The Buzz

How the U.S. Navy Plans to Take on Russia and China's Deadly Submarines

The Navy and Huntington Ingalls Industries have completed initial Sea Trials for the newest Virginia-class submarine as part of a broader plan to bring new submarine technology to the fleet and accelerate attack submarine acquisition to address an anticipated shortfall. 

“The ship and its crew performed exceptionally well,” Matt Needy, Newport News’ vice president of submarines and fleet support said in a written statement. 

All systems, components and compartments of the new Washington (SSN 787) were tested during the trials.

"The submarine submerged for the first time and operated at high speeds on the surface and underwater. Washington will undergo a round of acceptance trials before delivery to the Navy by Newport News," a Newport News shipbuilding statement said. 

Virginia-Class Attack Submarine Acceleration: 

News of developments with the Washington comes as Navy leaders now say it will be possible to build more Virginia-class attack submarines at a faster pace than currently planned as part of an aggressive move to address and counter Russian and Chinese submarine expansion. 

Senior Navy officials and industrial partners say there is an ability to build 2 Virginia-class submarines per year once production of the Ohio Replacement Program nuclear-armed submarines begins in the 2020s. 
The current status-quo effort to build two Virginia-Class boat per year, however, will drop to one as construction of the new Columbia-class nuclear armed ballistic missile submarines begins in the early 2020s.
Last year, the Navy completed a special analysis of strategic imperatives and industrial base capacity on the issue; service leaders said the analytic underpinning now exists to support the possibility of building two Virginia attack-class submarines once construction of the Columbia-class submarines begins. 
Navy developers explain that Congressional budget approvals and additional developments will need to happen in order for this plan to formally go forward, but that the ability to accomplish this was there. The acquisition success of the Virgina-class submarine program, Navy leaders say, isone of the key reasons why the ability to build more would be possible. 
His comments are of particular value and significance as many have previously raised the question as to whether the submarine-building industrial base would have the capacity to accomplish this. 

Navy leaders have consistently talked about an expected submarine shortfall in the mid 2020s and that more attack submarines were needed to strengthen the fleet and keep stay in front of near-peer rivals such as Russia and China. Building two Virginia-class submarines in the 2020s would address at least 30-percent of this expected shortfall. 

Addressing the US Navy submarine shortage is now of critical or growing importance given China's growing ability to hit the United States with a nuclear-armed missile. The Navy, naturally, seeks to maintain its considerable technological advantage in the undersea domain, something which could increasingly be challenged in coming years. In particular, Navy leaders have consistently expressed concerns that China now has the maritime ability to strike directly at the US homeland. 

 Virginia-class technology, including quieting abilities, Large Aperture Bow sonar and increased Tomahawk firepower with the upcoming integration of Virginia Payload Modules -- can likely help Navy submarines challenge or overcome anti-access/area-denial challenges posed by potential adversaries. 

 The Navy is still working on its 2018 five-year spending plan called a Program Objective Memorandum, or POM. Navy officials tell Scout Warrior the POM deliberations will be "open" until the President formally submits next year's service budget proposal. 

The Virginia-Class Submarines are built by a cooperative arrangement between the Navy and Electric Boat, a subsidiary of General Dynamics and Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries.

Each industry partner constructs portions or “modules” of the submarines which are then melded together to make a complete vessel, industry and Navy officials explained. 

Various sub-building industry executives have indicated that this might be possible. One industry source told Scout Warrior that the submarine building community would support whatever the Navy and Congress call for.

“We’ll support Navy programs,” the source said.

Navy Leaders Want More Attack Submarines: 

The prospect of an acceleration comes as Navy commanders tell Congress they would like to see the fast arrival of more Virginia-Class attack submarines added to the Pacific Fleet.

Pacific Commander Harry Harris told Congress last year that he would like to see more submarines in his area of operations.

“The Pacific is the principle space where submarines are the most important warfighting capability we have. As far as Virginia-Class submarines, it is the best thing we have,” Harris told lawmakers in 2016. “As I mentioned before, we have a shortage in submarines. My submarine requirement is not met in PACOM (Pacific Command).”

With their technological edge and next-generation sonar, the platform can successfully perform crucially important intelligence and surveillance mission in high-risk areas inaccessible to surface ships.  For this reason, Virginia-Class attack submarines are considered indispensable to the ongoing Pentagon effort to overcome what’s talked about in terms of Anti-Access/Area-Denial wherein potential adversaries use high-tech weaponry and sensors to prevent U.S. forces from operating in certain strategically vital areas. 



Virginia-Class Attack Submarine Technology