US Navy returning to expensive Coldwar Seawolf-like sub hunters

The US Navy’s next SSN(X) fast attack submarine will focus on hunting Chinese and Russian submarines.

The next-generation attack submarine will be faster, stealthier and have more torpedoes than the Virginia class. They will be similar to the Seawolf class submarine.

During the cold war with the USSR, the US Navy focused on submarine hunting. During the war on terrorism, the US had Virginia submarines launching cruise missiles against land targets in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The sub-hunting SSN(X) will be larger than Virginia subs. They will be about 9100 tons and will be more like the Seawolf-class. New Seawolf sized submarines will cost about $5.5 billion per sub. The Navy’s shipbuilding plan had estimated Virginia sized SSN(X) production will run about $3.1 billion per sub. This will be 77% more expensive. Budget overruns are common.

Drone Mothership submarine

A new large-diameter mothership submarine to carry large drone submarines could be ordered in 2036 after the Columbia-class winds down.

The 2019 shipbuilding plan includes a proposal to purchase five of these post-Columbia-class submarines.

355 ship Navy and 80% larger budget

The SSN(X) will be expensive. The US Navy claims it needs an annual shipbuilding budget of $21 billion through 2048 to create a 355-ship fleet. The CBO believes a $28.9 billion-per-year is a more realistic estimate. The sub-hunting SSN(X) program is 40% of the difference between the Navy and CBO projected shipbuilding budget needs.

$28.9 billion is 80 percent more than the average annual funding the Navy has received for the past 30 years.

The Navy plans to buy 301 new ships between 2019 and 2048. Getting to 355 ships would require extending Arleigh Burke destroyers to 45 years instead of 30 years.

Seawolf program

A twelve submarine Seawolf program was estimated to cost $33 billion during the 1990s. The USSR collapsed in 1991 and only three Seawolf submarines were built for a total cost of $7.3 billion.

At 353 feet, Seawolf subs were shorter than their predecessors but were twenty percent wider (forty feet wide). They were heavier at 12,158 tons submerged.

Seawolf has eight torpedo tubes.

The Virginia class has only four 533-millimeter torpedo tubes.

The new Russian Yasen class are 390 feet long and 13,800 tons. They have a lot of automation. They each have eight torpedo tubes. Two have been completed and 5 more are being built.

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