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, June 27, 2013

N97 On Ohio Replacement

Check out this video from RDML Breckenridge:

Here's the blog article he mentions. Excerpts:
The Right Answer: A new design SSBN that improves on Ohio:
What has emerged from the Navy’s exhaustive analysis is an Ohio replacement submarine that starts with the foundation of the proven performance of the Ohio SSBN, its Trident II D5 strategic weapons system and its operating cycle. To this it adds:
* Enhanced stealth as necessary to pace emerging threats expected over its service life
* Systems commonality with Virginia (pumps, valves, sonars, etc.) wherever possible, enabling cost savings in design, procurement, maintenance and logistics
* Modular construction and use of COTS equipment consistent with those used in today’s submarines to reduce the cost of fabrication, maintenance and modernization.
* Total ownership cost reduction (for example, investing in a life-of-the-ship reactor core enables providing the same at-sea presence with fewer platforms).
I notice that they did not consider what I've always thought was the most cost-efficient and useful option: A Seawolf-based design with the D5 missile. This significantly mitigates the hull streamlining issue (since a Seawolf has a diameter 7 feet larger than a Virginia) and the Seawolf power plant could easily drive an SSBN at speeds that likely would exceed that of a Virginia SSN. Plus, we've already proven we can insert a module into the middle of a Seawolf hull.

Off-topic aside: When I was assigned as initial manning Eng of the aforementioned Jimmy Carter, I was the second Newcon Eng (after Virginia) that was part of a new initiative to have the initial manning Eng billet be a post-DH shore tour; I thought it made a lot of sense. I note from this article about the initial manning of PCU Illinois (SSN 786) that the Eng is a Lieutenant, so it appears they've gone away from this model. Does anyone know when that happened?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6/27/2013 8:29 AM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

Sorry, my wife was trying to post a comment, realized I was still signed in, and accidentally deleted the first comment to this post. The comment, from Anonymous, was basically "How hard can being Newcon Eng be?"

6/27/2013 8:54 AM

Blogger Ross Kline said...

Obviously a comment from someone who has never done new construction.

6/27/2013 10:26 AM

Blogger wtfdnucsailor said...

Just a guess, since I don't know, but I suspect, that the LT ENG had his JO tour on a Virginia Class so he would be familiar with the power plant. When SEAWOLF CLass and the new VIRGINIA were being built there was not a pool of folks who had served on those ships to step in so a second Post ENG was the best solution. When the 637s were in full production, the NEWCON ENG had experience with a previous 637 class. I suspect it was the same with the 688s.

6/27/2013 10:28 AM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

I'll admit that my 2nd Eng tour, doing the exact same thing I'd done on my first Eng tour (initial manning Eng of a Seawolf-class boat) was a lot easier than the first.

6/27/2013 10:36 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was Eng on a newcon 688. We went on A Sea Trials one year after initial manning. Let's just say it was a challenging year.

6/27/2013 11:02 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can someone tell me what deficiencies Ohio has in meeting the current deterrence mission requirements that necessitate a redesign from the keel-up? It seems to me that NR just wants to commander the program as a testbed for their pet research projects.

The missile is the same, so the missile control systems are the same. S8G has gotten the job done so far. So what's the big deal?

6/27/2013 11:55 AM

Anonymous boomerchop said...

On a lighter note, when asked what I thought should be different on the Ohio replacement, the main thing that came to mind was "rounded edges/corners." Why does everything have to be razor sharp on a boat, dammit? ;-)

6/27/2013 1:45 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon at 11:55: The current SSBN was designed in the late 60's and 70's and does a fine job of combatting today's threats. The new SSBN needs to be able to perform the same mission in a projected threat environment that will exist for the next 50+years. Improvements in sound silencing, vulnerability, sensor employment, countermeasures, communications that have ALREADY occurred and are being incorporated into VIRGINIA class need to be designed for as well as room for growth over the coming decades. It is hard to get into specifics in an unclassified forum, but suffice it to say that building more OHIO's would make a platform that would incur too much risk in the future. Additionally, restarting the OHIO production would be almost as expensive as building a whole new design as most of those subcontractors just no longer exist.

6/27/2013 3:04 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, additionally, while S8G is a fine design, it has to be refueled, the new design does not be, and one of the main drivers of being able to reduce the SSBN force from its current 14 boats is that the new ones will not have to do a 24-41 month refueling overhaul at mid-life!

6/27/2013 3:06 PM

Anonymous RidX said...

I wonder if anyone is considering using going with two tracks on the Ohio-replacement, one for strategic weapons and one to replace the SSGNs. I think that might make more sense than the Virginia Payload Module, which might be turning the Virginia into too many things at once.

6/27/2013 3:22 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

PCU Illinois' new ENG is a Post DH, prior served NAV in Pearl Harbor on OLY and was a SSBN JO. He is a stud from what I have heard.

And RidX, your assessment of the VACL Payload module is based on what? VACL are already highly capable Strike platforms. The VACL Payload Module increases that capability.

6/27/2013 4:14 PM

Blogger Vigilis said...

12 new SSBNs; number of warheads still TBD.

With the "eggs" and "baskets" declining to the current projections, it is imprudent to rely on a single design.

Seawolf platform is an proven choice for at least one design, in my opinion. More than 2 designs introduces costly complications and dire political risks like what the UK's modernization program has been facing.

UAVs are also adding to the potential complexity of our strategic deterrent, but I only discuss the obvious new dynamics SSNs will soon confront.

6/27/2013 4:53 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps by saying its based on OHIO, he really only means the missile system. I think a few people would also say that using SEAWOLF would not be a cost effective option, as they were quite costly, and hence why it was cancelled for the cheaper VIRGINIA. Also adding the long hull section to accommodate the missiles kills the L/D and slows the ship down. Not sure what JIMMY CARTER top speed is, but sure its slower than SEAWOLF.

6/27/2013 7:02 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I've ever seen the phrases "cost-effective" and "Seawolf class" used together like that.

One theory I've heard as far as SSGN's go is to take the last 4 SSBN's (740-743) and convert them when they come up for refueling overhaul, but the current GN's have plenty of life left, and refueling for Rhode Island and Maine are not that far off (<4 years I would guess). My understanding is that construction on Ohio replacements won't start for ten years or so.

6/27/2013 7:30 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe the question is "do we really need all that missile capability in one boat?"

Make each VA ship with the capability to carry two missiles. That's plenty of warheads to do the job.

6/27/2013 8:57 PM

Blogger Unknown said...

My question would be: Is there a limit to the amount of cycles a hull can take? Steel is a rather ductile material, I would think the number would be infinite.
On the same note if an RC can only stay active for so many years before it becomes too hot, Why not just make the RC modular and replace it as needed. Seems more cost effective that way.

6/27/2013 10:02 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think it's a question of hull cycles/rc life and more a question of functionality/age of the non-rc components and their ability to meet the asw threats/nuclear deterrent capabilities of the next 50 years.

6/28/2013 6:47 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think construction for replacement SSGN's will EVER occur. I doubt there will be the political will to pay for it. SSBN's probably have to be bought, and SSN's have to be bought. Is big Navy interested in spending like 4/5 of its shipbuilding budget on subs? Probably not.

6/28/2013 7:59 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joel, what changed is that promotions are slower and tours are shorter - so DHs who have completed their tours go to shore duty still as LTs, XOs still as LCDRs, and COs still as CDRs. (Generally speaking, there are of course exceptions as always)

6/28/2013 10:02 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

David, there is a limit on submergence cycles the hull can take. Just like different steel can take differing anounts of thermal cycles. Yet another reason to redesign. Get better power plant equipment that can take a beating for longer now that the core is lasting longer. Make the hull limiting.

6/28/2013 4:11 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Build a VA class with a raised missile deck, sort of like a Delta IV. It has worked just fine for the Russians for the last decade.

No need to design a new submarine. Butt ugly? Sure. But we can't afford something that is pretty.

Trident submarines were sized with a ~40' circumference hull because of the size need to house a C4/D5 missile almost fully within the pressure hull. Very expensive, and unnecessary. Just build a VA class hull section with the top 20' of missile tube exposed out of the top, and fair it over. Eliminate the "ripple launch" requirement that required creation of the awesome hovering and missile comp system onboard the Trident.

Saves a lot of money on ship design and construction. Makes it a lot easier to qualify back aft, since every ship has the same engine room.

SSN21 class is a "cost effective proven hull design"? Joel, you obviously have been out of the USN too long. The SSN21 class deploys half as often as a 688 or VA class, and costs 3x as much for maintenance. No thanks.

6/28/2013 5:59 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

20 feet of turtleback is too much. When the analysis Admiral Breckenridge refers to was done, they looked at that.

The D5 missile is not only tall, it is very heavy. It would put a stretch-VA's LET hatches almost in the water. The other option would be to let part of the missile extend below the keel - kind of like a snake swallowing a pig.

If you think a T-hull handles poorly, imagine how that would handle (with even smaller control surfaces).

6/28/2013 6:20 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon @ 5:59:

You didn't read what Joel said. He is referring to the hull design - not the internals. The hull is completely reliable and any reliability problems inside it is due to being a three submarine class.

Seawolf herself was expensive to build but they built two complete hulls to make one submarine. It was the first time US shipbuilders used HY 100 leading to a steep learning curve.

The Seawolf hull design is the right size diameter wise and they have shown they can make a stretch model.

All the Seawolf bashes need to actually know what they are talking about before posting.

-Former Seawolf sailor

6/29/2013 1:19 PM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

Seawolf-class availability issues are, I imagine, almost entirely a function of the availability of repair parts for such a small class, a problem that would be eliminated by building more of them and keeping more repair parts on hand. And while Carter may be slower than Seawolf and Connecticut, she's still probably faster than a Virginia.

6/30/2013 10:56 AM

Anonymous RidX said...

For anyone interested in a detailed rundown of submarine acquisition and construction issues of the last few classes:
Lessons from the U.S. Navy's Ohio, Seawolf, and Virginia Submarine Programs

6/30/2013 5:35 PM

Anonymous Dardar the Submarian said...

I would love the hear the fast attack crew being told that for the next 6 months, after getting a strap-on, they are going to be boomer fags. BWA HA HA HA!

7/01/2013 4:56 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joel you should post:

It is the site to provide feedback to CNO via NR via RDML Shelanski for the reducing administrative distractions effort

7/01/2013 6:17 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who thinks SSBNs are a waste of money and serve a purpose from and era long gone by?

7/01/2013 10:41 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

SSBNs are the main reason to have nuclear powered submarines. God forbid we were at war and losing subs at a rate near WWII, watch how fast we go back to SSKs when we can't output 100s of Naval nuclear reactors in a year without turning to Russian reliability standards for them.

7/01/2013 12:27 PM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

Looks like you need an active .mil account to use the NavyRAD site.

7/01/2013 12:31 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The NavyRAD site does request a ".mil" email address, but there is no authentication process. Unless you start acting up/posting innapropriate material you will likely never be kicked off of the site or discovered as an imposter. The group creating the site accepted this risk when they made it to encourage participation.

7/01/2013 2:04 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Am I the only one who thinks SSBNs are a waste of money and serve a purpose from and era long gone by?" - Anon @ 10:41 AM

If not the only one, how do we know you are not the same one?

7/02/2013 3:11 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


N97 is trying to get CHINFO to post the reply included below in response to your comment on the Navy Blog site. I wanted to share it with you here just in case the reply does not get posted on the Navy Blog.

"Thank you for your insight into possible alternatives for future strategic deterrence. Your idea to base the SSBN replacement on the SEAWOLF hull with a large diameter missile compartment has merit but was rejected due to a wide range of shortfalls. It would:
•Not meet at-sea availability requirements due to longer refit times (since equipment is packed more tightly within the hull, it requires more time to replace, repair and retest)
•Not meet availability requirements due to a longer mid-life overhaul (refueling needed)
•Require a larger number of submarines to meet the same operational requirement
•Be more expensive than other alternatives due to :
Having to restart SEAWOLF equipment production lines;
Failing to take advantage of VIRGINA cost cutting experience (VIRGINIA delivered SEAWOLF stealth at an affordable cost);
Having to build more ships to make up for the lost operational availability;
Not being able to take advantage of the economies of scale by building VIRGINA and OHIO Replacement with common components

Ultimately, we would be spending more money (on more ships) to deliver less deterrence (reduced at-sea warhead presence) with less survivability (platforms that are less stealthy)."

7/04/2013 9:18 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

:) Joel, I read that as a kind STFU.


7/04/2013 10:52 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The cynical version:

-The Navy discovered the assembly line in the 1990s and that cuts costs of production.
-Our shitty acquisition processes require us to 'future proof' warships for 30+ years because it takes too much effort and money to re-do contracs every 10-15 years. Ironically, this drives up cost exponentially, but we finally discovered that we can 'save' money by making the ships more modular.

7/05/2013 12:10 PM

Anonymous 4-stop said...

"We" N97, EB, NAVARCH, SSP, and PMS397 did several trade studies concerning the sea wolf hull and the MMP section for the 23. It just came down to performance vs cost. The SEAWOLF stealth and maneuverability was and still is better than any of the options that were evaluated however for all the reasons stated above it lost out every time on cost. Also remember we and the Brits are locked into the CMC and we are continuing to evaluate where we can share NPES costs in the fwd sections of the ship. 2019 will be here before you know it.

7/06/2013 7:16 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Construction begins on the OHIO Replacement SSBN in 2021 (Originally 2019 but shifted 2 years due to budget woes)

7/07/2013 7:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sooo...if using VA parts cut costs, what happens when the next SSN class is developed and VA's are phased out?

7/07/2013 12:35 PM

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7/14/2013 3:48 PM


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