Tag Archives: Ohio Class

Ohio-Class Ballistic Submarine Remains Priority for US Navy

The Navy views the Ohio-class replacement ballistic missile submarine as its top priority, indicating it would be prepared to slash other ship programs to build the 12 submarines it needs.

Senior congressional aides noted that the Navy would consider reducing its 11-aircraft carrier fleet before it would scale back its plans to replace the Ohio-class ballistic submarine.

The reasons, according to the Navy, include the central role the ballistic missile submarines play as the most survivable part of nuclear deterrent force, the aging of the existing ballistic submarine fleet, and a need to keep a healthy industrial base.

“We are committed to sustaining a two-ocean national strategic deterrent that protects our homeland from nuclear attack, from other major war aggression and also access and extended deterrent for our allies,” said Rear Adm. Richard P. Breckenridge, director of the Navy’s Undersea Warfare Division.

To provide a viable deterrent of 10 forward-deployed submarines in the Atlantic and Pacific, the Navy requires at least 12 submarines at any given time.

“If we don’t build these 12 [ballistic missile submarines] on this timeline … that’s just [an] astronomical challenge for us to be able to maintain our vibrant and credible two-ocean deterrent — to deter bad behavior from powerful adversaries,” he told the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces last week.

As a result of budget challenges last year, the Ohio-class replacement program was delayed two years.

“It, to me, is mind-staggering how much risk as a nation that we’ve taken with regard to this recapitalization timing decision,” Breckenridge said. “There is no allowance for any further delay.”

The Navy once had 18 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines. At Congress’ direction, four of those submarines were converted to cruise-missile-carrying submarines, leaving 14 ballistic missile subs.

Since then, the Navy decided on a plan to replace those 14 submarines with 12 of the new ballistic missile submarines. The last time Congress started to buy a ballistic missile submarine, President Richard Nixon was in office. Procurement of the new submarines won’t begin until 2021.

“Our ballistic missile submarines are the bedrock underlying our national nuclear deterrent,” Breckenridge said. “Americans are asked to invest in replacing this force only once every other generation. … Recapitalizing this force is a solemn duty we have to the nuclear security of future Americans as well as allies.”

Source – Roll Call

US – SSBNX Under Pressure: Submarine Chief Says Navy Can’t Reduce – Video Clip

SSBN Force Level Requirements: It’s Simply a Matter of Geography

By Rear Adm. Richard Breckenridge Director, Undersea Warfare, OPNAV N97

There have been recent claims that today’s ballistic missile submarine force is operating with excess capacity and, therefore, force reductions to save resources may be in order. As I have noted in response to a recent op-ed, this supposition is untrue – in fact, our lean SSBN force is providing the cornerstone of our national security at a pace that has remained essentially constant since the late 1990s. Even so, questions about the size and capability of our future at-sea deterrence are appropriate to consider as we recapitalize this national asset. Given past force structure reductions from the “41 for Freedom” SSBN force of the 1960s and 1970s, to the 18 Ohio-class SSBNs of the 1980s and 1990s, to our current force of 14 SSBNs, one might wonder, “What is the minimum number needed for strategic deterrence?” Given advances in technology and the changing scope and complexity of post-Cold War deterrence, is there a way to “do more with less” as we field the next class of SSBNs?

The Mission: Delivering survivable nuclear deterrence from large open-ocean areas

The purpose of the SSBN force is to deter nuclear attack against the United States and against our friends and allies. Our “boomers” do this as part of a nuclear triad. The SSBN role is to provide an assured response capability that is survivable, reliable and robust enough to act as compelling deterrent against a nuclear strike from a foreign power. To make sure our SSBNs are survivable, they are operated from bases giving them access to the broad ocean areas in both the Atlantic and the Pacific. They are stealthy – both in transit and on station. They are operated in a manner that makes their locations unpredictable, while still ensuring that our adversaries know that we have the ability to hold them at risk. This enduring, certain deterrent force acts as an important stabilizer; it is always there and always at the ready.

The Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Rhode Island (SSBN 740) returns to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay after three months at sea, March 20, 2013. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class James Kimber/Released)

The Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Rhode Island (SSBN 740) returns to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay after three months at sea, March 20, 2013.

Our Current and Future SSBN Force: A case study in system optimization

An unarmed Trident II D5 missile launches from the Ohio-class fleet ballistic-missile submarine USS Nevada (SSBN 733) off the coast of Southern California, March 1, 2011. The test launch was part of the U.S. Navy Strategic Systems Programs demonstration and shakedown operation certification process. The successful launch certified the readiness of an SSBN crew and the operational performance of the submarine's strategic weapons system before returning to operational availability. The launch was the 135th consecutive successful test flight. (U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Benjamin Crossley/Released)

An unarmed Trident II D5 missile launches from the Ohio-class fleet ballistic-missile submarine USS Nevada (SSBN 733) off the coast of Southern California, March 1, 2011. The test launch was part of the U.S. Navy Strategic Systems Programs demonstration and shakedown operation certification process. The successful launch certified the readiness of an SSBN crew and the operational performance of the submarine’s strategic weapons system before returning to operational availability. The launch was the 135th consecutive successful test flight.

Our SSBN force has been “optimized for leanness” based on more than 50 years and 4,000 patrols of proven performance. The deterrent value we provided with 41 SSBNs we now provide with 14 Ohio-class SSBNs. This 65 percent force reduction is a result of two impressive technological developments – the extended range of the D5 missile and quieting technologies that make our SSBNs that much harder to find, even by a persistent and determined adversary. Our boomers are able to exploit the vast reaches of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans to patrol silently while within range of key targets to hold an aggressor at risk.

As we return to our question of the leanest force capable of providing this credible and persuasive deterrent, our answer simply comes down to world geography 101 principles. Because the Pacific Ocean is larger, we operate two additional SSBNs in the Pacific to accommodate range and survivability considerations. Six SSBNs in the Pacific and four in the Atlantic is the bare minimum required to provide uninterrupted alert coverage for the combatant commander.

So if 10 SSBNs is our absolute minimum, why do we need 14 today? The reason hinges on the three-year refueling overhaul at the mid-life of each SSBN removing them from strategic service. Today, of our 14 SSBNs, we operate on average 11 to provide vital nuclear deterrence. Based upon other electronic system modernizations, this minimum force level occasionally dips to 10 operational SSBNs. One important historical note is relevant to the refueling overhaul discussion. The Ohio-class core life exceeded the design estimates of 15 years and the Navy was able to postpone mid-life refueling by six years.  Naval Sea Systems Command engineers then conducted detailed technical analysis of all other shipboard systems and extended the service life of our Ohio class from 30 to 42 years – a mind-staggering 40 percent life extension. This technological feat saved the country substantial budgetary resources, reaping a greater return from the initial investment in this SSBN class; essentially four less SSBNs will be procured during this century as a result of this achievement.

The good news is that this legacy of lean success is being imprinted in the DNA of the new Ohio replacement SSBN. The engineers at NAVSEA and our partners in industry are designing a new boomer with a 42-year service life and a reactor core that will not require refueling throughout the life of the ship. This will reduce the class mid-life overhaul by one-third and we will be able to deploy our 10 operational SSBNs with a force of just 12 total SSBNs.

If you want to see a “lean, mean fighting machine,” look no further than our current and future ballistic missile submarine force.

Source – Navy Life

US – Buying Submarines in an Age of Austerity

U.S. Navy submarine.

The US Navy’s plan to increase the size of its fleet is on a collision course with budget austerity. But, fortunately, there’s a nuclear option.

The  Navy’s shipbuilding plan is simply “unaffordable,” as Rep. Mike McIntyre, D-N.C., pointed out during the House Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee’s markup of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 last week.

Why is the Navy’s plan “unaffordable”? One of the culprits is the Navy’s new nuclear ballistic missile submarines, known as the SSBN[X]. The Navy is planning to procure 12 SSBN[X] at a cost of nearly $6 billion each. These extraordinarily high costs “crowd out spending for other necessary ships,” according to Senate Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee Chairman Jack Reed, D-R.I., who represents the state where the current Ohio class nuclear missile submarines were manufactured.

Echoing Reed’s concerns, Randy Forbes, R-Va., chairman of the House’s Seapower Subcommittee, said during the markup that buying these 12 SSBN[X] at such a prohibitive price “will serve to significantly reduce [the size of] our naval forces.”

Fortunately, there’s a simple solution, according to Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists – buy fewer SSBNs. Kristensen’s argument for purchasing fewer new nuclear subs is not about costs – though buying fewer ships would, of course, save billions of dollars – it’s about how the Navy actually uses its nuclear submarines.

Since the Cold War ended, the Navy has reduced its number of nuclear sub deterrent patrols – a justifiable reduction given the need to focus on 21st century, not Cold War, threats. In fact, the number of deterrent patrols undertaken now is less than a third of what was done at the end of the Cold War, according to Kristensen’s data.

But, if one logically believes the SSBN fleet is 1/3rd the size of what it was at the end of the Cold War, think again. There are only four fewer nuclear launch subs now than there were in the mid-1990’s (14 vs. 18), as the Navy’s response to Kristensen’s report concedes. Thus, each nuclear sub is now doing much less of what it was first designed to do – patrolling as a nuclear deterrent.

All of this leads Kristensen to conclude that “Fewer SSBNs can do the job …The navy could easily cut the SSBN fleet from 14 to 12 boats now and reduce the requirement for the next-generation SSBN from 12 to 10 boats and save billions of dollars in the process.”

The savings would give the Navy desperately needed flexibility in a shipbuilding budget that the House Seapower Subcommittee calls “unsustainable.” This would allow the Navy to fully fund other ships better suited to the Asia pivot, such as the Virginia class multi-mission submarines – whose cost is half that of an SSBN[X] – which conducts anti-submarine missions, delivers special operations forces in close-to-shore operations and launches Tomahawk missiles.

As Congressman Ed Markey, D-Mass., said, “It is insane to spend hundreds of billions on new nuclear bombs and delivery systems to fight a long-past Cold War while ignoring our 21st century security needs.” Cutting the size of our nuclear submarine fleet would both save money yet accomplish the Navy’s worldwide mission of nuclear deterrence in an era of military belt-tightening.


US Navy invests in submarine-launched nuclear ballistic missile guidance upgrades and test


The U.S. Navy is investing more than a quarter-billion dollars to upgrade the missile guidance systems in the Trident II D5 submarine-launched nuclear ballistic missile.

The Navy Strategic Systems Programs Office in Washington last week awarded two Trident II upgrade contracts — one to Charles Stark Draper Laboratories Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., and the other to Aero Thermo Technology Inc. in Huntsville, Ala., for Trident II nuclear missile guidance upgrades.

The Trident II is the primary weapon aboard Navy Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines. The missile has a range of more than 7,000 miles and carries four independently targeted 475-kiloton nuclear warheads.

Draper Lab received a $257.8 million contract to provide MK6 MOD 1 guidance upgrades to the Trident II nuclear missile, including circuit card assembly materials with electronic components, as well as data package assemblies.


Aero Thermo, meanwhile, received a $6.8 million contract to provide guidance systems, technical, analytical and program services to support the TRIDENT II missile. The contracts are part of the Navy’s Strategic Program Alteration (SPALT) for the Trident II D5 missile.

Aero Thermal engineers will support key guidance system technology development and coordination between the Navy and U.S. Air Force for current and next-generation strategic systems. The Navy and Air Force are working together on strategic ballistic missile technology development. Both services invest in research to ensure unique and critical design and development skills for strategic weapons.

Draper Lab will do its work in Pittsfield, Mass.; Cambridge, Mass; Clearwater, Fla.; Terrytown, N.Y.; and El Segundo, Calif., and should be finished by the end of 2016. Aero Thermal will do its work in Huntsville, Ala., and should be finished by the end of this year.

Aero Thermal’s contract has options that would increase the contract’s value to $20.7 million and extend work through the end of 2015.

These contracts are part of a Navy effort begun in 2002 to extend the life of the D5 missiles to the year 2040 by replacing obsolete components with commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware. Upgrades involved the missile reentry systems and guidance systems.

The first flight test of a D5 extended-life subsystem, the MK 6 Mod 1 guidance system, was in early 2012 aboard the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Tennessee (SSBN 734).

The missile has a range longer than 7,000 miles; has a maximum speed of 13,000 miles per hour, and has precision guidance from inertial sensors with star sighting. No GPS-guided Trident D5 missiles have been deployed.

The Trident II missile carries as many as four independently targeted W88 475-kiloton nuclear warheads. That warhead discharges the energy of 475,000 tons of TNT, and is roughly 30 times the size of the U.S. nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945.

Source – Military & Aerospace

US Navy’s next-gen stealth sub could run silently for 50 years


In this file photo, the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Maryland transits the Saint Marys River. Details are emerging about the ship’s replacement, scheduled for deployment in 2031.

The Navy’s next-generation nuclear submarine may have an electric drive and new reactor plant that allow it to patrol the seas with near-silent stealth for half a century, according to emerging details about the secretive program.

The electric drive would replace a direct mechanical connection between the nuclear-powered steam turbines and the submarine’s propellers. In the new configuration, the nuclear power source will run electric motors that propel the ship.

“Electric drives could prove to be much quieter than the current direct-drive method,” the U.S. Naval Institute explained in a brief detailing the new design. The institute is an independent, non-profit forum on national defense.

The military tried electric drives in the 1960s and ’70s, but found them to be too slow and maintenance needy. Technological advancements over the past few decades could provide the hassle-free speed required.

Since Navy submarines rely on stealth to hide from enemies, a nearly silent engine will make them harder to find. The Ohio-class replacement nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine will also be covered in echo-free tiles that reduce detection from active sonars.

In addition, the program is aiming for a newly designed reactor plant “that will last the life of the boat,” Sean Stackley, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition, said in an interview with the U.S. Naval Institute.

“That’s important because what it does is effectively eliminate the midlife refueling associated with the current Ohio class.”

That is, current nuclear subs are hauled out for mid-life overhaul that can keep a sub out of the water for three years. To compensate for the downtime, the Navy has 14 Ohio-class ships.

The new design will still require a mid-life checkup and update, but should be out of the water for a shorter period. This would mean that the Navy only needs to have 12 ships. “That’s a significant cost improvement over the life of the program at the expense of the development for that new reactor-plant design,” Stackley said.

The Navy is under budget pressure to keep the cost of the boats to $4.9 billion each; that’s down from the $6 or $7 billion price tag proposed in 2009. Current plans call for construction of the next-generation submarine to begin in 2021, with first deployment in 2031.

Source – NBC News

Russia Sails New Nuclear Submarine While U.S. Continues Fleet Delays


Last week, after long delays, Russia made operational a new ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), or nuclear submarine, for the first time in over 20 years. This marks a significant step forward for the Russian Navy, which has pledged tens of billions of dollars to revitalize its fleet in the near future. The U.S. Navy unfortunately has had trouble both in revitalizing its SSBNs as well as its overall naval fleet.

The Russian navy made the announcement that the Yury Dolgoruky (Project 955)—the first-in-class of the new Borey-class SSBN—made operational status as it prepares for one of its largest naval exercises since the end of the Cold War. In fact, Russia’s commitment to increasing naval strength has been a central theme during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s tenure as president—despite Russia’s historically meager performance as a naval power. The Borey-class subs were first designed in the 1980s and the Yury Dolgoruky construction was launched in 1996.

Meanwhile, the U.S. navy has shrunk significantly since the Reagan years. The days of the 600-ship fleet have long since ended, and now U.S. naval leaders are struggling to find ways to meet a new requirement of around 300 ships. Currently around 285, the fleet will shrink further if more investment isn’t made in naval modernization.

The U.S. fleet was eroding long before the Budget Control Act and sequestration became part of the equation. In 2010, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported that actual funding levels for 2005–2010 fell below the CBO’s and the Navy’s estimates to achieve fleet goals. Predictions show current funding levels would reduce the fleet to 263 ships. While the sequestration cuts to defense have been temporarily delayed as part of the fiscal cliff deal, they are still a looming possibility and would shrink the fleet to its lowest level since 1915.

While Russia has shown improvements in its strategic SSBN fleet (two more Borey-class subs are under construction), the U.S. has fallen behind its own standards. The legal minimum for the U.S. Navy’s SSBN fleet is 12 boats. Given this fleet’s status as the most survivable leg of the U.S. nuclear triad, the requirement should not be taken lightly. However, the Obama Administration delayed the development of an Ohio-class SSBN replacement for two years, which will in turn cause the fleet to fall below 12 boats for a 14-year period. As rogue states such as Iran and North Korea get closer to having nuclear weapons and increasing ballistic missile technology, the significance of this fleet is certainly not shrinking.

The President has downplayed the size of the fleet by making oversimplified arguments that each ship’s capability makes strength in numbers less significant. Yet with Russia aggressively growing its naval capability, resulting in a greater presence on the high seas, as well as China paying increased attention to naval capability, the U.S. must continue to uphold its status as the dominant global naval power. The fiscal year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act states that “the continuous at-sea deterrence provided by a robust and modern fleet of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines is critical to maintaining nuclear deterrence and assurance and therefore is a central pillar of the national security of the United States.”

Both Congress and the President need to keep this support up to maintain America’s robust naval

Source – The Foundry

Submarine Design Effort Gets $2B Boost

 A U.S. Navy concept for the Ohio-Replacement Program submarine.

 A U.S. Navy concept for the Ohio-Replacement Program submarine. (Naval Sea Systems Command)

The effort to design and develop the U.S. Navy’s next ballistic missile submarine got a major boost Friday with the announcement of a nearly $2 billion contract award to General Dynamics.

The contract was awarded by the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) to GD’s Electric Boat division in Groton, Conn., the only shipbuilder deemed capable of designing the Ohio-Class Replacement Program (ORP) submarine.

NAVSEA, in a statement accompanying the contract announcement noted that “special incentives” are included in the cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to compensate for the lack of competition.

“The Navy established a structured series of incentives to motivate General Dynamics Electric Boat and the government to further innovation to lower non-recurring engineering costs, construction costs, and operation and support costs,” Capt. William Brougham, NAVSEA’s Ohio Replacement program manager, said in the statement. “This contract employs financial incentives designed to align the government’s requirement for cost savings with our industrial partners’ innovation and ability to earn profit.”

Bob Hamilton, a spokesman for Electric Boat, acknowledged that cost-control is a top priority for the ORP program.

“The Navy has made clear that development of the next-generation strategic deterrent is its highest priority, and that affordability is key,” Hamilton said Dec. 21 in an e-mail to Defense News. “The Navy has stated that it expects this contract will provide it with the best quality product at the lowest cost, and we agree.

“EB has developed a Design for Affordability (DFA) program that we successfully used on the Virginia [SSN 774 attack submarine] program to redesign the bow while reducing the cost $40 million per ship, as well as reducing life-cycle costs. EB, along with our subcontractors and vendors, will continue to utilize the DFA program, and working with the Navy, we expect to meet the cost reduction targets in the contract,” Hamilton wrote.

“This contract will provide stability to our engineering and design workforce as well as the supplier base, as well assure that the schedule for the nation’s strategic deterrent submarine is maintained.”

The ORP is expected to produce 12 new submarines to replace 14 existing Ohio-class submarines.

The latest contract, according to NAVSEA, also covers work on a Common Missile Compartment with Britain’s Royal Navy, which is developing a new ballistic submarine to replace its Vanguard-class submarines. Both new designs will use the same Trident D5 missiles now in service.

In addition to ORP design work and continuing design and development of the missile compartment, the new contract award will, according to NAVSEA, provide for “shipbuilder and vendor component and technology development, engineering integration, concept design studies, cost reduction initiatives using a design for affordability process, and full scale prototype manufacturing and assembly.”

Rear Adm. Dave Johnson, NAVSEA’s program executive officer for submarines, noted that the Navy’s approach covers the life of the program and its ships.

“This contract moves the Ohio Replacement forward in setting the program’s technical foundation — ship specifications, system descriptions, and design products,” Johnson said in NAVSEA’s statement.

“We are setting the tone for the whole program. By emphasizing cost control across the platform through its entire life, we will ensure that every dollar is spent wisely while designing a submarine class that will be in service through 2083.”

Detail design work on the new submarine is expected to begin in fiscal 2017, with construction set to start in 2012.

After a seven-year construction period, the first ship is expected to makes its first deterrent patrol in 2031.

Source – Defense News