Oct. 14 (UPI) -- China is the United States' greatest military threat, requiring more agile and better armed warships, Adm. Mike Gilday, Chief of Naval Operations, said this week in a speech.
Gilday was the keynote speaker on Tuesday at a virtual "State of Defense" conference, and cautioned that the balance of maritime power could shift toward China in the next ten years.
"Specifically, China is the strategic threat to this country," he said before offering additional details of a U.S. military plan he disclosed in March, calling for smaller and less expensive, but more heavily armed, guided missile destroyers than the latest Zumwalt-class Navy vessels.
He added that a more unified approach by service branches is required, as well as new principles of design and planning, to deter China.
"The Commandant of the Coast Guard and the Commandant of the Marine Corps and I have also put together a tri-service maritime strategy," Gilday said while addressing the conference, which was sponsored by Defense One.
"We strongly feel that the balance of power in the maritime could potentially be significantly affected in this decade, and the time to act is now," he said.
He added that more Navy ships, as many as 500, will be required to maintain dominance on the seas.
Gilday's comments on Tuesday also were preceded by the release of the Navy's "Battle Force 2045" plan in late September.
The plan calls for availability of 70 to 80 general-purpose attack submarines, 140 to 240 unmanned and manned surface and subsurface vehicles, 60 to 70 small surface vessels, 50 to 60 amphibious warfare ships and 70 to 90 combat logistics force ships. The maximum proposed strength would include 540 ships.
The new ships, though, must cost less and fit between the current 9,000-ton Arleigh Burke but smaller than the newest destroyers, the 16,000-ton Zumwalt class.
"I don't want to build a monstrosity," Gilday said. "When you talk about large surface combatants, people in their mind's eye are thinking battleships. That's not what I'm talking about. That's not where we're going."