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Pentagon Approves Request for Proposals for US Navy’s Next-Generation Ballistic Missile Submarine

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Pentagon Approves Request for Proposals for US Navy’s Next-Generation Ballistic Missile Submarine

A contract for one of the U.S. Navy’s most expensive shipbuilding programs could be awarded by the end of 2016.

Pentagon Approves Request for Proposals for US Navy’s Next-Generation Ballistic Missile Submarine
Credit: U.S. Navy/Power Point slide show

The U.S. Department of Defense approved the request for proposals (RFP) for the design of the U.S. Navy’s Ohio-class Replacement Program, USNI News reports. The U.S. Navy has initiated an Ohio-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) replacement program in 2007 to guarantee the existence of an adequate sea-based strategic nuclear force in the future, given that its 14 Ohio-class SSBNs will be decommissioned at a rate of one per year starting in 2027.

“On Dec 21, the Navy sought Defense Acquisition Executive authorization to proceed with release of the Integrated Product and Process Development Request for Proposal for the Ohio Replacement program,” Pentagon spokeswoman Maureen Schumann told USNI News this week.

Initial design and prototyping phases have been completed by the prime contractor General Dynamics Electric Boat. Schumann added:

At the DAB, [Pentagon acquisition chief Frank] Kendall reviewed the status of technology development, program schedule, the execution of the current contract and the Ohio Replacement acquisition strategy, and approved the release of the Development RFP. (…) The contract will produce the diagrams, drawings and information necessary to design, build, test and operate a submarine, enabling the shipbuilder(s) to start construction in 2021.

The first Ohio-class Replacement Submarine (aka SSBN(X)) is slated to begin construction in 2021 and enter service in 2031. Overall, the U.S. Navy plans to acquire a total fleet of 12 SSBN(X)s with the last boat entering service sometime between 2040 and 2042.

However, as I pointed out in an article for The Diplomat Magazine, given repeated delays (e.g., a two year-delay caused by the Budget Control Act) in starting the program it seems much more likely that just ten new SSBNs will be constructed during the 2029-2042 period.  There is also the question of financing the new fleet of boomers, which is estimated to cost between $ 4.9 to $ 5.36 billion per boat and around $110 million to operate per year.

“The Navy continues to work with Electric Boat and Newport News Shipbuilding to develop a successful build strategy for Virginia and OR (Ohio Replacement) submarine programs while ensuring the most capable submarine force at the most affordable price,” Schumann noted.

“Detailed cost analysis and workforce studies are ongoing to ensure a stable foundation is in place when construction of OR begins in 2021. The OR program will provide the nation with its most survivable leg of the strategic deterrence triad at the lowest cost.”

The new sub will displace 20,810 tons when submerged–the largest submarine the U.S. Navy has ever constructed– measure 561 feet (171 meters) in lengths, and have a beam of 43 feet (13 meters). This will make only marginally larger than the Ohio-class with 18,750 tons submerged, 560 feet (170 meters) in length and a beam of 42 feet (13 meters). With a complement of 155, the crew size will also be roughly the same on both ships.

The new boat will be designed for a 42-year service life and is expected to serve through 2085.