The Navy has confirmed that its submarine industrial base can continue building two Virginia-class attack submarines a year even while adding the Columbia-class ballistic-missile submarine to its workload, giving a key congressman confidence in the House’s plan to boost submarine procurement in the coming years.
In fact, according to a Navy report requested by lawmakers in the 2017 defense authorization bill, continuing to build two SSNs a year is not only “viable” but would “have a positive effect on the overall submarine industrial base cost and workload profiles” and “would provide benefit to Navy’s stack submarine force inventory.”
The Navy had previously planned to build just two subs a year for the foreseeable future – either two attack subs or one SSN and one SSBN. Based on the Columbia-class construction schedule, that would leave seven years between now and 2030 when the Navy only bought one attack sub a year, exacerbating an attack submarine shortfall the service is already facing.
While lawmakers have for a few years discussed not only maintaining the two-a-year rate for SSN construction but even bumping up to three or four in years when a SSBN isn’t procured, the Navy was a little slower to make any commitments. The service just this spring announced it was adding a second SSN to its Fiscal Year 2021 plans, the year it buys the first SSBN, and that it would consider purchasing three SSNs a year in the future.
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