Report on Virginia-class Attack Submarine Program

May 23, 2023 6:20 AM

The following is the May 19, 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 subsea and 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), including $5,356.9 million for the Mod VA SSW boat and $4,070.7 million for the other boat. The two boats have received a combined total of $2,297.7 million in prior-year advance procurement (AP) funding, and the Navy’s proposed FY2024 budget requests the remaining $7,130.0 million needed to complete their 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.

Download the document here.

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
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