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.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.)
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 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.)