Navy Studies Building 3 Virginia-Class Attack Submarines per Year
The Navy is investigating the prospect of building three new Virginia-class attack submarines per year instead of two in order to boost the size of the fleet as more Los Angeles-class submarines retire.
Rear Adm. Joseph Tofalo, Director of Undersea Warfare, said he expects to receive answers in May to his question of whether ship builders could build three submarines per year.
“The biggest issue is finding the man power pool in an economy that is also coming back. That is probably the biggest challenge. During the decade of the 80s this country built three SSNs (attack submarines) and one SSBN (ballistic missile submarine) every year for about a decade. This country can do amazing things when challenged,” Tofalo said.
In total, the Navy will have 71 submarines in 2016, including 14 nuclear-armed Ohio-class submarines, or SSBNs; four Ohio-class submarines converted to conventionally armed guided-missile boats, or SSGNs; Los Angeles-class fast attack submarines, or SSNs; three Sea Wolf submarines and 11 Virginia-class submarines, also SSNs.
Even though the Navy is currently producing two new Virginia-class attack submarines each year, an anticipated shortfall of submarines is expected to grow worse in coming years as more Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarines retire at a faster pace than Virginia subs are added. Senior Navy leaders have suggested that the service may delay retirement of some Los Angeles-class boats.
“We are going to drop below the minimum requirement of 48 (attack submarines) even with the two per year build rate – so we’ve got to sustain that two-per year build rate and figure out ways to work through that trough, or a low point. Unfortunately, we will go down to 41 SSNs at one point,” Tofalo said.
The Virginia-class attack submarine inventory will drop to 41 in 2029, according to the Navy’s recently released 2016 30-year shipbuilding plan. Ultimately, …read more
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