The program manager for the Ohio-class (SSBN) replacement said yesterday he plans on leveraging the technology and know-how of the Virginia–class (SSN-774) attack submarine to design and build next generation of ballistic missile subs.

Capt. Dave Bishop said he hopes to keep costs down by integrating the technology and systems being deployed on the Virginia class. Among those systems is the command and control Combat System Warfare Federated Tactical Systems (SWFTS), Next-Generation Electronic Support Measures (ESM), towed array and torpedoes.

“We are following in Virginia’s footsteps,” Bishop said at the Naval Submarine League Symposium that took place this week.

“I’m using other people’s money,” he said. “I just have to integrate it into my program.”

The Navy has entered the design phase of the Ohio-class replacement as the current boomers inch toward the end of their hull life. The first of the Ohio-class SSBNs is scheduled for retirement around the end of the 2020s and the Navy wants to ensure new ones are ready.

The goal is to have construction on the first vessel authorized in fiscal 2019 with completion scheduled within 84 months, Bishop said. Bishop estimates the lead sub will cost $11.3 billion, when total planning and construction costs are added up.

The second ship should cost about $5.6 billion with a $700-million reduction for each follow-on sub through the planned procurement of 12, he said.

Meanwhile, Rear Adm. Michael Jabaley, the program manager for the Virginia class, told the audience at the two-day forum that it was critical to maintain the two-per year build rate for the SSNs if the Navy is to meet its 30-year shipbuilding plan.

The Navy announced in September that construction had begun on the SSN-787, the 13th sub in the class (Defense Daily, Sept. 9). It marked the first time in 22 years that the Navy got construction under way on two subs in the same fiscal year.

“We’re finally there and we need to keep it there” Jabaley said.

But there are concerns the procurement rate could be affected by budget cuts. Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and a strong proponent of defense who opposes further cuts, warned last week that current spending reductions could threaten the two-annual build rate (Defense Daily, Oct. 17, 2011).

“We’ve been working to get to the point where we can build two submarines a year and that probably will suffer,” McKeon said.

Jabaley said the Navy will be facing a shortfall in the attack sub fleet around 2030. The long-range shipbuilding strategy originally called for building 10 of the Block IV versions of the ships over a five-year period beginning in 2014, but one was stripped from the 2018 fiscal year. The shortfall could be alleviated by restoring the plans for building two in 2018.

“You retire 25 per cent of that gap just by adding that one submarine back into the shipbuilding plan,” he said.