Although President Donald Trump touted the idea of a 350 active ship Navy along the way to the White House, fiscal limitations coupled the government’s general inability to pass a defense budget has made that goal seem awfully unlikely – especially as some of the Navy’s largest, most powerful warships approach the end of their service life with no plans to refurbish or replace them on the horizon.

America’s fleet of 22 Ticonderoga class cruisers are expected to age out of service starting in just over two years, with the USS Mobile Bay and USS Bunker Hill both slated to be decommissioned in 2020.  A total of 11 cruisers will be retired, with the other 11 receiving modernization upgrades intended to keep them operational into the 2030s.  Although the U.S. Navy claims that they will be able to maintain between 98 and 100 large surface combatant ships throughout the decommissioning of the cruisers, those plans do come with a dramatic reduction in the fleet’s overall offensive and defensive firepower.

“I think the right idea is to put them into a [Service Life Extension Program] and keep them in the fleet,” said Jerry Hendrix, a retired Navy captain and analyst with the Center for a New American Security. “It’s cheaper to do that than a new build.”

At around 60 feet longer than the newer Arleigh Burke Class guided missile destroyers, Ticonderoga class cruisers carry significantly more firepower than their destroyer counterparts, which comes in the form of vertical launch system (VLS) tubes that can be used to fire an array of guided missiles, including anti-ship, anti-aircraft, and the famed Tomahawk cruise missiles employed to engage targets on land.