Saturday, April 19, 2014

Updated CRS Report on OHIO Replacement Program just released

Editor's Note: The Congressional Research Service (CRS) has issued an updated version of its report on the OHIO Replacement Program. It is written by the author of the original document and subsequent revisions, so there is excellent continuity here. Ronald O'Rourke is a Specialist in Naval Affairs at CRS. Below is the summary (written by O'Rourke) from the April 8, 2014 document. You can click here to download the document, courtesy of the Federation of American Scientists.


Navy Ohio Replacement (SSBN[X]) Ballistic Missile Submarine Program: Background and Issues for Congress

By Ronald O'Rourke, April 8, 2014


The Navy’s proposed FY2015 budget requests $1,219.3 million for continued research and development work on the Ohio replacement program (ORP), a program to design and build a new class of 12 ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) to replace the Navy’s current force of 14 Ohio class SSBNs. The Ohio replacement program is also known as the SSBN(X) program. The Navy has identified the Ohio replacement program as its top program priority.

Under the Navy’s FY2012 budget, the first Ohio replacement boat was scheduled to be procured in FY2019, and Ohio replacement boats were to enter service on a schedule that would maintain the Navy’s SSBN force at 12 boats. The Navy’s FY2013 budget deferred the procurement of the first Ohio replacement boat by two years, to FY2021. As a result of the deferment of the procurement of the lead boat from FY2019 to FY2021, the Navy’s SSBN force will drop to 11 or 10 boats for the period FY2029-FY2041. The Navy says the decline to 11 or 10 boats during this period will be acceptable in terms of meeting strategic nuclear deterrent mission requirements because none of the 11 or 10 boats during that period will be encumbered by lengthy maintenance actions.

The Navy in May 2013 estimated the procurement cost of the lead ship in the program at $12.0 billion in constant 2013 dollars, including $4.6 billion in detailed design and nonrecurring engineering (DD/NRE) costs for the entire class, and $7.4 billion in construction costs for the ship itself. The Navy in May 2013 estimated the average procurement cost of boats 2 through 12 in the Ohio replacement program at about $5.4 billion each in FY2010 dollars, and is working to reduce that figure to a target of $4.9 billion each in FY2010 dollars. Even with this cost-reduction effort, observers are concerned about the impact the Ohio replacement program will have on the Navy’s ability to procure other types of ships at desired rates in the 2020s and early 2030s.

Potential oversight issues for Congress for the Ohio replacement program include the following:

• the likelihood that the Navy will be able to reduce the average procurement cost of boats 2-12 in the program to the target figure of $4.9 billion each in FY2010 dollars;

• the accuracy of the Navy’s estimate of the procurement cost of each SSBN(X);

• the prospective affordability of the Ohio replacement program and its potential impact on funding available for other Navy shipbuilding programs; and

• the question of which shipyard or shipyards will build SSBN(X)s.

This report focuses on the Ohio replacement program as a Navy shipbuilding program. CRS Report RL33640, U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces: Background, Developments, and Issues, by Amy F. Woolf, discusses the SSBN(X) as an element of future U.S. strategic nuclear forces in the context of strategic nuclear arms control agreements.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

One of the most expensive shipbuilding undertakings in the Navy’s history

Great News... at least for giant defense contractors like General Dynamics and others that will profit handsomely from the production of an archaic Cold War weapons system reborn with a new name. The specifications for the New generation of Trident submarines are in, and no matter how cut it (or the production costs) it's not going to be cheap.

The article below says that "the Navy will now work with lead ship designer — General Dynamic Electric Boat — to squeeze every dollar it can out of the design to hit the cost target set by OSD." Of course, with tax time coming soon - VERY SOON - the government will be squeezing taxpayers for that 50 to 60 percent of our tax dollars (depending on whose numbers you use) that goes to military spending.

New Trident figures prominently in those figures. Between the construction cost, estimated at nearly $100 billion for 12 submarines, and lifetime operational costs estimated at roughly $350 billion - and who knows how much a successor missile to the current Trident will cost - that's a huge pile of money wasted on a weapons system that is so destructive and radiologically devastating that it can never be used.

The saga continues, and New Trident is sailing full speed ahead (towards nuclear Armageddon). Read the following article to get the specs.


Navy Has Finalized Specifications for New Ohio-Replacement Boomer

USNI News, By Sam LaGrone, April 7, 2014 2:06 PM

The Navy has completed the specifications and has set the length for its next generation nuclear ballistic missile submarine, the head of the Navy’s submarine construction program told attendees at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Exposition 2014 at National Harbor, Md. on Monday.

The Ohio-class Replacement Program boats (ORP, formerly known as SSBN(X)) of 560 feet about the same length as the Ohio-class (SSBN-726) but with eight fewer missile tubes than the service’s current boomers, said Rear Adm. David Johnson Program Executive Officer (PEO) Submarines for Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA).

The extra length — in relationship to the number of missile tubes — was included in the design to improve on stealth, cost and maintainability of new SSBNs.

“We included the requisite stealth technologies to insure the ship’s survivability for its 42-year service life,” Johnson said.

An undated artist’s rendering of the Ohio Replacement.
Naval Sea Systems Command Image
The more than 20,000 ton submarine will be the largest submarine the Navy has ever constructed — about half the size of the Soviet designed 45,000-ton Typhoon boomers and roughly the same tonnage as the Russian Navy’s new Borey-class (Project 955A) SSBNs.

In cooperation with the U.K. Royal Navy Successor-class of SSBNS, ORP boats will field 16 missile tubes armed with Trident II D5 submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs).

The latest Navy figures estimate the boomers will cost $110 million a year to operate with a second through twelfth ship with an average cost of $5.36 billion a hull — both in 2010 dollars.

The Navy’s goal — set by the Office of the Secretary of Defense — is for $4.9 billion per boat.

“When do we actually have to be at $4.9 billion? To be determined,” Johnson told reporters following the presentation.

With the specifications locked in, the Navy will now work with lead ship designer — General Dynamic Electric Boat — to squeeze every dollar it can out of the design to hit the cost target set by OSD.

Under the terms of the latest START treaty, the SSBN force will carry about 70 percent of the U.S. strategic nuclear warheads, placing a greater emphasis on the Navy for the strategic nuclear mission over the Air Force’s nuclear bombers and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) forces.

“It’s not whether or not we’re going to build the strategic deterrent. We’re going to do that. We have to,” said Rear Adm. Joseph Tafalo, the service’s head of submarine warfare (N97) said at the same panel.

“It’s out turn. This is something you do every 50 years and we’ve rung every single once of efficiency from this program.”

Tafalo pointed to the reduction from a SSBN force of 41 from its first five classes of 1960s and 1970s era boomers, to the 14 SSBNs of the Ohio-class and the 12 planned ORP SSBNs.

Despite the historic reduction in the number of boats for the strategic mission, the $100 billion program will be among the most expensive shipbuilding undertakings in the Navy’s history.

Tafalo’s N97 predecessor, Rear Adm. Richard Breckenridge, told Congress the Navy would need almost $60 billion dollars in funding — from outside the Navy’s budget — over the course of 15 years to prevent an impact to the Navy’s other shipbuilding accounts.

The Navy plans to start construction of the first ORP in 2021 with a first planned patrol to start in 2031.

The service included $1.2 billion in research and development funding for ORP as part of its Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 budget, released earlier this year.

The ship design effort will borrow extensively from developments in the Virginia-class submarine attack boats (SSN-774) and the Seawolf-class (SSN-21) programs, service officials said.

Some of the innovations planned for the new hull include an entirely new electric propulsion system and a life-of-boat nuclear reactor that will significantly reduce the time the boomers will spend in maintenance.

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Want a new sub? Play the fear card!

Just yesterday Rear Adm. Joseph Tofalo, the U.S. Navy's director of undersea warfare, spoke out in support of the Navy's OHIO Replacement Program. He was speaking at the Sea, Air and Space Exposition in Maryland, the largest maritime exposition in the U.S., where you will find everyone who has anything to do with the Military-Industrial Complex.

Tofalo played the fear card quite heavily when he cited China's and Russia's continuing development of ballistic missile submarines as the justification for the new subs existence.  At one point Tofalo asked the audience, "Would Ukraine have resisted the Russian incursion into Crimea if Russia did not have nuclear weapons? It certainly did impact their thinking." Perhaps he wanted to say that Russia wouldn't have come anywhere near Ukraine had the country kept its nuclear weapons that it gave up after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Can you say "DETERRENCE???"

Of course, we can't put all the blame on Tofalo for such comments.  The President is leading the nuclear charge these days, and of course he IS the Commander in Chief. The brass are just doing their job. Of course, that's exactly why we are supposed to have civilian control of the order to launch nuclear weapons. I'm not so sure that gives me any comfort these days.

Continuing to increase our military pressure surrounding China and the continuing talk of missile defense in Eastern Europe, along with our own nation's continuing pursuit of new nuclear weapons does nothing to stem the tide of nuclear proliferation. There is absolutely no chance of movement towards nonproliferation and ultimately disarmament unless we make good faith efforts to sit down with the other nuclear powers in sincere dialogue - and that is not happening!

Tofalo gives Trident (and the doctrine of Strategic Nuclear Deterrence) far too much credit for keeping the peace. So we continue to arm ourselves to the teeth, and that's not a good thing. What we really have to fear is our reliance on an archaic Cold War way of thinking.

Sir! I have a plan... (Dr. Strangelove)

Admiral: Crimea Proves Nuclear Subs Still Needed

Apr 07, 2014 | by Kris Osborn

National Harbor, Md. -- Navy leaders said Monday the U.S. can't afford to delay the Ohio-class submarine Replacement Program as China and Russia continue to develop new nuclear armed ballistic missile submarines.

"There are two countries on the planet today with a new SSBN in the water and sea based missiles being flight tested. Neither of those countries are the United States – they are China and Russia," Rear Adm. Joseph Tofalo, director of undersea warfare, said at the Sea, Air and Space Exposition here.
"Who would have thought, five years ago, that Russia would not be participating in the G8 summit?" he asked the audience.

The Ohio Replacement Program is now involved in early construction and prototyping as part of a technology development phase. General Dynamics Electric Boat is working on a $1.85 billion five year research and development deal. The contract contains specific incentives for lowering costs and increasing manufacturing efficiency.

The Navy has requested $1.2 billion in research and development funds as part of the fiscal year 2015 budget proposal.

Designed to be 560-feet– long and house 16 Trident II D5 missiles fired from 44-foot-long missile tubes, the Ohio Replacement Program will be engineered as a stealthy, high-tech nuclear deterrent able to quietly patrol the global seas.

Citing Iranian influence in Syria, Chinese activity in the South China Sea, and Russia's annexation of Crimea, Tofalo said that nuclear-armed countries are continuing to impact the geopolitical strategic landscape.

"Would Ukraine have resisted the Russian incursion into Crimea if Russia did not have nuclear weapons? It certainly did impact their thinking," he explained.

Russia and China were also among several countries absent from a recent 35-nation nuclear security summit, Tofalo added.

Tofalo explained how nuclear submarines have helped prevent what he called major-power wars for seven decades by providing a second strike capability for U.S. and Russia should either fire nuclear missiles at the other.

"At present, SSBNs operated by the United States Navy submarine force have over half of our nation's deployed nuclear warheads on them. We have a lot at stake here and have to get this right," Tofalo explained.

He added that the new Start Treaty with Russia, which calls for the reduction of nuclear warheads, will result in a situation where SSNBs will be responsible for 70-perecent of America's deployed nuclear warheads, he added.

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