THE PENTAGON – The Navy’s undersea warfare division is eyeing a stable two-a-year attack submarine rate to reach its ultimate goal of a 66-SSN fleet, despite calls from outside the service to build a larger navy faster
.Acting director of undersea warfare (OPNAV N97) Brian Howes told USNI News today that the service plans to build two Virginia-class submarines a year, which would allow them to reach a 66-boat force by 2048. Building two a year even in years when the Navy buys Columbia-class ballistic-missile submarines would be an increase compared to previous plans, which had just one Virginia sub in years when the Navy also bought an SSBN.
The increase in the attack boat requirement, which had previously been set at 48 SSNs, comes as part of the Navy’s push to build a 355-ship fleet. Various stakeholders have described vastly different timelines for reaching 355 ships in the 11 months since the Navy released its updated force structure assessment. Though the House Armed Services Committee said it believed the buildup would take 25 to 30 years, and the acting secretary of the Navy said it could take 30 years or more, others have suggested more aggressive timelines– the Congressional Budget Office suggested a potential 15-year timeline for reaching 66 attack submarines, Naval Sea Systems Command suggested a plan that shaves 10 to 15 years off in part by extending the life of current ships in the fleet, and lawmakers are pushing for higher SSN procurement rates. The Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act allows the Navy to buy 13 over five years, or three a year in non-SSBN years.
Still, Howes said the OPNAV staff and N97 specifically are committed to two a year.
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