Navy makes its case for new boomers

Navy leaders continue to make their plea to keep the replacement program for the Ohio-class submarine fleet a top priority despite the coming defense budget cuts.

Adm. Kirk Donald, the director of Naval Nuclear Propulsion, said there “can be no excuses” when it comes to replacing and upgrading the Navy’s ballistic missile submarine fleet. Navy submarine admirals argued at the 2012 Naval Submarine League Symposium on Oct. 17 in Arlington, VA that the subs will benefit from the technological advances from the Virginia-class attack submarines .

Officials have already delayed the replacement program two years setting back the delivery date for the submarine fleet to 2027 with construction starting on 2021. The delivery date coincides with the retirement of the first Ohio-class submarine.

Navy leaders are under intense pressure to reduce the price of each submarine. Price expectation have dropped from up to $7 billion per copy to $4.9 billion reducing the expectations on the advances made with the replacement fleet.

A major change coming with the replacement fleet is the reduction in ballistic missile tubes from 24 to 16. It will be designed to continue carrying the Trident II D5 submarine-launched ballistic missile.

The Navy’s new boomers will feature the same anechoic tiles featured on the Virginia-class attack subs that make the submarine harder to detect by active sonars. The replacement Ohio-class submarines will also feature “a scaled up version of the large aperture bow sonar array planned for the Block III Virginia boats,” according to the U.S. Naval Institute.

USNI put together a helpful graphic that we’ve attached below that breaks down many of the features of the Ohio-class Replacement Program.

About the Author

Michael Hoffman
Michael Hoffman is the executive editor at Tandem NSI and a contributor to He can be reached at
  • Lance

    I like it. Only thing I dont like is less Missile tubes, prefer more if a enemy can take out GSC and our bomber bases be up to them to take Russia or China glow in the dark. I dont see any new sub coming till the 2020s though sub production even in attack subs is super SLOW, only few VA class subs in service, alot of LA Class subs in use for some time.

    I do say we can save by cutting crappy Army programs. And sending extra money to boost our boomer fleet.

    • Tiger

      With arms treaty cuts, fewer missiles were coming any way. A D5 can still have up to 10 warheads. So just how many times do you have to kill a nation? I’m no hurry to see the Movie “On the Beach” turn into a reality. As far as the Triad goes? The B-2’s are the only ones still capable. The B-52’s & B-1B’s are conventional only. As for the Land based missiles? Just how many do we even still have active?

    • blight_

      I’m tempted to go for two solutions: Exit INF treaty and put IRBMs onto smaller submarines, or to design a conformal ICBM pod that can attach to surface ships or submarines and give conceivably any or every navy surface unit nuclear strike capability.

      The safer alternative would be to continue to design SSBN’s that are either cheaper and less capable than the next generation of hunter killer, but would be reasonably plentiful in quantity, or super-expensive stealthy SSBN’s that can’t be purchased in sufficient quantity to fulfill the deterrent mission in the first place! We can’t have a deterrent force with three super expensive submarines (like the Seawolf, for instance). At some point we need some quantity there, unless you expect some pretty insane MIRV capability or limited strike against your targets.

      Then again, I suspect that many targets in an enemy country don’t need to be nuked if you can destroy them with a GPS-guided weapon…but you still need nukes for stuff buried under a mountain with rebar and hardened concrete.

    • wpnexp

      OK sure, lets cut Army programs to pay for the Navy programs. That is the same type of hogwash that gets us involved with inter-service rivalries. Lance, unless you want to send your son to war in an old M-113 APC or operating a 1960 M-109 style howitzer, you better hold your tongue. Our service members deserve the best systems possible regardless the service they are in. It’s like saying we should stop the Virginia class program so we can buy a new tank and just keep the old LA Class out to sea. Stop being childish.

  • DGR

    With this new class can we please get some legit BA names again? Another USS PIKE, or USS BLACKFIN? Or id even be happy with the USS F U……

    • Drew

      I’m with you, but I doubt it would ever happen. It is possible though, VMAQ-2 took their name from a football team. Why can’t a U.S. ship be named after a Halo capital ship? The U.S.S. Who’s Your Daddy. It would be AWESOME!!!

  • BlackOwl18E

    As long as these new boomers are refitted to pack a few Tomahawks each I have only five words: Give ’em what they want.

  • stephen russell

    Must adapt boomers to VA class, dont like cutting missile tubes down
    Use 3D printing for project & save.

    New class names:
    USS Shark
    Threasher 2?
    Scorpion 2

  • tmb2

    The Navy has built its Virginias on budget for some time now. Every copy gets a few million cheaper. Hopefully whatever they’re doing can be applied to new boomers too.

  • arp32

    Can someone explain the difference between a 10 mast sail and a 6 mast sail? Is it the placement of the sail or the height?

    • moose

      Submarine “sails” are the big fin on top. Submarine “masts” are the extendable booms which come out the top of the sail to be raised above the water without surfacing the sub. Think periscopes for electronics. Each carries something like ECM equipment, radar, cameras, comm gear, etc. The graphic is saying they’ve reduced the number of planned masts to 6 from 10, meaning some have been combined or some gear that was planned has been deleted.

      • arp32

        Oh, it’s the number of masts. I thought it had something to do with the height ratio. Thanks for clarifying

  • Bill

    IMO, ICBM subs are more important than aircraft carriers – a bit cheaper, less manpower to operate, lower perceived threat than carriers, and visual stealth.

    As long as the active sonar panels improv/ work and missile delivery is made more and more affordable, Ohio class (or the like) may be used more. After all, boomers are the biggest secret of the US Navy, even if enemies know they exist, they are very hard to touch.

  • Tad

    I’m thrilled to read that someone is pleading for something military-wise that actually makes sense and actually does keep the US safe from harm. I am so sick of hearing how we need LCS’s, or MRAPS, or high-priced planes that have some very nasty habits. We don’t seriously “need” any of those things. “Need” is a word that gets over-used but really does apply when we’re talking about boomers, IMO.

  • bobbymike

    Neptune Class? But not only Boomers we need a new ICBM and Next Generation Bomber plus restart advanced nuclear warhead research and ultra accurate MaRVs. The rest of the world should have no doubt of our commitment to defend this nation.

  • These submarines are a waste of money. Their work can be performed by ballistic missile trains and dispersion of static silos.

  • Tom

    oppervlakkig-Given the long lead time and the risk we run if we’re not right, it makes sense.

  • Menzie

    It would be nice to retain a few Ohios and fit them with TLAM or even TASM missiles. Place them around the PAcific Basin as an option for the Navy to use during the coming war with China.

    • Big-Dean

      Hey Menzie, fyi, we’re already doing that, we started converting a few years back
      they are called “SSGN” and we currently have 4 of them

      yes, they are a great idea,the ultimate strike platform and they’ve already in “used”

    • Nadnerbus

      By the time they retire them as Trident carriers, they will not have enough hull life left in them to justify the conversion. The current SSGNs were retired early from their deterrent mission, freeing them up for the conversion.

      Also, if there is any way to avoid one, I would prefer no “coming war with China.”

    • anonymous

      TASM is way long gone; TLAM-Ns are the laughing stock of the bomb shops.

  • Nadnerbus

    Test comment

    *edit* Why are half my posts auto-deleted?

  • Joe_0319

    We are not fighting Russia or China. Wake up, plz! We need like one boat to watch out for the nomads in Pakistan, IMHO. 7 billion for a sub, lol. Sounds like a waste of materials and we can’t afford it. I loved the first sentence as framing the Navy leaders in a “plea”. I picture them almost in tears. “Mommy please!”

    • jarhead89

      Why aren’t we fighting Russia or China, again? Is there some fundamental law of physics that prohibits it?

    • Ole Veteran

      In case you hadn’t noticed, the Iranians are working on missiles AND nuclear material! ALL they need do is get ONE ‘dirty’ missile through, whereas we must intercept ALL of theirs! Pakistan ALREADY has the A-Bomb, and missiles! Unless we are able to target and destroy ALL their missile launchers, we are in danger!

      Russia and China at least have some materialistic motives, and know retaliation would be swift and complete, ending their current standards of living for some time.

      Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, and some other third-world countries are ruled by socio-religious cultures, and are raised in a culture valuing little of individual life!

  • blight_

    Best option might be an extension to the VA or something like it.

    MIRVing will give good striking power with less missiles…though we should invest in next gen Trident and design the sub to accommodate.

  • blight_

    I find it funny that many of the design improvements were tested on experimental subs in the 70s…

  • Sergei

    7 billion one sub u fiance or chine finance?

    • blight_

      That’s a great question. Let’s say that the PRC is financing SS and Medicare, and the taxpayer will do defense.

      • ltfunk3

        Ah yes another one of our patriots who wants to sell America out just so he dosent have to wait tables at arbys.

  • TonyC

    Sounds like the US Navy has got a workable plan. Boomer’s are part of the nuclear triad and the only survivable platform. The Ohio’s are being converted to special operations boats, alot of room and reasonable stealth.

  • Mastro

    Looks reasonable- My one fear is the remote underwater UUV’s- if I was a foreign power- China maybe- I’d send out a hundred- heck a thousand of these off the US coast with sonar to locate the boomers-

    We might actually have to go quantity over quality.

  • Rob

    I hope their smart when they finally agree on a design there going to go with.
    All-Electric drive may have its advantages, but i still think Direct-Drive more repliable and less prone to software problems than mechanical.

    As for the limited number of tubes, i do think their trying abide by the National treaties. Plus less missiles per boat MAY keep cost down. There stuff that not spoken of to the general public. Frankly i hope they leave room to allow the ships to be converted if there need for them become something else. Ohio’s converted SSGNs were boon for the US Navy. I’d rather see dedicated SSGN ship with more missiles then limited number they have currently have now.

  • Lone Wolf

    I thought Obama said they Navy didn’t want anything new?

    • Todd

      It’s his guy that he put in…What do you think??..I laughed so long and hard when he said that….

  • Joe

    A deterrent force needs to work as a second strike option in the event that BMD improves to the point where an opposing force MIGHT just think they can strike first. Not possible now, but 40 years from now, damn likely.

  • blight_

    These Ohio replacements are going to be ~2ktons heavier for less tubes.


    • Todd

      right, keep the 24 tubes….you never see a Aircraft Carrier go smaller..SMH

  • dddddd

    Rather than build stupid submarines, we should get rid of the ocean! It’s the perfect plan!

  • Willard schoeffling

    The new sub will have 16 missle tubes instead of the 24 tubes on the present subs. Why does the new sub have to be larger ? This is the type of thing that gets the Navy in trouble with each new class of ships.

    • blight_

      We’re going to look silly when we use Cold War era ICBMs on shiny new subs.

      Now that we’re out of ABM and START II, we can start MIRVing again. Exciting!

    • tiger

      Needed to add crew space for females.

  • David Hil

    They should be called the Rayburn Class. After RADM. “Red” Rayburn. The Godfather of the Polaris Submarine Program. A fitting regognition.

  • blight_

    As long as nobody has crazy plans to put in special operations capability onto every freakin’ submarine.

    You know, just in case a SSBN is the closest submarine to insert people with. In which case, we are overdesigning them.

    If you want to play with unproven technologies, build your prototype one-offs. The Navy had a number of experimental submarines during the Cold War, and used them to absorb the oftentimes shocking R&D costs associated with proving new technologies.

  • SubSailorsSon

    If your naming them after states, would ya slap Kansas on one of them, it’s been a hundred years since the battleship BB21 sailed with the great white fleet and no other ship has born the name. If we’re not using state names, go back to the big performers in WW2 Gato, Balao class boats. I know its a “different” Navy now, but a little bit of traditional/historical reference would go a long way. After all these are built for combat, I mean they are fighting ships…err….boats of the Navy right??

  • clarkgee

    If they cut the number of tubes from 24 to 16, should the new sub still be considered the Ohio class?

    • blight_

      There was no way any new sub could be considered the same “class” as an older sub, even for similar missions. Short of building them to exact same specifications…

  • Skipper 65

    With the newly reelected CNC, the Navy can forget about ANY new Boomers! obama’s goal of only 300 nuclear warheads will surely all but eliminate ALL FBM submarines!! Thank you American voters!!

  • spriddler

    I am not generally one for force reductions, but the odds of a successful premptive strike on our nuclear forces would seem to remain nil even with a significantly reduced capacity on our part. Also the dynamic of ideoligically oppossed systems backed by large conventional forces that made MAD necessary are long gone. If saving money on new boomers could mean enhanced capability for our carrier strike groups, it seems to me to be a trade worth making.

  • Fred

    If the Trident D5 could get some sort of MARVs (E2/LETB have been successfully tested with a CEP of around 30 ft), less missiles per sub would not be a problem.



    You are very wrong in your fact-less based conclusions. We have been fighting LAND wars on LAND for the last ten years in Iraq and Afghanistan. We should not be cutting the Army. we should be cutting the Navy and the Air Force.

    The Navy s a full blown cluster@uck right now. They have the brand new LCS that was just found to “not be survivable in combat”, and the F-35 that flies like a penguin.