October 07, 2016

Next generation Columbia submarines will have quieter electric drive, cost about $5 billion each and become operation 2030 through 2041

The Columbia class submarine program, previously known as the Ohio replacement program (ORP) or SSBN(X) program, 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 Navy has identified the Columbia class program as the Navy’s top priority program. The Navy wants to procure the first Columbia-class boat in FY2021 and the 12 subs would come into service from 2030 to 2041 if the project runs as planned

The estimated total acquisition cost of the Columbia class program is about $97.0 billion in constant FY2016 dollars, including about $12.0 billion in research and development costs and about $85.1 billion in procurement costs

The Navy in January 2015 estimated the average procurement cost of boats 2 through 12 in the Columbia class 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 Columbia class program will have on the Navy’s ability to procure other types of ships at desired rates in the 2020s and early 2030s.

The design of the SSBN(X) / Columbia class, now being developed , will reflect the following:

  • The SSBN(X) is to be designed for a 42-year expected service life.
  • Unlike the Ohio-class design, which requires a mid-life nuclear refueling, the SSBN(X) is to be equipped with a life-of-the-ship nuclear fuel core (a nuclear fuel core that is sufficient to power the ship for its entire expected service life).
  • Although the SSBN(X) will not need a mid-life nuclear refueling, it will still need a mid-life non-refueling overhaul (i.e., an overhaul that does not include a nuclear refueling) to operate over its full 42-year life.
  • 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)22 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.

SOURCES- Navy, Congressional Report

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