Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Real Submarine Outlook: Abysmal or Mindboggling?

In 1912, when the U.S. had about half the submarines as the fast attacks it has today, the Navy was building 13 new ones.

As we knew, the Navy notified congress that it must reduce crew complement to save dollars for its 30-year, 313-ship (48 submarine) construction plan of 8.9 ships per year (268 through 2035). The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has serious doubts over the adequacy of such savings considering historical overruns, associated construction needs, nuclear refueling and current ship modernization programs.

The CBO countered with 5 options it felt were more viable. These are stark
(abstracted from: Incredibly Shrinking Navy, Part III, Bob Rawlins [Capt. USN-ret], Universal Ship Cancellation Society Log -9; September, 2006) simplified below:

1. Reduce submarines and other ship programs by up to 40% (to seven carriers from 11, for instance, and delay CVN-21 over ten years). Only 217 ships by 2035.

2. Reduce by almost 50% the submarine fleet, Burke-class DDGs and ampibious force ships, (and cut carriers to 7) but increase Zumwalt DDGs, CGXs and LCS (82 vs. 55).

3. Keep 55 attack subs. (Cut carriers to 8, cancel Zumwalt DDGs and CGX cruisers, and reduce amphib force by 50%).

4. Keep 30 subs (Maintain 11 carriers and 13 amphibious ships, but cancel Zumwalt DDGs, 11 of 19 CGX cruisers, and cut LCSs to 40 from 50).

5. Keep 30 subs. Deploy two MPF (F) sea-basing squadrons of 12 ships to support large overseas operations. (Cut carriers to 7, cancel Zumwalt DDGs). Build 55 fire-support versions of LPD-17 class.

For more information Resource Implications of the Navy's 313 Ship Plan here (see particularly pages 10 and 11).

The good news? Submarines, always silent and strange - Forget the CBO recommendations! Tango Bravo submarine designs will render Virginias and current SSBNs designs obsolete within 10 years. Crew size reduction satisfied by advanced AIP boats. Transit and loiter time of AIP boats satisfied by submerged replenishment of fuel, stores and necessary crew members by nuclear mother ships (converted SSBNs). Two mother subs for Pacific, one for the Atlantic. The balance of seaworthy SSBNs will be evaluated for conversion to new SSGNs using RATTLRS or sucessor when the new SSBNs currently planned allow phased retirement of today's. The RATTLRS will reduce maximum time to target from the two hours for a cruise missile to tens of minutes.

Now, why would we really need to build more than 2 submarines a year prior to 2012? Electric Boat has even proposed building eight $1-billion subs for Taiwan. These could be leased by the U.S. (not count toward CBO's recommended maximums, but repossessed if necessary). There is much more, for later.

Apparently, WWIII has already started. Again, submarines are being designed to carry a large responsibility for prosecuting it.

Submarines are always silent and strange.


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