Thursday, March 26, 2015

Damn the funding; it's full speed ahead for New Trident

Editor's Note: This just in from the Russian media (as if we didn't know already) - Congress will be sure to find the money to build the full complement of 12 new ballistic missile submarines currently in research and development by the Navy. Of course, they are doing it outside the normal budgetary process so as to not sink the Navy's shipbuilding budget. What that old expression about having their cake and eating it too???  

Of course, Congress is being soooooo fiscally responsible these days in its slashing of unnecessary spending - like cutting food stamps, deeper cuts to Medicaid, ending the Affordable Health Care Act's subsidies, and that's just for starters. Of course those tax cuts for the 1% are absolutely critical to get the economy jump-started!!! After all, many of those one percenters are running the huge weapons makers like General Dynamics, whose Electric Boat division will likely end up profiting handsomely from its contract to build the Navy's new ballistic missile subs.

The problem is that subsidizing huge weapons makers is NOT the kind of economic stimulus the country needs. And in the case of New Trident, it's something the world does not need. The continuing deployment of Trident and plans for a new generation sends a clear message to the Russians that they need to keep up with the US, and that is just what they are doing. So while the US and it's nuclear dance partner keep playing this dangerous game, other nations are also upgrading their memberships in the nuclear club. And that's definitely NOT good!!!


New Nuclear Sub's Funding to Start on Time Despite Media Reports - US Navy

Sputnik International (, March 25, 2015

Earlier in March, media reported that the US Navy and Congress had not managed to find the funds to pay for the procurement of the Ohio Replacement Program, in charge of replacing the aging Ohio-class submarines with 12 more advanced subs.

MOSCOW (Sputnik), Alexander Mosesov — Procurement funding for the US next-generation strategic nuclear submarine will start in 2017 as expected, despite earlier media reports claiming the funds have not been found yet, a US Navy spokeswoman told Sputnik on Wednesday.

Compared to its predecessor — the third-generation Ohio-class strategic nuclear submarine, which was built from 1976 till 1997 — the fourth-generation replacement submarine is expected to feature fewer launch tubes, state-of-the-art sonar, optical imaging and weapons control systems, a new electric drive and a nuclear fuel core able to power the ship for its entire service life.

"[Advanced] procurement for the Navy's top programmatic priority, the Ohio replacement program, begins… in fiscal year 2017 and leading to the procurement of the first boat construction in fiscal year 2021," Nicole Schwegman told Sputnik.

The first replacement submarine is expected to cost $12,4 billion, including $4,8 billion in design and engineering costs and $7,6 billion in construction costs. The first submarine is expected to enter service in 2031.

As of 2015, Russia is the world's only country with fourth-generation strategic nuclear submarines in service — the Borey-class submarines, which are to become the mainstay of the naval component of Russia's strategic nuclear deterrent.

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Friday, March 20, 2015

First come the new subs... next will be new missiles!

The Trident (OHIO Class) Replacement Program is going full steam ahead. The following article makes that quite clear. The most intriguing statement made is that "OR subs will initially carry the Trident II D5LE missile." The keyword here is "initially." The Trident II D-5 was first deployed in 1990. Lockheed Martin is still building the Trident missile in Sunnyvale, California, and the Navy recently completed the 154th and 155th successful,consecutive test launches. The Trident II D-5s are currently being upgraded to give them 25 more years of service life. With the new subs planned to be deployed into the 2080s it is highly probable that the Navy will be pursuing a replacement missile well before the end of the missiles' extended service life. And that will be a big ticket item that no one is currently discussing.

The ultimate question (and really the elephant in the room) is - Why we are building a new generation of ballistic missile submarine that is planned to be deployed almost to the end of the century when it only serves to foster a rapidly developing nuclear submarine arms race? Is there no end in sight? Or would it be more appropriate to say that the end will be in sight should the U.S. (and other nuclear nations) continue down the road of nuclear modernization??? Will this enter the conversation at the upcoming Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference? Let's hope so.


GAO Notes U.S. Navy’s Ohio-class Replacement Milestones 

Mar 19, 2015 Michael Fabey Aerospace Daily & Defense Report

With concrete accomplishments in the previous year, the U.S. Navy’s Ohio-class submarine replacement (OR) program looks to be in good shape, according to the recent annual report of Pentagon program reviews by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).

“In 2014, the contractor and the Navy completed ship specifications and set the ship’s length, both major milestones, as it commits to the space available for ship systems,” GAO says.

Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, has made it clear repeatedly that the OR is the Navy’s number-one priority acquisition program.

GAO estimates it will cost about $95.8 billion to buy 12 submarines, which breaks down into $11.8 billion for research and development and about $84 billion for procurement.

The new boats will replace the current fleet of Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) as they begin to be retired in 2027, GAO notes.

“The Navy began technology development in January 2011 in order to avoid a gap in sea-based nuclear deterrence between the Ohio-class’s retirement and the production of a replacement,” GAO says.

The Navy is working with the U.K. to develop a common missile compartment for use on OR and the U.K.’s replacement SSBN, GAO says, and the OR subs will initially carry the Trident II D5LE missile.

“The Navy is continuing to develop and evaluate new technologies to incorporate into OR, including an X-stern configuration; a new propulsor; and an extended-life drive shaft that, according to program officials, will increase the platform’s availability,” GAO reports.

“According to program officials, the Navy continues to prototype and test the X-stern and propulsor technologies on a scale model to minimize risk.”

The Navy plans to complete 83% of the design disclosures – the detailed plans used on the shop floor – prior to the start of construction, GAO says. Last October, the program awarded a contract for production of 17 missile tubes, one of the boat’s critical subsystems.

“According to program officials, these tubes will support the quad pack prototype, testing, and also the United Kingdom’s replacement SSBN,” the report said.

To help cut costs, GAO says, “Officials stated that they are continuing to investigate cost-saving options including maximizing equipment reuse from Virginia- and Ohio-class submarines and also leveraging manufacturing techniques, such as robotic welding and modular construction. According to program officials, the Navy is also investigating alternate contracting strategies such as a joint-class block buy with Virginia-class submarines or multi-year contracting, which may provide for additional savings by allowing for volume discounts in material purchases.”

Multi-year contracting, GAO emphasizes, is allowed by statute if, among other things, the design is stable, technical risk is not excessive, and the cost estimates are realistic. “It is typically not used with lead ship construction because of the unknowns inherent in Navy lead ship construction,” the report says.

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Saturday, March 14, 2015

Rally Round the Subs Boys! (or, Are these people crazy?)

Editor's Note: I was truly amazed at the high level of cheer-leading for New Trident by Congress demonstrated in the following article. I found myself commenting on nearly every statement made by these members of Congress who are quite literally rallying round the subs (and making sure the $$$$ are procured to build them). I highlighted my responses in red italics. Who are these people "representing"???


Congressmen Rally Behind Ohio-Class Submarine Replacement

By Yasmin Tadjdeh, in National Defense Magazine, March 4, 2015

Congressmen gathered on Capitol Hill to tout the importance of replacing the nation’s aging ballistic missile equipped Ohio-class submarines. Of course, they did not gather to tout the importance of replacing the nation's aging transportation, electrical, or other utility infrastructures, or ensuring that we take proper care of veterans returning from wars that they sent them to fight.

During a March 4 meeting sponsored by the Submarine Industrial Base Council, Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on readiness, said replacing the boats — also known as SSBNs — will be critical to the nation’s strategic outlook. Of course that depends on how you define "strategic." What kind of strategy relies on a concept (strategic nuclear deterrence) that has to work 100 percent of the time; one error, and it's all over (quite literally) for civilization as we know it.

“We know how critical [the Ohio-class replacement] … is to our nation’s strategic position in the world and we want to make sure that SSBNs availability match Ohio-class retirement. Or make sure there is no gap in there,” he said. Our "strategic position" in the world? That is essentially where we dominate other nations in our military capabilities. In terms of ballistic missile submarines, since we have continued to deploy Trident at full capacity since the end of the Cold War, Russia is now rebuilding and will have new submarines and missiles to compete. How long can we maintain dominance, and how long can this go on before proliferation reaches the danger zone???

The United States still “rules the undersea world,” Wittman said, but Congress needs to ensure it continues investing in submarine platforms. That quote sums it up!!! How long can we continue to "rule the undersea world" to the cost of hundreds of billions of dollars even as our infrastructure at home crumbles and we empty the Treasury? 

The Navy’s 2016 proposed budget request asked for $1.4 billion toward research and development for the Ohio-class replacement program, also known as the SSBN(X). The program will replace 14 subs. The program will build 12 new submarines at an estimated cost of nearly $100 billion! With a $100 billion construction price tag, along with the additional life cycle costs, and costs of the nuclear missiles and their thermonuclear warheads (amounting to many hundreds of billions), how might this money be re-directed to desperately needed programs here at home?

“Research-and-development efforts will focus on the propulsion plant, common missile compartment development and platform development technologies like the propulsor, strategic weapons system and maneuvering/ship control,” budget documents said. And all this work (along with the construction phase) will benefit "defense" contractors like General Dynamics Electric Boat and many others.

SSBN-17 will be the first sub to reach the end of its service life in fiscal year 2027, according to a Congressional Research Service report released in February.

“The remaining 13 will reach the ends of their service lives at a rate of roughly one ship per year thereafter, with the 14th reaching the end of its service life in 2040,” the report said.

The Navy would like to have the first replacement procured by fiscal year 2021, the report said.

The need for an Ohio-class replacement — as well as continued procurement of the Virginia-class fast attack submarines — is critical as adversaries bulk up their submarine fleets, said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on seapower. Yes, our "adversaries" are ramping up only because they feel the need to keep up with us. Of course, as the U.S. continues its massive Asia Pacific Pivot it is no wonder that China is building a ballistic missile submarine fleet.

“The world is more threatening than ever before,” Blumenthal said. “Submarines are a place where [the] competition is endeavoring to overtake us. The Chinese and the Russians both have active submarine programs. … They are investing more heavily than ever before.” The "world" is threatening??? Now there's the ultimate global statement; sounds like everyone is out to get us - eegads! We have been threatening the world with the threat of use of nuclear weapons for nearly 70 years, and Trident is the ultimate threat. Of course the Chinese and Russians have active programs, and are playing catch-up with the U.S. The Russians ramped things back after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and yet the U.S. continued to deploy at Cold War levels - WHY???

The Navy’s fiscal year 2016 budget includes $3.3 billion in funding for two Virginia-class subs, according to budget materials.

Sen. Christopher Murphy, D-Conn., agreed that China and Russia pose a risk to the United States. Is anyone getting tired of this rhetoric???

“Russia is not slowing down on its sub-building program,” he said. “We know that they just launched a new class of attack submarines. We know that they are pushing out the envelope of sub patrols ... we know that we’ve seen one within 200 miles of American shores and this is a reality that the United States is going to have to deal with.” Oh, and we ARE slowing down??? I don't think so. We're going full bore on building both attack and ballistic missile submarines!

Further, China now has a submarine fleet that is larger than the Navy's. However, the United States still maintains the fastest, stealthiest and most advanced subs in the world, he noted.

Replacing the Ohio-class submarines is important because they represent the sea-based leg of the nation’s nuclear triad, Murphy noted. The United State’s nuclear triad is represented by three legs — ballistic missile submarines, land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles and heavy bombers.

"There is no future without the sea-based leg of the triad," he said. Or should we say that the future looks perilous if the U.S. continues to rely on thinking rooted in Cold War thinking and pushes us into a new Cold War by building a new generation of Trident that would sail into the end of this century - assuming we go that long without either accidental or intentional nuclear war? 

With the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference coming up in April, President Obama should be making "good faith efforts" to work with Russia and the other nuclear nations to finally make real efforts toward nuclear disarmament (rather than building a foundation for out of control nuclear proliferation and a new and dangerous Cold War).

Does the President have the courage to stand up for humanity and its future? What better legacy could he leave from his Presidency?