Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Monday, July 18, 2005

I Know! Let's Design Cheaper Subs!

The House added language to the 2006 Appropriations Bill today urging the Navy to design a lower cost submarine for the future, the so-called "Tango Bravo" option. The things people are saying reminds me a lot of the debate that went on in the 90s when they decided to cut the Seawolf class in favor of the design that became Virginia.

"The Navy would need to come up with a radically cheaper alternative to the Virginia-class of submarines within nine years, under a provision that recently sailed through the U.S. House of Representatives.
"The nuclear-powered sub would have to "meet or exceed the war-fighting capability of a Virginia-class ship," do so "at a dramatically lower" cost, and be ready to begin construction by 2014, according to language in the House version of the 2006 Defense Department Authorizations bill...
"...The House's new sub design initiative grows out of concerns in Congress that the Virginia-class boats are too expensive to buy two a year. Getting to at least two sub purchases a year is urgent if the Navy expects to keep pace with the forthcoming retirements of many Los Angeles attack subs. Electric Boat and Newport News, under contract to build the first 10 Virginia-class subs, have struggled to contain costs. Though the vessels have received good reviews from Navy sailors and brass, the subs have in some years eaten up nearly a quarter of the Navy's shipbuilding budget.
"The price tag for the first four boats in the group - the Virginia, Texas, Hawaii and North Carolina - has grown to $11 billion, or $2.75 billion a vessel, Navy figures show. That's up 17 percent from the estimates six years ago."

Up 17 percent since 1999; that's actually not too bad. However, I recall that back in 1996, when I first reported to the Connecticut, "NSSN" proponents were saying that each new ship of what would become the Virginia class would cost only $1.5 billion; this was one of the main reasons for cutting off Seawolf production. Now, we see that each is costing over $2.2B (the $2.75B number above is not really accurate; the first boat of a class normally said to cost about twice as much as similar follow-on boats), it looks like the main justification of switching from Seawolf to Virginia is kind of, well, gone.

What the Navy needs to do is come up with a design and stick with it; both the Los Angeles and Ohio class submarines have shown the advantages of such an approach. As much as I make fun of Viriginia's, they're good boats; but, if we end up cutting the program short, we still have the same problems of needing a supply chain to provide for a smaller class of boats that busts your maintenance budget -- like we're seeing now with the Seawolfs. To be honest, the main groups that benefit from a decision to design a new class of boat are the shipyards and their R&D units. I'm glad we'll be keeping these talented professionals around, but at what cost?

As much as I hate to say it, the least costly option would be to restart the LA production line. Sure, they're cramped, but they're still better than anything any potential adversary will have for the foreseeable future...


Anonymous rebootinit said...

Let's see, original 688's withouts mods were 777 million a piece. Miami after all alts to 688I were completed (saw the shipyard pricetags) came out of PSA at the pricetag of 1.5 billion in 1991. Amazing huh? I couldn't imagine what the Cheyanne, or Greenville cost with Wolf enginerooms and all the dream equipment. I bet they ran about 2 billion a piece.
They'll destroy the submarine force if they continue this hogwash of shiat. How much does it cost to design a new boat? I know the new boat is already in design, but it is radically different from anything we've seen outside of science fiction.
What was that series? Seaquest?
bah, a bunch of bull

7/19/2005 12:50 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's the real lesson: capable, nuclear-powered submarines cost a lot. If we want to save money, we need to make changes in how we do business. Right now, the idea for money saving is for a whole fleet of a single type of fast boats. I believe the answer is for different classes of ships for different purposes. They can all share common design elements, but... well... Oh never mind, that won't work either. I guess submarines are just expensive.

7/19/2005 7:02 AM

Blogger Cougar said...

One thing that gets me fuming is a lesson repeatedly unlearned.

The mentality that seems to pervade is that, by making one vehicle accomplish every possible mission scenario things would be, in total, cheaper. However, saddled with this requirement, those "experts" controlling the purse then balk at the unit costs.

I can tell you it is NOT possible, or efficient, to work under a philosophy that often tries to ram conflicting elements together and make them work.

One historical example was the F-104, an aircraft originaly designed as a high altitude fighter that my government decided would make an excellent low-level nuclear penetration bomber. They didn't call it the "Widowmaker" without reason. I'm still waiting for the bean counters to order bomb racks installed on the F-22. What the Q$%@$%$# is the point of requesting a "Stealth" aircraft, then try to make it into somthing it was never designed to be.

Has anyone looked at the unit cost of the B-2 lately?

p.s. As you can tell, aviation is my specialty. Subs are simply a passion and included in my first novel I'm trying to publish.

4/07/2006 7:22 AM


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