Navy Finishes Specs for Future Nuclear Sub

Engineers with the U.S. Navy have finished drawing up blueprints for a future class of nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines.

National Harbor, Md. — Engineers with the U.S. Navy have finished drawing up specs for a future class of nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines, officials said.

The technical details, known as ship specification documents, will set the stage for engineering work and eventually construction of ships in the so-called Ohio Replacement Program being developed by General Dynamics Corp.’s Electric Boat unit.

Consisting of three volumes, each with hundreds of pages, the documents detail the configuration, design and technical requirements for the next-generation boat, the first of which is slated to begin construction in 2021 and enter the fleet in 2031, Navy and company officials said.

“We want to make sure that anything we do from this point forward to design the ship is founded on the specifications that have to be met,” Ohio Replacement Program manager Capt. William Brougham said. “We want to demonstrate technical excellence and judiciousness balancing what you’d like to have with what you must have.”

The acquisition effort is entering the fifth-year of a six-year technology development phase. Brougham said the execution of 159 ship specifications will require engineering sophistications and technical rigor.

The ship specs also include technical details regarding the submarines weapons systems, escape routes, fluid systems, hatches, doors and sea water systems, Brougham said.  The specs also set the ship length at 560 feet, in part to allow for more volume inside the pressure hull, he added.

Slated to enter service in 2031 and serve through 2085, ORP, a ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), is scheduled to begin construction by 2021. Requirements work, technical specifications and early prototyping are already underway at Electric Boat locations in New London, Conn., and Quonset Point, R.I.

“Concept exploration is effectively done. We cross over a barrier and now we just do design and engineering. We are going to be 83-percent design complete at production start. The more design complete you are — the better you can be,” Brougham explained.

Designed to be 560-feet– long and house 16 Trident II D5 missiles fired from 44-foot-long missile tubes, ORP will be engineered as a stealthy, high-tech nuclear deterrent.

The most recent Quadrennial Defense Review lists undersea strategic nuclear deterrence as the top priority among 12 listed national security priorities, Brougham said.

Electric Boat and the Navy are already progressing on early prototype work connecting missile tubes to portions of the hull, Electric Boat and Navy officials said. Called integrated tube and hull forging, the effort is designed to weld parts of the boat together and assess the ability to manufacture key parts of the submarine before final integration

In 2012, General Dynamics Electric Boat was awarded a five-year research and development deal for the ORP with a value up to $1.85 billion.  The contract contains specific incentives for lowering cost and increasing manufacturing efficiency, Navy and Electric Boat officials said.

Progressing with design work prior to construction is a key emphasis for the Ohio Replacement program because it helps to improve confidence and lower costs, Brougham.  In fact, the Navy hopes to build Ohio Replacement submarine numbers 2–12 for $4.9 billion in 2010 dollars each.

The Ohio Replacement submarines strong nuclear reactor core will be able to perform a greater number of deployments than the ships they are replacing and not need a mid-life refueling in order to complete 42 years of service.

The Ohio Replacement program is often cited as an example of the Pentagon’s Better Buying power, an inter-service effort to drive down acquisition costs, increase competition and incentivize industry partners to maximize efficiency.

The Navy defines its Ohio Replacement program cost strategy with a term called define for affordability, a program wherein the contractor Electric Boat is given financial incentives to lower costs for the boat.

Submarine Program Executive Officer Rear Adm. David Johnson said Electric Boat has successfully won the incentive reward for its design, engineering and construction work on the Ohio Replacement Program.

Johnson explained that the  Electric Boat and Navy submarine developers are constantly looking for design and construction strategies aimed at lowering costs.

“We work on mechanisms to generate ideas and then get them into ships,” Johnson said.

Along these lines, Navy officials explained a “bankers score card” which catalogues each and every cost-saving measure identified in the Ohio Replacement Program development.  The program looks for savings in construction, saving in operation and support and design savings.

For instance, Ohio Replacement program developers saved millions in developmental costs by removing a technology called Salvage Air, a mechanism to bring air into the tank in the event of catastrophe or disaster, Navy officials said.

“Commercially, there is adequate technology to perform the same function,” a Navy official said.