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Assessing the Benefits and Costs of a Science Submarine

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Sponsored by the Navy and civilian science agencies, the SCICEX Scientific Ice Exercise missions conducted between 1993 and 1999 used nuclear attack submarines as platforms for gathering scientific data. The importance of these data were magnified by the fact that he Arctic Ocean has been the subject of less scientific study than any of Earths other oceans, even though it contains vital economic resources and is a critical factor in and potential harbinger of global climate change. The SCICEX cruises confirmed the unique capabilities of nuclear submarines as platforms for scientific research. Their ability to move quickly and easily beneath the ice caps in any weather and any season enables an extraordinary range of data-collection activities. Moreover, the U.S. Navys long, successful history of conducting Arctic research from nuclear submarines has shown the feasibility of these submarines as scientific research platforms. However, the last SCICEX mission ended in November 2000, and the SSN 637- class submarines are now retiring from the Navys active fleet. To preserve the possibility of using this unique research platform, it has been proposed that one of these vessels be converted into a dedicated science submarine, conducting unclassified scientific research throughout the worlds oceans. To inform its deliberations on this proposal, the National Science Foundation NSF asked RAND to assess the costs and benefits of a dedicated science submarine. This study addresses two core questions What are the research benefits of using a converted SSN 637-class nuclear attack submarine solely for civilian scientific research what are the costs of operating, maintaining, and manning such a submarine

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  • Economics and Cost Analysis
  • Government and Political Science
  • Marine Engineering

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