Wednesday, October 28, 2015

US Navy Starting SSN(X) Attack Sub Program a Decade "Early"

Though the Virginia-class attack submarine program (SSN-774) is still going strong, delivering boats ahead of schedule and below original cost estimates, the Navy needs to start planning the next generation of attack submarines soon, according to the program executive office for submarines.

PEO Subs executive director George Drakeley said last week at the annual Naval Submarine League symposium that an analysis of alternatives for the next-generation sub, or SSN(X), would take place in 2024.

To prepare for that milestone, PEO Subs has created a future capabilities group to begin studying what the operating environment might look like in the 2050 timeframe, what technologies submarines would require to be successful in that environment, and what enablers the research and development community can start working on now to set up the future program for success, he said.

“We’re already putting together a team to look at, what does the future submarine after Virginia need to look like? This is looking forward just as the Ohio Replacement Program is looking forward, but it’s important that we do this now,” Drakeley said.
“We need to identify the technologies that we’re going to need out in the future years in the attack submarine business. … This is going to be a submarine that will have to be better integrated with [unmanned underwater vehicles] and other sensors and other capabilities that we maybe haven’t even thought of yet.”

In 2013 the Navy expanded the Virginia class from a 30-boat program to 48, which now puts the last Virginia-class sub at delivering in 2034, he said. The SSN(X) analysis of alternatives will take place in 2024, the authorization for the lead ship in the new class will happen in 2034, and the new class will reach initial operational capability in 2044, according to current PEO Subs plans.

Starting the SSN(X) discussion nearly a decade ahead of the AoA will help ensure that mature technologies and design tools are ready when the program starts, which reduces risk and cost; will help the Navy understand the impact of external factors and other programs on the SSN(X) design and mission; and build affordability into the program, Drakeley said during his presentation.

There are two possibilities here.  1.  The Navy is doing something really stupid.  They are going to waste money starting the program long, long before it will go to production.  A DECADE! of budget line item that's not producing anything and another TWO decades before IOC for the first SSN(X).

The other possibility is the navy thinks they will get the greenlight to start the AOA and program much earlier, probably in the next administration, and have their ducks in a row so they can.  In that light, this looks like a good idea. 

In the light of starting a program *30* years before IOC of the first sub is dumber than dumb.  

A retired admiral is criticizing the navy and stating the navy needs to accelerate submarine innovation.

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