• Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said Tuesday that the US Navy needs more than 500 ships by 2045 to counter China.
  • The Pentagon envisions a force of 355 traditional warfighting vessels by 2035 and a larger for of over 500 manned and unmanned vessels by 2045.
  • The plan, known as Battle Force 2045, calls for more submarines and hundreds of unmanned or optionally-manned assets, among other changes.
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Secretary of Defense Mark Esper argued Tuesday afternoon that the US Navy needs more than 500 ships by 2045 to counter China.

Speaking at an online Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments event, Esper unveiled his plan for the future fleet: “Battle Force 2045.” The plan calls for a force of 355 traditional warfighting vessels by 2035 and a larger force consisting of over 500 manned and unmanned vessels by 2045.

While Esper made note of the threats and challenges posed by Russia, his focus was China, which the secretary pointed out plans to modernize its armed forces by 2035 and build a world-class military by 2049.

“At that time, Beijing wants to achieve parity with the United States Navy, if not exceed our capabilities in certain areas and to offset our overmatch in several others,” Esper said.

A recent Department of Defense report on China’s growing military might said that China has already achieved parity or outpaced the US in some areas, one of which is shipbuilding.

China “has the largest navy in the world, with an overall battle force of approximately 350 ships and submarines including over 130 major surface combatants,” the Pentagon assessed in its latest China Military Power report.

The Pentagon also reported that “China is the top ship-producing nation in the world by tonnage,” adding that the country is currently working