In the past 20 years, the Navy has moved away from traditional ship designations and naming conventions. While much has been made of the inconsistency of ship names across and within classes, less has been said about the misuse of ship class designations.
The Navy does itself a disservice with the public, Congress, and U.S. allies when it allows a program’s Pentagon PowerPoint acronym to become the class designation. There was some recent recognition of this issue when the JHSV (Joint High Speed Vessel) became the T-EPFs (expedition-ary fast transports), the MLP/AFSB (Mobile Landing Platform/Afloat For-ward Staging Base) became ESDs/ESBs (expeditionary transfer docks/expedition-ary sea bases), and the pending LAW (Light Amphibious Warship) became the LSM (landing ship medium), but there is still room for improvement.
There also is significant confusion when hull numbering bounces around. Perhaps there is some method in the madness, but labeling ships and planes “21” to seem in sync with the century should be saved for talking points, not actual names and numbers.
Traditions matter, and while some come and go, hull numbers and designations are inoffensive, and they draw us back to a tradition of excellence and alignment with the historical achievements of ships and sailors. The following suggestions would align ships with their actual roles, provide simple messaging to Congress and the public, and emphasize support for naval history:
• Change LHA-6 and -7 to CVL-50 and -51. This fits the role of “lightning carriers” and reflects the lack of a well deck. CVL-50 and -51 would follow the last light carrier, the USS Wright (CVL-49), and use hull numbers that were skipped.
• Change LHA-8 to LHD-9. This reflects the retrofit of a well deck and the continuing emphasis on amphibious assault for this ship.
• Begin the new LSMs with hull number 559, to recognize renewing the Navy heritage of this classic ship type.
• Designate the lead Next Generation Logistics Ship (NGLS) either AOG-83 or AOR-8. While these logistics ships lack a clear prior example, being based on offshore supply vessel–type hulls, there is significant room in both the tanker and oiler designations to accommodate the final design.
• Redesignate DDG-1000, -1001, and -1002 to CG-74 through -76. The use of 1000 had some loose alignment with the Kidd-class destroyers (DDG-993 through -996) and the final Spruance-class destroyer, the USS Hayler (DD-997). However, the Zumwalts are far larger than the Kidd- and Spruance-class destroyers and their Ticonderoga-class cruiser derivative, and their new surface strike role is more befitting a traditional cruiser designation.
• Break DDG-51 into separate classes—DDG-51 through -78 Arleigh Burke class, DDG-79 through -125 Oscar Austin class—and create a new Flight III class beginning with DDG-126. Each of these related classes has separate capabilities, and there is precedent with the evolution of the Allen M. Sumner class, which was lengthened into the separate Gearing class.
• Renumber the Seawolf-class submarines from SSN-21, -22, and -23 to SSN-744, -745, and -746. Hull numbers 21–23 were used on prior submarines, and each boat deserves her own history and proper order. Hull numbers 744–746 are available; they fall between the Los Angeles and Ohio classes and were not used for the Virginia class.
• Redesignate the littoral combat ship (LCS) classes as FF-1098 and later. These numbers would follow the Knox-class frigates and better represent the LCSs’ role given the addition of the Naval Strike Missile and other capabilities.
These are easy changes that would allow the Navy to better message multiple audiences while aligning with its rich naval history. More important, they would help stop the naming of classes after PowerPoint presentations.