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Navy SSBN(X) Ballistic Missile Submarine Program: Background and Issues for Congress

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Congressional rept.

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Ballistic missile submarines SSBNs carry submarine-launched ballistic missiles SLBMs, which are large, long-range missiles armed with multiple nuclear warheads. The SSBNs basic mission is to remain hidden at sea with their SLBMs, so as to deter a nuclear attack on the United States by another country. Navy SSBNs form one leg of the U.S. strategic nuclear deterrent force, or triad, which also includes land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles ICBMs and landbased long-range bombers. The Navy currently operates 14 Ohio SSBN-726 class SSBNs, the first of which is projected to reach the end of its service life in 2027. The Navy is currently conducting development and design work on a planned class of 12 nextgeneration ballistic missile submarines, or SSBNXs, which the service wants to procure as replacements for the 14 Ohio-class boats. The SSBNX program, also known as the Ohio-class replacement program, received 497.4 million in research and development funding in the Navys FY2010 budget, and the Navys proposed FY2011 budget requests an additional 672.3 million in research and development funding for the program. Navy plans call for procuring the first SSBNX in FY2019, with advance procurement funding for the boat beginning in FY2015. The Navy preliminarily estimates the procurement cost of each SSBNX at 6 billion to 7 billion in FY2010 dollars-a figure equivalent to roughly one-half of the Navys budget each year for procuring new ships. Some observers are concerned that the SSBNX program will significantly compound a challenge the Navy faces concerning the affordability of its long-term shipbuilding program. These observers are concerned that procuring 12 SSBNXs during the 15- year period FY2019-FY2033, as called for in Navy plans, could lead to reductions in procurement rates for other types of Navy ships during those years.

Subject Categories:

  • Economics and Cost Analysis
  • Submarine Engineering
  • Surface-Launched Guided Missiles

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