The leader of the Department of the Navy has floated the idea of bringing the iconic U.S. First Fleet back to life, and making it an “expeditionary-oriented” armada.
Best of all, the powerful new fleet would likely be stationed within striking distance of the South China Sea, a multinational area claimed by the People’s Republic of China.
Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite explained his thinking in a Nov. 17 address during the annual Naval Submarine League symposium, according to the U.S. Naval Institute.
“We want to stand up a new numbered fleet,” Braithwaite said. “And we want to put that numbered fleet in the crossroads between the Indian and the Pacific oceans, and we’re really going to have an [Indo-Pacific Command] footprint.”
The new fleet would relieve some of the strain on the already-existing Seventh Fleet based out of Japan, and create another powerful check on the rising naval strength of China. The previous First Fleet was disbanded in the 1970s, and its ships were moved to other areas of the force.
“More importantly,” Braithwaite later continued, “it can provide a much more formidable deterrence.”
“So we’re going to create the First Fleet, and we’re going to put it, if not Singapore right out of the chocks, we’re going to look to make it more expeditionary-oriented and move it across the Pacific until it is where our allies and partners see that it could best assist them as well as to assist us.
The new First Fleet has reportedly been discussed for months.
An unnamed defense official told USNI that former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper liked the idea, and was actively in talks with Braithwaite about it at the time.
The move comes as China continues to rapidly strengthen its military, reaping the rewards of profiting from the bloated global supply chain in the years leading up to 2020.
“Most recently I was in a trip to the Far East,” Braithwaite said, “every single one of our allies and partners are concerned about how aggressive the Chinese have been.”
“I would argue with anybody that not since the War of 1812 has the United States and our sovereignty been under the kind of pressures that we see today.”
One of the main problems appears to be China’s approach to American naval supremacy.
Instead of building up a navy to rival our own, the communist powerhouse has simply focused on hypersonic and anti-ship missile technology. A salvo of the hard-to-counter missiles could devastate a fleet, setting war efforts back by months and costing countless lives.
Although Braithwaite and other officials appear set on the idea of a new fleet, Navy spokesman Capt. J.D. Dorsey told USNI that “no decisions have been made” about refloating the iconic naval group.
With growing tensions between China and democratic nations, it seems like only a matter of time before a conflict erupts.
If this ever happens, the First Fleet would be a welcome addition to our arsenal.
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