By Geoff Fein

In an effort to find savings on the follow-on to the Ohio-class submarine, the Navy’s Strategic Systems Program (SSP) office is seeking commonalities between current submarine programs as well as opportunities to share systems with the United Kingdom on its Vanguard-class follow-on.

As the Navy moves to the Ohio replacement program, as part of the common missile compartment, SSP and the Program Executive Office (PEO) Submarines are taking a look at the hardware and software requirements within the strategic weapons system and what PEO Subs has within the rest of platform via the tactical combat system, Rear Adm. Terry Benedict, director SSP, told Defense Daily this week.

“We are working collaboratively with PEO Submarine to figure out which option should we go with–the PEO Sub option or SWS (Strategic Weapon System) option…which provides the greatest warfighting capability,” he said. “Where appropriate, we’ll make joint buys in order to leverage cost reductions. That is an absolute effort that has been ongoing with the PEO.”

The common missile compartment is an effort to concurrently design the feature for both the Ohio replacement and the U.K. Vanguard follow-on program.

While the lead boat of the Ohio replacement effort won’t begin construction for almost another decade, the next SSBN will take advantage of lessons learned from the Virginia-class fast attack submarine effort, Benedict said.

“One example of lessons learned comes from the manufacturing process at General Dyanmics [GD] Electric Boat. “All those lessons learned that went from the various classes of submarine, from Seawolf into Virginia, are now being carried forward,” Benedict said. “Things like modular design that has evolved over time are certainly being leveraged as we move forward into the Ohio replacement.”

General Dynamics Electric Boat is one of two contractors building Virginia-class submarines. Northrop Grumman [NOC] Newport News is the other.

In addition to the approaches to modular design work that the Ohio replacement effort will explore, Benedict added the next SSBN will also take advanatge of all the modifications made in the Virginia prorgam related to commercial-off-the-shelf hardware and software.

“So every opportunity (Rear Adm. William Hilarides and Rear Adm. David Johnson) have learned in driving for the two (submarines) in 2012 that they so effectively are executing at PEO Subs, all those are just continuing down that learning curve as we move toward the Ohio replacement,” Benedict said. “That’s the only way we are going to make the cost goals that we agreed to with ASN RDA (Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Research, Development & Acquisition) moving forward in that platform.”

Hilarides is currently PEO Submarines.

Johnson is deputy commander for undersea technology (SEA 073) and deputy PEO Submarines for Ohio-class SSBN replacement (PEO SUB-OR). He is pegged to become the new PEO Submarines this fall.

As the Navy moves from the current Ohio-class SSBN to the Ohio replacement, the Strategic Weapons System (SWS) will also transition to the United Kingdom as that country develops the follow-on to its Vanguard-class SSBN, Benedict said.

“It’s just not the missile that is moving over [to the U.K.]. It is all those subsystems moving over,” he said.

Those subsystems include:

  • The launcher;
  • Fire control;
  • Navigation;
  • Re-entry missile; and
  • Guidance.

All those subsystems today are under a life extension effort, Benedict added.

“In the flight hardware, which is the missile and guidance, we have life extension efforts ongoing today that will start flight testing here in fiscal year ’11 and they actually come together and IOC (initial Operational Capability) completely in 2017,” he said. “In what we call the shipboard systems, we have a program called SSI–Shipboard System Integration–which comprise the launcher, fire control and navigation. They are undergoing life extension efforts concurrently. Basically, all the systems are under life extension so that when the new platform is built, that entire life extended SWS moves over to the two new platforms (Ohio replacement and Vanguard follow-on). That’s what we felt was the most cost effective.”

Additionally, all the support equipment and all the test equipment will be modified as part of the SWS life extension. “For the long-term, that is the most cost effective solution, and that’s the recommendation we put forward,” Benedict added.

The SWS infrastructure resides at Strategic Weapons Facility (SWF) Pacific at the Naval Submarine Base (NSB) Bangor, Wash., and at SWF Atlantic at NSB Kings Bay, Ga.

Work on the SWS life extension for both the United States and United Kingdom is being done here, Benedict noted.

“The way the program works, it is executed under what is called the PSA–Polaris Sales Agreement–so the U.K. bought, as part of Vanguard, the Trident SWS,” he said. “As we do the effort, their systems are upgraded concurrently. They get the full benefit of all the life extension efforts we are doing.”

It’s a close coordination between both countries, Benedict added.

In addition to the SWS effort, in support of the Ohio-replacement program and the Vanguard follow-on, the Navy has been working on a program called the common missile compartment.

“The analysis and up front design work is being done as a joint U.S.-U.K program, so that when the decisions are made to authorize the Ohio replacement and Vanguard follow-on, that common missile compartment work will be done and the U.K. can build their front end and aft end, and same with U.S., we can build our front end and aft end for that submarine,” he said.