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.)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Do Away With Boomers?

From the New York Times, we find that the old "if we just get rid of nuclear weapons then everyone will love us and there won't be any more war" crowd is alive and still writing. Excerpts:
As the sea leg of the triad of nuclear deterrence, the Trident submarines provide “the nation’s most survivable and enduring nuclear strike capability,” as stated by the Navy. Their mission is to launch a massive and final lethal blow in the event that the worst has happened: “nuclear combat toe-to-toe with the Ruskies,” in the memorable drawl of Major T. J. “King” Kong, the Slim Pickens character in “Dr. Strangelove.”
MAD makes sense in a rational world: the Russians or Chinese would never try to wipe us out, because we would then wipe them out. They want to live well and prosper, as do we.
But MAD makes less sense at a time when the enemies of civilization are cave-dwelling religious fanatics who target cartoonists and kill innocent children at soccer telecasts and think, if they die in nuclear Armageddon, a sexual reward awaits them in heaven...
...Why not a much larger reset? The deterrence would still be there, even with a pair of submarines, let alone the dozen-plus out there now, not to mention the new class of extraordinarily costly submarines under construction.
These new submarines may cost about $8.2 billion each to build, the Congressional Budget Office reported a few months ago. The first one, always the most pricey, may run up to $13 billion, which would make it the most expensive Navy vessel ever built. In May, Defense Secretary Robert Gates questioned whether the cost of all these new ships was worth it in the big view of getting the most safety for the most buck.
His legitimate query was greeted by a collective ho-hum. MAD and all its budget-busting infrastructure is just so much a part of the scenery now.
What we will get for those billions are sleek new nuclear-armed behemoths to replace the sleek old nuclear-armed behemoths, all in service to a dinosaur policy. Once the subs are in use, they will likely perform the same tired mission, ready to fire the last shot in a world going down. Meanwhile, above the surface of the ocean, crazed religious leaders in tents and Flintstone huts plot murder against innocents using Radio Shack rejects.
While it's true that SSBNs wouldn't be much use against terrorists hiding in caves (or rather, would be extreme overkill) the theory that "the Russians or Chinese wouldn't try to wipe us out" doesn't pass the test of history. Sure, I'd be willing to say that a nuclear war between superpowers is very unlikely for the next 20 years, as the Ohio-class boats end their service lives. However, as Great Britain learned at their peril back in the '30s, you really can't base defense funding projections on a theory that "not much politically will change in the next few years". The lesson learned from WWII is that one must always prepare for a potential enemy's capabilities, vice intentions, as intentions can change relatively quickly. With this lesson in mind, it's obvious that we cannot unilaterally give up the most survivable leg of our nuclear deterrent while our potential adversaries maintain the capability to act against us with impunity.

38 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Elections have consequences. The fools in charge are no different than the fool who wrote this piece.

7/15/2010 6:19 PM

 
Anonymous So I says to the CinC, I said...

The NYT author (Mr. Egan) is speaks as though he were a general or admiral getting ready to fight the last war. The strategic deterrence offered by the Trident submarines is exactly the kind of force-in-place that we will want in the future when it comes to avoiding nuclear wars, including dealing with a nuclear-armed Iran (or similar)...which may or may not actually be nuclear armed right now.

The fact of the matter is that strategic deterrence works, or dilettante, armchair analysis such that provided by the NYT hit-piece might well not have been written in the first place.

I do hope that the frutti di mare he refers to were to Mr. Egan's satisfaction, but would suggest he scratch beyond the surface of a major U.S. survival issue with at least as much effort as he puts into clam raking.

Egan's problem is that he doesn't really grasp the core idea of nuclear weapons...which is deterrence, not the "Mutually Assured Destruction" ideas of Dr. Strangelove...which, except for somewhere in cartoon land, is probably not the best source of strategic military planning ideas.

Last but not least, a quick look at Russia and China's nuclear submarine forces may bring home the fact that the Cold War may be over for some, but not for others:

Russian nuclear submarines (current Google satellite view): http://bit.ly/btLGDV

Chinese nuclear submarines (current Google satellite view): http://bit.ly/dD1nsA

7/15/2010 6:32 PM

 
Anonymous So I Says to the CinC I said...

Direct satellite-view links:

Russian nuclear submarines (current Google satellite view)

Chinese nuclear submarines (current Google satellite view)

7/15/2010 6:36 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What SecDef Gates is doing by down-talking the next-gen SSBN force may be very similar to what the assholes at your local government office try to pull.

You know the story: when cornered by decreasing tax revenues, they threaten to decrease police services and public school teachers, rather than take a cut in their six-figure (often starting with the number 2, 3 or 4) income.

Negotiation 101, me-thinks, on SecDef's part. That...or he is an complete idiot, which is not my true opinion of the man (yet).

7/15/2010 6:42 PM

 
Blogger Srvd_SSN_CO said...

boomers are fine for now. But let's fast forward to 2029 when they start to go away. There will be less nukes than now. In fact, probably so few that there might only be a few hundred in our operational inventory. So how many are going to be on our replacement boomers? Subs are good right now because they are cheap on a per warhead basis.

But, when you run the numbers, other, cheaper options have to be looked at when the number of warheads per ship, and per missile, gets low. Road or rail mobile is survivable, and cheaper than SLBM/SSBN.

However, until they start to be decommissioned, we aren't paying for the hulls (they are already paid for). But in the future? Are we going to spend 14B per in 2029? Seriously?

7/15/2010 7:28 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Strategic deterrence is vital and shows no real signs of being on the wane even in 2029 or beyond. SLBM/SSBN is the most survivable method of launching when things get ugly. But even given the previous two points, an $8+ BILLION price tag per boat (and that is optimistic as there are nearly always cost overruns, especially since Navy only wants 12, which means less opportunity for efficiency through production) seems outrageous.
-

7/15/2010 8:07 PM

 
Anonymous sand crab said...

What is the planned decom date? cost/warhead/year for a deployed asset... may not be unreasonable. Additionally, it is most likely the most survivable leg in the triad...

7/15/2010 9:24 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The $8-14B per-hull number certainly looks fat. I'd question its basis mighty strongly. Wouldn't surprise me if it's based on some completely unreliable (i.e., wrong) assumption regarding inflation.

We are living in times of systemic DEflation. Ask any homeowner or look at any commodity price you care to choose. The dollar is going up in value, and ALL commodities - even gold - are well off their peak values. Lumber futures alone dropped nearly 50% in value from their late April peak. That's DEflation, folks.

And the "D" word has now even made its appearance for the first time in an FOMC press release. Strange times indeed - they usually will do anything they can to avoid naming "it" (DEflation).

So come 2029, who knows...maybe the T-hulls will be back under $2B apiece.

Tough pill to swallow, but factually 'da govmint' needs hyper-expensive public welfare programs to try and create INflation while achieving some kind of long-term positive outcome.

No inflation may well equal epic failure (lower home prices => more foreclosures and bank failures, etc.)...and so despite all the global gov't trash talk about cutting expenses, they each know that when times get tough the purses shall be opened. The alternative is a depression unlike anything seen before. Take yer pick...you get one or the other.

7/15/2010 9:26 PM

 
Blogger H. S. Normal said...

Re anonymous 7/15/2010 9:26 PM; +1 on dubiousness of the price. Why does the replacement SSBN have to be so expensive? Is the cost of a new-design missile being included in this number??

7/15/2010 10:04 PM

 
Blogger Jay said...

Perhaps our new thinking is in the absence of a need to deter rational actors like the Russians or Chinese, we should deter irrational actors, like the Iranians.

And, to do that, do we really need a traditional boomer?

I say bring back the TLAM-N.

7/15/2010 10:30 PM

 
Anonymous t said...

- I'm pretty sure I saw something somewhere that said the 8.2 billion is counting the Missiles as well, which if correct, makes the price somewhat more bearable. The big scary thing with the boats being so damn expensive is we could end up with significantly less boats because we can't afford it.
- This article is stupid. If we were going to reduce our military down to one platform, SSBN's should probably be it. it's the one platform we can mount an effective defense with all by itself.

also,

Jay: We actually do still have TLAM N, at least until the last first flight 688 is decommissioned.

7/16/2010 12:24 AM

 
Blogger MT1(SS)WidgetHead said...

"The deterrence would still be there, even with a pair of submarines, let alone the dozen-plus out there now, not to mention the new class of extraordinarily costly submarines under construction."

Wow that really makes alotta sense. EmmmK, so I should go ahead and consider a change in rate since we're going to consider actively doing away with Boomers? I guess we could have all MTs change over to FTs or MM-WEPs. One doesn't see too many MTs on a Fast Attack, so we'll have to adopt a whole other way of life now won't we?...Lol.

"Meanwhile, above the surface of the ocean, crazed religious leaders in tents and Flintstone huts plot murder against innocents using Radio Shack rejects."

I'll interpret this one as a pop shot aimed at skimmers.

7/16/2010 1:10 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let me preface this by saying that I last set foot in a boomer in 1978.

Has the state of the art of submarine design advanced so far that we need a completely new design for a "Hide with Pride" missile freighter?

Is the T-Hull design still sufficently current that we could built more as replacements rather than design an entirely new boat? Maybe include a FEW improvements but still keep costs down or at least significantly less than a new boat.

I know everybody likes new toys, but is the T-Hull that much of a dinosaur?

7/16/2010 5:27 AM

 
Anonymous Pepto-Bismal said...

The $14B number is just some asshole's way of shocking the monkeys that buy into it without fact checking...so let's get real and stop tossing off over dumbfuck numbers like that.

Fact: per a Congressional Report Service (CRS) report for Congress, the *Navy's* estimate in FY-2010 dollars is $6-7B per hull for the Ohio Class replacement.

Stupid is as stupid does, so let's please stop using some needledick clam raker's propaganda that is solely intended to make people throw up...and start quoting real sources.

7/16/2010 5:29 AM

 
Anonymous Shore JO said...

Anon(5:27am) is right. There is no reason that every generation of sub has to have a new hull, reactor plant, ect.

I suppose it is to help the home district of legislators so EB can hire a bunch of people for years before the first keel is laid.

7/16/2010 6:08 AM

 
Anonymous NHSparky said...

The S8G plant could be replaced with an existing reactor such as what we have (think S9G) without sacrificing stealth or speed (when needed). Take the basic Trident hull and incorporate technology developed since then. Modular missile tubes could in fact be dual-use. If needed for Spec Ops role, same thing. I find it hard to believe that such changes would cost $14B per copy, even in 2025 dollars. Even the Virginia class is under $2B per unit in 2010 dollars. Sounds like someone took a great big number out of their ass and started running with it. Of course, you could build 100 next-gen SSBN's with ONE year's worth of deficits in the current administration.

7/16/2010 7:32 AM

 
Anonymous Pepto-Bismal said...

Having done a newcon tour and now with years of commercial experience under my belt, I have to say that it is just a fantasy to think that you can just build what used-to-be and save money.

Companies and technologies evolve...plain and simple.

If you want yesterday's product, get ready to spend a WTF-sized number for that, because from nuts an bolts to CRDMs, that's just plain dated technology.

I'm a big believer in reality. And reality moves forward, and one aspect of today's reality is DEflation. Those $6-7 billion per hull numbers are unquestionably INflated...and wrong.

7/16/2010 8:43 AM

 
Anonymous Pepto-Bismal said...

P.S. NO ONE with any credibility is saying that the Ohio Class replacement costs $14 billion per copy. No one.

7/16/2010 8:48 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The thing that bothers me the most about articles like the one referenced here is that the author apparently has no concept of deterrence. Basically the author is willing to bet his life and the lives of all Americans that his opinion is correct. He should take some history courses. Things change, rapidly at times, too rapidly to build a deterrence if you don’t already have one. The deterrence should be there always, like insurance. It should be effective and foolproof as only SSBNs can do (and have been doing for 50 years). There were times in recent history that we seemed close to actually considering nuclear warfare but it was avoided because of deterrence.
Having made around a dozen and a half boomer patrols before I retired I understood the concept very well and fully understood why I was out there repeatedly. As long as American boomers roam, the bad guys know they will not survive if they start something.
Now I don’t disregard what the author says about cave-dwelling religious fanatics. But why does he think we need to give up our deterrence to go after the fanatics? I don’t get his logic. I still believe there is one essential country that will keep the lid on things and that’s us. I for one am not willing to give up that responsibility while I’m still kicking (and voting).
I’m not very good at looking into the future, but if the amount of nuclear weapons EVERYWHERE on this planet continues to decline then I’m for it. But when you have unstable cultures and countries unnecessarily developing these weapons, we have no choice but to stand our ground with deterrence into the undetermined future.

7/16/2010 11:07 AM

 
Blogger Vigilis said...

Although many politicians seek to revise history and idealize the wisdom of popular views, human nature has mot substantively ever changed, and the rumors of its change have all been premature:

“In peace prepare for war, in war prepare for peace. The art of war is of vital importance to the state. It is matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence under no circumstances can it be neglected.”
- Sun Tzu (circa 500 BC)

"Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum." (if you want peace, prepare for war) - "Epitoma Rei Militaris," by Vegetius (circa 430 AD)

"To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace." - George Washington, First Annual Address to both Houses of Congress (1790 AD).

7/16/2010 12:14 PM

 
Anonymous 3383 said...

New York Times. Yep.

7/16/2010 12:20 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Question: Where were you the first time you heard a SSBN referred to as a “Boomer”?

I was in the Polaris Navy from 1965-1972 (SSBN 610B) and cannot recall ever hearing the term. First time I remember seeing it was while reading “The Hunt for Red October” when it first came out.

I thought Clancy made it up.

7/16/2010 4:14 PM

 
Anonymous Ideas for New Future said...

Lose the bombs and the boats. Redistribute the money saved to single mothers and poor immigrants.

7/16/2010 4:51 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I support single Moms.

7/16/2010 5:48 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon @ 4:14 PM
I was in the fast attack Navy during your 1965-1972 Polaris service.

The term "boomer" was in common usage in both sub school and the fleet during all of those years. My guess is that you were a nuc and missed sub school, right?

Submarines were and probably are still so compartmentalized that
what could have been considered disparaging to Polaris subs was never uttered among them. We never meant the term to offend our brothers.

If you can check clippings from those years you will also find the term used more disdainfully by San Francisco's hippie community.

Truly amazed this would be news to anyone who served on a boat.

Rex

7/16/2010 6:45 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Didnt the navy get the government bean counters onboard with the new Virgina class attack subs by saying parts of their modular design could be used in a replacement for the Ohios? Sure I know its not as simple as fitting legos together, but most of the technology has to be out there, its just a matter of putting it together. We dont need the Zimwalt Class destroyer of submarines where every technology onboard is revolutionary and the whole ship is as a consequence is years behind, over budget, and doesnt deliever what it promised.

7/17/2010 10:41 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you read the above-mentioned CBO report, it mentions the consideration of the VA class as a T-hull replacement.

7/17/2010 1:23 PM

 
Anonymous T said...

I believe the VA class Ohio replacement idea is dead now. Though, honestly, I think anything that saves cost on these ships is a good idea before they end up so damn expensive that congress only builds like 5.

7/17/2010 7:30 PM

 
Blogger chief torpedoman said...

To anon @ 4:14 PM
I was in the Polaris Navy from 1965-1972 (SSBN 610B) and cannot recall ever hearing the term. First time I remember seeing it was while reading “The Hunt for Red October” when it first came out.

I doubt I know you but I was on th Edison God crew from 1972 to 1975 and yes I do remember them being called boomers.

7/18/2010 7:24 PM

 
Blogger 630-738 said...

I doubt I know you but I was on th Edison God crew from 1972 to 1975 and yes I do remember them being called boomers.

(Can't resist this): What did you call the other crew? The Satan Crew?

7/19/2010 10:55 AM

 
Blogger chief torpedoman said...

OK, so my eyes and spelling skills are off at 57. I hope everyone knows I meant GOLD crew. Good catch.

7/19/2010 12:10 PM

 
Blogger 630-738 said...

Of course we did Chief. I just can't resist a gig on a TM when I get the chance. You know, boatsailor sense of humour and all!

7/19/2010 4:09 PM

 
OpenID beebsblog said...

The United States will be broke by the time a new construction SSBN would be designed.

Blame it on the boomers. Baby boomers, that is.

beebs

7/21/2010 3:42 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

TMC, thanks for the correction. I thought that the Blue crew was the GOD crew! :) I got off in April 1971 for IT School.

I still don't remember hearing the boomer term but I guess I am wrong about that.

7/21/2010 10:56 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boomer fags has been the term
for my last 27 years servicing the
Navy......

7/22/2010 2:12 AM

 
Anonymous pc assclown said...

And Attack Boat pussy-queer-cornholers was the term Boomer crews used in reference to all you SSN faggots. We just never bothered to tell you, given the levels of satisfaction you were attaining through intercrew fornication.

7/22/2010 7:36 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having recently been in a brief with "senior leadership" where the briefer recommended abandoning the replacement SSBN in favor of a mobile ground option... I can tell you that we don't have to worry about losing the SSBN. The briefer and his boss were told to return to their desks and hit delete.

To put the money into perspective, the total 2010 defense budget, including VA benefits and military pensions is 13.9% of total govt spending. In 1980 it was 17.9%, and in 1990 it was 16.4%. At the same time Health Care and Welfare have risen steeply over the last 20 years (10.7 to 17.3% and 8.1 to 11.9% respectively). Don't take my word for it though: http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/defense_budget_2010_3.html#usgs302

The next time someone tells you its the defense budget that's bringing down the house, you'll know it's not the case. By the way, between 2000 and 2010, the welfare budget grew faster than the defense budget despite the DoD picking up 2 expensive ground wars.

I'm not crazy about an $8B price tag, but if that helps prevent neutrons from raining down on my family, I can swallow it. The idea of putting nukes on trucks and rail cars works in a country where the people don't get a vote. In our country, the last time someone wanted to bury contained waste in a secure underground facility, the "NOT IN MY BACKYARD" chants were so loud you can still hear them echoing between the Appalachians and Rockies. Until that sentiment changes, no politician is going to put his name on that plan.

My two cents...

7/23/2010 10:07 AM

 
Anonymous Hazel said...

Quite worthwhile information, lots of thanks for your post.

9/05/2012 9:13 AM

 

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