The US Navy has identified the Ohio replacement program, also known as the SSBN(X) program, as the Navy’s top priority program. The Navy wants to procure the first Ohio replacement boat in FY2021, and the $773.1 million in AP funding requested for FY2017 represents the initial procurement funding for that boat.
The estimated total acquisition cost of the Ohio replacement program is about $95.8 billion in constant FY2015 dollars, including about $11.8 billion in research and development costs and about $84.0 billion in procurement costs. The Navy as of February 2015 estimated the procurement cost of the lead boat in the program at $14.5 billion in then-year dollars, including $5.7 billion in detailed design and nonrecurring engineering (DD/NRE) costs for the entire class, and $8.8 billion in construction costs for the ship itself.
The Navy in January 2015 estimated the average procurement cost of boats 2 through 12 in the Ohio replacement program at about $5.2 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.
The U.S. Navy operates three kinds of submarines—nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs), nuclear-powered cruise missile submarines (SSGNs), and nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs). The SSNs and SSGNs are multi-mission ships that perform a variety of peacetime and wartime missions. They do not carry nuclear weapons. In the designations SSN, SSGN, SSBN, and SSBN(X), the SS stands for submarine, N stands for nuclear-powered (meaning the ship is powered by a nuclear reactor), G stands for guided missile (such as a cruise missile), B stands for ballistic missile, and (X) means the design of the ship has not yet been determined.
The Navy currently operates 14 Ohio (SSBN-726) class SSBNs. The boats are commonly called Trident SSBNs or simply Tridents because they carry Trident SLBMs.
Ohio-class SSBNs are designed to each carry 24 SLBMs, although by 2018, four SLBM launch tubes on each boat are to be deactivated, and the number of SLBMs that can be carried by each boat consequently is to be reduced to 20, so that the number of operational launchers and warheads in the U.S. force will comply with strategic nuclear arms control limits
- The SSBN(X) is to be equipped with an electric-drive propulsion train, as opposed to the mechanical-drive propulsion train used on other Navy submarines. The electric-drive system is expected to be quieter (i.e., stealthier) than a mechanical-drive system.
- The SSBN(X) is to have SLBM launch tubes that are the same size as those on the Ohio class (i.e., tubes with a diameter of 87 inches and a length sufficient to accommodate a D-5 SLBM).
- The SSBN(X) will have a beam (i.e., diameter)21 of 43 feet, compared to 42 feet on the Ohio-class design, and a length of 560 feet, the same as that of the Ohioclass design.
- Instead of 24 SLBM launch tubes, as on the Ohio-class design, the SSBN(X) is to have 16 SLBM launch tubes
- Although the SSBN(X) is to have fewer launch tubes than the Ohio-class SSBN, it is to be larger than the Ohio-class SSBN design, with a reported submerged displacement of 20,815 tons, compared to 18,750 tons for the Ohio-class design
U.S. Navy submarines are built at two shipyards—General Dynamics’ Electric Boat Division (GD/EB) of Groton, CT, and Quonset Point, RI, and Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Newport News Shipbuilding Shipbuilding (HII/NNS), of Newport News, VA. GD/EB and HII/NNS are the only two shipyards in the country capable of building nuclear-powered ships.
SOURCES – Congressional Service Report on Ohio Replacement