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

December 10, 2021 10:26 AM - Updated: September 5, 2022 9:11 AM

The following is the Dec 9, 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.

Submarines in the U.S. Navy 

The U.S. Navy operates 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 

Virginia-class SSNs have been procured since FY2011 at a rate of two boats per year. 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. The submarine construction industrial base also includes hundreds of supplier firms, as well as laboratories and research facilities, in numerous states. Much of the material procured from supplier firms for building submarines comes from sole-source suppliers.

SSN(X) Program 

Program Designation
In the designation SSN(X), the “X” means that the exact design of the boat has not yet been determined.

Procurement Schedule 
Under the Navy’s FY2020 30-year (FY2020-FY2049) shipbuilding plan, the first SSN(X) would be procured in FY2031, along with a single Virginia-class boat. In FY2032 and FY2033, the final four Virginia-class boats would be procured. Procurement of follow-on SSN(X)s, at a rate of two per year, would then begin in FY2034. The 30-year plan’s sustained procurement rate of two SSNs per year would achieve a force of 66 SSNs—the Navy’s current SSN force-level goal—in FY2048. A long-range Navy shipbuilding document released by the Biden Administration on June 17, 2021, proposed a new SSN force-level goal of 66 to 72 boats and envisaged increasing the SSN procurement rate years from now to something more than two boats per year.

Download the document here.

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