Submarine Caucus

Chair Congressman Joe Courtney

Admirals Address Submarine League Symposium

Oct 27, 2016
In The News

ARLINGTON, Va. – The Navy’s top submarine admirals addressed an audience of the Naval Submarine League Oct. 26. Excerpts and items of their remarks follow:

Adm. Frank Caldwell, director, Naval Nuclear Propulsion:

“We must continue to own the undersea domain now and in the future ... We are a force that is in high demand ... Expectations for us are very high ... The combatant commanders are thrilled by what we provide ... The capability of the Virginia-class [attack submarine, or SSN] is shining through.”

  • The Navy has now homeported both of its submarine tenders – USS Emory S. Land and USS Frank Cable – in Guam.
  • SSN 803 will be the first Virginia-class SSN to be built with the Virginia-Payload Module (VPM). The VPM will allow the Navy to retire the Ohio-class guided-missile submarines in 2027.
  • The Ohio Replacement (OR) ballistic-missile submarine (SSBN) will be 2.5 times the size of the Virginia SSN. The goal for building an OR will be 84 months.
  • The replacement of 14 Ohio-class SSBNs by 12 ORs will result in a savings of $40 billion in life-cycle costs over the life of the OR program.
  • The reactor prototype in New York will be refueled in 2019 to extend its life another 20 years.
  • The estimated cost of the first OR hull is $5 billion (in 2010 dollars). The Defense Acquisition Board is scheduled for the first half of November to consider the OR for a Milestone B decision.

Vice Adm. Joe Tofalo, commander, Submarine Forces:

“Twelve [OR SSBNs] is the number. Nothing less! ... The taxpayer gets a very high return on his investment.”

  • The fleet is trying to increase the number of sub versus sub interactions in training.
  • The Fleet Modular Autonomous Underwater Vehicle now is a program of record, leveraging off the REMUS 600 littoral battlespace unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV). It will be launched from a dry deck shelter or from a torpedo tube.
  • There are now 115 women submarine officers in the fleet, 19 percent of the force. The 14 Ohio-class SSBNs will be receiving women over the next seven years.
  • The first Consolidated Administrative Network Enterprise Services system on an SSBN has been installed. The installation took only 90 days.

Rear Adm. Michael Jabaley, program executive officer-Submarines:

“I have to control the cost of Ohio Replacement to afford the rest of the Navy we need ... We cannot delay recapitalization [of the strategic deterrent] anymore.”

  • The SSBN force will dip to 10 boats for several years before the first maintenance availabilities for the OR begin, while the Navy will still be able to meet its strategic deterrent mission requirements.
  • “We don’t have enough subs right now” to meet the demands of the combatant commanders. The trough in force levels will last 15 years, with the low point of 41 SSNs in 2029. One additional Virginia-class SSN delivered in 2025 would help to fill in the trough.
  • Consideration is being given to selected extensions of deployments of SSNs and extending the lives of some Los Angeles-class SSNs by up to six months to squeeze out one more deployment from each.

Regarding the numbers of SSNs in the forthcoming Force Structure Study, “I think the numbers are going to go up.”

  • General Dynamics Electric Boat will deliver all ORs, and perform about 78 percent of the work, with Huntington Ingalls Newport News Shipbuilding handling the rest in a teaming arrangement. Newport News can expect to assume more of the construction of the Virginia-class SSN to spread the work. Each shipyard will concentrate on building the sections it does best.
  • If a continuing resolution extends beyond December, the flexibility to fund the detailed design of OR “will be exhausted ... We will have to redefine things to continue design.”
  • Prototype components will be installed in the first OR hull.
  • The length of the VPM has been established at 83 feet, 9 and 3/4 inches. All VPM specifications are to be completed in fiscal 2017.
  • The follow-on SSN, SSNX, would start in 2034 and deploy in about 2044. Building a new block of Virginia-class SSNs is an option.
  • The name of the first hull of the Ohio Replacement has not yet been formally announced by the secretary of the Navy, despite rumors of a name in the media. “As far as we’re concerned, it’s still Ohio Replacement.”