The Navy can’t afford to further extend the life of its current Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine platform, despite an upcoming budgetary challenge on replacing it, according to a key Pentagon official.
“That sub was built to last 30 years and we’ve extended it out to 42 years, longer than any other submarine we’ve operated in this country,” U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) chief Adm. Cecil Haney said Thursday at a Defense Writers Group event in Washington. “Our backs are against the wall at this point in time.”
The Defense Department soon faces a glut in nuclear modernization bills. The Air Force is asking for $5.6 billion over five years to modernize its two legs of the nuclear triad, ground based ICBMs and Long-Range Standoff Weapon, while the Navy has budgeted $5 billion in research and development (R&D) funding and another $5 billion in advanced procurement for the Ohio-class replacement (Defense Daily, March 24). Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (AT&L) Frank Kendall in April said the budget crunch on nuclear modernization gets “severe” starting in 2021, when Ohio-class replacement development starts.
The Navy currently wants to buy 12 subs as part of Ohio replacement, which Haney called one of his highest priorities. Each of the 14 Ohio-class subs can carry up to 24 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) with multiple, independently targeted warheads, according to the Navy. The design allows the subs to operate for 15 or more years between major overhauls. The subs, on average, spend 77 days at sea followed by 35 days in-port for maintenance.