Richard Burgess, Seapower
14 January 2016
The Navy’s submarine force is not large enough to meet the needs of the nation, according to the Navy’s top ship acquisition admiral.
Moderating a panel on shipbuilding Jan. 14 at the Surface Navy Association National Symposium, Vice Adm. William H. Hilarides, commander, Naval Sea Systems Command, said the submarine force is “10 ships below what’s absolutely required to do the nation’s business.”
Hilarides noted that he was a submarine program manager when the decision was made in 2002 to maintain a build rate less than what could sustain the size of the force. He said that with the coming Ohio Replacement ballistic-missile submarine (SSBN) construction program there would not be funds enough to sustain the current rate of building two Virginia-class attack submarines (SSNs) per year.
He also noted that the Ohio Replacement will be the first U.S. Navy nuclear-powered submarine production class built with an electric drive propulsion system.
Also speaking was Rear Adm. Michael E. Jabeley, the Navy’s program executive officer for submarines, who said that between fiscal 2019 and fiscal 2035, the Navy expects to build five Virginia-class SSNs without the Virginia Payload Module (VPM), 15 with the VPM and 12 Ohio Replacement SSBNs, along with the first two next-generation SSNs.
Along with the necessity of fielding the Ohio Replacement on patrol by 2031, Jabeley said the Navy must meet the challenge of the retirement of the four Ohio-class
guided-missile submarines in the late 2020s, which will take 40 percent of the Tomahawk cruise missile launchers from the force to be replaced by the missile launchers in the VPMs in the Block V of the Virginia class.
Jabeley said Congress could help the Navy to afford its submarines by granting the advance procurement authorities for cross-class procurement between programs to achieve larger procurement quantities, which would significantly lower the cost of the submarines.
He said that construction of the Common Missile Compartment, which first will be installed on a new Royal Navy SSBN before the Ohio Replacement, “is going reasonably well.”