Today's warships: why they take so long to build?

VHS

Ad Honorem
Dec 2015
4,858
Florania
I have discussed about previous aircraft carriers in another forum, but I keep wondering why today's aircraft carriers and destroyers take so long to build.
Interstate wars are rather rare today for sure, and these "weapons" are more for display than for destructions!
We can laugh about the Philippines for having a museum armed force, and many countries pass their antiquated equipments to "second class countries".
Canada was said to have received a few antiquated submarines from Britain (they leaked:sad:.)
 
Jan 2016
172
Scranton, Pennsylvania (that's right, ladies...I'm
Tiny industrial base when compared to the past and a total lack of urgency. It's a lot easier to build ships quickly when you actually need them. Building them just to spend defense money and give the Navy something to drive the Marines around in these days isn't quite as urgent when compared to the needs of World War Two.

There used to be shipyards up and down our coasts, now there's very few I can even think of.
 

Belgarion

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,809
Australia
Warships today are infinitely more complex than the ships that were mass produced for WWII or even into the 1950/60s, so construction naturally takes longer. Even with the spur of wartime urgency it would not be possible to build a modern aircraft carrier, or any other warship, in the same time it took back then.
 

Vaeltaja

Ad Honorem
Sep 2012
3,700
One thing often forgotten (in addition to those mentioned above) is that ships have gotten quite a bit bigger than what they used to be...

British WW II era carrier (HMS Illustrious) had displacement of 23 000 t. QE class ships are going to have displacement of around 70 000 t if not more. The WW II era ships were launched in late 1930s when war was already looming and took around two years to launch (+ one before being commissioned). QE is around three times bigger and took five years to launch (+three before expected to be commissioned).

Type 45 destroyers on the other hand share displacement with Royal Navy's WW II era's cruisers. Then again even the type 23 frigates are about the same size as WW I era light cruisers...
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,588
Italy, Lago Maggiore
Italian naval yards

I have discussed about previous aircraft carriers in another forum, but I keep wondering why today's aircraft carriers and destroyers take so long to build.
Interstate wars are rather rare today for sure, and these "weapons" are more for display than for destructions!
We can laugh about the Philippines for having a museum armed force, and many countries pass their antiquated equipments to "second class countries".
Canada was said to have received a few antiquated submarines from Britain (they leaked:sad:.)
About this aspect of the war industry. I can talk about Italian naval yards which build our warships [carriers included]. Well, they are substantially all civilian naval yards today, overall dedicated to the construction of ocean liners [so that they don't have problems related to dimensions when it's time to build a carrier or a heavy cruiser].

Last Italian warships are stealth and this has added a technological difficulty with an increase level of secrecy and security of the naval yards.

Our best naval yards can build an ocean liner in 2 years. Even less than two years if they are in a hurry. But an ocean liner is a different matter. As for I know ocean liners are not stealth, they don't carry defensive and offensive systems, they are not armored [steel, ceramic alloys and kevlar], they don't have to manage an embarked air fleet ... and so on.

The project of an ocean liner starts with an investment, a budget and expectations of incomes. So time is money!

In case of a warship, if wars are not in progress, time is time and politicians prefer to take time instead of concentrating the expenses.

Today ships [military or civilian, it's the same] are modular, so you can build them, literally, piece by piece. This can reduce times, involving more naval yards and sending the pieces to the main naval yard to assembly them, but it can also delay the end of the production, in peace time.

Thinking to our last carrier, the real time of construction was of 3 years and a half, but being modular and being a great expense for the government, it took other 3 years to see the Cavour complete and operative! So ... 6 years and a half!

If there was a war in progress, time would have been cut to probably 2 years and a half, privileging to have the carrier operative soon to its completeness.

But the real problem, in case of war in progress, is that you have to defend a wide naval yard [or more naval yards] for 2-3 years to allow them to produce some warships. But you have to do this against modern air forces!

There is a clear and evident problem. There are thousands of fighters and fighter-bombers who just wait to destroy enemy's naval yards which have to hurry up to produce a dozen of warships in 2-3 years.

Well ...
 

paranoid marvin

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,359
uk
As has been said, they're not needed quickly, but you can pretty much guarantee that if they WERE then hey would get built a lot quicker. I'm also guessing that in peacetime there would be much more stringent quality and safety checks thanthere would in a war.
 

SirOrmondeWinter

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
3,556
I have discussed about previous aircraft carriers in another forum, but I keep wondering why today's aircraft carriers and destroyers take so long to build.
Interstate wars are rather rare today for sure, and these "weapons" are more for display than for destructions!
We can laugh about the Philippines for having a museum armed force, and many countries pass their antiquated equipments to "second class countries".
Canada was said to have received a few antiquated submarines from Britain (they leaked:sad:.)
Because short of the space shuttles they are about the most complicated machines one earth! We spent billions on our Type 45s and now it looks like we're going to have to rip their guts out because the engines don't work.
 

constantine

Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
8,545
The US Navy is already building ships for the express purpose of keeping up ship-building capacity (see the Zumwalt-class destroyers). If we already are building ships we don't really need, just to keep the naval yard workers employed in case we do need them again in the future, we can't really afford to build the ships any faster than we already are.
 

Nemowork

Ad Honorem
Jan 2011
8,510
South of the barcodes
And to be blunt they desperately need to retain or relearn those skill, the US is good at electronics and technology but their shipbuilding and design skills are appallingly bad at the moment.

The design flaws, build flaws planning flaws in the Littoral warfare ships are glaring and the Zumwalts aren't much better.

Military shipbuilding needs to be practiced regularly to keep the muscles developed and believe me, the US desperately needs new ship designs.

The Aegis class were introduced in the 80s, most of their other designs are older and have been overloaded with technology past their structural and engine design. The Coast guard designs are even older.

Unfortunately for the navy they are getting dropped with too many missions, every ship has to capable of anti-aircraft superiority, anti-submarine superiority, have world class electronics and have anti-terrorist protection.

It means the designs are getting overloaded, bloated and way to expensive which means orders are cut down which means costs soar and the yards dont retain skills. Basically theres too many politcal and procurement demands blocking the needs of the actual user.
 

kazeuma

Ad Honorem
Jun 2012
2,423
Subcontracting - Every state in the Union wants their factory to put a piece into the damn thing so senator so-and-so says that they brought home the bacon. Then the problem that the Navy might have a purpose for ship x, the Marines wants a different purpose for ship x, and the Coast Guard wants a different purpose for the same ship that is different than the Navy or the Marines - so the builders try to split the difference.