running out”.

The US administration thinks China’s economic leverage over North Korea is the key to strong-arming Pyongyang into halting its nuclear weapons and missile programmes.

Xi said the two countries reiterated their “firm commitment” to the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and the implementation of UN resolutions.

Xi repeated his plea for the issue to be resolved through negotiations, saying China was ready to discuss the “pathway leading to enduring peace and stability on the peninsula”.

Though China has backed UN sanctions, US officials want Chinese authorities to clamp down on unauthorised trade along the North Korean border.

But experts doubt China will take the kind of steps that Trump wants, such as halting crude oil exports to the North.

Beijing fears that squeezing Pyongyang too hard could cause the regime to collapse, sending an influx of refugees across its border and placing the US army at its doorstep.

See also:

https://news.usni.org/2017/11/08/3-u-s-carrier-strike-groups-exercise-4-days-sea-japan

National Defense Authorization Act blasts the Air Force for a “broken national security space enterprise.” — “A clear rebuke of … Air Force leadership.”

November 10, 2017
Defense bill directs Air Force space shake-up

The House and Senate Armed Services committees are splitting their differences over the proposed creation of a Space Corps and sending a strong message about the state of Air Force space leadership. Instead of creating a corps—proposed as part of the Air Force similar to the way the Marine Corps is embedded within the Navy—a conference version of the bill to authorize Pentagon policy in fiscal 2018 would dismantle the Air Force’s current management of space. It would …

Read the rest (Paywall):

http://aviationweek.com/defense/lawmakers-challenge-us-air-force-space-leadership

**********************************************

Space reforms coming: 2018 NDAA drops legislative bombshells on U.S. Air Force

by  — 

Image may contain: 1 person

The National Defense Authorization Act blasts the Air Force for a “broken national security space enterprise.”

WASHINGTON — For the military space world, the big headline from Capitol Hill Wednesday was that the final version of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act does not, at least for now, require the Pentagon to create a new “space corps.”

This might seem like a victory for the Air Force. Senior leaders had fought back the House space corps provision that would have effectively taken away from the Air Force its ownership of military space.

It’s a hollow victory, however. The 2018 NDAA is big on Pentagon reforms, across the board, but it hammered the Air Force especially hard.

The NDAA conference report blasts the Air Force for a “broken national security space enterprise,” strips key authorities from the service and shifts much of the management of military space to the deputy secretary of defense.

The leaders of the defense committees said in a statement they are “proud of the bipartisan process that led to this conference report, which took hard work and thoughtful collaboration from members on both sides of the aisle.”

The full text of the bill should be released Thursday. The House will consider the measure next week and the Senate said in plans to take it up before the Thanksgiving recess.

The House called the legislation a step toward “fundamental reform of national security space.” The NDAA language bears the heavy footprint of Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) and Ranking Member Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.).

The report specifically calls for “streamlining Air Force acquisition authorities, eliminating burdensome red tape, empowering a single accountable organization for space forces within the Air Force, placing renewed emphasis on the organization and management of space in the DoD, and holding the deputy secretary of defense responsible for the full and faithful execution of these improvements.”

New role for Space Command

The NDAA empowers Air Force Space Command as the sole authority for organizing, training, and equipping all U.S. Air Force space forces. Air Force Space Command is made the focal point for a “space service” within the Air Force responsible for acquisition, resources and requirements.” This cadre of space “war fighters” would be tasked to fix the “systemic problems Congress identified in the national security space enterprise.”

The Air Force Space Command would be modeled after the Office of Naval Reactors, stressing deep technical expertise. The bill gives the commander of Air Force Space Command a six-year term.

The NDAA delivers a direct blow to Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson by stripping her of the role of top space adviser to the secretary of defense and diminishing her power to set budget priorities. The report characterizes the secretary’s office as “burdensome and ineffective bureaucracy.”

The legislation eliminates the principal defense space adviser, the Defense Space Council and the deputy chief of staff of the Air Force for space operations — a newly created office the NDAA report derides as a “hastily developed half-measure that at best only added a box on the organizational chart.”

Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan would assign a manager to oversee space budget priorities, “but such official cannot be the secretary of the Air Force.”

The space corps is being put on hold, but Rogers is not giving up on the idea. Shanahan is being directed to hire a federally funded research-and-development corporation — one that is not affiliated with the Air Force — to provide Congress with a “roadmap to establish a separate military department responsible for national security space activities of the DoD.”

The Senate Armed Services Committee’s report is just as critical of the current space organization.

“Decision making with respect to space is currently fragmented across more than 60 offices in DoD,” said the conference report. It points out research-and-development funding for space programs is at a 30-year low, while the “threats in and our reliance on space are at their highest and growing.” Space programs are “programmatically unsynchronized across systems in orbit, ground stations, and terminals.”

The NDAA renames the operationally responsive space program office as the Space Rapid Capabilities Office, the head of which reports to Air Force Space Command.

On future space launch investments, the NDAA, as it has in previous years, states that funds for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program should focus on the development of a domestic rocket propulsion system to replace the Russian RD-180 engine that United Launch Alliance currently uses to power the Atlas 5, the Air Force’s workhorse rocket.

Image may contain: sky and outdoor

Russian RD-180 engine

The House Armed Services Committee said it “continues to view the nation’s assured access to space as a national security priority. This includes a continued focus on the development of a new U.S. rocket engine to replace the Russian RD-180 engine.” The committee also cautioned it will monitor how the Air Force spends EELV dollars to “ensure that DoD funds authorized for the development of existing and planned commercial launch vehicles are spent primarily for national security space missions to meet the assured access to space requirements.”

What’s Next

Industry consultant Mike Tierney, of Jacques & Associates, said these reforms are likely to become law although the Air Force and DoD as a last recourse could approach the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee (SAC-D) and request help delaying implementation.

However, Tierney said, “given that the NDAA is a conferenced policy position of the House and Senate, the SAC-D would be very hesitant to wade into what is strictly policy changes with no appropriations implications. Our assessment is that the changes directed in the NDAA conference will have to be implemented by the DoD and the Air Force.”

Aerospace industry analyst Todd Harrison, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, commented that the NDAA “doesn’t simply reject the space corps. It slaps the Air Force pretty hard and appears to lay the groundwork for creating a separate department for national security space in the future.”

He called the NDAA a “clear rebuke of the current space organization within DoD and a lack of confidence in the Air Force leadership.”

On the removal of space oversight and budget functions from the secretary of the Air Force, Harrison tweeted: “Ouch.”

http://spacenews.com/space-reforms-coming-2018-ndaa-drops-legislative-bombshells-on-u-s-air-force/

Security and trade challenge Trump on first Asia trip

November 3, 2017

The Associated Press

Donald Trump, Kim Jong Un

TOKYO (AP) — Security and trade will loom large during President Donald Trump’s first official visit to Asia, which begins Sunday in Japan.

North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programs are likely to be the issue dominating the first part of his trip, which includes stops in South Korea’s capital and Beijing as well as Tokyo. Trade will figure throughout, both in North Asia and at his stops in Southeast Asia for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Vietnam and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders’ meeting in the Philippines.

A look at the top issues from veteran AP correspondents:

NORTH KOREA

For North Korea, the more blustery Trump comes off during his visit, the better.

It has insisted that the U.S. president’s threatening comments and tweets reveal a belligerence that has driven decades of Washington’s policy on North Korea and proves the North’s decision to develop nuclear weapons was a defensive measure and not only justified but a laudable example of resistance.

North Korea’s state-run media have been hitting that argument hard over the past week.

“It has become clearer who is a harasser of peace,” the ruling party’s newspaper said an editorial Wednesday. “Owing to the U.S., there is constant danger of a nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula and peace and security is always at peril.”

The editorial added that if North Korea hadn’t developed nuclear weapons, its “sovereignty and national dignity would have been mercilessly violated” by the United States.

North Korea has long said that but also clearly believes Trump’s unfiltered words have opened a way for it to gain sympathy among potential critics of Trump in the U.S. media, academic circles and foreign governments.

An added bonus for North Korea would be discord during the visit on regional trade or military burden-sharing issues with Japan and South Korea. Or any problems with China.

At a background briefing on the trip, a senior U.S. administration official said the White House believes the Chinese have done a great deal and “the U.S. is working more closely with China on the North Korea problem than ever,” but added it wants more out of Beijing.

North Korea will be weighing the nuances of those meetings particularly closely.

— Eric Talmadge, AP Pyongyang Bureau Chief

___

TRADE

Trump has often named Asia, and China and Japan in particular, as a source of American economic woes. A persisting U.S. trade deficit with most Asian countries and the president’s frequent threats to impose sanctions or raise tariffs on exports from the region make trade a fraught issue.

“We have trade deficits with China that are through the roof,” he said Wednesday. “They’re so big and so bad that it’s embarrassing saying what the number is. But you know what the number is. And I don’t want to embarrass anybody four days before I land in China, but it’s horrible.”

Trump repeatedly called China a currency manipulator during the presidential campaign in 2016, saying “they’re killing us” by devaluing the yuan to make it harder for American companies to compete against Chinese products, even though Beijing was struggling to prevent the yuan’s value from falling. He threatened to impose tariffs of up to 45 percent on Chinese goods.

Since he took office, though, the need for Beijing’s help in countering threats from North Korea has helped temper his approach. His administration is pressing Beijing to give American companies more access to its state-dominated economy and held talks aimed at lowering the huge trade deficit with China. But it has refrained from designating China a currency manipulator.

Image may contain: sky, outdoor and water

Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact left the other 11 members bereft of the agreement’s $12 trillion anchor consumer market. The remaining TPP countries, from vast Canada to tiny oil sultanate Brunei, are thrashing out a framework for moving forward without the U.S. An agreement may be reached in time for the regional APEC economic summit in Vietnam.

The country-to-country agreements that Trump prefers over multi-nation deals such as the TPP could be discussed during stops in Tokyo, Beijing and other regional capitals. That includes a free trade agreement with South Korea, which Trump is seeking to renegotiate. He said Wednesday that it’s very important for the U.S. to renegotiate its trade deals.

“Our trade deals are horrible,” he said. “They were made by people that, honestly, it’s sad. It’s very sad for our country. Every trade deal we have is disastrous.”

— Elaine Kurtenbach, AP Asia Business Editor

___

SOUTH CHINA SEA

One of the world’s busiest sea lanes, the South China Sea is a trouble spot where Trump can showcase American leadership and commitment to the region in a high-profile way. Or display a lack of both.

China, the largest and most aggressive of six claimant states in the disputed waters, has alarmed others by transforming seven barren reefs and atolls into islands — three with military-grade runways — in an impressive feat of engineering. It has even reportedly installed a missile-defense system on newly built islands in the hotly contested Spratly archipelago.

While China denies that it has hegemonic ambitions in the strategic waterway, it insists it has indisputable sovereignty over virtually the entire sea and declares itself ready to fight for every inch of it. It ignored a landmark ruling by a U.N.-linked arbitration tribunal last year that invalidated China’s sprawling territorial claims, despite calls by the U.S. and others to uphold the rule of law.

Under Trump, the U.S. Navy has continued “freedom of navigation operations” and naval drills in the South China Sea in a challenge to China’s claims, but many wonder whether Trump will do more at a time when he is seeking Beijing’s help in reining in North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, an issue which tops his national security concerns.

Image may contain: ocean, sky, water and outdoor

The dynamics of the territorial disputes have changed too. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, unlike his predecessor, has tried to veer away from his country’s close alliance with the U.S. and reached out to China and Russia. Duterte, who will chair the ASEAN summit meetings that Trump will attend, has stopped joint patrols with the U.S. in the disputed waters and considerably toned down his country’s criticism of China over the sea disputes.

“You have the chairman of ASEAN, Philippines, and China, the leading claimant country, essentially saying the situation is fully stable, there’s no reason for external interference,” Manila-based analyst Richard Heydarian said. “So, it’s going to be much more difficult to talk about the South China Sea than North Korea, where there’s a consensus across the board that there is a problem.”

— Jim Gomez, AP Manila Chief Correspondent

Three U.S. Aircraft Carriers May Conduct War Games Together Near Korean Peninsula

November 1, 2017

Three nuclear-powered ships are traveling through the region, could send message to North Korea

Three U.S. aircraft carriers are scheduled to travel near the Korean Peninsula soon, and the military may decide to keep them in the area for maneuvers that would coincide with President Donald Trump’s coming visit to Asia, U.S. defense officials said.

It would be the first military exercise involving three U.S. carriers in the area since 2007, officials said, sending a potent message to North Korea at a time of rising tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear-weapons program.

Tensions in the region are already heightened. North Korea warned on Monday that the U.S. is “pushing the situation to the point of the worst explosion by massively amassing ultramodern, nuclear-war hardware of all varieties in and around the Korean Peninsula.”

Mr. Trump leaves at the end of the week for a two-week trip that will take him to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines. White House officials say the trip is the longest that any U.S. president has taken to the region in more than two decades.

Much of the trip will revolve around the threat posed by North Korea. Mr. Trump will call on the international community to maximize pressure on North Korea during a speech to the South Korean legislature, although he won’t visit the demilitarized zone because of time constraints, a senior administration official said.

Related

  • U.S. Presses Persian Gulf States to Scale Back North Korea Ties
  • North Korean Hackers Stole Submarine Secrets From Daewoo, Lawmaker Says
  • China and South Korea to Restore Relations After Missile-Defense Dispute

In China, Mr. Trump will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping to seek greater Chinese pressure on North Korea and to “rebalance the U.S.-China economic relations,” the official said.

The three U.S. aircraft carriers all are in or headed toward the Western Pacific mainly because of scheduling overlaps, officials said.

The USS Ronald Reagan, based in Japan, just completed a visit to South Korea. The USS Nimitz, which deployed to the Persian Gulf on June 1, is currently conducting a port visit in Sri Lanka and will travel through the Pacific on its way back to its home port on the U.S. West Coast.

The USS Theodore Roosevelt will replace the Nimitz in the Middle East and currently is en route. It left its home port in San Diego on Oct. 6, and, like the Nimitz, must travel through the region to reach the Middle East. The USS Theodore Roosevelt is currently near Guam.

The last time three carrier groups were in the region because of scheduling was in 2011, officials said.

The officials said that while the convergence of the ships wasn’t timed to Mr. Trump’s visit to Asia, which begins this weekend, they are considering “taking advantage of the opportunity” and scheduling an exercise.

U.S. defense officials said a decision on whether to conduct an exercise would likely be made at “the last minute.”

Military officials acknowledge that it is rare to have three of the U.S.’s 11 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers in one region of the world at the same time, but should not be taken as a sign of an impending military confrontation.

“It’s not that it’s a pure coincidence, but it doesn’t mean that we’re about to attack,” one official said.

With many of the prescheduled moves already being planned, officials have acknowledged seeing “a unique opportunity” to flex the U.S. military’s muscle at a time of heightened tensions.

“I wouldn’t read anything more to it than it’s just an opportunity to exercise three carrier strike groups together,” Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr. said last week. “It does demonstrate a unique and powerful capability that has a very significant assurance effect on our allies in the Western Pacific.”

Pyongyang warned on Monday that it was keeping a close eye on the influx of U.S. military assets.

“The U.S. military action getting all the more hysteric compels the DPRK to take action,” it added, using the acronym for its formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The influx of U.S. military assets also comes amid a debate in Seoul about bringing U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea for the first time since former President George H.W. Bush withdrew them in the early 1990s.

Over the weekend, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said that there were no plans to return nuclear weapons to South Korea, citing the U.S.’s existing capabilities and a desire to remove nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula.

—Michael C. Bender and Gordon Lubold in Washington contributed to this article.

Write to Jonathan Cheng at jonathan.cheng@wsj.com and Nancy A. Youssef at Nancy.Youssef@wsj.com

U.S. Weighs Carrier Exercise During Trump Trip to Asia

https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-weighs-carrier-exercise-during-trump-trip-to-asia-1509486400

A Russian Ghost Submarine, Its U.S. Pursuers and a Deadly New Cold War

October 20, 2017

A resurgence in Russian submarine technology has reignited an undersea rivalry that played out in a cat-and-mouse sea hunt across the Mediterranean

Animation: George Downs/The Wall Street Journal

 

The Krasnodar, a Russian attack submarine, left the coast of Libya in late May, headed east across the Mediterranean, then slipped undersea, quiet as a mouse. Then, it fired a volley of cruise missiles into Syria.

In the days that followed, the diesel-electric sub was pursued by the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush, its five accompanying warships, MH-60R Seahawk helicopters and P-8 Poseidon anti-sub jets flying out of Italy.

In the days that followed, the diesel-electric sub was pursued by the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush, its five accompanying warships, MH-60R Seahawk helicopters and P-8 Poseidon anti-sub jets flying out of Italy.

The U.S. and its allies had set out to track the Krasnodar as it moved to its new home in the Black Sea. The missile attack upended what had been a routine voyage, and prompted one of the first U.S. efforts to track a Russian sub during combat since the Cold War. Over the next weeks, the sub at points eluded detection in a sea hunt that tested the readiness of Western allies for a new era in naval warfare.

Russia’s Krasnodar submarine.Photo: Russian Look/ZUMA PRESS

An unexpected resurgence in Russian submarine development, which deteriorated after the breakup of the Soviet Union, has reignited the undersea rivalry of the Cold War, when both sides deployed fleets of attack subs to hunt for rival submarines carrying nuclear-armed ballistic missiles.

When underwater, enemy submarines are heard, not seen—and Russia brags that its new subs are the world’s quietest. The Krasnodar is wrapped in echo-absorbing skin to evade sonar; its propulsion system is mounted on noise-cutting dampers; rechargeable batteries drive it in near silence, leaving little for sub hunters to hear. “The Black Hole,” U.S. allies call it.

“As you improve the quieting of the submarines and their capability to move that much more stealthily through the water, it makes it that much harder to find,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Benjamin Nicholson, of Destroyer Squadron 22, who oversees surface and undersea warfare for the USS Bush strike group. “Not impossible, just more difficult.”

Russia’s support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has given Russian President Vladimir Putin opportunities to test the cruise missiles aboard the new subs over the past two years, raising the stakes for the U.S. and its allies.

The USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier on July 22 in the Mediterranean Sea.Photo: Daniel Gaither/Planet Pix/ZUMA PRESS

Top officials of North Atlantic Treaty Organization say the alliance must consider new investments in submarines and sub-hunting technology. The findings of a study this year from the Center for a New American Security, a Washington-based think tank, grabbed the attention of senior NATO leaders: The U.S. and its allies weren’t prepared for an undersea conflict with Russia.

“We still remain dominant in the undersea world,” said Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Europe. “But we too must focus on modernizing the equipment we have and improving our skills.”

The U.S. Navy, which for years trained its sub-hunting teams through naval exercises and computer simulations, is again tracking Russian submarines in the Baltic, North Atlantic and Mediterranean seas. The challenge extends beyond Russia, which has sold subs to China, India and elsewhere.

“Nothing gets you better than doing it for real,” Capt. Nicholson said. “Steel sharpens steel.”

This account was based on interviews with officials from the U.S. Navy, NATO and crew members aboard the USS Bush, as well as Russian government announcements.

The U.S. Navy is engaged in a technology-fueled game of hide and seek, hunting for stealthy Russian submarines like the Krasnodar, a.k.a. “The Black Hole.” Video/Image: George Downs/WSJ.

Lookout duty

On May 6, after a last volley of cruise-missile tests conducted in the Baltic Sea, the Russian defense ministry said the Krasnodar was to join the country’s Black Sea fleet in Sevastopol, Ukraine, via the Mediterranean. American allies already knew.

The sub, traveling on the ocean surface, was accompanied by a Russian tug boat. The U.S. and its NATO allies had hashed out a plan to follow the sub using maritime-patrol aircraft and surface ships.

“Even if you are tracking a transiting submarine that is not trying to hide, it takes coordination and effort,” said Capt. Bill Ellis, the commodore of Task Force 67, the U.S. sub-hunting planes in Europe.

NATO’s maritime force, led by a Dutch frigate, took first lookout duty. The Dutch sent NH-90 helicopter to snap a photo of the sub in the North Sea and posted it on Twitter. Surveillance of the Krasnodar then turned to the U.K.’s HMS Somerset on May 5, about the time the sub entered the North Sea by the Dutch coast.

The Krasnodar passed through the English Channel and continued past France and Spain, where a Spanish patrol boat took up the escort.

When the submarine reached Gibraltar, a U.S. Navy cruiser monitored the sub’s entry into the Mediterranean Sea on May 13. U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft, flying out of the Sigonella air base in Italy, also took up watch.

“We want to see where it goes,” Capt. Ellis said. “At any time a submarine could submerge and start to be hidden, so we want to follow.”

As the Krasnodar headed east, Russia’s defense ministry notified international airlines that it would be conducting drills off the coast of Libya. U.S. officials and defense analysts said the drills were part of a sales pitch to potential buyers, including Egypt, that would show off the submarine’s cruise missiles.

A more dramatic and unexpected display came a few days later. Russia’s defense ministry announced on May 29 that the sub’s cruise missiles had struck Islamic State targets and killed militants near Syria’s city of Palmyra. Suddenly, a routine tracking mission turned much more serious.

Russia released images of what officials said was the Krasnodar submarine launching cruise missiles at Islamic State targets near Palmyra, Syria, as well as images of missile strikes.Photo: Russian Defence Ministry Press Office/TASS/ZUMA Press

With both U.S. and Russian forces crossing paths in Syria, each pursuing distinct and sometimes conflicting agendas, the battlefield has grown more complicated. The Russians have given only limited warnings of their strikes to the U.S.-led coalition. That has required the U.S. and its allies to keep a close eye on Russian submarines hiding in the Mediterranean.

Nuclear-armed submarines are the cornerstone of the U.S. and U.K.’s strategic deterrent. For the U.S., these subs make up one leg of the so-called triad of nuclear forces—serving, essentially, as a retaliatory strike force.

Smaller attack submarines like the Krasnodar, armed with conventional torpedoes and cruise missiles, can pose a more tangible threat to U.S. aircraft carriers, which are the Navy’s most important weapon to project American power around the world.

On June 5, the USS Bush, a $6.2 billion carrier, and its warships, passed through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean. Its mission was to support U.S.-backed Syrian rebels and attack Islamic State positions.

A sailor on the bridge of the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier on June 21 while at sea on the Mediterranean. Photo: Bram Janssen/Associated Press

Amid rising tensions between U.S. and Russian military forces in Syria—and with the Krasnodar trying to evade Western surveillance—the job of the USS Bush now also included tracking the sub and learning more about its so-called pattern of life: its tactics, techniques and battle rhythms.

By then, the Krasnodar had slipped beneath the waves and begun the game of hide and seek. Sailors and aviators with little real-world experience in anti-sub warfare began a crash course.

“It is an indication of the changing dynamic in the world that a skill set, maybe we didn’t spend a lot of time on in the last 15 years, is coming back,” said Capt. Jim McCall, commander of the air wing on the USS Bush.

Image may contain: ocean, sky, cloud, outdoor, water and nature

USS George H.W. Bush

Into the deep

The Krasnodar was designed to operate close to shore, invisible to opposing forces and able to strike missile targets 1,600 miles away. The coastal waters of the Mediterranean south of Cyprus, which put it within range of Syria, provided plenty of places to hide.

Finding a submarine that is operating on batteries underwater is very difficult. How many hours or days the Krasnodar’s batteries can operate before recharging is a secret neither Russian officials who know, nor the U.S. Navy, which may have a good idea, will talk about.

Generated by AI2DynInsetPhoto: Sources: news reports; U.S.S. George H.W. Bush crew

Western naval analysts say the sub most likely must use its diesel engines to recharge batteries every couple of days. When the diesel engines are running, they say, the sub can be more easily found.

The Krasnodar wasn’t likely to challenge an aircraft carrier. But the U.S. Navy was taking no chances. “One small submarine has the ability to threaten a large capital asset like an aircraft carrier,” said Capt. Ellis, the P-8 task force commander.

For many days in June, a squadron of MH-60R Seahawk helicopters lifted off from the deck of the USS Bush and its accompanying destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean. Some used radar for signs of the Krasnodar on the water’s surface. Others lowered sonar beacons to varying ocean depths.

Image may contain: sky and outdoor

MH-60RSeahawk helicopter

“When you find what you are looking for in an ocean of nothingness, then it feels really good,” said Naval Aircrewman First Class Scott Fetterhoff, who manned radar gear aboard a Seahawk helicopter. U.S. Navy radar, used on ships, helicopters and jets, can detect objects as small as a periscope.

Cmdr. Edward Fossati, the commander of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 70, the Bush Strike Group’s sub-hunting helicopters, said Russian subs have gotten quieter but the cat-and-mouse game remained about even with advances in tracking: “We are much better at it than we were 20 years ago.”

That includes narrowing down where to look. The USS Bush had on board three Navy anti-sub oceanographers to help track the vessel.

Submarines look for ways to hamper sonar equipment by exploiting undersea terrain and subsurface ocean currents and eddies. Differences in water temperature and density can bend sound waves, making it difficult to pinpoint the source of a sound.

U.S. Navy computer systems analyze the ocean environment and make predictions about how sound will travel in a given patch of ocean. Using the sub’s last known position and expected destination, the oceanographers use the data to mark potential hiding places and determine where search teams should focus.

“It is a constant foot race,” said U.S. Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer. “And, as I say, ‘Game on.’ ”

On June 18, a Syrian Sukhoi jet fighter threatened U.S.-backed rebels advancing toward Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de facto capital. Fighter planes from the USS Bush warned away the Sukhoi. When the Syrian pilot ignored flares and radio calls, Lt. Cmdr. Michael Tremel shot down the Sukhoi. Moscow threatened to shoot down U.S. planes in western Syria.

Five days later, the submerged Krasnodar fired another salvo of cruise missiles. Russian officials said they hit an Islamic State ammunition depot.

“They were flexing their muscles,” said Rear Adm. Kenneth Whitesell, commander of the USS Bush strike group. U.S. officials wouldn’t say how long the Krasnodar remained hidden underwater, but Adm. Whitesell said the launch was watched by a French frigate and U.S. Navy aerial surveillance.

Image may contain: airplane and sky

P-8 U.S. Navy submarine hunter

Flight-tracking companies don’t log military flights, but amateur plane watchers examining transponder data often catch clues. On July 2, with the USS Bush in a five-day port call in Haifa, Israel, a P-8 flew toward the Syrian coast, apparently searching the seas, according to amateur plane watchers.

On July 20, the flight-tracking data showed two P-8s flying south of Cyprus, close to six hours apart. The first plane was observed on flight-tracking sites making tight circles over the Mediterranean south of Cyprus, a flight pattern typical of a plane homing in on a submarine.

Capt. Ellis wouldn’t say if his P-8s had the Krasnodar in their sights.

F/A-18E Super Hornet jets of U.S. Navy strike fighter squadron VFA-31 and Northrop Grumman E-2C Hawkeye planes of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 126 on the USS George H.W. Bush on July 3..Photo: ronen zvulun / pool/European Pressphoto Agency

Tables turn

After the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, Moscow curtailed undersea operations. In 2000, the nuclear-powered Kursk sank with 118 sailors, a naval tragedy emblematic of the decline.

Russia’s military modernization program, announced in 2011, poured new money into its submarine program, allowing Russian engineers to begin moving ahead with newer, quieter designs.

When the Krasnodar was completed in 2015 at the St. Petersburg’s Admiralty Shipyards, Russia boasted it could elude the West’s most advanced sonar. NATO planners worry subs could cut trans-Atlantic communication cables or keep U.S. ships from reaching Europe in a crisis, as Nazi subs did in World War II.

“If you want to transport a lot of stuff, you have to do that by ship,” said NATO’s submarine commander, Rear Adm. Andrew Lennon. “And those ships are vulnerable to undersea threats.”

NATO’s military leaders have recommended reviving the Cold War-era Atlantic Command, dedicated to protecting sea lanes, alliance officials said, a proposal that defense ministers are expected to approve.

U.S. officials have said they believe that Moscow’s support of the Assad regime is partly for access to a strategic port in the eastern Mediterranean to resupply and rearm warships. The Syrian port of Tartus is expanding to include a Russian submarine maintenance facility, according to Turkish officials.

On July 30, the Krasnodar surfaced in the Mediterranean. The Krasnodar’s port call in Tartus, coinciding with Navy Day, a celebration of Russia’s maritime forces, marked the end of its hide-and-seek maneuvers with the USS Bush. On Aug. 9, the Krasnodar arrived in Crimea to join the Black Sea fleet, Russian officials said. Its mission appeared a success: Moscow showed it could continue unfettered strikes in Syria with its growing undersea fleet.

The Krasnodar, Russia’s diesel-electric attack submarine, at its new home port in Crimea. Photo: Pavlishak Alexei/TASS/ZUMA PRESS

By then, the Bush carrier strike group had left the eastern Mediterranean for the coast of Scotland, where the U.S. and British navies, along with a Norwegian frigate, were conducting a joint exercise called Saxon Warrior. U.K. sailors boarded the USS Bush and heard lessons from the Krasnodar hunt.

Days before the exercise, Capt. Nicholson predicted another Russian sub would be nearby. “We are in the Russians’ backyard,” he said. “Prudence dictates we are ready for whatever or whomever might come out to watch.

A senior U.S. official later said a Russian sub had indeed shadowed the exercise, which ended Aug. 10. NATO officials wouldn’t comment.

A new nuclear-powered class of Russian submarines even more sophisticated than the Krasnodar, called the Yasen, are designed to destroy aircraft carriers. They are built with low-magnetic steel to better evade detection and can dive deeper than larger U.S. submarines

At the time of the U.S.-U.K. exercise, Russia said its only Yasen sub officially in operation, the Severodvinsk, was in the Barents Sea. But a second, more advanced Yasen sub, the Kazan, was undergoing sea trials.

Crew members at the launching of the Kazan, one of a new class of nuclear-power Russian submarines. Photo: Ryumin Alexander/TASS/ZUMA PRESS

Russian, NATO, and U.S. officials won’t say whether the Kazan was shadowing the U.S.-U.K. exercise in the North Atlantic.

On Aug. 17, a U.S. P-8, flying from a Norwegian base, conducted three days of operations, according to amateur aviation trackers. Canadian air force patrol planes also flew out of Scotland. On Aug. 26, French planes joined.

Allied officials said some of the flights were searching the waters for a Russian submarine. The USS Bush, however, was out of the hunt. On Aug. 21, she returned to port in Norfolk, Va.

Write to Julian E. Barnes at julian.barnes@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-russian-ghost-submarine-its-u-s-pursuers-and-a-deadly-new-cold-war-1508509841

U.S. Could Block-Buy Aircraft Carriers, Says Navy Secretary

October 19, 2017

Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer said he asked companies to develop plans to reduce the cost of buying warships

Image may contain: sky, outdoor and water

The U.S. Navy may soon ask Congress to green light purchasing two new aircraft carriers at once to help cut construction costs for the capital ships after President Donald Trump vowed to pay less for the service’s fleet.

Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer said he asked companies to develop plans to reduce the cost of buying warships. The companies suggested that buying two aircraft carriers at the same time could yield savings, and the proposal is starting to look attractive enough for the Navy to back the plan, Mr. Spencer told the Wall Street Journal.

Congress typically allows the Pentagon to buy only one carrier at a time. Carriers can cost as much as $13 billion each.

The Navy is hoping that providing clearer requirements to industry and working with companies to improve efficiency will translate into cost savings.

Mr. Spencer would not say how much savings defense contractors are offering on the carrier deal, but said it could be significant. Getting Congress to commit in advance to an additional carrier could be difficult because it strips lawmaker of some control over funding.

“They are right at the cusp of making it worth heavy, heavy lifting,” Mr. Spencer said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

President Donald Trump has pledged to push for lower costs as he backs expansion of the Navy to a 350-ship fleet, more less than 300 vessels. “The same boats for less money, the same ships for less money, the same aircraft for less money,” Mr. Trump said at Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc.’s main yard, adding that savings would allow the Pentagon to buy more.

The Navy has set out a plan for a 355-ship fleet. Earlier this year the Navy commissioned the Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier, the first of a class of four of such ships planned. The Pentagon estimates the carriers will cost about $43 billion.

For more than a year a group of companies involved in building aircraft carriers have been lobbying Congress to back a multi-ship purchase.

The joint contract would cover production of the USS Enterprise, designated CVN-80, which is due to enter service around 2027, and a follow-on ship, CVN-81, which has not yet been named. The ships would still be built in sequence, but the certainty over future work could allow companies to sign more favorable supplier contracts and invest.

Huntington Ingalls Chief Executive Mike Petters  in August said “we’re going to be a whole lot more inclined to go and invest against the 355-ship Navy” if the Navy was committed to buying more than one carrier

Huntington Ingalls, the only U.S. company able to build carriers, in August cut steel for the first Enterprise parts. The formal construction contract is not expected until next year, however. Congress has set a $11.4 billion cost cap on the ship.

Industry is responsible for about 80% of the costs of the ship. Mr. Spencer said the Navy is also looking for ways to reduce the costs of what it contributes.

“If we can tighten up our government supplied equipment and have a very efficient hull build we are starting to get savings that are very meaningful,” Mr. Spencer said. “So it is worth having the discussion.”

The Navy’s fleet of aircraft carriers transport an array of planes, including Boeing Co. F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter planes. They will, in the future, also feature the Lockheed Martin Corp. F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons program.

Carriers have been the centerpiece of U.S. fleet plans, though they have not been without controversy. Critics argue the massive, 1,092-foot aircraft carriers are obsolete as adversaries invest in weapons to keep them far from their shores. China, which is developing its own aircraft carrier fleet, has invested heavily in weapons to target U.S. carriers. China has fielded ballistic missiles “specifically designed to hold adversary aircraft carriers at risk 1,500 km off China’s coast,” the Pentagon said this year in a report to Congress.

Mr. Spencer said carriers remain a key element of Navy plans and that the service had the technology to protect them against new threats even if operations may involve taking greater operational risks.

He said he was open to discussions about whether the Navy was too focused on the carrier, but believed that, for now, the service was right to invest in carriers like the Ford.

“This seems to be working, we seem to have a strategy that works,” he said. “I think we are good where we are but we should always be having that discussion and we shouldn’t be afraid to have that discussion.”

Write to Robert Wall at robert.wall@wsj.com and Julian E. Barnes at julian.barnes@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-could-block-buy-aircraft-carriers-says-navy-secretary-1508405259