Home » Budget Industry » Navy Interested in Stable 2-A-Year Attack Boat Construction; Lawmakers This Week Vote on Higher Rate

Navy Interested in Stable 2-A-Year Attack Boat Construction; Lawmakers This Week Vote on Higher Rate

Sailors bring the Virginia-class attack submarine USS Washington (SSN 787) to life during the commissioning ceremony at Naval Station Norfolk on Oct. 7, 2017. Washington is the U.S. Navy’s 14th Virginia-class attack submarine and the fourth U.S. Navy ship named for the State of Washington. US Navy photo.

This post has been updated to include additional background on the two-a-year versus three-a-year talks for the Virginia class. This post has also been corrected to include the accurate title for Tom Dee, performing the duties of the under secretary of the Navy.

THE PENTAGON – The Navy’s undersea warfare division is eyeing a stable two-a-year attack submarine rate to reach its ultimate goal of a 66-SSN fleet, despite calls from outside the service to build a larger navy faster.

Acting director of undersea warfare (OPNAV N97) Brian Howes told USNI News today that the service plans to build two Virginia-class submarines a year, which would allow them to reach a 66-boat force by 2048. Building two a year even in years when the Navy buys Columbia-class ballistic-missile submarines would be an increase compared to previous plans, which had just one Virginia sub in years when the Navy also bought an SSBN.

The increase in the attack boat requirement, which had previously been set at 48 SSNs, comes as part of the Navy’s push to build a 355-ship fleet. Various stakeholders have described vastly different timelines for reaching 355 ships in the 11 months since the Navy released its updated force structure assessment. Though the House Armed Services Committee said it believed the buildup would take 25 to 30 years, and Tom Dee performing the duties of under secretary of the Navy said it could take 30 years or more, others have suggested more aggressive timelines– the Congressional Budget Office suggested a potential 15-year timeline for reaching 66 attack submarines, Naval Sea Systems Command suggested a plan that shaves 10 to 15 years off in part by extending the life of current surface ships in the fleet, and lawmakers are pushing for higher SSN procurement rates. The Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act allows the Navy to buy 13 over five years, or three a year in non-SSBN years.

Still, Howes said the OPNAV staff and N97 specifically are committed to two a year.

“All of the divisions in N9 are working on how to establish the right industrial base sustaining rate to build to the levels we need. We talked about at the Sub League Symposium that that’s two per year for us, SSNs. If you stay on two per year you end up at the force objective, which is 66. It’s in the out-years, but it’s stability, and it allows us to maintain the industrial base and not have peaks and valleys in the profile,” Howes said in an interview today.
“There’s value in having that stable production profile. There may be opportunities to increase that profile, but it’s over and above a stable profile. The surface community, the expeditionary community, the aviation community are also looking at similar stable profiles. Where’s our objective? What should the profile be to achieve that objective over time?”

“Now as we are building up slowly, as we get above 48, we also have to make sure that we have the total ownership cost in our budget to sustain those additional ships,” he continued.
“The man, train and equip, all of those pieces have to be accounted for when you go above your current force structure levels. We have to make sure that we have sufficient funding for that as our force increases. We’re identifying what those values are, we’re communicating those.”

Howes said some of the funding to build two SSNs a year and sustain the larger force will come through efficiencies and the rest will have to come through an increase in topline Navy spending. He said N97 is focused on “reform and process so we can get the most savings out of our programs as possible and we can self-fund this increase in our force. When we achieve the limit of that, we need to go to Congress and say we need additional resources to fund the navy the nation needs.”

Howes made clear “we’re not saying no” to building more than two attack submarines per year, but for now the emphasis is on a predictable and stable build rate for industry.

“If we say we’re going to do three a year, we need to give [industry] a signal to do it, and then have them build out their facilities” for a higher build-rate, he said, but an increase to three a year would be dependent on proven industrial base capacity and additional resources – which would likely involve a repeal of the Budget Control Act and its strict spending limits, he said, so the Navy would have a topline to support not only buying more subs but also buying more ships, aircraft, people, and other things needed for a balanced larger force.

Howes comments are the second this month on the Navy’s commitment to building two attack subs a year and no more. Vice Adm. David Johnson, the military deputy to the Navy’s acquisition chief, said earlier this month that industry needed to prove it could reliably maintain a 60-month build cycle during two-a-year acquisition before the Navy would consider buying three a year. Those comments were made from a program and industrial base health standpoint, whereas Howes’ comments speak to the Navy’s requirements and funding intentions.

The House of Representatives this week approved a compromise FY 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that would authorize the Navy to sign a Virginia-class Block V contract for “up to 13″ submarines. Block V spans from 2019 to 2023. The Navy will buy its first two Columbia-class SSBNs in 2021 and 2024, but some lawmakers have suggested inserting a third sub into the 2020, 2022 and 2023 plans. Earlier this year, acting acquisition chief Allison Stiller told the House Armed Services Committee that “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.”

Since that time, though, Navy officials have publicly spoken about the importance of getting the stable two-a-year production right before starting talks about adding a third boat in any given year.

  • StealthFlyer

    If 2 SSNs a year is the maximum build rate, it would make sense to have another shipyard build diesel AIP SSKs that can be forward deployed in Europe, the Middle East, and Western Pacific (where the long-range nuclear powerplant is not as critical). SSKs could also be exported to Taiwan and other countries to reduce overall program costs and enable our allies to better defend themselves.

    This would add US jobs, which is a focus of the Trump administration. Since Congress is trying to buy the Navy more subs than it is actually requesting, I don’t think the old excuse “once we start buying cheaper SSKs, Congress will stop funding SSNs” is valid anymore.

    • Duane

      We don’t need to build the low end coastal boats. That’s something our regional allies already have and continue to build. They don’t have to traverse the Pacific to get to their patrol stations – we do. That’s why we need nukes.

      • Stephen

        EB is gearing up for the SSBN program & will get back into the routine they established during the 688/726 days. That schedule eliminated Overhauls from their list of things-to-do. Plus, a SSGN variant is an additional possibility. More importantly, we need to keep our technology to ourselves. We lost so many 594/637s to espionage.

        • Duane

          Not sure what you mean about losing 594/637s to espionage. We lost only the SSN 593 (Thresher – the first in class that was later renamed 594 class) in 1963, and SSN 589 (Scorpion) in 1968. The earlier of those events occurred many years before the Walker saga, and it’s not clear that his selling of US communications to the Soviets in January 1968 had anything to do with the loss of the Scorpion in May, 1968. There have been many conflicting theories on what caused her loss, and the Navy investigation boards never cited a likely cause of her loss.

          • Stephen

            The 594/637s were decommissioned 10-20 years early. The Walkers & others did serious damage. That created a gap that has only gotten worse as the 688 production could not achieve the build-rate to off-set the decommissioning.

          • Duane

            We did not need to maintain the same SSN fleet size in the post-Cold War era, because our principal adversary disappeared from the face of the earth. Most of the old Sovietnuke boats lay rusting at piers in Russian ports in the 1990s, and significant replacement activity by the Russians did not begin until the late 2000s, and even then, was a tiny shadow of the former Soviet fleet..

            I was a 637 class sailor. My boat was commissioned in 1967, and was decomisioned in 1995, four years after the Cold War ended and we had many more nuke boats that we needed in the immediate Cold War situation. A 28 year life was about the expected lifetime (no more than 30 years). By 1995, she would have needed another nuclear refuel overhaul to continue (she was retired 17 years following her mid-life refueling – in which I was a participant). There is no way the Navy could have gotten another 10 or 20 years out of that boat. The youngest of the 637s had a 21 year service life, also retiring about the same time (1994) when the Navy was drawing down from a 600 ship navy to a 330 ship navy. Most of the 637s served about 25-30 years, being replaced by the Los Angeles, Seawolf, and Virginia class boats in the 1990s through early 2000s.

      • El Kabong

        If only the money wasted on Little Crappy Ships had been used on SSK’s…

        Never heard of the bases in Deigo Garcia, Japan, Guam, I see.

        We do have allies, Duaney.

    • David Oldham

      “I don’t think the old excuse “once we start buying cheaper SSKs, Congress will stop funding SSNs” is valid anymore.”

      Of course it is valid, liberals being liberals, get real. The US has no need for diesel boats, our allies do, let them build as many as they want.

      • Jffourquet

        The USN can make good use of SSKs/AIP submarines in forward deployed locations such as Japan, Guam and the Mediterranean Sea. WWII in the Pacific showed how capable US Navy subs conventional subs can be. The newer AIP subs can perform many of those same missions freeing up the SSN’s for longer duration missions such as hunting SSBN’s.

        • Duane

          Our allies in the region already have non-nuke coastal boats. We don’t need to take on their responsibilities. Let them keep doing what they do, and we’ll keep doing what we do, which is to operate the world’s largest fleet of high end submarines, and keep adding both capabilities and numbers to that fleet.

          • @USS_Fallujah

            This is a byproduct of advocates falling in love with a number instead of looking at capabilities. What would a fleet of 20 or so SSKs give us? What does a cost neutral number of SSNs give us?
            SSKs aren’t just short ranged (requiring local logistics support an SSN doesn’t need nearly as much of – beyond food), but are also (by design) very small, which means fewer torpedoes, ASCMs & LACMs which is exactly the capabilities the COCOMMs require.

          • El Kabong

            SSK’s are quieter, smaller, require less maintenance, don’t need specialized yards, more agile, cheaper….

          • @USS_Fallujah

            SSKs are quieter only in their primary operating capability, if forced to cross any significant distance they lose this advantage, further the advantage of the boat on electric vs a SSN operating at the same performance parameters is far less than you’d imagine.
            Smaller isn’t really much of an advantage, it’s means less range, endurance and weapons load. The size of the boat matters very little even in an active sonar engagement.
            Less maintenance is debatable, as is the degree of specialization of yard for routine maintenance (for refueling/refit you’re absolutely correct).
            More Agile is completely false, the performance characteristics of a SSK vs SSN in acceleration, turn radius, depth (and change of depth) all favor the SSN.
            Cheaper true, in absolute dollars, though in a cost per capability comparison it’s a far different story.

          • El Kabong

            If, if, if…

            Want to compare a massive SSN in areas such as the Med?
            Persian Gulf?

            “More Agile is completely false, the performance characteristics of a SSK vs SSN in acceleration, turn radius, depth (and change of depth) all favor the SSN.”?


            Back up your claims.

            Turn radius?


            A 115m long, 7800 ton Virginia class is “more agile” than a 65m long, 1700 ton Type 214?

            What are you smoking?

            “Smaller isn’t really much of an advantage, it’s means less range, endurance and weapons load. The size of the boat matters very little even in an active sonar engagement.”?

            Yeah, no….

            As I pointed out, try that in the Baltic, Persian Gulf, etc and see how that works out for you.

            Sure, don’t mention the COST.

            A few SSK’s up against your one SSN, won’t end well for the SSN.

          • @USS_Fallujah

            I was referencing the Kilo and Soryu, which are both over twice as large as the 1700 tons for a Type 214 you reference, we have to stick to apples to apples, as a 1700 ton sub is going to take on even more tradeoffs that a 4,000 ton one. We are specifically talking about SSK alternatives to a USN SSN, so something that small isn’t really an option so I’m sticking to apples.

          • El Kabong

            1700 ton SURFACE displ.

            We’re talking about the usefulness of SSK’s vs SSN’s.

            SSN’s are NOT the ‘be all and end all’ of submarine warfare.

            I haven’t seen answers to the questions I asked….

          • @USS_Fallujah

            If I gave the impression that SSNs are the “be all and end all” of submarine warfare then I apologize, that is not my belief and not my intention, but each platform comes with significant tradeoffs and to ignore those would create a dangerous capability gap.

          • @USS_Fallujah

            Also worth noting that the Persian Gulf has an average depth of 300ft and the Med averages 1500ft. Again I’m not claiming that a SSK doesn’t have value, or areas where it isn’t superior or at least preferable to a SSN, but in evaluating the relative value of each platform it’s important to properly evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each and the limitations in operational area and role that those weaknesses entail.

          • El Kabong

            Also worth noting is the MASSIVE size of SSN’s….

            “…but in evaluating the relative value of each platform it’s important to properly evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each and the limitations in operational area and role that those weaknesses entail.”?

            Go ahead.

          • @USS_Fallujah

            MASSIVE size of SSNs, a USN 688 is just under 7k tons and 362 ft long, a Soryu is 4,200 tons and 275 ft long. So a SSN is bigger (A Seawolf much bigger, a Virginia less so at 7900 tons & 377ft), but it’s not a MASSIVE difference.
            As to the tradeoffs of a SSN vs SSK, the primary advantages of the SSN are speed (top speed of 30+ knots vs 13 knots for a Soryu), Endurance and Magazine (a SSN carries about half again as many torpedo launched weapons, but also carries 12+ LACMs).
            The stealth characteristics of a SSK are often (IMO) overemphasized as at their normal operating speed they have very little advantage over SSNs operating at the same speed. Nukes get much less stealthy as they accelerate (to speeds no SSK can match), but when hunting on equal terms the SSK’s advantage is small, and most SSNs will have a better sonar suite, partially the result of having unlimited power to operate (and cool) more sophisticated processing equipment.
            My overall point is that it doesn’t make sense for the USN to spend valuable shipbuilding and operations funds on SSK that duplicate capabilities our allies already possess and our SSNs bring with them a lot of capabilities none of our regional allies possess in any quantity. Thus our energies are being put to best use, and to divert those funds to buy more hulls with less capability and redundant ones at that, would be foolish.

          • El Kabong

            “The stealth characteristics of a SSK are often (IMO) overemphasized as at their normal operating speed they have very little advantage over SSNs operating at the same speed.”?

            Define “overemphasized”.


            Come on, you know better.
            Speed is bad when it comes to anti-shipping or ASW attacks.

            Let’s talk about silence, shall we?

          • @USS_Fallujah

            SSKs are often reported as being stealthy of silent while SSNs are called noisy, but when an SSN (at least a USN/RN one) are operating at the same speed as an SSK would be hunting at on batteries they are both incredibly quiet, if not net negative (the sub emits less sound than the surrounding background noise) as you increase speed the SSK while under battery power gains more of an advantage, which then declines as the speed of the sub through the water and increased screw/propulsor noise negates both platform’s stealth. Thus the stealth differential is IMO overemphasized (though so much, as always, depends more on the skill of the captain and crew operating it than the capabilities of the platform itself).
            An SSN has huge advantages in operational speed, as you can drop to maximum depth, well below the 2nd thermal layer in the open ocean, and crank on speed to get ahead of the probably course of your prey. If you’re looking to withdraw you can also run faster than they can hunt (this again is at the operational level, not the tactical one – as nothing short of an old Alfa can outrun a torpedo – and even that not a high speed fish like the RN Spearfish, reportedly capable of 70 knots).

          • El Kabong

            How are those nuclear reactors cooled?

          • @USS_Fallujah

            When operating on minimal power, which you are when making steerage or just above, the cooling pumps on a S6G, S6W, SGG or S9G reactor aren’t needed.

          • El Kabong

            “When operating on minimal power, which you are when making steerage or just above…”?

            Tactically limiting. How slow is that?

            Now, compare it to what an SSK can do on batteries.

          • @USS_Fallujah

            When stalking another Sub I’d expect neither to be operating at faster that 5 knots, at which point (if handled correctly) both the SSN & SSK on batteries can be essentially silent. All platforms will have a range of stealth that varies greatly depending on (primarily) speed, depth, and oceanographic conditions (especially the location or existence of salinity layers, but also surface noise & biologicals). Each will have an envelope wherein they have the advantage and the winner will be determined primarily in how the captain & crew work to maximize their advantages and limit their weaknesses compared to the adversary. A lot also depends on the mission requirements of each, rarely will you find a real life combat scenario where two subs are operating alone against one another, more likely one is try to prevent the other to pass a chokepoint, or one is attempting to access a specific location to interdict surface forces or launch a LACM strike. So much depends on context and even more than that training and discipline.

          • El Kabong

            Again, what’s cooling that reactor?

          • @USS_Fallujah

            Natural heat induction, basically at low power the cooling process proceeds naturally without the need for pumps to move the water. Managing speed/operations to keep under this threshold is a key part of training, especially in the SSBNs. If you need to move at operational speeds you drop below the next salinity layer and then punch it up to 20kts or so (wherein the SSN is still pretty quiet, certainly hard to detect through that salinity layer), and virtually impossible to detect from the surface (without a VDS) because you have two salinity layers rebounding the sound waves. Now if you’re operating in a littoral environment when you have no, or only one salinity layer, life is a lot harder for submarines and having a wider range of speed at full silent (like a SSK on batteries) gives them an advantage.

          • El Kabong

            ” If you need to move at operational speeds you drop below the next salinity layer…”?

            How does that work in shallow waters?

            Such as the Baltic, Persian Gulf, etc?

          • @USS_Fallujah

            Did I not mention that issue in my post. A very real issue for both types of sub operating in the shallows.

          • El Kabong


            “A very real issue for both types of sub operating in the shallows.”?

            Do your family a favour and have your “brother” do the commenting.

          • @USS_Fallujah

            I addressed the very point you brought up, a sub operating in the littoral doesn’t have the advantage of a 2nd salinity layer and that does give some advantage to the SSK by taking away an advantage of the SSN, it doesn’t actually make the SSK more capable in that environment.

          • El Kabong

            No, you did not.

            Squirm on.

          • El Kabong

            “Natural heat induction, basically at low power the cooling process proceeds naturally without the need for pumps to move the water.”?

            I’d like to see a credible source saying modern Western subs don’t need cooling pumps to operate at all times.


          • @USS_Fallujah

            My brother was a USN nuke for 23 years, serving on 593s, 637s, 688s and 2 SSBNs, so I’ll take his word for it. You can salt to taste.

          • El Kabong

            SURE he was…

            You can post whatever you like.

          • @USS_Fallujah

            His first sub was the USS Dace, his last was the USS Kentucky. He served in and decommissioned a half dozen subs in between, but you be you.

          • El Kabong

            SURE it was…

            Troll on.

          • @USS_Fallujah

            Plus we need to dispense with the idea that a SSN (or SSBN) operating at a normal speed is somehow noisy. The detection range is still going to be extremely small and the advantage of larger air backed sonar or water backed Large Aperture Bow and a towed array is going to make a successful attack by the SSK on the SSN very difficult (depending as always on the skill and training of the crews of the two subs, as well as the tactical situation).

          • El Kabong

            Define “normal” speed.

            Subs aren’t going to be ‘dogfighting’ at high speed.

          • @USS_Fallujah

            “Normal” in this context meaning between 5-15 knots, less is best described as steerage. Above that is sprinting.

          • El Kabong

            It’s also called stalking a target at those slow speeds.

          • Duane

            Not only that, Falluja, but the SSKs are NOT competent ASW platforms – which is the number one mission of American attack boats.

          • @USS_Fallujah

            I’m not sure I’d agree on Soryu (for instance) not being competent ASW platforms, but they do have significant limitations that must be accounted for in operational planning. For a SSK to be successful it MUST operate to maximize it’s strengths and hide it’s weaknesses, when forced (for instance) to stalk surface ships in the open ocean they become highly vulnerable (which is also why the PLAN SSK fleet is potential very dangerous inside the first island chain, and torpedo fodder outside of it.)

          • Duane

            The SSKs and all the small coastal boats are not competent ASW platforms. They lack the sensors of a SSN, having only very basic sonars, without towed arrays or the physical size to house hull mounted transducers. They do not dive deep at all (just a few hundred feet), so are incapable of detecting deep diving submarines due to the temperature gradient layers. They do not have the speed of SSNs, nor do they provide long range ASW fires. They’re very short legged too, so cannot engage in long distance tracking of submarines.

            The small coastal boats – whether diesel electric or AIP – are basically anti-surface weapons, similar in capability to the old WWI and pre-WWII boats with short legs.

            In other words, they’re cheap, but not very capable.

          • @USS_Fallujah

            Soryu (and Kilo) class submarines are about 4k tonnes. By comparison a 688 is 7k tonnes. The have a full sonar suite, including a towed array. These are not small costal boats incapable of ASW operations. Any non-nuke boat is going to have innate limitations, but they do carry about 30 Type 89 torpedoes (and Harpoons) that are just as capable as the MK-48 ADCAP torpedoes used by Nuke boats.
            SSKs fit the niche they are intended to fight in very well, they are very vulnerable outside of that niche, but if forced to confront them in that intended environment they are extremely dangerous to any major power’s SSNs.

          • Duane

            I am mistaken about the SSK, you are right, they are ASW platforms. I was lumping them with the small coastal boats, both diesel-electric and AIP.

          • @USS_Fallujah

            Also the test depth of a Soryu Class is 900ft, Kilo is listed as 790-980ft….and a 688’s max depth is 950ft (Seawolf is 1,600 ft & Virginia Class is “officially” +800 ft”.

          • Duane

            Yep … again, I mistakenly lumped the SSK in with the small coastal boats.

          • El Kabong


            “The SSKs and all the small coastal boats are not competent ASW platforms.”?

            According to what credible source, Duaney?

            Go ahead, list off what “basic sonars” those SSK’s like the Type 214, Type 216, Soryu, Collins, Victoria and Scorpene classes use.

            “They do not dive deep at all (just a few hundred feet), so are incapable of detecting deep diving submarines due to the temperature gradient layers.”?

            Always amusing, Duaney!

            Let’s see that maximum submerged depth for those SSK’s I mentioned.

            A Type 214’s test depth is 400m.

            Since you can’t handle facts, let alone metric, 400m = 1312 ft.

            A Scorpene is listed as over 300m.

            A Soryu is around 300m also.

            Speaking of Soryus as an example, go read up on the ZQQ-7 sonar suite they carry.
            Specifically the TOWED ARRY SONAR.

            In other words, you know nothing, Duaney.

          • El Kabong

            Duaney knows nothing, besides cheerleading for LCS white elephants.

          • El Kabong


            “…but the SSKs are NOT competent ASW platforms…”?

            SSK’s are sure better investments than Little Crappy Ships.

            Back up your rantings with credible facts, Duaney.

            Here, right from ThyssenKrupp’s own Type 214 webpage:

            “HDW Class 214

            On the basis of the proven design principles of the HDW Class 209 family withadditional incorporation of innovative features of HDW Class 212A, ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems developed the HDW Class 214 submarine.

            It is well equipped to undertake a wide scope of missions ranging from operations in littoral waters to ocean-going patrols. The modular weapon and sensor mix, in combination with the submarine’s air-independent features, makes the HDW Class 214 predestined for

            – anti-surface ship and anti-submarine operations
            – intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance tasks,
            – Special Forces operations.

            Here’s the Type 216’s:
            “The modular weapon and sensor mix, in combination with the submarine’s air-independent features, makes the HDW Class 216 predestined for

            – Anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare
            – ISTAR – Intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance
            – Land attack capability
            – Special Forces operations
            – Deployment of unmanned vehicles
            – Mine operations and mine reconnaissance.

            “- which is the number one mission of American attack boats.”?

            Hilarious, Duaney!

            Here, try reading the USN’s own website:

            “Attack submarines are designed to seek and destroy enemy submarines and surface ships; project power ashore with Tomahawk cruise missiles and Special Operation Forces (SOF); carry out Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions; support battle group operations; and engage in mine warfare.”

            Better luck, next time.

          • El Kabong

            Oh, Duaney…. LMAO!

            “…but the SSKs are NOT competent ASW platforms…”?

            According to what credible source?

            Let’s chat about the TASS carried by the Soryus, shall we?
            All the other sonar, torpedoes and sensors carried by the Scorpenes, Type 214, Type 216. Collins, Victorias….

          • Duane

            I already admitted my error on this subject, lumping in the SSK with the coastal diesel and AIP boats that form the bulk of potentially enemy submarines.

          • El Kabong

            “I already admitted my error on this subject…”

            Sums up your comment history, perfectly.

            Answer the question, Duaney.

    • Horn

      With what money? BCA caps are still here.

  • D. Jones

    By 2048 we’ll be far behind chicoms in #’s, and their quality is getting better.

    This isn’t about “peaks and valleys”, it’s about survival. Couple of left wing administrations and 2 a year will be slashed.

    Howes was a Sept. 2015 appointment. He should be sacked. Pronto.

    • PolicyWonk

      It was the right-wing administration of GWB that ruined the economy of the US, and left behind a military at its lowest state of readiness since Vietnam.

      Hence – budgeting a build-up was a non-starter, especially when you have a GOP opposition pretending that increasing the deficit was a bad idea (look where they’re heading now!).


  • homey

    in 30 years China’s navy will outnumber the USA 10 to 1, lets hope they stay in their own backyard…

    • Duane

      Not happening. China currently spends 1/4 what the US spends on defense. They’re building new subs, but mostly low end diesel boats. They have very few high end nuke boats, which are very costly. The Chinese are also busy building up their surface fleets and aviation assets too, so they cannot devote their whole defense budget to high end nuke boats.

      • TransformerSWO

        Quantity has a quality all its own, though.

        • Duane

          Only to a point. China can build 200 coastal subs, and they will all be equally susceptible to ASW and equally incapable of threatening the US.

          • leroy

            Don’t forget – we can rely on Japanese Soryus and (soon) Australian Shortfin Barracudas to assist the USN. That’s a whole lotta undersea force the PLAN would have to deal with.

          • Duane

            Exactly, Leroy. The Japanese, ROKs and even the Taiwanese have coastal diesel-electric boats, and those boats fit their needs. They should keep building and operating them, just as our NATO allies do the same in the Baltic, North Atlantic, and Med. We certainly don’t need to replicate what our allies do, and if anything our allies should do more, while also adding some higher end ships, such as the Japanese, ROK, and Australian AEGIS destroyers they have and/or are building. The Japanese and ROKs are constrained from going nuclear by current law.

          • El Kabong

            “China can build 200 coastal subs…”?

            Cite your source.

            Notice NO ONE is building equivalent Little Crappy Ships?


          • Duane

            Saudi Arabia is buying LCS.

          • El Kabong


            ONE puppet state client…

            Saudi Arabia is a joke.

            Have they repaired the frigate that was hit by a AShM yet?

      • DaSaint

        1. Do you have a link to the official Chinese military budget?

        2. If costs are less than ours, which they are, then they can produce more. There’s a reason most of the world’s ships are produced in Asia.

        3. Their economy will be bigger than ours at some point, which could lead to them being able to spend even more.

        4. See point #2.

        • Duane

          You can google it, or look it up in Wikipedia. It’s commonly available.

          The Chinese fleet, in terms of number of hulls, is already higher in number than ours. But in terms of tonnage, their fleet is but a tiny fraction of ours. Like many non-Super Powers, they have a large number of small ships, including coastal patrols, coastal submarines, corvettes and frigates, and very few nuclear subs that mostly are very old Soviet designs, though the Chinese are starting to build some modern SSNs and SSBNs. The Chinese have no big deck CVs, no nuclear surface ships at all. They have one refurbished, very old (1980s vintage) former Soviet CV with a ski jump flight deck, and they’re building another one, and supposedly have design under way on single medium deck CV with cats and traps, similar to our old retired Kitty Hawk class.

          As for the Chinese economy eventually being bigger than ours, that is no foregone conclusion at all, and their GDP per capita (the true measure of relative wealth) is still less than 1/10 that of the US.

          Yes, the Chinese have been building up their military, but so are we, from its low point at the turn of the 20th century. And we are not using nearly as much of our military power in overseas wars, as we were a decade ago. Meaning we have relatively more to devote to building up our capability against near-peer competitors

          And of course, so are our allies building up now, including the ROKs and the Japanese. The Chinese have no treaty allies beyond the basket case known as North Korea, which has a pitiful coastal navy. We on the other hand have many dozens of treaty allies, and between us and our allies, we cover 7 of the largest 10 navies as measured in tonnage.

          • DaSaint

            I would take with a grain of salt anything regarding ‘official’ numbers from Wikipedia! LOL!

            I get your points on what they currently have, but look where they were just 10 years ago. And I absolutely agree with your point regarding the complementary capabilities of our allies, such as ROK, Japan, and Australia. The point you make that China has no allies with capable naval forces is an excellent one, as long as we consider warfare in the conventional sense as we all know it. The potential equalizer is the cyber domain, not just from China, but from Russia, NK and others, and frankly that has me worried.

          • El Kabong

            Wrong-i-pedia attracts the amateurs, ignorant and delusional.

            Seems that holds true in this case.

          • Duane

            I didn’t say you needed to use Wikipedia, but it’s easy to go there. My first suggestion was to google it. Please do that and pick your source. It’s readily available.

          • El Kabong

            “You can google it, or look it up in Wikipedia.”?

            Typical last ditch defence of amateurs who have no clue.

            Cite your sources.

            Let’s see China’s equivalent of the Little Crappy Ships.

        • Horn

          For once, Duane is correct here, although I’ve seen estimates on their budget go as high as 1/2 the US military.Their nucs are considered particularly noisy and the majority of their subs are older diesels. That means their sub force is mostly designed for use within the first island chain. The majority of their surface force is SSCs. Less than 20 modern destroyers, less than 30 modern frigates, less than 40 modern corvettes, and a lot of old and new missile boats. That’s a fleet designed for operating only within the first island chain. Throw on the fact that their navy has no combat experience, too. The majority of their naval capabilities they claim have never actually been proven. Is their AEGIS-clone comparable to ours? Are their STS missiles as good as they claim? Then you must take into account that we have allies whereas China has few. In a conflict, we can starve the Chinese of fuel via blockades and embargos. They are not in a position to challenge the US or its allies yet, and probably won’t anytime soon.

          As for their economy, you are looking at the wrong numbers. That 6% growth rate they’ve been touting has been proven to be fabricated. It’s more like 2-3%. Most of that growth happened during the recent recession due to domestic infrastructure projects (like all those ghost cities you keep seeing). And their debt is massive, and could rival the US’s very soon. Now look at their population growth and you’ll see some major concerns. China has a huge population that is aging, with a low birth rate. Who is going to take care of that aging populace, financially? Think about the healthcare costs of 300 million citizens over the age of 60. Their economy is facing a rut soon, before they can challenge the US and its allies.

          • DaSaint

            Points well taken. They are clearly far behind us in terms of numbers and quality. Where they are now in comparison to 10 years ago is a different matter, and where they may be in another 10 is another matter entirely. As you and Duane have stated, the allies we have are an absolute advantage.

            Regarding their economy, it continues to grow, and is the factory of the world right now, like it or not. We still have the edge in terms of high tech manufacturing, computers and the like, but the gap has closed and may – MAY – continue to do so.

            And we don’t worry about health care, do we? We too have an aging population.

          • Horn

            Yes, but numbers are the key here. This is where GDP per capita becomes important. Their population growth rate is lower than ours, and GDP per capita allows us to take advantage of our smaller population size. We don’t have to have as high of a birth rate to support our aging population when compared to China. If you look at the wealth of China’s population, it’s spread out along the East coast. Further inland the population is extremely poor, rivaling that of some of the poorest nations.

          • Duane

            The Chinese are catching up so to speak, but there seems little likelihood of them trying to replicate our bluewater, three ocean naval force with lots of very high capability ships like our big deck CVNs and Virginia class SSNs. They would have to drastically increase their military spending from current levels, and as Horn pointed out, the Chinese are in a demographic downward spiral. The Chinese also have a heckuva lot more to contend with than just the US Navy – our allies have strong and growing (both in numbers and capabilities) navies, and their most powerful regional neighbor – India – is also significantly increasing their naval and aviation assets, and are already a major nuclear power, and are growing increasingly close to the USA, being part of the “Quad Group” of the US, Japan, Australia, and India – a direct regional counterweight to China.

          • DaSaint

            Hopefully that will remain the case 50 years from now. Great Britain lost the mastery of the seas in less than that to the industrial giant which was the United States.

          • Duane

            The UK, unlike the United States, was a colonial power in a post-colonial world after World War Two intervened. Without the colonies, the UK was just another mid-sized European state with terrible economic policies brought on by liberal governments and massive labor unrest. UK has been on the rebound ever since the Iron Lady brought needed reforms. The UK lost their fleet because they lost their economic powers.

            The US was never a colonial power (yes, we had a few territories but they were not the cash cows that the UK had, particularly in India and the Middle East), so we had nearly nothing to lose from the post-colonial period. Indeed, after World War Two we were the last man standing, economically, amongst the former European and Japanese major powers.

          • DaSaint

            Oh Duane, your response misses the mark. I understand history quite well, including the US vis-à-vis WWII vs Great Britain et al.

            My point is simple: Great powers throughout history rise. And they fall and are superseded. Greece. Rome, England, (France, Spain and Netherlands as near-peer adversaries to England), etc. I hope we’re not foolish, nor arrogant to think that the US will always reign supreme indefinitely.

            That’s my point. If you want to get into the rationale for the rise and fall of the great powers throughout history as a counter to why it can’t happen here, please feel free to do so. To be clear, I’m not advocating for, nor wishing for that day to come for our country, just cognizant that it is possible, and even likely at some point in history. And history being what it is, at some point folks will be able to look back and find whatever the inflection point was, to make the same observations you have regarding to when a major power started to slide in influence.

          • Duane

            We could always decline as a nation, of course. But the causes of decline are not present, as I explained (no colonial empire to lose). If the US declines it will be because the US decides to decline. Certainly there are factions today, isolationists, or “America Firsters”, who fail to see the value of leading large numbers of allies in both economic cooperation, such as multilateral trade agreements, as well as military alliances like NATO and our bilateral treaties with Japan and ROK. If the isolationists and firsters get their way over an extended period of time (beyond Trump’s current 4-year term), then yes, we will decline.

            But I do not believe that Trump represents a majoritarian view. Certainly his opinion polling is down in the gutter after only 10 months in office. Very large majorities think he’s doing a bad job in foreign policy. How that all shakes out electorally is to be determined.

            Intrinsically, though, since our very founding as first European colonies and then as the United States of America, the American people have always been international traders, importers and exporters of goods. It’s what we “Yankees” do. It’s in our heritage and our makeup. And for that reason I do not see us entering any sort of “post-American” decline.

          • DaSaint

            In 100% agreement.

    • El Kabong

      Where will they home port them?

      • Vincent J.


        • El Kabong

          Well, in that case, one run laying mines and the entire fleet is dealt with. LOL!

    • life form

      Nonsense. 10 to 1? Bah.

  • @USS_Fallujah

    Keeping the focus on 2 SSNs per FY with the SSBN production is a smart move, the SSN shortfall is a very serous concern, but the Virginia Program is one of the few real success stories in shipbuilding (with a hat tip to the Burke Program Office, especially with the Flight IIA restart and Tech Insert Ships coming along splendidly) and there is a very real danger of killing the golden goose trying to force too much steel through the pipeline.
    Best path (IMO) would be to keep the 2 SSNs each year until the USS Columbia is commissioned and you have a solid data on that sub’s affect on NNS/EB and confidence in the SSBN program before you look to add a 3rd sub in the SSBN off years.
    To be honest just getting 3 subs through in the first SSBN procurement is going to be…problematic.

    • Icepilot

      Concur. Navy nukes are showing a little restraint, wisely IMHO.
      3 SSNs/yr would incur far more cost than just building the hulls – it’s a one year pipeline just to train the operators, half of it aboard land-based nuclear prototypes. A 50% increase in training would be very expensive.
      The nukes are already doing very well budget-wise. This restraint might prevent the rest of DoD from ganging up on them. B-21s aren’t cheap, either.

  • Ed L

    Time for President Trump to declare a national emergency concerning our Navy and bring the wasteful money grubbing politicians, shipyard owners and political admirals into line

    • Augustine’s Lion


  • El Kabong

    BUSTING you is way too easy.

    Back up your blather Duaney.

    Ask an adult to assist you.

    • Duane

      Look it up and quote your own source.

      • SDW

        I really hate to intervene in the latest chapter of your usual arguments but maybe you folks ought to look at Ronald O’Rourke’s latest CRS report RL33153, “China’s Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities—Background and Issues for Congress”.

  • Ed L

    Even though the don’t have the endurance of a nuclear submarine. They could also build a 2 non nuclear submarines a year too. Armed with Taiwanese super sonic cruise missiles.

  • John Dapper

    The US will need those subs long before 2048. We need additional yards building parts, at least. Just like WWII, core people in the trades teach other shipyards how to do their job.

    Or maybe we should contract with Red China shipyards.

    • Augustine’s Lion


  • John B. Morgen

    The Navy should be building submarines in the same fashion when the Germans build the Type XXI class U-boats—pre-production sections.