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 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??

    • Andy

      China and Russia

    • Big-Dean

      hey Tex, why don’t we just scrap the entire DOD, after all who’s going to invade a country full of dope heads like you

      • That inigsht’s perfect for what I need. Thanks!

    • Steven

      seriously ?
      man even the French where discussing budget cuts just before WWII
      you can’t let you guard down , there is ALWAYS someone waiting for it

      I do agree that we don’t need so many of them
      I mean 16 missile tubes ? aren’t 10 enough ? ( 160 missiles )

      save us 10 billion and still get the deterrent we want

  • 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.

    • You expect them to do the work for free ?

      • Dfens

        I expect them to make a profit commensurate with their contribution. And the fact that they make more money the more they f up offends me as a THINKING taxpayer.

    • Frankie S.

      Yes it is a wonderful world, it is called capitalism.

  • 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.

    • blight_

      I hope not. We’re not Rich Uncle Couture Submarine Moneybags.

      Edit: Seaquest DSV is unaffordable. Dolphins not included.

    • PolicyWonk

      The outside appearance isn’t what really matters here. The hull and sail shapes are pretty well known w/r/t their efficiency and that isn’t where the big changes are (though we can be certain there are some).

      One of the huge changes in the ORP design is a direct electric propulsion system: there is no gearing between the reactor and propeller – the drive shaft will be connected directly to the motor. Hence – this SSBN (why the author referred to it as a “so-called” SSBN is beyond me) is going to be significantly quieter from that development alone.

      There are however no plans at this time to replace the 4 Ohio-based SSGN’s, and the funding for the Virginia hull extension project (to lengthen Virginia-based designs to include a lot more cruise missiles, and space for SoF’s to fill that gap) was dropped by the House of Representatives.

    • Greg

      Jeff, the Navy is working to save TAXPAYERS money by using designs and lessons-learned from the Virginia Class. What you are suggesting (next generation design) is more costly and probably not possible given the current economic and political climate.
      And, of course, a submarine is a submarine. A round cylinder that is pushed through the water by an impeller. With a big enough diameter to house the ~45 foot missile tubes.


    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.

    • KrazyCOL

      Good Catch, I think that happened b cuz the admin offices are in New London & the shipyard is in Groton………

  • 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.

    • dr. agreeable

      Do describe this “Tactical Trident Missile,” would you? Without making a four-wheel-motorcycle analogy, if it’s possible.

      • bobbymike

        I think he meant CTM’s – Conventional Trident for the Prompt global Strike mission.

        There has been rumors that the Mk5 LEP is accurate enough to have a silo diameter inside its ‘non-explosive’ crater. Fit it with a DE penetrator and pretty good conventional hard target killer.

    • Riceball

      You mean tactical nukes? I highly doubt that they’d do that since I don’t think that we have any tactical nukes in our inventory although it should be (theoretically) possible to launch nuclear Tomahawks from their torpedo tubes but that would beg the question why since our LAs and VAs should be able to do the same thing and probably for a lot less than a boomer.

    • The problem with that is one of the possibility of mistaken intentions. A Trident Missile launch looks like … a Trident Missile launch, regardless of the number of MIRV’s, megatonnage, payload, etc.

      What happens when some antagonistic, nuclear armed nation sees a ‘Tactical Trident’ launch but assumes that it is the non-tactical variety? VERY BAD THINGS, that’s what…

      • blight_

        True, but we’ve had nuclear payloads for cruise missiles and aircraft for decades…this would suggest that using /any/ of these platforms would trigger a nuclear exchange predicated on the /fear/ of a nuclear attack.

        The Russians have Perimeter, they’ll be fine. If we hit them too hard, we won’t be.

  • Scrapiron

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

  • 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?

    • Steven

      well since nasa claim they can make a reactor the size of a suitcase that runs for 4 years , I bet the reactor can keep running long after the scrap the next generation of subs
      if only the civilian market got this kinds of power plant , electricity might cost nothing

    • JCitizen

      That was what I was thinking – maybe even do a hybrid with Stirling cycle and/or fuel cell backup power. AIP is quieter than nuclear-steam powered submarine warfare – Maybe with a smaller plant, and such hybrid tech, the sonar signature will drop even more? In fact the only reason you would need the nuke plant is to make hydrogen for the fuel cell! Now that is a teaser!

    • Brad Davis

      I was wondering the same thing. I did a little research on rectors and fell in love with the direct cycle gas cooled reactors. They started in the 50-60s with the Air Force trying to create a nuclear powered bomber. Of the two designs the one with the best potential used a reactor to superheat the compressed air, replacing the need for fuel. The downside was that since the air came in direct contact with the reactor it left the engine radioactive, so anywhere the plane flew over would be irradiated. But the concept was adapted for power production and it took off, they made the reactor.a closed loop and replaced.atmospheric air with a.nobel gas. It was still direct cycle since the heated gas went directly to spin the turbine after leaving the core but because the gas is inert it does not absorb radiation, meaning a leak posed litttle to no contamination risk. Lower pressures inside the system meant that the steam pipes and pressure fittings could be made lighter, and the fact that the working fluid was gas also droped the weight. Sheilding could be reduced since most radiation was contained in the core and did not spread. Reduced power output when compared to PWRs and the limited secondary uses for the gas were its main drawbacks, but power production could be compensated for by adding a second core, since the reactor is so small and light they might get away with it on a sub. Its too bad politics killed it, the technology bounced arround to various countries for a few decades till it finally died in South Africa when they were willing to develop it but found no willing buyers. Perhaps the navy should look into it again, if not for subs then large surface ships like cruisers. Youtube project pluto if you’re intrested and check out It can give you a lot of detailed info on all types of reactors all other things science.

  • 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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