Home » Budget Industry » Navy Adds Second Attack Sub to 2021 Plans; Considering 3 SSNs in Future Years

Navy Adds Second Attack Sub to 2021 Plans; Considering 3 SSNs in Future Years

USS Minnesota (SSN-783) under construction at Newport News Shipbuilding in 2012. US Navy Photo

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Navy plans to buy a second Virginia-class attack submarine in Fiscal Year 2021 to keep the industrial base building two SSNs a year even during Columbia-class ballistic-missile submarine procurement, several Navy officials confirmed today.

Due to concerns about overwhelming the two sub construction yards – Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Newport News Shipbuilding and General Dynamics Electric Boat – with too much new work, as the Block V boats are set to include a new Virginia Payload Module section around the same time SSBN construction will begin, the Navy previously planned to buy just one SSN in years it also bought an SSBN. Due to an impending attack sub shortfall, though, Navy plans have continued to up and up the amount of work that could come to the two builders.

“In the past we had anticipated dropping down our submarine construction, our attack submarine construction, during years of the Columbia program procurement,” Acting Navy Secretary Sean Stackley told the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee this morning.
“In fact, we intend to, and we’re laying the groundwork, to sustain [a] two submarine per year procurement rate – because that is our number-one shortfall.”

Acting Navy acquisition chief Allison Stiller told the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee this afternoon that the Navy officially added a second SSN in FY 2021, and that it could even add a third attack boat in 2022 and 2023 – the years in between the first and second Columbia-class boomer.

Stiller explained that a Block V multiyear procurement contract is expected to cover 10 ships from FY 2019 to 2023. Options could be added to that contract to cover additional submarines the Navy may choose to buy as its fleet buildup plans become clearer, pending a Pentagon defense strategy review this spring and summer.

Artist’s concept of the Virginia Payload Module.

“FY ‘22 and ‘23 are the years we are not building a Columbia, so those are years, when we looked at the future fleet plan, we identified that would be an opportunity to get to three a year,” she told the subcommittee.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson told USNI News after the Senate hearing this morning that the Navy desired as many submarines as it could get without breaking the industrial base or breaking the bank.

“As we look at our two submarine builders, Newport News and Electric Boat, we all want to build as much as that team can produce and that we can resource. So that’s sort of the trade space. We’ve done a lot of assessment of that industrial base, we think they can handle it but we don’t want to overload them, so finding that balance point,” he said.
I think the White Paper spoke pretty strongly to that; all of the assessments, both inside and outside the Navy, talked to the need for more shipbuilding, bigger Navy. … And then there is kind of a consistent support or a declaration of the undersea part of the Navy. So you put all those three things together and it’s hard to find a part of our Navy that we’re more committed to than that.

  • bobbymike34

    SSNs should be coming off the assembly line like sausages.

    • Scott McCloud

      for the love of God, why? The US already spends more on war than all other nations combined.

      • bobbymike34

        To target your house with Tomahawks.

  • Danger_Dan

    Increasing the number of subs is a wise choice in the age of increasing lethal A2/AD defenses. Like the trenches of WW-I and the tunnels of WW-2, the only safe place to hide is below the surface. This retired aviator says “Smart decision!”

    • DaSaint

      Completely agree. In fact, I think we need to innovate more and see what else can be done with submarines.

  • Western

    Don’t you wish you had Mare Island Shipyard back and in full operation. As Congress floats the idea of another round of base closings in the name of “efficiency” be careful you do not strangle our ability to deliver the needs of the country.

    • DaSaint

      I wish we did, and the Todd yards, and others. But there are commercial yards that can contribute, just as Eastern is doing now, and Derecktor did in CT some years ago. The political will to overcome the entrenched incumbents is difficult.

    • Sons of Liberty

      There should be no further BRAC. Enough of these politicians and lying off their developer friends with prime real estate.

      Funny how we are told BRAC will save money but never does. It just increase cost to build new facilities and expand tower bases and we loose flexibility and resources. You’d think given the proliferation of missle she they would realize big fat juicy target these large joint bases have become.

    • Stephen

      When Naval Shipyards built ships, the network provided a surge capability. They made the difference in WWII in DD & SS construction. SSN construction extended the skillset well into the 80s. Mare was more efficient than EB; just politically disadvantaged.

  • publius_maximus_III

    So long as it doesn’t impact the new Boomers.

  • @USS_Fallujah

    I think continuing to produce 2 SSNs (SSGNs really w/ VPM included) while producing the Colombia SSBNs is enough of a risk, better to let discretion be the better part of valor than risk blowing up both programs trying to get 3 subs build every year. Certainly not until both ship programs are matured.

    • NavySubNuke

      That is the plan – the 3 SSN years would occur between the SSBN starts — right now we are buying SSBNs in 21, 24, 26-35. So adding an extra SSN to 22 and 23 and 25 would mean we had just 3 SSN starts those years, all other years would be 2 SSNs.
      I’m not sure what the SSBN work flow actually is but adding an extra SSN or two during those gap years could actually help the shipyards better level load the work force.
      Regardless, I am glad they AREN’T adding boats until 2021 as adding another boat in 18 or 19 would not be good – the yards just can’t handle it right now.

  • Marjus Plaku

    Let me preface this by saying that nothing can replace the nuke boats, as they are truly a platform with a capital P. So we should build and field as many of them as possible.

    However, there is no reason the Navy cannot accelerate and full heartedly embrace unmanned miniature submarines who’s sole purpose would be to sneak near enemy bastions and coastlines and sink as many of their ships as possible.

    These underwater drone subs as relatively inexpensive, not overly complex, harder to detect and can be produced much faster and in greater quantities to supplement the fleet.

  • Ed L

    The Swedes and the Japanese make great Submarines with AIP endurance range (est.): 6100 nautical miles