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Navy Has Finalized Specifications for New Ohio-Replacement Boomer

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An undated artist's rendering of the Ohio Replacement. Naval Sea Systems Command Image

An undated artist’s rendering of the Ohio Replacement. Naval Sea Systems Command Image

The Navy has completed the specifications and has set the length for its next generation nuclear ballistic missile submarine, the head of the Navy’s submarine construction program told attendees at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Exposition 2014 at National Harbor, Md. on Monday. 

The Ohio-class Replacement Program boats (ORP, formerly known as SSBN(X)) of 560 feet about the same length as the Ohio-class (SSBN-726) but with eight fewer missile tubes than the service’s current boomers, said Rear Adm. David Johnson Program Executive Officer (PEO) Submarines for Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA).

The extra length — in relationship to the number of missile tubes — was included in the design to improve on stealth, cost and maintainability of new SSBNs.

“We included the requisite stealth technologies to insure the ship’s survivability for its 42-year service life,” Johnson said.
The more than 20,000 ton submarine will be the largest submarine the Navy has ever constructed — about half the size of the Soviet designed 45,000-ton Typhoon boomers and roughly the same tonnage as the Russian Navy’s new Borey-class (Project 955A) SSBNs.

In cooperation with the U.K. Royal Navy Successor-class of SSBNS, ORP boats will field 16 missile tubes armed with Trident II D5 submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs).

The latest Navy figures estimate the boomers will cost $110 million a year to operate with a second through twelfth ship with an average cost of $5.36 billion a hull — both in 2010 dollars.

The Navy’s goal — set by the Office of the Secretary of Defense — is for $4.9 billion per boat.

“When do we actually have to be at $4.9 billion? To be determined,” Johnson told reporters following the presentation.

With the specifications locked in, the Navy will now work with lead ship designer — General Dynamic Electric Boat — to squeeze every dollar it can out of the design to hit the cost target set by OSD.

Under the terms of the latest START treaty, the SSBN force will carry about 70 percent of the U.S. strategic nuclear warheads, placing a greater emphasis on the Navy for the strategic nuclear mission over the Air Force’s nuclear bombers and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) forces.

“It’s not whether or not we’re going to build the strategic deterrent. We’re going to do that. We have to,” said Rear Adm. Joseph Tafalo, the service’s head of submarine warfare (N97) said at the same panel.
“It’s out turn. This is something you do every 50 years and we’ve rung every single once of efficiency from this program.”

Tafalo pointed to the reduction from a SSBN force of 41 from its first five classes of 1960s and 1970s era boomers, to the 14 SSBNs of the Ohio-class and the 12 planned ORP SSBNs.

Despite the historic reduction in the number of boats for the strategic mission, the $100 billion program will be among the most expensive shipbuilding undertakings in the Navy’s history.

Tafalo’s N97 predecessor, Rear Adm. Richard Breckenridge, told Congress the Navy would need almost $60 billion dollars in funding — from outside the Navy’s budget — over the course of 15 years to prevent an impact to the Navy’s other shipbuilding accounts.

The Navy plans to start construction of the first ORP in 2021 with a first planned patrol to start in 2031.

The service included $1.2 billion in research and development funding for ORP as part of its Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 budget, released earlier this year.

The ship design effort will borrow extensively from developments in the Virginia-class submarine attack boats (SSN-774) and the Seawolf-class (SSN-21) programs, service officials said.

Some of the innovations planned for the new hull include an entirely new electric propulsion system and a life-of-boat nuclear reactor that will significantly reduce the time the boomers will spend in maintenance.

  • statepark

    GO NAVY

  • Ctrot

    Bigger boat, fewer missiles. I don’t get it.

    • estuartj

      Bigger hull means quieter boat. Also by spreading things out maintenance is easier, means less down time and less cost to operate. – In theory anyway.

      • JoeOvercoat

        That volume could be used to install redundant elements, in particular for the electronics, such that the crew does not have to fix the boat at sea, as well.

        • estuartj

          Good point, also means more storage space for parts (and food!) which increases the time on station, and reducing the number of boats needed.

          • JoeOvercoat

            As for the sailors, whether or not they get some elbow room remains to be seen. By the looks of the VA berthing, I would not hold my breath on that point….

      • Jason The Sane

        Do you really think crew comfort will be a design priority? 8 less tubes means replace that space with other gear, not spread out the gear by that volume.

    • George Huff

      Can you say Female Berthing being part of it?

  • estuartj

    Wet blanket alert, but “Rear Adm. Richard Breckenridge, told Congress the Navy would need almost $60 billion dollars in funding — from outside the Navy’s budget — over the course of 15 years” WILL NOT HAPPEN.
    Congress, the administration and Navy brass need to take a long hard look in the mirror and decided what is really most important. If this becomes a mano-y-mano budget fight I don’t see how the ORP can survive, producing 12 submarines with cost more comparable to CVNs just isn’t doable, so the question is;
    Can we do without the seaborne leg of the triad?
    It’s the most secure, but ICBMs are so much less expensive and strategic bombers can be used for non-nuclear missions so they at least have flexibility. I honestly don’t see how these boats ever get built.

    • madskills

      So $50 billion for the new bombers, $60 billion for the new subs, seems like a plan. So each sub cost the same as a Nimitz aircraft carrier…. And upgrading the B-1B and the B-2 will cost $1.5 billion. This reminds me of me buying new golf clubs that I didn’t really need….

      • estuartj

        That’s $60B BEYOND what would be paid for in the shipbuilding budget. basicially that’s the amount the USN can’t pay without cutting all the other ships currently procured in the Shipbuilding and Conversion account. I think the actual full procurement (and not operation or maintenance) cost is actually ~$100B.

    • Will Spears

      The requirements for the ORP come from the National Security Council, well above the head of SECNAV. That means the Navy will build the new Boomers even if its the only ship we build. THAT’s why CNO keeps beating the drum for a trans-service “strategic systems account” to pay for these things; so that hopefully the trade-offs required come from the other services and not just out of shipbuilding.

      • estuartj

        I included NSC and SecNav are part of “The Administration” because they get their direction from the President. Navy brass can put up a fight, either directly up their chain-of-command or by talking to Congress. Point is something has to give here, and I’m betting it will not be the topline budget number. That means Congress is going to have to choose between building the ORP (Electic Boat and NNS) and building SSNs (Ditto), CVNs (NNS), DDGs (BIW & HII) and LCS (Bonney and Clyde – jk), plus other non-shipbuilding procurements like aircraft (Boeing, LMCO, etal).
        At some point this is going to become a lobbying fight, and the Aegis Mafia and Carrier Hawks have a LOT more pull than the submariners.

  • vincedc

    Seventeen years from Requirements to patrol. You would think that Electric Boat had never built a submarine before

  • Aganger727

    When I did my time on the Michigan, the talk in the NW was that these boats were gonna be able to be converted from BN’s to GN’s depending on needs of war efforts and what not. Also, fewer tubes might have something to do with the lockout chambers and NSW ops. I’m pretty excited to see them when they roll out though!

    • Ken Dixon

      The decrease to 16 tubes is to conform with START treaty requirements.

  • Donald Unser

    The extra room is for the hair and nail salon for the ladies.

  • http://www.lhc.ac.uk/ Allah the Creator

    Interesting.
    Let’s see what the RN roll out with the Vanguard replacement program

  • bobbymike34

    Now just need a new ICBM, SLBM and new generation of nuke warheads and I’m a happy Warrior.

  • Geoff Breedwell

    Wow. This sounds great. Less time in the yards, more time at sea. From 24 to 16 sounds interesting, and it could be something that can add to the growing world for technology. Now, if only the Navy will realize the gap and start sending money for tech towards the subs. Haha.