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Thread: SSBN(x) vs SSBN/GN(x)

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    SSBN(x) vs SSBN/GN(x)

    I am no expert on this, am looking to learn. What follows is based on my current limited understanding.

    When 4 of the 18 Ohio class boats were freed up by nuclear arms reduction treaty, those 4 were converted to GN boats, with room for lots of Tomahawks, lots of Seals, lots of extra tubes for other spooky goodies, autonomous craft (UUV,USV,UAV), lots of varied capability that only the big boats could provide. It seems to bring a lot to the party, and keeps it well hidden from view, and well hidden from the PLA(N)'s DF-21 anti-ship ballistic missile.

    Now they are moving toward the Ohio replacement, SSBN(X), and I don't hear any public discussion about continuing the tactical GN capabilities with a mixed SSBN/GN boat. There is some public discussion about reducing the number of ballistic missle tubes relative to the Ohio. I would think adding some GN tubes would provide added value disproportionate to the added cost.

    By limiting the Ohio replacement to the BN mission I think the Navy risks losing funding for a big boat, losing the added capability that a big boat can provide, and might be forced to accept a stretched variant of the Virginia. There is public talk of that. It seems to me that adding GN tactical capability might save the perceived value (political support) in funding a big boat.

    Given a mixed BN/GN boat...

    The BN specific tubes would likely be similar to those used on the Ohio, if it is going to carry the same Trident II D5, though the new treaty might change that. I have not yet read the treaty, but news reports have mentioned that the US is losing MIRVs in that, down to only one re-entry vehicle per missile. The Ohio was designed to carry 24 D5 missiles, and the D5 was designed to carry 12 MIRVs (reduced to 8 and later to 5 by earlier treaties), for up to 288 MIRVs per boat (now reduced to 24 per boat by latest treaty if the news reports have it right). I think earlier treaties may have allowed decoys in the unused/dummy positions, but I am not sure that is still the case. A smaller missile could allow use of a smaller boat, but it wouldn't be cheap to develop a new smaller missile, so maybe they'll keep the D5, even if its now bigger than needed.

    Back to the mixed BN/GN boat...

    Perhaps the GN-specific tubes might be sized similar to the new Virginia class Block III Common Weapon Launcher (CWL) design, a little larger in diameter than the Ohio tubes but shorter in height, sized to take the exact same load modules used in the Virginia (similar in concept to the SSGN, but different in detail design). The difference in size might avoid need for ongoing inspection for treaty compliance, since it would be too short to accomodate a D5. Unlike the tandem positioning on the Virginia, the tubes could be fit in side-by-side pairs like the Ohio, and moving the center of the tubes outboard away from the center of the submarine would make the shorter height obvious. The GN tubes could be given an added bottom-drop capability.

    Thoughts on the new Boomers?




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    Last edited by JRT; 28 Apr 10, at 22:11. Reason: attachments were too big, forced annoying horizontal scrolling of post on my laptop screen

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    Excerpted from page 82 of GAO report GAO-10-388SP DEFENSE ACQUISITIONS, Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs, March 2010.

    Ohio-Class Replacement / Sea Based Strategic Deterrent (SBSD)

    The Navy’s Ohio-class Replacement will replace Ohio-class Ballistic Missile Submarines (SSBN) as they begin to retire in 2027. The Navy began research and development for the future submarine in order to avoid a gap in the provision of sea-based nuclear deterrence between Ohio-class retirement and production of a replacement. The Navy is working jointly with the United Kingdom to develop a common missile compartment for installation on both the Ohio-class Replacement and the United Kingdom’s replacement for the Vanguard SSBN.

    Current Status: The Ohio-class Replacement program is conducting activities leading to entry into the technology development phase in the third quarter of fiscal year 2010. The Joint Requirements Oversight Council approved the Initial Capabilities Document for a Sea Based Strategic Deterrent (SBSD) in June 2008. The Navy recently completed an analysis of alternatives to study potential ship forms and configurations to inform how to best fulfill mission requirements. The Navy is planning for departmental approval of its proposed alternative by the third quarter of fiscal year 2010. According to program officials, the Navy began concept design in fiscal year 2010 to support construction beginning in fiscal year 2019. The Navy Fiscal Year 2009 Long Range Shipbuilding Plan includes 12 Ohio-class Replacement SSBNs. According to the Navy, in February 2008, the United States and United Kingdom began a joint effort to design a common missile compartment. This effort includes the participation of government officials from both countries, as well as industry officials from Electric Boat Corporation and BAE Systems. To date, the United Kingdom has provided a larger share of funding for this effort, totaling just over $200 million in fiscal years 2008 and 2009. Navy officials told us that Congress approved $495 million for the program in fiscal year 2010. The majority of this funding will support the design of the missile compartment, while about $100 million supports design and feasibility studies for a new reactor plant.

    Funding: $13.2 million in fiscal year 2009, $495 million in fiscal year 2010 Next Major Program Event: Entry into the technology development phase in FY 2010

    Program Office Comments: The Ohio-class Replacement Program Office generally concurs with the GAO assessment. Efforts to date have focused on development of a common missile compartment for use in the Ohio-class Replacement SSBN and the UK’s successor to the existing Vanguard SSBNs.

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    Trident replacement threatened by doubts over US submarines | Caledonian Mercury - Politics

    Trident replacement threatened by doubts over US submarine costs
    May 3, 2010

    The UK government’s plans to replace Trident submarines could be thrown into disarray by growing doubts over their future in the US.

    The US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, is today expected to challenge the American Navy’s plans to spend up to $80 billion (£52 bn) on 12 new submarines to replace the existing Ohio-class boats which carry Trident nuclear missiles.

    Because the UK programme is so dependent on the US, this could hugely increase costs and jeopardise Labour and Conservative promises to replace the Trident nuclear weapons system.

    Gates is due to give a speech to a major US naval conference in Maryland. According to his aides, he will raise a series of questions about the Ohio replacement programme, due to commence in 2027.

    Moves by President Obama to cut nuclear weapons globally, the economic crisis and competing naval programmes will all be cited, they say, as reasons for rethinking plans for future submarines.

    The speech will be interpreted by observers as a direct challenge to navy chiefs. The message will be that, if they don’t cut back their submarine programme themselves, cuts may be imposed upon them.

    Gates has been blunt about the implications of the high cost submarine replacement programme in the past. “In the latter part of this decade, it will suck all the air out of the navy’s shipbuilding program,” he told a House of Representatives subcommittee in March. “Some tough choices are going to have to be made, either in terms of more investment, or choices between the size of surface fleets you want and the submarine fleets.”

    The submarine programme has also come under pressure in Congress. Gene Taylor, the democrat who chairs the influential seapower committee, last week threatened to recommend against funding it.

    One big problem is that the estimated cost of the new US submarines has doubled. Three experts told a subcommittee of the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee on 20 January that the average cost of each submarine had risen from $3.4 billion (£2.2 bn) to between $6 and $7 billion (£3.9-£4.6 bn).

    According to congressional sources, this was very likely to put up the price tag for replacing Trident submarines in the UK, estimated by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) as £11-14 billion in 2006. It was “highly improbably” that UK costs could now be kept that low, one expert said.

    “Robert Gates is planning to cut the number of new US submarines,” said John Ainslie, the co-ordinator of the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. “This will increase even further the amount the British taxpayer will have to contribute, because this is a joint Anglo-American project.”

    The cost of replacing Trident submarines would be “far higher” than the British government has admitted, he argued.

    The new US and UK submarines are meant to share much of the same technology, including their Trident missile compartments, navigation systems and fire controls. The countries have also been working closely together to develop the kind of nuclear reactors that will power the submarines.

    The revelation about Trident’s escalating costs in the US was described as “devastating”, by Angus Robertson, the Scottish National Party’s defence spokesman and Westminster leader.

    “The UK has never had a truly independent nuclear weapons system and any decision to scrap or even modify the US programme has massive cost consequences for the Ministry of Defence,” he said.

    “It is no surprise, given the squeeze on their defence budget and President Obama’s desire for disarmament that the US Defence Secretary is considering scrapping the fleet. The London parties should wake up and realise the true costs of what they are proposing and scrap it all together.”

    The MoD has argued in the past that it would be able to build submarines cheaper than the US. Last week, it declined to comment.

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    Recent article in Navy Times (link to original):


    Lawmaker wants key submarine document
    By Christopher P. Cavas - Staff writer
    Monday Apr 26, 2010

    A key congressman who oversees Navy programs on Capitol Hill is threatening to recommend against funding development of a new ballistic missile submarine if the service doesn’t fork over its analysis of the program.

    Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., chairman of the House Seapower subcommittee, complained in a letter sent Thursday to Defense Secretary Robert Gates that the Navy “refuses to share” the analysis of alternatives (AoA) for the SSBN(X) program — a document that, Taylor says in the letter, was completed last year.

    Rather than commit to replacing the current crop of large Ohio-class submarines armed with Trident II D5 ballistic missiles with similar ships, Taylor wants to see what a smaller, Virginia-class submarine armed with a less-lethal ballistic missile would cost. Instead, he says, the Navy already has decided it wants the bigger and more expensive ships — which some sources say could cost as much as $70 billion.

    “I have repeatedly asked officials of the Department of the Navy if less-expensive alternatives to building the Ohio-class were examined,” Taylor said in the letter. “I have repeatedly been told that only the Trident solution met the requirement.”

    The Navy’s refusal to share the AoA with Congress, Taylor said, “is under the guise that final approval has not been obtained.”

    Yet, he pointed out, $495 million was spent last year to develop a missile compartment “that would only support a Trident II D5 weapon” — and the Navy is asking for an additional $672 million this year “to continue development of an exclusive Trident replacement vessel.”

    As a result, Taylor threatened to work against the Navy’s SSBN(X) request unless the AoA is sent to Congress, along with an explanation for how much nuclear deterrent capability the nation needs.

    Taylor asked Gates to “direct the Secretary of the Navy to deliver to me the completed AoA for this program notwithstanding any final approvals from other officials in the Department of Defense.”

    Additionally, Taylor said in the letter that he would ask House Armed Services Committee chairman Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., for a “thorough investigation” of how the SSBN(X) program “apparently bypassed acquisition requirements” and already began system design and development, and ask for a full committee hearing “to determine the true national requirement for sea-based nuclear deterrence.”

    The letter comes as Taylor’s committee is preparing its markup of the 2011 defense authorization bill, expected to take place in mid-May.

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    A problem I can see with a BN/GN mixed boat.. your placing your strategic deterent boomer right next (in relative terms) to the bad guys coast, where his cheap SSK's can sit and wait for it and sink it.. you do NOT want that to happen.. your SSBN should be sitting out in the middle of the ocean some place where, unless it's 100% by accident that someone finds it.. (away from shipping lanes bla bla bla) the GN's (atleast the Ohio converted SSGN's) do have a lot of TLAM's on board, but also can carry quite afew Seals to covertly insert into someone's country.. 2 seperate missions for 2 seperate types of submarines..

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    A news story with a few comments from Rear Adm. David Johnson, PEO Subs, regarding SSBN(x), the Ohio replacement program:


    BANGOR — On Aug. 12, 1982, the first Ohio-class submarine arrived at Naval Submarine Base Bangor. Suddenly, the ballistic-missile subs are pushing 30, and the Navy is preparing to replace them.

    Rear Adm. David Johnson spoke about the changeover Thursday before a luncheon crowd of Navy supporters. Johnson, as Program Executive Officer, Submarines, in Washington, D.C., is responsible for new submarine construction programs.

    Fresh out of the Naval Academy, he was assigned to Bangor's Trident Refit Facility in December 1982, coming just as the USS Ohio returned from its first patrol. Much has changed since then. Silverdale was horse pastures and an Elsie's restaurant, he said. There was a Soviet Union, and a Cold War.

    Today, stores have overtaken fields, and the USS Ohio doesn't even carry nuclear warheads anymore. It and three sister ships were converted to conventional weapons. Fourteen ballistic-missile subs remain — eight at Bangor and six at Kings Bay, Ga. Over the next three decades, they'll give way to a dozen new ones. The new nuclear fuel cores will last as long as the boats themselves, unlike the Ohios that need a two-year midlife refueling, so the Navy can cover the same ground with fewer subs, Johnson said.

    Construction of the first new boat will begin in 2019, be completed by 2026 and it will be patrolling by 2029, Johnson said. The Navy intends to add one per year, through 2040. With a 42-year life span, matching the Ohios, the final boat will remain on duty until 2082, 70 years from now. The first Ohio-class sub will be retired in 2027, followed each of the next 13 years by another.

    The Ohio-class boats have 24 tubes for D-5 ballistic missiles. Each missile can carry eight warheads. New subs will keep the D-5 missiles, at least to begin with, but pare down to 16 missile tubes.

    "We took a little risk in the number of missile tubes," said Johnson, explaining that the Navy is balancing capabilities with cost so the price doesn't get out of control and threaten other shipbuilding programs.

    Development and design work have begun. The Navy received $497.4 million in research and development funding in the Fiscal Year 2010 budget for what's called the SSBN(X) program, and requested $672.3 million more in FY2011. The first boat is expected to cost $6 billion to $7 billion, with the ensuing ones possibly dipping to $5 billion, according to a congressional report.

    Johnson has credentials for containing prices. He helped reduce the costs of the new Virginia class of fast-attack subs by $4 billion, and the program won major awards for value engineering and acquisition excellence. He'll use that program as a model, he said.

    "They were delivered at less cost, more complete and more deployment-ready out of the chute," he said.

    The new Tridents will have a conservative design, fewer missile tubes, use proven D-5 missiles and components from Seawolf- and Virginia-class subs to keep down costs, Johnson said.
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    Belatedly getting back your point... Nobody seems to be publicly hinting about including GN capability in SSBN(x). So maybe for reasons you mention, that capability may not be something they desire.
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    Most likely, I would think a future GN would be based on a stretched Attack boat as the missile tubes do not need to be near as deep as those to a D-5 equipped boat. So think of a boat as long as the Jimmy Carter. (I had hard time typing that name.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by surfgun View Post
    Most likely, I would think a future GN would be based on a stretched Attack boat as the missile tubes do not need to be near as deep as those to a D-5 equipped boat. So think of a boat as long as the Jimmy Carter. (I had hard time typing that name.)
    If they fund a replacement for the four converted SSBN Ohio class SSGNs, I don't think it would happen much before they are ready to retire USS Ohio (SSGN-726), more probably after. SSGN Ohio will hit the end of its ~42 year lifecycle before any of the BNs, and I think would probably be FIFO'd in retirement sequence. I would hope the SSBN(x) Ohio class replacements are in production before then, but would not be surprised if Congress attempts a just in time solution with slowed funding. And that could mean 2 of the 14 remaining SSBNs would be retired before the first of the 12 planned replacements fully enters service, if they plan on having 12 available. Note that Rear Adm. David Johnson, PEO Subs, is quoted in an article posted elsewhere in this thread, saying that a dozen Ohio SSBN replacements are planned.

    If they want new SSGNs, they would need to decide between paying for some new Virginia class SSNs stretched like a Jimmy Carter length Seawolf class SSN (as you suggest), with a new forest of tactical missle tubes added, and the expensive engineering, design, and manufacturing planning efforts involved in that major hull modification; or paying for several more SSBN(x) builds and the comparatively modest efforts in engineering those as GNs, with no changes to hull, and no structural changes to tubes, probably mostly just the missle/tube interfaces, launchers, systems engineering, and tactical WCS software. Since SSGNs also use those tubes for things other than tactical missiles, extra height might be advantageous, and would provide room for growth in size of tactical missiles over the 40+ year life of the boat.
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    I attended some briefings on the development and build issues relating to the Virginias a few years back. The discussions were led by the then CINCPAC and the head of the program.

    one of the theoretical discussions was about whether a USS Florida type build could be achieved on the Virginias. From my readings of it, it was regarded as "not being difficult" due to the nature of and the design of the modular components. The Virginias are built with proper full plugs, not just hull plugs. In theory, there is no reason why new full plugs could be built and minor fit out then completed. It would reduce the overall build dates by months...
    Last edited by gf0012-aust; 31 Jan 11, at 06:14. Reason: typo

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    I see it as a question of capabilities. How many TLAM's do you realistically need to be able to shoot? What kind of missions would require you to shoot more than are available to a Virginia/688i/Seawolf?

    The first question I can't answer, but to the second I can safely say none, at least to date.

    The second big line of questioning ties into UUV's/UAV's and other special warfare capabilities. Do you need the larger launch platform that a GN provides, or can you achieve the same capability with the old 21" tubes?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Masada View Post
    I see it as a question of capabilities. How many TLAM's do you realistically need to be able to shoot? What kind of missions would require you to shoot more than are available to a Virginia/688i/Seawolf?
    The issue is whats the requirement? UAV's don't just perform single sensor, picket or shooter roles - the future concepts involve not just single platform solutions but how those platforms behave as a hive, eg a single sensor becomes an array, a trio of UAV's provide depth of sensor and validation for ASW assistance etc... Availability and numbers gives you redundancy and overlap



    Quote Originally Posted by Masada View Post
    IThe second big line of questioning ties into UUV's/UAV's and other special warfare capabilities. Do you need the larger launch platform that a GN provides, or can you achieve the same capability with the old 21" tubes?
    it gets back to requirement and mission intent. larger UAV's means the potential for larger onboard power, that means sensor changes, it means persistence and projection issues change...

    there is a parallel on the issue of onboard power when you compare nukes with conventional subs, or even large fleet conventionals and lesser ranged smaller brethren

    eg the advantages of the larger conventional subs like Collins is that it has the onboard power to have common combat systems with US Nukes, although not literal,. it also means a capacity for them to have similar duty cycles on crew rotations. most would look at Collins and Oyashio and just see large conventional fleet subs that have longer range - and miss the point that they also have greater onboard generation, and thus the processing and sensor capabilities have also shifted. In an oblique sense, you get the same issues with larger and small UAV's. Larger UAV's launched from 24" silos will exponentially have greater payload and sensor capability than 21" "launchables"

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    I didn't look at it from that perspective - very interesting. Referring back to your previous post; assuming a hull section can be cut in reasonably cheaply, and a Florida-esque build can be achieved with all the capabilities that go with it, how does the mission profile of said boats change, if at all? AFAIK, there aren't any sub-launched UAV's currently in service...it would be something quite new in the arsenal. Would the sub just fire and forget, and have someone else control the UAV? Would the UAV's be armed? Would that even be necessary with TLAMs onboard?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Masada View Post
    I didn't look at it from that perspective - very interesting. Referring back to your previous post; assuming a hull section can be cut in reasonably cheaply, and a Florida-esque build can be achieved with all the capabilities that go with it, how does the mission profile of said boats change, if at all? AFAIK, there aren't any sub-launched UAV's currently in service...it would be something quite new in the arsenal. Would the sub just fire and forget, and have someone else control the UAV? Would the UAV's be armed? Would that even be necessary with TLAMs onboard?
    UAV's have been VLS launched from subs. UAV's/ROAV's have also been deck launched

    Getting into the tactical issues of subs and UAV's is something I'm uncomfortable going into on a public forum

    UAV's don't replace TLAM's but are companion systems.

    I think its too early to consider using UAV's as dismounts. There's a way to go yet even though conceptually "we're" already there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gf0012-aust View Post
    I attended some briefings on the development and build issues relating to the Virginias a few years back. The discussions were led by the then CINCPAC and the head of the program.

    one of the theoretical discussions was about whether a USS Florida type build could be achieved on the Virginias. From my readings of it, it was regarded as "not being difficult" due to the nature of and the design of the modular components. The Virginias are built with proper full plugs, not just hull plugs. In theory, there is no reason why new full plugs could be built and minor fit out then completed. It would reduce the overall build dates by months...
    If SSBN(x) is based on an updated Seawolf class, with modular construction technique used in Virginia class, then it would seem logical to me to use that new design as a basis for several types of subs of varied lengths and capabiities, depending on what modules are used.

    ...SSBNs, SSGNs, SSNs, ...Seal oriented modules, C2 oriented module, unmanned systems ops, etc.

    ...commonality and variety, both.
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