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.)

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Future Submarine Numbers

Here's a decent overview of the issues surrounding submarine new construction budgeting and planning over the next 30 years. Excerpt:
The Navy operates 53 attack submarines, 44 of which are Los Angeles-class boats, with another 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) and four Ohio-class guided missile submarines (SSGNs). Beginning in 2015, the service is embarking on a massive retirement plan, with remaining Los Angeles-class subs mothballed and replaced by Virginia-class attack vessels.
The Ohio-class SSBN’s will reach the end of their service life in 2027. Plans call for replacing 14 Ohio SSBNs with 12 new SSBNs starting in 2019. The Navy doesn’t plan on replacing the four SSGNs, converted from SSBNs after the Cold War, when they retire in the late 2020s...
...When it comes to replacing SSBNs, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated earlier this year that “the lead ship of the Ohio replacement class in 2019 will cost $13 billion,” with each successive ship coming in at about the $6-7-billion range, bringing the cost of the 12-ship replacement to about $99 billion. “That may leave scant room in the Navy’s stretched shipbuilding budgets to afford other vessels [on its] wish list,” the CBO stated. That $6-7-billion price tag comes to about half of the Navy’s annual $15-billion shipbuilding budget, which means that during the 15-year period (Fiscal 2019-33) when the Navy plans on building these ships, its ability to build other vessels would be severely restricted.
Under the Navy’s 2011 30-year Shipbuilding Plan, the service says it requires 48 attack submarines and four SSGNs “to sustain our capabilities in these areas.” Still, the service’s current plan puts it on course to purchase 44 attack submarines through 2040, which would not reach its desired number. According to CBO estimates, the number of attack submarines would sink to a low of 39 in 2030 before rising to 45 in the last five years of the plan. The number is expected to drop so dramatically due to the retirement of the Los Angeles-class submarines, while the Virginia class will not be built fast enough to replace them.
What do you think will happen? I expect that we'll see the 2 sub/year buy rate go away quickly as budgetary pressures increase, and eventually an SSBN based on the Virginia-class hull -- which will require a much smaller missile and concomitant R & D costs, along with a decision that we'll have to keep the subs closer to their targets to make up for the decreased range of the smaller missiles. (Here's a CRS report from last year with some detailed background information.)

What do you see in your crystal ball for how the submarine force will look, hull-wise, in 30 years? (If we can avoid talking about the gender or sexual orientation of the crews of said submarines for the purposes of this discussion, it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.)

44 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hopefully this is not on the forbidden topic list, but I think we, as a nation, need to look at the requirements for maintaining such a large nuclear deterrence force. A new "SSBN" needs to have a different look and be multi-mission platform.

I do know the DOD is facing intense budget pressure and submarines are expensive. Although fleet commanders all want some for a variety of reasons, nobody wants to pay for them.

R&D currently in the mill (UAV/UUV, etc.) will give the SSN some force multipliers, that may not be enough.

Our force of the 80's will definately not look like the force of the 2020's. It's a tough problem and some hard decisions need to be made now. The meetings I go to show that business as usual is gone, not only from the sub force but DOD at large.

Retired ANAV

12/07/2010 5:38 PM

 
Blogger midwatchcowboy said...

Joel,

I also see the 2/year buys going away shortly, probably replaced by a 1.33/yr (at most 1.5/yr). Some of the Congressmen in the "submarine caucus" will have gone away (Skelton, Taylor, Nye).

The problem with the Virginia hull form and the replacement SSBN is that to use the D5 missile with the planned life extension makes it nearly impossible to make a useful SSBN (stealth, maintainability, payload). To make a smaller missile, with similar range, means we should have started R&D on the missile 7-10 years ago. To make one with shorter range means more frequent, shorter patrols or forward basing (remember Polaris bases in Faslane and Guam?).

One thing that will help is if the commitments the SSBNs have to cover changes. That's got to be a given. The big problem with the process is that the Navy had to come up with a replacement plan to start the R&D but were given scant information on the strategic assumptions. Only when the answer was a $7B submarine with a 12 ship build did DoD swallow hard and say, "we've got to sharpen our pencils and tell you strategic environment to design to."

I picture a reduced strategic commitment and an 8 ship, 16 missile submarine that looks similar to the Trident, reusing much of the Virginia Block 3 technology.

12/07/2010 6:44 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What are we deterring against? Start turning the weapons into reactors and get the country off of oil.

12/07/2010 6:48 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems like a 99 billion dollar SSBN program would be very low-hanging fruit for deficit hawks. You will also continue to hear misinformed people (see above post...) argue against the necessity of a robust deterrence. My biggest fear is that the combination of budget cuts and a "fight the war we're in" mentality will lead to an overall steep reduction in the number of navy assets that don't seem to contribute to our counterinsurgency doctrine, submarines being one of them.

Budget cuts COULD lead us in some good directions where we have been stagnant as a navy (diesel subs?) but only if leadership proves itself adaptable enough to seize the opportunity presented. Rough times ahead, really...

12/07/2010 8:52 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(diesel subs?)

No don't even start up with that bullshit. There's no fucking way we're going back to Diesels. Who the hell do you think has been teaching the French and the British on how to drive/fight and maintain a nuclear boat? The Russians took some lessons too...inadvertently.

Let's just wait and see who our next threat is to be and we'll determine our budget at that point. Every five years or so our priorities change. Need I say more?

12/07/2010 9:06 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You will also continue to hear misinformed people (see above post...) argue against the necessity of a mixed SSK/SSN fleet.

12/07/2010 10:10 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...teaching the French and the British on how to drive/fight and maintain a nuclear boat?"

As if.

12/07/2010 10:12 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The French would be speaking German if it wasn't for us, both in 1918 and 1945. How'd they ever get a nuclear sub anyway?

12/07/2010 10:29 PM

 
Blogger bigsoxfan said...

Well, I'll toss the burning bag of dog poo on the front porch or perhaps just link to the recently returned orbiting vehicle with the empty cargo bay.
Still, we need the attack subs as I don't think eyes from space will see through a few hundred feet of water real soon and the SLOTs as well as the naked CVN's need bird dogs.

12/07/2010 10:33 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Anonymous Anonymous said...

You will also continue to hear misinformed people (see above post...) argue against the necessity of a mixed SSK/SSN fleet.

12/07/2010 10:10 PM"


Boy are you serious?! You know that's utter horseshit. We're not going back to Diesels. What for anyway? How the fuck don't you actively comprehend such a basic concept of life?

12/07/2010 11:19 PM

 
Blogger Vigilis said...

Our nuclear subs are a niche above all our military competitors' sub fleets. This poses a huge advantage for the U.S., an obstacle even China cannot overcome in the next ten years.

On the downside, the number of nuclear personnel required just to propel the things is pure overhead -- nukes contribute hugely to getting subs there and back expedditiously, but not one iota to operations otherwise.

Offsetting this disadvantage, however, is the cause célèbre you ask we refrain from mentioning at the moment. Not only does the training of mixed genders bode well in the long run for public, electric utility cost containment (increased labor supply tends to lowers costs), it also reduces slightly the exorbitent incentives necessary for force retention.

Anyone believing the U.S. should relinquish its nuclear submarine advantage is a false prophet hoping to enlarge entitlement spending.

Does this mean the U.S. will never have A.I.P. subs in its fleet? -- No, not at all. Perhaps 10% of the desired number of boats will be A.I.P. platforms purchased abroad and converted by 2025.

As usual, time will tell.

12/08/2010 3:35 AM

 
Blogger Vigilis said...

"...but not one iota to operations otherwise."

Not necessarily true; where tremendous power supply on station is a valuable asset, the kettle is unmatched.

Lasers weapons, for instance, could be a natural match for any nuclear powered vessel were it not for the persistent stealth requirement.

12/08/2010 4:19 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any possibility of utilizing more of the British SSNs? If we put a bit in the pot for their operations, not only do we get an allied asset, but it helps the Brits maintain their subs force in tight budget times

12/08/2010 5:39 AM

 
Blogger Buck said...

The Pentagon loves a big, expensive 'program.' The new SSBN will be built. The resulting budget cataclysm will result is a much smaller SSN fleet and a build rate of one every 3 years. The so-called strategic plan will be revised to indicate that a smaller fleet of highly capable VIRGINIAs will be able to dominate the seas. Or protect the boomers. Or something.

That's my guess.

12/08/2010 7:28 AM

 
Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

The right number of SSBNs is the minimum hull and launch-tube count needed to keep a credible deterrent at sea. It's a number around 6, with need for a replacement class as OHIO-class ages out. There's a whole set of complex trade offs involved with launch-tubes-per-hull, hull count, and building rate, but the end result need not be as many as we have now, tubes or hulls.

The right number of SSGXs is probably zero, but it's a cheap hull as long as the OHIO-class lasts. Replace the ones we have? Naw. SSNs can-do-easy, even more so if new ones aim for this mission capability more fully.

The right number of SSNs? Minimum number to keep the technology and industrial base alive and to maintain training and operational quality. That's probably around 25, maybe 20. Point isn't that Navy should aim for that number - there's always a gap between the aspirational goal and the number achieved. But when the hull count of SSNs gets down around 25, it's pretty close to true need and need not be treated as the end of the world.

With both the SSBNs and SSNs in the mix, the building rate trades off against hull-cost and a slowdown ups the price per each. What will ultimately pace the overall rate is cost-per-year in the SCN account: the defense budget is going down, the navy budget is going down, the SCN account is going down, and so the building rate will slow.

The other tradeoff is per-hull cost: do we aim for more hulls or continue to gold-plate the designs and crowd every new capability possible into those designs, accepting that cost may slow the buy rate? The cynics making the decisions in the submarine force believe that we'll end up with the same building rate and hull-count whether each boat is an el-cheapo or the world's-finest-all-singing-all-dancing submarine; thus they opt for the high-priced option. Maybe they're right, maybe they're just greedy...

Diesels? Highly unlikely and that's good: we need blue-water submarines with legs, not mobile minefields hugging our coastline. But 'studying' this option is both a good thing (assuming the same right answer comes up: no) and unavoidable (we study the question of buying diesels about every 6 years, for cost considerations and because the state-of-art in diesel design rolls over that fast; still, right answer is no).

12/08/2010 8:37 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It continually amazes me that so many people (who are likely submariners) on this blog are so opinionated and uninformed about what our submarines do and how vital they are. Strategic deterrence is still a national priority. SSN missions involving Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaisance (ISR), Strike, and the possiblity of conducting ASW and ASuW are still out there. The end of the Cold War did not instantly cause SSBNs and SSNs to become obsolete, and I encourage those of you with those views to do some Google research (or better yet, go to your library and read some respected military journals) to get an idea of what is going on out there, why STRATCOM still values sea based strategic deterrence, and why the CCDRs (Combatant Commanders) can't get enough SSNs to do everything they need them to do.

BT BT

There are some serious issues facing submarine procurement in the next 30 years. While we may not be facing the construction and operational disasters the surface fleet keeps inflicting upon itself, OPNAV N87 and PEO SUBS have hard decisions to make to maintain the force. A few:

1) The new SSBN: where is the $7 billion estimate coming from? I've read the CBO document (and others), and it is not clear. I find it difficult to believe that a boat smaller than the OHIO with no transformative technology nor capabilities will cost nearly the same as a CVN. This needs to be run to ground.

2) SSK procurement. As much as many of us (me included) would love to drive diesel boats, it is a hard case to make when we have a forward-leaning submarine force that needs to travel long distances at speed, stay on station for possibly months at a time, and be capable of Strike Group operations and ASW against other nuclear boats.

3) UUVs. With the challenges to SSN capacity in the 2030s, there will be a push to conduct the same number (or more) of missions with fewer boats. That will likely demand unmanned solutions.

I also want to commend the posters so far for adhering to Joel's request for an on-topic discussion. Even vigilis has posted thoughtful, relevant discourse.

12/08/2010 8:41 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Anyone believing the U.S. should relinquish its nuclear submarine advantage is a false prophet hoping to enlarge entitlement spending."

Clue for you: to non-boomer riders a lot of SSBN expenditures against questionable threats is entitlement spending for you...

12/08/2010 9:47 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has any one heard or seen anything about the costs in the coming years associated with compliance with the new START? From what I had heard, the president planned to permanently disable a number of tubes on each SSBN. This gives us a good clue on the future as well: the number of tubes and probably the number of SSBN's is sure to decrease with the implementation of new START (assuming it is ratified) and with the replacement of the Ohio class boats. Just stirring the pot.

12/08/2010 11:31 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anon @8:41 - the $7B figure is the current lead ship cost. As the first of the class, it is more expensive than the rest. The rest of them have a cost of 5.6 with a goal of reducing it to 4.9.

12/08/2010 5:42 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated earlier this year that “the lead ship of the Ohio replacement class in 2019 will cost $13 billion,” with each successive ship coming in at about the $6-7-billion range, bringing the cost of the 12-ship replacement to about $99 billion."

@Anon 12/08/2010 5:42 PM

Have you got a source for your $7B and $5.6B?

12/08/2010 6:03 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@ Anon 12/07/2010 11:19 PM

Clearly you're some kind of genius (albeit profane) so it would be pointless to argue with your well reasoned post.

12/08/2010 6:07 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anon @1131 has a point in that the new START and future agreements will form the basis for reducing the requirements to "near zero". As we do so the gap will be filled by a prompt conventional strike capability on SSBNs and evolve into a module for the VIRGINIA program.

12/08/2010 6:17 PM

 
Blogger John said...

Recent acquisition guidance has hinted at decreasing budgets and greater scrutiny of all programs. Especialy those high (billion) dollar enterprises with significant R&D expenditures.
While I don't discount the need for a deterent force and an attack/recon force to conduct the various SSN missions, I doubt the ability of the upcoming Navy leadership to adequately convince a growing faction in Congress with experience (limited) in insurgency warfare vice the departing cold war congressional leadership.
We're going to be cut to the bone simply because the costs are going to be too great to swallow. Congress will balk and our boats will be forced to operate longer and longer without replacement -- see the USAF Tanker fiasco.
There is an increasing trend in the military to "accept risk". Right now the acceptable risk is minor (but imprudent by 1990's standards), it's only going to get worse as we rationalize away the threats.

12/08/2010 6:42 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon @ 6:17 PM:

I'm not 100% sure about this, but Prompt Conventional Strike looks to be DOA. I haven't heard much about it in a while. Primarily because it's one of those things that "seems" like a really good idea if you don't know what the fuck you're talking about, but is not really practical once you get into the details of it. You're really talking about an entirely new class of weapon, it would be quite expensive to develop.

Also, the Virginia class does not have enough diameter for D-5 missiles, nor the equipment for command and control of nuclear weapons (Nor MT's). So you'd need to develop an entire new weapons system to field perhaps 30 missiles, which isn't very practical either.

The real future, probably, is targeting population centers, as that will be the last form of deterrence that we can effectively execute (Geneva conventions be damned!).

12/08/2010 10:22 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Also, the Virginia class does not have enough diameter for D-5 missiles, nor the equipment for command and control of nuclear weapons (Nor MT's). So you'd need to develop an entire new weapons system to field perhaps 30 missiles, which isn't very practical either."

Thankyou for saying that. MTs generally don't serve on fastattacks, and some changes are going to have to be made as indicated in this line of planning.

12/09/2010 12:35 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anon @12/08 6:03pm: yes I do. You wil hear more soon. For now, I'll cite Secretary Gates:

http://www.globalsecuritynewswire.org/siteservices/print_friendly.php?ID=nw_20100927_8338

12/09/2010 4:10 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do we need a LARGER sub population? Having travelled to the far east several times recently on biz, I can assure you that the general population of that area believes the hype that the Yellow, East & South China Seas should be off limits to the rest of the world. The government is stating claims to many of the islands populated and under sovereign governments. Coupling the above with the necessity to maintain on station assets in the Mid East, and those alone are sufficient reasons for at least maintaining the current numbers. However, discussions with guys I served with who have reached their 20+ year points tells me that the current numbers are stretched thin enough to see through. There are BIG problems on the horizon, but cull the numbers, dump more down the welfare crap hole, and sing kumbaya . . .

12/09/2010 9:54 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@ Anon 12/09/2010 4:10 AM

Would that be the same article where Secretary Gates says "where total cost is expected to be more than $100 billion"? That's even higher than the Congressional Budget Office report.

12/09/2010 10:55 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't confuse the cost of the ships with the cost of the program. The $100B includes R&D cost. The $7B / $5.6B costs are SCN only.

Here's more:

http://defensenewsstand.com/component/option,com_ppv/id,2347788/

You have to register to read it but it's free. One quote from the article:

"Earlier this year, the Navy estimated the subs would cost roughly $7 billion each. The Office of the Secretary of Defense pressed the Navy to slash the price and has lately expressed some satisfaction with the results. Officials sought to cut the average unit procurement cost of subs Nos. 2 through 12 to $5 billion in fiscal year 2010 dollars, according to a recent Congressional Research Service report. As of September, the unit cost had been cut to $5.75 billion, the study notes."

12/09/2010 11:18 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Followup and better link to the story quoted at 12/09 11:18am above.

12/09/2010 11:25 AM

 
Anonymous T said...

This whole discussion just goes to show you how far from the reservation this country has really gone. We're borrowing from the Chinese to pay for weapons to protect us from the Chinese. It's sheer F'ing madness.

There's the military you want to have and the military you can afford. Unfortunately, we're continuing to try to justify the military we want to have rather than the one we can afford. Why do we NEED to be in the south China Sea? Why do we NEED to protect Taiwan? For all the meddling we've done in the last 20 years, the world quite honestly isn't really much of a better place for it. Let somebody else be the world watchdog.

The right number of submarines is probably 10-15 less than we have now, 8-10 SSBN and the rest SSN (probably about 30 SSN). Obviously are scope and mission focus will have to be adjusted accordingly. Consequently, I think this is where we are going any way, no matter what the Navy "Wants" to have.

My prediction is 38 subs total in 30 years. 8 SSBN & 30 SSN.

12/09/2010 11:34 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

T: Fair guess on hulls based on 20 year trend. Also, Chiang Kai-shek fled mainland China and Mao's communist to the offshore island of Formosa (present day Taiwan) in 1950 - beginning our defense ties with Taiwan. This might be dated policy but our defense against communism still stands regardless.

12/09/2010 10:36 PM

 
Blogger Srvd_SSN_CO said...

With the first replacement BN needed around 2029, it is difficult for me to believe we will need the numbers currently espoused. The trend in nuclear weapons numbers has been down down down...starting with Nixon. We might stabilize at a lower number, but there is no way we will need the numbers in 2029 that we project today.

Do we need a valid deterrent? Unlikely that answer will change unless the world is completely different by 2029. But are SSBNs the only secure deterrent? I actually had some guy (scientist type) tell me that ICBMs were a hedge against developments in neutrino detection that would make it possible to target SSN/SSBNs. I debate the physics...but more to the point, we don't need ICBMs and Bombers. We need deterrence.

That means SSBNs, or some survivable system like road or rail mobile. My bet is by the time the Navy figures out the ship building budget is going to make us look like UK and France (very few ships, but 4 SSBNs), we will shift to another deterrent platform that is much less expensive. SSBNs are cost effective as long as you can mount a lot of warheads....that math won't work in the future.

12/10/2010 3:32 AM

 
Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

One wonders about a hybrid design, SSN in nature, size, and primary mission but with a 4-tube cluster of SLBMs dropped in behind the sail. There wouldn't be a lot of equipment or personnel overhead go with this - the future SLBM fire control system could probably live on an iPad and a new-design missile move towards being a true wooden round.

It would drive the arms-control crowd nuts to deal with this, but I wonder if moving our deterrent to a modular plug dropped into the hull string on an SSN might not cut a lot of cost without cutting a lot of deterrence.

12/11/2010 9:04 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

RD: That would be a nightmare to deal with, and probably not very effective. The places you need to be to be an SSN are not the same places you need to be to be an SSBN, so you would need to think about doing both at the same.

Also, there's a lot of infrastructure and security concerns to take into account. It's probably not practical to make every port a WRA. You'd have to train every ship on nuclear command and control procedures, which isn't trivial. Nuclear tomahawks are going away for a reason... it's not really practical.


Lastly, and this would be the worst part for the sailors, there would be no more liberty ports :-(

12/11/2010 2:52 PM

 
Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

On the first point, can cover a lot of the earth's landmass from a lot of the earth's ocean. I think it would be mission tension rather than target coverage that would be the problem: do you operate aggressively or hide with pride. The rest of your points are valid, but if the choices start to coalesce around 'do this' or 'cut SSNs to nearly nothing' or 'can't build SSBNs,' I'm not sure 'do this' looks quite so bad.

Aside the economy and aside the rising costs everywhere else in the Defense budget and aside the cost ahead of rebuilding a pretty torn-down Army and dealing with aircraft aging, aside these things the submarine force has been ratcheting up the the cost of new designs to the point where the trade-off between hull count and cost per hull forces a lower build rate and final number: the press to put more and more into each hull has accelerated the trend to fewer and fewer.

12/12/2010 5:18 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not 100% sure about this, but Prompt Conventional Strike looks to be DOA. I haven't heard much about it in a while. Primarily because it's one of those things that "seems" like a really good idea if you don't know what the fuck you're talking about, but is not really practical once you get into the details of it. You're really talking about an entirely new class of weapon, it would be quite expensive to develop.

I thought prompt global strike was a trident missle with a conventional payload (or just a big chunk of metal that's hitting the earth at Mach 17 or whatever).

Which is to say a trival change, technical wise. (that is as I understand it, but could be wrong)

More importantly though, and what I've never seen a good explanation for is how the hell the Russians or the Chinese or whoever else, when they see it go off, is going to know that the missle is being shot at Osama's bat cave and not at Hainan Island or Murmansk?

12/13/2010 3:08 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon @ 3:08 PM:

You are right that you could just put a conventional warhead (or a heavy metal rod) on a D5 missile and call it good. But for a variety of reasons that I'm not comfortable going into here (I don't think they're classified, I just think it's imprudent), that's not really a 100% answer. Yes, you will have some form of conventional ballistic missile, but it won't really be able to complete missions very effectively. That's not to say that it's impossible to design a conventional trident warhead that is effective(it certainly is), but it is more involved than just swapping out a nuclear bomb for a conventional bomb.

Secondly, you're more or less on track with the second reason why conventional trident missile is sort of not really a good idea. I think that Russia and maybe a few other countries probably have radars that can give them at least a rough estimate of where a weapon will land, but how much do they trust you? And more importantly, how do you prove to them that your SLBM is a little boom SLBM instead of a huge monster nuclear bomb? You just call them and tell them? Yeah... right.

The other way to do that is to install ICBM's in a geographic location that ONLY holds conventional ICBM's so that someone can determine that you are not launching nukes. However, you are probably going to have to have treaties with at least Russia and China, maybe even some allies that allow them to inspect all of those silos to verify at any given time that you are not putting nuclear weapons into those silos. Also, I figure silos are pretty expensive.

Lastly, these weapons aren't really as useful as they seem. A D5 missile, I assume costs in the millions of dollars. How many things are there that you are willing to waste millions of dollars on to maybe hit with a tomahawk like payload. OK, if you have actionable intelligence on Osama Bin Laden is one. But what else? And the intelligence better be damned good. Conventional booms are not all that big, so you better have pretty precise coordinates (assuming the weapons are even accurate enough to hit, say, a house), know exactly when he's going to be there, and know in advance far enough to plan the attack. And hopefully, his hidey hole is not some kind of underground cave, because you're not going to do much to it with your average conventional bomb.

If you have that kind of intel, why not just fly a predator over there or go fucking capture him?

12/13/2010 11:42 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon @ 3:08 PM:

You are right that you could just put a conventional warhead (or a heavy metal rod) on a D5 missile and call it good. But for a variety of reasons that I'm not comfortable going into here (I don't think they're classified, I just think it's imprudent), that's not really a 100% answer. Yes, you will have some form of conventional ballistic missile, but it won't really be able to complete missions very effectively. That's not to say that it's impossible to design a conventional trident warhead that is effective(it certainly is), but it is more involved than just swapping out a nuclear bomb for a conventional bomb.

Secondly, you're more or less on track with the second reason why conventional trident missile is sort of not really a good idea. I think that Russia and maybe a few other countries probably have radars that can give them at least a rough estimate of where a weapon will land, but how much do they trust you? And more importantly, how do you prove to them that your SLBM is a little boom SLBM instead of a huge monster nuclear bomb? You just call them and tell them? Yeah... right.

The other way to do that is to install ICBM's in a geographic location that ONLY holds conventional ICBM's so that someone can determine that you are not launching nukes. However, you are probably going to have to have treaties with at least Russia and China, maybe even some allies that allow them to inspect all of those silos to verify at any given time that you are not putting nuclear weapons into those silos. Also, I figure silos are pretty expensive.

Lastly, these weapons aren't really as useful as they seem. A D5 missile, I assume costs in the millions of dollars. How many things are there that you are willing to waste millions of dollars on to maybe hit with a tomahawk like payload. OK, if you have actionable intelligence on Osama Bin Laden is one. But what else? And the intelligence better be damned good. Conventional booms are not all that big, so you better have pretty precise coordinates (assuming the weapons are even accurate enough to hit, say, a house), know exactly when he's going to be there, and know in advance far enough to plan the attack. And hopefully, his hidey hole is not some kind of underground cave, because you're not going to do much to it with your average conventional bomb.

If you have that kind of intel, why not just fly a predator over there or go fucking capture him?

12/13/2010 11:42 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon @ 3:08 PM:

You are right that you could just put a conventional warhead (or a heavy metal rod) on a D5 missile and call it good. But for a variety of reasons that I'm not comfortable going into here (I don't think they're classified, I just think it's imprudent), that's not really a 100% answer. Yes, you will have some form of conventional ballistic missile, but it won't really be able to complete missions very effectively. That's not to say that it's impossible to design a conventional trident warhead that is effective(it certainly is), but it is more involved than just swapping out a nuclear bomb for a conventional bomb.

Secondly, you're more or less on track with the second reason why conventional trident missile is sort of not really a good idea. I think that Russia and maybe a few other countries probably have radars that can give them at least a rough estimate of where a weapon will land, but how much do they trust you? And more importantly, how do you prove to them that your SLBM is a little boom SLBM instead of a huge monster nuclear bomb? You just call them and tell them? Yeah... right.

The other way to do that is to install ICBM's in a geographic location that ONLY holds conventional ICBM's so that someone can determine that you are not launching nukes. However, you are probably going to have to have treaties with at least Russia and China, maybe even some allies that allow them to inspect all of those silos to verify at any given time that you are not putting nuclear weapons into those silos. Also, I figure silos are pretty expensive.

Lastly, these weapons aren't really

12/13/2010 11:43 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

as useful as they seem. A D5 missile, I assume costs in the millions of dollars. How many things are there that you are willing to waste millions of dollars on to maybe hit with a tomahawk like payload. OK, if you have actionable intelligence on Osama Bin Laden is one. But what else? And the intelligence better be damned good. Conventional booms are not all that big, so you better have pretty precise coordinates (assuming the weapons are even accurate enough to hit, say, a house), know exactly when he's going to be there, and know in advance far enough to plan the attack. And hopefully, his hidey hole is not some kind of underground cave, because you're not going to do much to it with your average conventional bomb.

If you have that kind of intel, why not just fly a predator over there or go fucking capture him?

12/13/2010 11:43 PM

 
OpenID beebsblog said...

Thinking outside the box.

Fifteen attack boats, five on each coast and five in refit. The Imperial Japanese Navy isn't sailing for Oahu again.

Five SSBN two on each coast, one in refit. Two patrol areas, east coast west coast.

beebs

12/14/2010 5:03 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess I was wrong about Prompt Global Strike:
http://www.state.gov/t/avc/rls/152730.htm

Though, ICBM based, not SLBM. Also, I still think it's a colossal waste of money. I have a lot of doubts that we'd ever actually consider using this.

12/16/2010 10:21 PM

 
Blogger Mike Caffery said...

This debate is way interesting. As I've followed the thread I've seen a focus on US numbers almost to exclusion. I think that's interesting.

There's talk that Australia may want to buy/lease Virginia-class subs from the US. If long-term projections have China as our main strategic rival mid-century, building up Australia's SSN force would make sense and be a help to us.

In the longer 20-50 year view, wouldn't it make sense that Japan come into the nuclear sub game? I wouldn't expect large numbers there but it'd also be a benefit to us in the Pacific.

South Korea, perhaps?

I'd agree with the talk that the "boomer" numbers will likely be lower and lower in the future than is currently projected. That seems likely I think right now. But all this crystal ball gazing is tempered by the current economic climate. Who's to say what the economic/budgetary climate of 2016 will look like?

2/25/2011 8:19 PM

 

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