Reading Between the Lines 7/15/2011
Jul 14, 2011 -Aviation Week- Pentagon May Change Carrier, SSBN(X) Plans
"The U.S. Defense Department is considering delaying, cutting back or canceling planned future aircraft carriers and ballistic missile submarines to meet its budget-reduction mandates, says U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff."“We’re looking at all the options,” U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. said July 14 following a Defense Writers Group breakfast.
Plans to use Virginia-class subs for ballistic missile missions date back nearly to the sub’s inception, but the idea seemed to be more or less abandoned as the nation decided to use larger D5 missiles that essentially are incompatible with the vessel’s design, analysts say.
However, as naval analyst and author Norman Polmar notes in a July article for the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings magazine, the Virginia could be redesigned for a missile compartment and related fire-control and berthing spaces to carry 12 or more Trident C4-sized missiles.
The full article, linked above, is short and worthwhile. Reading the following between the lines is most revealing:
... Polmar contends, it would be better to supplement the boomer fleet now with the redesigned Virginias while working a truly modern ballistic missile sub design that would be much more survivable given the threats likely to exist in the latter part of this century.To understand why, readers must consider the 1958 US-UK Mutual Defence Agreement under which the United States and the United Kingdom have cooperated extensively on nuclear security matters. Consequently, such a strategic decision is made only with the U.K.'s Trident programme in mind. 14 U.S. Trident subs have been in service since 1981.
In 2002, the United States Navy announced plans to extend the life of SSBNs (Trident subs) and D5 missiles to the year 2040. The D5 Life Extension Program (D5LEP) is currently underway.
The UK's 4 Vanguard subs (Trident SSBNs) have been in service since 1993. Despite persistent opposition from groups like the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Trident Ploughshares for full nuclear disarmament, proposals to replace the Trident system were passed by a majority in the House of Commons in 2007. However, since the US is extending the life of their Trident submarines to 30–40 years, Richard Garwin, a US nuclear weapons advisor to three US presidents, has advised British MPs that the same could be done in the UK saving £5 billion and allowing time for a rethink of British nuclear strategy.
CONCLUSION: Polmar (above) dropped some possible hints: Although some may still be kept guessing, a future member of the Virginia class will soon go back to a shipyard to be secretly refit for evaluation of the feasibility of the Stretch Virginia strategy for smaller ballistic missiles (D-5s are just too long). Trident's D5 missiles, leased from the USA, are expected to continue in UK service until at least 2042, following upgrade.
Question #1: Which Block III-IV Virginia class sub will disappear from public attention and press coverage for about 5 years? Which submarine indeed?
Question #2: Will this evaluation platform (sub) also be the first Virginia class sub to get a Blue and Gold crew?
Question #3: Does this represent the true rationale for the precipitous rush to deploy female submariners?
Question #4: Which of the USS Ohio (SSGN-726) class subs, if any, also has a bunker buster (MOP) capability?
What, you thought all submarines of a class were identical and their capabilities accurately disclosed publicly by Wikipedia?
Submarines are always silent and strange.