Interested Amateur Fighting Machine (IAFM) - Introduction


Every few years, there's an effort to revisit the design of the US Navy fleet in light of changes in technology, geopolitics, and budget realities.  I decided to take a stab at a fleet design myself. As part of this effort, I reviewed a number of recent fleet designs from the Navy and various think tanks.

Obviously, with this type of exercise there's a healthy chance of "garbage in/garbage out".   I attempted to apply my cost model equally and impartially, to all fleet designs studied, but some subjectivity is inevitable.  The costs of non-existent ship designs is highly subjective.  This has a major, downstream impact on the overall fleet numbers and design.


I developed a pricing methodology that attempted to take into account ship construction costs, O&S, manning, munitions in VLS cells and aircraft. 

I used a planning budget that roughly corresponds to the cost of the Navy's "355 fleet" using my pricing methodology.

Comparative Fleet Designs

I compared a number of studies while researching the IAFM.  Several notable among them include,

More recently, two new fleet architectures have been released,

The New Navy Fighting Machine (Naval Postgraduate School - 2009)

The New Navy Fighting Machine describes a fairly radical redesign of the Navy with changes including,
  • Less emphasis on nuclear carriers in favor of smaller STOVL carriers
  • Abandonment of purpose-built amphibious ships
  • Reintroduction of conventional submarines
  • Development of a large, but modestly priced, "Green Water Navy" consisting of a variety of small combatants and patrol ships
The NNFM SCN design budget was $15 billion SCN per year, which produced an aggregate total cost of $77B/yr using my model.  This is significantly lower than the other studies.

For comparison purposes, I include the original NNFM with tweaked unit costs to match similar classes in other fleet architectures.  I also included a a scaled-up NNFM, for direct comparison with the other, more costly, force models.  To scale up, I simply multiplied the original NNFM unit counts by a common factor until the total costs were similar to the other designs.

I'm sure, if given a higher budget, the original NNFM team wouldn't scale the original design this way, but I didn't want to speculate what they might do.


  • Bi-modal fleet with "blue water" and "green water" components
  • Methodology - A reflection on Capt. Hughes' work with the Salvo Model as well as a steady-state cost framework, used to describe the fleet.
  • Numerous, less expensive combatants and patrol ships
  • Theater Security vessels
  • Conventional submarines
  • Mini-Arsenal ships
  • Global Fleet Station Ships
  • Large number of commercial vessels for movement of land forces.
  • Does not depend on any revolutionary (aka "Transformational") technologies.


  • Too many ship types, with too few ships of each type.  It's difficult to gain economies of scale with learning factors and build rates when you only build 12 ships of a type.  With so few of each type, worldwide deployments will make achieving sufficient concentration of these ships in a particular theater difficult.  
  • No specialized amphibious warfare ships (though they do say their 125 "Deliver and Sustain" ships could include some amphibious ships)
  • Too much emphasis on STOVL vs CTOL airpower.
  • Not enough emphasis on volume of fires (especially long-range missiles).  Their mini-Arsenal ships add merely 1,000 VLS cells to the overall fleet.  

The Restoring American Seapower - A New Fleet Architecture for the United States Navy (CSBA - 2017)

  • Analytical approach
  • Bi-modal deterrence and maneuver forces
  • Regionally-tailored presence forces.
  • Large unmanned systems


  • Offensive MIW and ASW Groups seem like after-thoughts.  It's unclear how they would operate or deliver robust capabilities.
  • Large UUVs appear to be far off from robust autonomy.
The CSBA also came out with a later study on the combat logistics fleet. I used some of their CLF ideas in the IAFM.

The Alternative Future Fleet Platform Architecture Study (Navy - 2016)

In 2016, the Navy developed its own future fleet architecture study. It took a 15-year plan to develop a Distributed Fleet by 2030.


  • Significant investment in large USVs and UUVs


  • Fairly mundane otherwise

The Force Structure Assessment - 355 Fleet (Navy -2016)

On December 15, 2016, the Navy released a force-structure goal that calls for achieving and maintaining a fleet of 355 ships of certain types and numbers. The 355-ship goal is the result of a Force Structure Assessment (FSA) conducted by the Navy in 2016. An FSA is an analysis in which the Navy solicits inputs from U.S. regional combatant commanders (CCDRs) regarding the types and amounts of Navy capabilities that CCDRs deem necessary for implementing the Navy’s portion of the national military strategy, and then translates those CCDR inputs into required numbers of ships, using current and projected Navy ship types. The analysis takes into account Navy capabilities for both warfighting and day-to-day forward-deployed presence.1 The Navy conducts an FSA every few years, as circumstances require, to determine its force-structure goal.


  • Low risk


  • Mundane.  Tweaks around the margins.

The Navy Future Fleet Platform Architecture Study (MITRE - 2016)

Takes the approach of recommending a 15 year plan to modify the fleet.  Does not  consider a wholesale redesign.  As such, they didn't produce a full fleet architecture, so I just include them here for reference.


  • IRBMs 
  • Arsenal ship
  • CATOBAR, non-nuclear CV and CVL
  • Recognition that enemy satellites can provide robust targeting for A2/AD forces


  • IAMD strategy focused on the end-game intercept of A2/AD weapons
  • All-in on the unproven promise of the Hyper-Velocity Projectile (HVP).


  • Expeditionary Advanced Basing (EAB): Without a credible offensive capability, I don't see much value in penny packets of Marines spread around various islands.  F-35Bs may not require much space to take off and land, but they require a LOT of logistics to keep in the air.  

Heritage 2019 Index

The Heritage Foundation comes up with a military index every year as well as recommended force levels. 

  • Sizable number of CLF ships
  • Expensive.  Heritage has never met a defense dollar they didn't like

Five Oceans Navy

Rep. Banks, “As the Navy reassesses their 355-ship plan, the Department of Defense must think strategically about global maritime threats. It is clear to me that at least 400 Navy ships are required to achieve strategic success to address the challenges outlined in the National Defense Strategy. The President and Congress need to act quickly to prepare our Navy for a great power competition against technologically advanced enemies.
“A larger Navy will require a serious investment in the American industrial base to give our military the fleet of warships it needs to win the naval battles of tomorrow.  According to a September 2018 White House Study, ‘Industries involved in the manufacturing of shipbuilding components were among the hardest hit by the global shift in the industrial base over the last 20 years.’ We must support our industrial base with innovative technological capabilities to adapt to the future requirements of the force.

“The Five Ocean Navy Strategy encourages the Department of Defense to strengthen our shipbuilding program to address our aging Navy, and the global strategic challenges posed by adversaries both near and far.”

  • Sizable number of CLF ships
  • Lots of submarines
  • Most expensive architecture studied

Battle Force 2045

Replaces large carriers with LHA-derived CVLs  to pay for more submarines, USVs and UUVs.  Given that the exact architecture has yet to be released, I just estimated based on the mid point, when there was a range of ships numbers.

  • Lots of submarines
  • Heavy commitment towards USVs and UUVs

Hudson: American Sea Power at a Crossroads: A Plan to Restore the US Navy’s Maritime Advantage

  • Significantly cheaper than other options
  • Small combatants
  • Less airpower
  • Heavy commitment towards USVs and UUVs


Again, YMMV here.  I had to guess about details of some of the fleet designs, especially their CLF and Sealift components.  The Interested Amateur Fighting Machine (IAFM) is included at the end.

Some Observations

Staying Power - Out of Action vs Sinking

The less expensive Hudson fleet does well here, owing to its large number of small combatants.  The scaled NNFM fleet does the best for the same reason.  The IAFM does well too, partially due to the larger size of its main combatants (SC-150).

The IAFM wins by a landslide in the number of missile cells category.  All those FMG arsenal ships really add up.

This also shows up in the total Kilo Strike Miles each force can generate. (1 KSM = 1 x 1,000lb warhead delivered 1,000 nmi)  Heritage gets a major KSM boost from having the largest fixed-wing component.  


The IAFM fleet has far more instantaneous firepower available to it as a result of the largest number of missile cells.  It is competitive in all other metrics, though certain architectures (Hudson, NNFM) are designed to a lower cost baseline.  



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