Tag Archives: SSBN

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

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India – Submarine import trap

INS_Arihant_SSBN

The Indian Navy needs to  spearhead the amalgamation of nuclear and  conventional submarine design and manufacturing capabilities

The Indian Navy has quietly and without fuss built up a great reputation for itself as a strategic-minded service. Its plans for distant defence are the best articulated, and its procurement of naval hardware mission-appropriate, reason why the government has accorded it the pivotal role in the strategic defence of the country.

As commendable is the Navy’s role in driving the country’s agenda for self-sufficiency in armaments in the teeth of sustained efforts over the years by the bumbling Indian government with the defence ministry and its department of defence production (DPP) to undermine it.

The DPP conceives its remit as only ensuring custom for defence public sector units while trying to trip up the private sector whose built-up capacity and capability can more quickly and substantively attain for the country the goal of self-reliance, which has so far only remained rhetoric. The Navy is the only service to have had a main weapon design directorate, generating designs for 43 of the 45 warships under construction in the country.

The Navy, moreover, has prevented indigenous projects such as the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft programme from sinking, by investing in the development of a navalised variant, managing a technical consultancy with US Navy’s aviation experts to iron out design kinks and shepherding this aircraft to the prototype stage. But the singular success story and its greatest accomplishment is the strategic submarine project. Starting from scratch, it has got to a point where the basic Russian Charlie-II class nuclear-powered ballistic missile firing submarine (SSBN) design has been enhanced, which changes will be reflected in the second and third units of the Arihant-class boats, and a nuclear-powered hunter-killer submarine (SSN) as follow-on to the Akula-II class boat (INS Chakra) on lease from Russia, is in the works. Continue reading

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