Navy, Electric Boat Finishing Designs for Ohio Replacement Program

4hLi1Groton, Conn. — The U.S. Navy and General Dynamics’ Electric Boat are close to finishing specifications and designs for the country’s next-generation ballistic nuclear submarine, the Ohio Replacement Program, or ORP.

The Ohio Replacement Program team is poised this year to finish up a 600-page ship specification document detailing designs and plans for the submarine, Navy and Electric Boat officials said.

“This spring, the Ohio Replacement Program will finalize the remaining few of the 161 Ship Specifications.  These specifications establish the requirements the numerous ship systems must adhere to in order to meet defined warfighting requirements,” Capt.William Brougham, ORP program manager told Military.com in a written statement.

Slated to enter service in 2031 and serve through 2085, ORP, a so-called 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, Ct. and Quonset Point, R.I.

Consisting of three volumes, each with hundreds of pages, the ship specification documents are designed to detail the configurations, designs and technical requirements for the boat, said Brian Wilson, ORP director, Electric Boat.

“We are very much in the technology and getting the requirements set phase.  We’ll finish the ship specs this year, multi-volume documents that tell you everything about how you’re going to manage the design,” said Wilson.

The ship-specifications detail the systems, technologies and electronics as well as crew plans, design intentions and overall integration, Navy officials said.

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 able to quietly patrol the global undersea domain.

“The key thing about the SSBN is that it is out there maintaining a constant strategic deterrence,” said Wilson.  The rationale for these submarines is to guarantee a nuclear response capability in the event that an adversary launches a first attack.

Electric Boat and the Navy are also already progressing on early prototype work connecting missile tubes to portions of the hull, Wilson 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.

“The key here is reconstituting the vendor base for missile tubes, which are 45-feet-long and weigh about 50 tons.  We integrated these tubes into two large welds at the top of the hull to produce what we call a 4-pack.  In 2017 and 2018, we will build a first-article quad pack,” said Wilson.

This manufacturing strategy is intended to be a modular, more efficient and lower cost effort compared to the previous class of Ohio submarines. The Navy is hoping to keep the cost of each ORP to below $5 billion in 2010 dollars for boats 2 through 12, service officials said.

“The early investment in development and rapid prototype and testing the integrated tube and hull is essential to reduce construction costs and to shorten the overall construction time span for both the U.S. and UK SSBN programs,” Brougham said.

In 2012, General Dynamics Electric Boat was awarded a five-year reasearch 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. The first ORP boat is slated to be operational by 2031.

With the prior Ohio-class, the manufacturing technique first worked from an empty hull cylinder and then cut holes for missile tubes, Wilson added.  The new strategy is designed to maximize efficiency and construct key elements before they are connected to an integrated boat.

The U.S. and U.K. are together immersed in a common missile compartment effort for ORP.  In fact, the U.S. and U.K. are buying parts together for the common missile compartment and working on a $770 million contract with General Dynamics’ Electric Boat.  The U.S. plans to build 12 ORPs, each with 16 missile tubes, and the U.K. plans to build four nuclear-armed ballistic submarines, each with 12 missile tubes.

The ORP is being designed with a series of next-generation technologies, many of them from the Virginia-Class attack submarine.  In particular, the ORP will utilize Virginia-class’s fly-by-wire joystick control system and large-aperture bow array sonar.

The ORP will also use Virginia-class’s next-generation communications system, antennas and mast.   For instance, what used to be a periscope is now a camera mast connected to fiber-optic cable, enabling crew members in the submarine to see images without needing to stand beneath the periscope.  This allows designers to move command and control areas to larger parts of the ship and still have access to images from the camera mast, Electric Boat and Navy officials said.

ORP is also being engineered with a new, more powerful nuclear reactor core compared with existing Ohio-class submarines, Navy and Electric Boat officials explained. This will enable a submarine to serve for as long as 42 years without needing what’s called mid-life refueling of its nuclear reactor. This is part of the reason the Navy believes it can effectively complete its mission requirements with twelve SSBN boats, Navy officials said.

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior.
  • Lance

    A weapon needed but is far off.

  • Benjamin

    I wonder how much the price will rise when the politicians start cutting the number of boats the Navy needs

  • Andy

    The U.S. plans to build 12 ORPs ??????we needed minimum of 30…..

  • TeXan

    do we really need any of these?? maybe if germany is going to invade??

  • Dfens

    Wow, 600 pages of bs. I’ll bet that’s impressive. GD gets to help write the specification, most of which will be completely irrelevant when they refuse to meet in years down the line. They make money writing the specification. They make money bidding for the work. They make money doing the design. They make money dragging out the design. They make money when the program gets cancelled just before they start building the first submarine. What a wonderful world this is.

  • Jay

    Hmmm, I’m bit confused with the article. Perhaps I missed some text, but It states the ORP is to have 12 SLBM tubes, and then states that the US and UK will both buy into the design with the US version having 16 tubes, and the UK version possessing 12 tubes respectively.

    Which is it?

    Given the size of the Ohio, and the size of the US deterrent stockpile, it makes sense to build an Ohio replacement with at least 16 tubes, at minimum. And 12 tubes for the UK variant makes sense for their needs.

    I’d also like to see at least four hulls specifically set aside for TACTOM (or a TACTOM replacement) and Prompt Global Strike Missile, but that’s a fantasy for another discussion….

  • steve

    we should just steal the plans of Chinese subs.

    • Steven

      no can do , we didn’t make them yet (since they steal it from us and all)

  • jeff

    From all the early drawings I’ve seen it looks very similar to what we have now. You’d think with all the billions of dollars we are spending on this sub and the many decades since Ohio we could come up with something truly next generation and not a modified Ohio or Virginia boat.

  • RRGED

    Sounds promising, I’d like to know how many GREMLINS we have to be concern about once it’s built and launch.

  • Shawn

    I wonder how many people are in the navy let alone in the ASW command commenting here

  • Viking

    Groton Ct not New London.

  • Hunter76

    Too bad we can’t rationally examine our need for SSBNs. This is too wrapped up with politics and money– logic flees the scene.

    • Jay

      I’d say it’s a bit difficult to discuss such a platform based entirely upon hard 1’s and 0’s. There are a great many factors involved when discussing a new strategic nuclear asset.

      Naturally, there are the commercial, industrial, and socio-economic factors of building a new sub class. Then there are the issues with co-producing a new SSBN that will serve as a replacement for ourselves as well as an allied nation. And then finally, there are the implications involved with determining our actual needs for nuclear deterrence, compounded with the size and scope of our stockpile, the “actual” versus “imagined” threat, and the number of targets that must be “serviced” should the need arise.

      We’re talking about building the most devastating weapon system that exists in the whole world, potentially capable of killing hundreds of millions of people, and forever rendering civilization null and and void if it is ever ordered to do so.

      Naturally, it is a system that must be built- we can argue that SSBN’s alongside the other arms of the triad have maintained the peace for the last fifty years or so. But it is a truly frightening weapon system of mass destruction, that is incredibly expensive to build, operate, and maintain, the construction of which is also a major source of income and security for millions of Americans for decades to come.

      In my humble opinion, it’s really impossible to to remain utterly dispassionate about such an important subject.

  • Nicky

    I think the next Ohio class SSBN’s should have the Capability to Launch Tactical Trident Missiles on top of Nuclear trident missiles.

  • Scrapiron

    Perhaps with the Trident II D5 they won’t need as many missiles to toast the enemy?

    • Nicky

      If we had a tactical Trident Missile, it would give us an Option for a Shock and AWE effect to the Enemy. It would allow us to hit Harden Bunkers.

    • Jay

      Well there are assumptions you might be making about the weapon that has an effect of over simplifying it’s employment.

      1. Sure, the D5 can carry more MIRVs than previous missiles- but it also may not need to be fully loaded with all 10 warheads. The NCA may only need to strike one or two targets. In such a scenario, what happens to the other 9-8 warheads? We can safely assume they aren’t going to detonate at their respective aimpoints, but then we can also safely assume that they will come down somewhere. Each one is loaded with a whole bunch of toxic nastiness, and each warhead wasted would represent a massive waste of nuclear resources.

      So some SLBMs do not carry all 10 warheads. I’d expect that some may be loaded with 1-3 warheads and the remaining space atop the missile to be loaded with “penaids” (penetration aids, or “decoys”.)

      2. In any full-blown nuclear attack scenario, the primary targets of SSBN’s do not necessarily include population centers, but a very long list of strategic and tactically important military and industrial aimpoints.

      That isn’t to say that population centers would never be targeted, because its probable that they might be attacked to reduce the number of enemy we might face on the battlefield, or to reduce the work force our enemy has to produce weapons and war material.

      But, in my mind, If I were playing the role of CINC/SECDEF, my first goal would be to strike the targets that represent the largest, most immediate threat to my own country- the enemy’s bomber and ICBM bases. I’d next want to destroy the enemy’s defenses, such as their SAM’s and radar, so that the other arms of the triad can most reliable strike their intended targets. It’s important to remember that SSBN’s provide the commander with some important features, which include minimal warning time the enemy has to react to a launch, potentially destroying bombers and ICBMs on the ground.

      Lastly, I might be interested in destroying the enemy’s ability to fight and function, by targeting key industry, infrastructure, and populous.

      I know that we have all been taught to immediately associate “nuclear warhead” to mean “city-vaporizing terror weapon” but they are much more useful than only that.

  • unit cost of $5 billion/? no way. these things will end up costing $30 billion each.

  • guest

    Why not keep the old hills since they are 560 feet, gut them and put in all new equipment to run them. You can definitely save on the steel.

  • Rob C.

    Good their coming along designing the new ships. General Dynamic been doing alot better than other Shipyards, frankly they design their ships allot better recent designs. I wonder if the Congress will allow them to add for more these ships to act as SSGN since the oldest SSBNs are current SSGNs. They seemed to do well last time. Unless the newer Block of the Virgina is suppose to become replacement for the SSGNs.

  • Dave R.

    I’d give just about anything to be involved in the prototype power plant construction. I can only imagine the technology advances. I wonder how much better the plants are now?

  • Bill mmcs(ss)ret

    Man 0 Man, Would give my all to be young enough to be involved in the auxiliary equipment design, development and operation for one of those beauties. When I started out in diesels in early ’60s’ and boomers in ’70s’ I didn’t imagine what was going to come along. We do need them if we are going to maintain sea lane control and an effective deterrent force.

  • Brad Davis

    I wonder if the new boat will have the same or at least the same type of sail as the Virginia’s or will they keep the sail planes like the original Ohio’s ? The Virginia type plane is not good for polar operatons right? Also I wonder if the new boats will also have the larger side scan sonar like the Seawolfs. I am surprised that there was not a big demand for direct cycle gas cooled reactors (like the one designed for project pluto) for Naval ships. They make slightly less power than PWRs but run safer and quieter than PWRs, not to mention they weigh less than half due to their lack of a secondary heating loop, uses of gas instead of water, lower operating presure and less sheilding since noble gases do not absorb radiation like water, but there must be some other reason why it was not developed. They said Trident II D5, is that out yet? What are the specs? How are we even going to test the new warhead anyway since there are so many bans on nuclear testing? Is underground testing still allowed? If that is the old missile why aren’t we replacing it…unless I just answered my own question? Will the D5 work and be relevent during the life cycle of the new sub?

  • Dave Hylton

    Mindless waste! When will it ever be enough? We can destroy the world a thousand times over and still we keep wasting money on military equipment that we don’t need! Ike warned us about the Military Industrial complex but once again it falls on deaf ears!

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  • Retired

    Lots of different takes on reasons why we need subs and don”t but the world we live in has gotten us here. I will say one thing about the subs having been around their construction, amazing ! I wish you all could see the most sophisticated piece of engineering in the world. Hats off to those who design, build and sail, they do keep us safe. Man will never change. just look at Putin “2014” and many others.

  • Brad Davis

    Yea It was for that reason that I wanted to become a naval architect. I read John Pina Craven’s The Silent War when I was a teen that changed my life. Due to circumstances I did not continue with the naval architect route but I did get a mechanical engineering degree and am pursuing a career in the defense sector. Yea those are the most sophisticated machines on the planet even when compared to the space shuttle or a collider. amazing examples of ingenuity and competence. though I will not be building them for the military I am definitely there in sprit.

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