Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Adm. Mullen Favors Increased Sub Build Rate

Speaking at the Submarine Base in New London today the newly appointed Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Michael Mullen had some interesting comments regarding the future of the submarine force. Excerpt from the Boston Globe AP line "Naval chief favors more subs":

"We need to go to two submarines a year," Mullen said after speaking to sailors at the base. "On the other hand, the cost of them has to come down."

Mullen told the submariners that the Navy is changing. He said he wants to increase diversity and step up the Navy's participation in joint operations with other military branches by putting more of his top officers in combat and command assignments.

The Navy is also sending more sailors on missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said, noting that ground troops need relief. He said his biggest challenge is developing a Navy for the future.

"My message to you is it's difficult to predict what will happen next," Mullen said.

Mullen is echoing what many in the submarine community have been saying, namely the submarine build rate is too low and the cost is too high. At the original estimated cost of 1.6 billion the current Virginia class submarine was to be a cost saver for the Navy and far cheaper than the 2.8 – 3.0 billion Seawolf class. However, the current Virginia class subs are now costing between 2.4 -2.7 billion a copy. That 2.7 billion accounts for about a quarter of the Navy's yearly shipbuilding budget and for just one submarine. Other shipbuilding programs such as, DDX, LCS, LPD and CVX, to name a few are competing for those same budget dollars.

The CNO doesn't believe that submarine procurement can be stepped up for about seven years. This may be a reflection of the other competing shipbuilding programs and their build rates. It may also be why the Virginia Class will not be as large as originally envisioned with the follow-on Tango Bravo project becoming the new focus.

Taking into account projected defense needs, development cycles and maturity of systems perhaps the upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review will clarify just where the Navy is going to put it's shipbuilding money in the years ahead .


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At 12:56 PM, Blogger Vigilis said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 1:31 PM, Blogger Vigilis said...

CNO Mullen does not believe (we should believe him, therefore) Virginia submarine procurement can be stepped up to two per year for at least seven years. Even at that, he says unit cost must decline to $2-billion a copy and he means now.

There is more latitude in the CNO's comments (as befits DOD needs in an uncertain world) than there is vision. Perceived excesses in SSNs will be relieved as only one new one per year replaces multiple deactivated ones.

That gives us a preview of QDR answers, as did the Navy's recent decision to BRAC Groton.

JCS minimum 2015 warfighting requirement of 55 SSNs will obviously be reduced closer to 12-18 Virginias, or some cheaper successors.

For maintenance and updating reasons, the balance of Ohio class 44-year hull life will consume a growing share of the submarine budget over the next 10-15 years. My guess is that a few more SSGN conversions will get the Trident fleet down slightly below its last (2002) Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) deterrent level fleet of 14 ships. How low? My guess would be 10-12. The last NPR anticipated a Virginia variant or dedicated class (as SSBN replacement) to be initiated around 2016 to ensure that a new platform is available in 2029.

Remember the 1998 'vision' for SSNs during a prior administration (joint military and scientific use)? It was overly optimistic.

We will have to wait and see. I could certainly be wrong about my predictions. Submarines have always been silent and strange.

At 2:28 PM, Blogger PigBoatSailor said...


I don't think anyone, even the most ardent sub detractors, truly believes we can cover our most basic missions (CVNBG screen, ASW patrols, etc.) at the force levels you suppose. I do grant that the outlook for the sub force does not look peachy, but I do not think it is quite as dire as you might think.

At 4:31 PM, Blogger WillyShake said...

Lubber, thanks for the link to the Tango Bravo project, of which I knew little ... but, er, ... don't take this the wrong way, but I found that website to be the most difficult to understand gobbledy-gook I've seen in a while--and I deal with literary theory and criticism on a daily basis!

LOL. Seriously, it seemed that they never gave a straight answer to a question!

Still, I'm very grateful for the post and for learning about this future sub project. Thanks!

At 10:29 PM, Blogger Vigilis said...

PigBoatSailor, you know I am hoping that you are correct!

At 7:32 PM, Blogger Lubber's Line said...

Willy, gobbledy-gook! This is DARPA inventors of the internet, or was that Al Gore?

At closer inspection, I did find the FAQs resembling DOD RFPs leaving me with a similar WTF kind of emptiness. LOL


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