Saturday, October 7, 2017

Virginia Class Submarine - Defense Authorization FY11 Update-2

Originally Published November 20, 2010; Last Updated October 07, 2017; Last Republished October 07, 2017:

The Navy's September 30, 2010 December 31, 2012 selected acquisition report (SAR)  latest SAR has rebaselined the Virginia-class submarine program at $93,207,300,000.00 (read $93.2 billion dollars) $91, 847, 400 for 30 submarines or $3,106,910,000.00 $3,061,580 per submarine1 platform (30-402 years of weapons, men, and maintenance are extra).
USS Virginia SSN 774
The September 30, 2010 SAR for the Virginia-class submarine program is reporting a $1,813,400,000.00 increase over the June 2010 SAR.

The "rebaselining" reflects a transition from development to production (Milestone III) notwithstanding the SAR attributes a substantial proportion of the $1,813,400,000.00 increase over the June 2010 SAR to an extension of the Virginia-class development program through 2027.

Stated differently the contractor is in rolling production on the Virginia-class submarine program, notwithstanding declaration of Milestone III. The "rebaseline" is for Block I submarine platforms while development continues for Block II (SSN 778-783), Block III (SSN 784-791), IV (SSN 792-803), and V (SSN 804-807) submarine platforms.

The benefit of using rolling production is that you can field a weapon system while you design it; the burden is that it's very expensive, as the eye popping price tag of today's weapons system attest. Additionally, managing total life cycle costs becomes very difficult and expensive as each succeeding block design is retrofitted or backfitted into the preceding block design.

If the contractor cannot retrofit or backfit preceding blocks (because of design or costs constraints) then the Navy must manage multiple submarine platform configurations, rarely if ever desirable.


Res:

UPDATED 02/27/2017 Navy, SCN Book
UPDATED 09/13/2016 FissileMaterial, Conceptual Research and Development Plan for Low-Enriched Uranium Naval Fuel and FissileMaterial, Report On Low Enriched Uranium for Naval Reactors' Cores  and NAP, Reducing the Use of Highly Enriched Uranium in Civilian Research Reactors (2016)
UPDATED 03/31/2016 NavSea, Technical Capabilities of Warfare Centers Manual
UPDATED 03/18/2016 NASA-STI, ApexExpoIPX Slides: Counterfeit Electronics: Current Threats and
Detection Methodologies

UPDATED 02/18/2016 CRS, Navy Virginia (SSN-774) Class Attack Submarine Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress

Ongoing general discussion, woefully limited in details, on the impact(s) of the estimated $530M NavSea FY17 detail design, Platform and Payload Integration,Code 40VPM modifications (e.g. impacts on: direct and indirect costs; trade-offs; build and operational schedules; hydrostatics; hydrodynamics; deployments; and missions etc.)

UPDATED 02/10/2016 SecNav, Proposed 2017 Obligation Authority, Virginia-Class

UPDATED 01/16/2016 CSIS, Chinese Strategy and Military Modernization in 2015: A Comparative Analysis#Figure 10.7: Force Structure of the PLA Navy 1985-2015-Part I; Submarines

UPDATED 01/14/2016 CRS, Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans:Background and Issues for Congress [January 2016] (courtesy FAS)

UPDATED 06/10/2015 CRS, Navy Virginia (SSN-774) Class Attack Submarine Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress, dated June 01, 2015; Cut-n-Paste

UPDATED 03/19/2015 FAS, Naval Nuclear Propulsion: Assessing Benefits and Risks

UPDATED 07/05/2014 CRS, Navy Virginia (SSN-774) Class Attack Submarine Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress dated June 25, 2014 and CRS, Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress dated June 25, 2014 (Courtesy FAS Secrecy Blog)

UPDATED 04/28/2014 Wikipedia, Virginia-class Submarine

Proponents of a 300+ navy shipbuilding plan appear to be expressing "hopes, wishes and aspirations" under the "Future Acquisitions" and "Improved Virginia" sections.

Typically, "improved" platform refers to upgrading platforms in an existing class, not the production of a new class (i.e. follow-on class) characterized as "improvements" to the platforms in an existing class!

Not sure if this "marketing" is clever or confusion or clever confusion?

UPDATED 12/21/2013 CBO, Long-Term Implications of the 2014 Future Years Defense Program and CBO, An Analysis of the Navy’s Fiscal Year 2014 Shipbuilding Plan

UPDATED 12/17/2012 CRS, Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress, Dec 2012

Alternative force structures for submarines—currently one 2014 VCS is being pushed out to the 2018 period—uncertainty in the Ohio class-replacement program persists.

The Cato and Sustainable Defense submarine structures seem entirely reasonable—a lot of luck and leadership might combine to eliminate sea based ballistic missile weaponry altogether!


UPDATED 08/07/2012 CRS, Navy Virginia (SSN-774) Class Attack Submarine Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress, April 2012

In an era of increasingly sophisticated autonomous vehicles11 and expectations that nations synergistically partner to protect and patrol our global commons 37 American SSNs is not a trough.

Of course, it's not necessarily the job of our Congressional Research Service to analyze whether proposed submarine missions and force structure reflect collaborators or cowboys.

UPDATED 07/27/2012 CBO, An Analysis of the Navy’s Fiscal Year 2013 Shipbuilding Plan (navy comments on some aspects of CBO's analysis here)
UPDATED 07/22/2012 CRS, Defense: FY2013 Authorization and Appropriations

Unfortunately, our Congress and navy continue their wasteful and unnecessary efforts to build two VCS per year10—restoring $723 million for long lead procurement for a second VCS in 2014.

UPDATED 12/10/2011 RAND, Learning from Experience: Volume I: Lessons from the Submarine Programs of the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia (other volumes MG 1128.2-4) deal individually with each nation's submarine program).

Volume I is a general summary for how to manage a major weapons system program. Things every experienced program manager learns, understands, but does not always implement. If the intention is to document best practices for the inexperienced this volume is too general to be of much use—each chapter needs a comprehensive "cookbook" companion.

Effective substitutes for an enthusiastic, experienced, and exceptional program manager (navy and contractor) are rare, but transparency comes closest and can mitigate much ineptitude,  inexperience, and indirectness:
"Full disclosure during the program is necessary to obtain government, industry, and public support. There should be periodic feedback to government decisionmakers and to the public on how the program is progressing. Such feedback is especially important when there are unanticipated problems. In this regard, a good media management program is necessary. Effective communications with the press, academia, and government must be proactive, not reactive. Program managers must proactively ensure that all parties are well informed in advance of positive and negative developments and their associated implications."--Lessons, Volume I--
As an aside it's unclear why the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Canada do not develop, operate, and maintain integrated submarine platforms complete with interchangeable submariners?

UPDATED 10/21/2011 CBO, An Analysis of the Navy's Fiscal Year 2012 Shipbuilding Plan (June 2011)

OSD, Table of Links to Past SARs

UPDATED 04/06/2011 GAO, Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs. GAO is out with its proforma March 2011 Assessment of Selected Weapons Systems. GAO is reporting among other items that4: the Navy thinks the contractor GD/EB is on a cost trajectory for achieving its $2 billion (2005 dollars) per VCS target; VCS program is 40 percent overrun; some performance and cost reducing design changes have been accomplished, others delayed, one abandoned; in-process (anechoic coating and torpedo room racks) problems have been solved.

Web:

UPDATED 10/07/2017 Navy, USS Washington (SSN 787) Commissioning


UPDATED 05/23/2017 Navy, Department of the Navy Releases Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Proposal FY2018 proposes two Virginia-class platforms. (article provides links for those wanting to drill down--$19.9B for ship building!) and Navy, Fact File, Attack Submarines


UPDATED 05/13/2017 CSIS, Congress and Seapower: The View from The Hill SeaPower Subcommittee members advocating for budget lock on their ideated 350 ship navy.


UPDATED 05/04/2017 Brookings, Assuring a ready fleet: A discussion with Admiral John Richardson and Brookings, How to Ensure That the U.S. Navy Remains Effective


UPDATED 04/07/2017 AiirSource, A Rare Look Inside US Navy Nuclear Submarine USS Texas


UPDATED 03/21/2017 HudsonInst, American Seapower Speaking Tour (Full Version) and HudsonInst, The Trump Navy: Getting to 350 Ships

Hudson Institute roadshow for its proposed 350 ship Forces Structure Assessment (FSA). It seems incongruous for our "new" alt-white-house to simultaneously advocate an unprecedented and dangerous nationalistic isolationism and a bloated (48, 51, 66 fast attack platforms) sea power build up!?

 

Also, CSBA, statement by Bryan Clark in support of Restoring American Seapower: A New Fleet Architecture for the United States Navy (i.e. 66 fast attack platforms).

The Hudson roadshow and other promoters need measurable metrics and data for their eye-popping proposed  sea power budgets outside the traditional echo chamber (i.e. Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces et al.)

Our "new" alt-white-house's oxymoronic nationalistic-isolationism platitudes "America first" and "make America great again" are not measurable metrics or data!

UPDATED 12/17/2016 USNI, Dec. 14, 2016 executive summary of the Navy’s 2016 Force Structure Assessment  and CtMirror, Navy boosts projections for Virginia-class submarines and BreakingDefense, The 355-Ship Fleet Will Take Decades, Billions To Build: Analysts  and MarineLog, New Force Structure Assessment calls for 355 ship Navy

UPDATED 12/16/2016 USNI, Navy Wants to Grow Fleet to 355 Ships; 47 Hull Increase Adds Destroyers, Attacks Subs and Navy, Secretary of the Navy Announces Need for 355-ship Navy



The Navy's 2016 Force Structure Analysis (FSA) did not come with the SecNav's FSA announcement—for now all we can say is our navy is asking Santa Claus to deliver a lot of Christmas presents! Even Santa Claus has budget and funding limits!

But, evidently SecNav's bloated boat announcement is conservative because to counter "all the threats out there" would take a 653 ship navy! Whew, that's a relief...did we stop random drug testing of our sailors and analysts?

UPDATED 10/29/2016 NavyLive, Commissioning USS Illinois (SSN 786) The well-done and official "Silent Service" promo video accompanying this page needs to prominently feature female submariners, too (also, Enlisted Women in Submarines Road Shows Hit Fleet Concentration Areas).



and UPI, First lady Michelle Obama welcomes U.S. Navy's most advance submarine USS Illinois

UPDATED 07/08/2016 CSIS, Delivering on the Future of Submarine Warfare


Navy (N97 and PEO Submarines) discuss block changes for Virginia-class platform.

UPDATED 03/30/2016 USNI, Navy Sub Build Strategy: Electric Boat Will Focus On Ohio Replacement While Newport News Delivers More SSNs

UPDATED 03/29/2016 NT, Secret weld: How shoddy parts disabled a $2.7 billion submarine and TFT, How a $2.7 Billion Submarine Was Crippled by Defective Parts and UPDATED 12/17/2016 Breaking Defense, Welding Problems Fixed For Virginia Subs; Carter Tours Electric Boat

Whether a steam leak failure in the submarine's power plant primary loop12 is "catastrophic" depends on the platform's operational profile at the time of the failure. Suffice it to say no submariner wants to experience a power plant primary loop steam leak, even with a platform operational profile of Beaufort state zero, positive platform buoyancy, flank speed, and periscope depth!

The word "hot" in the context of a submarine’s nuclear power plant refers to temperature and radioactivity. Suffice it to say a primary loop elbow's (by definition up to an approximately 90o redirection of a "hot" pressurized fluid) fatigue and brittleness do not improve during the power plant's 30-40 years estimated life-cycle.

This article is woefully lacking in the details necessary for an interested public to adequately and accurately estimate the total impacts of the "elbow" subcontractor's performance failure, which may be the result of the ongoing (criminal?) investigation.

UPDATED 02/29/2016 Brookings, Uncharted seas: Maritime strategy for a new era of naval challenges (video - SecNav, CNO, Commadant)

Asking SecNavs and CNOs if the navy has enough attack submarines is like asking children if they have enough ice cream!

USNI, Navy Revising Force Structure Assessment In Light Of Increased Attack Sub, Other Ship Needs and USNI, Stackley: Funding Levels Creating Risk In U.S. Navy Attack Submarine, Surface Combatant Fleets

UPDATED 01/14/2015 Riverhead, Making history: Riverhead grad will be one of the first female officers to serve in Navy submarine force

UPDATED 11/25/2015 UPI, General Dynamics receives Virginia-class submarine contract modification and DoD, Contracts, Navy

"Electric Boat Corp., Groton, Connecticut, is being awarded a $102,876,417 modification to previously awarded contract N00024-10-C-2118 for additional lead yard services and development studies and design efforts related to Virginia-class submarines."

UPDATED 08/07/2015 DefenseNews, US Navy Sidelines 3 Newest Subs

NavSea must publicly release additional information on this Virginia-class submarine platform's potential power and propulsion plant piping failure, including platform operational limitations pending completion of the supplier investigation and corrective actions.

UPDATED 08/03/2015 USNews, New paint, water-resistant grease: Navy finds ways to squeeze more life out of attack subs
UPDATED 12/08/2014 FBO, Long-Range Research and Development Plan (LRRDP) of Today and DefenseOne, Why Does the Navy Still Not Have Enough Money for New Submarines?

A question the recently nominated SecDef, Ashton Carter will often ask (or mumble) over the next several years.

In the unlikely event of a non-DoD component donating or reprogramming $80B of their budget, solutions will likely mean fewer separate common class (i.e. SSN, SSN-X, SSGN, SSBN, SSBN-X) submarine platforms.

Increased reliance on combinations of uncommon, non-traditional and alternative submarine and other platforms seems likely.

UPDATED 10/29/2014 USNI, Navy Starting Work on New SSN(X) Nuclear Attack Submarine

Post Virginia-class, Block VII platform exploratory project, SSN(X) announced at this years sub-league symposium.

The announcement is about as meaningful as announcing a preliminary project for the purpose of exploring a redesign of a navy coffee cup.

Our submarine designers are continuously projecting (no pun intended) and pitching all matter and manner of next generation submarine platforms, with or without realistic threat parameters—that's what submarine designers do. However, it's a bit unusual for these pitches to go public 30 plus years pre-IOC—guess today's eye-popping platform price tags demand earlier starts?

The good news is that next generation platforms increasingly require first principle understanding and advancement as opposed to purchasing more and larger displacements and throw weights. Such will no doubt be a focus of session two (Technologies for SSN(X)) at next years APL Submarine Technology Symposium.

UPDATED 10/29/2014 NavyTimes, Virginia subs to get berthing changes for female crew

UPDATED 10/25/2014 DoDNews, Navy to Commission USS North Dakota, Newest Attack Sub and NavyLive, Inside North Dakota (SSN 784) and NavyMil, USS North Dakota (SSN-784) Commissioning (stream)

UPDATED 05/07/2014 AviationWeekly, U.S. Navy Continues Virginia-Class Sub Investments

The navy and contractors are putting some thinking and effort into cross class design and procurement, which may impact the estimated total cost of ownership for both VCS and Ohio-class-replacement platforms?

As if it wasn't difficult enough to accurately measure and track the acquisition target costs of a single class submarine platform.

UPDATED 04/29/2014 GD, General Dynamics Awarded $18 Billion by U.S. Navy for 10 Virginia-Class Submarines and Courant, Navy Awards $17.6 Billion Contract For Sub Work at Electric Boat, Newport News and Jane's360, USN lets contract for Block IV Virginia submarines

NavSea awards General Dynamics, Electric Boat (GD/EB) a fixed price incentive contract for Block IV Virginia-class submarine platforms (qty 10). The contract's incentive targets and amounts to be shared between prime contractor (GD/EB) and major subcontractor  Newport News were not disclosed?

Jane's 360 reminds us that changes to the original baseline design and configuration, typically referred to as "improvements", have been made for Block IV platforms. These "improvements" again realign any "cost growth" with existing expected budgets. The navy, contractor and congress simultaneously pronounce the "improved program", which typically change an expensive coach platform into a relatively more affordable pumpkin platform the Cinderella of military procurement programs.

UPDATED 11/14/2012 NavyLive, Ohio Replacement Class – a Collaborative Effort

Rear Admiral Barry Bruner commingles Virginia-class and inchoate Ohio-replacement-class (ORCS) submarines (VCS and ORCS, respectively)  in support of our navy's desire of funding a two VCS and one ORCS per year shipbuilding program. Presumably the admiral intends the reader to use current VCS program performance as simultaneous evidence, threat and incentive in support of the inchoate ORCS?

To put it kindly the admiral is comparing apples to oranges or stated differently he's comparing a descoped, restructured, redesigned, and rebaselined VCS program to the inchoate ORCS. Only those unfamiliar or uninformed about the origins and history of our VCS program would seriously credit such a comparison.

Of course, the admiral's sensitivity to VCS and inchoate ORCS submarine platform milestones, costs, and commonality are welcome, if short of any meaningful details. We can only hope to hasten our navy's transition to a single submarine platform with a variety of mission modules (tactical and strategic) in inventory.

UPDATED 08/03/2012 BusinessInsider, Step Aboard The Navy's $2.4 Billion Virginia-Class Nuclear Submarine Some nice below decks images.

UPDATED 04/13/2012 EpochTimes, Navy’s Submarine Building Plan Could Fall Short

A significant benefit of a reduced submarine force structure is that our navy will not sink money into submarine platforms searching for yesterday's obsolete Cold War missions or awaiting an infinite variety of China war game scenarios (one scenario is currently playing out in the South China Sea, Spratly Islands between Chinese fishing and surveillance vessels corralled by Philippine ships—both nations have wisely withdrawn their military vessels as diplomats resolve the playground dispute) .

Instead, our navy can focus its limited resources and considerable research and development prowess on maturing next generation technology. Technology that will be required to economically build platforms responsive to tomorrow's missions.

Notwithstanding the considerable efforts by some of our politicians, tomorrow's missions will require Russia and China's participation as responsible partners, not political whipping boys.

UPDATED 03/31/2012 Reuters, Internet search yields bogus arms parts from China Two of the 16 suspected bogus electronic parts are used on the Ohio-class and Los Angeles-class submarines.

A recent GAO report that describes GAO's request for purchase of 16 electronic parts. The purchase orders divided the parts into three categories--authentic parts that are rare or obsolete (7); authentic parts with manufacture date codes beyond known last date of manufacture (5); and parts with completely bogus part numbers (4).

Hundreds of Chinese and a few non-Chinese vendors responded. GAO accepted low bids from the Chinese vendorsand sent the part for testing to an independent laboratory.

The two parts used in submarines (GAO assigned identifiers MLL1 and YCC2) failed macroscopic and microscopic tests.

All 16 parts described in the GAO report are suspected counterfeit parts. These types of inspection and analysis must become built-in features of international trading protocols. Including provisions for allocating company and country responsibility for every counterfeit product (not just military) entering the stream of international commerce.

UPDATED 03/28/2012 DefNews, Fleet Size Hovers Around 300 Ships in New U.S. Navy Plan

It remains a mystery why our navy's 2013 shipbuilding plan (pdf) is proposing to build 46 Virginia-class submarines8 (VCS, SSN Attack) between the years 2013-2042. Perhaps congressional inertia in transitioning to an equivalent non-military jobs programs and enhancing our multilateral cooperation with like-minded peer nations.

The bottom row, SSN-Alt is not part of our navy's proposal but included to show a total (30), if one VCS is built each year between 2013-2042.

Our navy's 2013 shipbuilding plan proposes dismantling eight Los Angeles-class submarines (SSN 688) between 2014-2017 and conversion of two SSN 688s to moored training submarines during this same period.

UPDATED 03/25/2012 CRS, China Naval Modernization RL33153 dated February 2012 (Courtesy of FAS Secrecy Blog)  (Posted under  Chinese Jin Class Type 094 SSBN)

UPDATED 02/08/2012 CSIS, The Acquisition Implications of the DoD Strategic Guidance and the FY2013 Budget

Interesting comments on acquisition processes by Under Secretary of Defense Frank Kendall—cost caps, life-cycle-costs budgeting, (un)affordability, contracting types, value maximization, data driven management, workforce quality, industrial base, industry performance improvements and professional development, etc.

Related post Navy’s Science Chief Targets Practical Fleet Concerns to reduce the cost of platform life-cycle ownership.

UPDATED 01/28/2012 NJ, Pentagon Unveils New Plan for Conventional Submarine-Based Ballistic Missiles

UPDATED 01/26/2012 Defense, Major Budget Decisions Briefing from the Pentagon and  Major Budget Decisions Media Roundtable at the Pentagon

Related post Navy’s Science Chief Targets Practical Fleet Concerns

A test balloon for the upcoming 2013 defense budget—the pentagon floats a precarious proposal for a precarious posture—no change to the current VCS posture; SBSD (aka Ohio-class replacement) delayed a couple of years.

More after the release of the actual 2013 budget and proposal (RFP) for the  next block of VCS.

UPDATED 11/27/2011 Defense Secretary Panetta and Congressman Courtney (R-CT) visit Electric Boat (EB) to express support and appreciation for those building our VCS. Also, the recently appointed debt- reduction committee's inability to reach an agreement is expected to trigger sequestration, which will likely impact the VCS submarine construction (see NOSINT,Virginia-class Sub Program Likely To Survive for another VCS impact view).

Further legislation could alter the sequestration before it takes effect in 2013. The President has expressed his preference for Congress to reach agreement on debt reduction and indicated he'd veto legislation aimed at circumventing the sequestration.

It's probably unrealistic, if not down right delusional to assert that our navy and submarine builders should stop doubling then halving budgets in response to simple changes in our government?


UPDATED 08/18/2012 How Politicians and the Press Overstated Military Budget Cuts by $100 Billion These headlines may shock our citizenry, but our experienced defense and congressional budgeteers and bean-counters gave up long ago trying to accurately determine our Pentagon's budgets or its actual expenditures!


UPDATED 10/24/2011 TheDay, Submarine force is preparing for a changing landscape

Before reading this article I would not have guessed you could quote five admirals (one select) in a ~1200-word article about submarines—admirals that say nothing about the gains implicit in common cooperative strategies.
.
Uncertain what to name the evolving strategy, the admirals' first priority is building 12 new ballistic missile submarine platforms (Ohio-class replacement) between 2019 and 2033, inclusive6.

The second priority appears to be the purchase of 46 new VCS between the years 2011-2041, which is not a "changed landscape" so much as a temporary dip in the existing landscape.

A changed landscape would be the purchase of 32 new VCS between the years 2011-20317 coupled with an improvement program for 14 of the existing VCS platforms, beginning around 2031.

Alternatively, instead of building two VCS for the years 2011-2017, 2019-2022, 2035, 2037, 2039, and 2041 simply level load one VCS for all years between 2012-2041, completing the two VCS already in-process for 2011.

Our navy can designate, as appropriate any of  the new 32 VCS platforms to receive a payload-stretch section.

Begin the non-recurring effort for the VCS-improved platform follow-on, as appropriate.

UPDATED 10/21/2011 The Submarine Review, Submarine Technology Symposium (subscription) Several articles on the challenges and cost of the VCS platform.

UPDATED 10/21/2011 AviationWeek, U.S. Submarine Programs Face Uncertainty


The article discusses the VCS acquisition lessons learned, primarily after the 2005 period—unfortunately those lessons will have minimal impact on the VCS's total life-cycle costs5

An important lesson the article fails to mention is that our major weapon systems are procured in an opaque environment of self-selecting secrecy. Within such an environment it's easy to forget that one man's sweet smell of success is another man's stench of sophistry or spin: 
- sole source monopolist profits (cost overruns) is cost growth; and
- adding a second source (i.e. 2x capital costs) is investment or preserving industrial base; and 
- rescoping unaffordable performance parameters is an impressive idea or production improvement program; and 
- advanced purchase of hardware rendered obsolete by rescoped performance parameters is unexpected material growth (same for any newly purchased or reworked hardware); and 
- decreasing quantities as a result of the escalating unaffordability is failure of economies of scales; and
- program restructure, schedule slippage, and inflation is an acquisition success story that will stand forever;

Reducing or eliminating the opaqueness from our acquisition process of major weapon systems will help ensure that assertions of the sweet smell of success will pass the smell test.

UPDATED 04/23/2011 Time, How to Save a Trillion Dollars.
"...Does the Navy need 50 attack submarines when America's main enemy hides in caves? ...If the Chinese want to slay us, they don't need to attack us with their missiles. They just have to call in their loans. ...For too long, an uninterested and distracted citizenry has been content to leave the messy business of national defense to those with bottom-line reasons for force-feeding it like a foie gras goose. It's long past time, Ike might have added today, for U.S. taxpayers to demand that its government spend what is needed to defend the country — not a penny more."--Time, April 14, 2011--
UPDATED 02/26/2011 Full FY2012 Defense Budget Request.


The next VCS christening (Fall 2011) is the Block II, USS Mississippi, SSN-782 [Builder: GD-EB; Sponsor: Allison Stiller; Officer-in-Charge: Commander John McGrath]. 

 Virtual below decks tour (360o) of some VCS spaces on USS New Mexico SSN-779. UPDATED 12/11/2010 Aviation Week, Navy Hard-Pressed To Meet Sub Numbers

Yet, another article concluding that the expected eye-popping unit platform prices implicit in our Navy's 30-year shipbuilding plan (dream) will not support a 313-platform Navy. Of course this is not news; the interesting part of the article is in the next to last paragraph:
“...It would be a very interesting world if Virginia-class SSNs had the flexibility to serve in either the conventional SSN, SSGN or strategic SSBN roles. That would be a massive force multiplier and a boon for the bottom line,...”--Aviation Week quoting Craig Hooper--
It would be an even more interesting world if these modern-modular-snappable submersibles3 were virtually modeled, configured, tested, manufactured, christened, and commissioned...just in time for its mission and submariners (unless the snappable submersible happened to be crewless).

-----notes-----

1. The original 1995 baseline cost for 30 submarines was $64,040,000,000.00 or $2,134,666,667.00 per submarine. The original estimated price was $1 billion dollars per Virginia-class submarine platform (refer to New Attack Submarine Capability -- Acquisition Decision Memorandum (NASC-ADM) Milestone 0, dated August 28, 1992)!
"...Examine a range of alternative new nuclear attack submarines. Include alternatives with reduced capabilities relative to those of the SSN-21, and designs smaller than that of the SSN-688I. Examine designs smaller than 5000 tons and options with reduced or deleted mission capabilities; e.g., power projection. These designs should be more affordable ($1B), less than or equal cost of the SSN-688I....."--NASC-ADM 1992, Milestone 0--
UPDATED 05/07/2014 The GAO is out with a different set of 2014 numbers which estimates the current VCS program cost at $84,350,000 or $2,811,667 per platform, in the unlikely event the original quantity of 30 platforms are procured. GAO's uses a first full program estimate (different from the first or original estimate) of $63,582,000.


2. At the end of the submarine's life, additional costs are incurred for decommissioning and decontaminating the radioactive reactor compartment, reactor, and reactor core. The decontaminated reactor compartment minus the reactor core is then sealed and securely buried as mixed low-level radioactive waste—for hundreds of years.

3. There's no reason to limit the possible modular designs to snappable submersibles characterized by the SSN, SSBN, or SSGN configurations.

4. UPDATED 04/09/2011 Not included in GAO's proforma VCS 2011 assessment is the recent failure of the oxygen generator onboard the Virgina-class USS New Hampshire. The VCS oxygen generator (i.e. Integrated Low Pressure Electrolyzer) is produced by Hamilton Sundstrand, Sea Systems using integrating Proton Energy Systems' electrolysis cell stacks, which is based on proton exchange membrane (PEM) technology. The recently qualified Integrated Low-Pressure Electrolyzer is next generation technology, so its failure is of some concern. Neither the Navy nor contractors have yet provided a root cause for the mission critical system’s failure.

5. Captain Michael Jabaley (VCS Navy program manager) in a comment to the main article conjectures an increased VCS operation tempo (i.e. more at sea time per platform which is primarily dependent on platform MTBF). Time will determine if this conjecture is proven true?

6. Vice Admiral Richardson seems certain that a new undersea warfare strategy should not be called  "post-Cold War".

Which seems appropriate since a "post-Cold War" strategy will require more than deploying fewer ballistic missile platforms using fewer missile tubes (although a good start)—our nation must also transparently substitute common cooperative strategies and eliminate confrontational strategies.

7. UPDATED 12/24/2011 The remaining Los Angeles-class (688 and 688i) fleet were commissioned between 1985 and 1996—last in  Los Angeles-class is the USS Cheyenne (SSN 773).

A submarine's operation, maintenance, and overhaul history will determine its safe hull life, but rarely will its safe hull life exceed 38 years. Unfortunately, the economics of maintaining our older submarine fleet often dictate inactivation before its safe hull life.

Most or all Los Angeles-class will have been inactivated by this date—many will be decommissioned or scrapped.

8. Hopefully, those familiar with our aircraft carriers and their role in the 21st-century battle space will publish more details about our navy's proposed 11 aircraft carriers.

It's unclear what use 11 carrier battle groups are in the 21st-century battle space—in the congressional battle space, they provide justification for a plethora of additional weapons programs and platforms, including the attack submarine platforms.

9.  It's not clear if GAO exercised any "price sanity checks" before accepting the lowest Chinese bidder. Vendors that are ignorant, corrupt, or criminal are often unfamiliar with a military part's specifications or requirements and will submit obviously silly bids. An experienced purchasing agent will simply ignore an obviously silly bid.

10. Producing two VCS per year may make sense under some circumstances—for example, future plans to sell or lease one or more VCS to another Pacific partner nation.

11. Carting up to 65 cruise missiles (count assumes four vertical tubes modification, currently scheduled for 2019) around the oceans to periodically launch a few salvos in support of Special Ops does not seem like an optimal use of a $4.08 billion dollars (2016 dollars) submarine platform, which is crewed by 137 highly trained submariners.

UPDATED 09/23/2012 The above paragraph would change significantly in the unlikely event that the recently approved quad-pack for the Ohio-class follow-on is swappable with a VCS quad pack—effectively creating one common submarine platform with the ability to snap-in (weld-in for now) strategic or tactical missile quad pack modules.

UPDATED 10/21/2012 DoDLive, The Next Generation In Submarines Our navy must publicly release the referenced study purportedly justifying divergent SSBN-X and VCS submarine platforms.

The post does not state with specificity the exact divergent design constraints, trade-offs, and related cost drivers.

12. The article's usage of the confusingly phrased, "pipe joint near the innermost chamber of its nuclear-powered engine" may refer to a location outside the primary loop and reactor compartment?



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Virginia-class Cartoon
It would be helpful and useful to specify a component's location (defective elbow) by providing the nearest hull ring stiffener (aka station number) and distance from the submarine's longitudinal center line (see Virginia-class cartoon for approximate component locations).

See above cut-away Astute-class cartoon for a convoluted routing of the submarine's large (approximately 10 inches for the Nuflo elbow) tertiary steam duct piping—number 24.

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