A newly completed comprehensive Navy analysis says producing more Virginia-Class attack submarines on a much faster timetable is “achievable” and necessary to ensure future undersea dominance for the US – in an increasingly contested strategic global environment.
The Navy report, titled The Submarine Industrial Base and the Viability of Producing Additional Attack Submarines Beyond the Fiscal Year 2017 Shipbuilding Plan in the 2017–2030 Timeframe, was delivered to Congress on July 5, 2017, Navy officials told Scout Warrior.
The current or previous status quo had been for the Navy to drop from building two Virginia-Class boats per year to one in the early 2020s when construction of the new Columbia-Class nuclear armed submarines begins.
The completed study, however, maintains that the Navy and industry can produce two Virginia-Class boats and one Columbia-Class submarine per year, increasing the current plan by one Virginia-Class boat per year.
Navy leaders have consistently talked about an expected submarine shortfall in the mid 2020s and that more attack submarines were needed to strengthen the fleet and keep stay in front of near-peer rivals such as Russia and China.
“The sustainment of the two per year Virginia-Class submarine production rate during the procurement years of the Columbia-Class SSBNs is achievable and provides significant benefit to the Navy and the SSN (Attack Submarines) force structure,” Lt. Lauren Chatmas, Navy Spokeswoman, told Scout Warrior in a written statement.
Maintaining a two-per year Virginia Class build-rate will help the Navy reach its goal of 66 SSNs, as identified in the December 2016 Force Structure Assessment, Chatmas added.
Increasing production will, to a large extent, rely upon the submarine-building industry’s capacity to move up to three submarines per year.
“Producing these additional submarines will be a challenge to the submarine industrial base that can be solved only if the shipyards are given sufficient time to adjust facility plans, develop their workforces, and expand the vendor base,” Chatmas said.
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