Report on Virginia-class Attack Submarine Program

April 4, 2023 6:36 AM

The following is the March 31, 2023, 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 38 have been procured through FY2023. Since FY2011, Virginia-class boats have been procured at a rate of two per year. Virginia-class boats procured in FY2019-FY2023 were procured under a multiyear procurement (MYP) contract. The Navy wants the next Virginia-class MYP contract to begin not in FY2024, but in FY2025.

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 $4.3 billion per boat.

The Navy’s proposed budget requests the procurement of the 39th and 40th Virginia-class boats. The Navy’s FY2024 budget submission states that one of the two boats is to be built to a special configuration referred to as the “Modified VIRGINIA Class Subsea and Seabed Warfare (Mod VA SSW)” configuration, suggesting a configuration that includes a capability for conducting seabed warfare missions. The two boats requested for procurement in FY2024 have an estimated combined procurement cost of $9,427.6 million (i.e., about $9.4 billion). Programmed costs for Virginia-class boats programmed for procurement in FY2025 and FY2026 suggest that the procurement cost of the Mod VA SSW boat requested for procurement in FY2024 is roughly $5.1 billion, and that the procurement cost of the other boat requested for procurement in FY2024 is roughly $4.3 billion.

The two boats requested for procurement in FY2024 have received $2,297.7 million in prior-year advance procurement (AP) funding. The Navy’s proposed FY2024 budget requests the remaining $7,130.0 million needed to complete the boats’ estimated combined procurement cost. The Navy’s proposed FY2024 budget also requests $1,855.5 million in AP funding for Virginia-class boats to be procured in future fiscal years, $1,360.0 million in Economic Order Quantity (EOQ) funding, which is an additional kind of AP funding that can occur under an MYP contract, and $168.2 million in cost-to-complete (CTC) funding to cover cost growth on Virginia-class boats procured in prior years, bringing the total amount of procurement, AP, EOQ, and CTC funding requested for FY2024 to $10,513.7 million (i.e., about $10.5 billion).

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 FY2024 five-year (FY2024-FY2028) 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.

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