The Pentagon plans to conduct a high-level review of the Navy’s Ohio-class replacement submarine program in early November, a key service official said Oct. 26.

The Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) meeting, overseen by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, is expected to scrutinize the program’s progress, formally green-light the effort and set a cost baseline, said Rear Adm. Michael Jabaley, the Navy’s program executive officer for submarines, who spoke at a Naval Submarine League symposium in Arlington, Va.

The SSBN(X) will replace Ohio-class ballistic subs. Photo: U.S. Navy
The SSBN(X) will replace Ohio-class ballistic subs.
Photo: U.S. Navy

But Jabaley warned that the program could be slowed if Congress does not approve $773 million for fiscal year 2017 detail design work by about Jan. 1. Lawmakers have not yet passed an FY 2017 defense appropriations bill, and the current continuing resolution, which funds the federal government until December, does not contain the design money. Navy officials insist the program’s schedule is already tight and cannot afford a delay because the existing ballistic missile subs are wearing out.

“It is a perilous situation that I am hopeful will be resolved either in the next continuing resolution or with the passage of an appropriations bill” for FY 2017, Jabaley said.

For its part, the Navy is using an “aggressive prototyping scheme” to keep the program on track, Jabaley said. With research and development funding, “we are already building pieces of this ship,” including missile tubes components that will be installed on the first sub, he said.

The Navy plans to buy a total of 12 new submarines to replace 14 aging Ohio boomers. General Dynamics [GD] Electric Boat is the prime contractor and Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) Newport News Shipbuilding is taking a secondary role. Construction of the first new sub is scheduled to begin in 2021.

Jabaley said the Navy is “working very hard” with its shipbuilders to complete negotiations on a contract to complete the sub’s design. Electric Boat has been conducting research and development for the new vessel under a five-year, $1.85-billion contract awarded in December 2012.

In 2014, the Navy calculated that designing the sub and preparing construction yards would cost $17.4 billion, and that building “follow” ships two through 12 would cost an average of $5.2 billion.