• 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.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

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

Defense lawyer Robert Clark Corrente sought to shift the focus to the Board of Elections investigation that prompted the case against Britt, saying key players had dodged questions, refused to answer subpoenas, and outright lied.

He claimed that documents show “everybody else was lying” to elections officials – including the Mattiello and Lawton campaigns – but the board merely issued warnings to Mattiello and Lawton while urging prosecutors to go after Britt.

“It’s outrageous” Corrente said. “I am going to argue that this entire proceeding from the beginning to end has been highly irregular.”

Corrente’s statement concluded a cross-examination of the state’s final witness, Board of Elections campaign finance director Richard E. Thornton.

Richard Thornton, campaign finance director for the Rhode Island Board of Elections, testifies during the third day the Jeffrey Britt money-laundering trial. [The Providence Journal / David DelPoio]
Richard Thornton, campaign finance director for the Rhode Island Board of Elections, testifies during the third day the Jeffrey Britt money-laundering trial. [The Providence Journal / David DelPoio]David DelPoio

And it served to tee up a dramatic final day of testimony on Thursday, when the defense is expected to call Mattiello to the witness stand in addition to his chief of staff, Leo Skenyon, and his former campaign aide and legal counsel Matthew Jerzyk.

Corrente has maintained that the Mattiello campaign is trying to make Britt “a fall guy.” Mattiello has denied knowing anything about the mailer until much later, casting Britt as an overzealous campaign worker trying to “ingratiate” himself.

The day’s testimony began with Assistant Attorney General John M. Moreira taking Thornton through the relevant sections of campaign finance law and documenting that reporting requirements had not been met for the controversial flier.

Prosecutors claim that Britt, who was working as a consultant for the Mattiello campaign, arranged for two associates – Victor Pichette and Teresa Graham – who each provided $1,000 to Lawton, who had $43 in her campaign account, so she could