US Navy Planning Next-Generation Attack Submarine By 2031

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that a single submarine will cost $6.2 billion.

The US Navy is planning for deployment of its Next Generation Attack Submarine or SSN(X) beginning in 2031, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

The new class of nuclear-powered attack submarine will be the successor of its Virginia-class submarine, which the navy has had in service since 1998.

Navy’s 30-Year Shipbuilding Plan

Under its 30-year shipbuilding plan (2020-2049), the US Navy wants to have a fleet of 66 nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSN) — both Virginia-class and SSN(X) — by 2048.

The navy expects to start receiving its first SSN(X) by 2031. For the following two years, the service expects to purchase one SSN(X) per year along with two Virginia-class subs, the plan explains.

By 2034, the service will cease procuring Virginia-class subs and double the yearly purchase of the SSN(X) until 2048.

New Capabilities

The new submarine will be designed keeping in mind “the emerging threat posed by near-peer adversary competition for undersea supremacy.”

While the SSN(X) will retain the Virginia-class attributes of multi-mission capability and sustained combat presence in “denied waters,” the new focus will be on “anti-submarine warfare missions against sophisticated threats in greater numbers.”

Unlike the Virginia-class, which was designed for “multi-mission dominance in the littoral,” the SSN(X) will be designed for “greater transit speed under increased stealth conditions in all ocean environments, and carry a larger inventory of weapons and diverse payloads.”

The design of the new underwater vessel will be broadly based on either of the three options: “The Virginia-class SSN design, a design based on the Columbia-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine design, or a brand new design.”

Procurement Cost

The navy has pegged the estimated cost of the new submarine at $5.8 billion per unit in “constant FY2021 dollars.” The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), however, estimates that a single submarine will cost $6.2 billion.

Congress approved $1 million this year for initial research and development funding for the project. Starting in 2022, Congress has to decide whether to accept, reject or ask for a modification of the navy’s funding requests and acquisition strategy for the SSN(X) program.


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