Report on Virginia-class Attack Submarine Program

April 29, 2022 7:23 AM

The following is the April 28, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Navy Virginia (SSN-774) Class Attack Submarine Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress.

From the report

The Navy has been procuring Virginia (SSN-774) class nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs) since FY1998, and a total of 36 have been procured through FY2022. Since FY2011, Virginia-class boats have been procured at a rate of two per year. Virginia-class boats scheduled for procurement in FY2019-FY2023 are being procured under a multiyear procurement (MYP) contract.

The Virginia-class design has been updated multiple times since FY1998. 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 additional Tomahawk 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 $3.6 billion per boat.

The Navy’s proposed budget requests the procurement of the 37th and 38th Virginia-class boats. The two boats have an estimated combined procurement cost of $7,250.6 million (i.e., about $7.3 billion). The two boats have received $1,938.3 million in prior-year “regular” advance procurement (AP) funding, and $778.1 million in Economic Order Quantity (EOQ) funding, which is an additional kind of AP funding that can occur under an MYP contract. The Navy’s proposed FY2023 budget requests the remaining $4,534.2 million needed to complete the two boats’ estimated combined procurement cost of $7,250.6 million. The Navy’s proposed FY2023 budget also requests $2,025.7 million in AP funding for Virginia-class boats to be procured in one or more future years, bringing the total amount of FY023 procurement and AP funding requested for the procurement of Virginia-class boats in FY2023 and subsequent years to $6,559.8 million (i.e., about $6.6 billion). The Navy’s proposed FY2023 budget additionally requests $304.5 million in cost-to-complete funding to cover cost growth on Virginia-class boats procured in prior years.

The Navy’s current force-level goal, which was released in December 2016, calls for achieving and maintaining a fleet of 355 manned ships, including 66 SSNs. The Navy and the Office of the Secretary Defense have been working since 2019 to develop a successor Navy force-level goal to replace the 355-goal of 2016. Studies of this emerging force-level goal that have been released by the Navy in summary form suggest that the new force-level goal could call for achieving and maintaining a force of 66 to 72 SSNs.

The Navy’s FY2023 five-year (FY2023-FY2027) shipbuilding plan includes a total of 10 Virginia-class boats, to be procured at a rate of two per year. The Navy’s FY2023 30-year (FY2023-FY2052) shipbuilding plan, released on April 20, 2022, includes three alternative 30-year shipbuilding profiles for the period FY2028-FY2052. Under these profiles, SSNs would be procured during FY2028-FY2052 at a rate of 1.76 to 2.24 boats per year. Based on the three alternative shipbuilding profiles, the FY2023 30-year shipbuilding plan projects that the SSN force will reach a minimum of 46 boats in FY2028, return to 50 boats in FY2032, and grow to 60 to 69 SSNs by FY2052.

Potential oversight issues for Congress regarding the Virginia-class program include the SSN force-level goal and procurement rate, the industrial-base challenges of building both Virginia-class SSNs and Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) at the same time, and cost and schedule risk in building the latest (i.e., Block V) version of the Virginia-class design.

Download the document here.

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