Report to Congress on Navy SSN(X) Next-Generation Attack Submarine

June 2, 2021 8:23 AM

The following is the June 1, 2021 Congressional Research Service In Focus report, Navy Next-Generation Attack Submarine (SSN[X]) Program: Background and Issues for Congress.

From the report

The Navy wants to begin procuring a new class of nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN), called the Next-Generation Attack Submarine or SSN(X), in FY2031. The SSN(X) would be the successor to the Virginia-class SSN design, which the Navy has been procuring since FY1998. The Navy’s proposed FY2022 budget requests $98.0 million in research and development funding for the SSN(X) program. An issue for Congress is whether to approve, reject, or modify the Navy’s funding requests and acquisition strategy for the SSN(X) program.

Submarines in the U.S. Navy 

The U.S. Navy operates three types of submarines—nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs), nuclear-powered cruise missile and special operations forces (SOF) submarines (SSGNs), and nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs). The SSNs are general-purpose submarines that can perform a variety of peacetime and wartime missions.

Virginia-Class Program 

Since FY2011, Virginia-class SSNs have been procured at a rate of two boats per year, and a total of 34 have been procured through FY2021. Most Virginia-class boats procured in FY2019 and subsequent years are to be built with the Virginia Payload Module (VPM), an additional, 84-foot-long, mid-body section equipped with four large-diameter, vertical launch tubes for storing and launching Tomahawk cruise missiles or other payloads. When procured at a rate of two boats per year, VPM-equipped Virginia-class SSNs have an estimated procurement cost of about $3.4 billion per boat.

Submarine Construction Industrial Base 

U.S. Navy submarines are built by General Dynamics’ Electric Boat Division (GD/EB) of Groton, CT, and Quonset Point, RI, and Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Newport News Shipbuilding (HII/NNS), of Newport News, VA. These are the only two shipyards in the country capable of building nuclear-powered ships. GD/EB builds submarines only, while HII/NNS also builds nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and is capable of building other types of surface ships.

In addition to GD/EB and HII/NNS, the submarine construction industrial base includes hundreds of supplier firms, as well as laboratories and research facilities, in numerous states. Much of the material procured from supplier firms for the construction of submarines comes from sole-source suppliers. For nuclear-propulsion component suppliers, an additional source of work is the Navy’s nuclear-powered aircraft carrier construction program.

Download the document here.

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